Digital Art

Grant Abbitt

How The Digital Artist and Teacher Creates YouTube Tutorials on The Side.

Digital Art
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September 23, 2020

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

I’m Grant Abbitt, and I live in the UK. I would call myself a digital artist and teacher. I teach at a sixth form college, I create digital art, and I run a YouTube channel Gabbitt Media. My primary tool is Blender, a 3d graphics and animation programme. I teach games design at college, and my channel is about tutorials for Blender and blog posts about freelance work. I would say the channel is an integral part of my career and earnings, although not all of it.

At the moment, I am a one-person army. It would be nice to put together a team for further growth, but what I do is very specific, so it’s tough to get the right people. The name Gabbitt media is just a combination of my first name and last name. It used to be my staff code when teaching, and lots of students would call me Gabbitt. I thought it was kind of funny and kept it. I did not spend much time coming up with the name and probably should have worked on it more :)

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

In terms of my channel, it's been running since the beginning of 2011. At the start, it was just to aid my teaching and another tool to help the students in case they missed a lesson they could go online and watch the content. I always thought it would be nice to run a Youtube channel but did not expect it to turn out how it is now. I wasn’t particularly happy in my teaching job. It was tough work, lots of pressure, and I felt there was little growth for me as a creator. I did not have much time to work on my skills as I was always concentrating on the students. Of course, it’s nice to be able to encourage and make a difference in the students’ lives, but it was a bit too consuming and can overtake everything else.

This is combined with the fact that, unfortunately, the education system in the UK is becoming a very toxic place to be with teachers leaving faster than they can recruit. Still, I’ll try not to make this political. I realised I need to improve my skills and have something else on the side that was mine to be less pressured and stressed in the job. So i created Gabbitt Media in the hope that I could slowly build it into something that could be a separate career path if I needed it. 

Constantly throughout the process, I would think to myself, “just do it.” It's simple, but it makes sense. There were so many reasons not to do it that I could have decided against it. What if people thought it was rubbish, what if no one views it, if my first video is terrible they may never want to revisit my channel, to name just a few. All these things stop progress. I combined this mantra if you can call it that, with the classic Yoda Quote, “Failure, the best teacher there is.” The point is that you have to fail to learn, build, and grow. So, I just started posting and kept going.

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

I don't brainstorm my ideas, I just see gaps in the tutorial scene and fill them, I look on Pinterest a lot to gain inspiration for my next tutorial. Even though I produce tutorials, they have to look good for people to be interested. I have a board called tutorial ideas, filled with possibilities. If I get stuck, I look through the board, pick a piece, sometimes creating a new mode board at this point, and then create a piece and teach people how to do it. It’s a reasonably straightforward process, but I slowly build my skills whilst creating and also help others. I like Pinterest for ideas gathering. They seem to have useful algorithms that help you find inspirational pieces.

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

I use OBS to record my screen and use Adobe Premiere to edit my videos. I don't like Premiere as it crashes a lot and would like to move over to Davinci Resolve, but it’s finding the time to learn the shortcuts which are holding me back. I use Photoshop for the thumbnail creation, which is pretty essential when it comes to getting your video noticed. Of course, YouTube is my main platform, but I do have Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook accounts, but I’m not very active. I sometimes use Hootsuite to post to different platforms at the same time. I probably need to get some sort of social media manager as the social media side of my business is severely lacking.

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

I had a lot of fears starting. You can’t help but question your ability and often had the “am I good enough to be posting,” but I stuck with the just do it attitude. A lot of my content could undoubtedly be better, especially the more early stuff, but I keep it there rather than deleting it almost as a reminder to where I have come from. I still have a long way to go, but don’t we all.

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

To increase my subscribers, I try to release a video at least three times a week. I think that makes me stand out from the crowd. Generally, in the Blender tutorial scene, people tend to post once a week at the most. It has to be still good content that people want to see to be worthwhile. I always took a long time to get any real traction and growth, but it also took a long time for my skill level to increase in the different areas. As a tutorial maker, you need to be a good teacher, skilled artist/creator, a good video editor, and keep consistent with social media. I guess that’s why lots of people have teams for the last 2, but it's not always efficient until you get to a specific size.

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

I think my advice to anyone starting would be consistency in terms of regular quality content. Other important aspects of being successful would be to think carefully about your target audience but at the same time keep to the things you love. I think it’s also essential to think hard as to whether you want likes, subscribers and shares or it’s more important to “keep it real” and do what you want to do.

Those that stick to what they love will have a better time and have more freedom and possibly be more successful than those that chase the views, in my opinion. 

It’s also important to remember that you do need to have something to offer or something special for people to be interested in and want to subscribe to and follow you. It sounds obvious, but I get a lot of people that ask me how they can grow their channel, and when I look at their content, it's at a very beginner level. Of course, if you have an amazing personality that people want to watch, then you can get away with straightforward stuff, but you have to have something special that makes people want to tune in and look at your work. So the most important advice I can give anyone is GET GOOD. So you have to put in a lot of practice and hard work.

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

If anyone is planning on quitting their day job or dropping out of school, you always need a backup plan, and I would also suggest doing it gradually. I now only teach one day a week. My channel started to grow, so I slowly cut down my teaching hours. I am also in a position where I could stop teaching entirely. I am aware, though that at any point, something could change, which could massively affect my revenue. So YouTube could decide to pay less to its content creators, or the programme I use could have some significant unforeseen issues which make it unusable. You never know, so always have some kind of back up plan just in case. Whatever you do, don't drop out or quit in the hopes of something happening. If you are unhappy with your job, work to change it over time.

Tell us your best milestones in being a content creator.

The highlights of my work have been gaining a contract as a freelance artist on the game atlas empires, having my work featured in the top 10 on sketchfab a couple of times. Most of the highlights come down to recognition for what I have done. It was also nice to get to 100000 subscribers, although I passed 200000 not long afterward. It kind of snowballed. Are they life-changing milestones, not really, but together each milestone has got me closer to my goals. 

What are your marketing strategies to grow your brand?

I haven’t got many except to keep doing what I am doing, which is to keep releasing content regularly and consistently. I am trying to be adaptable and keep my skills growing, and the channel is growing with me, it seems. There hasn’t been any particular point where my channel has exploded or anything like that. Its all be very gradually. I did all the regular things like post to forums and blogs, but it did not seem to make much difference, so I have not pushed that much and just let YouTube algorithms do their thing.

How do you handle brand deals and sponsorships? 

I have found brand deals and sponsorships complicated to handle. On one hand, it is excellent to get sent “free stuff,” but on the other hand, you are put under pressure to promote things, and at times, it has not been the best thing for the channel. The integrity of my channel is most important, so if I’m asked to promote something, I have to agree and approve of it myself. I would say these are some of the low points of the channel as, at times, I have found it awkward to work with people when sponsorship is involved.

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