#37: Ali Abdaal [Efficiency]
Making a living as a part-time YouTuber
Ali Abdaal is a Cambridge University medicine graduate, now working as a junior doctor in the UK's National Health Service (NHS). He started making YouTube videos in his final year of medical school at Cambridge University in the summer of 2017.
As of October 2020, his channel has 1.1 million subscribers and earns over £100,000 ($130k) each month, with 5-10 hours of effort each week.
In this episode we talk about going to medical school in the UK, why he started his YouTube channel, how you can get started on YouTube, and why Efficiency has allowed him to do this on the side while becoming a doctor.
Ali Abdaal is a Cambridge University medicine graduate, now working as a junior doctor in the UK's National Health Service (NHS). He started making YouTube videos in his final year of medical school at Cambridge University in the summer of 2017.
18 months later, his YouTube channel was at 100,000 subscribers and was making as much money as his full-time job working as a doctor in the UK. And now, as of October 2020, his channel has 1.1 million subscribers and earns over £100,000 ($130k) each month, with 5-10 hours of effort each week.
Ali is also the creator of the Part-Time YouTuber Academy, a 4-week live, interactive online course.
He teaches everything he knows about how to build and grow your YouTube channel into a sustainable, streamlined machine that (a) pumps out valuable content for your audience, (b) appeals to the YouTube algorithm, and (c) generates healthy passive income for you, without you having to quit your job.
click to view episode transcript
Ali Abdaal 0:00
Basically, you just need three things to change your life. Number one, create useful content. Number two, post it once a week. And number three, do that for two years. And if you do that I can 100% guarantee that your life will change in ways that you can't imagine. Maybe you won't be at a billion subscribers, maybe you won't be at six figures a month or whatever revenue right but your life will change in ways that you can't imagine.
Jay Clouse 0:19
Welcome to Creative Elements, a show where we talk to your favorite creators and learn what it takes to make a living from your art and creativity. I'm your host, Jay Clouse. Let's start the show.
Hello, welcome back to another episode of Creative Elements. We're getting close to the end of the year. And this has been such an awesome year for me and my business in large part to this show, and people like you tuning in each week. So thank you, thank you, thank you for once again being here. Back in Episode 29 of this show, I talked with Khe Hy the creator of RadReads, it was a really fun conversation. And if you haven't listened to it already, I really do recommend that you do. But at one point I talked to him about his YouTube channel, which I didn't even realize that he had, but it was getting close to 5000 subscribers.
I was looking at your YouTube channel before this, which I didn't know existed and like you have a significant number of YouTube subscribers there.
Khe Hy 1:25
Funny story about the YouTube subscribers. I think I have like 4500. 3500 of them came from being on Ali Abdaal's YouTube channel. So again, the power of partnership, right I shouldn't be doing that tweetstorm I should be finding Ali Abdaal's and positioning myself to get get on their channels.
Jay Clouse 1:45
So after that interview, I wondered who Ali Abdaal was. I've never actually heard his name before. But I went searching for him and came to find that he was a YouTuber with 1.3 million subscribers and more than 80 million views on his channel. That's a huge number. But his channel seems so niche. His channel description reads. I'm a Cambridge University medicine graduate. Now working as a junior doctor in the UK National Health Service. I used to make videos about life as a medical student. But now I've logged about life as a doctor. I also do study videos, tech reviews, and the occasional video of me and my friends singing songs and quote, I asked myself, Why the heck would an aspiring doctor make a YouTube channel?
Ali Abdaal 2:24
I had a business that would run courses to help people get into med school. And I thought hey, you know content marketing, why don't I like I've been teaching these courses for last five years. Why don't I just make YouTube videos for free teaching people how to do well, the beam and the ukcat and interviews and you know the stuff that people struggle through to get into medical school in the UK.
