Hi! I’m Adam or “EposVox” - also known as the “Stream Professor.” I’m from Kentucky, currently living in Indiana. Near nothing media- or tech-related, sadly. I primarily run a tech education YouTube channel with about 250K subscribers. I aim to create high quality, somewhat entertaining, educational videos to help anyone and everyone learn how to master their computer - but my niche and specialization is in videos for content creators. I provide the best and most detailed capture card reviews and OBS setup tutorials you’ll find on the internet.
While I teach a lot of modern technology, I’m also profoundly rooted in yesterday’s technology and media. Think 80s neon and music vibes mixed with 90s CRTs, analog video, and arcade carpet all mixed up.
I’m a full-time content creator and have been since spring 2017. I focus primarily on my YouTube channel, but I am always pursuing other paths such as streaming (Twitch Affiliate), Instagram, photography, miscellaneous client and consulting work, voiceover when I have the chance, etc.
I’ve been a one-person show for my entire career. I’ve collaborated with others along the way. I have a fantastic team of moderators and my Community Manager, IceOrb, handling my Discord server for community management - but email (where most of my time goes), scripting, planning, shooting, editing, social media, all of that is me. Hopefully, that might start to change soon, as I have much less time for work as a new dad, and my output has had to scale back immensely.
My brand name, “EposVox” is a play on Latin. “Vox Epos” translates to “Epic Voice.” When I first started on YouTube, my lower-end and bassy voice garnered a lot of attention and was what I was known for early in my career. When I wanted to shift away from my unprofessional, 1337-sp33k name (“tehD3M0L1SH3R”), a friend helped me come up with that. Swap the word order to have a more pleasing two-syllable to one-syllable format, and you get EposVox! This change was in 2012 and has stuck with me ever since!
I went full-time after quitting my contract job for a YouTube MCN for four years. First, as a creator making content for them, a partner manager helping channels grow, then building “how-to YouTube” courses for them, then ending with training other employees on finding inappropriate content and filter partners from the system. I operated that job in conjunction with my YouTube channel to be mostly self-employed since my junior year of college (2014).
However, I’ve been on YouTube in various forms and fashions since the site first came online. Still, I would say my real “full-time” or “serious” focus on it didn’t happen until Christmas 2014, and again later, when I went utterly full-time in 2017 (that’s also when I got Twitch Affiliate). I was lucky enough to initially operate while not bringing in a ton of income by having low overhead and operating costs, but have since scaled up to keep my whole family - including a 4-month-old baby - afloat!
Honestly, being a tech educator on YouTube was always the perfect job for me - even if it didn’t exist for half of my life. I’ve always been a creative individual but sucked at traditional visual arts - such as drawing or painting. I also have no real musical talent whatsoever. I have also always been a techie. As a 90s kid, I heard, “You’ll be the next Bill Gates!” more times than I could count by being someone who likes computers. I was tracked to go to MIT and chase that path laid out for me, but a lack of interest (and finances) led me down a different direction.
But tech has always been in my roots. I played my first PC game at nine months old and mastered Windows 95 better than anyone in my family when I was in elementary school. By middle school, I was always the one getting asked to help my teachers fix their computers. Quickly learning tech and then teaching it to others has always been what I’ve done. I got my first camcorder in middle school - one of those old MiniDV camcorders. Though I was still interested in my grandma’s 8mm camcorders, and while I don’t feel I ever had the right opportunity or educational encouragement to learn what I was doing, I recorded and documented everything. The video was just a fascinating format for me.
Fast forward a few years to high school, and sites like Google Video started to show up. This gaming service called “XFire” allowed users to take screenshots and video clips of their video games and share them with others. Once more public sites like Google Video and YouTube started popping up, I was always the guy in my friend groups or clans who would take those videos from XFire and upload them to YouTube for everyone to see. It was pretty cool - but I had to use my mom’s work internet (she worked at a college) to do so, as our home dial-up wouldn’t cut it. I then got into making my videos, and it spiraled from there.
I originally went to a University for Computer Science and Engineering (programming) but quickly realized that wasn’t what I wanted to do. I transferred to a different school, where I got my degree in Journalism - focusing on video whenever possible, of course. I served as the video platform editor for our college newspaper and helped live stream some events.
