31 Aug 2019 19:04 IST

The art of becoming a YouTube solopreneur

YouTube cooking grandpa

It is one of the most lucrative jobs if an individual knows to read the digital terrain

The conservative mindset of being an entrepreneur is not the same any more, for there have emerged a number of newly mushroomed professions. And being a YouTube solopreneur is one of those 21st century professions that can get lucrative only if an interested individual reads the digital terrain correctly.

The new breed of YouTube solopreneurs are not constrained by the mandatory requisites of a conventional business, such as investments, office space and employee strength. The only investment these successful producers make is on a smartphone or a laptop. An exciting hobby or a skill, and a dose of persistence and hope, is all it needs.

Interestingly, most of these people have done it by sharing and not selling. In doing so, they have made themselves a personal brand readily reachable to millions of followers.

Arumugam, of Village Food Factory (VFF), is a success story from small-town India. Around four years ago, 61-year-old Arumugam was an elderly person, living in a rented house in Tiruppur, Tamil Nadu. But today, his net worth is reportedly ₹1.4 crore, with a steady YouTube revenue stream supported by 3.5 million subscribers and growing. He is even said to own a house and a car. And all these material gains have come from his passion for dishing up such popular local fare as country chicken fry, chilli bajji and even exotic dishes like shark puttu or lobster fry! Videos showing him cooking these delicacies near the open fields, in huge vessels on an firewood stove, have become hugely popular, many of them notching up over a million views.

Direct revenue model

A YouTube producer can profit monetarily in two ways — direct revenue model and influencer model.

The majority of YouTubers such as Arumugam earn significant amounts through the direct model. Under this, a successful YouTuber posts a video. And YouTube places third-party advertisements, interspersed at regular intervals throughout the video. YouTube pays in two components. For every 10,000 views, the YouTuber gets $3-10 (depending on the quality of engagement) from YouTube. And for the second component, 45 per cent of advertisement revenue is shared with the producer.

The more interesting the content shared, the more money the creator generates. But it does take a lot of time and consistency to achieve numbers in millions, be it in terms of subscribers, viewers or revenue. For VFF’s Arumugam, it took a year and a half to become as famous as he is today.

Influencer Model

Under the influencer model, a YouTuber acts as an opinion creator/micro-influencer to his/her audience. The influencer offers his/her insights and comments on a specific profession, product, brands and hobbies. There are many influencers in the field of fitness, food, travel, beauty and healthcare. Some of the them also endorse specific products or brands.

As YouTubers command a greater personal connect with their followers, their opinions resonate well. Mainstream brands have been quick to notice this trend as many have already slotted influencer marketing as a part of their overall marketing strategy.

A YouTuber who is also an influencer is often the go-to approach for smaller, local brands that crave media attention and want to target a niche audience but lack a lavish media budget.

For instance, a gym, looking to gain visibility within a particular target group, segmented by demographic parameters can now place YouTube ads for that particular group. Thanks to Google’s grasp on using data analytics to better target YouTube ads, the advertisement for this gym will only show up in that particular township and surrounding localities.

Creativity, determination

With the advent of these new revenue models, becoming a solopreneur is more a factor of individual creativity and determination. Subject matter experts in any given industry can become YouTube solopreneurs, either to promote their own business, or to act as micro-influencers, or both. The demand from the public for presumably unbiased opinion is high (as seen from trends in search volumes on any given subject) and people flock to YouTube for the same. Anyone who is shrewd enough to capitalise on this need using relevant content has a high potential for success.

Even a recent Tamil comedy film, Comali, has reiterated the same idea, where the protagonist is saved, right at the climax, with a cheque for ₹5 lakh from YouTube — sounds surprisingly filmy but, fortunately, such a turn of events is quite possible!

(The writer is a student at Xavier Institute of Management and Entrepreneurship, Chennai.)