4th March 2020
Who are you and what kind of content do you create?
My name is Luca Lampariello, I am Italian and based in my home city of Rome, Italy. I'm currently working on my language coaching business full-time, but coaching and training students aren’t all I do. Nowadays, I spend most of my hours giving one-on-one language coaching lessons in a variety of languages, and the rest of it creating online content in the same field — ranging from YouTube videos, to blog posts, to online courses.
The goal of the content I create is to further my life’s mission — to show people how to learn. I believe that if more people knew how to learn and acquire new knowledge and skills on their own, many of today's most common problems would be fixed. Especially since nowadays, the average person with an Internet connection has access to vast amounts of knowledge which could create and inspire massive changes in their lives, if only they knew how to use it effectively. Though I am currently the only language coach giving lessons within my business, I do have a small team of wonderful people who work to help me create the best language learning content I can offer.
In my team, I have a content manager, editor, writer; a copywriter, SEO guru, a graphic designer, and videographer. My brand name was easy to choose — it's my own name! While I did use to have a more topical name (The Polyglot Dream), I found that using my name helped people better connect my online identity to my coaching work.
Let's go down memory lane, tell us your backstory!
I began creating content on YouTube in mid-2008. My first published video was a short six-minute clip of me speaking eight languages. A few years later, in January 2011, I started writing my own language learning blog, the now-defunct The Polyglot Dream. On the blog, I shared many of my insights into learning multiple languages, as well as my thoughts on reaching advanced proficiencies in those languages. The legacy of that blog continues today on LucaLampariello.com/blog.
I chose to become a content creator on a whim. I was still a student at university when I first found out about YouTube and learned how anyone could make a video and post it to the platform. I had been inspired by a few fellow polyglots who had recorded themselves making multilingual videos and figured I could give it a try, as well. In particular, I was heavily influenced by the work of polyglots Stu Jay Raj and Steve Kaufmann, both of whom are still active in the language learning community today.
I think in some way I was inspired by a quote from author Roy T. Bennet, which goes: “The beginning is always now”. In the times when I’ve considered taking on a new goal, project, or adventure, that quote has reminded me that life is too short to waste any time—the sooner you start, the better, no matter how things evolve. Once I started creating content for the web, the thing that kept me most motivated was my aforementioned mission; I want to help people become better learners, and I want to do that through the medium of language learning, which I feel is an extremely fulfilling, life-changing activity.
How do you brainstorm ideas for your content? What’s your advice for getting the creative juices flowing?
My inspiration comes from many places. First, I have been learning languages for the majority of my life, so much of the advice I give is drawn from my own experiences, successes, and failures.
Secondly, I get a lot of ideas and inspiration from my language coaching clients. Helping people one-on-one with their language learning has helped me refine and evolve my methods over time, and keeps me from becoming stale or complacent in the kinds of advice I give. This goes for what I teach on the blog, in my videos, and in my online courses. Lastly, I read a ton. Those who have seen my videos will know that I have a huge double bookshelf filled with hundreds of books in over a dozen languages. Though my favorite reading material is about World War II, I also read widely in the fields of education, habit-building, learning, psychology, and of course language learning. Since my job as a language coach involves all of those things, the ideas from those books naturally influence the content I create. You can find a list of books I recommend here.
To go from inspiration to completed piece of content, I often need to spend some time brainstorming. I don’t use any special software for this most of the time, but I rely on taking lots of handwritten notes and drawing up mind maps and other diagrams using paper and pencil. It may sound strange, but I find that the more “primitive” act of handwriting leads to better results than the more modern, technology-based alternatives. When I write, I can record and draw connections between ideas nearly at the speed of thought. To create a quick and powerful mindmap, I don’t need to worry about software, hardware, or how charged my laptop battery is — I just write. And best of all, I can do it anywhere.
When I’m not taking notes and writing out ideas, I’m out running, which is one of my favorite ways to drum up a new video, blog post, and online course topics. On a good day, I do this for one to two hours at a time, and it really helps me to relax and think more clearly about my life and work.
What are the tools and platforms you use to help with your brand?
For a long time, I kept my video-making process as simple as possible: I write an outline, turned my camera on, and then filmed everything in one, single take. It wasn’t glamorous, but it got the job done.
More recently, as my business has grown, I have hired a videographer who does all my editing for me and is responsible for making my videos more visually appealing, with cuts, images, music, graphics, and so on. Outside of my personal website and blog, my main content channels are YouTube and Facebook. I'm currently developing an Instagram strategy as we speak.
As for tools, I keep it simple: my team and I use Google's suite office tools: Google Drive, Google Docs, Google Sheets, and more. Once a piece of content is ready, it is published on the relevant platform (usually my Wordpress site).
What were your fears starting out? How did you handle them?
I wasn’t worried about much when I started out. I was too excited to get started sharing my language learning experiences that I really didn’t give any thought to what other people would think. I just made as many videos as I could.
Fortunately, the response was good right from the very beginning. People were enthusiastic about my work, and that caused any fears I may have had to quickly melt away. Of course, that doesn’t mean that I don’t get negative responses to my work from time to time. When that happened in the beginning, it would definitely sting, but as time went on I grew a thicker and thicker skin.
Nowadays, when I receive a negative comment from a reader or viewer, I try to look for the users in it. If the commenter was thoughtful, he or she probably made a few valid criticisms that I can learn from in order to improve my craft. If there’s nothing useful, though, I just ignore the comment and chalk it up to the commenter having a bad day.
