Moto Reviews

Views from the Man Cave

Engaging and Technical Moto-Related Reviews Straight from the Man Cave.

Moto Reviews
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August 13, 2020

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

Hi, my name is Tony Walters, I live in the UK and have been running my YouTube channel as a side hustle for about three years now. 

The channel predominantly reviews motorcycles, motorcycle gear, and accessories. I started it with the intention of allowing the content to go wherever I wanted it to, which is why it doesn't have a moto specific name.

Sadly I didn’t envisage the channel taking off, so gave little thought for its name. I knew I needed something other than my own name, but what?  Someone had given me a tin plate sign for my garage which said ‘Man Cave’ and as I was giving my views on products ‘Views from the Man Cave’ was born.

I don’t like the name, but maybe now it's too late to change. I have run a number of polls since I started and the evidence is that people don’t think I should change the brand, but it continues to ‘bug’ me.

I work largely alone, which poses its own problems when shooting footage. Occasionally my son helps me out. He has just started a Film & TV production course at college, so I’m hoping my production values will rise! 

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

So, how did I get started? Well, it all came from not being able to find the kind of product reviews that I was looking for. The existing content online tended to come from either the manufacturer or a retailer, both of whom have a vested interest in selling you the product. Other reviewers seemed to be reading from a spec sheet or indeed were just standing in a studio talking about the product, it wasn’t apparent that they had even tried it out. That's where I made the decision to ensure that every product I reviewed had been tried and tested by myself before I gave any opinions on it.

I never really had any idea that the channel would take off, I was just doing it for fun, it certainly wasn’t intended to become a full-time job, but as things progressed I was having to spend more time on planning, filming, editing and learning all about YouTube metrics. Shortly after starting on Youtube, I added accounts on Facebook and Instagram as well as setting up a basic website. 

I did however quickly realise a potential issue with the content. I had been reviewing items as I bought them, obviously, some of this gear is expensive and it wasn’t a viable model to have to spend cash on products to keep the content coming. It was at this point that I started reaching out to manufacturers and retailers. This was a hard slog, but thankfully, a couple of people saw value in what I was trying to achieve and supported me with the supply of sample products. This really helped in building out the content and brought further support from bigger brands.

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

The content is driven by the product. My main brainstorming involves working on a theme or style of video to best show the features of the product. Viewers seem to fall into two distinct camps. One group likes really straightforward detail-driven reviews with no frills. The other camp is looking for a more creative cinematic style experience where the product is shown in use, but with less technical detail. Finding a balance between these two is the difficult part. My videos need to be entertaining enough to keep people watching, but technical enough to give the product justice. 

Sometimes getting this process across the line is tough, and often I deal with this problem in an extreme way. I just drop it and walk away.

That might seem like the wrong way to go about it. But I’ve recently realised for my channel dynamics, it’s the best route to take. I used to try and put content out on the same day each week, but I became aware that to meet that timeframe meant I wasn’t always putting out my best work. That would be more harmful to my channel in the longer term. The epiphany came when I accepted that people were consuming my content because they valued my opinion and they were consuming it on their own terms. The fact that I didn’t upload regularly each week seemed to make very little if any difference to my Youtube earnings, engagement, or subscriber growth. It's very easy to get hung up on the latter and it can become all-consuming. I don’t chase views or subs, I don’t go for clickbait titles. My philosophy is that if I’m truly happy with the content, there is a very high chance others will be too. Of course, you can’t please all of the people all of the time, but that’s just life.

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

There has been a definite evolution of my production values. I cringe a little when I look at my early video content. A lot was filmed on a GoPro Hero 3 using the inbuilt mic. I waffled quite a bit too, nothing was scripted and it was all off the top of my head. Video work was a ‘steepish’ learning curve. Having studied photography in college and having a background as a sports photographer, I was familiar with an element of the requirements. However, the video was a completely new challenge and I just threw myself into it. I’m still learning and that will never change.

I now shoot on a combination of the mirrorless camera (Nikon Z6), action cameras (GoPro Hero 7 & 8) and have recently delved into the world of 360 capture (Insta360 One R). The biggest single improvement I’ve made with video creation is concentrating on capturing decent sound. It is often overlooked, but it’s a vital element. I now have a number of Rode microphones which I’ve found work incredibly well, but don’t break the bank.

As a long term Mac user, it made sense for me to use Final Cut Pro to edit my video. I’m completely self-taught, excluding of course YouTube tutorials, and I’ve found it to be a very intuitive piece of software. As a photographer, I’ve been using Photoshop and Lightroom for many years. My next big decision is now to decide if I should move completely across to the Adobe Suite. Premiere Pro is incredibly powerful and well-supported editing software, I’m just not sure if I’m ready to start learning all over again. 

Other social media platforms are very much a secondary vehicle for me. Instagram seems to be working well, and I use that as a vehicle for both new independent content, as well as informing people that new Youtube content is available.

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

To be honest I started with no real fears. I wasn’t trying to make YouTube a full-time job. I had no real expectations from it and as such, I was able to make content without thinking too much about how it would be received. It was very much a ‘suck it and see’ approach. My family was supportive, particularly my two kids who actually thought it was quite cool to have a Dad who was a YouTuber (although I don’t like that term and don't use it to describe myself), a couple of friends were a little more negative. I was brought up to be unconcerned with what other people thought of me.

