Wrestling Personality

Wrestling With Wregret

How I Fearlessly Turned my Hobby Into A Full-time Career.

Wrestling Personality
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September 10, 2020

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

My name is Brian Schiedel; most people know me as Brian Zane. I am the host and creator of the YouTube channel Wrestling With Wregret. My channel is about covering the good and the bad (mostly bad) of professional wrestling, which is my biggest passion. I've been running my channel since 2013 and have been full-time with it since 2016. That time, my channel has grown to nearly 300,000 subscribers, and has amassed 140 million total views!

For much of the channel's run, I've handled all aspects of production: the research, the writing, the filming, and the editing, not to mention everything administrative. But over the last couple of years, I've been able to recruit a couple of good writers to help me in that phase. I just hired an editor to help lighten my workload a few months ago as well. My team may be small (and none of us are even in the same town), but it's nice to know that they're here to help make the channel better.

I came up with the channel name after thinking about the Bret Hart documentary "Wrestling With Shadows." I liked the idea of taking "Wrestling with," and then having the last word evoke some kind of negative feeling (since I'd mostly be covering the bad stuff), finally choosing "regret,” later adding the "W" to make it alliterative.

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

Growing up, I’d always been fascinated with television and video production. My father worked in public television for decades, and I grew up visiting the studio and even working the cameras at 13 years of age.  I fell in love with professional wrestling around that same time, as companies like WCW and the WWF (now WWE) became pop culture touchstones.  At age 18, I began to train to be a professional wrestler, finally getting work in 2006.  The wrestling didn’t pan out, but I’ve remained involved in the wrestling business ever since.

Me as a manager

In my years after college, I became a big fan of online personalities like the Nostalgia Critic and the Angry Video Game Nerd. I loved their humor and their respective brands of visual storytelling. Those two helped spawn an entire genre of online content, as seen in the dozens (if not hundreds) of men and women who have taken their format to review everything from movies, video games, comic books, music, anime, and much more.

Nostalgia Critic

Angry Video Game Nerd

But as I looked around, I wondered, "where is the wrestling version of this?" Pro wrestling is an industry that's rife with stuff to parody and make fun of, and SURELY someone has taken the reigns on that! There were plenty of blogs and websites that looked at bad wrestling in a humorous light (most notably Wrestlecrap, which I had discovered and obsessed over the back in college). Still, there wasn't any kind of video equivalent out there, much to my disappointment. People talked about wrestling on YouTube, sure, but it usually focused less on detailed scripts and clever editing, and mostly featured guys on their webcams talking about what had happened on Smackdown that night. 

Meanwhile, by this time, I worked at a local TV station, putting my journalism degree and production experience to good use. I've always considered myself a creative individual, and I loved producing my content on YouTube. Not only that, but my experience in wrestling also gave me a different perspective on the topic that others on YouTube had. If anyone was going to fill this need, I thought, why not me?

After thinking about it and kicking ideas around for nearly a year in 2013, I finally bought a cheap camcorder and found a cracked version of Final Cut Pro. I started writing scripts for topics I wanted to discuss. What began as a side hobby to make me and my friends laugh slowly grew. After two years of start-and-stop production (and slowly investing in better equipment and software), my channel exploded in popularity, and within months I went from 2,000 subscribers to 100,000! After another year of growth and success, I decided to turn my hobby into my career. I've been doing this full-time since August of 2016.

The first four thumbnails!

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

I get my inspiration from all sorts of places. More often than not, I just think about stuff I remember seeing years ago and wanting to talk about it; or maybe I'll discover some bad or obscure character, or storyline, or wrestling movie, and the episodes practically write themselves. Sometimes thinking about one topic turns into something even better, and I go with that; I've had friends and colleagues and fans alike all pitch ideas to me, and I've used plenty of those!

Sometimes the hardest part about creating a script is just getting the ball rolling from the start.  I’ll have my notes and observations, but beginning to put them together into a coherent script can be challenging.  Sometimes I’ll walk around the house a little bit to clear my head; other times, I simply have to turn my brain off for a little bit and come back to the project, or perhaps write from the end backward, or start somewhere in the middle. 

There’s no surefire method I use to combat mental blocks, and I just tell myself I have to push through it, and more often than not, I do!

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

I first learned how to edit video in college, taking those skills with me to my first couple of TV jobs.  Eventually, those jobs would lead to more opportunities to edit, so I steadily improved my production and post-production skills in my day job and used them in my side project.