Jay Clouse 2:41
That's Ali. He had a business called 6med that helps students applying to medical school, they started making videos on YouTube to market that business. Hey guys,
Ali Abdaal 2:49
Hey guys, welcome back to the channel. If you're new here. My name is Ali. I'm a junior doctor working in Cambridge. And in this video, I'm going to share with you the essay memorization framework that I used when I was in my third year at Cambridge University. That was the year in which I was studying psychology and actually ended up winning the prize for best exam performance in the U group, and I pretty much exclusively attribute that to this essay memorization framework. And I started making these videos in the knowledge that okay, hopefully some people will watch these videos and think this guy's pretty legit. Let me sign up to his paid offerings. But then very quickly, I realized that actually making this video thing is kind of fun.
Jay Clouse 3:21
And so all he kept creating videos, as well here in this interview, Ali blogged his way through medical school at Cambridge University in between 2017 when he started vlogging to today, his channel has grown from earning nothing to now over 700 British pounds per day in 2019. That's more than 900 US dollars. And that number continues to climb. Ali graduated med school and has the unique distinction of now being the first doctor I've had on this show. But now he's focusing more and more on his own business as a creator. I very recently enrolled in one of Ali's newest projects, a live cohort based course called the Part-Time YouTuber Academy. Where he taught us his method of building a successful YouTube channel on the side. So in this episode, we talk about going to medical school in the UK, why he started his YouTube channel, how you can get started on YouTube. And why efficiency has allowed him to do this on the side while becoming a doctor. This was a super fun episode for me to edit. And you can believe that I'll be sharing some of Ali's videos this week on our Creative Elements listeners group on Facebook. So join if you haven't already. Let me know what you think of this episode. You can find me on Instagram or Twitter @JayClouse take a screenshot of your podcasting app, tag me in it, I'd love to share it. But without further ado, here's Ali.
Ali Abdaal 4:38
Because of my ethnicity, I am South Asian and my mum and dad adopters. It's like it kind of the default thing that you do like for a very long time, I just didn't really appreciate the different jobs existed. And it was only when I got to university where suddenly it was like people I saw people who were studying history just because they liked history. Whereas when you're like from an immigrant family, it's very much a case of okay, well you know what, what is the job that you're going to get after you do your degree and for medicine is like pretty obvious. So it was always kind of this default thing in the back of my mind. I only really started taking it seriously when I was in secondary schools around about the age of like 13, 14, 15. Thinking, hmm, I'm not really sure what I want to do. I kind of like computers kind of like science. This medicine thing seems kind of cool. And then at the age of around about 16, I was very much torn between do I want to do computer science because I was into the coding stuff, or do I want to do medicine because it seems fun. And at the time, I reasoned that, it would be a lot more interesting to be a doctor who knows how to code than to be just a coder, no offense to any coders out there. And that was kind of the main reason why I did medicine. The other reason I did medicine was because it's a six year degree. And everyone says University is the best time of your life. And every other degree is like three years. So I thought, hey, twice as much time at university seems like a no brainer. Let's go to medical school. So that was kind of how it how it happened. Obviously, I didn't say that in my interviews, I spawned some story about how I love science and want to help people. But yeah,
Jay Clouse 5:57
Is college and medical school in the UK, as expensive as it is here in America,
Ali Abdaal 6:03
Nowhere near, if you're a UK student, it costs 9200 pounds a year. And actually, if you're a medical student, the final two years gets paid for by the NHS. So at the moment, I'm about 60 grand in debt, 60,000 pounds, which is about $85,000, which is absolutely nothing like compared to the US, it's a lot more expensive if you're an international student, so like my friend from Singapore is paying 40,000 a year. But even still, even that's not too bad compared to some US thing is, and the other really great thing about the UK is that it's a very kind of government based finance system. So you don't have to take out private loans. And it's not even really a loan that you have, it's more like, if you earn above like 21,000 a year, you then pay 9% of anything above that amount back and over time, maybe you paid off, maybe you don't or in 30 years, it gets written off. So it's a very nice kind of system that every time I speak to people in the US, I feel Wow, I can't believe you're this much in debt. And it's real debt.