Negative comments and trolls are sadly just part of life on YouTube, as they are with all social media. I do encourage comments and I'm happy to debate people on my reviews of the products. Negative comments as long as they are constructive and well-founded are fine. Trolls, on the other hand, are a different kettle of fish.

I have set up filters for obscene words in comments, so I do have the opportunity to review those before they are published. In the beginning, I took these comments to heart and often replied. I soon realised that that is exactly what the trolls want, they want a reaction. The best and easiest to deal with it is to ignore them and starve them of the attention they are looking for. If a comment is particularly nasty, is aimed at my appearance, or is very personal then I’ll just delete it and more often than not block the account. Thankfully, I don’t get much negativity!

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

The brand has grown organically really. Over time I've improved my production, spent more time on planning, and got a feel for what my audience wants. I used to put content out every Friday regardless, but more recently, as I've already mentioned, I realised that this isn’t so important. My videos are largely one-off reviews and as such people don’t always find the need to subscribe. They consume the content and move on. This does create a slight problem when I approach new manufacturers/retailers about content collaborations and ideas. Often they are unsophisticated in their approach to metrics and just look at headline subscriber numbers. My reviews regularly have to view numbers to match channels with 4,5,6 and even 10 times the number of subscribers that I do. Also because I try to respond to every comment, my engagement is very high. This can be a little frustrating, but it is improving.

It took a little while to gain some traction on the platform, but because I wasn’t trying to become ‘Youtube famous’ I didn’t sweat it and continued to make the content that I wanted. When you start from nothing with no expectations any growth in views and subscribers is exciting. I really started to notice stronger growth when I started a series of videos detailing how I installed accessories on my Triumph motorcycle. It resonated with a lot of owners, and I actually quite quickly became a source of knowledge for this particular bike. Some of that was because there was nobody else doing it, and also because I’m just an ordinary everyday Joe working in my garage come Man Cave at home.

Not much has changed in my process from the beginning other than equipment and more planning. I was unfortunately made redundant a couple of years ago from my day job and wasn't for a number of reasons able to get back into that industry. This has made me consider devoting all my time to YouTube, but sadly I don’t have confidence that it will be supportive from a financial point of view.

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

Simple, be yourself, be genuine, and be passionate about the subject matter. That really shows through to the audience, people will spot a fake a mile off very quickly.  If the content is good, the production quality won’t be so important and that is easy to improve as you go along.

There will be ups and downs and you can try to prepare for those, but in the words of Baz Luhrmann “The real troubles in your life are apt to be things that never crossed your worried mind, the kind that blindsides you at 4 p.m. on some idle Tuesday.” All you can do is be adaptable and deal with things as they come along. In fact, on that matter, one piece of advice I would give is to listen to the song ‘Everybody’s Free (To wear sunscreen)’ every now and again. There is a lot of truth and inspiration in the lyrics, for both your YouTube career and life in general.

It’s also good to step back once in a while and evaluate your content. Think about why you started and are you still on that track.

Don’t look at other similar channels to yours and get disheartened that they are doing better, we are all on different journeys. Do however look at what they are doing to bring that success, but do not COPY it. Learn from it and maybe adapt what you are doing.

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

That's another easy question to answer, I haven’t. Not yet anyway. Will that day come along? Maybe, but I’m catering for a reasonable niche market, so it's unlikely to generate the type of income that could support me entirely.

Tell us your best milestones in being a content creator.

Receiving your first positive feedback in the comments is fantastic and I found that it really drove me on to produce more content. Every milestone in subscriber numbers is also exciting, be it 100, 1000, or 10,000. When I started the channel I never dreamt that 20,000 people around the world would want to tune in regularly to hear what I had to say. That's a pretty good feeling!

The first time someone approaches you to say hello or have a photo taken with you is pretty surreal, I never imagined that would happen, so be prepared for it! 

What are your marketing strategies to grow your brand?

This is still something I'm working on and is really going to be my next focus for the channel. I’ve yet to formulate a plan, there are some rumblings in the background and there may be more variety in the content, but how that moves forward I’m not sure yet.

Certainly I have considered a few collabs with other creators, and I’m working on something with a large manufacturer, which could be very good if it comes off. I will look to leverage other social media platforms as much as possible.

How do you handle brand deals and sponsorships? 

This is an interesting question and it's not something I've done a lot of. I’ve only ever had one sponsored episode, the pay was OK, but nothing to write home about. I’m also conscious that I'm offering an independent, tried, and tested opinion of products, so jumping into bed with a brand could potentially seem a little disingenuous and may hurt my credibility going forward. It's certainly something I need to be conscious about otherwise I could end up like the very channels I was mentioning in the very first question. 

I reach out to brands all the time, but I've honed my approach. One thing I never do is ‘just’ ask for a product to review. I’ll show an interest in a particular product and explain to the brand ‘why’ I think it would be beneficial for them and why I should be the one to do it. Remember it’s all about what you can do for the brand, not the other way around. Give them a reason to work with you.

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