4th March 2020
Who are you and what kind of content do you create?
I’m Steven, based in Vienna and I run a Tech focused YouTube Channel covering consumer electronics and gadgets, but also I cover some industry analyst topics that barely anyone covers on YouTube. I’m a full-time creator but also an entrepreneur and run 2 companies. YouTube is still a business for me, but I have very limited time resources for creating content. While YouTube still pays good for a living, I try to leverage all my contacts in the Tech-Industry to build up a sustainable business. Because as you know, YouTube isn’t really something you could do forever.
I started YouTube back in 2012, mainly to teach people about electronics. But over time I got more successful and many companies approached me. I switched from tutorials to covering the newest trends in the Tech-Industry, yet I’m still a one-man show as I don’t see the need to hire people just yet. But I do agree to have someone to edit your videos would be great as this takes most of the time.
Let's go down memory lane, tell us your backstory!
As stated before I started in 2012, back in the golden days of YouTube. My friend approached me and said that they made a gaming channel that had 500 subscribers and that they would be really successful in the future. I was a bit jealous and thought if they can do it, I can do it as well. So I started doing my first video, mainly with screen recording and powerpoints (Oh boy, that was crap content lol). But still, it provided value to people searching for information about this topic. It was very time consuming to do that, but I liked it. In fact, I had plenty of time making videos as I was a student studying mechanical engineering.
I spent most of my free time making videos and after a few months, I already saw that some topics got 5000-10000 views which motivated me to keep going. I also did a lot of gaming videos and that got a bit of attention from the Minecraft hype. But as I grew older I changed my niche from gaming to tech, as I found gaming became boring for me.
I wanted to improve my videos so bought myself a 50$ camcorder, but still, it was far away from the professional channels at that time, thus couldn't keep up with quality, but I tried to provide other value in the form of information. And from that kind of content, my audience liked it. My big breakthrough was creating content for Chinese smartphones. Back in the days, this was a big niche, as only Apple and Samsung were dominating the market.
I was one of the first channels to cover unknown brands at this time such as Xiaomi, Huawei, to name a few and this really helped me build an audience in this niche. At the time of creating content, I have never had a day job and I didn't finish my studies (yet), during my studies I was already successful on YouTube.
I didn’t use any other platforms to promote my content seeing as YouTube algorithm was bringing me enough traffic to make a living and grow my audience. The start was hard but never give up, even though you might not see improvements immediately.
How do you brainstorm ideas for your content and your advice in getting the creative juice flowing.
I watched a lot of other Tech-Youtubers and tried not to copy them but looked at the comments to see what people are interested in and then make videos on the topic. Often companies approach me with new ideas, projects or products and whenever I see something interesting, I try to convert the idea into a video. I sometimes use google trends to see what's trending right now. Sometimes there are times where I have a mental block and I forget what my audience actually wants to see because so many companies approach me with cool products.
What are the tools and platforms you use to help with your brand?
I use Adobe Premiere Pro for my video editing. I tried using several free video editors in the beginning, but it makes sense to learn how to use an industry level editor if you taking this YouTube game seriously. Switching later in your workflow is not that easy so it's better to do it right from the beginning.
I am on YouTube, Reddit, and Instagram. I know I should spread my brand on different platforms a bit more and do more on Instagram as well. But running 2 side companies becomes pretty challenging. 14-16 hours workday is the norm. Also, I’m a bit chaotic so, I don’t plan my videos in advance. I do whenever I feel like doing a video and when I’m in the mood to talk about something I'll record that and upload it onto YouTube.
What were your fears starting out? How did you handle it?
I actually don’t care about haters. They are mostly jealous, although I’m sometimes a little bit scared to say something wrong as talking about tech is not that easy. There are a few super nerds out there who will hate you if you explain something wrong or say the wrong specs about a product. But usually, I don’t think about that too much, as a product test or review is always a single opinion of a person, and we all have different opinions, there is no right or wrong opinion. Whenever there are many downvotes on a video, I’m still more happy about it than on a video with no interaction thus I know what people like or don’t like.
How did you build your brand to where it is now, take us through your process.
I actually posted almost every day when I first started. But then I started to think a bit more about the content that people would like to see and from that, it took time to research my videos, I delegated more effort into reaching out to brands to get devices that are more interesting. My general rule is quality over quantity. I would rather have 1 video with 100k as for 10 videos with 10k but that doesn't always work out. I started with $0 budget, keep in mind that with having minimal to none money you don't need special high-end gear to make content. Smartphones nowadays shoot great videos -- so get some ideas and start!
The hardest part, in the beginning, is to work out a good concept. And mostly, the first concept always never succeeds. Try to keep going and if it doesn't work out, try something different, experiment. It took me 6 months to get my first 4,000 subscribers and after 1 year around 10k subscribers. There are always ups and downs on YouTube and a short period of success doesn't guarantee that you will be a successful creator. It's more about being consistent and that you don’t bore your audience. On my channel, I noticed that most people are interested in smartphones and my most successful video with over 6million views is actually a video from a smartphone factory.
I'm not sure if it will work out, but I would rather do content I like instead of content that makes me super successful and then burnt out right after. The hardest part was for sure getting enough viewers so the youtube algorithm picks up your videos. I still struggle with that nowadays, but I think it's normal as not everyone is interested in every topic I cover.
