Tech

CivilSpider

How I Found My Passion At 17 Doing What I Love Full-time.

Full-Time Creator
June 26, 2020

Who are you and what kind of content do you create?

Hi there. My name is Tony - online known as CivilSpider and I am a Video Editor and Videographer. I currently work as a fulltime video editor and videographer in Colorado for YouTuber Thomas Frank and my own channel CivilSpider. I have been video editing since I was 17 when I wanted to make my own YouTube videos and now almost being 26 I have been utilizing that skill I had for a hobby and made it into a career. I didn’t set out to become a video editor as I went to school for Computer Science but as time passed I realized how much more I enjoyed making videos than anything else.


I technically work solo since I am a freelancer but since I work alongside Thomas Frank. He and I are a team (as well as others who work with him). For my own channel I am solo which is a great undertaking. I do enjoy the luxury of working with an established YouTuber like Thomas but also creating something for myself and pushing my own creativity and brand.


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

My backstory is a simple one yet took me on a very complex journey. At the age of 17 I wanted to learn how to make videos so that I may start making YouTube videos. I got my camera and learned Windows Movie Maker but quickly realized how much I hated the software. I then discovered Sony Vegas Pro and started my journey into video editing. 


I started not only making my own YouTube videos but also quickly realized how much I enjoyed learning how to tell stories and helping other people make their visions come to life. My first official paid video was my cousin's wedding, which I started recording and making for fun. When I gave him the finished video he gave me $50 dollars and that’s when I realized I can maybe continue doing this for a living. My biggest question was if I can be a video editor but specifically for YouTube and creators. 


After 7 years of video editing and making my connections, I slowly became known and got great opportunities. I am now doing my passion of creating content for not only myself but for Thomas as well.


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

Getting ideas sometimes takes me a while since I feel my mind is pulled in many directions. My channel is a tech channel and I do my best to come up with tech related ideas that are both fun and informative. It needs to be fun for me to make and experience but also informative to have something to offer to my audience. If I feel I can’t give something my own personal touch then I don’t feel inclined to create. The way I come up with ideas is by going out and exercising. During my moments of training my martial art “Capoeira”, riding my bike, skateboarding or rock climbing is when my ideas better stimulate. 


I definitely hit mental roadblocks when I am coming up with ideas. I write my thoughts and ideas in an app called “Evernote”  which I’ve been using for the past 5 years. I learned my mental blocks are due to me not taking enough time to pause and ease my mind. What I do in those moments is to go out and exercise. It’s no secret that exercising helps our mental health just as much as our physical health, so I make sure to take care of myself for those reasons. If exercise doesn’t help then I go back to my other escape - video games. The point of all this is to relax my mind, once I feel better and rested then I come back and start writing again. 


My biggest advice for coming up with ideas is to share it. I always worried about sharing ideas due to fear of someone having a negative reaction or by stealing it. I quickly learned sharing was a big asset as someone can point out where my ideas are shining or where they can use more work. 


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

When I started learning to video edit I started off by using Sony Vegas Pro. It was my first professional grade software and at the time it was amazing for me. I actually used Sony Vegas Pro for almost all of my career until I was basically forced to learn Adobe Premiere and After Effects to work with Thomas. For what we do in our videos making the change was an absolute must, but for any beginners out there I still can suggest Sony Vegas. The only reason I wouldn’t suggest Sony Vegas for people who want to make it into a career is because most professionals don’t use it. 


Other tools I use are programs and why I use them are:


Google Calendar: I write my entire life here from due dates to when payments are due. I love being organized. 

Google Tasks:  This is where I keep my checklists for things I need to do - from what groceries I need or what video topics I already covered.

Photoshop and Lightroom: For photo color grading and editing

Evernote: My note taking app of choice.

Notion: A complete workstation app but I use it for keeping track of sponsors, video topics and creating b-roll shot lists.

Slack: My communication app of choice to keep in touch with various YouTube creators.

Dashlane: My password creator and vault of choice. 


I learned all these programs on my own but also for work. I also use both Windows and Mac for work but primarily Windows since I am a huge PC gamer. 


Apps you can find me on:

Twitter: @tonystoodios

Instagram: @tonystoodios

Byte: CivilSpider

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

Oh man there were so many moments of self doubt. My big moment happened when I was 20 and I made a wedding video for my cousin for fun - I expected nothing in return. When I completed the video he paid me 50 dollars which completely caught off guard as I never received money for any work I’ve done. Fast forward 3 years when I’m in college, studying for a degree that I no longer wanted. I got the idea to pursue video editing as a career and decided to go for it.


Dropping out of college was scary to me because I left knowing I had no job or clients waiting for me. I took so many jobs that paid me so little to just barely make ends meet and on occasion buy a bag of chips. I can’t say there weren’t times where I wanted to give up, pack up my bags and go back to school but the only thing I was certain of was that my happiness was not in Computer Science, but in creating. 

 

Handling this self doubt and fear I had was not easy but having my family and friends support me was huge. My girlfriend at the time was also a huge support factor which to this day I still greatly thank for everything she did for me. 


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

Building my brand didn’t have a one way route as my interests in many aspects steered me to what I have now. It began when I was working as a Personal Trainer (this was a side job before I went full time in video editing) and during that time is when I created the name CivilSpider for my League of Legends account. When I got home from training I realized I had an old YouTube channel I stopped uploading to and decided to rename it to CivilSpider. 