Jay Clouse 6:58
It kind of forces you to be on that path forever, it seems like because like the only way to come back and eventually pay back your med school bills is to be a practicing doctor for like decades.
Ali Abdaal 7:08
Yeah, I think this keeps a lot of people in in the in the loop. And they feel like the sense of I can't leave because I need to pay this 400 grand in debt off. And the only way I can do that is if I'm making 400 grand a year as a doctor.
Jay Clouse 7:19
I feel like doctors, lawyers, these are professionals that growing up like you spend some amount of time considering just because they're so present around you as models of success.
Ali Abdaal 7:30
Jay Clouse 7:30
And I've always thought that man being a doctor feels so high stress in high stakes all the time. Do you feel that way? Multiple years, you know, past medical school.
Ali Abdaal 7:41
It's this the stress thing is interesting. I think there's this big myth that being a doctor, at least in the UK, maybe is different in the US. But in in the UK, being a doctor really isn't that stressful. There's something called the European working time directive, which basically means you can only work 48 hours a week. And there's all these kinds of searches, sort of all the unions and stuff have meant that you get paid significantly overtime if you're working more than 40 hours a week. So for me, like on average, I'd be working about 40 to 44 hours a week. And that was pretty reasonable during medical school as well. There's this whole myth amongst people getting into medicine that oh my god, it's like the most difficult thing in the world. And I kind of bought into that myth in my first year. But I think that actually, it's kind of a self sabotaging thing. It's like, when you've been told your whole life, how hard something is supposed to be, you kind of treat it as like a big deal. Whereas if you just kind of take it take a step back and think actually, there's not a lot to understand here. It's mostly just memorization. And there are ways to do that like flashcards and spatial position and active recall, once you figure out these effects of study techniques, the whole process is becomes a lot less stressful. Again, this is speaking from my experiences in the UK, where life is generally like 10 times more chill than life in the US.
That's a really great insight though, because people have that, that buildup in that fear about so many things that they want to try. But think about it for so long that they build up this mountain in their mind, this is going to be so hard it's going to be so difficult before they even get started. And then that mountain is what stops them from doing things. So we're going to talk about YouTube because I think YouTube is a an excellent example of this for aspiring creators because you look at models like your channel or Matt DeBellis channel and it's so beautifully produced, beautifully edited. It's hard to imagine yourself being able to accomplish that.
Yeah, absolutely. Like it's I've found it odd that you say that mine looks beautifully produced and beautifully edited because I actually there is there is not a lot that goes on that goes into my videos, much videos. Yeah, there is a little bit more that goes into his videos, but even even with his videos, if you really break it down. There's not that much sort of funky stuff going on.
Jay Clouse 9:40
Well, I think I think that's like the expert versus the novice for me looking at it. I think a lot is accomplished by having good equipment and like maybe even just like the correct settings.
Ali Abdaal 9:50
Yeah, absolutely. Yeah, it's one of those things that can that can certainly seem like a black box before you kind of dig into it when but and then you start digging into and you realize Hang on. This actually isn't that bad. And maybe it is doable for me to get like production value level of like Matthew Vella or Peter McKinnon or someone like them,
Jay Clouse 10:05
We're gonna get that in a second. But at the risk of jumping ahead of myself, you have a weekly newsletter or you have a podcast, you have a YouTube channel, where did you start? Where did your content journey start? And why? Oh,
Ali Abdaal 10:17
Oh, so my content journey started in 2016, when I first read Austin Kleon, To Show Your Work. And I actually interviewed him on my YouTube channel last night after sending him a thank you email. And that was a book that changed my life because it taught me I'd sort of been toying with the idea of having a personal blog, it was seemed like a cool thing to do. But I could never really get over the fear of, you know, what kind of arrogant narcissistic, has the audacity to have a personal blog? I mean, come on, why would anyone care what I think, what are my friends gonna think. If people are gonna think, who is idiot for having his own domain name, or your.com? Like, that's just so ridiculous. And then I read through your work, and I realized that hang on, I've actually got stuff like experiences, through like getting through medical school and studying and learning how to code and I'd set up a business before that, I've got these interesting experiences that at least someone in the world would find helpful. And I was kind of thinking, Okay, what would I have enjoyed reading three years ago. And that was the sort of person I was talking to. And so I started my blog in 2016. And that year, I posted like, I don't know, four or five blog posts. I intended to do one every week, but it was waste, man, so it didn't happen. And then the YouTube channel happened in mid 2017. And that was the thing that really changed my whole life. And I sort of owe it to Austin kleon, for putting me on that path of being okay with putting myself out there on the internet,
Jay Clouse 11:29
talking about when you started that channel in 2017. And was it like one idea that you're like, I got to make a video about this? And that's how it all started? Or did you say, you know, I want to make a serious run at YouTube.
