When first starting out as a YouTuber, there are many questions you find yourself having to answer. Things like what kind of channel you are going to run, how often you are going to upload new videos, what demographics you want to target are all things you should be deciding early on. In terms of questions that are typically not thought to be a big deal, yet cause a lot of head scratching when it comes down to it, deciding what to call your channel is up there.
When making these tough decisions, it is only natural to look to other YouTubers—probably successful ones—to see what they did. So, do YouTubers use their real names? Sometimes. Many YouTubers do in fact use their real names, but many don’t. So what is the reasoning behind these decisions, and what should you do with your channel? We’re going to explore all of this and more in this post.
Why Do YouTubers Use Their Real Names?
So, we know that some YouTubers do and some don’t, the next step is understanding what influences that decision.
One of the main reasons to choose your real name as your YouTube name is branding. In truth, this is one of the best reasons to choose any name for your YouTube channel, but it applies just as equally to real names.
If you have—or intend to have—a related career outside your YouTube channel, you will probably want to build recognition of your name, and YouTube is great for that. An example of this might be a comedian or musician who is making content on YouTube while also booking gigs in the real world. A working comedian would be kicking themselves if they uploaded a viral hit to their YouTube channel and nobody knew it was them because the name was different.
You could just as equally use your YouTube name as a stage name in the real world, but the truth is, while “Be0wulf2077” or something similar might be fine as a YouTube name, it would raise a few eyebrows at open mic night.
Incidentally, we just made “Be0wulf2077” up, so apologies if someone out there is using that name.
Of course, this can work both ways. Perhaps you have a respectable career in the real world, giving very serious talks about important issues and such, and you don’t want people to associate that persona with your YouTube channel making mash ups of goats making cat noises. In this case, you might intentionally not use your real name on your YouTube channel.
There is also the apathy factor. Some people choose their real name for their YouTube channel simply because they can’t or don’t want to think of an alternative. This often happens when the point of the channel is to supplement something else, and the YouTuber is not necessarily interesting in being a YouTuber.
The other main reason a YouTube channel might not use the real name of a person is, of course, if that channel has more than one person running it, or if it is part of an organisation.
Deciding Whether to Use Your Real Name
We’ve looked at why other YouTubers might use their real names, but what should you do? The first thing you should consider when deciding whether to YouTube under your real name is whether there is any reason you would not want to be personally associated with the content you are producing.
Now, in a world where people are increasingly losing their jobs over everything from mere political opinions to outright hate speech, the first thought that comes to mind here will probably be someone saying controversial things online who doesn’t want their employer or family to know about it. And that is certainly one situation where you might want to keep your YouTube life separate from your real life, but it is not the only reason.
Another example is teachers who, while doing nothing wrong, would nevertheless prefer to keep their YouTubing activities away from the attention of their students.
The point here is that if, for whatever reason, you want or need to keep your YouTube content separate from your real life, the decision on whether or not to use your real name has been made for you.
However, as a counter to that line of thinking, if you have any aspirations of making a career for yourself that is related to or centred around the kind of thing you are making YouTube videos about, we would argue you should use your real name. Branding is important, even when that brand is yourself. If your long term and wider aspirations tie in with your YouTube channel, it would be foolish not to leverage any success you get on the platform into a real world PR booster.
Choosing a Name
If you have read all of the above and come to the conclusion that you would rather not use your real name on your YouTube channel, the question remains; what do you call yourself.
Granted, the exact name you choose will be determined by your channel, content, persona, and your personal preferences. That being said, there are some things to bear in mind when you are picking your name.
Easy to Read and Find
The first priority should be choosing a name that is not too difficult to remember.
If your name uses numbers for letters and includes four special characters, people are going to struggle to remember how to type it, and you would be surprised at how many potential subscribers just give up at the first hurdle.
Something simple that sticks in the mind would be ideal, but at the very least make your name straightforward and easy to remember.
While this one is more of a guide than a rule, if you can choose a channel name that suits the type of content you are making, that will help it stick in viewers minds.
There is a lot of subjectivity about this, but it doesn’t necessarily mean calling your makeup channel something like “Makeup Videos”.
Try word association exercises; ask people what the first things that come to mind when they hear a potential channel name are, and if those things are nothing like what your channel is about, choose a different name.
This one mainly only applies to family-friendly content, but there are other situations in which it could apply.
If you are directing your videos at a specific demographic, don’t have a name that will alienate members of that demographic.
The primary example here being having a name that is offensive on a family-friendly channel, but another (albeit far-fetched) example might be a name like “Satan Lives!” on a channel making Christian content.
