Tell us about your channel and how you got started on YouTube.
“So I am a filmmaker first photographer second, and I’ve always wanted to create something to share my knowledge in film and photography. Yes, the technical aspects and the craft itself, but also the idea of storytelling. And so that’s when YouTube started to gain traction and popularity. And when I saw that it was a platform that was free and you get to share your your your stories or film for free on this platform, I knew that was the end goal. So I stopped interning at studios and realized climbing that studio corporate ladder wasn’t something I wanted to do, I wanted to make films on my own terms.
And so yeah, I started that in 2016, and funny enough when I started making YouTube videos in 2016, and almost felt like I was a noob like I didn’t know how to make videos and stuff like that. I just copied the best in the business, you know, like Casey Neistat’s videos, so that it actually deterred people away from actually watching my videos. I would work maybe 8-12 hours on these videos and I would be so confused as to why I didn’t get the views that Casey got. Then one day I was like, you know what whatever. I’ll just quit and climb up the corporate studio ladder again. I’ll just make one more video, but let me make it for me. Funny enough, since I made a video that was you know for me, genuine people started to resonate and I got a lot of views. That’s what started the growth of my channel and yeah, I’ve been growing ever since. I’ve developed this amazing community of people just learning together and encouraging each other to keep going telling their stories and just sharing the things that we learned along the way.”
What is one piece of advice you’d give to a newbie creator? And what is one piece of advice they should ignore?
“That’s a good question… I would say keep creating, because you may think one thing is good in your mind, but when you execute it and deliver it, it may not resonate with other people. But as a Creator, it’s your job your duty to keep creating… not just not for the views, not for the growth, not for the fame popularity money, but it’s to create… I would do YouTube for free because I love it so much and so I would just say keep creating.
As far as what not to do, I would say don’t chase the views… Create something that’s meaningful that’s genuine. If it’s something that’s for you, then chances are it’s going to resonate with a lot of people… If you want to stand out on being in YouTube, you have to be yourself… You can’t be another Casey because he already is. If you truly want to be different and stand out you have to be you because you are uniquely different to anyone else on the planet, so double down triple down on who you are and show that and express that on video.”
What is your favorite video you have ever made?
“My favorite video that I’ve ever made was actually between my move from California to Texas. My wife and I were waiting for our housing to go through because we were still going into escrow. So we had to rent out an Airbnb and I knew I had to put out a video the next day and I was stressing out because I didn’t have my studio. I just had, you know, my camera and a couple of lights and stuff. What do I do? [I thought] maybe I’ll just make a video about me setting up a YouTube studio in an Airbnb. So I did that. It was like 10 o’clock and I’m stressing out. So I film it then I posted it the next day. Turns out, it’s one of my most successful videos and it’s the one video that people recognize me from like hey, I remember Video that you made a making a YouTube City on Airbnb. It got a lot of popularity last year during the pandemic when people were turning to YouTube as a means to make an income. So yeah, I’m very proud of that silly video that just, you know, not planned at all just spontaneous and like all right. I need to create something. We don’t need to create a number. It’s like kind of proud of that. You know, I mean, it’s like just kind of have to lean into your instincts and unfortunately, it pays off.”
What are some tools that allow you to be more effective at your craft?
“I mean you do have the practicals like… Premiere Pro, TubeBuddy, and vid IQ, I quite like using. But honestly, I think Twitter is probably my favorite tool because that’s where I really engage with my audience. I can ask them “Hey, what do you want to see?” or you know, I get to see what they’re up to and I kind of get to engage with them. Every now and then like once a month I get to say “Hey, we share your most recent video with me, let’s get you some views on Twitter and you get a lot of Engagement!” So yeah, out of all places Twitter’s probably been the most powerful tool just to connect with my audience and actually grow not just on YouTube and on Twitter but like on all the platforms.”
How do you continue to educate yourself in your craft? What are some of your favorite resources for learning?
“Well, this is pre-pandemic, I used to go to like these big conferences like in a be in Vegas or Camera Camp from Sony or Vid Summit, where you get to actually connect with other YouTubers and like-minded people. Being a YouTuber is a weird job… you still get weird looks from people because it’s still a newly legitimate job. So going to those kinds of places is inspiring and refreshing because you get to connect with like-minded people again, which is really nice.
That takes me back to Twitter, how it is just the common hub for all of us creators, those are the things that keep me going. I think when I get comments from certain videos, like comments that say “because of this video was able to start my own business” or “because of that video I’m inspired to do this.” Those are the things that really motivate me to keep making videos because you know people get something out of it, and that I get to impact somebody’s life and that’s huge.”
What has been your biggest tool for subscriber growth?
