Car Reviews and Vlogs


How the Photographer Finally Gets Comfortable in Front of the Camera.

Car Reviews and Vlogs
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August 19, 2020

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

I’m Matt and I’m a car YouTuber from South East England, a sideline to my regular work that is starting to take over and becoming a bigger and bigger part of my work and income.

The channel has been going for nearly a decade but until ‘the YouTube Apocalypse’ two years ago, this was just a hobby that made pocket money. At that point though, I had to raise my game to keep monetized and went in front of the camera for the first time. I work alone from research before shooting, to camera, sound, presenting then editing and promoting online and dealing with social media.

The brand name was a bit of a joke. I think I saw it on Top Gear that on the Isle of Man, there was only one motoring offense of ‘Furious Driving’, and although I don’t want any motoring convictions or condone dangerous driving, I was going to have to point that would sound exciting, and it sounded good as a website name!

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

I’ve been a photographer forever. From school, I knew that’s what I wanted to do and trained for. Starting in the mid-’90s, I was also specialising in cars, that’s about 20 years ago. In 2012, one of my regular freelance gigs was doing ‘classic cars for sale reviews’ for a weekly car mag, writing, and shooting stills. I thought it would be fun to put a GoPro on the cars during the test drive and make a 3-minute driving video and upload it to YouTube. That video gradually grew to a more detailed walk-around video. I got enough views to make a few £ a month, but never more than a couple of hundred subscribers or maybe 1000 views on a video.

I did not plan to make any more than something fun on the side, but when YouTube changed the rules to need 1000 subscribers and 4000 watch hours to remain monetised, I decided to put more effort into it and build a brand. I started blogging about my cars and turned the silent walk-around and drives into full retro car reviews and hit the target numbers in 3 weeks. 

Then I realised I was putting in so much effort that it needed to make proper money to justify the time, but also magazines were starting to suffer and lose revenue so I decided to move online for the future and put more effort into the channel!

I looked at the big car YouTubers. I enjoyed watching them and what they were doing, and what I’d been doing in print  - a mix of car diaries and car features - seemed to work online as well.

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

I have a format for the channel, car reviews, and blogs on my collection. In terms of content creation, it’s more reactive than proactive - cars for review are offered or come into stock with dealers who I work with regularly. They are happy to loan me cars as it is free advertising. It is a good symbiotic relationship and then I schedule them to keep a good mix of eras and styles, and with about 10 cars at home, something is always broken so I make a video about fixing that. The content writes itself!

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

I’ve been a Nikon user for about 25 years, so I started shooting videos on my DSLRs but they all had different shortcomings until the Z6 came out last year, which is an awesome video camera with astonishing quality and at last, face tracking autofocus for blogging!

I use Final Cut to edit, I have Premiere as well, and don’t think there’s much in it. But I’m more used to FCP as it can edit much faster. I always plan to try to do a few more in Premiere to get faster with it, but putting out 3 or 4 videos a week and working my regular freelance photography doesn’t leave the luxury of time!

When I upload posts to Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube, I do try to interact with comments there. It takes more time, but I see it as an important part of building the community around the brand, and especially with the blogs, I get a lot of good tips and information from the viewers.

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

As a photographer, I have learned to be the reluctant centre of attention. I was worried about being seen online. It was unnatural talking to a camera which took a lot of getting used to and it’s worse in public. It took a good 6 months for my videos to look comfortable and make proper eye contact with the camera. It is easy to forget if no-one is filming, and watching what you’re doing, but I just kept making videos and tried to improve each time.

There are always going to be negative comments, this is the Internet. I try to ignore them mostly, some were unwittingly constructive and I made improvements to what I was doing and very occasionally, and I know I shouldn’t, I’ll answer back and just be ruder or more sarcastic. I know its wrong but it feels good to let off steam at a troll.

As a middle-aged white male, I don’t get much personal abuse as that’s not an easy troll target, but some of the stuff other YouTubers I’m friends with, put up with, is disgusting. What I have noticed is that as my channel has grown, the nasty comments have declined. It seems like the trolls see a small YouTuber and see an easy target. Now that I have a bigger following, they are less brave, or other viewers will jump on them and answer back before I’ve seen the comment. 

