In August 2018, after a little over a year of posting weekly videos to YouTube, I decided to take a break. So what have I been up to, why did I take a break and how will things be different in future?
What have I been up to?
It takes a huge amount of time to create weekly videos for YouTube. On average it takes me about 16 hours to create a 10 minute video. This breaks down as:
- Planning and preparation – 2 hours
- Filming on location – 4 hours (minimum)
- Editing – 4 hours (minimum)
- Uploading, writing titles, descriptions and tags, creating thumbnails – 2 hours
- Responding to comments – 4 hours (minimum)
That means that for every minute of video I upload to YouTube I invest 96 minutes of my own time.
Put it another way YouTube takes up the equivalent of 2 full working days of my time every week. And that’s on top of the 9 to 5 job that pays the bills and funds my expensive hobby.
If I were to price my time at the same rate as I used to change when I was an IT contractor that would mean that each video would cost £1,000 to produce.
And that is a conservative estimate. So what have I been doing with all this extra time that I have had?
I did Nothing
Yep, that’s right, nothing.
Certainly to begin with I took a complete break. No photography, no vlogging, nothing.
I didn’t even watch any videos on YouTube. I didn’t write any articles for my website or post anything to social media.
And do you know what? It was bloody brilliant!
I had a Viral Infection
Somewhere along the line I picked up a nasty viral infection which kept me off of work for 2 weeks.
It was during this time that I started think about my return to YouTube and to catch up on all of the videos that I had missed.
To be honest as I write this, 3 weeks after I first became ill, I am still not back to 100%.
I started a second YouTube channel
What sort of idiot takes a break from YouTube by doing more YouTube?
Well to be fair this time it is a little different. I have started a channel about gardening with a mate of mine.
Tom Attwood runs a nursery in the southern Lake District with his wife. He is also a garden designer and writes for a number of magazines and newspapers on the subject of horticulture.
Tom is in charge of content, marketing and correspondence. My role is entirely behind the camera – filming, directing and editing the videos.
In comparison with my own channel each video that we produce only takes up about 4 hours of my time.
It is still early days but I have high hopes for the channel. Together we are capable of creating higher quality videos than I can on my own and it is fun to share the journey with a mate.
You can check out Tom’s channel here.
I met up with some other photographers
One of the lovely things about YouTube is the number of invitations that I get to go out and shoot with other photographers.
During my break I met up with Les Ironside and Mike Hutchinson. I had to postpone a meet with Gordon Melrose because of the aforementioned viral infection but I hope to meet him soon.
I love meeting up with other photographers, swapping anecdotes and listening to what they have to say about my channel.
Obviously I cannot meet up with everyone who sends me an invitation and it’s always easier for me if it’s in the Lake District but I would like to do more in the future.
I met up with some other YouTube photographers
I got to spend the day hanging out with fellow YouTube photographers Tom Peters, Simon Burn and James Burns.
We had a great time photographing Rydal Water and then climbing Loughrigg Fell.
You can read about it here.
I went to Croatia
Around this time each year my wife and I take our annual holiday.
This year we spent a wonderful few days in Vodice in Croatia.
The Croatian coastline is beautiful but difficult to photograph; I think it makes you appreciate what we have in the UK.
I wrote some blog articles
Blogging is something that I have always fancied having a go at but never really committed to.
While I haven’t been vlogging I have had more time to sit down and write and I have thoroughly enjoyed it.
Blogging gives you days and sometimes even weeks to craft your message; when vlogging on the other hand you’ve pretty much got to get it right first time.
For my first proper article I wrote about the gear that I use for photography and for video. You can read about it here.
Why did I take a break?
As I said before YouTube takes up a large amount of my free time. Don’t get me wrong, I am not complaining, but it is a fact.
There have been a huge number of advantages to starting a YouTube channel none more so than the exposure that I have received.
Before starting YouTube I tried many different forms of social media to showcase my work and share my passion. Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, all without success.
My channel is still very small, less than 4,000 subscribers, but I still get at least 2,000 views on each video.
Week in, week out I share my passion with 2,000 people in many countries around the world including the UK, US, Australia, Germany and Canada.
I am at best an average photographer and yet through YouTube I have found an audience of like minded people who tune in every week to follow my journey.
That is incredible when you think about it. I am just an average bloke, no different to you (though statistically speaking I am likely to be taller) and yet there are people on the other side of the world who know my name and associate it above anything else with landscape photography.
It is clear to me that the large amount of time needed to build a channel on YouTube is the reason why so few people attempt it.
But if you are prepared to put the effort in, do your research and produce high quality videos on a consistent basis the rewards are huge.
And therein lies the problem.
The huge amount of effort it requires to gain even a little success on YouTube means that when you do it can be difficult to stop. Once you are on that treadmill the time that you have already invested getting established is often the very thing that is stopping you from getting off, even for just a short while.
Fellow YouTube photographer and good mate Julian Baird once described it as the “fear of missing out”.
An Uninspiring Shoot
One Saturday morning in August I found myself on the banks of Bassenthwaite Lake preparing to shoot a video about making videos for IGTV.
It wasn’t a subject that I was particularly interested in, having given it a go and finding it wasn’t for me, but as it was a hot topic I saw it as an opportunity to reach a new audience and grow my channel.
But as I prepared to start filming I found myself questioning my motives. What was I doing? Why was I trying to grow my channel? What was it all for? What was I hoping to achieve?
