How My Fascination with Biking Blazed a Trail Towards Creating My Own YouTube Channel.

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October 31, 2020

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

I’m Eric Spinney, the vlogger/content creator under the YouTube channel Spindatt. I am based on Canada’s cold east coast. I primarily produce bicycle-related content but will venture away from that a little bit in some videos for my own amusement and sanity. 

I originally named the channel “The Student Cyclist” as it was a venture I was taking on while attending university to obtain a Degree in Mechanical Engineering. That is to complement the Diploma in the same discipline that I already have. I learned that I hated university and decided to leave, but that left me in kind of a weird place with the name of the channel. So, I changed it to a name a friend of mine used to always yell at me. Haha! Check out this video I made about it. It explains it in every bit of painful detail!

Just about every vlog is dreamed up and produced by myself, but I’ll have friends involved for some sort of adventure that we are taking on every so often.

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

When I was in my early twenties living with all of my BMX friends, we all spent a lot of time together watching online videos. Whether it was homegrown BMX videos or random content, we found it captivating. I was fascinated by the views some of the stuff we were watching could fetch, and I forever would comment that I could make this “kind of video.” 

Fast forward a few years to 2015, as I started getting into road bikes and cyclocross racing, I finally gained the courage to make a video explaining how I built a low-cost cyclocross bike to start racing on. I made that video on my iPhone, edited it through iMovie, and uploaded it through the mobile app. Then I deleted it. Shot it all over again, then re-uploaded. Then I deleted it also. I re-shot that video probably seven times over a week. I was nervous someone might watch it, and I was even more nervous someone in the house might have found out I was making a YouTube video. I did that with probably my first ten videos. Haha.

I eventually had to stop rewatching content I made and leave it alone. I’d delete everything I make if I rewatched and created some criticism out of it. Once I saw positive comments and people starting to subscribe, I had that moment of realization: Holy shiz, people actually want to see what’s next. I still get that with every new subscriber today.

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

If I am running into a problem with something, I generally figure it can make for a pretty good vlog. It’s funny how quick ideas for topics can come up after one breakthrough. I have to get them all written down into my phone’s calendar app each day for a few weeks. Generally, I never actually get around to making them, but if there is one that keeps popping into my head unprompted, I’ll make it a point to add that topic or activity to a vlog.

It’s funny; I am most productive and creative when I am most hectic and busiest. This August (2020), I worked full-time at my job and pumping out content like crazy. The ideas were plenty, and my work ethic was unmatchable. I decided I should take a minute to breathe at the beginning of September, and it’s like everything hit a wall. I couldn't get out of my own way to even turn a camera on. When I get into a mental block like that, the most effective method I have to get back into the groove is to go vlog something simple. Like a ride, I’ve done a hundred times, or just talk about one of my bikes. Just get talking with the audience again so I can get my groove back.

There are always ideas, but the execution is the real key. 

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

I edit everything on FCPX because it's just a much more powerful version of iMovie, so the transition was almost seamless. Considering I fumbled through the learning curve of intricate edits on iMovie on a small iPhone 5c, getting my 2012 MacBook Pro with iMovie on it was a massive breakthrough in capabilities. Everything was familiar, but I had so much more space for my hands, and actually manipulating clips was so much more precise. I could even edit without frustration. Once some of my vlogs started to test iMovie’s limits, I made the jump over to FCPX.

I once tried Premier Pro, but it felt way too professional for me. I know I could learn it, but I really see no reason why I would, at this point. I have an Instagram, but it just sits as a place for my own personal posts. Angela (my girlfriend) would like to see me use it as more of a tool to grow the business and drive sales through the Spindatt store.

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

I mostly feared that people would think one of two things: “This is silly,” or “Wow, he really thinks this is good?” I actually still struggle with that today, and it’s a big reason I don’t ever rewatch my own content. It’s funny; I also didn’t want people even to know I was vlogging. It’s made fun of pretty heavily in modern pop culture, so I didn’t want to be one of those statistics. Once you get to a certain point, though, you gain a little more confidence in what you are actually working on and become a lot more proud to share the accomplishment with anybody. 

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

When I shifted from The Studying Cyclist to a vlog, I decided that the only real way I would get people to want to subscribe and see more was to get myself to be the center of the content. I spent so much time using equipment or products to be the driver of views, learning the hard way that once a person got the information they needed, what more would they want with me? I had to change that and get people excited to have me, Spindatt, present ANYTHING. 

