Astrid Franciszka

How I Beat Low Self-Esteem and Took the Challenge.

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July 24, 2020

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

I’m Astrid and I have just graduated from Cambridge University. I studied English there and I am now hoping to start a Law Conversion Course in London so that I can eventually qualify as a solicitor. I run my YouTube channel as a side hustle, both as a business and as a platform to show people, who are considering applying to Cambridge, what life at Cambridge is like. I also talk a lot about what it is like being a disabled student at university and hope to show other disabled students who are worried about university what their life might look like there. 

The main content on my YouTube channel is vlogs and sit-down videos where I talk to the camera. I work by myself so edit all on my own videos and sort through all of the emails I get from brands. I chose just to use my own name when I started my channel but used one of my middle names (Franciszka) as the ‘surname’ instead of my actual surname both for a bit of privacy and because I think the uniqueness of a Polish name helps my channel stand out.  

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

I’d wanted to start a YouTube channel for years before I actually built up the courage to start it. It was seeing my friend Paige start her own channel that inspired me to start mine. When I was applying to Cambridge there were a few Cambridge vloggers already on the scene but none that were talking about student life from the perspective of a disabled student. So, I started my channel in 2018 in the hopes of shedding a light on my own student life. I started with Study With Me videos and videos more targeted at students applying for university as a way to draw in viewers: those styles of video remain popular on my channel to this day. 

I started my channel with the intention of it slotting into the StudyTube community (students who vlog about being students, essentially) - that was the niche I was fitting in. Since then I’ve made some more personal videos and expanded into the BookTube community a bit too. For me, it’s been about consistency. My channel is slow-growing but I’m proud of it anyway. One day I’d love to be as big as PaigeY or Ruby Granger: those larger StudyTubers are really inspirational to me. 

I keep myself motivated both through reading the positive comments people leave on my videos and by setting targets for myself. Currently, my goal is to hit 20,000 subscribers before 2021 and the big dream is to earn a Silver Play Button!

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

I actually brainstorm by writing on my window with chalk pens which is probably quite unconventional! I don’t like to hold myself to a rigid filming schedule because of my mental health problems so I tend to jot down ideas on the window as and when I have them and film when I’m having a good mental health day. 

A lot of my inspiration comes from what is happening in my life at the time. So if it is term time, it’ll be vlogs and study with me videos, if it is the holidays it will be more leisure-based content such as the books I am currently reading. I think it helps that I have a couple of set types of video I do: every month I do a reading round-up and I’ve just started monthly favorites videos too. I also take inspiration from current trends. If there’s a trend of StudyTubers doing a quickfire assumptions video, for example, it makes sense to make one of my own. 

My main tip is to just note down every idea that you have, no matter how random it is. As well as my window, I have a list on my phone of videos that comments have requested or that I have thought of myself but didn’t know if they were quite right for my channel. And then, if I have a mental block, I can just look through that list and think ‘hmm maybe I’ll film one of these today’. 

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

When I first started making videos, I just used my iPhone and iMovie to create content. Recently I realized that I wanted to do more with my editing and wanted to up my video quality so I invested in a Canon DX9 and FinalCutPro which took a hefty chunk out of my bank balance but makes my videos feel more professional like I’m a ‘proper’ YouTuber! I use Canva for making thumbnails and take music from Thematic (the YouTube creator studio has a decent selection of music but I’ve pretty much exhausted it now!).

My main other social is Instagram: the two platforms appeal to slightly different crowds I think and I’m sure there are some people following me on Instagram who don’t subscribe to my channel. I didn’t make a new Instagram account for my brand so it’s actually my old personal account - before I started making videos, people were following me on Instagram anyway because of hashtags, etc. so I thought, I don’t want to waste this and changed it to a business account! I now have a private Instagram for my close friends. 

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

My main fear when I started was ‘Will anyone actually watches this!’ and they didn’t at first, but I’ve been growing steadily since. I was worried about what people I knew in real life would think but luckily vlogging is quite a normal occurrence at Cambridge so it isn’t weird to see someone filming themself as they walk around town (I might feel a bit silly when I start vlogging law school in London in September!). 

Luckily, I’m quite comfortable in front of the camera (though there’s definitely a little bit of hesitancy in my early videos where I was afraid of giving too much of my own personality). These days I show my personality a bit more with terrible jokes and don’t take myself too seriously, I think it makes for videos that are nicer to watch! Negative comments really don’t bother me: I used to have terrible self-esteem but these days I think ‘if you don’t like it, don’t watch it’. And every time someone leaves a negative comment they’re also giving me a view on the video so who’s the real winner? (It’s me.)

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

The main thing I focused on was consistency. I want to post once a week as a minimum and I’ve really stuck to that. For me, it’s one video a week and then sometimes a bonus video when I’ve filmed some extra content. Since then my audience has built slowly - I do really think it’s about consistently uploading and creating regular content. It’s also a process of knowing what kind of titles work well and how to create engaging thumbnails. People want to click on something exciting or that promises to be comprehensive (like a week in the life video). 

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

I think the most important thing is to just take that first step. No matter what, your content will improve over time, so just get through those first few posts and first few videos where you’re working stuff out.

I wish I’d started earlier instead of thinking ‘oh no one will watch me so what’s the point because people do watch me and I could have a bigger audience now if I had started earlier. It doesn’t matter if what you make isn’t perfect - often you’ll be much more critical of your work than a viewer will be. 

Tell us your best milestones in being a content creator.

I think the first big milestone was getting monetized. On YouTube you have to have 1,000 subscribers and a certain number of watch hours before you can make money so seeing an ad roll in front of one of my videos for the first time was incredibly cool. Getting my first brand deal was amazing too because it meant that my channel was reaching companies. And once I got recognized on the Tube which was incredibly cool and I felt like a proper celebrity despite only having 11k subscribers. 

What are your marketing strategies to grow your brand?

Staying true to myself is more important to me than growing my brand - I won’t take sponsorships if I don’t like the company nor will I make clickbaity videos to get views, it’s just not how I like to work. Collaborations with other content creators are a really good way of growing my channel because it introduces you to an audience that is different from your own and if you make a good impression you can grow from that. I did a successful collab with PaigeY where we played Never Have I Ever but split into two videos, one on each channel. That is one of my most successful videos. I also recently made a video for The StudyTube Project which brought in about 100 subscribers. In general, I recommend collabs where a video goes up on your channel if possible because then you get ad revenue as well as exposure. 

How do you handle brand deals and sponsorships? 

The only time I reached out to a company was with this fitness company JustStrong because they had put out a call for ambassadors. I tend to let the brands reach out to me. I’ll get one or two emails a day. My first step is to look at the product: if it’s not the right fit for my channel or looks a bit dodgy I’ll reject the deal no matter how much they’re offering. I don’t want to sell out because my primary loyalty is to my subscribers. If I like the product, I’ll then check what the brand wants for the collaboration: if it’s an entire dedicated video I might turn it down unless it fits with my channel. I’m much more likely to make a deal if a company only wants a 45-second mention for example. And then it’s a case of price. I need to make sure that I am earning enough for the deal to be worth my time because primarily this is a business deal and if what they’re offering isn’t enough to be at least £10 an hour (with regards to filming and editing which takes a long time!) I won’t take the deal.

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