My name is Tom Kugler, and I am based in Mandaluyong, Metro Manila, Philippines. I create videos and blog posts for a living, mostly on YouTube and Facebook. I also post on LinkedIn and Medium.com. I sell an online course that teaches people how to become better writers. And that's where I make about 80 to 90 percent of my income every single month.
I am a full-time content creator. I do have a little team. I have someone who helps me run my publication on Medium.com called the Post Grad Survival Guide. We have 32,000 followers there and we are building that up. I'm going to create a course there soon. I have an editor to help me go through stories and make sure that they're all set to go, and he does a lot of the legwork for me with my publication. I also have a video editor that helps me with some of my YouTube and Facebook videos. And then, I have a virtual assistant here in the Philippines who read through my messages and emails and see if any brands have contacted me or want to do brand deals with me.
I originally wanted to make Finding Tom a travel blog; that’s why it is Finding Tom. In 2015, I wanted WheresTom.com, but the domain was already taken, so I decided to use FindingTom.com because Finding Nemo is my favorite Pixar movie, and I thought that sounds pretty cool. So in 2016, when I started my travel blog, I made a four-month, big road trip where I visited twenty-three states across the United States. I saw some pretty incredible things. I took many pictures, went to many national parks, and many mountains, the California coastline, the Texas Barbecue in Texas. It was just a beautiful and wonderful time in my life. That was like the main branding behind my page.
On my road trip to Salt Lake City, I met a Filipina and developed a relationship with her. She was on an internship in the US, who eventually came home to the Philippines after finishing her training. About two years after that road trip, I decided to go to the Philippines to visit her. When I did in May of 2018, I was just really blown away by the country, and I had a lot of fun. I thought it was super beautiful, and that's sort of where my love for the Philippines started. Then I began to make videos about the Philippines, my ideas about what I've learned since being in the country, and that's what my channel sort of started to take off a little bit.
But I got started as an online content creator on Medium.com. I started writing in a journal in 2014. I went to Disney World and worked there for eight months. It was a fantastic experience. I was fortunate to be able to have that experience out of 30,000 applicants. I was one of more or less 5,000 that actually got the Internship. I made some fantastic friends from all around the world, and I journaled about it every day. My sister told me to talk about my trips more because I would want to remember it later. I did, and honestly, that journal is my most prized possession. I would save that journal from a burning fire over $5,000. I'm serious. That’s how it would work for me.
Then I got sort of writing on Medium.com after my road trip. I wrote about my travels, and I started to take off on the platform after about three to four months. I got into a significant publication on Medium, and I grew my follower count to over 10,000 followers. I have 43,000 followers there today, three years later, so it's been quite a long journey. I've published hundreds of blog posts, if not, maybe a thousand, since I got started. It's been quite a fun journey for me, for sure.
I graduated in 2015, and I worked at Panera Bread, a fast-casual restaurant, and I asked myself what I was doing there when I have a degree in marketing. I was making $1 an hour or so, the minimum wage in the States. I realized it is not where I need to be. So I started to daydream about freelancing online, making money in my bed, in my pajamas. I began to apply for freelance jobs. Some people even took me on, and I worked for them. I wasn't sure of my talents yet. But they got back to me and found my skills significantly. So I thought, maybe I could do writing online. I continued to freelance for about a year, and after that, I started to have these daydreams of blogging online, and that's all how blogging got started.
There were no content creators that inspired me or were motivated at the beginning. I think motivation is very much rooted in what we enjoy doing. I love writing. I just really, really do. If I could live without writing, I couldn't breathe without it. It's the thing that is very near and dear to my heart. I have stayed motivated to write close to a thousand blog posts since 2016 because I really enjoy saying my point of view and talking about ideas. I think it's amusing.
My mind wanders a lot. I walk down the street, and my mind is thinking about something else, and if something happens to me, I reflect on it for whatever reason. Then I have ideas about it, and I think about it that no one talks about this, so maybe I should talk about that. And it all comes from inside. I don't like looking at other content creators and saying like they did make a video about this, so I'm going to make something similar. I sort of hate that. I think that's sort of cheap. But I understand why other people would do it.
I'm going to make a video that I believe in, and that came from me, not from somebody else. The world needs more new ideas and new perspectives rather than giving it the same stuff. Personally, my content ideas always come from inside of me. I never look outwards. I sort of make it a point not to watch creators because then I might get subliminally affected by, or inspired by them, and I might make a video about that, without even knowing it, or about what they have done before.
Talking about a mental block, I sit down in front of my computer for 30 minutes to an hour, and still, no words have been written. That happens to me sometimes. To handle it, is you sit there and wait until something comes. You think about it. You have to break through those barriers, and sometimes it takes sitting there for like 30 minutes, an hour, an hour and a half, two hours. Ask yourself, “What the hell do I want to write about today?” You have to let your mind scramble. You have to feel that pressure. You have to think that suffering a little bit, that creative suffering, and staying in it for a little while. The way you become better is by doing it. You don't just like to think about it. You have to go in there and suffer, and you have to make mistakes. The same thing happens with creativity; wait until an idea comes. Something always comes for me after an extended period.
