Budget Technology

OzTalksHW

How a Computer Engineer Builds Success by Building His Own Rigs.

Side Hustle
July 21, 2020
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Who are you and what kind of content do you create?

Ah, the classic, age old question. “Who ARE YOU?” Haha. I guess it depends on who's asking. 


For those who don’t know me, I’d introduce myself as a Nigerian computer engineer who lives in Atlanta, GA. I love people and I love Jesus. That’s basically it. I hardly ever discuss my YouTube career with people when I first meet them! It’s not because I’m ashamed of it or scared of it (though there was a time when I was nervous to share my craft with friends), but because I don’t want them to think that’s all I’m about. It’s a part of me, but it’s definitely not who I am. It might seem like semantics, but identity is so important! The look on people’s faces when they find my YouTube channel is pretty amusing, too.


But since this is about my career online, let’s focus on that. I am a content creator that focuses on budget computer technology. I show people how to save money when building computers, do fun experiments with cheap technology, and hopefully inspire others to give back through computers. I currently do it part time and focus on school full time. I attend the greatest institute in the world (Georgia Tech of course!) in Atlanta, GA. 


I’ve been doing YouTube for about 4 years consistently and have been a one man show for about 90% of it. My close friend and I came up with the name “Oz Talks Hardware” after I decided I wanted to try YouTube again (I’ve had several failed attempts that I’ll discuss in later parts of this interview). A popular computer tech YouTuber, JayzTwoCents, was a big inspiration for my name. You can probably see the resemblance haha. 


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

I have to apologize for a second. I’m bad at taking pictures and archiving files. Like, REALLY bad. And I have never regretted it more than I do now. And I tend to delete everything without backing it up. Sadly, I don’t have any pictures or files to show! Let this be a warning - BACK. UP. EVERYTHING. Now, the back-story.


I’ve had several YouTube channels before. Actually, my journey on YouTube started with making whistling covers of Legend of Zelda songs. Yes. WHISTLING. COVERS. You will never find those. I just had so many creative juices and I just got The Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker, and decided that’s one way I could express myself. Needless to say, that ended pretty quickly. 


I built my first computer when I was 13, so almost 9 years ago. I didn’t have a lot of money and saved up $300 by donating cans and bottles to recycling centers. I have four other siblings, so we always had 2-3 bags of cans and bottles by the end of the week. When I researched how to build a gaming computer in 2011, there weren’t many guides for affordable/cheap computers. After I built my system, I decided to make my own videos for three reasons:

  • I wish that type of content was there when I built my computer.
  • Other content creators like PCWizKid, MKBHD, and JayzTwoCents inspired me
  • I naturally had an interest in computers, so it was a fun way to express myself!


My first YouTube channel did fairly well, but I nuked it because my friends found it and teased me. About 2 years later, I restarted with my current channel (after a long motivational pep talk to not care so much about what others think about me), and OzTalksHW was born! Things picked up fairly quickly and within 2.5 years I hit 100K subs. Within another year and a half, I’ve hit 200K subs and over 20 million total views. It’s quite radical.


The entire process has naturally had highs and lows. There is no “YouTube handbook” so you really just figure things out as you go along. I didn’t expect the anxiety for instance. But I also didn’t expect to meet so many awesome people. I believe the best advice comes through experience, so here are my two cents from my journey: find a niche that you enjoy and don’t take yourself too seriously. YouTube can be a fun career, but don’t stress yourself and fall out of love with it. I’ve come close to that a few times!


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

Inspiration comes from two places: myself, and others. If I see a need/something not addressed in my community, in my house, with my school - then I’ll jot it down. If I find something interesting or I have a question I want answered, I’ll write it down. If other people request specific videos, I write that video idea down. I love people, and so being in community gets the creative juices flowing! I probably have 200 or so video ideas in a document somewhere that I’ve never touched, but each one had a purpose in the creative process.


I have a confession...I’m not a very sophisticated person. All of my video ideas are in a Google document. On top of that, I think I’ve just reached a point where I have figured out my video process. I start with the title. I didn’t do that before, but I’ve found that having an interesting, thought provoking title does two things: it gives you a targeted vision and goal for the video and it draws the viewer in. You can literally frame your entire video around the title now! You know what to include and what to exclude. A good title doesn’t reveal too much but makes the viewer question. It also helps you create a solid story, and people LOVE juicy narratives.


