How I Paid Off My University Debt Doing YouTube.

Full-Time creator
January 19, 2020

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

HELLO, HI, WATSUP! my name is Jahtna, and my channel is all about Life Hacks, DIY, Nail Art tutorials, Makeup tutorials, Comedy and MORE. Lately, I’ve been making mostly Life Hack and DIY videos, but i love making nail art & makeup tutorial videos! Each DIY and tutorial look is very easy, simple to follow and beginner-friendly!

Here’s a little bit about me! I live in South Florida, but I was born in the Dominican Republic! Therefore, I am 100% Dominican (even though half of my subscribers think I’m Indian haha.) I am just a regular girl who loves girly related things, who makes videos about it along the way! Nail Art, DIY, Room Decor Ideas, Makeup, Life Hacks, you name it! I thrive to present nail art, makeup, Hacks, DIY in the funniest way possible because i’m such a goofy & weird person at heart!

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

I’ve been creating content back in 2012. I just wanted to do YouTube. I wanted a way to express my creativity. I've always been really creative with everything. I just thought it was a really cool little project to start YouTube.

When I first started, I did nail art, I wasn't passionate about it, it was just a way for me to be creative and get in front of the camera or just start a YouTube channel in general. That's how it was in the beginning, I just wanted to get on YouTube

The second time around when I actually decided to take it seriously on YouTube, what was trending at that time were the whole life hacks bandwagon, so I decided to get on that bandwagon.

There is a quote from my favourite book, "The Alchemist" and it goes something like this,

When you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you achieve it.

That's my favourite quote I've cherished since the start.

I don't really have a clean-cut answer on what kept me motivated, "My parents motivated me." It was more like I was in a really bad situation at that moment and I wanted to get out of it. Not that it was like a short term answer. I actually was really passionate about YouTube, and I was in it for the long run. It's just that at the time when I restarted my channel on YouTube about 3 years ago, I was really broke and I just wasn't interested in school. I wasn't interested in doing the whole 9-5 thing and I've always been the type of person to go against the grain, so I decided to do YouTube, but unfortunately, I was in a bad situation. I didn't have any savings, I believe I had $3.17 on my bank account. Knowing that I was in that situation and knowing that I had the potential to get out of it because I really did believe in myself, that motivated me was visualizing my future.

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

I just subscribe to a bunch of YouTubers and honestly, I believe that you should genuinely use YouTube. You shouldn't just be like, "I'm on YouTube just to create content." No, you should be a constant YouTube watcher. You should subscribe to a bunch of people, you should be their fans. You need to see what other people are uploading, not only people in your niche but everyone, what is going on in YouTube, what are people watching, what is popular right now, what is the algorithm picking up and then if you notice something, like, "Oh my god, this girl, she's in my niche and she just uploaded this really cool video yesterday and all of a sudden, it got so many views, way more views than the average amount of views that she usually gets."

These are little things you notice when you are a real community member of YouTube and you genuinely watch people, you will notice a difference in their views, like, "Wow, that video really stands out. This got a lot of views." That's how you know maybe the algorithm favoured a keyword in that video title or something. There was something about that video, I would say the keywords, and so then I would just create that video, put my twist on it and then that's pretty much what I would do.

I honestly studied a lot of YouTubers, countless and countless of YouTubers. I'm the type of YouTuber where I genuinely watch YouTube, I don't watch TV, I'm more of a YouTube person. There wasn't really exactly one person that inspired me. I just kind of subscribed to many, many YouTubers that inspired me and helped me inspire my videos, like, "Wow, this video is really cool, I wanna make my version of it.”

I would say just give yourself a break, honestly. Sometimes we're really hard on ourselves and we force ideas to come out of us. I remember there were some days where I would spend a whole day trying to brainstorm my next video and that was the worst because I was trying to force it. Usually, these things just come naturally. I would say take a break as painful as it is because I was just a little workaholic back in the day that I felt very unproductive if I took the day off, but if you really do have a mental block, it's best to just give yourself a break, maybe go to a cafe, switch it up a little bit. You can just go to a different setting, that really helps you refresh your mind, and it gets your creative juice flowing, so I recommend that.

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

I used to YouTube and I'm on Instagram. For video, I use iMovie at the very beginning which I suggest because it's free. It comes with Mac computers. I later upgraded to Final Cut Pro which was worth the investment, it was like the best investment I ever made. For photo editing, I just used, it's a free online software, it's really easy to use, it's really intuitive. I think I have the pro, it's super affordable and it's great for people that are not techy and no Photoshop or anything.