Is There an Advantage to Using Real Names?
There are some advantages in the sense of what we have laid out above; perpetuating your name in a related field, for example. However, these advantages are not inherent to any kind of name. The key factor there is that you use the same name in your off-YouTube ventures, but that name doesn’t have to be your real one.
Ultimately, the way to benefit from your name is to ensure it is easy to remember and, if possible, related to your content. As any YouTuber who has tried to capture audiences in a foreign language to their own will tell you, using your real name doesn’t always guarantee that it will be easy to remember. A long Cyrillic name, for example, is very difficult for English speakers to recall. In situations like that, it may be worth giving your channel an alternative to your real name from a pure SEO perspective.
Another reason you might want to shy away from using your real name is if you are running a channel that you have ambitions of turning into something more than a one-person vlog affair. If your channel includes—or grows to include—other onscreen personalities, it can make things complicated if one of the people whose name is on the channel decides to leave. Changing an established name is never ideal, and, while it is sometimes necessary, there is no harm in taking steps to make it less likely.
Ultimately, the answer to the title question of this post—do YouTubers use their real names?—is “sometimes”. There is no rule on YouTube that you have to use your real name publicly, and there is no inherent advantage from the perspective of your channel’s success. There are, however, plenty of reasons why you should and why you should not use your real name. As ever, the key is working out which ones apply best to your situation.
We can say that the name of your channel is often more important than it is given credit for. And, at the risk of crippling new YouTubers with doubt and indecision, it is definitely something you should put a good amount of thought into before setting any decisions in stone.
But don’t let indecision stop you. It’s not ideal, but you can always change your name later.
Top 5 Tools To Get You Started on YouTube
Very quickly before you go here are 5 amazing tools I have used every day to grow my YouTube channel from 0 to 30K subscribers in the last 12 months that I could not live without.
1. VidIQ helps boost my views and get found in search
I almost exclusively switched to VidIQ from a rival in 2020.
2. Adobe Creative Suite helps me craft amazing looking thumbnails and eye-catching videos
I have been making youtube videos on and off since 2013.
When I first started I threw things together in Window Movie Maker, cringed at how it looked but thought “that’s the best I can do so it’ll have to do”.
I soon realized the move time you put into your editing and the more engaging your thumbnails are the more views you will get and the more people will trust you enough to subscribe.
That is why I took the plunge and invested in my editing and design process with Adobe Creative Suite. They offer a WIDE range of tools to help make amazing videos, simple to use tools for overlays, graphics, one click tools to fix your audio and the very powerful Photoshop graphics program to make eye-catching thumbnails.
Best of all you can get a free trial for 30 days on their website, a discount if you are a student and if you are a regular human being it starts from as little as £9 per month if you want to commit to a plan.
3. Rev.com helps people read my videos
You can’t always listen to a video.
Maybe you’re on a bus, a train or sat in a living room with a 5 year old singing baby shark on loop… for HOURS. Or, you are trying to make as little noise as possible while your new born is FINALLY sleeping.
This is where Rev can help you or your audience consume your content on the go, in silence or in a language not native to the video.
Rev.com can help you translate your videos, transcribe your videos, add subtitles and even convert those subtitles into other languages – all from just $1.50 per minute.
A GREAT way to find an audience and keep them hooked no matter where they are watching your content.
4. PlaceIT can help you STAND OUT on YouTube
I SUCK at making anything flashy or arty.
I have every intention in the world to make something that looks cool but im about as artistic as a dropped ice-cream cone on the web windy day.
That is why I could not live on YouTube without someone like PlaceIT. They offer custom YouTube Banners, Avatars, YouTube Video Intros and YouTube End Screen Templates that are easy to edit with simple click, upload wizard to help you make amazing professional graphics in minutes.
Best of all, some of their templates are FREE! or you can pay a small fee if you want to go for their slightly more premium designs (pst – I always used the free ones).
5. StoryBlocks helps me add amazing video b-roll cutaways
I mainly make tutorials and talking head videos.
And in this modern world this can be a little boring if you don’t see something funky every once in a while.
I try with overlays, jump cuts and being funny but my secret weapon is b-roll overlay content.
I can talk about skydiving, food, money, kids, cats – ANYTHING I WANT – with a quick search on the StoryBlocks website I can find a great looking clip to overlay on my videos, keeping them entertained and watching for longer.
They have a wide library of videos, graphics, images and even a video maker tool and it wont break the bank with plans starting from as little as £8.25 ($9) per month.