From Professional to Square One

I’m in charge. That’s… terrifying.

I created professional video content for about 12 years. That doesn’t mean I’m any good at it, but it does mean I’m comfortable with it. This year, 2022, I’ve decided to get back into making video, but with a twist: I’m doing it on YouTube.

Certainly over a decade producing hundreds (maybe thousands) of hours of video would mean I’d CRUSH things on YouTube, right? Well… not so much. But also, yes. Sorta. But not really. (I also wrote professionally for a while, this paragraph is not proof of that, lol) There are some things that have been easier for me as I venture into this new platform, and some things that are much, much more difficult. Let’s start with the good things. There are fewer of them.

GOOD THING: Comfort on Camera

I’m pretty comfortable on camera. I’m also pretty comfortable on stage. For someone who is an introvert to a crippling degree, it seems odd that I’m comfortable “in front”, but if you’re an introvert, you might understand. There’s something about being the person in the spotlight that makes the awkward shyness sorta melt away. In a crowd of people, I’m a wreck, but when people are supposed to be looking at me it’s somehow freeing. Or maybe I’m just a weirdo, I dunno. Nonetheless, many YouTubers struggle being on camera. That’s a huge advantage I have.

GOOD THING: Modest Start Already

When 2022 started, I had about 1600 YouTube subscribers. I’m no where close to being “monetized”, but those first subscribers are the most difficult to find. YouTube doesn’t give anything away for free, so you have to prove yourself worthy of views. Having 1000 subscribers seems to be some sort of entry level point where YouTube takes you a little bit more seriously. Now… those 1600 subscribers were slowly added over 13 years, and very few are active. Even fewer are interested in me as the content creator I am now. Most are here from the days of Linux Journal, or from a semi-viral video I had 12 years ago about breaking into my van. (really)

As I’ve been adding regular content in 2022, I’ve lost a TON of subscribers. I’ve gained some too, and the net change has been positive, but people have been unsubscribing to my channel about half as often as people are subscribing. Two steps forward, one step back. But my videos are getting 50 or so views after a couple days, and that’s a HUGE amount compared to folks starting from zero subscribers. So having a semi-active YouTube channel to start from has been a boon.

BAD THING: I’m Alone

When I made videos professionally, all I had to worry about was making videos. Every other aspect of the process was done by other folks. Marketing, publishing, selling, reviewing… all those things are up to me now. And YouTube is VERY competitive. Guess how many video thumbnails I created before starting on this adventure? None. (OK, a few, but that was back when I was still making professional videos and was instructed to put some content on YouTube as an advertisement, long story…)

Not only are all the aspects of being a creator, publisher, marketer, etc. on my shoulders, but guess what I’m not good at? All those things. So while most folks have to focus on creating their content above all else, the other stuff has been quite a challenge for me.

BAD THING: I Have a Lot of Experience

Or, more properly phrased, “I have a lot of bad habits, or outdated methods.” Don’t get me wrong, part of my “style” is just the way I am, and what makes people love me or hate me. But when it comes to the competitive world of YouTube content, my old tried and true methods aren’t what people want to see. The danger here is two-fold. On one hand, people might see me as boring and outdated with my simple jump cut editing, and headshot/slide/demo video methods of presenting info. But possibly even more dangerous is that I feel compelled to try to BE new and fresh and exciting.

For example, today, I’m going to attempt to shoot a silly intro for a video on user creation in Linux. It’s going to be me “creating” a user (myself) on the couch next to me. I’m pretty sure I can pull it off, but it’s going to take quite a bit of time to set up and edit properly. Will it be worth it? Even if it engages people more, is that what I want to do forever? Keep coming up with fancy video tricks to lure people into my content? I don’t know. It’s a weird combination of having tons of experience and being less-than-fresh in how I do things.

BAD THING: I’m Not Really a Niche Guy

To be successful on YouTube, at least at the start, conventional wisdom is to have a very narrow niche, and stick to it. Sure, once someone is very well known, they can expand a bit and the community they’ve grown will be more interested in the person than the niche, but at first, it’s important to focus on a very narrow aspect of what you love. For me, that’s IT training, with a focus on Linux and Open Source.

But that’s such a very small part of who I am. Even IT training only appeals to me because I want to help other people find their joy in life. Getting a better career, using tools that are free to learn with and free to utilize is a great path, but it’s only that — a tool on the path. I’m also interested in self-improvement, understanding happiness, conquering mental illness (which I know all too well, first hand), and countless other things that make me the whole human being I am. But if I want the freedom to chase those things, and a content creator is what I want to be — at least for now, being narrow is the path. And it kinda sucks.

BAD THING: I’m Old (but it’s not the age that is bad…)

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think I’m too old for this. Not at all. I have tons of energy and excitement left to share. I don’t ever want to “retire”, and if you know me, I doubt the first thing you think about me is how old and out of touch I see. (I hope not anyway!) No, the reason that me being old is a “bad” thing, is that I’m just starting on this journey, but I have a lot of baggage. Mainly financial baggage. I have lots of bills, lots of debt, and very little past wisdom to lean on. So everything I’m doing now is in addition to a DayJob.

Yes yes, I’m blessed to HAVE that day job. I truly am. But the notion of going “all in” on a content creation career right now is just not feasible. Too many people are depending on me, and even if things go REALLY well, that doesn’t mean it’s financially viable for a long time. I’m OK with that, but it does limit some of the things I might do. I’m not complaining, or at least I don’t mean to. It’s just a case of starting at the 30 yard line doesn’t mean I’m closer to the goal than someone further back carrying less baggage. (That’s about the best I can do for a sports metaphor, lol)

BAD THING: I’m Soft

I don’t take criticism well. Not because I think I’m perfect, in fact, quite the opposite. Any time someone points out something I’ve done less-than-ideal, it solidifies in my head that I’m indeed a worthless failure. Please note, this a personal failing on my part. I should be able to take criticism, because I’m a grown man and should understand my value outside the things I create, good or bad. But knowing that truth and living it are different. And I’m not even talking about trolls. No, I mean criticism presented in a nice way. The depth of my self-loathing is staggering.

The irony is, criticism is VITAL to anyone who wants to improve and succeed. I know this intellectually. Yet, it’s a constant struggle that I expect will only get better the more I have to push through it. When I was a “professional” content creator, I was shielded from most criticism because there were so many layers between me and the people consuming my content. The only self-advice I have here is that I need to continue to be as genuine as I can be, and not seek out only the bad stuff. Building a community of people who you can trust with both your failures and successes is important, and so that’s what I hope to do.

BAD THING: I Hate Self Promotion

Remember that bit about me being the marketing department? Yeah… I really feel like a douchebag when I promote my own stuff. It feels icky. I even think it’s a good, worthwhile thing to promote… but for some reason when I promote it myself, it feels wrong. I’m just gonna have to get over it though, because if I don’t promote myself, no one will. So if I ever DO seem like a douchebag, please let me know. Gently. 🙂

Ending with a Bookmark:

When I started this post, I had 1827 subscribers on YouTube. I just checked, and I currently have 1822. Ouch. But it’s all part of the process, and I’m OK with it. Still… 5 people clicking unsubscribe in the past hour is harsh. 🙂

When I look back at this post in 2023, hopefully it will seem as a nostalgic look back at the beginnings of what was to become a thriving community of people who want to make the world a better place. That’s ultimately my goal, to change the world. Right now, I’m gathering like-minded folks, one human at a time. Feel free to join me… https://youtube.com/shawnp0wers

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