After that, I’ll write down the full vision of the video. A quick paragraph about why I’m making it. That just helps frame everything. Then, I just film. I try and record everything - even things that might be stupid. Not having enough film is one of the worst things in the world because you have to squeeze content out of an empty well. 


Writer’s block is a thing, but I haven’t experienced it much recently. I’m not sure if that’s because I have such rEvoLuTiOnArY video ideas, or because I’ve learned to deal with it. If it happens, I find a good (free to use) song. My script is always framed around a song that fits the mood. I totally think more people should try this. Music is so impactful on a scene and it can change how you record, edit, and script so much! If that doesn’t work, I just work on a different video. I usually have 2-3 videos ongoing at the same time, so there’s usually something else I can do.


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

This will be pretty short. I use Davinci Resolve 16 for video editing, Photopea or GIMP for picture editing (though it’s rare that I’d need to use those), and Audacity on the occasion I need to do a voice-over. If I’m streaming I use StreamLabs OBS. I learned these through YouTube tutorials and practice. Even when I’m not working on a video for the channel, I edit personal videos to relax. Plus, I’ve been editing for 7+ years now. I have a decent grasp on it.


I’m mostly on YouTube, Twitter, and Discord. I’ve found that the last two are the best ways to connect with my audience outside of YouTube. I do use my personal Instagram from time to time, but I’m AWFUL at using my instagram for my channel. I need to work on that. Productivity wise, I use a simple to do list app. I try to knock out 5 things a day, including school work. 


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

My biggest fear was caring about what people think. Most people had no clue that I was interested in computers, except my immediate family. I was afraid of what would happen if friends watched my videos. I didn’t have any particularly close friends when I started making videos (around 16) and I played football competitively, so the friends I did have through the sport were not my target audience. Plus, my personality on camera differed from my personality in real life.


I was very open and extroverted on camera than I was in real life. I was a really shy kid. And I think that made the videos more vulnerable and scarier for people who knew me in person. As soon as I went to college and started finding my identity in Jesus and not in what I do and what others think of me, the two personalities merged. I feel like I’m the same person on camera that I am in person! And it’s so freeing.


Negative comments don’t bother me. If people call me names, I’m not phased. Critical comments do phase me, and I’m working on that. The technology space leaves so much room for criticism, and when I make a mistake or maybe recommend a product that doesn’t perform as well objectively as a different component, the comments can become a scary place for me. I reply to the comments and say, “thanks for the criticism! Here is my thought process. I’ll try better next time” and move on.

Overcoming the fears is a process. I wish I could give people more practicals on how to do it. Personally, I tried to work on myself and get to a place where I’m so secure in myself that hyper-critical comments aren’t bothersome. Even now, I have bad days.


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

HAH - uploading consistently...imagine doing that. YouTube was always meant to be a fun hobby for me, so I never stuck to a strict schedule. I’d say I averaged maybe a video every 2-3 weeks but they came in spurts. I’d upload 3-4 videos in a month and then take a month break. Rinse and repeat.


Building a brand can be difficult and I’d say I didn’t really focus on it until late 2019. My videos were all over the place! I’d honestly just record what I was interested in. Usually that was budget computer technology but not always. Slowly, I’ve come to realize that it’s good to find a niche and try and be known for said niche. I’ve placed myself in budget computer tech and thankfully that’s what I love doing.


I don’t exactly remember how long it took to start growing, but my 15th video or something blew up the summer of 2016. It was a $25 Gaming PC build and it hit 3 million views in like 2 months. I wasn’t expecting that at all. It really put me on the map. Since then the channel has had its ups and downs, but more recently, it’s been consistent. People do come to me with budget computer questions, so I guess something is working!


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

Find a niche that you naturally enjoy and run with it! It’s okay to experiment a lot at the beginning.

When I first started making tech videos, I thought I was going the MKBHD route. I realized that my heart wasn’t completely there. I started doing fun experiments with cheap hardware and I just fell in love! Once you find your niche, pursue, pursue, pursue! You want people to know as the “X” guy. Figure out what that X means for you.


