I’m Jonny, and my friends call me JB. I’m 24 (almost 25) from London, and I run a YouTube channel about cars called Cars With JB (creative, I know). It has around 47,000 subscribers and grows by around 1.2-2k a month at the moment. I started making videos in March 2018, and have tried to post at least one or two videos a week since then! I also post daily on my @carswithjb Instagram, which has almost 3,000 followers (my initial goal before the end of 2020). It has been a challenge given I wouldn’t say I’m particularly good at photography. As an operation, it’s a one-person show, but wouldn’t be possible without all the support I get from family, friends, and followers - they enable me to crack on and get the videos done.
I actually started my channel, made the graphics, and had the idea back in September 2017 after I had a pretty scary car crash. That crash was one of the few bad things that happened over a short period, and though I’m never really impacted by tough times, I felt I needed something to draw my attention away from the negative. A friend of mine runs a hugely successful YouTube channel. I’ve always enjoyed making videos, and I have a massive passion for cars, so I decided it was a potential avenue to explore. YouTube is also my main form of social media entertainment, so it seemed like a good idea.
That September, I returned to the University after a placement year, so YouTube wasn’t first on my priority list, but the idea was there. I started infrequently posting on my Instagram from car shows I was going to and put up a few placeholder videos. Still, I ultimately didn’t really have any idea where I wanted to go and didn’t want to force it either. As I went into the second semester, I realised I was spending an excessive amount of time window shopping for cars I couldn’t afford. I started to turn these sessions into list videos, as they enabled me to carry on window shopping and utilise my enjoyment of research and essay writing. I also had an idea to start doing some super cheap mods to my old 2002 VW Polo, the kind of mods a poor student, deep into their overdraft, could afford to do.
At first, it was just one video a week, and I think it was between March and August to even get to 100 subscribers. I just enjoyed making the videos, and it was a fantastic pastime. I saw it as a project to keep me focused. Then in late August/early September 2018, one of my videos started to get picked up by the YouTube algorithm. I suddenly saw massive growth. People watched that video, and all the other videos on my channel relevant to their interests. It just started growing massively overnight. I remember when I was just taking screenshots of my subscriber numbers every day, as I simply couldn’t believe it! And the rest is history. I suppose I’ve kept on making videos, and people have (generally) kept watching!
I don’t really have a process, but I think I really should have. Initially, I would make videos on topics I liked. I think I got a bit lost in 2019 trying to follow trends, and whatever/make videos I thought would get views, and it massively demotivated me. As a compromise, I started doing two videos a week - one, which was a video I really wanted to make, and the other was one I thought would do well. Over time, I’ve realized that it’s all good and well trying to get views, but if I don’t enjoy making (and don’t even like) the content I create, I simply won't take the time for it.
So my creative process now is pretty simple: Am I interested in the topic/do I want to make the video? If yes, then I make the video! I want to start making more videos that bridge the gap between car YouTube channels and some of the more popular channels (obviously keeping the focus on cars) in the future, so I will need to be better at spotting, understanding, and capitalising on these trends.
I edit all my videos on Sony Vegas Pro and make all my thumbnails on GIMP. I taught myself both of these while I was still at school, so there was no massive learning curve. I don’t think I’m particularly good at either, and I often think about outsourcing both to spend more time creating content, but I’m not yet willing to let go of those responsibilities!
In the future, I’d like to get better at photo editing for my Instagram, but when you post every day, it can be quite tough to set aside the time to do that. I have handles on Facebook, Twitter, and TikTok. If I were savvier, I’d make better use of them, but I don’t use any of them personally. I do use Instagram and YouTube, which has kept me motivated. I recently started on Discord; it’s currently only for my patrons, but I’ll make it public soon!
If you ask any of my friends, they’d tell you I tend to not really care what people think about me unless I value them. If I want to do something, I’ll just do it, so I’ve never had to deal with the fear of starting up and looking silly. Although, I had to deal with listening to my voice over and over while editing, which sucked, to begin with because I couldn’t handle how stupid I thought I sounded!
But over time, I got used to that, and I got better on camera, etc. I still have a long way to go to be a good presenter. Still, it’s fantastic to compare my old stuff to my new stuff. I don’t know how I started to grow. I wasn’t very interesting or engaging as a presenter before. I am not saying I’m exceptional now, but I’m definitely more useful in front of the lens! If anyone out there is worried about how they’ll be perceived by others when doing something public like YouTube, just focus on getting successful, then suddenly it becomes fantastic. People only ask you ‘how did you do it’ etc.
The good thing about YouTube is the budget to kick it off is relatively low, depending on what you want to do. For me, in particular, I already had a decent camera, a GoPro, a gaming PC with Sony Vegas, and a microphone, so the investment was only really in parts for my Polo project. As I initially mentioned, it was one video a week, probably an average of one Instagram post a week. This worked for a time, but two a week has been manageable, so I switched to posting twice a week around October 2019. I also changed to daily Instagram content in August 2019, which is super useful; keeps you up there on the Instagram algorithm.
I haven’t had any real strategy behind anything I’ve done. I probably could have grown way better/faster if I had, but one has to find motivation. Mine is the video-making and building relationships with my subscribers! It took about six months to hit 100 subs, then about three weeks later, I was on 1k, hit 10k before the end of 2018, 28k by the end of 2019, and my goal for 2020 is to hit 50k, which I should do! 100k is my ultimate goal for 2021. In know it’s going to be tough, but I hope I can achieve it!
I still work full-time alongside YouTube as a consultant at a large financial services firm. It’s a lot of effort, but multiple sources of income are much safer, especially this time.
Nothing will ever beat the feeling of initial growth when you’re suddenly heading into the unknown with all these eyes watching you!
But there are plenty of other significant milestones, like the first time I was recognised in public (and every time since), the first time someone showed me the car they bought by my recommendation, etc. To be honest, I try not to focus on number-based milestones too much, as it’s a bit empty. It is more important to focus on the rate of growth, etc., than the total number! That said, if I ever manage to hit 100k, that’ll be a significant milestone for me; a YouTube silver play button, and a ridiculous number of people enjoying the content! I’ve got a few personal things in mind to celebrate the day it happens.
I need to get better at marketing. I’ve never paid for any promotion ever, not on any platform, though I know it’s helped many people grow. I need to make better thumbnails and titles too. Marketing is not my strong point at all! But it’s not something I’m that interested in. I have seen some of the strategies regarding where I tell people to subscribe and follow on Instagram in my videos being quite important; basically just putting those plugs where I expect people to be watching! One thing I would say, though, is never to underestimate the power of a call to action!
I get quite a few in my inbox, yet I think I’ve only taken maybe three or four in my time on YouTube. I only carry deals from brands I trust, and that I believe are relevant to my audience. I think it’s good to remember that your brand has value in and of itself, so there’s no reason to devalue it by taking every brand deal that comes your way! I’ve turned down some very big-name sponsors because I just haven’t fancied talking about their products, particularly when they’re entirely irrelevant to what people subscribe to me for.
In the future, if the channel gets more significant, I can definitely see how you’d need someone to handle all the offers, though. There’s a fair bit of cash to be made through influencer marketing, and it’s definitely a bit of a myriad for creators!