Self-employment was always appealing, too. It’s tough to pinpoint exactly how I got to that point, but I’ve still considered myself one of the “unemployable” for traditional jobs. I remember a high school friend who said that he didn’t care what position he got moving forward as long as he could come home and play video games all the time. That it could be some tedious job he hated, as long as it afforded him a lifestyle of coming home and gaming, he was fine. That, combined with the traditional family dynamic of seeing parents hate their jobs and complain about it all the time, only to come home and watch TV until they went to sleep just terrified me. It’s hard to explain. That seemed like a miserable life.
I hated the jobs I did have, too. I worked retail for about four years, with four different positions. I got fired from the first two for really, really dumb decisions, quit the third to go work at my last job with a pay increase (I did tech work through EasyTech at Staples, so it was finally a job I was interested in) and then quit that job to go full-time with my MCN. But I came to hate each of those jobs, even if I initially enjoyed them. It got bad enough that I’d go from having perfect attendance to just calling in at least once a week because I had anxiety attacks from not wanting to go so much. At my first job, I got rewarded for my perfect attendance; reprimanded for being over hours and being the only one who stayed late when needed on the same day. I had a mix of really hating and dreading those jobs and being so focused on “this YouTube thing” that I just never wanted to be there.
Self-employment seemed like a dream. And while it has its share of stresses and anxieties and problems, it is a dream for someone like me.
I had intended to graduate college and go work a specific job, however. It was my primary goal to graduate with a degree adjacent to media and move to LA to work for G4 TV - the video game-focused TV station - and later, Machinima Respawn (one of the biggest gaming-focused YouTube MCNs/content studios at the time). However, both of them fizzled out of existence by the time I graduated. And really, I was in no position to move to LA anyway.
I didn’t start my YouTube journey with tech education, though. I mentioned the early days of uploading XFire gaming clips to YouTube - that’s the path I initially pursued. Inspired by the first generation of gaming YouTubers such as SeaNanners, Hutch, and BlameTruth, I wanted to make “gaming commentary” videos (voiceover with gameplay, the only format the time) and do that full-time. However, I did not have a well-developed on-camera (or on-microphone) presence yet, nor a compelling personality and that was never very successful. It was a significant step in my journey, though.
I made many friends and connections that I still have to this day. I learned a LOT about video editing and managing content. I became a trained expert on SEO at the time. I learned professionalism, video presence and charisma, community management, and how to work for myself. I needed to fail at this so I could do something better and start from a place of more experience.
I also had a mini “job,” where I got some free games by creating videos for a site called GamerFuzion. That was a lot of fun.
Ironically, one of my favorite quotes from the creator I attribute much of the reason I started YouTube, SeaNanners, basically highlights the problem I ran into:
“I think what happens is… people think that just because certain people do have a certain degree of success, that it’s just as easy for them to jump on. They say, ‘Oh, well, I’m good at this game, you know, I’m going to upload gameplay!’. I mean, it’s not about that, it’s about connecting to other people.”
As much as I loved that quote, I perhaps didn’t fully embrace it until I had made it past this point in my career. That was the shift from my “tehD3M0L1SH3R” YouTube channel to “EposVox.” I was still making gaming content on this new channel - but focusing on co-op gaming sessions with my then-girlfriend, now wife. This was mostly well-produced and way ahead of its time, given that such kinds of content became “the big thing” just a few years later, but I didn’t know how to market it.
I briefly pursued a career in games journalism as a writer, but couldn’t prioritize those gigs over my YouTube work, and so that didn’t last.
Along the way, around 2013, I started making screencast tutorials on using OBS - a revolutionary new screen and game capture program that popped up out of nowhere and was free! Immediately these tutorials out-performed my gaming videos by 100:1 or more. I bought my first DSLR in 2012, so I started using it for more tech-focused videos and product reviews, and eventually, the writing was on the wall: I should be making tech videos.
On Christmas 2014, I decided to cut off the unsuccessful gaming content limb and make my channel 100% tech-related. On January 1st, 2015, I completely rebranded it and moved forward with a tech-only focus. By August 2015, with the launch of Windows 10 (and me pulling an all-nighter to release eight videos the night it released), my channel “blew up” at the time, and the rest fell together from there.
