I am Brandon Schaefer and I am currently based in Roseville, California. I work as a graphic designer for a healthcare management company as my day job and have been since 2013. My YouTube channel, SchaeferArt, is my side hustle that I would love to become my full-time focus, along with the other things I do in conjunction with my channel. Ever since the start of my channel, it has been only me doing everything. I film, edit, and publish all the videos and design all the graphics for my channel, videos, and website.
I came up with the brand name SchaeferArt quite easily as I just used my last name, Schaefer, and combined it with what I love to create, which is Art. Before I started my YouTube channel in 2011, I had a website for my graphic design which I did in college called SchaeferDesigns. So, my YouTube channel kind of took that idea and focused more on my art, rather than my graphic design. So thus, SchaeferArt was born.
My journey of content creation started in late 2011 while I was in college. This was when I found my passion for acrylic painting at the time, and I started a Facebook Page for my art and began sharing it on there. Someone on my page suggested I start a YouTube channel and share time-lapse videos of my painting process. So that’s what I started doing in late 2011. During college I was working a part-time job at PetSmart and of course, I didn’t see myself staying there forever so painting in my free time gave me hope to escape that job one day.
I didn’t start making serious and consistent videos until about late 2012 and coincidentally, this was the time where YouTube had just begun it’s monetization and not many people knew about it. I started off making pennies and nickels everyday and it gave me hope that someday this could snowball into something more serious for me and allow me to do what I love.
In the beginning, I was actually uploading my art to DeviantArt but then moved to Facebook and YouTube.
One quote that has always inspired me to try new things and to keep going is:
“Man cannot discover new oceans unless he has the courage to lose sight of the shore.” – André Gide
There are a few content creators who inspired me but they weren’t art-related. I actually watched a few health channels and learned about eating healthier and they were just ordinary, inspiring people who made videos almost daily. So this inspired me to make videos more consistently at the time.
The motivation for me is to keep doing what I love everyday and to hopefully one day make a living from it and be able to quit my day job. That’s my ultimate motivation. For me, life is too short not to do what I love everyday.
I get inspiration from many different places. I don’t really watch other art channels, so I gather my inspiration from other YouTube channels which are unrelated. In the past, I think this has allowed me to open my mind more and attack my videos in a different way. Sometimes I’ll just come up with random ideas when I’m taking a daily walk or in the shower. I’ll make a mental note of them until I can get on my computer and write them down in my database.
I use an app called Notion to organize just about everything in my life, from my personal matters to my business goals and ideas. It’s become a game changer for me and I’ve just discovered it this past year (2021).
There have been many times where I have a mental block or just feel burned out and my way of dealing with it is to just do something else. Take a rest. Go out in nature. Anything to reduce stress and get my mind away from content creating or videos or art even. There was a time where I spent one or two months becoming obsessed with playing chess for some reason. I think it was a different way for me to express my creativity and maybe use a different part of my brain which I don’t normally use in my art process. A different way to solve problems.
When I brainstorm ideas, I try to think about more than just the genre that I’m creating for. I try to look at the whole picture of content creation and understand what else is it that I’m interested in. Recently I made a video about learning to draw and compared it to learning a new language, which is something I’m highly interested in. At the time, I was watching a live stream from a language learning channel dedicated to Japanese and two guys were having a discussion about learning a particular aspect of Japanese. And as I was watching it, I realized that the concepts they were talking about could be applied to learning to draw. And this sparked my idea for a video. Always keep an open mind, and explore other things you’re interested in - this will give you a unique perspective which no one else really has.
To edit my videos, I currently use Adobe Premiere Pro and have been for many years now. I use Photoshop and other Adobe programs for editing photos and creating graphics. I taught myself to use photoshop back in 2005 when I was in highschool and I would create fake album covers for bands that I liked.
