Korean Lessons

빅키샘Miss Vicky

What Keeps the Bubbly Teacher Going in Introducing the Korean Language on YouTube.

Korean Lessons
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November 10, 2020

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

My name is Vicky (real name: Hyojeong Shim), and I am 100% Korean, born, raised and educated in Korea all the way. I have a YouTube channel where I teach the Korean language. It is definitely not my full-time job at the moment, but I do look into going full-time with this someday.

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

My Korean lesson videos brought most viewers and subscribers to my channel, but educational content is not what I started with. I did a few language tip videos in between, but they weren’t my main content. My earliest videos are more where I shared my thoughts and spiritual beliefs. Watching back some of them, I cringe so much because I sound too damn sure about everything. At the same time, though, I can feel genuine passion and courage in my eyes.

My very first video:

Those videos did get quite well-received by my viewers. But somewhere along the way, I became so preoccupied with keeping up with YouTube that I ignored what I needed to take care of in real life, such as financial responsibility, mental health, keeping up with relationships, etc. I still regret this day, and I wish I could have done things differently. But I am slowly beginning to look back upon it with less self-blame and in a more positive viewpoint. During that time, I did grow my following on YouTube, although not as big, and learned what it’s like to put myself out there. And the messages that I shared continue to inspire some people and sometimes even myself. In that regard, I find value in those times and confidently say they were not a complete waste of time.

I took a break from YouTube for a few months after realizing that this is not the path I should be taking and focused on my new offline job of teaching English. I was suffering financially, and I had to do something about it. At first, I didn’t take teaching that seriously, and it was mostly for the sake of making money. But as I began to teach more with sincere effort and passion, it helped me feel the value in myself again. I was giving people the practical help they needed, and I felt appreciated. I also realized that teaching could be both serious and fun. I learned how to be creative with the way I teach, even while sticking to conventional teaching methods.

I first started teaching elementary and middle school students. The English they learn is pretty basic, and while introducing basic English, the idea of teaching very basic Korean occurred to me. I wasn’t sure where it would lead me and just thought it would be fun. That’s how I came up with the idea of making my current most viewed video, “Learn Korean Alphabets in 30 Minutes.” That was my very first Korean lesson video, and I didn’t expect it to blow up as it has. From that video, I gained confidence that maybe I can pull something off with Korean education content. And that’s how it all started.

My First & Most Viewed Korean Lesson (Learn Korean Alphabets in 30 mins):

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

In the meantime, I was offered a better paying job of teaching English subject in 수능(Sooneung), which is a nationwide exam that high school students take for university application. I took this job mid-summer last year, and the 수능 exam was scheduled in November. Considering how Korean students take this exam very seriously and 수능 was only a few months away, I solely focused on the job and helped students get their desired grades. So I took another few months off from YouTube.

What 수능 English exam looks like

I mention this because this job had influenced a lot on how I created Korean lessons later on. Teaching 수능 English required me to have a lot of patience, which I’m not really born with. I also had to pay attention to details while teaching because it was the details in sentences that decided whether you understood them correctly, and ultimately get the answers right. And looking back, those are the subconscious attitudes I had while making Korean lessons as well. Without those attitudes, I don’t think I’d have been able to continue and would have given up at some point because making online lessons is a lot of work and can often feel mundane. I still teach English, and although I don’t work as much or as hard as I did back then, teaching English always helps me develop more effective ways to teach Korean and continue to work hard. And with that, my channel has come this far. 

What are your marketing strategies to grow your brand?

I don’t have specific marketing strategies as of yet. I’ve just been trying my best to make good content, hoping it would end up reaching people who need it. But that doesn’t mean I am complacent with where I am now. I do wish to try something different and go full-time with teaching Korean. I am planning to open a 1:1 tutoring service soon and also to publish a book someday.

There are still many things I’m not familiar with and need to learn to continue as an online creator. I am more of an emotionally-driven person, so coming up with strategies, owning a business, and all that jazz are not what I am best at. I do plan to seek help in those things when I can afford it. I am slowly working on it.  

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

One good thing about language education content is that it’s infinite, just as language itself is unlimited. There are countless words and grammar points to learn, and you don’t have to be super creative to come up with new video ideas every time. 

