What does it take to be a YouTuber in Sri Lanka?
By Janeeth Rodrigo
Morning folks! This week I propose we venture back to where this all started and revisit a few learnings I have come to after working with YouTubers for the past couple of years. Though I refer to them as YouTubers, this can definitely be generalised to anyone who creates original content. I have worked closely with over 200 YouTubers in Sri Lanka and although I’ve mentioning a few below, these lessons and tips were attributed to everyone I ever spoken to or mentored.
So let’s get right into it!
Here are my top four things it takes to be a YouTuber in Sri Lanka.
1. Work hard when no one is watching
Unless you are already a celebrity, I guarantee that within the first week of starting your YouTube channel and uploading your first video, you will barely hit 100 views. Most of your views will come from your own friend’s list on Facebook.
This is a major pitfall I see many talented creators fall into as they start comparing way too early. They look at other YouTubers and feel discouraged that their videos aren’t getting the same views that someone else’s in their vertical are getting. As an example I give you SL Diaries. This is a household name now, but I distinctly remember when they started out, even when they uploaded a video every day, views used to be meagre compared to the effort they put in. However, the team did not get discouraged, kept on churning videos and views and subscribers grew. Always remember your first 1,000 and 5,000 subscribers will be the hardest to get.
Embrace the fact that when you start your channel you will be re-enacting a scene from Bird Box; you largely go in blindfolded. Be prepared to fail, reassess, take criticism, and be resilient. In my series about YouTube, I have covered the topic of “Starting your YouTube Channel” and “Planning your videos”; please do read them if you haven’t as I covered some basics, so you do not feel completely blind going into content creation.
When I first met Sachini for her first mentoring session on YouTube, neither of us had a clue about the type of videos she should produce, the length, or any of the fine print. She was a successful presenter and we were about to make her a dancer, and we did. Through trial and error we learnt what the Sri Lankan audience looked for in dance videos and covers. And she shot to fame and is now the most popular Sri Lankan dance channel on YouTube.
3. Make it your passion
In my line of work where I spend hours talking to potential YouTubers, often until I taste blood, my biggest sorrow is to see them burn out, fizzle away, and stop creating. This generally happens with those who find making videos a chore.
The effort you put into a new creation is in direct correlation with how much you love doing it. If you become a creator and what you do is not your passion or hobby, you will most surely fail. Those who currently earn well and are popular never viewed it as a job or a way to make money, they merely started it as a passion project and then the rest of it followed.
Look at Travel with Wife, Sri Lanka’s most popular travel channel on YouTube. They made a channel from something they loved doing and that definitely reflects in the quality of content they churn out.
Without sounding overtly like a platonic dialogue, this is a philosophy I thoroughly believe and try to imbibe in every creator I meet.
Go through the trending list in Sri Lanka and you will feel a sense of disdain that can only be compared to the feeling I got when I read about the man who sexually abused a three-month-old puppy in Balangoda.
Cheap entertainment sells, but so do cheap condoms; both for the same reasons. I for one have always encouraged creators to use the platform to champion social change for the better, give a voice for the voiceless, and make content that is in line with their conscience. This, I have seen in experience, will reap you rewards in the long-run, rather than putting out a sexually explicit video that will get thousands of views and soon fade into oblivion.
You will have better chances of securing direct sponsorships and even in some cases, funding. For example, the Voices of Humans YouTube channel aims to do just that; break societal shackles, talk about difficult topics, fight for gender equality; all things we as a country are in dire need of.
Janeeth Rodrigo is the General Manager, Digital, of the Derana Media network. He is also the General Manager of IdeaHell, the first and only YouTube MCN and Creator Space in Sri Lanka.