For someone who wants to get into content creation, what is your advice?
Do content that you like and not content that you think will get a lot of views. If you just focus on views you will burn out. If you do content that you like, people will notice that and share your passion and hopefully share your videos too. I’m a bit mad I missed the Instagram train, I wish I started earlier as so many companies just focus on Instagrammers now. But well, it is how it is and I now try to upload a bit to Instagram.
New platforms can be a huge boost for you. I had a case where one of my friends had no success on YouTube because there was too much competition. But his content was great. So he changed the content a bit and started uploading on TikTok and BOOM he now has 600k on TikTok. So always think about which platform may be the best for your content. Also, I wish I started my channel in german. It's hard to work with TECH-companies in Austria seeing as my channel is in English.
"Most companies here are looking to boost their local sales and they don’t care about English content. Know your target group and audience well If you aim to do partnerships with companies in the future.
How did you finally commit to X platform rather than your regular day job?
I was never in the need to get a regular day job because my parents have 2 houses and earn a good amount of money. However, I didn't want to feel useless. My dad pushed me to finish my studies, but after he saw my paycheck, he doesn't ask anymore lol. It took me years to make a living from youtube and it was hard. So don't start youtube with the intention of earning money. That will not work out. Do it as a hobby and see where it goes. As stated above, YouTube pays well, but I don't think its future proof. You never know what happens. That’s why I started a Tech-Company which is selling televisions without tuner for a niche market in Austria (www.kagis.tv). YouTube helped me a lot in many ways.
With my YouTube channel, they saw that I know what I’m doing. It was great to show my skills to this huge Chinese brand. They started to trust me and partner up with me and now we made their brand ChiQ very successful in Austria with thousands of sold devices. YouTube is also a great way to market yourself and build a brand around you and also to start a real business out of your channel.
Tell us your best milestones in being a content creator.
My first viral video was a video where placed a hidden camera in a China smartphone Factory. This was my first “Now I made it” experience. It was doing up to 100k per hour until the company called me and said they wanted me to remove the video. I was inexperienced at this time and scared that they would sue me, even though they allowed me to film the production. So I did set the video to private. Huge fail as the video after this didn't get that many views anymore.
My first viral video was a video where It was a hidden camera in a China smartphone Factory. This was my first “Now I made it” experience. It was doing up to 100k per hour until the company called me and said they want me to remove the video. I was unexperienced at this time and scared that they will sue me, even though they allowed me to film the production. So I did set the video to private. Huge fail as the video after this didn't get that many views anymore. If I wouldn't have stopped it, this would be easily 20M+ views.
My first invitation to a press event was also one of my highlights. I was so hyped to see other big YouTubers and the company paid all the bills for flight, hotel, and food. It was so amazing but now I’m at an event every 2 weeks so it's kinda normal to me now.
Also, my first “free” product I got from a company was a milestone. Some companies sent me some crappy 50$ iPhone replicas from china and I was so happy that I made a 20-minute video about it. Was worth it as it got 3.5M views:
Nowadays I wouldn't do that anymore and if I do it, for sure in better quality lol.
What are your marketing strategies to grow your brand?
I did grow my channel over time. All organic. I didn't grow as fast as I wanted to, but still achieved something awesome. Because now all major tech companies here know me and it's cool as they invite you to all new product launches and it's a nice and great community. I sometimes bought a few AdWords to experience with it, but the results have not been good. Mostly the people from ads did not engage with my content, so I stopped doing it. I was on a few networks, also in a “premium” network called studio71. But they do take a high cut from your AdSense revenue and didn’t provide me the value I wanted to have. So I left the network and a few months ago I joined a small network. They only take a very small cut and provide me SEO tools like keyword optimizers and royalty-free music so that's good. I posted my videos only on youtube and sometimes on Facebook. I was too lazy to edit shorter versions for other platforms. Nowadays I use Reddit a lot to share content in specific tech groups and that works out well.
How do you handle brand deals and sponsorships?
In the beginning, I had to reach out to a lot of brands to say “Hi I’m also here”. But nowadays companies approach me. I get around 50-100 emails a day with cooperation requests, mostly stuff I’m not interested in. From 100 mails maybe 1-2 are potentially interesting. I only accept corporations that can be interesting to my audience. Some companies offer me a lot of money to promote trash. But I don't do that, as I earn enough money with my other companies.
Also, regulations nowadays are stricter. If a company wants some hidden advertising I strictly deny it. Some companies also want to pay more if you don't mark it as paid, but I don't do it. Agencies can also be useful, I would say 50% of my deals come from agencies instead of the brands directly, as I work with big brands who outsource their influencer relations. As stated before its a bit hard sometimes for me to find collabs that are worth it as the competition in English is very hard and local companies want to have german content.
That's why I try to approach companies in the UK, USA or global acting companies. But even that is hard as they prefer cooperating with local influencers. However many companies like my content and I always try to be honest to my audience. If something is not good on a device, I simply mention it. I also tell the companies in advance. Not all my videos are paid but when a product is really interesting for my audience I do it for free. But well, I also have to pay my bills like every other self-employed person. My videos are quite a time consuming taking up to 30 working hours per video and most companies don’t see that. So I’m trying now to make a new format with less effort for the videos that will be uploaded sooner than later.