I couldn’t answer any of those questions. In truth I still can’t. Why was I pushing myself so hard to produce videos if I wasn’t sure of the direction I wanted to go in?
On the drive home I made the decision to quit YouTube.
Everyone wants a piece of me!
As your YouTube channel starts to grow you start to get interest from 2 groups of people:
- People who want to you promote their products
- People who want to collaborate with you
At one point I was getting 1 or 2 emails or DMs on Instagram/Twitter a day asking if I wanted to promote something or to collaborate.
At the moment I don’t want to go down that road; I have a highly engaged audience some of whom have become friends and I do not want to risk that by being seen to be ‘selling out’.
Saying ‘no’ is difficult and I am not very good at it. Constantly being forced to do something that you do not enjoy and are not very good at can be very stressful.
The Curse of Gary Vaynerchuk
Gary Vaynerchuk is an entrepreneur, author and internet personality who has built a hugely successfully business through the promotion of his personal brand on social media. He is someone who I greatly admire.
I recently read his book ‘Crushing It’ in which he shares his strategy for building a personal brand on social media.
Gary is a very humble, down to earth guy who is not afraid of a bit of hard work. His strategy is very simple. Work your arse off.
So that is what I did and it lead to me burning myself out. Not massively but to the point where I had to take a break from what I was doing to figure out a different approach.
Dealing with Burnout
YouTube has allowed me to connect with so many people already but in one case it has helped me to reconnect.
Jenny and I were in the same class at secondary school; today we both run YouTube channels and try to help each other out as much as possible.
In the 25 years since we were at school together Jenny has qualified as a psychologist. When I mentioned that I was taking some time off from YouTube and the reasons why she offered to make a video about YouTube burnout.
Jenny has helped me to understand what led to my burnout, what to do about it and how to avoid it in future.
If you have a YouTube channel I strongly recommend that you take 30 minutes to watch Jenny’s video so that you can take the necessary steps to avoid burnout.
While I was away from YouTube it gave me the time and the space to get my thoughts in some sort of order.
I have come to realise that I make YouTube videos for the following reasons:
- I enjoy the creative process of making videos
- I enjoy sharing my passion for landscape photography and the Lake District with like-minded people
- I enjoy being part of the community that exists around amateur landscape photography on YouTube
If I am being brutally honest with myself I would also admit that I enjoy the attention that comes with being on YouTube. It is very flattering when someone leaves you a nice comment about your work or to hear that you have inspired someone in some way.
I continue to counter this by constantly reminding myself I am just a middle aged fat bloke with a flash camera. That helps to keep my ego in check!
I have also come to realise that there are a couple of things that do not factor in my motivation to create YouTube videos.
- I don’t want to be a professional photographer
- I don’t want to make money from YouTube
The money thing is an interesting one. I can honestly say, hand on heart, that I have no interest in making money from YouTube. That may come in time but it is not my motivation at the moment.
I have made the decision to monetize my channel but that is just in case the YouTube algorithm favours videos that have ads over those that don’t.
Reflecting on what I enjoy about making videos for YouTube has helped me to see the future of my channel with a little more clarity.
Since starting my YouTube channel I have developed a keen interest in storytelling. I find if I am trying to make a point or get across an idea it makes for a far more compelling video if I try to tell a story.
I want my videos to be both educational and entertaining. A straight forward tutorial video might allow me to educate but the scope to entertain is limited.
Creating videos that have a story element to them is much more fun than making straight forward tutorials and as I have already discussed I have to enjoy the process of making the videos if I am going to keep it up in the long term.
I really enjoy making videos and sharing them with the world but the sort of video that I can make is limited if I restrict myself to a single day of shooting.
I have ambitions to create multi location videos that would be impossible to film in just one day. Epic films packed full of content designed to show of the Lake District at it’s very best and to inspire people to visit this unique landscape.
The drive to create weekly videos inhibits this sort of larger project and is one of the reasons why moving forward I will no longer commit to releasing a video once a week.
Taking a break from YouTube has given me the time to write a few blog posts.
I have found the process almost as enjoyable as making the videos and it affords me greater opportunity to craft my message.
While I realize that written articles do not have the wide spread appeal of video the commitment required on the part of the reader presents a greater opportunity to form a lasting relationship. I am more likely to form a deeper bond with people that also read my blog than with those that only watch my videos.
Giving myself more time to write is another reason why I can no longer commit to weekly videos.
Consume more Content
I believe that my success on YouTube is at least in part due to my willingness to engage with the people that watch my videos.
I also believe that YouTube is not a one way street. Too many YouTubers, both big and small, are guilty of not consuming enough of other peoples content.
Before my break I found I had less and less time to watch other people’s videos. If I wish to remain at the heart of the community then I have to find the time to support others.
And it’s not limited to YouTube. I also want to find the time to read other people’s blogs. If you engage on my blog posts and have a blog of your own then I want to know about it.
Strike three for weekly videos!
Same Time Next Year?
Finally I have to admit that I have enjoyed my break so much that I have decided to take one every year.
Summer is a difficult time for photographers and that certainly had an impact on me this year. It was definitely a contributing factor to my burnout.
Next year I plan to take August off. To recharge my batteries and to make sure I am in ready for autumn.
But that’s 10 months away. For now I need to dust of my vlogging camera and get back on the horse. Wish me luck.
Chris – September 2018