Hi everyone. For those of you who don’t know, which I’m presuming is 99.99% of you, my name is Shane Conlan, and I’m Australian bred through and through. I’m a carpenter by trade with, well, over 20 years of experience in the game. While having my own business for all that time, l worked in construction, starting with building new homes from scratch, which evolved into old house renovations (and l mean old!) The majority of them were at least 100 years old, so there was plenty of renovating to do along with property maintenance.
I ceased doing that around ten years ago due to a health challenge. I became a full-time stay at home dad and began playing around with this new-fangled thing called YouTube. As far as YouTube goes these days, I’m still a one-person band and do it as a side hustle rather than a full-time gig.
I came up with DIY For Knuckleheads’ name pretty quickly as, in essence, that is what my channel is all about, the average Joe, just starting on their DIY endeavours. I’ve always considered myself a bit of a knucklehead, just bumbling my way through life..nothing special, and when l decided to make myself a YouTube Channel, l wanted my audience to be someone who l could relate to and vice versa….that way, you can just be yourself and not be out there trying to be someone you’re not. I was doing basic DIY tutorials, so l think it was a pretty simple decision to come up with the name of DIY For Knuckleheads.
I also wanted a name that was different from everybody else’s so that it stood out. The YouTube creator space at the moment is unbelievably saturated. Anyone with a nail punch and a half bashed up circular saw has a YouTube channel these days, so you need a name that stands out, and hopefully, people will remember it. I think the actual title tells people straight up what to expect, so there was also a little bit of strategy in there.
I’ve been in construction apart from the early years when l had only just finished my carpentry apprenticeship for most of my adult life. I started up a house framing business with my uncle, and within a couple of months of commencing, my dad suddenly and unexpectedly passed away at the young age of 53, which was way back in 1991! It was a challenging time as l had five brothers with two young ones still at home. As a result, l left the building game straight away and went back to run and manage our family farm that dad had been working on his entire life. What a baptism of fire that was! I was in way over my head with a 2000 acre farm to manage. Two thousand acres of wheat, sheep, and cattle. Where do l start?!
Looking back at that time, as hard as it was, l absolutely loved it, but life moved on, and l finished ago in the construction business. The whole YouTube thing just started by accident. In 2010, l worked on a high-end property that needed some caulking done around the bath, shower, and vanity in the bathroom. I was under a little bit of pressure from the client and didn’t want to mess it up because l know from experience how easy it is for that to happen, so l decided to do a little bit of research on the best techniques. Maybe there was an ingenious method out there in the ether that l hadn’t heard of before?
I looked on YouTube, which was relatively new at the time, and found a few results, but the videos were so dull! The information was sufficient, but the delivery sucked, and there wasn’t any Australian content, so l thought that maybe l could have a crack at it, and the rest is history…… here l am 10 years later! I only started to semi-regular upload back in 2014. Being a full-time dad due to the health challenge l was dealing with, l wanted to do something extra and thought it was a shame to waste all that knowledge l had gained over 20 years in the building game, which is why l started to take YouTube a little more seriously.
One quote that has always stuck with me came from an unknown source: Lindsay Vonn, the American Champion Snow Skier. In her career, she’d suffered a few injury setbacks but managed to keep going, and an interviewer asked her a few years back what her secret was, and she answered, “that it’s difficult to compete with someone who doesn’t give up,” and l thought, yep, that’s spot on! Great advice. So simple, and yet anyone can do it. Just keep going, and things will happen. As they say, the harder you work, the luckier you get.
Having that mindset for a Youtuber is essential as it’s effortless to get discouraged when you don’t seem to be getting the traction that you think you deserve with all the time and effort you are spending to create the content.
Inspiration for me is pretty easy as l see stuff l want to make everywhere! My phone is full of random photos of cool looking future projects. It’s not uncommon to see me lay embarrassingly on my back in a store, taking a picture of the underside of a piece of rustic furniture that l want to have a crack at making. Apart from just seeing things out globally, l frequent a website called Answer the Public https://answerthepublic.com an excellent source of search data that points you in the direction of what people are searching for on the net in your chosen niche.
Many search terms related to how to do something about woodworking and DIY are in my area of expertise. With that in mind, I’ll just do a simple Google and YouTube search, which brings up common questions that people are asking regarding a particular How-To. I’ll then hone in on a phrase that has enough search traffic to make it worth-while making a video on.
