What This YouTube Star With 7.3 Million Subscribers Is Doing to Deal With Burnout
In this series, YouTube Icon, Entrepreneur speaks with the individuals behind popular YouTube channels to find out the secrets of their success.
Alisha Marie created her YouTube channel two weeks after her 15th birthday in 2008. Just over a decade later, on May 13, 2018, she uploaded a video to her channel titled, “This Isn’t Goodbye…” In it, she told her audience she would be taking a break, of undetermined length, from posting videos.
“Creatively, I am just not in it like I used to be,” she said, alternating between crying as she admitted to not being “proud” of her recent videos and laughing out of relief. “I’m burnt out.”
Alisha Marie, who uses her middle name as her professional surname, told her audience of more than 7.3 million subscribers of how she used to look down on fellow YouTubers who scaled back their posting rate. Their decision to create less only fueled her to create more videos -- about travel hacks, room decor DIY ideas, roundups of common social faux pas and more.
Increasingly, though, this attitude and approach took a toll. She wasn’t happy with the quality of the videos she was uploading and felt that she was uploading them simply to stick to a schedule and accrue viral views. (Her most popular video has 29.8 million views.)
Her hiatus applies only to her primary YouTube channel, and she made that clear in “This Isn’t Goodbye.” She said she’d keep posting to her secondary channel, AlishaMarieVlogs, which has more than 2.7 million subscribers, but on one condition: She’ll vlog if and when she wants to, not because she thinks she has to. She uploaded her most recent vlog five days after she announced she was taking a break from the primary channel.
After a brief break from Instagram, she’s also active on that platform once more, where her account (@alisha) has 3.7 million followers. But her main YouTube account remains frozen.
She’ll be back, refreshed, she insists. In the meantime, she tells Entrepreneur in the interview that follows, she’s thinking about ways to channel her passion and creativity into something “more tangible.”
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
1. How did you get your start with YouTube?
I was in high school when I first started -- at the time, I had a part-time job at a sandwich shop. I remember finding makeup tutorials from brands and then through that, I saw a whole bunch of normal people doing them. My channel first started with a lot of beauty tutorials and fashion. And that was just on webcam at my parents’ house. No one edited -- YouTube was so different back then.
My channel did not grow for probably three or four years, but I just loved it so much, and it was a genuine hobby. I never saw this really taking off. YouTube was so new, so there wasn’t really anyone to look up to as far as a role model. I remember I was planning on being a dietician. I was going to school and just kind of going with the flow, then I changed my major to business.
I just stuck with it, and then slowly, it started growing. That’s when I realized, wow, this could actually be something, and slowly but surely, it became my full-time job. I transitioned to more lifestyle content around that time, too. I realized I’m not a makeup artist. I’m not like, a Jaclyn Hill, you know? At the same time, I noticed comedy being a big push on the platform.
I moved about a year ago, and around then, I had another rebranding. I feel like people want to see real people doing real things on YouTube now. Before, it was more about how-tos, and now, people want to see someone’s personality more.
2. How much of your time do you spend on a video and what does that entail?
I’m a perfectionist. I don’t know if it needs to be this long, but planning a video could take half a day to a day. Whether I need to go get any props, or write out a script, that takes a long time. Filming the video itself takes day or day and a half, or sometimes two days, depending. I also edit everything myself, which can easily take anywhere from five to 10 hours.
The vlog, which is my second channel, doesn’t take as long, but because it’s more frequent, it would probably take an hour and a half to fully edit and upload that every day.
Luckily, my sister helps me film and plan. A lot of times, we’ll sit down at the beginning of the week, have a small meeting, go over any shot lists and decide if we’re going to need any friends or extras to be in it. There’s always something that comes up later where you’re like, “Oh, shoot, we should have thought about this beforehand.” That’s something that I’m still figuring out.
There’s no crew. Moving forward, I would love to get a small team to help. But just because I can edit and I’m able to do it, that’s something that’s hard for me to let go of. For YouTubers, you’re the director, you’re the producer, you’re the editor, you’re everything, so it’s hard to let go of things. You know your voice the best, obviously, and YouTube is so much geared toward who you personally are.