I use Adobe Premiere Pro for video editing and picmonkey.com for photo editing of my thumbnails and stuff. Both Adobe Premiere Pro and PicMonkey are helpful. I am on YouTube, Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Medium.com. I am not really on TikTok, Snapchat, and Sound Cloud. My biggest platforms are definitely Facebook and Medium. I think you can get a lot of views on LinkedIn too, as a video creator. I think it's a very overlooked platform, and everybody needs to be on the LinkedIn period at the end of the day. Twitter is probably my least used platform and Instagram as well. I don't want to post much on Instagram except for my stories. I have fun with my Instagram stories. That's why I like Instagram. I'm on all of those channels.
I use the Notes app on my phone to write down ideas during the day. I have a bullet after bullet points of ideas for blog posts and things for future blog posts in my Notes app. I think about them throughout the day. I use a daily to-do list. I write down daily and weekly to-do lists on a piece of paper or a notebook. I also use Google documents to track my like long-term goals. So every six months, I write down what I want to accomplish.
I was scared of what people were thinking of me. I thought I was going to sound like an idiot. I felt that I would be laughed at or something, but my family helped me. I started to write blog posts for my family, and I began to write about my memories when I was younger. It was cool for them to reminisce with me and get another perspective on the memories we shared.
I might not have told them about it before, and they really enjoyed that, and at that time, I really started to see it a valuable thing to do. People might even like it besides just my family, so I began to think that I could do this online for a living. So I think that maybe when you're scared starting, you need to write a little bit online, show it to your family or your friends and see what they think and probably get a lot of really great feedback and you'll probably get a lot of confidence from that.
I don't handle the negativity in my comments well at all. I think I was better when I started on Medium, but nowadays, it's tough for me because I get a lot of negativity. And so I just respond with sarcasm. I react badly to people many times, and I know I need to work better on this. Even though it's criticism, it's not attacking you personally. And so you need to divorce yourself from your ideas, from your pride and say, “Look, I can learn something from here.” It’s okay if I made a video or a blog post where it might not be right, I just go with it. We are not perfect, and we're talking about ideas.
I felt weird in front of the camera at first. But I already tested my writing ability from everyday journaling to showing my family some things that I wrote to, publishing a few blog posts, and seeing my friends’ thoughts. I felt pretty good; I didn't have any fears starting. For my video channel, I was posting two to three videos per week at the very start. Probably about a year ago, I began to switch to about one video per week on Facebook and YouTube, which has been sufficient. I invested in a camera and started my YouTube channel; I read a lot on Google. Adventurous Kate, a travel blogger, inspired me. Casey Neistat also inspired me. Those are like the two big pillars of who I am today; they are like my digital mentors, who don’t even know that they inspire me a lot.
Getting views is probably the most formidable challenge I face for sure, on my blog posts and videos. It took me about 3-4 months to have my first viral video on Facebook. I had sort of a semi-viral video called Mindanao. I spent a month in Mindanao because I like seeing how people in Manila were talking about it. I found out that contrary to what others are saying, Mindanao is not dangerous at all. Because it is a war zone, there may be many checkpoints, but everyone seems happy. I made a video about it that got 80,000 views. But my first viral video was called “The Philippines.” It was my shift in perspective on how we should be thinking about poor and rich in different terms, not in monetary terms, but more in our values.
I think the Philippines is very rich and has essential values for sure. So I made a video about it and got a million views. The first time I've ever seen a million on my content, it was ridiculous as far as writing is concerned. So I saw some pretty good traction almost immediately, like a hundred views. That took me about six months as well to start to see traction. So my formula is like this - I post my video, and I wait for six months.
As mentioned, I have a weekly and daily to-do list, and I write down ideas as they come. I script a video, film it, and edit the whole process. Sometimes my editor does it. It takes eight hours or so between writing, shooting, and then editing for one single video as far as a blog post goes. It takes me about a couple of hours to write one blog post. I also maintain my email, check on my post-grad Survival Guide publication, my media mastery course. As long as I can juggle all these, I keep them all afloat, then I'm good. It’s not really like a business, not a lot of work. It's just a lot of juggling, which is a little bit hard in and of itself.
There's so much stuff here, there really is. I'm just going to try to give general advice. Do not get affected too much by how other creators do things, like scripting out a video and talking to the camera and putting a b roll over the top of it.
I always wanted to be a vlogger like Casey Neistat. I wanted to take my camera out and like vlog my day without writing a script and being boring. But when I made a couple of videos where I knew what I need to do, and what I want to do, it seemed natural to me, which is just right. I'm good at writing. I need to use that writing skill in my videos, and it was only after I started to use my skills, I began to get traction as a vlogger. I think everyone needs to do that. You need to see your skills; whether you're good with people or great at editing or like something, you need to figure out what you're good at. You need to find ways to leverage that in everything that you do, whether it's vlogging or making blog posts or anything. You have to figure out how to do that, and that would be my advice for people who want to get it.