I also think the trick is to narrow down your area of expertise and become a known expert in that narrowed down niche; the go-to guy. The benefit for you, the creator, is that you become more focused, and you tend to be less scattered. Regarding any external software for brainstorming, l find TubeBuddy a useful tool and extensively use it on every video l make. It does a great job of Keyword Research, pointing you in the right direction of what’s popular, worth targeting, and what’s not.
Mental blocks are par for the course as a Creator and can cause a little bit of unnecessary stress. My tip is to get some exercise and come back to it. I find it helps to clear the head and refocus yourself. Once you find yourself in that rejuvenated space, just write everything that comes into your head that you can think of relating to your area of expertise. From that list, you can generally find something to create your next project on.
When l first started with YouTube, like most people who owned a Mac, l used iMovie that came with the machine. After l semi mastered that, l found it a little limiting with what l could with it, so upgraded to its bigger brother, Final Cut Pro, which l find an excellent program.
Being a total novice in technology, l needed a program that was easy to learn and use, and Final Cut fitted that brief nicely. What was a real surprise was when l had a technical issue with the program, l rang the Apple support line, free of charge, and was put through to their Final Cut Pro specialist who could not be more helpful, so that’s great peace of mind.
Social media, for me, like for most people, plays a vital role in building my Brand. I’m on Facebook and Insta but stay clear on platforms like Twitter and Reddit as l find them toxic environments and don’t have the headspace for it. Instagram and Facebook are visual platforms that make them the perfect place to showcase what you’ve been working on.
I’m a big believer that if you concentrate on one or two platforms, that should be enough to get your Brand out there. The old saying of ‘Jack of All Trades and Master of none’ is very appropriate here. If you spread yourself too thin over too many social media platforms, you don’t really get good at any of them.
I think it’s totally natural for people to feel uncomfortable in front of a camera. It feels kind of weird looking into a lens and not somebody's face and takes a lot of practice to make it look natural.
I’m over two hundred videos in on this YouTube thing, and l still feel a little uncomfortable! It’s a mental thing. I spoke to a guy who was a professional speaker one day, and l asked him what his secret was, and he said, “Just imagine yourself being confident and become that person,” which trust me, really does work! A great example of this was when I was watching a Matt Damon interview where he talked about Tom Hanks and asked Tom how he dealt with nerves, and Tom said that “I just made a decision not to be nervous.” Very simple, but it does work! Here’s the link to the interview with the pertinent comment starting around the 2.30 mark.
It took me a little while to understand that l could build a brand on YouTube as l wasn’t taking it seriously since l already had a pretty good business up and running. For the first couple of years, l was posting maybe three or four videos a year, which is unheard of today if you want success on the platform. It wasn’t until about six years ago that l started to post maybe one or two videos a month, which for a Channel that actually makes stuff isn’t too bad, as a project may take up to a week or even a week and a half to complete.
Around this time, I’d found my niche, doing simple projects out of Scrap Wood with the bulk of that material being Pallet Wood. I became the go-to guy for Pallet Wood related projects, and that set the tone for my Brand.
The bonus with having my Brand in the scrap wood-related niche is that each project costs very little to make, but the result always looks fantastic, which is why l think my viewers keep coming back. For some reason, l can’t remember hitting the 100-subscriber level, but l do have a very vivid memory when l hit the 600-subscriber mark. Unusual number l know, but it kind of said to me that this could take off. From memory, that took maybe 12 months to achieve, but as l said earlier, this was a long time ago, and YouTube was only starting over here in Australia.
The one video that got the ball rolling for me was, don’t laugh, How to Unblock a Toilet! I researched and discovered that one of the most searched terms on the internet, in the DIY Space, was how to unclog a toilet. Since my Channel is DIY related, l pivot from time to time to spice things up, so l made a video on the topic and went gang busters! That was seven years ago and has amassed close to 2.8 Million views!
From 10 years ago to now, nothing has changed. It’s still just me. I research, I film, l edit, l publish. Don’t get me wrong, I’d love to have someone, for example, to take over the editing, but it doesn’t stack up for me financially. Maybe one day.
The number one thing that a new creator has to come to terms with is that chances are, you are not going to become an overnight success. You may be one of the lucky ones that make it, but the odds are you won’t be. Consider this, 500 hours of video are uploaded to YouTube every minute. We watch over 1billion hours of YouTube videos a day, more than Netflix and Facebook videos combined. You are competing in a boisterous environment, so you just need to be aware that it’s a long game. It can take years of work to finally get noticed, so people start and find it disheartening and stop.
