How to Collab with Big Creators as a Small YouTube Channel

Despite what most people think, small YouTube channels can collaborate with big ones. Here’s how to approach someone with more subscribers than you.


Two weeks ago, we discovered some shocking news. It appears that small YouTube channels prefer to collaborate with other small channels – and not the big, prominent ones that get millions of views.

We discovered this insight after posting a question on the YouTube Community tab. We asked, “Would you rather seek a collab with a bigger creator or accept one from a smaller creator?”

Out of 14,000 respondents, roughly 10,000 said they would accept a “small collab” before reaching out to a prominent creator.

In this episode of TubeTalk, Travis McPherson of the Travis MCP channel shares a different perspective. He believes one of the biggest YouTube myths is people thinking small creators can’t work with larger ones. As a customer success manager at vidIQ, McPherson has coached enough creators to know that's a huge misconception.

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“I never really let that stop me,” McPherson says. “My first year [on YouTube], I was collaborating with channels with millions of subscribers. So it’s not true.”

But no matter what, you need a solid plan to attract video partners. Here’s how to approach popular creators with a collaboration idea.

1. Offer Your Expertise to Large YouTube Creators

Sometimes the best way to secure a video collab is by taking things slowly. Instead of contacting dozens of people, build a genuine relationship with one creator. Find out what they like, dislike, and struggle with on YouTube.

Once you know all of that, McPherson says you should offer your expertise or skillset if it helps them succeed on YouTube.

Large YouTubers are busy people, so they might need help with:

The key is to give without asking for anything in return. That’s the easiest way to befriend large creators who are open to collaborating.

2. Make Sure the Creator Is in Your YouTube Niche

Partnering with successful creators is wise, but don’t forget to consider your audience. Every week, they come to your channel to explore one niche – a topic so exciting they’ve decided to become regular viewers. The last thing they want to watch is a wildly off-topic video.

Let’s say you have a cooking channel, and you want to collaborate with a music creator because they have 100,000 subscribers. That might sound tempting, but it wouldn’t benefit you or the other creator. So few of those "music" viewers are interested in cooking content.

“Is your niche completely left of center from theirs? If so, what’s the point?” McPherson says.

To create the best collaboration, work with a creator in your niche who understands your content and whose audience overlaps yours. This guarantees you'll stay on topic and continue to satisfy your subscribers.

The only exception to this rule is when you find someone adjacent to your niche. If you both cover the same broad niche but different aspects of it, that makes for a great collab, too.

3. Build Your ‘YouTube Resume’

Some people think you need thousands of subscribers to engage with famous creators, but that’s not true. All you need is a solid YouTube resume to put you in the running.

Think of it like this: It’s better to have 200 videos uploaded than have 1,000 subscribers and only 10 videos.

"I’ve jumped on channels and done interviews and collabs with channels with 100 subscribers,” McPherson says. “It’s nothing to me because I saw the work ethic. I saw that they’re really trying to do something, and I liked the content.”

Collabs on YouTube work best when they’re beneficial for both creators. So if you haven’t uploaded in six months, don’t expect a well-known creator to help launch your comeback video. Work on finding your upload rhythm again!

4. Brainstorm Collab Ideas Before You Start Pitching

If you read our last post about YouTube collabs, you know how important good video ideas are. They’re even more critical when reaching out to prominent creators who’ve reached some level of success.

Read More: 7 Tips to Craft Irresistible Video Ideas on YouTube

Your initial pitch email should do three things:

  • Describe your video collab idea in great detail.
  • Explain why the partnership makes sense.
  • Provide a simple plan to make it happen.
“When you give someone an idea of what they’re getting into, what they need to do for you, and why it makes sense, people are more likely to say yes than you might think,” McPherson says.

When you’re laying out a plan, be specific. If all you need is a one-minute clip from the creator, let them know so they don’t expect more work than the collab requires. Overall, just make it easy for the person to say yes.

5. Send a Follow-Up Email

It’s easy to assume that popular YouTubers avoid lesser-known creators, but that’s not true. A lot is happening behind the scenes that people don’t see. Large creators are working on sponsored content, producing their own videos, getting interviewed, and brainstorming future content. They're just busy.

It’s easy to lose track of emails when you’re working hard. If you haven’t heard from a creator in a long time, it's time to send a follow-up message.

“The thing I’ve seen people do is, they’ll ask [for a collab], and then they’ll get shy later on if they haven’t heard back in three or four days,” McPherson says. “Or five days. Or six days. And the longer the time is from the last time you talked to them, the more likely it is they’ve forgotten.”

So don’t be discouraged. Sometimes it takes an extra email (or two) to reach the best creators.

But when you do start working on a collab, these six tips will help you produce a successful video project for YouTube.