How I Used My Teaching Skills To Build My YouTube Channel.

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June 27, 2020

Who are you and what kind of content do you create?

I am a high-school teacher based in Melbourne, Australia. My YouTube channel was inspired by the trending videos at the time: vlogs, unboxing and gaming videos. While I experimented with many niches with varying success, I found my place in the archery niche. I primarily cover the Olympic recurve discipline, but have since expanded to cover other traditional forms of archery and general archery topics. My video library contains a wealth of information for new and current archers, and is used extensively by clubs and coaches worldwide. My channel is credited for bringing people into the sport and growing the sport internationally. 

Though the process of making videos from start to finish is fun, I’ve always maintained my channel as a side-hustle and have no current plans to expand beyond that. I am content with my full-time job as a teacher and YouTube is a creative outlet for me, and a way for me to achieve things that I wouldn’t be able to do in just my little creative bubble. As a side project, the channel has always been a one-man job, which has challenged me to increase my skills in certain parts of the process, but also helped me accept that I need to work on a sustainable level.

Let's go down memory lane, tell us your backstory! 

What drove me to make archery content and specialise in that niche was a combination of my desire for learning new things and a newfound hobby. As someone hungry to learn everything I could, even as I was just starting in archery, I was disappointed by the lack of relevant content on YouTube. If no one else was going to make it, maybe I should. 

My big break in finding my niche as an archery channel was in making a simple review and comparison of finger tabs - a simple, basic piece of protection used by most archers. However, with no one actually talking about what they were, I felt that there needed to be a guide. Inspired by the “Price Points” videos from Epicurious and Buzzfeed, I took a similar approach in comparing cheap and expensive tabs.

This got me into the archery scene, and I made dozens of similar videos in subsequent months, comparing bows, arrows, and other pieces of equipment. All these videos were evergreen tutorials, creating the traction that later general tutorials and tips would leverage to catapult onto the first page of search results. Essentially, rather than trying to create a holistic channel from the top down, I nailed very specific searches and dominated those before expanding to related topics.

My goal in my early stages was to surpass the other archery channels. At first, I felt like the upstart underdog, but after years of consistent effort and providing vital information for a community that was hungering for it, I established my prominence in my niche and became a household name in archery circles. My mantra in continuing to produce content for my channel is to be the creator I wished I had when I started.

How do you brainstorm ideas for your content and your advice in getting the creative juice flowing.

Most of my inspiration comes from the things I encounter as an archer, an athlete and a coach. My original set of videos were directly in response to common questions and issues that I identified in new learners, including myself - things like how to buy a bow, the correct and safest techniques, how to improve, and so on. If one person in my class wanted to know, surely hundreds or thousands of others would too. That foresight turned out to be correct. Since the style and tone of my content was similar to how I would teach the concept in real life, many people found my style of teaching on YouTube to be easy to understand, earning my place as a credible and valuable resource for archers around the globe.

As I am continuing on my journey as an archer in different styles, from experimenting with traditional archery to competing in national events, my ideas come organically. If I personally come across something new, I make a point to feature it as a discussion for a future video. If I come across a road block, I’m genuine in wanting to talk about it. I know that others want to feel that they’re not alone in their struggles, and it’s good for me as well.

What are the tools and platform you use to help with your brand?

My main platform is on YouTube, with off-shoots on Facebook and Instagram. I’m not a heavy social media user, so I post content on the other platforms to keep up appearances and engage with my community, though most of my effort is on the channel itself.

One thing I had to do after years of creating content was to make a more consistent visual brand. I was haphazard in my earlier years with thumbnails. They were simple, clear and easy to identify. However, it was getting cluttered internally and as I began to expand my niche, some videos seemed out of place. I made a large effort to refresh my channel by redesigning hundreds of thumbnails to be colour-coordinated based on their topic and display clear playlists for easier navigation.

A crucial part of establishing my brand and reputation was being an active participant in relevant communities. A large part of my early growth came from being a regular contributor on Reddit, where I would post responses to common questions. I would then use those questions to create video content, and future responses would also include links to these videos. As these videos were well received and frequently referenced by other community members, it became normal for newbie threads to feature several links to my videos. When it got to the point where other people were beating me to the punch in linking my content - and thread creators had seen my videos previously and recognised me - I knew I had earned that reputation.

What were your fears starting out? How did you handle it? 

The main doubt in my mind was not being certain whether my information was accurate. In my field, passing on the right information is essential, as incorrect tutorials could mislead new archers into doing the wrong thing and becoming injured. It was also challenging to ensure that I presented information in a clear and balanced manner, respecting the differences in approaches by different archers in different styles. I was also conscious of similar channels running into problems by talking in circles and wasting time in getting to the point.

