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How to Edit a YouTube Video: Everything You Need to Know from Start to Finish

Jourdan Aldredge

Apr 7, 2022

It’s incredible to think about, but just over 15 years ago Google bought YouTube for $1.65 billion. And while that amount seems staggering and insane, what’s even crazier is the fact that YouTube now makes just about that amount in ad revenue every month. 

With over 50% of that amount going back directly to creators, it’s no wonder that filmmakers, videographers, and all sorts of digital content creatives continue to flock to the popular online video sharing platform.

Yet, for all of their collective technical know-how into what cameras to use for YouTube, which copyright rules creators should follow, and other common mistakes to avoid, content creators still struggle with some of the basics — especially when it comes to how to edit a video — specifically for YouTube.

So, to help make sure that your Youtube videos are being cut, exported, and uploaded with the best specs, settings, and practices possible, here’s everything you need to know on how to edit YouTube videos.


Understanding YouTube videos

Before we dive into how to edit YouTube videos, let’s first take a step back and look at how YouTube works. 

Like the majority of the social sharing platforms out there, YouTube is built on an algorithmic approach to deciding which videos get seen by whom. This means if you’re at all serious about finding an audience for your videos, you should really read up on how to beat the YouTube algorithm and get your videos to rank.

It’s also helpful to do a bit of research first, not just into what types of videos do well (and why), but also for a little self-reflection to decide what types of videos your audience might be interested in. 

Here are some good questions to ask yourself before diving into an edit

  • What type of video am I actually trying to create? (Vlog, explainer, documentary, etc…)
  • What audience or niche am I trying to capture? (And are there any competitors in this space?)
  • How long do I want my content to be?
  • How much time and budget do I have to edit Youtube videos?
  • What is the call to action or end goal for my YouTube videos?

Until you feel that you can answer those questions with a strong amount of certainty, you might want to spend a little bit more time researching and brainstorming your video ideas before diving into an actual edit.

Basic tips on how to edit video



Once you have a solid idea of what you want your YouTube video to look like, now you can start going over some basic tips and tricks for editing video in general. 

We’ll go a bit more in-depth into how to edit YouTube videos specifically below, but trust us — there are a ton of video editing basics to go over first. From understanding continuity editing, to mastering J and L cuts, to embracing parallel editing and cross-cutting, there’s a lot of video editing theory to read up on. 

We also need to make sure you’re using the right video editing software for editing videos. (For example, even just deciding between Premiere Pro and DaVinci Resolve is quite a debate.) You also need to use the best monitors for video editing, and you may also need to find a video editing capable laptop for under $1,000

There are a lot of different pieces that can be huge concerns when trying to edit videos. But with all that being said, here are some basic tips to keep in mind while diving into editing a video for any use:

  • Work off of a script, storyboard, or outline.
  • Make your edits before adjusting color, audio, or graphics.
  • Keep your audio levels between -8db and -15db.
  • Consider templates for graphics to save time.
  • Review for consistency before exporting.

Now we can move onto the specific social advice and go over the steps you need to follow to edit a video for YouTube.

The steps to edit a YouTube video

For most content creators, the real goals for any YouTube video are as follows:

  1. Get someone to click on the video and watch it.
  2. Watch it all the way through.
  3. Subscribe to your channel (or watch another video after).

There are also occasions where certain creators or video marketers might want to encourage clicks on a hyperlink to get viewers to visit another page. 

However, for the purposes of this article, let’s go over the steps for editing a video with only the three above goals in mind.

  1. Pick your video editing software of choice, or use the built-in YouTube video editor in the YouTube studio (which can be great for basic video edits).
  2. Upload your video file, footage, and assets.
  3. Create a video timeline and build out a rough draft.
  4. Build in chapter breaks for longer videos.
  5. Review and get a picture-lock.
  6. Add in audio elements like background music and sound effects. (Be sure to use either royalty free or copyright free music for YouTube videos, which you can read up on herewhich you can read up more on here.)
  7. Add in any motion graphics like intro/outro animations, lower thirds, transitions, aesthetic overlays, etc.
  8. Save and export using YouTube recommended encoding settings.
  9. Upload the edited video to YouTube and follow best practices for sharing on your social channels.

Of course, there are many different subsections which could be included for each of those steps above. But without getting too in the weeds, the items we covered should be your basic steps for editing a video for YouTube.

Final tips on how to edit YouTube videos



As we wrap things up, we do have some final tips and tricks to help you make sure your videos for YouTube are edited properly so you can find success on your YouTube channel. And the real name of the game for editing YouTube videos is viewability.

It doesn’t matter how well-produced your videos are or how many flashy graphics they have. The success of a YouTube video will always be driven by how interesting it is to its viewers. 

This means that every decision you make either in production or in the edit should be based around keeping your viewer engaged, entertained, and excited to find out what happens next.

Unlike traditional movie theaters or even watching something on TV, the majority of YouTube’s audience is on mobile devices and very capable of clicking (or even just looking) away at any given second. This means that your content should never, ever, ever be boring.

If you can truly edit your videos for YouTube to feel fast, fun, and connected moment-to-moment and shot-to-shot, then your videos can find that rare, beautiful space on the social video platform where they could go viral and earn hundreds of thousands of new fans.

Further reading

To further help you on your YouTube editing journey, here are some more excellent articles from the Soundstripe blog on editing videos and the editing process before you dive into a new video project: