Hello there! I’m Lindie Botes, and I make videos and create a blog, Instagram, and Twitter content about language learning tips. I work full-time as a UI/UX designer, so making YouTube videos and running my website is what I do after work.
A few years ago, when I was a high school student in South Africa, I got inspired by YouTube polyglots and started documenting my language learning progress online. In the process, I met many other language YouTubers, and our language community grew fast.
Since then, I’ve reached 219K subscribers (at the time of writing). I share my progress and tips, write blog posts, and speak at international language events. I also create language learning resources and do language coaching while maintaining my full-time job as a UI/UX designer. It would be cool if I could take language content creation full-time, but I’m incredibly passionate about UI/UX design and plan to stay in this field for a while longer. (It’s just weird when my colleagues tell me they watch my videos sometimes!)
I do all my video planning, filming, editing, subtitling, and other content creation. I wish I had a team, but I can’t afford that right now. Being a designer, I like to have control over how my work looks visually, too. Sometimes I ask a family member if my video thumbnail looks good if I’m unresolved on it.
When starting YouTube, I had no idea that my channel would grow into a recognizable name in the language world. Therefore, I also don’t consider myself to have a “brand” per se, rather just an online presence associated with my name. Most of my followers are on my YouTube channel and Instagram, and after that on Twitter, Facebook, and Tumblr (yep, studyblr/langblr is still a thing!) where I share language learning tips, my notes, and insights.
I started making YouTube videos back in 2012 and only took it more seriously around 2016. On the side, I was posting about my language learning progress and methods on my Instagram and Tumblr.
As my channel grew, I realized I should have a YouTube uploading plan. I’m very spur-of-the-moment and emotionally driven, so I often “rebel” against my plans (i.e., schedule a video for Tuesday but record something wholly different and upload on Friday instead just because “I felt like it”). I soon learned that a rigid upload schedule didn’t work for me, but rather, a list of future video ideas and a list of past videos on an excel spreadsheet kept me going. I also tracked my monthly subscriber and Instagram follower growth to see if it’s growing steadily. Here’s a screenshot from one of my first spreadsheets back in 2017. I no longer count the exact subscriber growth - it wastes my time and has no value.
Once my YouTube channel hit about 20K subscribers and my Instagram over 5000, I started taking content creation seriously around 2-3 years ago. I learned people enjoy seeing language learning tips and reviews. I never really planned to do any content creation as a side job. It came naturally, just from sharing my progress and resources that I enjoy using.
Then, around the time that my YouTube channel hit around 80K, I started my website, lindiebotes.com, as a place to add language learning resources and FAQs. I found it hard to keep up with the influx of similar messages and emails I was continually getting.
I’m inspired by other language content creators who share their positivity and encouragement, too. I like Ophelia Vert and Angela from Passion For Lang on YouTube because they are both sensitive and vulnerable, inspiring, and motivating at the same time. I also enjoy Jonathan Seabolt from Seabolt Speaks on YouTube because his content is raw, honest, and no-nonsense. He’s also a fellow language vlogger. More famous content creators in the language sphere that I look up to are Luca Lampariello and Richard Simcott for their wisdom and experience. Outside the language sphere, I’m a huge fan of Muchelle B on YouTube for her organization skills and video editing quality. I learn a lot from her!
Watching fellow language learners work on their goals and projects, and seeing the inspiring content they put out weekly is also a motivating factor. Together, we’re sharing our goals and encouraging each other to keep going, and that’s very special.
I get inspiration from all over, from someone who sends me a question, from a cool app I found and want to talk about, or just a new language learning method I’ve tried. Most times, I’ll make a video based on a FAQ I got.
This year, I’ve been making more videos about my language learning progress. I set language learning goals for 12 languages at the beginning of this year. By having this goal to work towards, I had more ideas for content to put out: regular video updates on my progress!
I also have a massive backlog of video ideas that I come up with, based on what I know my viewers might enjoy. I get these insights through the type of comments I receive, video requests I get, and seeing which videos get the most views and best watch time. YouTube analytics is excellent! You can also search for questions in the comments tab on Creator Studio, so sometimes, I’ll browse there and see what kind of things make people wonder or excite them.
Mental block for video ideas is not a problem for me, but the motivation to edit videos is. If I had more resources, I would hire an editor, but being a language YouTuber makes it challenging to find someone who can both understand the language of the video I’ve filmed, and translate my ideas into a final edited piece.
As for tools, Notion is where I set up my kanban board for videos and organize it in Ideas / Filmed / Editing / Done. I use Google Spreadsheets to track my monthly YouTube income from Adsense and write down the titles of the videos I’ve made. I’ve done this for three years to see how many videos I make in a year and how much revenue they generate. Here’s a screenshot from my Notion Kanban board of video ideas.
I studied Information Design at the university and had some animation and video editing classes. Without that, I probably wouldn’t know how to edit videos and not have wanted to learn. When I started YouTube, I filmed on my laptop’s inbuilt webcam and edited with Windows Movie Maker!
Now I use this camera and Premiere Pro to edit videos. I used to export to After Effects to add titles and subtitles, but I don’t do that now because it’s too time-consuming, so I just add simple titles in Premiere Pro itself. I’m not the biggest fan of video editing as a creative medium. I only use it as a means to an end. I don’t enjoy how long it takes me to edit a video - it’s more fun to talk in front of a camera than editing!
Because of my web design background, I found it easy to develop my website and my video thumbnails. I used Adobe Illustrator for my thumbnails, but now I use Canva because it’s faster, and I can reuse elements from previous thumbnails better.
On Canva, I can save color palettes and reuse the same colors on my video thumbnails to my social media posts and website blog banners. I label my projects on Canva according to what they’re used for so that I can easily duplicate and edit content. For instance, AVATAR is my profile picture with different background colors. FRENCH are thumbnails specific to my French playlist on YouTube, and SOCIAL POST is the template I use to share language tip images every Tuesday.
For my website, I use the Elementor editor on WordPress. Since I’m a web designer, sometimes I find myself stressing too much about perfectionism. I focus on small details like available web fonts, screen breakpoints, and legibility when I really should be spending more time writing and posting content.
As for my posting schedule, it’s a bit haphazard. Though it would be useful, I don’t use a third-party post-scheduler for any of my social media channels. I like to keep things natural. Often, this results in me either not posting very regularly, or posting quite a lot in a short period. I just remind myself that this is my hobby and not my full-time job. I try to remember it’s alright to relax a little and post whatever I feel like when I feel like it. I know that posting regularly on YouTube is good for channel growth, and I aim to post once a week. Sometimes I will edit videos in advance and use YouTube’s scheduling feature to release them promptly.
I never planned to become a YouTuber and never dreamt of going viral, so in some ways, this seems like a happy accident. I never had fears of starting because my idea was just to document my language learning progress and share tips along the way. While my channel grew, I sure got my share of negative comments, from outright haters, people who questioned why I do what I do (let people enjoy things, come on), and even gross people ask for feet pics.
My parents are wise, and I spoke to them a lot about how comments were affecting me, and their thoughts helped me put things into perspective. I got one hate comment from someone hiding behind an anonymous username and no profile picture and 500 comments from amazing people who share my interests. I thought, why should the one hate comment bother me? As my comments increase, I find it harder to read every single one and have learned that it’s OK to ignore silly comments. I never engage in online arguments either. They are such a waste of precious time.
When I started, my video quality was terrible, and I filmed everything in one sitting without editing. Back then, I wasn’t concerned in the slightest for proper editing and wanted to get some ideas. Because of that, I was never nervous about how I appeared in front of the camera. But once my videos went viral, and people started being more critical and interested, I decided to step up my game a bit. I got a better camera, learned more about editing, and began to publish regularly.
With this, came some fears. Will my audience like what I post? How do I say this more eloquently? Is this lighting adequate? Things like that. I remind myself that YouTube is something I do on the side and that I’m blessed to have a big audience. For and as fun as it is for me, it isn’t my full-time job and shouldn't allow me to have sleepless nights. If the lighting still isn’t perfect, I comfort myself knowing that most of my audience are fellow language learners who care more about what I have to say, than the production quality of how I mean it. Doing this is very difficult for a perfectionist like me, though.
I am an introvert, and I used to be incredibly shy and nervous. However, my confidence has grown by leaps and bounds through YouTube exposure like speaking on podcasts and at language conferences worldwide. I learned how to be more concise and eloquent. I gained the knowledge to captivate an audience. If not for YouTube, I’d never even dare to speak to people in public!
For those just starting:
Don’t look at someone else’s page 100 and compare it to your page 1. Follower counts should not be too much of a concern when you are starting. Just do what you love, and people will come naturally.