“I used to focus on that. I focused on it so much to reach a hundred thousand subscribers, but once I passed that mark, it didn’t matter so much to me anymore… it was just a number, you know? I felt the same excitement starting YouTube when I had 500 subscribers and got my first brand deal. Getting that silver plaque still feels the same and so, you know when bigger YouTubers say like the numbers really don’t matter. It’s totally true… regardless of the number of likes, regardless of the views, I really love making films on my terms and I think that’s probably the biggest joy I get from it. I’m a weird person where I don’t like being told what to do, especially when it comes to videos… I know this video has to be this way because it’s just good. So I think I’m very fortunate to be in a position where I get to make videos on my own terms.
But yeah, I think the moment I stopped focusing on the numbers, I enjoyed making more videos. You know where I was just kind of stressing out and trying to make a specific video because it’s trending and trying to ride that momentum where now it’s like I have full range and full freedom just to really make whatever I want and that’s probably one of the biggest joys.”
What makes a good thumbnail then?
“Two things: bright colors and lines. It’s the same rules for photography, people are drawn to lines whether the lines pointed from the corners of the image towards the center and also bright spots in a picture. Take, for example, the Mona Lisa. It’s a very small painting but people are drawn to it because the face is at the center of it and it’s bright on the face, especially on the eyes and if you look at it. There may not be actual little lines on it, but like the way the image is shaped, It’s pulling you towards the middle. So I’ve tried that strategy and it’s actually drawn a lot more these and that you’re trying to attract eyes and the best way to do that is point. Pull towards the center and the way to do that is by using and bright colors.”
Do you put much time into making your videos SEO friendly?
“Yeah, well, I mean it’s kind of different every time, there’s not a structured routine that I go through to make these videos. I mean, yeah, I go through production try to think of ideas ahead of time and I do have a big list of potential videos to make but funny enough, I always think of the thumbnail first… I would take these photos and I’m like, “yeah, that could be a good video idea” and you know when you’re scrolling through YouTube It’s always a thumbnail that’s going to be the first line of defense, right? That’s the first point of contact for people to decide to click or not, so if I don’t have a thumbnail that catches me my video will not be seen no matter how good it is.”
Is there a trend that you are seeing emerge in 2021? What excites you about it?
“The videos where the audience feels like, they’re a part of the journey. When I started used to be about tutorials and camera gear reviews and it is still very much of that. But I think I think because of the pandemic, people are turning to platforms like YouTube for that connection, and if they watch a video where they feel like they’re a part of it and you’re their friend. I mean the videos that I’m watching that are totally not filmmaking related, they are videos about you know, watching shows that are on Disney Plus. Like things that I’m currently watching to keep myself occupied or entertained. It’s like I’m watching Wanda Vision and I’m like “who else is watching this? Oh, cool man, we’re hanging out.” So I tend to like those videos now, and I’m starting to see more videos going that route. Inviting people into the lives in addition to the tutorials the camera gear reviews and all that stuff. Awesome.”
When did your channel start to ‘pay off?’ In other words, when did your channel start to make you money?
“It paid off when I finally made the decision to leave my full-time job to pursue YouTube. Seeing the numbers come in and bouncing it out and like oh, wow, if I spent more time doing YouTube, I actually would make more money than my full-time job. So when I saw those numbers and got to share that with my wife, seeing her be assured that we’re going to be okay. I think that’s when it fully paid off. All of that hard work up to that moment, where I would have to split my time and film YouTube videos early in the morning or at my lunch or at least in the evenings. I can fully dedicate the entire day just to making YouTube content. I think that was probably one of the best days of my life.”
Have you created sponsored content? If you have, how did you get in contact with your sponsors?
“For some reason in my mind, I thought when I hit a thousand subscribers, that’s when I’ll get sponsors to contact me. I was verging on 500 subscribers and was like “Okay halfway there, I really want to do that sponsored content, why do I have to wait? Maybe I’ll just reach out to them.” So I wanted to contact a backpack company that I really love and find a director of marketing. So I just Googled the director of marketing for this company, and then I found this person’s contact on LinkedIn. I actually called his cell phone number, he picked it up and I got so nervous. I was like “oh hi. My name is Sidney. I’m an up-and-coming YouTuber and I would really love to review your backpack” and I think because he was caught off guard, he was kind of forced to say yes, you know just to be polite. But that was my first sponsored brand deal! At 500 subscribers! I got to review a backpack and that’s when the sponsorships started coming in. Because I just went for it, you know? I didn’t have to wait for a certain subscriber number. I’m like, what’s the worst that could happen? They say no? Okay big whoop. So yeah, so that was my as my first sponsored deal.
It’s confidence…. There’s a good chance that they’ll say yes. Also just let them know hey, I want to tell your story. I want to tell the brand story because it actually helps me in my journey and think this would be perfect. I find that if you are confident or at least take it then there’s a good chance of you getting that brand deal.”
Anything else you’d like to share?
“I mean not in particular. I just know I’m very appreciative of Geniuslink for helping provide that sustainable income for me…it makes it easy for me to monetize my channel. And so if I were to give one other tidbit, that would be that.”