Young Yong Tales

How I Finished University But Ended Up Pursuing YouTube Instead.

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December 21, 2019

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

Hello, my name is Jonny Yong but some people call me Jon. I currently own an animation channel where I tell stories about my life or talk about random stuff through the persona of a tofu character. I have lived in California all my life, attended college, got my Bachelors degree in Psychology but I ended up doing Youtube full time for the time being. Totally related to my major.

During my years of college, I was also doing Youtube as a side hustle as well coaching badminton as another side job, Youtube wasn’t profiting for me during the first two years but that was to be expected since I was a total noob at what I was doing. It was only till the following year when I started to get traction. Took a lot of work, but it brought me to where I am today. Telling stories through drawings and animations. It can definitely be a lot of work since I am a one-man team. Although for my recent, “Attack on Santa” video, I had some people help me out with doing backgrounds and special effects. I know there are easier mediums to make videos but honestly, I like this one because of how boundless it is. It’s only limited by your imagination and creativity.

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

This year will be marking my 4th year doing Youtube I think and 3 years of animation. This year will also mark my first year doing Youtube full time. When people ask me how did I start doing Youtube I would say it was a seed of an idea that just grew to the point I decided to do it. In Jr. High I really looked up to this Youtuber David So and association, JK films. I really admired them and what they did, cherished the advice they gave, and I remember how their videos got me through tough times. I remember thinking, “what if I did that, it seems kinda fun.” That’s when the seed was planted.

Over time that idea just kept growing. David So and JK films would just talk about how much making videos have changed their lives and how great it was. On top of that, I read books that talked about pursuing my dreams, not wasting my life doing things that were “normal, safe, expected of me, taking risks that would make me happy.” I also didn’t really know what I wanted to do. Art was always something I enjoyed doing but of course... Stereotypically that major or field of work is looked down upon. So I picked psychology.

It was ok, wasn’t the worst thing and the job didn’t sound awful, but I wouldn’t say I’m passionate or feel fulfilled doing it. Also, I’m pretty sure everyone gets interested in Psychology at some point in their life (who wouldn’t want to know how to read another person?) My life so far was always me having great ambition or dreams, but when the going got rough or something I would give up. So you can say I was just going through the motions in College. Going to class, and just let my ideas and dreams, things I actually wanted to do, collect brain dust.

Then I remember that one day when David So posted a video about some online course that teaches me how to become a dope as heck (he used stronger language) YouTuber. Watching that video just stuck a feeling that I have never felt. It was like a sensation that meant, “If you don’t get on this, you will regret it forever when you get old because this was what you were meant to do.”  It’s like all those past experiences that encouraged me to try Youtube for myself just came together at once. This was going to be the one thing that I will work hard for and will look back and say, “I did it.” That very day, I signed up for Jumpcut Academy

Did I know that I was going to be doing animation? Absolutely not. For all I knew, I was going to make videos like David So, JK films, Ryan Higa, the kind where I show my face and rant in front of a camera. I did that format for a while, but I just didn’t like it because it still wasn’t utilizing all my skills and talents. Then I stumbled upon Youtubers like Draw with Jazza, Domics, theOdd1sout, and Jaiden Animations, these people got to entertain people through art and animations, which was something I was very interested in. So, I tried that route and so far I am still following that path.

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

My process of brainstorming isn’t really impressive. It’s mostly just writing down every idea I can think of on a piece of paper or post-it notes. Good or bad. Then I just pick whichever topic I am most excited about. Best times for me to brainstorm are when I’m either on a walk outside, or after some kind of work out. If I ever get stuck, usually instead of just sitting there looking at a blank slate I will take a break and do something else then come back for it.

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

I mainly use Animate CC for my animations, but I will also use Photoshop for my thumbnails. For editing purposes I will use Premiere Pro. All these things I pretty much just learned how to use as I went along and from the occasional tutorials on Youtube.

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

I was pretty nervous and reluctant to talk to my parents about doing Youtube. At first when I signed up for Jumpcut, my dad just thought I was doing it for fun and a side hobby (which was true) but as I was going through college I wanted to take a year off and try doing Youtube full time after I graduated (at the time I was at 4k subs). I figured it’s better to say that than to say I wanted to stop before graduating. My parents are more forgiving than the typical Asian household but they were still of course concerned for my future and were not completely supportive of my plan. Luckily, my Youtube channel started to kick off during my Senior year and I was able to show them that I could make it work.

When it came to negative comments, I really only began to get those when my channel started to grow exponentially. When you get hate comments, it means your doing something right. I won’t lie and say that the comments didn’t hurt or bother me, cause they did sometimes. I would just be going throughout my day, doing something fun, then all of a sudden I get a negative comment and it just dampens the mood. I guess it just bothered me how stupid and thoughtless those kinds of comments were most of the time. Over time I just accepted that there are people like that in the world and that it can’t be helped. So I disabled the notifications I get from receiving comments and I have been feeling much better now. Of course, when going through the comments I will still see those negative comments, but after a while of seeing the same thing over and over again, it loses its power. It’s like a bad joke that gets overused. It makes me say to myself, “seriously?”

Do I have fears of the content I make? Yes. When I work on an animation video it usually takes around 3-4 weeks to do. So I’m constantly rewatching the video. The jokes end up sounding dry and I start wondering if the video is even good. I just have to keep reminding myself, that sure I saw it many times, and I know when the jokes are coming, but the viewers won’t. So chances are they will like it.

The same thing goes for my voice, starting out, I absolutely hated the sound of my voice since it sounded so different than what it sounds like in my head or when I speak. So I would often try re-recording lines till it sounded better. Over time, I got more used to hearing my own voice. Still cringey sometimes but it’s not that bad anymore.