Ali Abdaal 11:41
It was a bit of both. So when I started my channel in 2017, initially, it was just supposed to be a content marketing engine for my business. I'm getting sort of I was immediately getting traction and like comments and likes. And so the subscriber count was very slowly climbing. It was like, I refresh my YouTube app, like eight times a day, and suddenly, oh, my God, we've got one more subscriber. We're on 64 subscribers now. Yes, that that was the feeling. And I think the nice thing about YouTube is that it's like a very, very efficient feedback loop. And it's, you know, as Jeff Hayden says, In the book, The Motivation Myth, it's these small successes that lead to motivation to and that's what led that's what leads to actions continuing. And so I kind of got hooked on this, like, ooh, all I'm doing is just sharing my like, like teaching people stuff that I found helpful on the internet, and people are liking it. And this is sick, and maybe even some people are signing up to my, to my paid courses. And then sort of around that time, I discovered like Casey Neistat, and I realized that vlogging was a thing. And I thought, hang on, there's not a lot of people vlogging like being a doctor in the UK, or a few people doing it in the US, but like, maybe like one or two people doing it in the UK. So I thought, hmm, you know, I'm going to graduate medical school in 12 months time, why don't I start to vlog and I thought that I can start the vlogging life as a medical student, just as a bit of practice. And then once you know, in 12 months time, I'll really be able to hit the ground running vlogging life as a doctor. And so that was kind of how it got started. It was this like, this seems kind of cool. And then very quickly, after that, I was like, hang on, I don't need to just vlog I've actually got an idea had very early on is that I knew at some point, I wanted to do a video series about how to study for exams. This is a topic that I care a lot about, I've done loads of research on it. And I had given a talk at the university teaching people how to study for their for their exams. And initially, it was supposed to be like a sort of five people would attend to this like talk that I was doing in the Islamic Society prayer room. And then they made a Facebook event for it. And all of a sudden, like 20,000 people saw this event because it went it sort of she was shared around the university, and like 500 people will take depending on this event, so we were like, Alright, 500 people are not going to pile into this tiny room. So we booked like one of the colleges out and sort of I there were like 100, 100 or so people in the audience, learning from me about how to study for exams. And they were all like, Well, why have we never been taught this before. So when I started my YouTube channel two years after that, I knew that at some point, I want to make a really, really good video about how to study for exams, evidence based revision tips, but I knew that I did not want that to be my first video. I wanted that to be my 100 and first video, because I knew that that video could potentially go big because like no one was doing the sort of thing, or they were an audit. I didn't realize at the time, I didn't realize it. Thomas Frank had done the same video, two years, two years prior. Hey guys, welcome back to the channel. If you're new here. My name is Ali. I'm a final year medical student at Cambridge University. And today we're kicking off a new series where I'm going to be sharing with you evidence based revision tips. So I'm going to be giving you advice on how you can prepare for exams. But hopefully, I'll be backing up everything I say with evidence from studies that have been done in the field of psychology on students like you and me over the last 100 years. No one ever really teaches us how to study we tend to just go with what feels intuitively right. And as we'll see, the research has shown that actually the techniques that students think are the most intuitive often tend not to be the ones that are actually the most effective. So if you've got exams coming up, then hopefully by the end of this video, you'll pick up some techniques that you can apply to your own studies to make everything a little bit more efficient and enjoyable. And so I released that video in April of 2018. So solid nine months after I started making videos, but at that point I'd been making like two videos a week for that nine months. And then that video was the thing that really made the channel take off. But I think it was a big part of why it succeeded was because I waited, I waited to improve my craft, I knew that I would be producing crappy videos for the first 100. So I wanted to get through those. And then I was going to release this magnum opus of this, this video, and things worked out really well. So
Jay Clouse 15:23
Was that's such an amazing story of like a plan that you had made. Did you get advice about that from somebody like, Hey, your first 100 videos are going to be crap? Or did you just hypothesize that because you thought so.