YouTube has always focused on my content and Twitch (and Justin.tv before it) for streaming content. Even though I’ve never been a “full-time streamer” (other than the short stint in early 2017 after quitting my MCN job where I got Affiliate status quickly), streaming has always been relevant to significant milestones in my life. I streamed me writing an essay from my university library on a laptop. The internet speed was incredible compared to what I had at home, so I had to try it. It was my first “big break” YouTube connection. I streamed a KontrolFreek-sponsored Halo tournament in 2012 with big giveaways. It was a huge hit, and I even streamed my marriage proposal to my wife in 2013.
I jumped on Discord day 1, and while I didn’t open my server publicly for a couple of years, it’s my “home” now. I’ve always tested out other video and content sites. They just usually shut down. (RIP Google Video, VidMe, Vessel, Justin.tv, Hitbox, XFire.) I’m currently pursuing Instagram, focused on my retro aesthetic posts, Twitch for streaming, and many other things I’m working on behind the scenes. With video content, I believe in getting my content in front of as many people as possible, so I try to syndicate it anywhere and everywhere.
One quote that has always resonated with me that I still need to learn from today is from Linus Sebastian, the face of LinusTechTips:
Execution is everything. Sitting around and planning is worthless unless it turns into something tangible. You’re better off having 100% execution of a 50% plan than 50% execution of a 100% plan. Nothing drives me crazier than sitting around pontificating about “the perfect way to do something” when we’re in a hurry, which is always if you want to get anything done.
This quote was printed out and stuck to one of my computer monitors for years and is still taped to my workbench today.
I often find myself overwhelmed by the ideas and number of things I want to do - in both work and life in general - and get stuck being that “50% execution of a 100% plan” guy because I also crave getting every detail right. I need to learn just to go and keep going rather than focusing on going the exact right way.
Linus is one of many content creators who have inspired me for far too many to count. One of the most significant, however, was the late John “TotalBiscuit” Bain. He was forced to be reckoned with in the gaming space, took his job and his responsibility to the industry very seriously, and fought for what was right. He stood by his principles and ideals - while allowing them to change, grow, and evolve - and was someone you just had to listen to. His opinions on gaming were important, but his backstory and the advice he gave about finding your career path and the example he set were instrumental in finding my way to where I am today in my career. I miss that man so much.
My motivations are far and wide, but also hard to track down. It’s weird. I never initially felt a direct “this is what I want to do!” feeling when I was first getting into YouTube. It just wound up being the amalgamation of everything else that I wanted to pursue in life. All my career desires and lifestyle wants all seemed to join up at this one gig. Eventually, it became the one thing that, day in and day out, I was excited for when I woke up in the morning, and I couldn’t stop thinking about when I went to bed (even now, writing this at 4:19 AM). As a teenager, I struggled a lot with anxiety, depression, and ADHD-resemblant focusing issues, but content creation has always been the one thing that just clicked. I could focus on it for weeks. It let me escape what I was feeling and the world I was dealing with. It let me feel in control to build and make something of my own and express myself so that no one could take from me - after spending my childhood feeling like everyone wanted to take my personality away from me.
It was quite the transition from an honestly pretty lazy teenager (or at least lazy-presenting) playing video games every waking hour that I wasn’t at school (and often while I was) and making videos from that to the workaholic I am today. Still, YouTube, but YouTube and content creation, has always been the one thing that connects all my interests and aspirations and keeps me going.
It’s hard to pinpoint where my inspiration comes from. I have interests and curiosities in every possible field and technological interest - from operating systems to scripting to gaming to history to video editing, 3D rendering, animation, writing, art, all of it - and with those curiosities comes the desire to share the knowledge I learn along the way. I have notes and ideas written everywhere. I have Post-its on my monitor, random scraps of paper and envelopes, notebooks, OneNote notebooks via my iPad, Google Docs, Google Spreadsheets. I have a Trello board loaded up somewhere, and it’s nuts.
I’ve tried using every possible program for organizing my thoughts - including coding my project progress board in Google Sheets. It is similar to what we used in my college newspaper - but ultimately, I still come back to whatever is closest to me, usually random paper.
Mental block, in terms of ideas, is usually pretty easy for me to deal with. I’ve always said that if I had some sort of brain damage where I stopped being able to generate new ideas one day, I’d still have like 2-3 years’ worth of content, at minimum, that I could produce from what I already developed. As an educator, new ideas are pretty easy to come by - questions in YouTube comments, Discord, or Twitter, new topics, and products to cover, covering what I learn along the way, etc.
