In this series, YouTube Icon, Entrepreneur speaks with the individuals behind popular YouTube channels to find out the secrets of their success.
Keeping a popular YouTube channel going is a full-time job on its own. Judy Travis maintains not one but three channels, all while raising her three young children.
The Seattle-based vlogger got her start doing beauty and fashion tutorials, which she still does for her more than 1.3 million subscribers on ItsJudyTime. With her husband, Benji, Judy also chronicles the ins and outs of her family’s daily activities for more than 1.5 million fans on the ItsJudysLife channel. On the third channel, ItsMommysLife, she shares parenting stories and advice for more than 370,000 subscribers.
What started as a hobby in a college dorm has grown into a business with partnerships with brands such as Blue Apron, ThredUp and Walgreens. Travis is developing a signature cosmetics-bag line for the retail giant, with designs inspired by her Filipino heritage.
Travis shared her insights about the passion required to truly make YouTube your career.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
How did you get your start with YouTube?
In 2008 I was a psych major at the University of Washington. I stumbled upon a makeup tutorial by Michelle Phan, and I was amazed. I went home and I was curling my hair in my boyfriend's room. I just stacked some shoe boxes and I put his little handheld camera in the corner of the window and I just started recording. That was my very first YouTube video.
I wish I hadn’t, but I may have deleted it two years ago because I was so embarrassed by it. I didn't look at it then like I do now. This is my work, but then it was just a hobby. I started doing beauty videos, but it wasn't so much from a professional standpoint, it was just kind of the girl next door showing you how I do my makeup.
A year or two later, I entered the YouTube partnership program and started looking at it more seriously. When it got to the point where I was making more money doing YouTube, I quit my day job. I worked at a makeup store part time and I also worked at a foster care agency. That was in 2010.Related: YouTube Star and 'The Older Sister of the Internet' Anna Akana Explains How She Found Her Honest Voice
How much of your time do you spend on a video and what does that entail?
My main channel is a daily vlog channel. So I just record my day. Sometimes it's mundane, but it's a daily diary for me. Usually it’s about 30 to 40 minutes of footage. I have two edited vlogs. I have three little girls, so while the kids are asleep or having quiet time in the afternoon from 4 to 6 p.m. [I edit the videos]. There is a total of four hours of editing. Sometimes if I don't edit at night because I want to stay up with my husband, then I'll edit the following morning, because I upload my vlogs daily at 12 p.m.
What's your content strategy? How do you decide what and when to post?
One thing that's constant is my daily vlog. It's published every day. Whenever I have a little extra time or I'm feeling really inspired, I will record a video for my mommy channel. One of the ones I posted recently was a funny interview with my kids. I'll do that usually on my day off, which is Mondays. If there is a foundation that was just launched, I'll do a review and record my thoughts on a new product. That's just occasional and sporadic.
How do you leverage your YouTube account, and to what extent do you monetize it?
Most of my income is coming through sponsorships. With a product, I'll do a vlog integration. Usually that's a product that I would use normally, a brand like Blue Apron or ThredUp, stuff like that. Those are my favorite [kinds of] sponsorships.Related: How This YouTuber Used Language Tutorials to Get More Than 70 Million Views
What advice do you have for other people who want to build brands on the platform?
There are so many people that I find are trying to be vloggers or youtubers. It's not as easy as it was before. [YouTube is] always changing their algorithm, so there's not really a way to get your stuff out and be noticed, unless it's specific and unique. If you're trying to get into the beauty world, I'd say your chances are close to none, because there's so many. You can't just jump in. If you are truly passionate and it's something that stands out, then you have a better chance.
Also, collaborating with people who are in your community or doing similar things as you is a great way to build your brand. [Don't] expect [success] right away. For me, it took a couple of years. If you're going to YouTube for money, you're not going to succeed the first year. You have to be passionate.
What's a misconception many people have about YouTube?
I just want people to know that YouTube is not just a hobby. It really is a career.