Ali Abdaal 15:35
I should give this advice does another YouTuber called Simon Clark. He was one of the first few in the UK to do the university vlogging thing. So like 10 years ago, he's been on YouTube for like a decade now. He started vlogging life as a physics student at Oxford, and then life as a PhD student at Exeter University. And he was a big inspiration. And still, it's good. We're friends now. But he was a big inspiration starting out because before I saw Simon's channel, I sort of assumed that to succeed on YouTube, you had to have a very big personality, you had to be like, Oh my god, guys, welcome to the channel pranks and this and that and viral and all that crap. And I saw Simon Clark's channel and he, he was he was a nerd. He was interested in Warhammer. He was interested in physics, he would talk about his like computational physics homework and just explain it in video. He would vlog his life as he goes to the choir and things like choral music. I was like, Oh, this guy. This guy is my kind of guy. He's like, he's like a massive nerd. But he's got a following of like, 100,000 plus subscribers, that is absolutely insane. And Simon had a video where he said that, like, if you're getting started on YouTube, you just need to accept that your first 50 videos are going to be crap.
Simon Frank 16:36
And lastly, tip number 10. Edit. The best way to get better editing is to edit I was told once the start of my my YouTubing career that the first 50 videos, you make a terrible. Once you accept that and you make them you move on. And it is so so true. And it sucks to be told that someone is just starting. But when you start, you'll probably terrible. And arguably nowhere is that more true than in editing. When you're starting out. You don't really know what you're doing. And that's absolutely fine. If you're watching this and you haven't edited a vlog before I employ you. The best way to get better editing vlogs is to edit vlogs.
Ali Abdaal 17:12
And I thought okay, let's extend that analogy further. I know my first 100 videos are going to be crap. And so I need to get through them as soon as possible. And then I can start being good. So thank you Simon Clark for that.
Jay Clouse 17:22
When we come back Ali talks about how much video experience he had when he got started on YouTube. So stick around and we'll be right back. Welcome back. Ali had just told us that he believed it would take him 100 videos to start to make videos that were actually any good. And to calibrate that even further. I asked him how much experience he had with video when he started the channel.
Ali Abdaal 17:44
So I was basically a complete beginner. I wasn't a 100% beginner because for over a decade I'd have i'd harbored this dream of becoming a YouTuber. But actually the YouTuber I wanted to become. Have you have you come across a guy called Kurt Hugo Schneider.
Jay Clouse 17:58
Ali Abdaal 17:59
Oh, this guy this guy's my my idol. He has been on YouTube since like the early days. He's got like 12 million subscribers. he's a he's an amazing musician. But what he does is that he plays lots of different instruments. And then he arranges songs like covers of popular songs, where he is playing multiple tracks and his friends are singing over the top of it.