Overall, I have no regrets with my channel. I wish I didn’t stress out so much about views and analytics. I was obsessed with that for years! Only recently have I found satisfaction in simple making good content for the sake of good content. Focusing on the numbers creates anxiety, bitterness, and comparisons.


If you’re finding yourself in a bind where things aren’t exciting or you’re unsatisfied with your content, then I have three options that have helped me.

  1. Take a break. Maybe you’re a bit burnt out. That’s OK. Take a few days, a few weeks, maybe a few months, and relax. This can be scary because the algorithm favors consistency, so it’s a trust exercise. But use that time to reset. Of course, if YouTube is your full time job, a long break may not be possible. Regardless, rest is necessary!
  2. Watch videos not in your genre. My favorite videos were made when I used techniques from videos not in my genre. It will set you apart from others and bring a new flavor to your content.
  3. Ask other creators in your space! There aren’t many people who can sympathize with how you feel, but other creators can. Talk to them and see what they have to say. Make friends and build relationships. Like I already mentioned, my best ideas come from others.


How did you finally commit to X platform rather than your regular day job?

I’m still in school, so I don’t think I can answer this one just yet. I’m dancing with the idea of doing YouTube full time, but I’m not sure. The thought scares me slightly. If YouTube became my primary source of income, I would do a lot of things differently. A lot of things. And I feel like I wouldn’t be able to have as much fun with it. On the other hand, not making it my full time job does limit me to an extent. There are certain things I won’t be able to do, or it would be harder for me to achieve. Basically, it’s a “we’ll see” right now haha.


Tell us your best milestones in being a content creator.

My $25 gaming PC video blowing up was a pretty awesome milestone. I don’t really know how to explain it. I don’t think I thought much of it at the time, but it motivated me to work harder for sure. AMD contacting me to review the first generation of Ryzen CPUs was huge, too. I still remember the day! I was walking to the North Avenue Dining Hall in February, and I got an email saying that they want to send me some samples. I couldn’t believe my eyes! I freaked out and called my mom and my best friend, Ray, at the time. It was crazy!

The last milestone, and most recent one, that sticks out is Corsair inviting me to CES 2020. I never thought I would reach the point where something like that would be possible. I had to skip the first week of school but I gladly took the academic hit for such an awesome opportunity.


Nowadays, I don’t really keep track. Usually when a big milestone happens, I display an emotional response. 


What are your marketing strategies to grow your brand?

Man, the only way I knew how to grow my channel was making good content, consistently. I struggle with the “consistent” part because I’m in school; but God’s grace has been so good! Somehow the channel is still growing. Through the years, I’ve tried many different things: new channel art, starting a forum, starting a subreddit, starting a discord server, making new social media, hiring freelance employees, starting a website. Most of these haven’t helped much or they haven’t stayed.


Early on, I promoted my videos everywhere. I posted them in forums and subreddits when I could, including the LinusTechTips forums. When I saw steady growth, I dialed back on that and tried to up my video quality. Since then, I’ve really focused on hammering my niche. I only do budget videos now and I’m trying to build a community from that, even if it means less video uploads.


Only recently have I considered a marketing strategy. Still, the best strategy I’ve implemented is making better and more consistent thumbnails. Beyond that, not much has happened.


How do you handle brand deals and sponsorships? 

A big mistake early YouTubers make is accepting every brand deal under the sun. I understand the excitement when you first get brand deals; but you need to make sure the brand is someone you want to sponsor. Your name is attached to them. Then, you need to ask yourself if it's a brand your viewers would be interested in. If the product passes those two, you need to try it out yourself. Ask the PR contact to give you a free trial or something so you can test it out.


Nowadays, I rarely accept brand deals unless all three of those criteria are met. You’ll be surprised how quickly that filters out brands that don’t make sense! Overall, I stay away from VPNs. Besides that, there isn’t a specific brand I avoid.


I rarely reach out to other brands. If I do, I have a specific vision in mind and (usually) don’t have enough money to make it happen, so I ask them if they could sponsor me. I only do this with companies I’ve worked with before so there’s rapport already. It just makes things easier

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