In my early growth years, I established the quality benchmark for my channel by scripting meticulously. I made sure I did my research, got my terminology right, and was as concise as possible with my script knowing that I had a tendency to pad out my video if I ad-libbed the lines. I used my strength as a writer (rather than a speaker) to draft and edit until I was satisfied that it was as clear as possible. In effect, I could get the value of a 20-minute video in half the time, and that was something I became known for. These days I don’t script as heavily as I am more confident with my knowledge and delivery, but I seldom go into a video without a rough plan of what I should be talking about.

How did you build your brand to where it is now, take us through your process.

When I created my archery channel, I had in mind that I wanted to be the “archery buddy” that people wish they had, a person they could talk to about archery if they had no one else. I wasn’t a professional-level archer, but I was the guy they would probably hang out with on the range and learn a thing or two from. Putting forward that genuine persona was important in establishing credibility and respect.

Using that persona, I actively went after the questions and topics that people in my niche were seeking. With my first-hand experience as an instructor, I knew what people wanted to know and when they needed it, so I filled out my video library with content that could eventually get someone from their first lesson to being a confident shooter. I continued to be active on forums like Reddit and making a name for myself on numerous platforms, until it became the norm to either expect an answer from me, or have someone else link my content. Word of mouth continues to be a major source of brand awareness, and I often hear from other people about how archers they have met cite my videos as their learning resource.

For someone who wants to get into content creation, what is your advice?

Have a vision of what you want your channel to look like and work towards making it happen. This is easy to say in retrospect, but many creators don’t know what to expect and go through experimental stages - and that’s fine. It may take time and a lot of experimentation to see what you enjoy making and seeing what will stick. Working from the bottom-up this way can give you valuable experience in the creation process.

However, the sooner you know what niche you want to specialise in and lock that down, the faster you will grow. People will identify channels for the kind of content they make, and new channels can make their brand identity known through having plenty of content covering that niche. Variety content, and especially vanity content (such as vlogs and update videos) can be a waste of time since you don’t have the demand for personal videos.

Focus on the content that you want to make and go straight to making it. Don’t fluff around with content that no one asked for.

Tell us your best milestones in being a content creator.

As someone who is on the fringe of the archery community, itself a fringe of the mainstream community, I wanted to be accepted as part of my niche. The increasing global recognition was a gentle swell in the back of my mind, but realising that I was having significant real-world impact was a massive turning point. The first sign of this was in being interviewed for Bow International magazine and recognised as the face of archery online and an ambassador for the sport.

This would snowball into grander opportunities that would normally only be afforded to professional, elite athletes, such as sponsorships and products from manufacturers. The biggest highlight was being contacted by Kisik Lee, a world-class coach and the US Olympic Coach of the Year, to be invited to attend his coaching seminar. It was a surreal experience to not only meet an idol through my work on YouTube, but also have my influence and role on the global archery scene recognised by Coach Lee.

This culminated in my first appearance at a world-level event. While I was mostly a filler entry, I was perhaps the most popular figure in the bottom tier because of my online presence. I was approached by many archers, volunteers and even parents for photos. It’s easy to become isolated while working your own bubble, but seeing how I have affected and changed people’s lives validated my quiet efforts.

What are your marketing strategies to grow your brand?

Be present where your audience is. For me, I was a regular name in archery communities both in the real world and on the internet. Being active in your community is overlooked by many new creators, who expect viewers to materialise out of nowhere. You need to make a name for yourself to establish credibility and niche authority, especially in a small, specialised niche. Go to your audience and work with them on their level, and use that experience and exposure to drive new fans to your channel. Be a somebody, because nobody will watch a nobody.

How do you handle brand deals and sponsorships? 

The main thing to remember is that you are building partnerships. That means you need to be clear and transparent with the people you want to work with, and doing so will attract more people to work with you. You’re not there to exploit potential partners, and you’re also not one to be exploited. Be mindful that you want to be fair and unbiased - your integrity comes first. It’s obvious if you’re selling yourself out for easy money. If the opportunity arises for you to make money from paid promotions and you want to take that, that’s fair game and you can be expected to take advantage of what you have earned. But don’t lie to your audience. Value your independence. If you’re doing YouTube as a full-time gig, you will need to look at multiple revenue streams and be more open to seeking out sponsorships, but if making money isn’t a main priority, don’t be greedy.

I’ve been fortunate in that many businesses have reached out to me to send equipment to review, some of which are fairly high on the price spectrum. I make it a point to return the trust and effort that partners put into me and giving them as much exposure as possible by featuring their products even though I am not contractually obligated to. The ongoing positivity, professionalism and goodwill has allowed me to gain access to equipment that I otherwise would not have gotten.

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