How did you build your brand to where it is now? Take us through your process.
Though nowadays I strive to create content as consistently as possible, things didn’t start out that way. While I created many videos in my first few months on YouTube, things gradually tapered off. I even stopped completely at one point.
I think this was because, at the time, I wasn’t thinking of content creation as a business. I was just a university student, looking to share his message with the world. I didn’t know that this could become my career until much later. Now that it has become a career, and I have an actual business in my name, I’m much more serious and much more consistent. On top of creating regular content, I read all sorts of books on business, branding, marketing, and skill-growth. When I can’t get the answers I need from those places, I’m fortunate to be able to turn to my friends and acquaintances in the language learning and entrepreneur space for help and advice.
Having those connections were what really helped me evolve from a language hobbyist to a true entrepreneur. When I started, I knew nothing about building an audience or keeping up with a mailing list. I learned all that from my friends and collaborators, and all that knowledge has made a huge difference over the years. For example, in my first year on YouTube, I remember taking months to reach hundreds and then thousands of subscribers. Though that is still an impressive rate of growth, it’s nothing compared to recent years — just last year I gained more subscribers than I had in the preceding ten combined!
Things are very different than they were back then, even without considering subscriber count. In my first year, all I did was make the occasional video. Now, in my twelfth year, I divide my time between writing articles, drafting and shooting videos, taking online courses, and preparing speeches for conferences. I don’t do this alone, either; I’ve got a team of wonderful people who help me make it all happen.
In broad terms, the growth looked like this:
I started out making YouTube videos, and I did that exclusively for about two years. After two years, I decided to expand my content creation practice to include The PolyglotDream, my first blog. After three years, I started doing one-on-one language coaching sessions over Skype. After five years, I had the idea to begin creating online courses, which began with my How to learn Any Language Masterclass. Now, twelve years later, I do all of the above things and am always on the lookout for ways I can expand my content and brand even further.
For someone who wants to get into content creation, what is your advice?
I find it useful to live with as few regrets as possible, so I don’t dwell too much on how I could have done things differently. However, if I were giving advice to new content creators, I’d say this:
Start with a mailing list. They’re extremely simple to set up and are the best way to start building and communicating with your audience. I didn’t create a mailing list for a few years after starting, and I think it may have cost me a lot of growth potential in the very beginning.
Also, I recommend spending some time learning the basics of SEO (Search engine optimization). Though it can sound very boring and technical, knowing how to search for and use the right keywords in the right places can make a huge difference in whether your content actually gets seen by your potential audience.
My last, and perhaps the biggest piece of general advice is to be mindful of whom you choose to work with. Over the years, I’ve jumped into a few partnerships and collaborations with people I barely knew, only to get burned in the process. Work with people who share your goals and values, and not with those who don’t.
Regarding content, I truly believe that anyone who wants to be a great content creator needs to be an avid reader. I personally read for about an hour a day, and I dedicate much of that reading to books, magazines, and articles that can improve my life and my business. If you’re starting out, try books like The Story Engine, by Kyle Gray; Atomic Habits, by JamesClear; The Miracle Morning, by Hal Elrod; Book Yourself Solid, by Michael Port; and YourBrain at Work, by David Rock. These are all instant classics that have greatly changed how to live my life and run my business.
Why do I mention life and business together? Because I believe that you must improve yourself before you improve your business. How you live your day-to-day life has an incredible impact on the success of your business, so it’s of the utmost importance that you take care of your mind and body first. Get enough sleep, wake up early, work out, and meditate, and do it every day, if you can. If you can manage that, everything else will fall into place.
How did you finally commit to Youtube and your blog rather than your regular day job?
I was lucky to never have to quit anything. I started making videos on YouTube while I was still working on my Master’s Degree in Electronic Engineering, and things went so well after that that I never had to pick up a day job in the field after I graduated.
I just kept making content, and as the kind of content I made evolved from videos to blog posts, to paid courses and webinars, I was able to earn enough to make a living. The content creation also naturally led to me becoming an online language coach, which has been my primary source of income for almost a decade.
What are your marketing strategies to grow your brand?
I never had much of a serious marketing strategy, especially at the beginning. In my earliest days on YouTube, making multilingual language learning videos meant that I automatically became part of a community — now referred to as “the YouTube polyglots”. Since we all had shared interests and goals, opportunities for cross-promotion and collaboration came naturally. It was simple and fun; I would appear on a friend’s channel, and they would appear on mine. Maybe a few of us would all make videos talking about the same things, and share them between our respective audiences. It never felt like marketing, but rather like moving toward a common goal, together.
Things are a little different now. The online language community is larger, more well-known and more diverse, but many of my original friends and connections are still around in some capacity. Many of us have real, serious businesses now, though, so while we still cross-promote from time to time, it’s not as casual as it once was.
That’s part of the reason why I’ve embraced more traditional marketing strategies in recent years, like email and social media. The language learning space has become seriously competitive, so it’s important to keep up with as many different marketing channels as possible.
How do you handle brand deals and sponsorships?
If I work with brands, they're usually ones who sell language learning products that I have personally used and recommended to others. As I've mentioned, I've been creating content for over a decade now, which means that lots of brands come to me looking for opportunities to collaborate. My process of picking and choosing which brands I work with isn't complicated: if I (or my team) haven't used the brand's products, or don't think it is a product we would use, we don't collaborate. My brand and reputation have been founded on getting effective results for myself and my clients, so if I don't believe a brand or product is capable of that, I move on.