I’ve always said that brainstorming ideas is incredibly simple once you’ve found the right path for you. If you’re struggling to come up with content ideas, you’re probably not doing what you were meant to do. What are the things that get you going? What could you talk about for hours on end at the drop of a hat? What interests you to keep learning about every day? Perhaps you need to adjust your show format to focus on the things you’re always thinking about already. I have not in years, and probably will never again have a day where I just wake up and wonder, “what should I make a video about today?” I will always be far too limited by my human capacity to output content than ideas.
These days, I primarily rely on BlackMagic Design’s DaVinci Resolve for video editing. I have one of their cameras that shoots in their Blackmagic RAW format (which works best in Resolve) and a few of their capture cards, so it made sense to pick it up and learn it a couple of years ago - and the performance is incredible.
I started my career with Windows Movie Maker on Windows XP, and later moved onto Camtasia, then Vegas Pro in high school. My university gave students licenses for Adobe’s Creative Suite, so I quickly learned and became addicted to the full Adobe suite before I finished my first year. I still rely on most of the suite quite heavily - Photoshop for photo editing, graphics, thumbnails, Lightroom for my photography catalog, Audition for audio recording and editing, Media Encoder for transcoding footage. After Effects for animation and motion graphics! I still use Premiere Pro from time to time, but the performance just doesn’t cut it compared to Resolve these days.
I try to be present on every social media platform I can - though I’m only just figuring out TikTok and haven’t had time to dedicate to it. I utilize tools such as Buffer and Hootsuite to help manage accounts when needed. I use Tubebuddy to help me manage YouTube for features such as scheduling videos to publish from Unlisted (so I can share early to my fan funders on Patreon, etc.) and A/B testing thumbnails.
For script writing, I usually use Google Docs. Still, I also utilize Microsoft OneNote as well, especially for notes from my iPad during meetings. I use Microsoft Excel for generating charts for videos when there’s a lot of data visualization - I prefer Google Sheets overall. Still, the charts I can get out of Excel just look a lot better for video.
I use Notepad++ for random notes throughout the day or managing small info for videos, such as pre-planning the title and description. I use JDownloader2 for quickly grabbing old videos; I don’t have archived or sound effects. I rely a lot on my own custom AutoHotKey scripts combined with my Elgato Stream Deck XL and a tablet running TouchPortal for general productivity.
My daily captures rely heavily on OBS Studio, of course, with VirtualDub coming in for niche testing purposes. Much of my community management is done through Discord. It quickly became my favorite chat client, and our server is a fantastic place.
I don’t know that I had any fears when I first started making videos. I still had that naive innocence of just wanting to share the stuff I was interested in, and not considering that I might be judged. I was nervous and uncomfortable at first until I got used to talking to a microphone and a computer screen, but that just came from a lack of experience. However, I started during the days wherein the gaming scene was unusual to show your face much in videos. So I was just a mysterious voice behind some gameplay. It wasn’t until I started utilizing webcams and showing more of myself in real life that I worried about what others would think. Even then, it was more about whether I was “cool enough” for the tier of success that I wanted at the time and less of superficial “what will they think of me” stuff. Don’t be afraid to be yourself. The more you worry about that stuff, the more it shows, and the less appealing you become.
I guess that wasn’t entirely honest. Before I was “serious” enough to have a consistent, full-time focus on YouTube, I spontaneously deleted an older (main) channel because some high school friends shared my older videos. I was embarrassed. Somehow I thought it was smart to delete the whole channel instead of just setting the videos in private mode. I still regret that decision to this day and wish I could recover my old channel. Major regrets.
However, I did realize that I had no clue what I was doing when it came to presenting in front of the camera. While I didn’t particularly worry about what others might think, that lack of experience and the discomfort led to me being pretty awkward when on-camera for quite a few years—mumbling, looking around awkwardly, weird gestures, etc. It’s just something you have to get used to.
The right way of looking at it is to realize that your first 100+ videos aren’t going to be seen by anyone. So you need to use that time to improve as much as possible and fail over and over. Take every video you make and identify one key thing to improve upon for the next one and keep carrying that forward when you improve the next thing. Just keep making videos, and you’ll realize one day how natural it is. If you wait for it to be comfortable to “really do it,” it will never be comfortable.