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

When I started out doing animations, those early videos I wouldn’t consider animations. So I was able to finish those in about a week. As I got better it became too difficult to try uploading every week because animation takes so long to do. Now I post once a month (or at least try).

Along the way, I did have people who helped critique my videos. My friends whom I met in Jumpcut and I was also mentored by one of the founders of Jumpcut, Kong. He was running a special, “fellowship” program where he would personally mentor a handful of lucky Jumpcut Students and I was lucky to be one of them.

There were definitely a lot of challenges along the way. Starting out, I had very little to no experience with making videos, editing, recording myself, and drawing digitally. Honestly, I am not going to pretend that I have figured everything out and that I am some sort of expert. Truth is, I am still learning how to treat my channel like a business and build my brand. There is just so much that I know that I need to learn still. That being said, I think that’s what keeps the journey interesting. Constantly knowing that there is still a ton of room for improvement which keeps me from getting complacent about where I am in my journey.

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

When people ask me this, my answer is always, you need to build your channel upon the right foundations. As in you need to start a channel for the right reason. Making a channel because you want to make money and get famous? Not the right reason. If that is your reason, then you will never be satisfied with the views or the money that you get. Especially if you are starting out, these things almost never come right away. Building a channel based on those factors just increases the chance of getting burned out and unmotivated.

So I always tell people, to start a channel, the most important factor is FUN.

All the channels that I think of that are doing really well have all just started out doing their channels for fun and because of that, they were motivated to keep going, and eventually, the business side, money, fame, those things came later. If you are having fun, then you will be able to find joy in the journey. The journey of constantly wanting to improve. The journey of viewing failures as another stepping stone towards success.  Fun is one of the most if not the most important foundation for building a youtube channel.

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

As mentioned earlier, I just finished school then went right into doing Youtube full time. I will say it was pretty good timing since I was in my last year of college, that year was gonna be pretty easy since I got all my hard classes out of the way, might as well just finish, get that fancy piece of paper and end up doing Youtube full time.

Tell us your best milestones in being a content creator.

The most significant sub count for me was when I reached 10k. Sure it was pretty cool to reach 100k and get a silver play button but I remember when I reached 10k, my Youtube career pretty much snowballed from there, all just from releasing two videos. I  remember working on the first video till like 3 am in the morning because I had an early flight to Portland for a family trip and I wanted to release the video before I left. I just remember how that video blew up while I was gone and right when I got back I made a follow-up video to that one and it turned out to do just as well if not better than the first one. I was at 50k before I started my last year of college. And finished with around 200k when I graduated.

The next best milestone was when I bought my first car with the money that I saved from Youtube. I always thought I would get a car in the future, but I wasn’t expecting to be able to get one with my own money so soon. I think that was definitely something I was really proud of.

Aside from all those things, the most influential milestone for me is getting to meet people who have watched my videos and enjoyed them. When I visited Vidcon last year, I was so surprised by how many people knew me, and it just reminded me that that was what I really wanted to keep doing. Entertaining people and brightening their day with these, odd topical storytime videos that I created.

What are your marketing strategies to grow your brand?

I am probably one of the worst people to ask about this kind of stuff. The program that I joined, Jumpcut always suggests to submit videos to like Reddit, blogs, etc, however, I haven’t really done that. For promotions, I usually just announced it on my social media, and let Youtube do it’s thing. I guess for an artist or animator, marketing can be pretty simple as just posting pictures you drew on Instagram or something as long as it’s related to your channel or brand.

I will say though that when I snowballed my channel, it was somewhat strategized. The first video was a potentially viral topic at the time and I made sure I jumped on it. What happened was that the biggest animator in the community, theOdd1sout released a book. I thought that a good idea for a video would be a book review. Basically the video was me “reviewing” the book in my style of humour. I even managed to get theOdd1sout to voice some lines for the video which definitely made it more interesting and enticing for the viewers (also I really wanted to work with him at least once). I also knew that the video would get a lot of fresh eyes, so I decided a good follow up video would be something that would be targeted towards people that didn’t know my channel or character. Then there just happened to be a video contest going on around the same time by a big animator in my community (Alex Clark), so I figured. It wouldn’t hurt to enter the contest because:

1. I could win and get something cool.

2. A lot of people will be looking at the submissions including this big animator dude, so it really wouldn’t hurt to try.

So If I had to give advice about growing, I would so say understanding what topics do well in your niche and do those.

How do you handle brand deals and sponsorships?

I have been planning on reaching out to brands, but I haven’t yet. So far I have only done a few sponsorships because they reached out to me. That being said I would only accept brand deals in which it aligns with my interests. There have definitely been some brand deals I received where they had nothing to do with my channel and I for sure did not have any interest in working with them. If I did a brand deal that was random and not aligned with my channel, my viewers would just get upset. It would also be hard to smoothly incorporate that kind of sponsorship in a video.

Unfortunately, I haven’t had much experience negotiating brand deals. I just know that brands usually try to underpay someone as much as possible, and that makes sense. They’re a business so of course, they’re trying to save as much money as possible. That being said, it is always a good idea to haggle the price. For me I am practising my inner Chinese self, as in always trying to negotiate for a better price.

I remember one time, this one brand deal where they were only going to pay me a small amount like (1.5K) which was way less than my baseline amount. In response I was sending them numbers, statistics, etc., basically arguing for a higher amount and eventually we settled on a deal. It’s a learning process, and the only way I can get better is negotiating more.

If for some reason someone asked me advice on brand deals, all I will say is: Never hurts to ask for more money as long as you give a good reason for it (statistics, graphs, etc), only stick to brands that align with you and your values (your audience will thank you for it), and it’s ok to say no and walk away from a deal if you don’t like it (it’s not the end of the world).  

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