But one big drawback for me is that the creating process can feel mundane sometimes and even tiring. I like teaching, but when it comes to online content, it’s not just about teaching. Other behind-the-scenes processes take place to produce the content, and editing is one of them. And editing is just not fun. I have a perfectionist tendency, which makes it even worse. It does help me get the job done and hustle for better content, but it also makes me easily fed up. When I am not entirely satisfied with tiny details or feel like I can explain it better, I cannot get past it and end up exhausting my energy in them. I need to strike a balance between trying hard and letting it go. 

These days, I try to balance it out by mixing more live classes. Live classes are fun because I am with real-time viewers. But a more significant reason I love it is that the teaching process is more organic, and I get to go with the flow. When I’m recording a lesson, I am aware that it will be edited afterward, and that somehow makes me think I can correct my explanation until it’s perfect. So the recording takes much longer, and inevitably editing takes longer too. But when I’m in the middle of a live class, I have none of that in mind, and my only goal is to do my best at this moment with what I have brought because it’s not going to be edited afterwards. That of course makes me nervous, but strangely at the same time, more relieved. Sometimes if I’m lucky, I end up coming up with an improvised explanation that is a lot better than the one I planned. So live classes are a great alternative, and it’s working well so far overall.

Another drawback of being a content creator is that you are likely to focus too much on your viewer’s needs and demands. There is nothing wrong with caring about your viewers. But from a certain point on, I started getting too many different and contrasting requests. Some viewers ask me to go slower and do more of the beginner level. Other viewers ask me to do more of the intermediate level and make the video shorter. At first, I tried to pay attention to every little feedback I get. But with one request after another, I started getting exhausted. And on certain days, creating online lessons just didn’t feel fun anymore. It felt like I was doing this out of a forced sense of duty to please everyone.  

This is actually what I still struggle with. I know that with more viewers and subscribers, it’s something that will never entirely go away. However, I’m beginning to realize that when I enjoy teaching and creating, people who watch it end up liking it more than when I force myself to create what I don’t click with. People seem to feel when things click or not. So now I try to pay attention to my needs first, before anyone else’s. Do I feel like this is the right step? Does it click right, or is it worth my time? If my answer is no, then I will not do it or take a rain check. I may not gain more subs from that, but it does help me feel less drained and still love what I do. That way, I get to keep going.

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

I have recently created my small website www.explorekorean.com. I had wished to make this happen for a long time, but since I was juggling YouTube with my offline teaching jobs, I never really afforded the time to learn how websites work. Now that I got more free time, I looked into it and created one. It’s not a big website, and I’m still figuring more things out as I go. But now I’m able to share all the pdf files (review notes, quiz, etc.) related to my lessons, and that way, I can get more interactive with the learners. 

Another good thing about it is that I get to share my blog posts on my platform. Writing is something that I have always loved because I can never fully figure out how I feel about something unless I write it down. It’s both a self-reflecting and liberating process for me. If my work ends up helping other people in some ways, that would be even better. Although I haven’t published that many blog posts so far, I look forward to sharing more.

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

For the first two years on YouTube, my main fear was mostly on how my viewers would feel about what I put out there. Will they like it? Will they care?

But now, my fear is more focused on myself. I am scared that I would care too much about what other people think. I am scared of losing control over how I feel. I am afraid that I would become demotivated to continue. I am afraid that I would choose less essential things about what really matters. These kinds of things eventually connect to my self-discipline. Taking care of myself, both physically and mentally, is crucial for me to continue what I do healthily. I am not perfect in any of those endeavors, but I try to care consciously, and that makes a lot of difference than when I don’t. 

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

Every content creator has different stories, and no same rule would apply to everyone. But content creation is not as alluring or straightforward as it seems, and I think any content creator would agree with this. There’s so much going on behind the scene, physically, psychologically, and emotionally. But if you have something specific that you care about and are willing to commit to, you will find a way to make it work.

But please don’t sacrifice everything else for it. It is okay to go slow because, after all, it’s a marathon, not a sprint.

Tell us your best milestones in being a content creator.

I would have to say, reaching 100,000 subscribers and getting a silver button. That’s when I got the tangible, commemorative, and official results of my work has paid off. But honestly, every moment I feel genuinely appreciated is the best moment. It may sound like I need validation for what I do, and maybe that’s true. If I end up helping nobody, I won’t find any value in what I do, and I wouldn’t feel happy. It feels incredible to know that people out there acknowledge the value in what I do. And that keeps me going. 

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