Kurt Hugo Schneider 18:15
What's up guys, today we're gonna be remaking the song Bad Guy by Billie Eilish. But here's the catch. As soon as we step into this IKEA we're not leaving until we have a finished music video. We're gonna be recording the track producing it vocals, everything right inside. Alright, let's go. Alright guys, you might have noticed I don't have any instruments with me. So I got to do all of this with just the sounds that I find around this IKEA. Now, first things first, I gotta find something to make that bass sound that bom, bom, bom, bom, bom. It's kind of heart of the original track. And I think I need something like electronic and aggressive for it. Guys, I think I found the bass sound, you hear that obnoxious buzz in the background. It's this machine. Alright, guys, I think this is gonna be our little office setup. So let's take that buzz sound. And let's see what we can do with it. So this is the original sound. Okay, so we're gonna turn that into the dome dadada we're gonna start by cutting that up and pitching things around. Okay, you're starting to hear the bass line now. But it's still like really obnoxious, just like hard to listen to. So we're going to cut all those high frequencies. And we're gonna give it a little side chain. I'm feeling that now.
Jay Clouse 19:28
I love that. I love it.
Ali Abdaal 19:29
I was I've been hooked on this since like 2006 or 2007 when he first started and I wanted to be the next Kurt Schneider. So I knew that I enjoyed learning stuff. And I knew that I kind of liked the idea of music, even though I'd never played a musical instrument. And I had some friends who were really good at singing. So for like a whole 10 year period, I was thinking oh, you know, at some point, I'm going to start this YouTube channel at some point it's gonna happen. And so I think in like 2015, 2016 I kind of made it happen and I filmed a few like music videos, which was I was playing the guitar and my friend was singing All of me by John Legend. And we turned it into a video.
That was what taught me how to use Premiere Pro. And so when it came to making my first YouTube videos, I sort of knew what I was doing in that I sort of knew the very basics of editing. But at that time, I made like two or three videos, so it really wasn't much at all.
Jay Clouse 20:41
Oh my gosh, I love that we have to check out his channel, I have this secret dream of someday writing a musical.
Ali Abdaal 20:46
Jay Clouse 20:47
Which like, I am nowhere near being skillful enough to do that. But I think it'd be really fun to marry the Have you seen the Book of Mormon? Yeah, I would love to marry the style of the Book of Mormon with like, what is happening in America right now with politics. So if somebody's listening to this, and they won't help me do that, just send me an email. Talk to me about your personality, though. Because you mentioned you had this thought that to be on YouTube, you had to have this big personality? Do you consider yourself a big personality? Do you consider yourself an introvert and extrovert,
Ali Abdaal 21:15
I don't consider myself a big personality. So I think like my default vibe is kind of like this, which is sort of low key quiet kind of low energy. And occasionally, if I get excited, I'll be like, Oh, my God, like a Cohiba Schneider is my frickin idol. But generally, this is sort of the vibe that I go for. And yeah, I'd probably lean more towards introvert and extrovert, I enjoy hanging out with friends. But I also, you know, just really enjoys hanging out in front of the computer by myself. So it probably fits the the introvert camp, I really didn't think my personality would be I honestly, honestly didn't think my personality would work on YouTube. But I knew that Simon Clark could do it. And I felt like I was broadly similar to him, and that we were both fairly well spoken just nerds from the UK. So I was like, you know, let's give it a go see what happens.