For social media, I currently use YouTube, Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Bandcamp. For 99% of my videos since 2018, I’ve created my own music for them as well, so that’s where Bandcamp comes into play. I create my own music for fun in my free time using FL Studio. I’ve actually been making music since about 2007, just for fun.
I use Notion to take notes, track my habits, outline my goals, and to keep me focused on what’s important for my life and business. It’s truly my second brain and I’m so glad I started using it this year. It has organized my life and given me more freedom to create and understand myself so much more.
In the beginning, I was very scared. I would get so nervous just turning the camera on. And I was definitely afraid of what people would think and the comments they would leave. Luckily, most of the feedback was positive. But over the years I started to get a few negative comments. And I would waste my time responding to them and try to be as nice as possible. Eventually, I realized it’s a waste of energy and time and now I either ignore the comments or just delete them right away. If someone is willing to post such a negative thing about something I put so much work into, then that’s their problem. I don’t really care anymore. I want to do what I want and be happy.
I still feel that I’m at a point where I’m not happy with my videos. I still think they could be much better.
In the past I focused a lot on quantity, but now I’ve realized that what really matters to me is quality.
Overcoming these fears was just a natural process for me. If this was something I really wanted to do then naturally I had to push through and build up the courage to face all of these things. The happiness from creating what I wanted outweighed the fear or negativity I received.
In the very beginning, I was doing my best to post a daily video. It started out as almost a daily vlog of what I was thinking or creating everyday. Eventually I toned this down over the months to just posting a few times a week, to eventually just once a week. My schedule has always fluctuated a bit throughout the years.
I had no funds when I started out. I was in college, paying for my own student loans, paying my gas money for my car, and working a part-time job. Whatever extra money I had, or money I would get from family as a birthday gift, I would use towards my art and videos.
I didn’t get any outside help with building my brand. I just looked at what other successful artists did and tried to replicate that but in my own way.
The hardest challenges I faced are ones which I’m still facing to this day, which is getting more views on my videos. Even though I have a large subscriber base, my views per video are quite low. This is because I’ve had a few videos go viral and most of my new subscribers come from those viral videos, not because they enjoy the rest of my content. In my eyes, I haven’t really achieved anything or anything close to what I want to do anyway.
It felt quite easy in the beginning to gain followers and viewers on my content. Back in 2012 and 2013, there wasn’t much art on YouTube so it was easy for my content to stand out on the platform. It’s much more difficult nowadays because everything is so saturated. I remember having about 13,000 subscribers just after a year and a half of seriously uploading videos.
I’ve been creating things since I was a child. I was drawing at about 4 or 5 years of age and showing it to my friends and family. So I guess you could say I was a content creator back then haha. But I started sharing things online back in 2011. Became more serious about it in 2012 and 2013.
The video on my channel that has gained a lot of traction is a series I created back in 2013 about learning to draw from scratch for absolute beginners. And to be honest, the videos are terrible quality, but for some reason, people love them and YouTube keeps recommending them. I actually have a love / hate relationship with these videos because they allow my channel to grow and have opened the door for other opportunities like doing drawing workshops for other companies who’ve reached out and other similar projects. But I’m also annoyed because I have so many higher quality and better videos on my channel regarding learning to draw that gain no traction whatsoever. It’s been a frustrating journey sometimes.
If I could start over again from scratch, I would focus only on quality, not quantity. Yes, it’s important to upload somewhat frequently, but if you’re just rushing something just to put it out - you’ll probably regret it down the line. At least, that’s how I feel. If I put out something which I feel is of high quality, then usually I won’t regret it at all and most likely, it will gain more traction for years to come and it’s something I can be proud of. When I’m creating a piece of art or a video, I try to ask myself - what if I was creating this for someone else? Would I give it to them like this? I find that when I do things for a gallery or for other clients, I want it to be really good, so when I make things for myself on my channel and social media, I want it to be up to the same standards.
