My name is Matt. I am your typical 40 something American, almost middle-aged Youtuber that lives in China and is attempting to cycle around the world on a 3-wheeled recumbent trike while also checking off my bucket list and managing a family. You know, the American dream.
It was not always this way. I grew up as an entrepreneur. I developed products and produced them in China for clients in the USA. Eventually, my aspirations and tribulations made it necessary to move to China permanently in 2009. It was there that I discovered a passion for video storytelling and travel. Over the course of the next decade, I put into motion plans to travel around the world and trained myself in the ways of vlogging and daily filmmaking.
Eventually, I closed my business and transitioned to YouTube full-time. I branded myself under the motto “JaYoe”, which is a play on the Chinese phrase 加油 ‘Jia You’, meaning ‘to add fuel’. That’s basically what I was doing. I was adding fuel to my life through travel, adventure, and sharing my story online. So when there is not a global pandemic, tragedy in my family or baby on the way, I am cycling around the world on my trusty trike, nicknamed the “tiger duck”, riding from place to place and composing videos along the way.
My father was a hard worker. And when I say hard, I mean hard. Besides being a father, he was a plumber, electrician, carpenter, mechanic, and whatever else you needed to be done. He worked hard and long, but when I did see him, he taught me to think smart. To build a better system. To find a better solution to a problem. To Be CREATIVE. He inspired me to live an exemplary life.
At the age of 9, I wrote “Life is what you make of it” in a thick red marker on the ceiling tile suspended above my bed. And every morning and night I was reminded by this aspiration that I have the power over my future, however great or mundane I wanted it to be. Little did I know then that the life I would make for myself would involve climbing Mount Everest, living a large chunk of my life in China, or managing a growing YouTube channel.
The JaYoe Nation Youtube channel was born out of many of the lessons I’ve learned over the course of my life. My entrepreneurial spirit, social interactions at a young age in business, my steadfast determination, and ability to tell a story all contributed to traveling and making videos. My faults lend themselves to vlogging as well. My memory is utter shit, and so making vlogs and documenting my life has been an outlet to capture and remember it all without worry.
My life guides my videos. And so it is relatively easy to form my video stories.
I challenge myself to find stories in everyday life. Life is my storyboard. In the beginning, I thought it would be more difficult.
Days themselves have a beginning and an end, the plot lies within. Grabbing a cup of coffee, having an interaction with an individual, or even picking up groceries can be made interesting as long as you have your eyes open and camera ready.
Above all, vlogging is about momentum. The more you do it, the easier it is to see stories. Nowadays they jump out at me. Stories are screaming at me to be told, and I am more than happy to oblige.
The comparison from my early work to my current work is laughable but necessary. All those shitty videos taught me what not to do, and developed my personal style.
My first major video project was producing my own travel show for Chinese Cable Tv called the Ningbo Focus. You can look it up on YouTube if you are interested. I had less than a basic understanding of editing at the time of earning the job, but sometimes the best learning can come while flailing for your life at the deep end.
I was also a graphic designer and web developer, had a pretty proficient grasp of the Adobe Suite products Photoshop and Illustrator, so Premiere Pro was an easy choice to get started. My first episode of the Ningbo Focus took 2 sleepless weeks pouring over youtube tutorials and making tons of mistakes. Today I could edit a 10-minute video in a few hours.
“Practice makes better”… you know the old saying.
Perfect does not exist. But the effort is rewarded.
The Ningbo Focus show taught me to make videos, but after the contract ended, I decided to start vlogging. I tried Vimeo, but sided with Youtube for their wider audience and ease of use. Living in China during the boom of social media video sharing was a big problem. VPN’s are needed simply to access most of them, and when you do get access the speed is throttled. So I decided to limit my reach and focus most of my energy on Facebook and Youtube only. My videos are uploaded directly to Youtube, with sharing on Facebook. Although, with a collection of over 1300 videos, I am considering uploading them directly to Facebook as I have heard from fellow vloggers that there is more opportunity there recently.
I also have a self-designed website to house links and information to my video and world cycle tour. https://www.jayoe.com
I have always been a pretty outgoing person. But being outgoing and talking to a camera are two different types of confidence. Like I have stated previously, it is all about repetition and consistency. The more videos you make, the more you push yourself to speak your mind in public, the easier it becomes. I found it helpful to say to yourself, “I am not making this video for the public around me at this moment”. I am instead making these videos for myself and the people who might watch the video on youtube. So strange looks don't matter as long as the video says what you want it to say. This helps a lot.
In reality, making videos today has become so commonplace. The act of recording yourself ends up drawing people to speak with you not out of anger or frustration, but of interest and intrigue. I have made more friends while making a video than I could have ever done so keeping to myself.
