My name is Zyra Banez, a Filipino artist YouTuber based in Melbourne, Australia. I create videos from drawing tutorials to speedpaint videos sharing my thought process, tips, and techniques with a simple goal of inspiring younger artists to learn and improve their art. I am currently a part-time content creator of my brand, ‘Zyra.’ I spend most of my time as a freelance graphic designer, video editor, and social media manager.
When it comes to my YouTube, my art business, and even my freelancing, I am just a one-woman band. I do everything from write scripts for my tutorial videos, film, and edit, I do all the admin and invoicing for my commissions, and I even created my website where I sell some art prints. However, I always get free consultations from my family, who are super lovely. They always listen to my ideas and offer their ideas, so it doesn't feel like I’m doing this on my own.
I started YouTube back in 2009. I started uploading song cover videos because they were trendy back then. I would bust out my electric guitar and post videos of me singing Taylor Swift’s songs. It wasn’t until 2010 when I found videos of people drawing fashion illustrations, just a speedpaint video with nothing but music playing in the background. I wanted to do the same. And so went my cover videos and in came my drawing videos.
Here’s my very first video:
I was just 14 years old when I posted that video, and in a way, it blew up. More people were watching my drawing videos than my cover videos. And one video led to another, and now we’re here! Pursuing YouTube as a business venture and using it to aid my art career was certainly not my plan when I was 14. Still, the opportunity was undoubtedly too good to pass up. It’s also enjoyable, and I get to do my own thing, so I continued making videos and producing content on other social media.
I also got to collaborate with many incredible artists, which helped my channel grow. People like Baylee Jae, Sakuems, MissKerrieJ were the artists that certainly inspired me to keep making art videos. I’ve now been making YouTube videos for about ten years. I took a 2-year break on YouTube when I worked full time, which made it very hard to balance work and YouTube (one of the many reasons I took a break). As soon as I became a freelance, I went straight back to YouTube.
I used to buy lots of magazines and just look at the images. I’m very much into fashion, so I think that always influences my art. Nowadays, I love scrolling through social media such as Instagram and Pinterest, looking at photos after photos that brands, other artists, friends, and strangers post. Being a very visual person, I love being bombarded by images all the time. Seeing the colors, composition, and art style inspire me and influence my art a lot.
Aside from that, I also love to journal and write down my thoughts. These spark a lot of exciting ideas that I eventually turn into art. I also keep a list of ideas on my phone whenever I’m on the go, and get an idea. These lists help me whenever I’m experiencing a creative block where I don’t know what to draw. I look back at them, read through my journal, and scroll through social media.
Eventually, I find something that sparks an idea, but sometimes it’s not enough, or it’s not a good enough idea. I could continue looking and end up without a drawing for days or weeks, so instead, whenever I get an idea (new or rehashed, not good enough, or might not work), I still try to create something with it. Sometimes, I just need to start to generate momentum, and eventually, a mediocre idea could transform into something better. Other times it just doesn’t work, and it’s okay. I’m back to scrolling through my list or social media.
I highly recommend writing down everything you think. Even if it looks like a jumbled mess on a page, it’s still helpful to read a random phrase you wrote down at 2 A.M. that can inspire you.
I am using a Sony A6000 and my iPhone X to film videos and take photographs if needed. When it comes to editing videos, I use Adobe Premiere Pro and After Effects to create animations. I also use Adobe Photoshop to create my thumbnails and edit images for social media.
I post on my social media platforms, mainly Instagram, Facebook, and YouTube, all the content that I create. I do have Twitter, Linkedin, Tumblr, Behance, Tiktok, and Pinterest. Still, I found that Instagram, Facebook, and YouTube are more useful. I enjoy using those platforms, making it easier to manage and engage with my followers. I used to rely on third-party platforms to schedule Instagram posts, but I forget to engage with my followers, so I’ve resorted to manual posts. So while I still have a Planoly account, I don’t use it to schedule any content. Instead, I use it to help curate my Instagram feed. As for third-party tools for YouTube and Facebook, I don’t use any.
I don’t recall any fears of starting. I suppose that was because I was a careless teenager that just wanted attention, and the idea of more than five people was exciting. It wasn’t until I hit my first 100,000 subscribers that my fears of not growing fast enough, compared to other artists, started settling in my mind. Videos were no longer about the art and my simple commentary. They were about the views and whether they were original enough. There were also more expectations with trends of aesthetic videos, vlogs, and clickbait gaining traction in the art community. The change was overwhelming, which led to a 2-year break.
It wasn’t so much the negative comments that pushed me away, because some very supportive and sweet individuals who share a love for art fills the art community. Negative comments were rare in my personal experience; however, that did not stop any own insecurities I felt. New channels were popping up, and other smaller channels were gaining a following quickly. The fear of not being good enough or not being quirky enough grew. I can’t say I dealt with those fears rapidly or adequately. I had no idea what I was doing, but there was one constant thing that eventually made me come back to creating content on social media: at the end of the day, whether I get views, I enjoy making art and creating videos. It’s a creative outlet for me. The fears have not disappeared completely, but I’ve got a more substantial reason to make videos than not.
