Tell us a bit about yourself, what’s your background?
I live in Yorkshire in the UK - I am 58, married and have three children (two now grown up and doing their own thing). I have a tech background and originally worked in telecoms from leaving school (no University for me although I do have an Honorary Doctorate to compensate) for ten years and then left to ‘open a shop’ which was the start of 100+ shops 25 years in retail, building two national retail chains (The Gadget Shop and RED5) and various other related businesses in product development and sourcing. I am now part of a tech start-up and we have a software tool to enable organisations to measure happiness in people and teams
Why did you set up a YouTube channel? What motivated you to get started?
As for the motivation against a background of businesses - I have built and scaled several businesses over the years with many hundreds of employees, and two of these businesses were identified in the Top 100 fastest growing Companies in Britain, so I am very used to fast scaling businesses and building teams. YouTube for me is the opposite of this - no people to manage, no one to be accountable to, no investors to please, no business plans to follow, no costs to service, no targets to meet (unless I choose them) and I really like this change of scenery.
And where did it all start - well, I had an early delivery of a Landrover Defender new model in 2020 and I knew people would be interested in what it was like, so I did a short video review on my phone and just posted it on YouTube. I knew nothing about YouTube and it got views quite quickly (20k+) and the comments mentioned how they found my approach differs in that I was covering not just the ‘what’ but the ‘why’.
This got me thinking about starting a review channel - but my expertise was in gadgets not cars - I sat on this for another 6 months and then for Christmas 2020 I got a DJI Pocket camera (basic video camera on a gimbal but very small) and that was the start of it. The Jon Gadget Youtube channel launched in January 2021 with zero subs and views.
Tell us about your journey on the platform so far.
I have a small office at home, and in January 2021 we were in covid lockdown in the UK, and that gave me the time needed to get going on YouTube so I purchased a few lights for the office and consumed loads of content on starting a YT channel and then recorded my first review - a Bellroy backpack I had recently purchased.
I had some unfair advantages. 30 years in product sourcing, review, selection and development in my gadget niche. A passion for products. Used to public speaking. Knowledge of photography. Some video editing experience. Avid YT content consumer.
Like most people starting out, when the first video was published I was glued to YT Studio (and still am!) and got excited to see any views and subscribers joining and I have put out a video on average every week since.
Growth has been good I think (there are lots of people growing faster but also lots not growing as fast). I reached monetisation in 4 months (1000 subs and 4000hrs) with 15 videos, and 2000 subs came a month later and 5000 a month after that. It then took 4 more months to get to 10k subs in Nov 2021. In that same month, I reached 1,000,000 views and I also put out my 50th video.
Then, very excitingly I had a video blow up on YT. It was I believe totally random, perhaps YT sharing to a wider group to reward consistency, it’s hard to tell. The video wasn’t special as far as I could see. It took off about two weeks after it was published and the rapid growth took place over two weeks after which my subscriber count had doubled to 20k and the video had been viewed 750,000 times. Then it went right back to performing as usual. Growth is now steady again across the channel except for the fact I have twice as many subscribers than before the video took off.
What’s been key to your growth?
Consistency must be a factor - keep going! I am a big believer in production quality. I always have two cameras recording and then create b-roll and gather other supporting images and assets. This can really complicate the edit but I think it is worth it. I research in depth and then script and then I might have to wander out into the woods on a freezing night to film a flashlight in action. All of this takes time and effort but I really believe the audience picks up on this and it brings them back to watch more.
I also, up until recently, responded to every comment - usually with a comment - this is getting harder now and so it depends on what else is going on in my day job and the channel - but I try. We know engagement is picked up by YouTube so this will no doubt help with growth too. I have also spent time getting my branding right and consistent across the channel which adds a layer of professionalism, and for a review channel helps with credibility.
What are the key insights you’ve discovered since starting?
I have learned so much over this last year (I am writing this is exactly a year since my first video). It is important to remember that growth is not linear and more ‘hockey stick’ if things are working, so don’t fret about the future based on current stats.
Thumbnails are super-important for getting people to click so make them enticing in some way - it took me forever to realise this. The Title is also super-important to ensure it finds the right audience and can be found in search.
How did you secure your first sponsorship deal?
I have only had one which came from a simple email request. Someone had seen the channel and liked the content. The product very much fitted with my Everyday Carry content so it was quite easy to include. It was hard to know what to charge, so based on a rough estimate of $30 per 1000 views (not sure over what period but guessed around a month seemed reasonable) I charged $300 - I still don’t know if that is the right number or not. The video hit 12k views in the first month so that seems OK.
Have you experienced any secondary effects from starting your channel?
I am getting approached all the time now to review products which is great, and I find I can often reach out to a supplier to request a sample of something I want to review and they will be supportive.
I am also building good relationships with some key suppliers in my niche which builds trust, so I now get some products pre-release with embargoed release dates which is great so I can be early with a review.
What are your goals for the future? How have your goals changed?
I plan to continue to improve with each video, I learn something without fail every time, and hopefully the channel will continue to grow as a result. This is something I really enjoy doing and I am still excited by new products and new ideas every day, so having fun and earning an income from what I love doing it is a great thing to have the opportunity to do.
When I started I didn’t really have any goals. Now I just want to make the best videos possible in my niche and I believe the rest will follow.
Would you do anything differently if you were to start again?
Not really - other than I should have started sooner. I should have documented the rise and fall of The Gadget Shop and the rise of RED5 - it would have made an amazing story.
One piece of advice for YouTubers just starting out?
Make content about something you are passionate about and enjoy the journey.
Where can we go to learn more about you?
Lastly, how did PTYA help you?
Most people in my circle know nothing about content creation on YouTube and without anyone to speak to with the same shared experience it can feel like you are very much on your own. The PTYA changed all that and made the YT experience feel very ‘normal’ with everyone speaking the same language and having he same challenges and doubts and questions. So that in itself is a great thing. And these relationships outlast the course because people can stay in touch either through the PTYA platform or outside it.
Also, the amount of information and learning is epic. My original thought was that it was 2 sessions a week and plus a couple of other meet-ups. In reality, there was something happening every single day - so much so that some of the extra sessions (successful channel creators sharing insight etc.) I had to miss - which it turns out is not a problem as almost everything is recorded to watch later - even months later - so I am still going through content weeks later.
So massive amounts of knowledge and learning, questions answered, friends made, ongoing access to content, new events scheduled for alumni, and the rather strange occupation of YouTuber ’normalised’. If you’re serious about YouTube the PTYA is a catalyst to success.
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