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

I was not posting consistently each week because I was the only person managing my account. It was really hard maintaining everything myself. The goal was to post consistently every week but it just didn't happen. It would be like once every 10 days, once every 12 days, 15 days, it was just really hard to maintain everything and play all the positions of being a YouTuber, it's really hard doing it yourself. That was the goal, but it wasn't really realistic.

I did collabs with a handful of creators. I remember I did this collab with a really popular creator, but I did get a lot of traction and a lot of new viewers and a lot of new subscribers from her, very appreciative.

There were a lot of challenges, I was the only one doing everything which is the wrong way to go about it. If you did YouTube, you have to really educate yourself on how to outsource. If I were educated on how to outsource and if I were a little more business-minded at the time and educated myself and read more books about business, then it would have been an easier process, but because I didn't do that, I didn't have the right people around me to really scale my YouTube business at the time, it was really hard for me, that was really challenging for me and the reason why I couldn't upload consistently.

When I restarted my channel, it took me 3 months of really hard work and sleepless nights in order for me to see traction. That was like around 2012, I don't really remember but I think it was pretty difficult, took me a few months, maybe 3, 4, 5 months, I don't even remember, it was so long ago.

I was definitely scared of what people thought, not really necessarily people, my viewers. I loved when my viewers watch my videos. It was just more so like friends as well as family members. I feel like an awkward thing that we YouTubers go through is that we have a lot of people in our personal lives that watch our videos but don't necessarily talk to us in real life. For example, I've seen a lot of YouTubers that go to high school, that get bullied because they do YouTube. It's like people usually that they know in real life are the ones to bully them that they do YouTube, just like the quote says.

Not everybody that watches your videos know you in real life that secretly watch your videos are haters, I'm just saying people that will support you are usually your viewers and then people that you know in your personal life will usually just stay quiet and don't really say anything which is a little bit awkward. It got very awkward for me. I really didn't like that part and I was scared of what they thought. That's why you should just be carefree and not even care what people think in the first place.

How did I overcome those fears? Honestly, as you see success, as success starts pouring, you start caring less. I've had people call me crazy before, family members specifically. They called me crazy because I uploaded videos on the internet which is unorthodox, it's not very common. People will speak negatively about you, and if you don't, you're very lucky, but there are some people, I personally had a lot of people speak negatively mainly family members because I did YouTube, but then once the success starts pouring in, there's really not much they can say. They actually begin to quiet themselves and they don't say anything at all because they're dumbfounded, "Oh my god, is this a thing, you can actually make money on the internet? What the hell, that's crazy." Honestly, as you start getting successful, you start caring less and that's exactly what happened to me.

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

I'm really big on outsourcing. YouTube is a business, it's not just, "You just upload videos online." No, there's a huge backend in place. If you don't know how to handle the backend, if you don't know how to negotiate, if you don't know how to outsource, if you don't know how to do a bunch of things, then it's gonna be really challenging, so I suggest that people educate themselves about business. YouTube is a business. I recommend that you start learning how to outsource and how to give people their roles. I understand there are some people that are perfectionist, but unfortunately, being a perfectionist will delay you and it will ruin your business. Try not to be a perfectionist and try to give people their roles so that you're not here doing everything by yourself as I did.

One of the worst decisions I've made was doing everything by myself. Again, you have to outsource. In 2020, it's so easy to outsource. I didn't even know that was a thing but there are sites like Fiverr, there's but I personally suggest you go with Fiverr, it's usually $5 a task, maximum $10, $20, it's really affordable. I didn't know these sites exist, and so instead for example I would create a thumbnail for 3 hours, 4 hours, 5 hours. I even had times when I created thumbnails for 6 plus hours because I was trying to be a little perfectionist when I could've just paid $5 for this graphic designer to create a thumbnail for me and I would've saved 5 hours of my time and would've done something way more productive like brainstorm other ideas.

That was a really poor decision, but it wasn't really a decision, because I just wasn't aware of it. I really highly suggest you watch YouTube videos. There is so much information out there on how to improve the backend of YouTube like how to outsource and I would say just really educate yourself on the business side of things because again, YouTube is a business, people forget that.

My little life hack was I would subscribe to people and just be a constant watcher of their channels and see what videos did good, what videos did bad, and if a video did unusually good, I would usually go for that video, and those would be the type of videos that would go well for me.

There are so many tutorials out there, there's so much information out there, look it up. You can go on, whatever it is that you feel like you need to improve on, let's say for example, if you need to improve the quality of your content, you can look it up on YouTube. If you need to do something more strategic, that information is just scattered all over YouTube, I suggest you just buy a course for $11, it's really cheap on, it will literally teach you everything. Udemy is the biggest online marketplace, and literally, there are videos about any topic possible. Whatever you're confused on, whatever it is that you wanna improve, I suggest that you just buy a Udemy course.