When I first started my channel, I used an $80 JVC Everio camcorder that could only operate if you opened up the viewfinder on the side, a work lamp for lighting, and a cracked version of Final Cut Pro.  But as time went on and I took the channel more seriously, I eventually bought a Canon T5I, which instantly made me look more professional.  I finally upgraded to a full LED light kit, and now all my editing software is legal and above-board.

I rely entirely on the Adobe Creative Cloud for my work. I use Premiere Pro, After Effects, and Photoshop to help create my video projects.  My entire business depends on YouTube, but nearly as significant are my social media platforms, Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook, to be precise.  I am my own social media manager, though, to be honest, I’ve considered hiring out for that job.

It sounds terrible, but I have no scheduling software, bookkeeping software, and tools to help form better work habits.  I have my weekly to-do list written on my phone, and I stuff all my receipts and statements and tax documents into a filing cabinet that I check on once every few months.  Are there more efficient ways of doing things?  Certainly.  But I haven’t felt the need to start with them yet!

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

Growing up a theater kid and spending years in the independent wrestling scene, performing on-camera never bothered me.  And since the channel meant to be a fun side-project, there were virtually zero risks in starting it.  But from when I first began the channel up to the present day, the only thing I fear is copyright strikes and violations. I’ve always been keenly aware of the dangers of using copyrighted footage as a b-roll in my videos, but over time I have learned how to edit my videos to avoid violations.  It’s a very fluid process that can be difficult to pin down, but it’s helped me a lot over the years.

Besides that, my biggest issue with the job has to be negativity in the comments section.  Usually, I’m able to brush it off quickly. A crude insult or name-calling here, and there is promptly deleted and forgotten.  But sometimes there will be comments that stick in my craw as if someone lies about me, misquotes me, or questions my character or integrity.  Sometimes I just can’t help myself and engage with these haters, and more often than not, I kick myself afterward for doing it.  I have (slowly) gotten better at ignoring most of the negativity after dealing with it for the last seven years, but I am human and can only tolerate so much before it begins to affect me.  But I often remind myself that the kind of people who are so negative online must have nothing else going for them in life to take the sort of time to act that way, and suddenly I don’t feel so bad.

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

When I first started the channel, I would put out one video a week on a fixed schedule for a few months, take a couple of months off, and start the whole process again. Over time, I began to create videos of different kinds, to the point where I was starting to put out 2-3 videos a week. Whenever I published a new video, I would pound the (online) pavement to spread it.  I would post links on message boards and Twitter. I would spam a collection of friends on Facebook every week with the new content. If I had some money to spend, I would promote the videos on my Facebook page. I did all that regularly for about the first two years.  

I also spent a lot of time in those early days interacting with my viewers and commenters. I didn’t respond to EVERY comment, but if there were someone who had an interesting point or a compelling argument about something I said, I would write back to them and create a dialogue. When you’re a small channel, those early adopters are like a focus group; you can get a bit of an idea of what’s working and what’s not! And by chatting with those people, they feel like they’re part of a community and will want to share it with their friends, so it helps out everyone!

Since the channel has grown, I’ve gone from publishing 1-2 videos a week to 3-4 (sometimes five or more on pay-per-view weeks).  As I mentioned earlier, I used to do all of the pre-and-post-production work by myself. However, since then, I have been able to outsource some of the work, which has helped my mental load in many ways. I’ve mostly kept the marketing to my dedicated social media platforms. I no longer feel the need to annoy my friends with links to my video as they often seek them out themselves.  I’m fortunate that my channel has grown to the point that it can practically market itself.

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

When I worked for a local TV station making commercials for area businesses, I learned about the importance of a Unique Selling Proposition (USP).  Find the one thing that makes you unique and different from all of your competitors, and push that one thing as the reason people should seek you out.  The customers will come to a business for that, see the other things you have to offer, and create a bond with that business.

With YouTube, you can’t just stream video games, talk about wrestling, or just do makeup tutorials; you need to have something special about you, your presentation, your format, or your content, in general, out among the rest. For example, my USP is my brand of humor and comedic timing in my long-form video essays or my unique perspective as someone who currently works in the wrestling business. Lately, I’ve condensed my advice to budding content creators into a list of bullet points:

*Be Different (See my talk as mentioned earlier about USP)

*Be Consistent (Remember “appointment television”?  When would you make it a point to be at your TV at a specific time on a particular day of the week because that’s the only time your show came on? Creating that same consistency with your video releases helps build habits in your viewers and keeps them coming back)

*Be Prolific (You want to give new viewers something they can sink their teeth in, like an impressive back-catalog of your work!)

