My name is Christian Maté Grab. I’m a full time german-based Filmmaker, Photographer, Content Creator, Musician and Podcaster. I started to grow my Youtube channel 4 years ago after I worked as a freelance graphic designer for five years which did not make me happy after some time. I wanted to work on my own brand, visions and dive deeper into the world of travel and outdoor filmmaking/photography instead of working for someone else’s dream.
Luckily things worked out and I could quickly live off of my new passion. To be honest: At the beginning there was no intention or idea on how I could make money with this so I can do whatever I want with my time but after my first months on youtube and publishing short cinematic travel videos I found the niche that helped me to live an independent life. Through selling digital products that helps my audience with color grading and photo editing I build up my first passive income.
Let’s go back to 2015. I was working as a one-man-army freelance graphic designer for 5 years when I felt that this does not make me happy anymore. My ultimate goal was always to create something and be my own boss but due to a lot of trouble with the tax office and some serious debts I lost all passion for my current job. I really had nothing to lose at this point. 24 years old and about 37.000 $ in tax debts.
You maybe now want to know how this happend? To keep it short: I always lived life to the fullest but I was never the guy who bought fancy cars or luxury. I just spent my money on food, partying with close friends and tech. Further there was no one who taught me how to handle money or how taxes work and yeah, so this happened. One of the biggest problems in our school-system is that you’re not being taught the things you need to know as a self-employee. You learn algebra and stuff you never will need again in your life but nothing about how income-tax works.
So I started to document my life in those short videos. Often my girlfriend Karolin was the “main actor” in these.
This was one my first videos:
In the meantime I got really interested in latest camera gear and the whole camera-space. I got myself the Sony a6300 which was one of the first small and affordable consumer cameras that got things like 120fps slowmotion or 4K Video. After uploading more and more videos my channel gained momentum and it grew up to 100.000 subscribers within a year. Without a single ad or paid promotion.
That was the time I realized that I need to combine the things I love like being outdoors, traveling and creating memories that last with some business that does not depend on constant everyday work. But more about that later.
To be honest I suck pretty hard on making plans, scripting or taking long notes. Often I have a 6-month long mental block within a year. I never could force myself to create content like many other Youtubers or people on Instagram do. Sometimes I uploaded twice a week and sometimes I did not put up a single video within 3 months. The reason why I started all this was that I wanted to capture moments, make memories that last forever and someday I can show my kids maybe. I’m grateful that it turned out this way so I can live off of it as well but I will never force myself to create. Because that’s when you lose passion. When it comes to collaborations or client work for brands it starts with a song. I’m browsing through music for hours sometimes and then there is this one song that transforms to a video in my mind. I think my collaboration with Musicbed shows perfectly what I mean by that:
Inspiration? There is a german photographer by the name of Andre Josselin (@josselin) who really inspired me since 2015 because his photos contain that nostalgia and feelings that always make me want to go somewhere and have a good time with friends.
I always loved to educate myself to learn the things I want to master. A lot of people who underestimate the power of autodidactic learning never will reach their full potential. Don’t wait until someone will teach you how to do this or that. We got those things called internet and Youtube. You can learn ANYTHING you want nowadays without a mentor or teacher. That’s what I always pray: Learn to learn. And that’s also what I did with cameras, editing software, online marketing and every other topic that is interesting to me. I learned how to edit photos in Lightroom, edit and color grade in Premiere Pro and Final Cut Pro X, set up an online shop, use email marketing and more.
Althought I had to struggle with anxiety, panic attacks and depression for the last two years which was the hardest part of my life due to some other reasons I never felt fear regarding my business before. For sure often there was uncertainty but I kept going because working in a 9-to-5 was never an option. When it comes to creating content I still feel uncomfortable infront of the camera. I simply don’t like to be in the center of attention somehow. Anyway I tried to vlog for some time but quickly came to this realization. Leaving your comfort zones let’s you learn so much about yourself and who you really are. When starting out - And I can remember many thoughts like this - you often compare yourself or say things like “I want to be like XXX” - In the end you will understand that this doesn’t work. You either won’t be successful in terms of money or (even more important to me) happiness.
As said before I never posted consistently. That’s why my reach on social media often collapsed because platforms like Youtube or Instagram want you to upload as often as possible and regulary. But I’m okay with that because I’m living off of the ad revenue or constant partnerships. So let’s continue with some words about my main income.
