Elisa Spigariol (AKA ‘Do You Know Ellie?’) is currently sat in the corner of one of London’s cornerstone ‘chic yet kooky’ coffee shops, a Canon G7X Mark II inhand, filming her breakfast for her army of online followers.
Born in Italy, Ellie now lives in London and splits her time between working on film sets, as a photographer and (according to her YouTube profile) being an “awkward filmmaker”, which is a modest description given that at the time of writing she has over 62,000 subscribers to her YouTube channel and another 13,500 or so on Instagram. By far and away, her most popular videos are around being an Italian in the UK, languages and her cross-cultural life, but she’s also a passionate and honest mental health vlogger.
And while vlogging (or ‘video blogging’) is big business, with the likes of early adopters Logan Paul and Jeffree Star racking up millions of subscribers and eye-watering earnings, Ellie is one of millions of online content creators who ‘mix and match’ a day job, YouTube income and brand partnerships to make a living. And with 1.8 billion visitors to YouTube every day, there’s a lot of potential audience to reach. But how did Ellie get to a point where part of her job involves eating breakfast on camera?
VCCP is a global advertising agency with expertise in creating ‘content, experiences and ideas for the social generation’ and their Influencer Manager, Jack Stoten believes that vlogging success is the final step on a long journey. “If you’re in it for the money, then it takes a while”, he explains. “The majority of vloggers are still in a full-time job because it’s a risk – full-time is basically being freelance, so you have to be very, very sure that you can make it work.”
It pays to take as much time planning your approach as thinking about the kit you need to make it happen
Plan, plan and plan some more
By ‘making it work’, Jack means that you have to decide very early on what you want out of the vlogging life. There are many different reasons to become a vlogger or content creator, so it makes real sense to have an idea of how you see it panning out for you. Perhaps you have a passion and vlogging is the perfect way to share that love with a like-minded community. Or you have a career ambition and a vlog is a channel to demonstrate your skill. Maybe you just dream of being a YouTube star – whatever your aim, it pays to take as much time planning your approach as thinking about the kit you need to make it happen. What’s your idea of success? Is it a huge audience? Making money? Being the ‘voice’ of your subject? Or something else entirely?
The answers to these questions will set the frequency of your vlogs and it’s important to do this early. There’s a certain level of discipline and commitment required to deliver regularly to your audience, so it’s down to you to make sure that you can keep up. “The audience are capable of consuming so much content and you are only capable of creating so much,” says Jack. “There’s pressure on vloggers to make content on schedule and keep putting out new and different stuff to cut through what’s already out there. And that pressure is very real.”
Show me the money
Whatever your reasons, it’s the absolute dream to be able to do it for a living. And while it takes work, it's certainly not outside of the realms of possibility. “I think the concern of smaller vloggers, and rightly so, is to grow their audience to the point where there’s security in it,” says Jack. “But the opportunity to commercialise their work is definitely there. It just depends on what content they make.”
If living the vlogging life is your goal, then there’s a case for producing daily vlogs and building your audience around that frequency. Jack describes this as the ‘run and gun’ approach, as daily vloggers tend to be camera-ready all the time, with a pocketful of memory cards, a mini tripod and prepared to put on their game face at any time. Depending on the kind of content you make and by meeting the expectations of your audience, you’ll likely see loyalty and views grow in tandem. This is where you might gain some level of celebrity – and possibly money.
A lot is said in the press about the amount of money YouTubers make through their channels, but in reality, CPM (cost per thousand views) fluctuates and unless you’re hitting the millions, it’s not going to be your primary income. Brand partnerships, (where you work with a company or companies) have a lot more scope. “In a brand partnership [a vlogger] could reasonably earn more than they ever would via YouTube”.
Are you a big fish in a small pond?
Standing out to brands is all in the numbers. While you’re growing your audience, you might think that you have a fairly low appeal, but it all depends on the size of the brand’s target. Jack explains, “if the audience [that the brand wants to reach] is 100,000 and 20,000 subscribe to your YouTube Channel, you’re hugely valuable.” Cutting a deal with the right brand as an ambassador can be a win-win situation, where the they reach their target audience and you gain income and credibility.
Vlogging for good
To be able to speak to such a large amount of people, almost regardless of who you are, gives you the means to find people who are interested in the same thing as you and, like Ellie, it can give you the power to drive positive change. YouTube’s ‘Creators for Change’ project, launched in 2016 amplifies creators who are tackling social issues with their channels and aims to demonstrate the incredible power of the platform to do good.
For Ellie, her priorities are passion and perspective. “Create your own niche and people that are into it will come straight to you. I think about something I want to talk about and it’s like a creative need to share it. So, my advice would be to make a video about whatever you're passionate about.”
Ultimately, vlogging is about belief. Belief in yourself or belief in the value of your subject. It can be about sharing, promoting, exploring, entertaining or educating. Being really passionate about what you’re saying and sharing it – and knowing that there’s an audience out there for you – is really exciting. And who knows, it could open up a whole new lifestyle, community, or even career.