When it comes to the comments section, I wouldn’t say I have the healthiest way of handling things. More often than not, a negative comment gets a laugh from me more than an inadequate response. I mean, how sad does someone have to be to take time and energy out of their day to try to crap on yours? That means you’re winning. That being said, there’s plenty of times when someone is aggressive about a touchy subject for me or catches me in a bad mood (pro tip: NEVER check YouTube comments first thing in the morning), and I’ll leave quite the snarky reply. But I’ve been trying to end those responses with “Be sure to hit the bell icon, so you never miss an upload!” or something funny to get the last laugh. Generally speaking, it’s best to just not respond to them at all.
The problem for me is that, as an educator, if it seems like the negativity comes from a lack of understanding or I somehow didn’t teach the subject well enough, I can’t help but take that as a problem I need to solve. That’s pretty unhealthy as the only “problem” is the commenter having a crap day or refusing to be helped. Oh well. I’m getting better over time.
Building my brand, at least once I figured it out, has been all about consistency. I’ve always aimed to publish on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays - though I had a stint of daily uploads - and usually around the same time every day. While things have evolved and improved over time, I focus on consistency in my presentation, style, visual direction (graphics and so on) and music choices. Whenever I randomly find a video from some of my favorite creators that I haven’t seen before, I often don’t realize that it’s three years old or so, because it fits their format as it always did and could pass as a new upload. I aim for that kind of recognizability in my content.
When I was early in my YouTube career, I had some savings from birthdays and such to buy my first capture card, then the next year a cheap webcam, and the following year a basic microphone. I didn’t start investing in my channel and brand until I had a job and more disposable income. Everything has been self-funded (with contributions from fan funders, of course) and scales as my income scales.
Getting those first few hundred subscribers is the most challenging part. When you have absolutely no initial eyes on your content, it can be hard to get it. I had a bit of an advantage in that by being so early to the platform that I could upload trendy things (such as Over Nyan Thousand) and get a crapton of views. That video netted me 200K views within two months, getting me my first partnered channel and helping fund my first for-YouTube computer build. I never really had a viral success like that again in my early career, though. But I watch a lot of content myself, so finding other creators to collaborate with was easy, and things slowly built up from there.
I’ve always relied pretty heavily on search traffic - my videos are there for people specifically looking for them, so a lot of the time, it’s just a matter of having good SEO and waiting for viewers to show up. This is how I switched to tech, too, as I mentioned - I had uploaded some OBS tutorials and 3 months later I noticed most of my new comments were coming from those videos and they were doing insanely well. My first 1-million-view video was an OBS tutorial! No one was making them at the time, so I was who everyone found for help. (They didn’t start calling me the Stream Professor for nothing!)
Even today, while I have a lot more suggested- and subscriber-driven views each month, I still put out a lot of evergreen, search-friendly content on new software and tools that I know over time will attract people to the channel and brand from learning something new.
Oh man, if I were to go back and start my YouTube career over but with the knowledge and experience I had now, I feel like I could be on top of the world by now. There were so many trends I ignored, so many silly decisions along the way (like deleting an old channel) and things I could have done better. Simultaneously, though, as I explained above, I think I needed to make all these mistakes and spend years of my career “figuring it out” for me to ever really have found success.
One big thing that I deliberately did “wrong” for much of my career was refusing to have any sort of niche or primary focus. I came from the first wave of YouTubers who were able to make entire careers out of posting just about whatever they wanted due to the novelty of existing at all. The format and platform were so new and young, and there were so few creators and viewers that anything you posted would do well. That didn’t last long, but that mentality stuck with me. My first few channels were just “whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted” with no real show theme, consistent format, or general idea tying everything together. I could post a Call of Duty commentary one day, and a video of my baby sister reading her first story. I had no compelling reason for someone to subscribe to my channel. The elevator pitch would have been “I post gaming videos and stuff I like,” - which is not a plan for a successful channel. I see this all the time, too.
