Thursday 8 December 2016

The Irish YouTubers who have made the big time

For the majority, YouTube and blogging is a pastime. However, by combining hard work and passion with a business mind, a select few have managed to forge themselves successful careers online

Fiona McBennett

Published 31/05/2015 | 02:30

SMALL SCREEN HITS: Suzanne Jackson
SMALL SCREEN HITS: Suzanne Jackson
Riyadh Khalaf
Sinead Cady

With more than one billion users and 300 hours of video uploaded every minute, video sharing website YouTube continues to be one of the world's most popular and influential online forums.

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Developed in California in 2005 by three former PayPal employees, YouTube was bought in 2006 by Google for $US1.65bn and it was reported that the site generated $5.9bn in revenue last year.

While YouTube continues to grow and prosper, it has also been the launching pad for many careers - perhaps most famously, pop star Justin Bieber.

While the majority of blogs (written content posted online) and YouTube videos serve as hobbies, there are some for whom they have become a lucrative full-time career.

By featuring advertisements on their blog or channel, or signing up to a 'partnership' with YouTube, creators can generate an income that is dependent on the amount of subscribers they have, the amount of views their posts get and the amount of content they produce.

However, at a time when everyone appears to be looking for online fame, success is hard to come by and standing out from the millions of other hopefuls takes a savvy business mind to achieve.

Suzanne Jackson, creator of the beauty and lifestyle website So Sue Me.ie, is one of Ireland's biggest blogging success stories. The 30-year-old started her website in 2010, having been made redundant from her job in human resources.

Jackson had originally trained and worked as a beautician for four years, so once she secured a job as a part-time receptionist, she decided to put her spare time and beauty knowledge to good use.

"I didn't really know what to do when I was made redundant. I couldn't go back to beauty because, at the time, all the beauticians were closing down. I had all this beauty, fashion experience and business knowledge, so I decided to start a blog and see where it took me. I didn't have a clue if it would be a success," she says.

Since then, the Dubliner has established herself as one of Ireland's leading beauty and fashion bloggers and is the author of two books. As well as regularly posting make-up tutorials on YouTube, Jackson recently launched her own 'SoSu' nail polish collection and is currently working on developing a lipstick range.

While she says that a business mind is needed to make a blog a success, Jackson admits to having no specific plan when she started out.

"People always ask me if I had some big business plan but I didn't at all, everything happened organically. I am very much an optimist and I am always thinking big, so I did think about what would happen if it went well."

"You can't be afraid to take risks in this business. I have made lots of mistakes and learnt a lot of lessons to get where I am now."

While aspiring bloggers and vloggers might have the impression that the job is all glamour and fun, Jackson says that like any other career, it requires a lot of hard work.

"There is definitely a stressful side to the job. I have my accounts to do and a team of people that I have to liaise with every day. I am always going to meetings and I get booked in for a lot of public appearances, which often involves organising travel and hotels.

"I find the hardest thing is keeping myself motivated, as there are days when it can feel quite monotonous. Sometimes I miss my old job where I was in a regular routine and I had the security of someone else paying my salary, but I love what I do."

Finding success online is all down to having passion, drive and knowledge, says Jackson. However, making the move to full-time blogging takes time to achieve.

"It's not about the money for me, I have turned down thousands from companies because I wouldn't put them near my blog as I wouldn't affiliate myself with them.

"I took my time to move into doing this full time - I didn't make any rash decisions. I earn my money now from the things that the blog has allowed me to do, like public appearances, but those opportunities only come along when you have worked hard to build something for yourself."

Cork-based 26-year-old Sinead Cady, is another YouTube and blogging sensation, whose make-up advice website and YouTube channel, The MakeUp Chair.ie, has a massive loyal following of over 650,000 subscribers.

Currently writing her first beauty book, Cady originally started the blog in 2010, as part of a portfolio needed to attain a place in a make-up artistry course. She says that her success has been gradual, which has worked in her favour.

"It was three years before I could make it my full-time job and it's taken me all those years to get to where I am now which is good as I have been simmering away and never boiled over. I have no idea what sets me apart from the others but I think I got in at a good time when a lot of other successful bloggers started."

In 2011, Cady was signed up to Los Angeles-based network, Style Haul. One of the first companies to monetise make-up videos, it attracts more than 60 million viewers and generates one billion views per month.

While working with big make-up brands is many a beauty-lover's dream, Cady says that YouTubing and blogging is a non-stop job.

"A lot of dedication goes into it and a lot of hours. Even if I am not posting videos, I have still got to post a tweet or an Instagram photo; something to keep the momentum going.

"Viewers really want good quality videos and it can take up to three hours to film a five-minute video. We show the good side of YouTube in our videos, not the part about being up until 3am editing," she laughs.

YouTube and blogging as a full-time job is still a relatively new phenomenon and Cady says that she encountered some sceptics when she first started out.

"My family were really supportive of me doing this full-time but there have been people who said it's not a real job. I'm only young, so I have always felt that if it didn't work out, I could go off and do something else."

Every YouTuber dreams of one of their videos going 'viral' and spreading throughout the internet, and Dubliner James Mitchell recently had this experience after he posted a video of himself calling his granny to ask if she would vote yes in the recent marriage referendum.

"I have had 150,000 views for that video so far and I was delighted with it," says the 25-year-old. "I try not to think about the people who are going to watch my videos, I just make them because I enjoy it and it makes me happy if other people like what I do as well."

Mitchell posts weekly videos on his channel, James Mitchell TV, in which he discusses "whatever is on his mind". Although YouTube is currently a part-time job for him, he dreams of some day making it a full-time career.

"I would absolutely love to be able to do it full-time but unfortunately I am a realist, so I would never put myself in a position where I would do that unless I knew that I could really make it happen," he says.

"It's a freelance job, so the amount you earn all depends on the content you create and how it's received by viewers, as well as sponsorships you get from different companies. It can be pressurising but I don't feel it as I have a traditional job, which gives me an added sense of security."

The diversity of personalities online means that Mitchell never feels any competition or rivalry with other channels. While he hopes his channel will grow, he never wants to get too serious about it.

"I don't find YouTube competitive and I don't ever want to look at it like that either. The business side of it is something I could do more on but even if it was my full-time career, I'd never want to approach it in a serious manner. I'd probably end up disliking it for the fact that it was a job."

One YouTuber who is on his way to transitioning into a full-time career online is 24-year-old, Riyadh Khalaf. Khalaf currently balances his YouTube work with his job as a reporter for radio station Spin1038 but two recent viral videos on his channel, Riyadh K, have seen the Dubliner shoot to fame.

One of the first to produce YouTube videos back in 2007, Khalaf left the website due to homophobic abuse he received. He began making videos again in 2013 and now has over 54,000 followers.

"Once the videos went viral, the business side started," he says. "I was getting emails from brands and agencies from all over the world so I hired my manager, Julian Benson, and he has helped me a lot."

"The money you get from YouTube is very good and that's before you even include money from brand sponsorship and events that you get asked to do. You do have to be picky about the brands you work with though."

Khalaf says that while YouTube was perhaps dismissed in the past, businesses are now noticing its potential.

"There has been a bit of snobbery around YouTube but it's finally being taken seriously now. The clever companies are those who are coming to us now before things get really big. Brands can look at a YouTuber's channel statistics and target their audience much better than with a generic television advertisement."

At the moment, Khalaf is waiting for the right time to make YouTube his career but he is confident that the opportunities have never been better.

"It's really exciting time to be on YouTube. We are all self-made entrepreneurs of the digital realm. I have been involved with media around the world because of my videos and it goes to show what can happen when you put time and energy into the right thing."

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