Consistent posting is one of the methods I used to maintain my channel’s momentum as it continued to grow. I was posting every week and other times every day. It was undoubtedly hard to post videos every day while maintaining the same quality of my weekly videos and with not much difference in engagement. I would also say that collaborating with different YouTubers and artists helped boost my channel. It increased my reach. With more people knowing that my channel exists, there was the potential for them to like my content and subscribe for more.
Keeping up with a schedule and being a part-time YouTuber was a challenge. It was almost impossible to balance school work and YouTube during my early years, especially when videos took longer to create. I also didn’t have a plan for my YouTube channel, how I wanted it to grow, what strategies to accept, or a goal of where I want my YouTube channel to take me. I didn’t treat it as work. I just went with whatever came to my mind and hoped for the best. I was consistent with what I did, but perhaps too consistent that it became a bit stale and repetitive. As I mentioned, I fell off the YouTube community for a while, and I’m currently building my brand back up again.
To do that, I have embedded video making and editing into my schedule. A set time helps me organise all the tasks I need to do to stay on track with an upload schedule. I currently only post every other week, but I now have a goal, a plan, and a strategy to grow my brand after two years of hiatus.
Watching Nick Nimmin on YouTube has opened my eyes to things I took for granted that could help grow my channel once again. I also use Skillshare and other YouTube videos to increase my knowledge of owning a business and being a freelancer.
Now, I can successfully say that my subscribers on YouTube and followers on Instagram have stopped decreasing, and instead started increasing again. I have to thank YouTube for picking up one of my more recent videos and recommending it. However, I do also believe in the content that I put out. I am very proud of that video, and I worked hard to create it as well.
Here’s Nick’s channel, which I highly recommend: Nick Nimmin
Here’s the video that kickstarted my channel once again:
I definitely would just tell them to go for it! If you enjoy it, there shouldn’t be anything stopping you. I think that’s the most important thing to consider, especially if you’re looking to start a YouTube channel.
I believe that to build a brand by yourself, it takes a lot of commitment, so the most important thing is to have a passion or enjoy it. A lot of the YouTube artists I’ve gotten to know are all on the same boat. We started YouTube without the prospect of getting paid, but only for pure enjoyment. Once money gets involved, it can get stressful and, at times, feel more like a chore, but what keeps me going is the fact that I enjoy it. I keep coming back to making videos because I have fun, and it allows me to be creative.
I’ve made a lot of mistakes with my YouTube channel, which has resulted in far slower growth than it could’ve been. These were: not taking advantage of the natural momentum of growth, not having a goal, not adapting to change, and letting my fears break my bond with YouTube. Know when your channel is growing. Look at analytics and take action accordingly. Have a plan or a schedule. Know what you’re working. YouTube is always changing, and there are still new trends popping up.
Keep up with the changes. Experiment with new ideas with your channel. Engage with your audience.
These are things I’m still mastering even to this day. Lastly. don’t compare yourself to other content creators and put yourself down because you’re not getting enough views or you’re not getting sponsors, or not growing fast enough. It’s a different experience for everyone. As long as you’re having fun, keep doing it!
While I do remember the moment I got 100 subscribers (because I did a giveaway) or 100,000 or 200,000 subscribers, the most memorable milestone was using the income I got from YouTube to buy myself a car. It was a second-hand car, but to this day, I still adore that car, which has been beneficial for me. I was able to save enough money to purchase my vehicle while in university and having no other income but YouTube.
I had tried various methods to grow my YouTube channel and my Instagram, especially during my hiatus, when I experienced a decrease in subscribers/followers. I tried third party platforms that promise to help boost your follower count. I tried it after somebody had recommended it and it worked for them. I tried it for a month and paid the fee, and I did see results, but I felt like I was cheating. As soon as I stopped the service, my follower count fell back down. I don’t know whether that decrease is related to the service, but I didn’t see much benefit to using a third party.
The only marketing strategy I use now is the boosting services that Facebook and Instagram offer. I think that the reach I get from boosting or promoting a post is as good as the reach I get from a post that the algorithm likes. There’s more engagement with organic reach. However, I have tried it, and I’m continuing to try it since I don’t want to base my result on just one boosted post. I haven’t promoted a bunch, only selectively, so I want to encourage more to get a first-hand understanding of this feature.
I feel lucky to get sponsorships. When a brand reaches out, I evaluate whether they fit with my channel and audience. In the past, I have accepted free products that I didn’t believe in, and I think they contributed to my 2-year break. During this time, I created content for the sake of creating content, with no purpose and not much love for what I was making. I didn’t enjoy it, and I wasn’t getting paid aside from the products, so in the end, I didn’t think it was worth it. I suppose, in a sense, I am pickier now of which sponsors I take on, but I still do feel blessed if someone reaches out. I always respond with an open mind, but if it doesn’t fit my channel/audience, I don’t take it.
When it comes to getting paid, it’s indeed tricky, and I’m still getting its hang. In the past, I’ve been undercharged. When it comes to negotiating, I’m straightforward. I tell them what my rate per video is, and we discuss it from there. It’s different from sponsor to sponsor. However, if they reached out to you, and that you’re not just a part of an email chain they sent out to hundreds of influencers, they will see the value in your content.