I also would have run with opportunities that presented themselves instead of running away from them. I was so terrified of getting locked into a single specific type of content or game to focus on that I threw away what could have been success multiple times. An example of this was what I considered my first “big break” on YouTube - a collaboration (or “dual commentary” as it was called back then) with a big Call of Duty YouTuber “Vikkstar123.” I met him through friends who discovered my university essay-writing stream. This got me a lot of exposure for my channel and got me to my first 1000 subscribers, etc. But all of those subscribers were there for the main game, Call of Duty. I posted a couple back to back videos of the game, and they were performing very well - but my anxiety got the best of me.
I decided that it wasn’t worth potentially getting “stuck” only posting that game that I stopped posting it altogether for months, basically burning all those new subscribers and preventing what could have been some solid momentum and growth. I did this kind of thing multiple times over my career. My current “Stream Professor” branding is a very new thing, despite being pushed by viewers for years because I specifically didn’t want to be “just the OBS guy” when embracing it has only been suitable for the brand. You can always be “the X subject guy/gal” and sprinkle in transitionary nuggets of other content along the way and transition to focusing on another subject, or just being known for “you” in the long run.
A big thing that every creator should be doing and I just didn’t for most of my early career is actually to put in the effort to improve. When I first started, I would have heard that and been gesturing my hands in the air, saying “Improve WHAT?! HOW?” Because it’s so vague - but it’s also so obvious. I spent a good few years making the same styles of videos, day in and day out, without questioning why I did the things I did. I might learn new audio or video editing tricks along the way, but I didn’t make any significant changes.
New creators should be immediately analyzing every published video and figuring out what they need to improve with the next one, rinse and repeat. By the time you’ve had a year of uploading under your belt, you’ll be embarrassed by how bad your old content was compared to your current productions. Look for presentation hiccups, video editing issues, quality issues, entertainment value (did you make the video quick and catchy enough?), metadata, and thumbnail improvements. Write down what needs to be improved and how you’ll improve it, and hold yourself to that, every video. There should be minimal regression. Then, once you get some viewership, start looking at audience retention and finding consistent elements that cause viewers to click off the video. You’ll be successful in no time.
While I had definitely wanted (on some level) to drop out of college - it just didn’t interest me much compared to my online work, and wasn’t enough of a challenge - I’m glad I didn’t. The experience helped me find my path and refine it, and I learned many skills and traits that make me a much better creator and professional than I was graduating high school. Despite already going “full-time” with my MCN contractor job by my junior year, I still finished school. I regret focusing so much on my YouTube work when I could have gained more time working with my college newspaper.
Quitting my retail job to go full-time with my MCN was a no-brainer, though. As mentioned, I did not enjoy going there, and it caused me a lot of stress, and I was passionate about my work as a creator. So the moment I could convince the MCN to pay me the same amount per month as I was making from the job, and I had a month of that under my belt, I put in my two weeks and left. Right before Black Friday, too, I lucked out.
This allowed me to be “self-employed” and focus on creator work, while still having a steady paycheck for YouTube-adjacent work via the MCN. As I did more job for them and earned it, I got enough of a raise to move out to my first apartment, and later upgrade to a bigger one.
Leaving the MCN to go 100% solo wasn’t so much a choice as an “I have to get out of here” moment. The MCN was falling apart (YouTube started cracking down on MCNs around this time and changed monetization requirements, etc.), and they started asking more and more of me while taking me away from the work I was supposed to be doing. Eventually, I hit a month where they decided they just weren’t going to pay me my agreed-upon monthly pay, so I quit. I used my newfound free time to stream almost every day to Twitch and get Affiliate status there. I develop my “OBS Studio Master Class,” which is still one of my best works to date, and further cemented my role as the streaming educator on YouTube.
Many of my career milestones were quite personal to what I had always wanted my job to look like growing up. One is going full-time in the first place after chasing that “dream” for so many years. Another is proposing to my wife on-stream and getting my first Halo-related (one of my all-time favorite franchises) press kits, getting games sent to me for review, getting published on a games journalism site (even if that didn’t last). Also having Adobe Premiere blogs share my content, chatting with some of my favorite creators were influential in my career, etc.
Then there’s the more tangible stuff like getting to move out on my own with my YouTube earnings, paying off my car, buying my first cinema camera, etc.
Most recently, I was super proud to have been invited and featured at the LTX 2019 event. It is a major creator/tech event hosted by the LinusTechTips channel - where I met many fellow tech creators, some viewers, and hosted an on-stage talk with Linus himself and Scottie from StrangeParts.