Once the videos are on YouTube, you have to deal with a different type of attention. One negative or hurtful comment from a troll can oftentimes trump 500 comments of support and understanding. This is something I deal with to this day, but as long as you have confidence in yourself and the story you tell you can overcome the idiots. Overcoming them is an exercise in itself and can build a thick skin and reinforce confidence in yourself. I'm thankful for the trolls in some ways. They ground me in the reality that you cannot make everyone happy. And sometimes I even take the more valid critiques to make myself a better person and filmmaker.
My brand is me. JaYoe is a mantra for living life to the fullest, and my objective was to exemplify JaYoe in my lifestyle and subsequent videos. It has not been a top priority to grow my channel as much as to be satisfied in myself. This helps in building my brand because authenticity is rewarded. Or at least it has been so for me.
Because I have always wanted to share my life daily, posting consistently has never been too much of a problem. The problem that has plagued me was trying not to overwhelm myself by posting more than once a day! My viewers find a comfortable rhythm watching my videos pop up reliably every day. Recently, I have drifted from my daily videos for a variety of reasons, but the consistency was certainly key to establishing a loyal and thoughtful community of growing subscribers to the JaYoe Nation.
I am the dumbest YouTuber.
I do some critical things wrong that limit my growth potential to be a powerhouse content creator. I know this and still I push forward. I do this because I make videos the way I want to make videos. My self-fulfillment is in cataloging my life, not plugging into a system of success on YouTube. It is by sheer consistency of content that I have been able to grow to the point where I am today.
If I wanted to be a successful content creator first and foremost, I would have niched my channel to cycling, or travel, or food, or living in China, or gear reviews, or a personal family vlog. ONLY. Instead, I am a mishmash of a little of everything. This lack of focus KILLS me not only with google’s algorithm but with my potential subscribers. People have to be a subset of a subset in order to appreciate all that the JaYoe Nation has to offer. But I love the videos I make and will continue making them.
If I was determined to be a successful content creator first and foremost, I would have picked a lane and stayed in it.
I decided one day that I wanted to travel the world. I lessened my desire for wealth in favor of checking off my bucket list. The content I create was never a sacrifice to me. It was literally a piece of a new puzzle.
My previous business provided me with small savings. So I never really was hurting too much to get my channel to take off. Today it is providing me a great supplementary income now, and it's working out very well. I hope that as my savings gets depleted, the content creation income will take over and I will be able to perpetually travel and tell stories. It has not happened quite yet, but it is not far off.
I remember making my first 100 USD from Google. Up until that point, I was never considering YouTube as a form of income. I guess at that moment I realized that an avenue was available to me to fund my tour of the world. From that moment, things became clearer.
Up until that moment, I was figuring on doing commercial video work as the primary money-making tool for travel. Finding work on the road is not easy, and dealing with picky customers who do not have your vision and want things done a certain way was frustrating. But after making my first hundred, I realized that I could make my own content. I could tell my own stories, good or bad. And that was liberating.
Beyond that, my journey is full of milestones. Any time I finish cycling across a country, I cap it off with a video and reflect on the story told. I have climbed Everest, hiked the Son Doong cave in Vietnam, and done any number of extreme adventures. Being able to tell each story thru my videos encourages me to move to the next.
Like many of us, I am a one-man show. I have a list of priorities and try to accomplish them from highest to lowest. So my marketing strategy revolves around making content and sharing it on Facebook and YouTube. It is about as simple as that. The videos are either interesting or not, and this drives my growth.
I often think if I had a magical time stopwatch, then I could pause every day at the end of a ride, then produce a video, upload it to Facebook, YouTube, and short clips to Twitter and Instagram. I could formulate press releases and send them out to trade magazines and relevant news outlets in my cycling/travel industry. I would dig into my collection of videos and share videos from my past to bring new eyes to my older content. I would formulate more written blog content and build ad revenue from website views. I would build more products in my Printful catalog and have more items for people to satisfy their merchandising itch. So many things I could do to grow my brand more than it is today. But alas, I don't have that magic time-stopping device. And I have about enough time to edit and publish videos, travel, respond to comments, cater to my Patreon community, rinse and repeat.
If I was able to generate more income, maybe this would be feasible by hiring a few interns. But not yet.
The JaYoe World Tour is my personal journey. I go where I like, when I like, how I like, and I have always worried about giving ownership of the journey to another entity. If you are too small, then you become manipulatable by more powerful businesses. I can see myself opening up to sponsorship opportunities in the future, but I want to get over 100,000 subscribers and it needs to be the perfect sponsor that aligns with the values of JaYoe synergistically.