Tell us your best milestones in being a content creator.

The highlight of my entire YouTube career was when I first went viral 3 months into restarting my channel. I remember how I'd gotten a few million views and it was the best feeling ever seeing a whole bunch of comments come in praising you and loving you for your hard work that was unnoticed for months and months, it's like the best feeling in the world and that first paycheck you get, at least my first paycheck, because at the time, I was pretty broke when I first started out. It was the best feeling. I've never seen so much money in my account in my life. I didn't even know making that much money in a month was possible. It was the best feeling.

The first thing I did was pay off my debt overnight, it's the best feeling because I felt like I had a huge weight off my shoulders and then I invested into my little business and I bought myself an iMac in cash instead of paying credit which was the best feeling in the world, I've never done that before, paid something so expensive in cash like that. That was definitely the highlight of my YouTube career.

YouTube changed my life, it changed my paradigm because it just opened my eyes like you don't have to work 9-5 in order to make a living. We're living in this era where there's no better time to become an entrepreneur. We could do whatever it is that we want. You don't have to be stuck in a 9-5, you don't have to have a boss bossing you around telling you what to do and bothering you and bullying you. We're living in 2020 and we're living in this awesome internet era but unfortunately, a lot of people don't take advantage of that. That's what YouTube did for me, it opened my eyes and changed my paradigm, like this is a thing, and I'm becoming successful from it. This is crazy.

If I can become successful from YouTube, I can probably become successful for many other things on the internet, this is crazy. It definitely changed my paradigm and YouTube is the reason why I'm doing what it is that I'm doing today which is I opened my own business because it changed my mentality, it changed my paradigm on how I can make a living.

What are your marketing strategies to grow your brand?

I was just trying to be as consistent as I can. I try to be as original as I could. I think that's really what made me go viral the very first time was because I coming up with very original ideas, I wasn't just going on Pinterest and just copy and pasting and redoing the same, and recycling the same content. I was actually coming up with every single thing. I was just trying to be as original as I could.

How do you handle brand deals and sponsorships?

What are your criteria to choose a brand deal?

Ask for a contract. If they don't bring up a contract, you need to ask them for a contract. That would pick out who's shady or not. I was gonna work with this brand and it seemed like a really good opportunity. I bring up the contract thing, "Hey, are you gonna send me a contract?" and they never responded. They were probably planning, "Let's work with her and we're not gonna pay her." Always ask for a contract, and if they do give you a contract, read, read, read your contracts. I've had many times where I read my contracts and there was something shady in there. They don't expect you to read it, so when you read it, they're taken aback, they don't expect that. Always read your contract so that you don't get yourself into any sort of mess and if they don't hand you a contract, always ask them for a contract for sure and that's how you can really pick out who's being shady or not.

Your advice or tips in handling brand deals and sponsorships?

Be very professional, I would say. I would say be very nice, be very professional, humble yourself. I do have a story. My most favorite brand deal, I remember is because they sent me a box. Youtubers or just influencers in general, content creators, they get these promotional boxes so that you can advertise, in hopes that you will advertise their products or whatever it is that they're giving you. I was getting a lot of those. I wasn't thinking of actually emailing that company to say thank you, because it was kind of like an automatic thing, a lot of people would do it, a lot of companies would do that, they would mail me their products.

One day, I just had a feeling, like go say thank you to this company. This was really nice, they actually gave me a lot of sorts of products I really appreciated it. I emailed them, I said, "Hey, thank you so much for your products. I really appreciate it. It was really nice, I wasn't expecting it." That's something that I didn't have to do but I felt like I had to, so it was the best decision because I think a day later, they offered me a really good brand deal. It was actually the best brand deal that I had gotten in my YouTube career. From being nice and humble, you can get a lot. I'm pretty sure there's a lot better advice out there, but this is just according to my circumstances at the time, my story, and being humble and nice is what got me my brand deal. I would say be professional, be nice, and be humble.

Have you ever negotiated pay?

Yes because I didn't have anyone to do that for me. Honestly, I would struggle with this because it's really a numbers game. But never accept the first payment that they offer you. I would say always try to negotiate especially if you work hard, you work hard for your content. I would say get paid for what you believe what you're worth. There were so many companies that they would offer me a really low amount and it's like, "Excuse me?" You just have to really know the market and what people are charging for, you have to educate yourself on that and you have to know your worth, don't ever settle if somebody's lowballing you or anything like that, or you just have a feeling like, "No" then just don't be scared to say no, don't be scared to negotiate, don't be scared to one-up them, I would say that. I don't really have the best advice for this because I struggled with that a lot. But I would say just ask for what you're worth.

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