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Going Pro & My New Video Series
"Wait you're not a full time YouTuber? You could make a fortune!"
For years I’ve been asked why I don’t do “being a YouTuber” as a job, especially with the impression that there’s loads of free money in it. Well firstly, that’s not the case — there’s no free money in it — and secondly, I actually do have a video series idea that I’m now planning to work on part-time…
I’m going to explain some of the production process and how making money on YouTube works as I understand it, then share some info about the video series I’m planning.
The Self-Promo Preamble
But first, as always, here are my recent videos since my last newsletter:
Tomatoes and other salad items became unavailable in the UK earlier in the year, including in Northern Ireland, but somehow the Republic of Ireland and the rest of Europe had loads? I went to Dublin to find out.
If you’ve been following my work for a while you’ll know my favourite camera is the Game Boy Camera, which I got in 1998. I’ve finally found the thing I’ve been looking for since then: a way to get all the photos off it in one go, in seconds.
I collaborated with Morley Kert to run a Repair Cafe in London, where we fixed things for strangers using 3D printing and other resources to hand. Morley’s Video details the repairs we did on the day, and mine shows not only the fix I did for someone who arrived just as we were packing down, but also shares ways you can fix things for yourself instead of putting them in the bin.
Over on The Technical Difficulties channel our third series has just finished in which Tom, Chris, Gary and I have each been on another adventure the others didn’t know about. This time, I tried very hard not to hurt myself while learning to skateboard!
YouTube Will Make You Rich!
Fun fact: the videos on my Matt Gray YouTube channel haven’t broken even never mind profited! They cost more to make than I got back in ad revenue. And that’s been fine: I made them for fun, as a hobby, while I had a well-paying full-time job!
Here are the two main ways people make money off YouTube:
Google sells adverts around your video that viewers see before/after/during the video. Google gives you a percentage of their ad revenue.
Adverts, sponsorships, and product placements integrated into the video by the creator.
While it used to be possible to make a living off YouTube ad revenue, that is very rare now. If you’re regularly getting millions of views, your viewers are in a market share that are hard to reach, and you have very low production costs, you may be alright. Otherwise, you’re probably not breaking even.
This is the reason you will see so many content creators integrating adverts into their videos, selling merch, and offering subscription services like Patreon or YouTube memberships.
I thought I’d share how some of this works.
Making the video
Making a video takes a surprisingly large amount of time. Even if you only consider the editing stage, a good rule of thumb is that it takes at least an hour of editing per minute of finished video.
Never mind the planning: not just sorting locations, people, travel etc. but also working out a narrative so the video is compelling enough to watch all the way through.
Then it comes to the shoot itself. Setting everything up. Making sure that video, audio, lighting are all working. Doing multiple takes, getting different angles and cut-aways (the pretty close ups, landscapes, other angles etc. needed for editing to work), re-doing things because you made mistakes or need alternative options depending on what could happen later in the shoot. This means that even something a simple as a 1-person bedroom vlog could have a few hours of footage for a 15 minute video.
Making that $$$
OK, want your money from YouTube ad revenue? Google totals it up, and if you’ve made over ~£60 they’ll pay it to you at the end of the next month. If you didn’t make ~£60, it’ll roll over to the next payment date.
Want a sponsorship or advertising? Cool. That involves some work. Find someone who might like to sponsor you. Explain what your content is and what your audience is and how it may be useful to them.
Negotiate the terms of your business: how long is the agreement for, what do they want you to say, when and how will they tell you this, how long are you willing to give them in the video, who gets final say, how much will you be paid and what for?
Then negotiate the contract: does it reflect the terms of business, is it mutually agreeable, what happens if one of you doesn’t keep up your part of the deal?
You could instead do this via an agent or management company. If you work well together there could be less hassle, though naturally that will be for a fee or percentage cut. But getting an agent or management and negotiating your contract with them takes time too! And there’s no guarantee they’ll find you anything!
What’s Your Video Series Idea, Matt?
I’ll let you in on a secret: I had this idea years ago, and was just about to start making it in the beginning of 2020. For some reason that ended up not happening.
I really like learning new skills and seeing what cool things people get to do as part of their work, craft or hobbies.
Most of the videos I watch on YouTube are makers, crafters, and engineers doing their own thing. Through my work in the media I’ve been on reports or productions in a wide array of places, and thanks to working on some videos with Tom Scott over the years I’ve had an insight into a wide array of industries.
The one thing in common with all of those situations: I want to try it. I want to have a go. It makes me excited and I want to share with everyone!
OK, Why Now?
Since last summer I’ve been self-employed and working as a freelancer. It’s taken a bit of time to get used to having never done it before, but the advantage of it is I get to choose what I work on. Why not spend part of my time doing freelance work, and part of my time working on making this video series‽
I’ve wanted to do it for long enough, and the reception we’ve got for similar activity-based stuff with The Technical Difficulties has been amazing.
How are you going to do it?
With help. As I explained earlier, things take time, but especially on your own.
At the very least I’m going to use a producer to help plan and book some stuff in, and I would also like to use a video editor too if the costs work out. Depending on the activity I may also need a camera operator too!
I’m hoping to get sponsorships or adverts on these videos to help pay for the production costs, including anyone I may use for producing, editing, operating cameras etc.
I’ve also started a Patreon. I’m no starving artist. I don’t need your money to survive. But, if you’re financially stable, have spare money, and would like to contribute towards my video projects then you are welcome to. If you’re not financially stable, please don’t give me your money.
I don’t really fancy segregating content based on what you can afford, so assume you’ll get nothing extra by subscribing to my patreon. But I may post the odd photo or something.
When will it be released?
Couldn’t tell you. I’d love for it to be by the end of summer, but that may not be doable. There are too many uncertainties and moving parts at this stage. Nothing’s booked in.
How can I help?
I always feel a bit icky when doing any self-promo. Which is probably why I’ve written this whole long thing!
Every video creator asks you to like, comment and subscribe because it actually helps. So if you’re not subscribed to my YouTube channel already, it would be nice if you could. I’ve never been interested in the “numbers” game for numbers sake, but as a YouTuber you get judged on the number of subscribers on your channel and number of views on each video.
As an aside, the one metric I’m usually intrigued by is audience retention: how much of the video people actually watch. And fortunately that’s normally a pretty flat line for my videos, which shows when people watch it, they watch all of it!
As always, I’ll see you out with a few links to some completely unrelated things that I found interesting.
Hack Modular makes a mechanical GIF using a tiny intriguing mechanical display from a fighter plane. (YouTube)
Simone Giertz meets an ingenious Syrian toymaker in a refugee camp. (YouTube)
Alienby Comics: Riri describes themself as a non-binary human making comics about being trans, neurodivergent, and eXvangelical. (Instagram)
Thanks for reading, and well done for making it to the very end. I’ll be back, errm, whenever I think of something else to share!
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