I like to say that I “achieve my dreams” at least once per year in some form, and I couldn’t be more proud of that.
Growing my channel came pretty natural once I started focusing on tech and education content. While YouTube currently heavily emphasizes suggested viewership for viewers just browsing the homepage or sidebar of videos they’re watching - that doesn’t help you when you don’t have viewers in the first place. Search is still a completely valid way to get new viewers. Making content that people are looking for, and creators aren’t covering from a certain angle is an easy way to get happy viewers grateful for your content. Not every niche is going to be super SEO focused, but you can always find ways to cover topics in your niche that aren’t being covered well and put your spin on it.
Even to this day, my videos are optimized for search first, which means clear and descriptive titles and catchy thumbnails, ready to address specific problems or pain points people have.
I discovered that people weren’t covering how to stream and set up streaming software and hardware in-depth or competently, and jumped on it. I got to learn something new and share that with viewers simultaneously, so it was a win-win. Initially, I made a list of every topic viewers would want to know to go from learning what streaming is to streaming full-time themselves, and the video ideas never ended from there!
I’ve never hired anyone to work on my content. Between my journalism degree and my MCN job, I was formally trained in web publication, SEO, as well as having a few years of YouTube Certification and HootSuite Social Media certification under my belt. Naturally, I used this to my advantage. Plus, I watch YouTube religiously - more than any other form of media - so I know the platform inside and out. If you don’t know what you should be doing, learn what others are doing.
Working with brands is by far the least enjoyable, but sometimes most time-consuming part of my job. I’ve never been good at or interested in “sales” fields, and some companies want constant updates for things I haven’t even had time to start yet. I’m currently working on transitioning to having a talent agency take over that role for me so I don’t even have to worry about it anymore.
I’ve always been good at working with brands, though, with very few negative experiences overall. It comes down to one secret: Professionalism. Even at just like 2,000 subscribers, I was able to get review units of headsets, mice, and other tech gadgets by just finding the right point of contact, and writing a well-worded professional email that clearly conveyed what the transaction would be and the value I could offer the company. I had a weekend internship working at a college radio station and would spend much of my downtime during the shows researching and emailing companies. I developed a reasonably necessary template for review requests and reached out from there. Actual paid, sponsored work came later once I maintained reliable communication with them and delivered results they were satisfied with.
Once I had 5,000 to 10,000 subscribers I used brand “marketplace” platforms to connect with some brands and just generally get the experience of doing sponsored spots and working with brands under my belt. As the companies there typically expect way too high of a viewcount to want to pay you, pay way too little, and are often asking for inappropriate things (like a paid review - a “review” cannot be a review if you’re being paid for it), I don’t bother. But early on, they can be useful. Brands want to see how you’ve handled working with other brands, so you need some experience.
These days I’m incredibly selective with the brands I work with. You have a responsibility to your audience, and the products or services you push on them through ad spots or sponsored videos represent your integrity. If you try a shady or mediocre thing on them, they recognize that (or get burned by it), and that hurts their perception of you. I ignore most brand requests that come my way and only work with companies who I genuinely think my viewers will enjoy or I want to support.
If you get a review request or sponsorship request from a Gmail, Hotmail, Outlook, or 163 email address, you probably don’t want to work with them. Real, reputable companies have domain names and proper email addresses. Also if you get an email (these are common this year) saying they want to sponsor your channel but can’t tell you what for in the first email or want you to contact them through WhatsApp, stay away and delete the email. Red flag!
It’s also incredibly important to be consistent with your policies when working with brands. I’d say you should go so far as to - even early on - develop a policy page (even if it’s just a Google Doc for yourself) for how brand deals will be handled and stick to that.
This includes both following the FTC guidelines and your principles. Remember, the FTC guidelines are not a set of strict rules to follow to the letter, but guidelines with the ultimate goal of making it very clear to your audience what your relationship to the brand is. Some of their recent “guides” for new influencers have dumbed down so much that it makes things less clear and works against their goals.
Here are a couple of thoughts I hold:
Ultimately, if it doesn’t “feel right” you probably shouldn’t be doing it. Know where your line is. If your line is further than others, don’t be apologetic for it. Either own it or don’t push it.