Hi my name is Reed and I run the YouTube channel Smart Home Solver. I work with my wife Aly who has worked with me since day one. I’m currently working full time and Aly is part time because she takes care of our two little kids during the day.
We started Smart Home Solver about four and a half years ago. I’ve only been doing it full time for about 3 months and I went part time at my web development job over a year ago. Before that we worked at nights and on the weekends every single week.
We came up with the name Smart Home Solver because we wanted it to be clear on what we do. Since smart homes can be confusing we wanted to make it clear we were here to help. We didn’t come up with the name until we had a website up for about 6 months. It was a pretty easy re-brand because no one really visited our website at that time anyways.
Before we started Smart Home Solver we tried creating a mobile app. Since I knew how to make iOS apps I thought it could be a fun creative outlet. It was a massive failure! Well sort of.
We learned how to work together and it was not easy. Oh wait that makes it seem like we hate each other. I’m digging myself into a hole. When working with your spouse it can be difficult to separate work and family. One of our greatest strengths now is how well we can work together.
Aly also had our first baby and we moved across the country. Between those two, the app just fizzled out. After a few months in our new house we were both itching for another creative outlet. Aly told me that if this next thing we build together fails, then she didn’t want to keep working at nights on some other idea.
We both took it very seriously after that conversation because I really wanted a side business. Since Aly is an amazing writer and I studied technology in college we decided to create a website about smart home tech. Amazon Echo was just created and I knew it was a space that was going to grow.
We had no idea what we were doing. However, we would read as many books or articles we could get our hands on that were helpful. There wasn’t any one specific thing that helped us. We just kept implementing things we learned, then cut anything that wasn’t working and built on things that were.
When we first started we just wrote articles on our website. After a couple of years we started posting videos to YouTube. Once some videos started to get traction we realized we should start making more YouTube videos. Now YouTube is our main focus where we are releasing consistent content and growing an audience.
The way I brainstorm ideas is by sitting in a quiet place and just writing down whatever comes into my head. Even if I write down a few ideas that will never get turned into anything, I’ll also write down a few good ideas. I try and do this once a week.
I keep all of my ideas in a Google Sheet and I rank the ideas so good ideas can stay at the top. Every once in a while Aly and I will sit down and think of a bunch of ideas. We have come up with some really good ideas just talking together.
I don’t just think of ideas out of thin air but I try and store away little ideas throughout the week. I look at data, read comments, and think of ways to make something even better than has been done before.
I look for inspiration in everything. It could be a movie, music or a podcast. Anything that helps me to want to be a better person.
I use Final Cut Pro for video editing. Aly uses Canva to create thumbnails. We also use Google Docs, Sheets and Keep. We use Slack, Trello, Wunderlist, and Google Calendar to keep everything organized.
As for social media we obviously use YouTube as our main platform. We also use Facebook ocassionaly and Twitter. I’m not a big social media user but it is a great way to communicate with our audience.
Before writing an article and posting it, I had never created anything in the public eye. I was terrified that people would read my article and comment how terrible it was. Same thing happened when making YouTube videos.
Now that I have had plenty of mean comments come my way I realized it’s not that bad. Actually a lot of those mean comments can have some truth behind them. For example, I made a video and my delivery was extremely boring. Seriously, I can’t watch the video again because it’s so monotone. It hurt when people pointed that out but I realized I really needed to improve.
When a comment is mean and not helpful at all, I usually just laugh it off. The longer I make content the more I realize that I will make mistakes and it’s okay. As long as I keep improving that’s all that matters.
From the point where we started out till now has been the same thing. Working hard every single week. We never had any mentors or funding. Aly and I basically just grinded away every night for years, learning and improving over time. It takes a lot of patience and consistent work!
When we first started making videos or writing articles the traffic was very small. It took us about a year of stumbling around with YouTube to get 100 subscribers. Then another year to get about 10k subscribers and another year to get 100k subscribers.
We always celebrated the little wins we would have. That would motivate us to keep going after the bigger goals. Every year we set goals and we hustle and do whatever it takes to hit them. We treat the business and our goals seriously and talk about them all year. Goals have been so helpful for motivating and stretching us.
My mindset for everything is still what it was when I first started: Hungry for more and grateful for anyone that reads or watches our content. Now that I’m full time I still work hard 9 to 5 but I try to balance my schedule more so I don’t burn out. But we still have big goals that are motivating us to grow.
For someone looking to get into content creation there are a few things you might want to do. The first thing is to stay true to what you believe from the beginning. Write down what you’re going to do differently or better than everyone else. For example, our motto is that everything we create needs to “inspire and inform.”
Then refer to that over and over again when distractions get thrown at you in the future. It’s easy to lose sight of what you initially wanted and you could end up doing the same thing as everyone else or losing what made you special.
Another thing is to be flexible and be willing to change. It’s easy to get attached to something and you have to be willing to drop it if it’s not working. I know that sounds contradictory to what I just said for the first point but let me explain.
My goals for creating smart home content doesn’t change but how I create it might. Transitioning from writing on our website to YouTube should have happened much sooner but I was pretty comfortable writing and not making videos. If I would have been more willing to change earlier then we could have grown faster.
On the other hand, there have been plenty of times where opportunities have presented themselves and they are very attractive. However, they might be outside of what I normally talk about, or don’t align with my original beliefs in creating content so I end up turning them down.
After 3 years of working nights creating content we were finally making enough money for me to go part time at my day job. Taking that leap was a little scary, but the extra time spent on the business helped make more money so it all evened out.
Eventually time was the biggest issue. Both part time jobs turned into two full time jobs and it wasn’t healthy. Once I was making enough to go full time I quit my web developer job and it’s been great.
Tell us your best milestones in being a content creator.
There have been a few big milestones for us. The first one was when we were able to go to CES tech conference together as media because we had enough website traffic. Aly and I worked all year for that and reached the web traffic they require for a media badge. That really motivated us to try even harder. Since then, covering CES each year has really helped our brand grow.
We have also had a few videos take off and there’s nothing quite like it. It feels like hitting the lottery but even better because we have been working so hard. Usually the videos that take off are the ones we put the most thought and effort into. Ultimately it’s out of our hands how much our content gets viewed, but it still feels so rewarding when people watch our content.
We have tried a few marketing strategies like SEO, social media, and email marketing, but nothing really helped as much as just focusing on making the most helpful content. When we have made good content that people want to watch on YouTube it gets shared and promoted by the YouTube algorithm.
To get those first initial views on YouTube, we created short, helpful videos using SEO keywords that people were searching for. We’ve always put a lot of time and effort into our thumbnails and titles to entice people to click on the video, which is one way that Aly helps a lot.
I’m constantly looking at the data and analyzing what is doing well and what isn’t. Then I figure out what our audience likes and what will help grow that audience. I know diving deep into analytics and having good content might sound generic, but it’s what has worked for us.
I get emails every day for companies looking to feature their products on our channel. I say no to almost everyone. I try and say yes to only products I would actually buy. Then if I do receive a product from a company I don’t take any money from them and I have to be able to share my actual opinion.
I haven’t taken any money for content because I want to build trust with my audience. I’m grateful every day that people choose to watch our YouTube channel. I never want to let anyone down and hope to keep making content well into the future. I would consider sponsorships if it wouldn’t interfere with our content, but for now I’m just focused on growing an audience and helping them get the information they need.