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

When I was trying to push from about 400 subscribers to the magic 1000, I read everything I could find about YouTube growth, watched every Grow Your Channel or Get Subs video, and took a lot of good tips on board. So I started to have a schedule and put out videos on specific days, improved my logo, worked hard on thumbnails, and more.

It took under a month to crack the 1000 but then started to grow steadily, a few hundred a month at first until late 2019 when I was gaining about 2500 new subs a month. It dropped to about +1500 a month now but is still solid growth.

One of the best videos for the channel has been 1935 Austin 7 review:

I was still using a wired microphone, so the sound isn’t great and I’ve improved my presenting skills massively since, but it’s entertaining and as well as having good views has brought in a huge number of subscribers.

My only outlay has really been time. As I already had cameras, lenses, and microphones for my day job, I’ve just evolved that equipment. I don’t count the years before 2018 as the same channel despite the name as the content has evolved so much.

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

The one thing I would do if I could go back is to buy radio microphones at the beginning. Some of my early videos look good but the sound is awful, either too quiet, static from the wires, or wind noise makes them hard to watch. My advice to someone looking to improve their content is to be brutal on the content, and the cut. I know every second you shoot is special, but you have to think if it is essential or does it slow the pace. I’ve learned to cut and cut to keep a good pace that holds engagement. If a video starts to drag, people will click off in a heartbeat

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

I have not fully moved over to YouTube full-time yet. As I’m a freelancer, I’m able to fit photoshoots for clients and magazines around content creation. In fact, many of my contacts for businesses and car owners have come from my work in magazines. Over the last two years as YouTube revenue has increased, Ive been able to justify taking more time each week to create content, and it is now my largest regular individual monthly paycheck.

Tell us your best milestones in being a content creator.

A few years ago I was on a magazine shoot in a car factory and set up a couple of time-lapse cameras. The video hit 50k views in no time and to date has over 1.1 million views and is my most stolen video! More significantly, when I hit 20,000 subs and it happened quickly enough that by the time I’d filmed a celebration video, the channel was up to about 22k and I'd missed the moment!

In my ‘real’ work, I was very lucky to work for some big companies, so I had the front page picture on every national newspaper in Britain before I was 21, and went on to be an assistant picture editor on the biggest Sunday paper in the world!

What are your marketing strategies to grow your brand?

Good content doesn’t need marketing, it will find its audience. My main strategy has been to use social media and Facebook groups, in particular, to upload related videos to that make or model of car. That has worked well as people, me as a genuine car enthusiast and my videos get shared organically now. 

I firmly believe that if you screw people over, it will come back to you, either they will want to get back or you’ll be scrutinised and it will ruin your reputation. As for me, I play people straight and I don’t mess around.

I’ve only done one big collab so far. It was with a multi-channel Cheap Car Challenge where we all bought a car for a series of challenges culminating in a drag race at Santa Pod. When it was organised, all the channels were under 5000 subs, but by the time it happened, mine and Lawries Mechanical Marvels were approaching 20k. 

Just recently, I did a few Zoom chats with other YouTubers which are OK but didn’t get great views, I felt like doing something during that time.

How do you handle brand deals and sponsorships? 

I've been lucky with a few genuine brand deals where they have reached out to me and they have suggested a fee and now Ive been using those figures as a guide to later offers. I wouldn’t endorse a product I don’t like, smoking or vaping for example. Although I’m not much of a gamer, my son is so when Raid: Shadowlegends approached me he was so excited that I couldn’t say no. Ekster wallets have sponsored a couple of videos and I still use those daily. I’m hoping they’ll offer another soon as they have some other colours I'd like.

Working in magazines, I was used to being sent review items and often being able to keep them, but having to be objective still and I like to think I still have that moral compass, so when I’ve been sent things to use, I’ve been honest. Luckily, I’ve been sent some very good stuff so that’s been easy!

The biggest risk is the scam offers. But now, I’m good at spotting a fake email. I was once offered a big sum to try out where I had to endorse a new music app. It required me to use Windows and Android only, and I have always been a Mac user. I couldn’t find anything about that new music app online, so I had to borrow a PC to download. Luckily, it had virus protection and the whole thing was a trojan horse virus attack. 

If someone makes you an offer, google the company or the offer, to see if it's legit. Have a conversation and ask genuine questions, a real PR won’t mind.

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