The #1 question I get from readers of this blog is usually “What camera do you use?” This is quickly followed up by a question about how to make money with a YouTube channel or if it’s even possible. The quick answers are: “a Canon 60D” and “Yes it’s possible, but it’s complicated.”
All “make money online” questions are tricky to answer because there are no clear-cut answers that work for every project. If somebody tells you they have a magic bullet, they are lying. Unless you are already backed by a company with lots of money, the topic of monetizing internet video content is something we’ll all be exploring for some time. I’ll tell you up front that all the projects I’m currently working on are completely boot-strapped and self-financed. There are no investors and we have zero outside financial backing.
I have a long-term strategy for these projects so I’m not looking for any...
Yesterday, we released the 200th episode of Hilah Cooking (technically the 201st, but we screwed something up on our calendar). This is a pretty big deal for us because it also coincides with the three year anniversary of the show. When we hit these kinds of milestones I can’t help but do a little bit of reflection.
In some ways the 200th episode doesn’t feel like quite as big a deal as it was when we released the 100th video. When we started the project, my goal was determined to produce 100 episodes and then evaluate whether things were working or not.
It took us about 2 years to do the first 100 and that was right around when things started to feel like they were starting to work. All the numbers (views, comments, revenue) were moving in the right direction. If we had quit at 50, it would have been nothing more than an interesting and fun experiment.
This is a chart showing the growth of the Hilah Cooking YouTube channel growth since we started. The Blue line is the average of our daily video views. I’ve left off the specific numbers because the big picture is what I want to show here.
I made my first book when I was 4-years old.
I saw it again for the first time just a few years ago. My mom had kept it safe all those years, tucked away in the bottom of her jewelry box.
It was a tiny thing made from a single piece of paper, cut down into tiny pages, folded over and â€œsaddle-stitchedâ€ with a sewing needle. Appropriate for something spawned from the brain of a 4-year old, it was the story of a frog. A picture book. The captions were written in my mother's handwriting.
I continued writing books and drawing comic books throughout kindergarten and the early years of elementary school. Several wire-bound notebooks were filled with horror stories and the adventures of an assortment of super-hero characters. The kids in my class particularly loved LASAR MAN.
5 notebooks of Lasar Man stories later, somebody finally told me I was spelling laser wrong.
I wasn't into sports so I spent elementary school making up stories and kissing girls...
Just a few years ago I would have never predicted I would be spending almost all my time creating “lifestyle” content. Back then I was totally focused on making bloody low-budget horror movies. But I was feeling really burned out after my last feature and decided to give myself a year to just explore and experiment with what interested me. I spent a lot of time getting my internet skills up to speed and learning about the world of internet marketing and online video.
Before I knew it, Hilah and I had launched Hilah Cooking. Learning how to make a successful YouTube channel was a lot of fun and I found myself completely obsessed with internet video. I felt like I had found the perfect combination of filmmaking, publishing, marketing and the geeky search engine stuff I had spent so much time studying.
Perhaps the most gratifying part of it, was that there were a LOT of people who actually wanted to watch this stuff we were making.
There were many reasons for my hatred. The quality was terrible. The commenters were idiots. The interface was ugly. And particularly insulting to me: we didn’t get very many views.Â For all of these reasons, I spent very little time optimizing our YouTube videos and at the end of the first season we decided to ignore it altogether and just use it as one of our many upload destinations.
But during our summer break between season 1 and 2, I started to look at YouTube a little differently. Slowly but surely our videos had started to gain some traction and the comments were actually improving. Instead of just dropping by and writing “NICE TITZ” we started to get some very helpful feedback and questions from people genuinely interested in how to make the recipes in the videos. Even better, we started getting a lot...
One of the highlights of 2011 was being selected as one of the winners of the YouTube Next Chef program.
The Next Chef program evolved out of YouTube’s NextUp Program. Basically, the idea is to cultivate the next wave of up and coming talent on YouTube. The original program was not focused on a specific content niche. The second wave focused on cooking and fitness. The goal of the program is to help content creators take things to the “next” level and ultimately make a full-time living via YouTube.
As part of the program, winners received $5,000 worth of gear, training sessions conducted via Google Hangout and $10,000 in YouTube advertising.
Since I am a geek, I was most excited about the new gear. We shot for a year and a half on very low-end gear. It was an intentional decision to work with what we had and it worked for us for almost 100 episodes.
But, I was starting to get a little restless. After hanging out with some shooters for the Food Network...
We recently hit two important milestones with Hilah Cooking.
#1. We released Learn to Cook – our first digital book.
#2. We released our 100th episode. We’ve produced a new episode pretty much every Tuesday (except during our summer vacation).
With these two milestones, we’ve completed Phase one of our initial plan.
Yes, there has actually been a plan all along.
When we decided to start this project, I felt like we needed at least 100 episodes to decide whether or not the project had serious potential. I knew it would start out as something that was just fun to do on weekends – but would eventually start to feel like a lot of hard work. So I was committed to produce and release 100 episodes no matter what – and after that, we would step back, evaluate whether it was working or not and either stop doing it or figure out how to proceed.
While most of the feedback we've received about Hilah...
We spent the New Years holiday on the beach at Port Aransas.
This was my first visit to the “Texas Riviera” and even though the weather was cool and mostly overcast, it did not disappoint. It may sound like a strange choice for a vacation destination, but we needed to get the hell out of town. We found a great condo with a kitchen right on the beach. And it was dog-friendly so we didn’t have to leave Daisy at home.
It was a very low-key few days – a rarity for us. We spent most of the time like total nerds – writing screenplays on the deck while drinking margaritas. We ate a lot of seafood and made a wicked beach fire, but spent New Year's Eve itself watching TV with the dog. In fact, this is the first New Years Day I can remember that I wasn’t totally hung over. It was actually pretty awesome.
For me the trip was a complete mental “re-boot.”
2011 was a roller-coaster of a year filled with lots of emotional highs and lows, a...
We launched Hilah Cooking about a year and a half ago and we’re still going strong. In fact, we’re going stronger than ever. I thought this seemed like as good a time as any to update everybody on our progress and share a few more audience building tips that we’ve learned along the way.
When I wrote the first post in this series – we had about 400 YouTube subscribers, 1,000 Facebook fans and were happy anytime an episode hit 100 views in the first 24 hours. As I write this almost a year later, we are about to hit 4,000 subscribers, we have over 2,300 Facebook fans and reliably exceed 1,000 views in the first 24 hours. Our website traffic has tripled and subscriptions to our email newsletter have exploded.
These numbers might not blow your mind – but I am extremely proud of them. We started this show from ground zero – with little more than a second-hand camera, an ancient iMac and a used shower curtain. We also had no idea what...