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The Modest Man

‘‘ The point is, the platform [Youtube] itself isn’t a business, at least not your business. ’’

By Brock McGoffOctober 5, 2017

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Hi Brock, can you briefly describe your YouTube channel (The Modest Man) to new viewers?

I produce in-depth men’s style and grooming advice with a special emphasis on the shorter body type. I’ve recently started branching out into lifestyle and business advice, but the main focus is style/fashion.

[Daniel: Brock curates content for a focused group – men under 5’8″]

What was your professional background? Why did you quit the 9-5 and decide to go full-time as a content creator?

My last “day job” was in the digital marketing department of a large non-profit organization in Washington, DC. I was a web producer and SEO specialist, so there was definitely some overlap with my side hustle.

I ran The Modest Man on the side (evenings and weekends) for about four years before leaving the 9-to-5 for good.

I had a loose monthly revenue number in mind (around $4k/month) that I wanted to hit before jumping ship. Once I hit that, I left the job, and things have grown more quickly ever since.

When you decided to go full-time, how did you support yourself financially in the first year?

I actually quit my day job twice before, but I didn’t have enough revenue to live comfortably. I relied heavily on freelance marketing work during these times. When I finally quit for good (third time’s a charm!), I had just moved to a much cheaper city and rented out my condo. So that alleviated some of the financial pressure. Also, once I went full-time, I was able to double monthly revenue pretty quickly.

In a Reddit post, you posted a comment that content creators should not focus on “making it as a YouTuber”. Can you elaborate?

I don’t really know what a “YouTuber” is, actually. YouTube is just one of many platforms on which creative people can publish their own content. It’s a great platform right now, and that’s probably not changing any time soon.

But you can start a website, social media channel, whatever.

The point is, the platform itself isn’t a business, at least not your business.

It’s so hard to make a full-time living from YouTube ads alone because they (Google) have to get paid first.

I think of myself as a small digital media company that uses different platforms for publishing content. It’s my job as the business owner and primary content creator to figure out how to monetize that content/audience. I would never rely on one source of income (i.e., Google AdSense). It’s risky, plus why just have one stream?

I’m not saying you can’t or shouldn’t try to be a full-time content creator, or a self-employed person who makes videos. But the label “YouTuber” doesn’t really make sense to me. If YT went offline tomorrow, would you still be able to make a living?

[Daniel: Many new YouTubers – including myself – overlook this important point! I want to reiterate Brock’s advice to think of your YouTube channel as a digital media company – that is using YouTube as one publishing platform. Don’t expect to (ever) generate reliable income from YouTube (Google Adsense). Find smarter ways to monetize your content.]

On your blog, you share a quarterly income report about the Modest Man. In the last quarter, how much revenue impact did your YouTube channel have?

TMM-Quarterly-Revenue-2017

YouTube ad revenue isn’t a big piece of the pie – maybe $500 a month. But what I’ve noticed over the past year is that sponsors really want video content.

Many want video over articles or social media, but most want the whole package (article, video, social, email).

This is great because the whole package is the most valuable, and therefore the most expensive product I offer right now. I recommend having a website and YouTube channel, so you can repurpose your content on both platforms.

The biggest revenue category in your report is “Ads”. What sub-categories are included in Ads?

Ads include banner ads, both direct (sold by me) and indirect (bought via ad networks like AdThrive), and sponsorship (sponsored content). Detailed figures below.

Ad-Revenue-TheModestMan

Banner ads don’t seem to be going anywhere, but sponsored content is much more expensive. It’s just way more effective than banner ads, so it’s a bigger revenue stream.

How many subscribers (YouTube) or visitors (blog) did you have when companies started to respond to your inquiries for ad sales/sponsorships?

Brands started to offer free samples when the blog was getting around 10k visits per month. At around 50k, I started getting offers to buy ads.

Somewhere around 100k, I was basically inundated with emails from PR companies, brands, marketing reps, etc. Today, I have a manager that helps navigate these opportunities and negotiate rates.