Find an area of interest that you like and focus on that. You’ll be potentially doing this for a long time, so the appeal has to be genuine; otherwise, you’ll drop off.
A significant hurdle to most people wanting to make videos is that they think you need a heap of expensive gear to get started…the answer to that is you’re wrong….all you need is in your pocket in the shape of a mobile phone and a little bit of natural light, and away you go. My first 80 or so videos were shot with an iPhone 4, and that managed me to get over 50,000 subscribers, so not having all the camera gear isn’t an issue…. all you need is a bit of getting up and go.
If l were starting again, l would work on my email list sooner. Get the emails of interested people in your topic either from a blog that is tied to your YouTube Channel or from a Newsletter that you have circulating so that just in case something happens to YouTube, you won’t have lost all your contacts. The email list is also a great source to promote your upcoming videos. Say, for instance, you’ve accumulated 1000 loyal Email Subscribers. As soon as you publish your new video, alert your email list instantly. You have potentially 1000 views straight off the bat.
While we have the number 1000 in our minds, there’s a great book called 1000 True Fans by Kevin Kelly that l highly recommend for YouTube Newbies. Concentrate on serving a thousand is way better than having a community of 100,000 where nobody cares about you.
Now that you’ve done all the hard work, you have to start building your community because without one, you don’t have anything, and that involves responding to the people who have taken out of their day to watch your content and then spend more of their time leaving you some form of feedback. The least you can do is respond, which shows them that you care. Currently, l have around 23,000,000 hits on my videos, and l’ve answered 99.99 of the comments. The result is that l now have a very loyal following that trust what l do, say, and recommend.
After l realized that doing what l had been doing in the construction industry for the past 20 years was becoming more difficult due to my health challenge, I committed to the platform. I had to pivot and find something else that still used all the knowledge that l had accumulated over the years but wasn’t so taxing on my body, and YouTube just happened to tick all those boxes.
The number one highlight for sure was receiving the Silver Play Button for hitting 100,000 Subscribers. I know that the Subscriber Count is only a vanity metric, but it just proved to me that all the hard work had paid off.
The second milestone was crossing over that $1000.00 a month AdSense Revenue hurdle. I hovered close to it for a while back in the day, so it was nice when that level was reached.
The third milestone was when l started to be approached by companies for sponsor deals. That was a sign that people were beginning to take notice, which meant that l must have been doing something right. Taking the sponsor thing a little further, l was amazed at the response l received when l went through renovating my home. My Channel at that stage was around the 60,000 Subscriber mark. Hence, l approached all the companies that l have used in the past and trust to see if they’d be interested in supplying materials for the build-in in return for a bit of product placement, and the response was incredible! We managed to save a fair bit of money through that process.
Without boring you too much, one more exciting thing that happened due to the Channel was when l was asked by a television station to audition for a possible upcoming home remodeling TV show. Nothing will probably come out of it, but it was nice to be asked.
I think Collabs are the way of the future, so l do intend to go down that track this year. The benefit of the collab is the potential of cross-promotion. You get access to other viewers that you wouldn’t usually be exposed to, so it works for both parties.
As far as getting your video out there, the first 48 hours are the most important. I make sure that l have everything ready to roll as l push that Publish Button. I have my Facebook, Instagram, and email list messages all lined up and clicked everything simultaneously. That way, you give yourself the best chance to be everywhere at one time.
I have done to tie my brand together to have one or two catch cries and a dad joke in each video. People expect that now and are disappointed if they don’t get it, so that was evidence that my branding was starting to stick in people's minds.
Brand sponsorships with YouTube are a little tricky. You have to be careful who you align yourself with as the viewer can sniff out a paid deal in a heartbeat, which can hurt your brand.
The trick is to align yourself with brands that the viewer can see you use regularly. For instance, having me advertising a mattress brand is so off-brand that it would hurt my Channel. I bring this up because a couple of years ago, a mattress company was doing just that, and l saw many creators plugging this mattress company, and it just seemed so out of character, unauthentic, and off-brand.
As l mentioned earlier, when l undertook our house renovation a few years back, l only contacted those companies that l had used many times before and would recommend in a heartbeat. One handy site to gauge your values regarding what you should charge per sponsored video is socialbluebook.com. This site gathers all your information and collates it into a form that you can present to a prospective sponsor professionally.