For those who already have videos out but are struggling to improve:
Going viral for the first time was surreal. I had no idea one of my videos would go viral (it’s at 8.4 million views now), and I was all over the news in Korea, the US, and as far as Hungary, Vietnam, and Indonesia. It freaked me out a little because, despite what connotations ‘YouTubers’ have, I did not like all the attention and incorrect assumptions people made about me. I received 100 Facebook friend requests per day and countless Instagram DMs, which stressed me. Through time, I learned to deal with this as well as ignore harmful and inaccurate information, and just rode the wave :)
As I became a little more known online, I started getting invitations to speak at language conferences, and I got to meet all my favorite language YouTubers and idols! I was starstruck when I met Richard Simcott and Steve Kaufman in Japan. That had an impact on me - I felt like “Wow, this is what I dreamed of since high school. I watched these guys on YouTube years ago, and now we’re IRL friends!”
Another milestone was starting my website. It helped solidify my online presence and gave me a space to direct people to for FAQs and blog posts relevant to their questions. It saved me time in the long run, to link someone to a blog post instead of crafting individual responses to everyone who asks the same question (as much as I would want to!).
And lastly, reaching 100K and getting a YouTube silver play button was very memorable for me too. I received the plaque in my office. All my colleagues all gathered around the lunch table for a simple unboxing and rounds of applause. It was magical, and I felt special, overwhelmed, in disbelief, and very honored!
As a Christian, I don’t believe in bribery or unethical means to grow a following. I’ve received countless emails from companies trying to sell me followers or from Instagram groups that do follow for follows. I just ignore those. I believe in growing an audience naturally, no matter how long it takes. In the long run, my values and ethics are more important to me than the number of people who follow me.
That doesn’t mean I don’t try to grow or market my channel. I sometimes answer Quora’s language questions and link a video or blog post of mine if it’s relevant. Once in a while, I share a video on a Facebook group or Reddit to an appropriate language thread. I often share my YT videos on my Instagram stories with a “swipe up” link.
I don’t do any marketing, apart from collaborating with other YouTubers. Collabs are a fun, free way to generate new content. We can cross-share important stuff, learn more about people’s experiences, and grow your channel and other person’s channel. It’s a win-win!
Some of my favorite collabs have been with Steve Kaufmann, Alex Rawlings, Ernestine Lyons (a small but passionate language and culture YouTuber who I met in Japan at the language conference) Valeria T (another YouTube language vlogger) and Jonathan Seabolt. I also had a fun time teaching Afrikaans to Big Bong, and he made a video about it on his channel. He is another language YouTuber I admire (and have a slight crush on).
Brands usually email me with ideas for potential collaborations. I only work with brands I’ve used before, or have the opportunity to use before collaboration. If I don’t believe in a brand, I turn down the deal. Earlier this year, I turned down a massive contract from a famous language learning company because I think their product is overpriced, and I don’t want to sell something to my viewers that I don’t use myself.
The sponsors I have worked with before have all been amazing in their time management, allowing me the freedom of speech, and collaboration. I have a few sponsors I enjoy working with, and fully believe in their products and services. Even though I’ve gotten offers from companies that make watches or VPNs, I have said no because it’s not directly relevant to language learning.
Negotiating pay is awkward sometimes. Companies rarely share their budget and often share an affiliate program and exposure rather than a fixed payment. Because I do all the video planning and editing myself, I charge for videos. When I reply to brand offers via email, I send it through a rate card.
I base my rates on Social Bluebook, but I consider my editing time and my video/Instagram engagement rate. Someone with 100,000 followers and a disengaged, fake audience won’t get as good a click-through rate as someone with 1,000 dedicated, interested followers, so take this into account when setting up your rates, if you know your audience’s behavior.
It’s a good idea to send a rate card through first so that companies can negotiate based on your costs rather than asking them what their budget is. They might not be honest! Know your worth and your time. At the start, it’s OK to do some things in exchange for subscriptions or gifts, but your time and exposure deserve payment.
Being paid your worth aside, when the company is small, but I believe in their product, I’m happy even to do things for free or in exchange for a subscription, for instance. I understand not all companies have the same marketing budget, and if I support and enjoy a product enough, I am flexible! It’s about me sharing content with my viewers that is of value and truth.
I have only ever reached out to an app once called Bunpo because I loved the app so much and wanted to see if they could give me a premium account in exchange for a free video review. Right now, reaching out to brands seems pretty impractical, although, this is a good starting point for looking to secure some deals.