Jay Clouse 21:59
Talk to me about some of the challenges that you encountered in those first 100 videos, whether that's people around you saying, what are you doing more like, bandwidth on your hard drive? Like, tell me about what was the hardest parts of those first 100 videos? Yeah,
Ali Abdaal 22:13
Yeah, this, there was so many little challenges along the way. But I, I guess I was sort of prepared for them. Because I'd been like, I knew that this wasn't going to be an easy and easy thing. And I think one of the things that helped was that I didn't really have any expectations, I didn't really have any goals. I just thought you know what, the only thing I'm going to do is I'm going to make one or two or three videos every week, and that is non negotiable, that has to happen. I didn't give a toss about like, views or subscribers or anything like that. And I knew very early on that fixating on those numbers is just totally pointless, because they're so dependent on a multitude of external factors that are completely outside of my control. So, you know, hashtag stoicism, we shouldn't worry about that sort of stuff. But yes, so some of the challenges I remember early on, were mostly kind of making the time to do the editing. Because filming a video is easy. But editing a video is really annoying, and takes absolutely ages. And it was one of the things where I kind of neglected my medical studies a little bit, I sort of made sure that we're like when you're when you're a clinical medic, what you're supposed to do technically, is you're supposed to go into the hospital in the morning, and then leave in the evening and shadow a team throughout the whole day and speak to patients and stuff. I thought, this is not very efficient. So what I would do is I would go in in the mornings, maybe from nine till 10 o'clock just for an hour and just like really focused, do some work and be like, okay, I want to find a patient who has a cardiac murmur, systolic cardiac murmur, or something like that. But I find that patient, do the practice on them. And then say, Thank you, bye, bye, I'm going down to the doctor's common room. And I'm going to do some editing. So that was how I sort of found these moments. It was a bit a bit hairy, because I only passed my final sort of written exams by I scraped through by like, 2%, pass Mark was 64. And I got like, 67. And I think I'd, I'd sort of planned that out because I knew that I was, I was basically out of the running for a distinction, which is what if you're in the top 15% of the year, I was like, maybe this could happen, but it would be it would be a stretch, and it would require me to work 24/7, I thought well, in between a pass and a distinction. There is actually no instrumental value in getting a higher mark. And so you know, what I I made the I made the calculation that the expected value of pumping out videos would overall be higher than the expected value of getting an extra 3% on an exam that I was going to forget about anyway, like two months later. So I think mostly the squeezing the time out that that was the tricky part.
Jay Clouse 24:33
I know you're not necessarily a long term plan person, but as you're going through this period, what were your expectations for the next five years? Were you thinking that you were going to go and become a doctor? We think that I want this YouTube channel to take off and I want to go in that direction. Like what were you as you're making a decision to scrape by on the exam? What were you thinking the future was?
Ali Abdaal 24:53
Honestly, that's a good question. What I was thinking about the future I think like at the time I was thinking okay, Maybe I could get to 10,000 subscribers, I was thinking, oh, there's no way I'll get to 20, there's no way I'll get to 60 I had a friend who was at 60 at the time was like, there's no bloody way that'll happen. And I knew people who weren't like the several hundreds of 1000s, like from following them on YouTube. And that was just like, not even a possibility. The main thing was that, like, it was that thing of, I know that this is going to grow very, very slowly. And I know that whatever level this gets to, this will be a good thing. Because I had like, worst case scenario, I'd be generating more leads for my business. Like, I didn't expect to become like a big YouTuber, or to make significant money off of it. But I just knew that I was actually planning very long term I was. So this would have been like November, so October, November 2017, when I was making the decision to screw my exams and focus on YouTube. And I was planning for October 2018, when I was a doctor, because I knew that I wanted to vlog life as a doctor. So it was a sort of long term game that I was playing. And along the way, it just so happened that a few months into this sort of I will rather than nine months into this, when this study, how to study for exams video came out, then things really started to take off.
Jay Clouse 26:05
When you were vlogging life through medical school and planning on blogging as a doctor, what did you think through or jet to get like permission from your employer? Like, were you allowed to just bring a camera with you to where you're working? Did that have any effect on your relationship? that employer? What did that look like?
Ali Abdaal 26:20
Yeah, I kind of went for a forgiveness of permission attitude. So when I was in med school, I would take a camera around different places. And occasionally, my friends and lectures would be Ali, put the camera away. Ali if you got consent from all 180 people at this lecture to film them, and I would just sort of ignore them. I would try and not be overly egregious about it. Like, you know, I, if I was talking to the camera, I would try and do it in a corner when no one was in the background. But in med school, I was fairly chill about it. Oh, vlogging at work was a bit more of a of an issue. Like I had some friends who were sort of doing it and they got in trouble for it. I reasoned that, you know what, as long as I don't break patient confidentiality, and as long as I maintain professionalism, which obviously really important, it actually doesn't matter if I vlog in the hospital. But I knew that if I asked permission, they probably say no, because they're all risk averse, and all people. So I just kind of did it a few times. And it kind of worked. So I just kind of kept doing it. And like well, I remember one time I was in, I had a day in an ambulance, where we were just sort of hanging out with the paramedics. And I asked him at the time, I'd be like, hey, so this is gonna sound weird, but I kind of make videos about life as a medic student, you know, just so people can see what it's like, Is it alright, if I kind of just show the inside of the ambulance? And they were like, yeah, I mean, as long as there's no patients around, it's all good. So I think it was that balance of knowing when to ask for permission or when to just kind of do it anyway.