3. What's your content strategy? How do you decide what and when to post?
This is going to sound so cliché, but over the years, I’ve really tried to keep it true to myself and who I am, both on my vlog and my main channel. I don’t know how, but viewers can tell when you’re faking something or if you’re trying to be someone else.
In the beginning, I tried to be a picture-perfect Disney star, almost. The time my channel finally grew after all of those years was when I started putting in my personality and leaving in bloopers. I would refilm things -- I didn’t think things were good enough. Looking back at them, I just cringe. They’re all still up, but now, I’m just a completely different person.
4. How do you leverage your YouTube channels and to what extent do you monetize them?
There are the sponsorships and all that, but the one thing that I think a lot of people don’t expect going into it is, you kind of become a businesswoman. I never planned on that, I just planned on making videos. I have a lot of confidence now, and no matter what my next job is, I’ve learned so much through this process. If YouTube was gone tomorrow, I feel like I know so much from this that I would be able to take that to my next journey or career, whatever that would be. From visual graphics, as far as thumbnails, to what do people like to click on, versus what they don’t -- I’m really thankful for that knowledge, because so many people go to school trying to understand social media in this generation. Even more than actual money, that’s the most important thing that I’m grateful that I’ve learned through all of this.
5. What does your work life look like now? How are you continuing to leverage the platforms you’ve built?
After hitting 10 years, I was excited, but I wasn’t as excited as I felt like I should be, and I think a huge part of that was, the viral views aren’t enough. That’s not worth anything to me anymore, though before, that used to be such a focus.
Whether it’s a clothing line, or an acting career, I want to do something more tangible. I know I can do stuff like that, whether it’s producing or directing or something more than just uploading videos. For so long, I focused on the viewers more, like, “What do they want?” Whereas now, I’m taking a step back and being like, “OK, Alisha, what do you want to do?” Whether it’s a clothing line or a series on my channel. I feel like, genuinely, if I’m passionate about something, people will want to see that.
6. What advice do you have for other people who want to build brands on the platform?
It’s definitely really hard to find a way to stand out, because YouTube is very saturated. It’s OK to take risks and do something daring, and if you feel like something isn’t popular on YouTube, it’s totally fine to build your brand around it. Just whatever you want to do, because that means no one’s done it.
As a side note, be active with your following. Even on Instagram, reply to everyone. The algorithms favor that now, too.
7. What's a misconception many people have about YouTube?
One thing that I know a lot of YouTubers -- at least people I’ve talked to -- find to be hard is people thinking they know every single thing about you. You show them a 10-minute video of your life that day, and it’s literally only a 10-minute section that people see.
When I posted that video [saying I was taking a break], I think a lot of people had no idea, because I’m always so happy and smiley on camera. It threw a lot of people off. But it just goes to show that, whatever people put out there is what they’re choosing to put out there.
Specifically, when it comes mental health, I love that I can help share that message. For the longest time, I never thought I would really deal with that. And now looking at it, I think that everyone should be aware of taking care of yourself. That’s important, and that’s not selfish. I definitely felt bad -- I thought I’d let people down, or I thought, “I can do it, I don’t need to take a break,” until it got to the point where I knew I needed to, and I wish I’d listened to myself along the way more. Taking care of yourself is way more important than any money or views or anything like that.
See below for Alisha Marie’s picks of her five favorite videos.
“I am so proud of this video because I decided to try something different and do a scripted ending, which gave the video a cinematic feel. I’ve always loved producing and directing, and I got to show my viewers a taste of that.”
“I also tried something different here and did a spin-off of Jane the Virgin narrating a series of all the awkward situations that happen to people. This was one of my favorite videos not only to film but to edit and upload as well.”
“I loved filming this video, because it was honestly effortless. It was so fun and relatable that it wasn’t hard to film at all!”
“This is actually my highest-viewed video, but that’s not why it’s my favorite. It was the first video I filmed after I moved into my house, and everything felt new and exciting.”
“I loved filming this video! It looks like we’re having a huge party, but it was just me and my sister. We had to get creative to make it look like there were more people.”