Vlogger Anna Whitehouse, 34, from Mother Pukka finds making money from YouTube isn’t just for teenagers.
Google the word vlogger and it comes up with all kinds of channels like the aptly-named Internet Killed Television, Sprinkle of Glitter and, of course, Zoella – that multi-million pound empire.
With brash memes, garish graphics and what seemed like total self-absorption at its core, I never really wanted anything to do with this world of vlogging (or flogging as my husband renamed it – routinely forcing your face on the world). Throw me a good novel and let’s leave all that to the kids.
Well, here I am nine months after setting up my YouTube channel eating my words. In my 10 years of working as a journalist, words were at the core of everything I’ve done. It was all about engaging readers with captivating headlines and witty intros, yet nine months ago I decided to turn that into blathering on camera to strangers.
The reason? After setting up my blog, Mother Pukka, a social talent agency called FlipSide – they represent clients ranging from 18 to 38 – asked if I’d consider doing videos. There was an abundance of twenty-somethings banking the cash through brand deals on YouTube but none making a mark in ‘my category’. In TV terms it was like being in Simon’s X Factor group – the plus 25s.
“Vloggers are far more relatable and accessible than traditional celebrities,” says Fleur Brooklin Smith, co-founder of FlipSide, which was set up with her business partner Mike Cook in 2014 and represents everyone from Dan + Phil (15m YouTube followers) to Emma Pickles (600,000 followers).
“People watch vloggers and feel good about themselves, rather than feeling like there's this celebrity party that they're not invited to – but the late 20-somethings didn’t grow up with YouTube so they’re not as represented in this fast-growing space.”
The first vlog I did was called ‘How not to scare people with your face’ and it was basically about slapping make-up on in under two minutes. Within an hour it had 1,450 views (I had only 125 followers on Facebook), comments streaming and all the positive emoticons the Internet could muster.
For all the words I’d written on the blog, my ramblings to camera fast took over. So far the most popular video was The Great British Fake-Off where I parodied Mary Berry by pimping a shop-bought cake.
“I look for a genuine knowledge and interest in what they're doing, a great sense of how to communicate on screen, personal drive and an ability to take their work incredibly seriously, but still have fun - it's entertainment after all,” says Fleur, whose background is in TV talent, having worked on T4, iTunes Festival, the BRIT Awards, to name a few.
Within three months of being on FlipSide’s books, I got booked by Avon to front their next TV campaign, which ran in October – I made more in one day than I’d make in a week as a journalist. Alongside two other vloggers (Helen Anderson and LoveLaughAndMakeup), we simply tried out their products on camera and gave our honest response.
“Brands are realising that vloggers offer self-deprecation and advice, rather than unattainable beauty and wealth that we see so much on TV,” adds Fleur. “A woman is far more likely to buy a product if she connects with the person on camera rather than thinking, ‘I’m never going to look like that.’”
Since Avon, I’ve worked with brands ranging from Citroen and Hewlett Packard to leading women’s glossies, who realise there’s a market for more honest, real content in the fashion world. Then there’s YouTube advertising – as your channel grows you can command more and more, providing a steady chain of income alongside all the brand deals.
“It’s not something that everyone can do, though,” says Fleur. “Anyone can watch a two-minute video that lands in their inbox and then get on with their day, but if you want people to come back to you time and again, you have to be engaging. People need to want to know what you're going to say next.”
In the 37 videos I’ve done so far, the key is also in consistency. I always post my vlogs once a week on a Tuesday and I use the same ‘jump cut’ (jumping from one scene to the next for comedic effect) style of editing. My whole focus is light entertainment and taking the seriousness out of parenting - my tagline is ‘for people who happen to be parents’ - so it’s about picking a lane and going with it.
“Have something to say,” advises Fleur. “That sounds obvious but you'd be surprised how many people don't plan what their video is going to be about. Structure it, shoot it and then edit it within an inch of its life. Finally, take a deep breath and read your comments, but don't engage with the nasty ones.”
I did get a troll telling me I was a terrible alcoholic mother and that my kid’s hair was shit. It’s like anything, you’ve got to take the rough with the smooth.
But, luckily as someone in Simon’s X Factor category, I’ve got the life experience to realise those comments really don’t matter.
How to become a vlogger: five top tips
1. Be aware of your setting: The amount of videos I've seen with dirty laundry hanging up or a naked husband wandering past in the background is amazing. (And often entertaining, but not quite what we're going for).
2. Have something to say: Think about it, script it and stick to it. Then edit it until you have taken out all the white noise and it makes someone who is fresh to it – brother, mother, boyfriend – laugh, smile or want to watch more.
3. Stay consistent: Your audience and followers need to know what they’re coming back for.
4. Look into the camera: It’s an obvious one but so many people stare at a spot on the wall and it immediately loses audience attention.
5. Keep going: Just because one video didn’t do as well as another doesn’t mean anything. Just stick to your point, make your point and the relevant brands will find you.