Something I’ve started to focus on heavily within the last few months is “story”. I would say that if you want to improve your content, your message and story needs to be improved. There are so many ways to do a story and be creative with it. I’ve found that if you improve the story you're telling, your video will improve overall. Think about the content you consume or watch and think about why you are watching it. Most of the time, the story is really good actually. There’s mystery, or something which piques your curiosity. It keeps you watching. You get emotionally involved. Your emotions are changed by the end of the video or you learn something. Try to change the way your audience feels. People will always remember how you made them feel.
I’m still working a day job while creating content for my channels. I finished college for graphic design and started working in that field the same year I graduated. So far, the income from my art business hasn’t been substantial enough for me to make the switch to full-time unfortunately.
I’m hoping within the next year or two that I can make this a more full-time thing for me and make the transition to doing this full-time. I have many more projects and things I’d like to accomplish apart from my SchaeferArt channel. I have 2 other channels that I would like to dedicate more time and focus to.
One of the biggest obstacles I’ve experienced has been being able to balance this side-hustle with everything else in my life. It is quite stressful to have a full-time day job, a girlfriend, a cat, and a business on the side. There’s a lot to juggle and a lot of things I’ve had to sacrifice. In the past, there have been two times where I’ve abandoned my channel altogether for a few months. I thought I wanted to quit or just give up because I felt like I couldn't do it. But I always end up returning to it. It’s not something in my life that I can quit.
These obstacles have made me understand the importance of harmony in my life between all of my passions and I’m still continually trying to balance everything. Doing enough work on my business to feel satisfied but also not overwhelm myself or get burned out or neglect other areas of my life. I think that’s why this has been such a slow process for me to make this a full-time business.
One of my most memorable highlights was when I was able to pay off my student loan debt quite early. In the first 2-3 years of making money from YouTube, all of my monthly income was going towards my student loans. I would save about 10-20% in a savings account and the rest was going straight to make payments. Take note, I was only making around $170 a month back then. But luckily, it was enough for me to pay off my student loans in about 3 years. During this time, I had my graphic design job but I was only making about $18,000 a year from that job working part-time. Nowadays, it’s quite a different story as I work full-time and earn much more, but back then, it was quite a struggle to save and survive on my own.
The main strategy I have for growing my brand is just be myself and be authentic. Try to help others out there and do what I love to do. There’s no secret or gimmick behind it. It’s just about being myself and creating what I love. I feel there’s an audience out there for everyone. I know for me, I’m an introvert and I think I attract a lot of those same quiet, soft-spoken, introspective kinds of people or artists. You don’t have to be loud, or wild or crazy like many other YouTubers to attract an artist. The most important thing for me is to be myself.
A lot of my traffic has just been organic. Posting blogs on my website and gaining traction from that. Others have posted my learn to draw viral video series on their blogs over the years and I think that has helped those videos in some regards. But other than that, it’s just been organic reach over the years through my social media channels.
I’ve done very small collabs in the past and it’s something I’ve always thought about doing more but haven’t done much yet to be honest. Something I’m working towards.
I get inquiries all the time regarding products or services to promote and some of them have nothing to do with what I do on my channel. So I ignore them. I only work with the brands I personally feel comfortable promoting. This goes back to integrity and authenticity for me. If someone is watching my video, I don’t want them to get turned off by some completely random ad like body soap or a gaming app on your phone. Those have nothing to do with art or the kinds of things I promote or use myself.
I haven’t had many brand deals or sponsorships but I have had one consistent sponsor over the past year or two and it’s been going quite well. I don’t get paid a lot but I think for the views that I generate from my videos, it is fair.
This year, my YouTube channel averaged about $550 per month. From other content I’ve created connected to my channel and business, I was able to generate about $900 more per month as well, averaging about $1,350 per month overall. This is very recent and has only happened in the past 1-2 years. I usually never make this much per month.
This is obviously nowhere near where I would like it to be but this is more than I’ve ever made so far and it has given me hope to keep going and I’m able to invest in my own business a bit now and upgrade things which need to be.