Trust yourself more, because I believe everyone has something important to say.
I never got a day job after school. I was always a freelancer, and I freelanced for about two years and made money mostly that way. I started blogging about a year after I started freelancing, and blogging never amounted to any money until later. I was like at the end of my rope. I was sick of freelancing. I'm sick of writing things for other people, even though I enjoyed writing and researching things.
Then I decided. I had 10,000 followers on Medium. I knew the platform pretty well. I learned how to write pretty good blog posts, and I decided to make a course that taught people how to write on Medium.com. It was so amazing. I decided to make a webinar in selling the course. I like to make a sales page. I got teachable.com. I was very nervous about whether people would buy this course, so I sent my email list note, and I said that I am putting on a webinar, and I want people to join me.
I had a hundred fifty people sign up. I had thirty-five people who showed up live, and I sold ten spots of my $150 online course within one hour. So at that point forward, that was basically how my life, professional life, enormously changed at that moment. That was when I stopped being a freelancer and started to be an entrepreneur online, a solopreneur. It was just absolutely life-changing. So I made $2,000 very quickly basically. I resold the online course two months later. So I just kept selling it every week and let people come in, and I've made upwards of 10,000 dollars in a single month in that course sometimes, but not often. I average probably about a thousand dollars per month from that course.
I want to make a different answer here. I think many people will say like, “What was it like the video that got the most views.” Was it the blog post that got the most views for me as a creator? The best milestones that I've ever accomplished for me are when I've created something meaningful and insightful. I wrote a blog post called, “I don't believe in God anymore. Do I?” It's me talking about religion and talking about my belief in God and whether I believe in Him. I was just going back and forth in my mind talking about my faith in God, and it was one of my best blog posts that I've ever written. It's only got a thousand views if not many people have read it before, but it was probably my best blog post ever written because I consider both sides. Anybody can read it.
Whether you're religious or non-religious and you will not be offended by it because I’m just honest, and I'm not bashing religion at all. And I thought that was a massive milestone in my blogging career. I am very proud of that blog post, even though it only got a couple of thousand views.
I made one video called “Pinoybaiting Needs To Stop” in the Philippines. I think that's probably the best video that I've ever made. I was finally honest with myself and many other people about how we create content online. Many people like to use the Philippines and the Philippine flag to get more views and stuff; without really caring about the country. So I wanted to call that out a little bit and be honest and talk about how I have done the same thing before in my videos, and I'm very proud of that video. I really am. It's what I'm talking about. Being really honest with people, being honest where nobody else wants to be honest, that's where your videos or blog posts are going to make a huge impact.
It's almost like I haven't thought about marketing strategies before. For my blog post, I just try to be honest with my videos. I just try to make stuff that means something to me, and that's been the best marketing strategy for me. Personally, the thumbnails matter on YouTube; the headlines matter with blog posts. So I paid close attention to how other people make their thumbnails. I pay close attention to how other people live right in there. I've tried to sort of pay a lot of attention to my titles and my thumbnails for videos and my headlines for my blog post and the topics that I'm talking about. I think the topics that you talked about support both videos on blogging. Those are what you need to think about and need to just be in the right place.
I think many marketing strategies don't consider it a great place to get video views right now. Like even if you have no followers, so you need to be in the right place. Medium.com was generally unknown four years ago. It's still unknown for whatever reason, even though you can make money blogging there. And so you need to be at a place where there's not a lot of people like TikTok. A lot of people like to make stuff there and get a lot of views and things, so I think you need to be in the right place at the right time, as well. You don't just need to make good content. You need to be in the right place. And for me, Medium has been the right place, and Facebook was that place where videos got way more views than YouTube and Linkedin, as well for sure.
I don't do a lot of brand deals. But currently, I am doing an online course with a company. That's been exciting and fun to do. I take brand deals very rarely. I think that one thing you need to do is you need to be very excited about whatever it is that you're going to be working on with a brand. I almost don't take a lot of stuff because I'm not excited. I can make more money with my online course. If someone wants to pay me $200 to market their brand, I can just make that with my online course overnight without doing any work. So if I'm going to work with a brand, I need to be excited, and they need to be excited.
I would love to do a project with the Department of Tourism in the Philippines. I would like to feature different people, make a real cinematic, 10-15 minute documentary on how that person finds success in their life, like a famous chef or something like that here in the Philippines. And I will talk about their backstory and what inspired them. I will, one day. I think you need to be proactive and pitch brand ideas that seem fun, and when you have a well thought out idea. And I know a tight plan for it. I think even without that many followers, you could probably learn a brand deal for sure. It’s something that I haven't really done much of because I'm so busy, you know, making a lot of courses and things, but after I get done my courses over the next six months, I'm going to pay more attention to brand deals and sponsorships. So, I don't know if that helps or not, but that's what I think as far as you know, being a content creator.