After 6 months uploading my first videos to Youtube I noticed that there is a huge demand for digital products in the filmmaking world like LUTs (Look-Up-Table: basically a file that converts your footage colors - hue, saturation and luminance - to another one so you can achieve a certain look) and Lightroom Presets. That’s when I started to build up my online shop on sellfy.com. It’s a minimalistic store front where you can buy several packs and my looks for your videos and photos. At this time not every blogger offered Lightroom Presets, it was a niche that was not as saturated as today so I became one of their top-sellers within months. Through Youtube videos I build up an audience and people who asked for my looks seen in the videos could now buy through links to my shop in the description. Also SEO (search engine optimization) on Youtube is a big deal if you’re trying to build a business around your passion. I never could make a living from just putting ads on my videos but through cross-selling on several platforms and a steady google ranking growth the shop quickly became my number one income source which makes 6-figures each year since then.
For anyone who wants to grow their audience on Youtube. Think about putting value out there. Teach stuff others might help with a problem and focus on educational content. Just uploading beautiful videos from your trip to Indonesia won’t make you gain exposure anymore, no matter how great your edit is. This maybe worked for a handful creators out there but now is the time of teaching and putting out value. I noticed that when taking a look at my analytics. My 3 most successful videos on my channel are Tutorials. Even if you don’t consider yourself a “Tutorial-Youtuber” like I never did as well try to help people or take them behind the scenes from time to time.
It builds up a more personal relationship with your audience. You are building trust which is very important if you want to sell a product later on. I think the time of being the mysterious, handsome sunny boy doing backflips on a sand dune are gone. People are now interested in real people, their stories and inspiring work.
I’ve always told my followers that they should go for it.
If you got a dream then follow it. That’s still my main believe but to be a bit more realistic and honest (now that I’ve worked as a creative and know the market): Think about it twice before you quit your job to “travel the world”.
Being a travel vlogger or Video content creator is nothing special anymore in a world full of young people who want to do the same like everybody else does. This whole Influencer/Content Creator market is so oversaturated. You gotta come up with some very outstanding work or a special personality to break through and succeed.
Everyone’s offering free work, promoting shitty products without charging anything or is doing the same stuff that has been done a thousand times before. Getting a well-paid client job has never been harder.
Everyone can buy a camera now that shoots beautiful 4K footage. So there will be more and more people who don’t know their value and this is damaging the overall market. The good thing: People are educating themselves more and more. So I think that digital information products (Tutorials, eBook, Podcasts, Workshops) will dominate the next 3 years which gives you great opportunities to build up an income stream.
I never was employed in my life. Right after I went to a media business school I started to work as a freelance graphic and web designer.
Oh I had such great times. The overall journey is what makes me most happy. See what I have accomplished even if people told me that I won’t be able to make a penny with my “so-called-passion”.
But to name a few: Reaching the 100.000 subscriber count on Youtube. Working with big brands like Jack Wolfskin, Shure, Jeep or LG but also with some small businesses and growing together with them. Being able to travel whenever or wherever I want without asking my boss. Helping others and inspiring them to start filmmaking. All the positive feedback. Making a passive income without having to work 8 hours a day. All these things leave me with gratefulness.
I never really put out ads or outsourced any marketing stuff. Something in me always wanted to understand all the aspects of the internet so I teached myself some Youtube SEO and basic Marketing really early.
What I noticed: In 2016 when all these new cameras came out people were looking for test-footage of those. So I often included the camera model name in my titles which then gained a lot of exposure. If you type in “Sony a6300” or “Sony A7III” - which I used over 3 years - into the Youtube search you probably will watch one of my videos.
One of my main priorities when it comes to brand deals and sponsorships is a product or service that really fits me as a person and my lifestyle. I can’t understand how people can promote bullshit products like it’s the best thing in the world and not feeling ashamed about it. I mean it’s cool to earn money, for sure but some out there are selling their soul for a quick buck. I don’t want to be a part of this.
Watch the Video:
If I’m partnering up with a brand that I like I always try to create something that is worth consuming and be honest with my audience. I guess I said “no” to around 90% of all sponsoring requests so far because they either don’t respect the creators value (and price) or the product did not fit me. I tend to be a bit unprofessional sometimes with my answers but that’s me (laughs). If you send me an unapologetic request you will get an unapologetic answer. On the other hand, when finding the right partners it’s so much fun to work with them on original stories and campaigns. Taking the commercial side and bringing my personal vibe to it always was fun.
Here’s a short video we shot for Europcar/Jeep in Saxony Switzerland. They gave us a car and said: “Visit the region for 7 days, shoot whatever you like”.