How YouTuber MyLifeAsEva Scored 41 Million Views on a Single Video
In this series, YouTube Icon, Entrepreneur speaks with the individuals behind popular YouTube channels to find out the secrets of their success.
On April 15, 2015, Eva Gutowski sat in her California apartment battling serious nerves. The fashion, lifestyle and comedy vlogger already had a significant following on YouTube as MyLifeAsEva, but she was about to post her first music video and had no idea how her subscribers would react.
To make matters worse, she’d spent weeks editing her passion project -- and after sending it out to a professional color corrector, she received the file back in a bizarre wash of yellows and greens. The music video was supposed to go live the following morning. Gutowski was distraught. She opened FinalCut Pro, chopped the file into about 5,000 individual clips and color-corrected each one until 5 in the morning.
Gutowski had never publicly discussed her interest in music with her followers, so she was sure people would think the video was strange and that her song, “Literally My Life,” would flop. “I wanted to poop myself,” she says, remembering her fear that people wouldn’t even want to watch it. “I just had to tell myself no matter what happens it’s a fun process. … [I] have to press play and see what people say.”
She decided she wouldn’t consider the video a failure if it got a million views, but by the following day, it had 8 million and counting. Gutowski’s friends sent her clips of her song playing in malls, and she saw videos of celebrities singing along in their cars.
At time of writing, Gutowski’s first public foray into music has been viewed upwards of 41 million times. She’s now nearing 9 million subscribers on YouTube and plans to focus more on music this year. And although the vlogging starlet has a social media empire, fashion line and limited-edition beauty collection, she still dreams of living in a one-bedroom house in Hawaii and owning a papaya stand.
Read on for how Gutowski got her start, why she spends an average 15 hours on each video and her top advice for aspiring vloggers.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
1. How did you get your start with YouTube?
I got started on YouTube when I was a freshman in college. I was a broadcast journalism major, and I already had a lot of experience with video editing and photography. My dad grew up as a computer programmer, so he always had random computer software, and I started opening up editing software at age 12 and figuring out how to build websites.
In college, most people I knew were living in the dorms and I wasn’t, so I didn’t have many friends. I was also in broadcast classes, and I wanted to get good at talking on camera for my job -- I wanted to be a television host. I started making videos to post just for my friends to see, and people really liked them. One day, I realized they had a couple thousand views on YouTube -- I hadn’t even known other people were watching them. At the time, I was also writing a blog, and the readers wanted to see more videos, so I started doing more and more video content. Once I found out my audience demographic used YouTube much more, I made the decision to make a complete switch and focus on that.
2. How much time do you spend on a video, and what does that entail?
I spend at least 15 hours on a typical video. First, I have to film it, which takes maybe three hours minimum. After that, I put it into my editing software -- it’s usually two hours of footage, so it takes about 2.5 hours to go through the footage and cut it down. Then, I have a rough outline of how I want the video to go, and I work on the sound, color correction, special effects, music and everything else. Then, I go back in to make sure everything’s perfect. Finally, I post and promote it, which takes about two hours.
Editing really means a lot to me because I show my personality through it. Sometimes I’d love to work with an editor to help out with time, but I put so much of myself into everything I post that it’s hard to translate that and find someone else who sees through my eyes.
3. What’s your content strategy?
I’ve posted once a week for a solid five years. So many people ask me what the best day is to post on YouTube, but I’ve never personally tried to target the “best day” because there’s so many elements of my life besides YouTube -- acting, music, writing -- and I don’t want the pressure of having to make that day every single week.
4. What advice do you have for other people who want to build brands on the platform?
Someone gave me really good YouTube advice a few years ago: “You can’t be a YouTuber unless you’re a fan of YouTube first.” It’s so true. When I started on YouTube with my friends six years ago, we all fell in love with it. At that time, you couldn’t really make money off it; it was just a fun hobby. There was a shift where people wanted to make money or get famous, but people can see when you’re on the platform for the wrong reasons. When you’re a fan of YouTube first, there’s a passion in it -- an understanding of other people’s videos and a creativity in bouncing off other people’s ideas. When you don’t have that and come onto a platform confused and trying to take advantage of it, you don’t have the creative, organic flow that other creators have. Watch a lot of YouTube before you even start posting videos. Get inspired by others, find your passion and get a sense of what kind of YouTuber you want to be.
5. What’s a misconception many people have about YouTube?
Sometimes, people think YouTubers have perfect lives and are “blessed AF,” but it’s different for everyone. I’m still the same person I was six years ago. I don’t have a fancy audio room -- the other day, I posted a picture of me recording audio with a bunch of blankets on top of me to create a sound barrier. I’m still lying on the floor to record audio with a mic the way I used to in 2013. Sometimes we have really cool experiences, but at the end of the day, we’re still the same people making videos in our houses. Don’t look at us as if we’re on a higher level than anyone else -- we’re not.
See below for five of Eva's favorite videos.
“Just an iconic video that basically shaped my fanbase for years!”
“I love this video that I did with my good friend Brent. Us together always means magic because our humor is so similar!”
“This is one of my all-time favorite videos because I filmed, edited, did drone footage and wrote it all by myself -- all in two days. I edit and create everything I make, but this one felt special because it looks like it had a huge budget, when really it was just me!”
“This is a recent video I did with my mom and sister. People really loved it, and I think it’s because they got to see my crazy family on camera!”
“This video is important to me because it shows my life off YouTube. I spent so much time editing and compiling footage of Hawaii, a very special place to me, and it includes a ton of my off-YouTube friends. I can always look back on it, and it reminds me of home!”