Once I stopped making content with products being the subject, and uploading more often about topics I was interested in that day, the growth finally started to accumulate. It took two or three years to get to 1000 subscribers, and one more year to get to 10000. One video that I knew was going to be big and would dictate the growth and direction of the channel was the Dirt Cheap Gravel Bike Build. In my head, I knew it was going to do well and drive people to the channel, so I spent a fair amount of time working on it.

These days, a weekly series I have on the channel, “Tinker Tuesday” is almost entirely influenced by that one video. Other days of the week when I upload, I try to do something different so the content doesn’t get stale. Otherwise, it starts to feel like a job. 

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

It’s easy for me to say this now that I have experienced some success. But if you are still starting, do not get discouraged with your ideas or methods. It’s easy to have an idea and think “someday, I’ll have the equipment to make that idea a reality.”

Instead, take that idea and make that piece of content. Hack your way through it. Whatever it is that makes you feel that the quality isn’t where it’s supposed to be: OWN. Lately, I’ve finally started to produce this way, and it completely opens up creativity for making ideas a reality. Like lighting a featured product with the light from your phone. Fake professional-looking product right there! No studio required.

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

I am transitioning to a full-time content creator at a languid pace. There is a certain level of fear when it comes to making ends meet by committing full-time to my business. My math for making it work is seeing an equal amount of monthly capital arrive from all revenue sources that the channel has and my full-time income. Then, I want to confirm that it will continue to grow from there. I am in the “confirming stage” now.

Tell us your best milestones in being a content creator.

Funny enough, one of THE most significant milestones in my content creation career was unbelievably early on. I had a video out about a really cheap bike from India that I built and rode for fun, but a comment came up from Dustin Klein, who founded a company I was a huge fan of; Cadence Collection. It was kind of surreal to have an actual homegrown industry professional watching and commenting on a vlog with a tiny 400 subscribers channel. That comment led him actually to send a big box of gear. And, I still wear that stuff 4-5 years later. This was that video:

Next up was achieving 1000 subscribers. That was a while ago, but I remember how hard that was to make it happen. I feel the subscriber number is almost like a first impression for people actually to give you a chance or not, and those early adopters of the channel are essential to the next steps. Nothing since then has felt like as much of an accomplishment. My eyes are on 100k subscribers now, but it’s not as daunting. I know it will happen, but I didn’t know 1000 would.

The day I started speaking with other YouTubers as an equal was a surreal and validating day as well. My friends Russ (Path Less Pedaled) and Mike (Lockedin) were already big channels back when I started five years ago. I would never have thought they or anyone else would ever want to give me and my content the time of day, but here we have a weekly live stream together on a channel we created. 

What are your marketing strategies to grow your brand?

It’s funny; I pretty actively do not market my work. The growth Spindatt has experienced actually despite my efforts to keep it within the group watching the content already. In the beginning, I was keeping my videos pretty secret, but a roommate actually shared my first video onto a cyclocross subreddit without my knowledge. When I saw the numbers growing, I thought I had just created a video that was taking the world by storm. Haha! 

I started sharing my content on Reddit for a little while until they kicked me off for “violating their terms” or whatever. I pretty much stopped most active marketing from that point, and just rely on impressions through YouTube. The channel that I weekly live stream as a collaboration with Russ and Mike has driven traffic to the channel, which is good, but not as important as the fun we have actually doing the live stream. I look forward to continuing with original content on there with both of them. I am enthusiastic about providing value to a pool of viewers from all of us.

How do you handle brand deals and sponsorships? 

With the size of the channel currently, brand deals don’t pop up significantly often. When they do, most are not really a good fit for the channel, so I’ll typically decline. Something will come up that can be a good fit, and I’ll price for a video based on the data collected on Social Blue Book. I’ve never really known what to charge, and their data helps give some confidence behind the price you quote. Some do not agree with the quote, so I just walk away, and others will counter the offer, and we can agree from there.

Considering most of my content is cycling-focused, there is a wide array of companies I want to work with, and will cold call with ideas from time to time. Most of the time there is no reply, but every so often, someone will be receptive to an idea and make something happen from there! I generally never ask for compensation on a deal I reached out for beyond a piece of equipment. Cycling gear is expensive with low margins for profit as it is. My goal is to build relationships with brands that I like, for future projects, not necessarily easy up front cash.

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