*Be Patient (Everyone has different paths to success. Giving yourself some hard goal or openly wondering why your channel isn’t growing doesn’t help for long-term success)

*Be Lucky (self-explanatory)

If you’re doing all these things but are still struggling, there are some small, easy ways to improve your visibility on YouTube. For starters, your thumbnails must grab someone’s attention when they’re scrolling for something else. It’s also helpful to have a clear video title and descriptions that say what the video is. It can help in the search results!

Finally, it sounds cheap, but people LOVE YouTube countdowns! I had a hard time embracing listicles on my channel until I saw the kind of viewership they can pull and the discussions that can form in the comments. Countdowns can be the entry point for the rest of your stuff!

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

Like I mentioned, the channel finally saw some real growth two years into its run.  As the views started rolling in, I would see the money come in as well- 7 bucks here, ten dollars there, 14 bucks another day. I first thought, “nice, a few extra hundred bucks a month, neat!” But as time went on, those daily figures grew more and more, to the point where I was making MORE money on YouTube than I was at my day job! (That begat a lot of tax-related issues in those first couple significant years but it’s all good now.)

I saw the writing on the wall early on. The possibility of doing this full-time was tempting. Still, I wanted to make sure that the money on YouTube was excellent and consistent enough to justify leaving the security of my commercial producer job. I waited until the channel was a little more than three years old to leap finally.  By that time, we were expecting our second child and were in the process of moving to a new house.  While this was all going on, I decided that I had to leave my day job VERY SOON if I were to start putting the time and effort I knew I had to put into the channel for it to succeed.  The transition from having that job security to the complete unknown as a full-time creator was terrifying. It would have been even if we WEREN’T going through so much life upheaval! But with the support of my family (and that luck as mentioned above), it has paid off!

Tell us your best milestones in being a content creator.

I’ve been fortunate enough to experience several incredible milestones since going full-time with the channel.  Every new subscriber is a gift, but I’d be lying if I said hitting 100,000 (and later 200 with 300 coming up shortly!) wasn’t a sweet feeling.  Seeing those numbers for overall views and minutes watched is incredibly humbling as well.  It is hard to wrap my head around, sometimes knowing that my silly videos get watched MILLIONS of times every month. Getting that silver play button in the mail was a surreal feeling; I’m not sure if I’ll be able to gut it out and get the gold one, but it’s nice to think about that!

Because of the nature of my channel, I’ve also had some fantastic opportunities and experiences! I traveled to five straight Wrestlemanias that I could justify as business trips (would have been six this year if not for COVID); I’ve been flown to England to participate in a wrestling convention. I’ve been able to meet and interview some great wrestling stars from the past and present (many of whom have told ME how much they enjoy the channel). Perhaps biggest of all, my channel’s success has led to my signing with Ring of Honor Wrestling, one of the great promotions in the country, as a broadcaster.  None of these things would have been possible if the channel didn’t grow the way that it has!

What are your marketing strategies to grow your brand?

It took a while for the channel to get an audience. For the first several months, I considered it a small victory if a video got 100 views within its first week.  But over time, the seed grew into a small plant. It took me two years to get my first 1,000 subscribers. But in the summer of 2015, I signed with a multi-channel network (MCN). I had just put out a couple of videos that came out that got popular quickly (a countdown listing some of the worst “heel turns” in wrestling https://youtu.be/uqyboYE_i5w, and a skit in which I make an impression of a notable wrestling personality https://youtu.be/c7n5XOy0xNw ). I believe it was some combination of these two things that helped the channel virtually explode in viewership within a few weeks.  My subscriber base shot up tremendously, and in nine months, I went from having 1,000 subscribers, to 100,000!  

How do you handle brand deals and sponsorships? 

I try and find brands that best line up with my target audience. I often find myself advertising mobile games, VPNs, or grooming products, mostly.  When I approach them, I often lead with viewership numbers and a subscriber count; they’ll want to know how broad their potential audience will be.  

As far as the writing and the direction of my ads, I rarely do typical boilerplate reads as myself, if I can help it. I do my best to be as creative as possible with the spots, so the advertisers get their money’s worth. Plus, if people are going to sit through an ad, they should be entertained while doing it!

When it comes to my rates, I factor in the amount of time I spend on the ad itself and how much money I could stand to lose over a long period if the video cannot contain YouTube ads. I’ve had potential sponsors back off because I might have asked for too much money, and I’ve walked away from potential sponsors because they offered too little money, but you need to know your worth and be willing to negotiate! If you can deliver results, advertisers will pay for them!

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