This is awesome because it lets me focus on the content, rather than the logistics and money. But you don’t need a ton of traffic to start monetizing. It’s more about getting the right fit for your audience, lots of engagement and good ROI.

Which affiliate networks do you use? How does the volume and conversion rates compare between YouTube and the blog? Do you have any #protips?

All of the big ones: Amazon, rStyle, Skimlinks, ShareaSale, etc. I actually don’t know how the website compares to YT in terms of conversion. I think the way to drive affiliate revenue is to really help people make purchasing decisions.

For example, if you Google “best no show socks” or “watches for small wrists” you might find one of my articles. They’re in-depth, not just listicles with a bunch of Amazon links. But they’re also catching the attention of people who are going to buy something. They just want to make sure they’re buying the right thing, and I think they’re happy to let me earn a commission if I can help them avoid wasting money.

Can you explain what is included in the “products” category?

ProductsReview-TheModestMan-Q22017-FINAL

Right now, I sell a digital guide called The Modest Man Style Guide. It’s an e-book about dressing well as a shorter man. It sells a few copies a week consistently.

The-Modest-Man-Guide-Package1 The-Modest-Man-Guide-Package2 The-Modest-Man-Guide-Package3

What does your monthly expenses look like?

Between $2-5k per month, depending on the month. Normal operating expenses looks something like this for one month.

Some months have bigger expenses like airfare, hotel rooms, new hardware or camera gear.

Do you have any resources that you would recommend for aspiring full-time content creators?

To get inspired, check out The 4-Hour Work Week or Millionnaire Fastlane. To get motivated, I recommend Steal Like An Artist and The War of Art.

For tactical advice, there are lots of great blogs and YouTube channels like Smart Passive Income, Fat Stacks Entrepreneur and so many more.

But honestly, be careful not to spend too much time researching and planning. Just start doing. Remember that most of the “business” blogs haven’t actually made money outside of the “make money online” niche, and they’re just trying to get affiliate commissions off you from Bluehost, etc.

In a given day, always try to PRODUCE more than you CONSUME.

Finally, what’s next for you (and The Modest Man)?

The Modest Man YouHackers Interview

I think about this a lot…it’s tough to pick a direction. Some ideas that are floating around right now are physical products (e.g., a clothing line), building a team (more creators, employees) and branching out into different topics (travel, fitness).

Gear Info

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Connect with creator

Channel growth

4K

Subs/month

61K

Total subs

3M

Total views

1.8

Sub rate

Time spent per video

1 hr

Planning

2 hrs

Filming

3 hrs

Editing

2 hrs

Marketing

6 comments

  • cynthiajoines

    I love how focused your niche is. Forwarded this a few of my “modest” friends 😉

  • juliantrends22

    Thanks Brock. Been running a fashion blog for 5 years as well. It’s been struggle lately to get brands to buy the larger spots on my site. After reading your interview, I am considering a Youtube channel. Be a good extra channel to sweeten the pot.

  • Risto Raisanen72

    Could not agree more. Especially with the statement about seeing oneself as a “digital media company” rather than as 
“a Youtuber”. Youtube should be viewed as a distribution channel not a business itself! I put out 3 years of free Youtube videos, making cents from AdCents. I started to turn this around 6 months ago, when I created a workout package and offered this to my fans. #SubcountIsNotTheGoal

    • brock

      So true, especially with subscriber count. It’s such a vanity metric. Views are all that matters on YT, and like you said, you better have your own methods for monetizing those views, because for most content creators, AdSense is not going to pay the bills.

  • James Noir

    Thanks for sharing so much detail Brock! Taking notes here ✏️ What is the advantage of an ad network like AdThrive over Google AdSense? Do they have their own ad inventory?

    • brock

      Very welcome! AdThrive (or similar companies) sell inventory directly to advertisers (vs. using a real-time bidding platform like AdSense). I actually use both, though. Any unsold inventory (ad space) on my site is automatically filled with AdSense ad units (AdThrive handles this). RPMs are MUCH higher when you use a company like AdThrive. In general, I’d AdSense is kind of “bottom of the barrel” in terms of monetizing banner ad inventory.