From here is when I got my job at Planet Dolan as a full time video editor. After some time my name became known in the Planet Dolan sphere and people were subscribing to me. I remember one day gaining 200 subs in one day which was amazing! Due to the traffic I decided not to waste the opportunity and started producing videos for my channel. After 2 years I had gained some popularity and decided to quit school and job to fully pursue video editing. 


After another 2 ½ years of doing small gigs, working with a couple of YouTubers and even some businesses is when my friend Natalie she saw her favorite YouTuber Thomas Frank looking for a video editor. With nothing but hope I applied to his job listing and the rest is history. Tom and I have been working together for almost 2 years, my name is becoming more well known and I have gotten quite a few opportunities thrown my way. I never take anything that comes my way for granted because of the hardships I had to endear to get here. To be honest I still feel like I am nowhere but ill continue to work hard and see how far I can push this career I am fortunate to have.


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

There are going to be many things you heard from YouTubers and what they recommend you do to gain success. “Have the right gear”, “collaborate with bigger channels”,  “don’t vlog, nobody will watch those”, etc. To me all of that is useless information as no one asks you the important question, Why? Why do you want to create? Popularity? Money? Sponsors? All of that is worthless if you don’t have the genuine drive and desire to make videos.


Time is going to be your biggest commodity the more you get into video making. You’ll realize how long it takes to learn many aspects of video-making like lighting, framing, timing, and storytelling to name a few. You’ll also learn a lot about yourself during the process. Do you like being on camera? Do you prefer voice overs? Can you pretend you’re talking to an audience? Do you hate sitting in a chair and editing for 5 hours at a time? Self realization is key to video creating. 


So if I am to give any advice on this aspect I’d say get into video creation if it is an actual interest and not as a hope for a quick cash grab. You’re going to just play yourself and your audience will never come. The internet can tell if someone is passionate about a topic they are talking about; If the quality is there the audience will come. I guarantee that. 


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

Committing to becoming a full time video editor wasn’t easy and still isn’t. The decision took me awhile to make due to fear and I still have that fear; Fear that one day I will lose my job and be left destitute. Of course I wouldn’t let that happen as I will take matters into my own hands but it’s still a scary thought. I made sure there were signs along my journey to indicate I was on the right path. I’m not going to get very spiritual or anything but it is true. I’ll make this quick and to the point.


During my college years studying Computer Science I always tried to find work in the tech field and realized I hated it. As much as I love technology, I hated my courses. I would ditch class to find video editing jobs and to finish up projects I had in the making. I started getting more job offers to help someone make a video but kept getting denied to work at Best Buy as tech support. Funny enough a big tech company “CDW” paid me to make them an employee video, what are the odds. These were subtle signs but I picked up on them and learned the universe has a plan for me and it would be foolish of me to put it off any longer. 


So I definitely say to those who feel lost in life, look for the signs. I did and I cannot be happier. 


Tell us your best milestones in being a content creator.

There are definitely some milestones that have motivated me to continue pushing my goals of being a video editor. Some of these are personal and some are professional but they all matter to me the same. Here are some examples:


  • My YouTube channel growing from 4k to currently 12.2k.
  • Moving states and getting my own apartment.
  • Having money to upgrade my gear for work.
  • Being asked to write this list for this website.
  • Talking and meeting other popular YouTubers like Thomas Frank, Linus Tech Tips, Ali Abdaal, Nathaniel Drew, Joey Schweitzer, etc. 


What are your marketing strategies to grow your brand?

My channel CivilSpider is still an ongrowing channel that has had some growth thanks to a few minor adjustments I made. These are not full proof tactics but these have worked for me.


  • I pay more attention to my analytics on YouTube to know my audience and see what videos do better than others and why.
  • I constantly experiment with my videos. From color grading, changing sets, topic ideas, editing, etc. I am always trying to see how I can make each video a little different and better.
  • Sharing my videos with family and friends on social media. This allows for some sharing and viewing from people in my inner circle that could lead to them sharing to more people.


How do you handle brand deals and sponsorships? 

I currently do not have any brand deals nor sponsorships but what I do have is experience in negotiating the pricing for Video Editing work. Everyone charges their rates differently depending on what they think they are worth. I’ve fluctuated my pricing so much in the past 4 years that I found what works for me with one simple strategy - I charge a monthly payment. This monthly payment covers as many videos needed and all the hours I might potentially spend.


With Video Editors there will be many ways you can charge someone depending on what is being asked of you. Some charge hourly rates (which I think is the worst thing ever), per project or one flat fee. The reason I charge one large payment a month is because in the past I’ve ran into issues where people started changing my pay because they didn’t understand that editing, re-editing, rendering, color grading, etc - it all adds up rather quickly. They wouldn’t want to pay me the 15 hours I spent editing because they assumed I’d get it done in 3.


Here’s a quick example of my thought process - If someone wants me to edit 3 videos for their YouTube channel that involves a lot of editing I quickly “edit” the video in my head to see what needs to be done. I then base what I have to do from past experience to see how long that could potentially take me. I then check my schedule and see if this will conflict with any other videos I have to make (meaning if I have more than 1 client I am editing for). If one client pays me $1,500 but taking on this client will make my time even tighter, I’ll charge $2,000 due to my time becoming more valuable. If my schedule is still open I will keep the price the same. I never change my prices to please someone else and I recommend this to everyone else. I hope this helps.


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