How I used YouTube to learn a new skill

30 Nov 2021
By Hazel M., Freelance writer, journalist and total bookworm at Unite Students

They say, these days, you can learn pretty much anything online. And you know what? I can’t say I disagree. But what about learning on YouTube?

Whether I’m searching for baking tutorials or checking out how to fix random things in my house, YouTube is my go-to when I want to learn something new, particularly if I’m in a hurry.

In fact, you can learn almost anything on YouTube, from how to survive a shark attack (yes, seriously) to the art of cleaning an iron skillet. It covers everything you can think of and more.

But what about when you use it to learn a new legit skill that takes time and patience? Is it enough?

I’ve always been of the mind that to learn a new skill, you need to take a class or do a course to get good at it. At the very least, you should invest in an online course through a learning platform.

Those things all cost money, though, and YouTube is free. So, I decided to see if it was actually possible to learn a new ‘skill’ without having to spend a penny.

What defines a skill?

First off, I had to decide what skill I actually wanted to learn. Changing a tyre wasn’t enough, but becoming a carpenter was probably a stretch.

In the end, I decided to go for something that would be achievable but also take time and patience. In this case, I went for embroidery art.

Now, I know it doesn’t sound all that exciting, but there are lots of different ways to do embroidery and, actually, it’s a growing trend – particularly since the pandemic left people with lots of spare time on their hands.

The good news? There’s also been an explosion in ‘how to’ videos on YouTube around this particular skillset.

My mind was made up – and I was ready to go.

Getting started

First off, while learning via YouTube videos is free, the materials for embroidery are not, which meant there was an initial cost for materials. For the sake of my art, though, I was happy to pay.

Once I was all set up and ready to get started, it was time to find the elusive videos that would teach me the skills I would need to become a pro.

And, at first, it was… a little disappointing.

The problem is there are thousands of videos on YouTube all claiming to teach this, which meant I had to watch a lot of very bad videos before I got to the good stuff. Sometimes the quality was bad, sometimes it was the presenters and often it just didn’t really teach me anything at all.

The good news is that I did, eventually, come across a really good series of videos and (finally) I was on a roll. Nothing was going to stop me.

Keeping it up

Okay, so nothing actively stopped me from learning embroidery…except myself.

One of the things about learning via YouTube is that, because you aren’t paying for it and no-one is checking up on you, it can be hard to stay motivated.

After the first week of putting in loads of time to learn my new skill, I soon put the needle to the side and opted for other things instead, like catching up with friends or watching cat videos.

However, it also works on the flipside; because you’re not paying and no one is checking up on you, you can take as long as you want to learn a new skill. There’s no pressure and you can learn just because, you know, you want to.

Eventually, I did get my head back in the game and got back down to work. My embroidered lighthouse loop started looking fab-u-lous (if I do say so myself).

Was it worth it?

Altogether, I think I spent a collective eight hours watching YouTube videos on how to do embroidery, combined with general Google searches when I wanted answers to specific questions.

And it was worth it. It wasn’t the kind of skill that I wanted to spend money on studying, but there was enough information out there to teach me some fairly advanced stuff that I couldn’t necessarily get from reading an article.

So, while I won’t be trying to learn about rocket science on there any time soon, for your standard sewing skills? I give it five stars. I definitely think it’s also a great way to build on skills you already have, particularly if you’re looking for a refresher.

Want to learn something new on YouTube? Check out my favourite yoga tutorials right here.

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When not stringing words together, can usually be found on the local beach with her cocker spaniel pup, Huey.