Jay Clouse 27:41
What types of expectations did you put on yourself in terms of output during this period of building the channel?
Ali Abdaal 27:46
Yeah, I told myself at least one video a week. That was all I wanted to do. And more would be even better because I was you know, I was trying to get to this 100 video market, and then start being good, hopefully.
Jay Clouse 27:55
What about your blog? Did you have stated expectations for that? Had the podcast started yet?
Ali Abdaal 28:01
No, nothing. I was neglecting my blog podcast hasn't started yet. email newsletter only started in like mid 2018. One of the things I would do if if if I had my time, again, I would focus on I would take the blog and the newsletter more seriously from day one. Because I think and this is something that I teach on the course that once you've put in like the 99% of effort to create a video, you now have so much sawdust that you can just like repurpose into other things like it is so easy to turn it into a tweet thread, and then just tweet it out. It's so easy to just write it up as a newsletter, or a blog post or newsletter and a blog post. It's so easy to turn into Instagram Carousel of like three points. And I was lazy. And I wasn't lazy, I didn't even realize you could do that. And it was only later on that I realized hang on all of this effort that I'm putting into YouTube. I could also be just putting in a little 5% extra effort and then repurposing stuff for different platforms. So I kind of wish I'd done that from day one.
Jay Clouse 28:54
And that speaks to the efficiency we're talking about, which I always look at YouTube, and making like even video interviews as the ultimate form of potential efficiency, because you can post it to YouTube, you can strip out the audio, you can make that a podcast, you can do all the things that you're talking about, but it always feels like such a mountain to get there. After a quick break, Ali talks about his process of creating videos and efficiently repurposing them into other forms of content. right after this. Welcome back. Ali and I were just talking about the opportunity to create videos for YouTube and repurposing that content into social media posts, blogs, podcasts, and more. I think that's a huge opportunity for video creators, but it sounds pretty intimidating. So I asked Ali, the king of efficiency, if you recommended that people think about this repurposing from day one, or if they should just sprint at their first 100 videos.
Ali Abdaal 29:49
The sort of two ways of doing it. One way of doing it is, oh, I'll just kind of do this and see what happens. And the other way of doing it is okay, I really want to take this seriously. And so I really want to kind of maximize my chances of this going big if I had my time. Again, I would be the latter category, I would want to maximize my chances of going big. Whereas what I actually did was the former category, which is like, Oh, well just see what happens. I don't have any expectations don't have any goals. I think, depending on how much time you have, and how much how seriously, you want to take this, it does make sense to think about efficiency from day one. Because, yes, if you are just starting out and getting into the habit of like, Hey, you know, tackling one video, and then the next video, and then the next video, and that's a struggle, it's a very different equation than if you decide I'm going to be a YouTuber. And I'm going to do this every week for the next 100 weeks, that completely changes the way that you approach it. Because when you're approaching it as this is a, this is a two year plan, this is not a two week plan, suddenly, you start to care a lot more about like the systems and the efficiency of your production, because you know that you're doing this for two years. So I knew that I was doing it long term, which is why I cared about kind of pumping this content out and efficiency. But I didn't, I just didn't appreciate that like repurposing content was a thing. And I wish I'd done because maybe, it's maybe my email newsletter would have been even even bigger or not. That's the thing with these things, you never really can predict a result. But all you know, is there's, there's a formula, I tell people, which is that basically, you just need three things to change your life. Number one, create useful content. Number two, post it once a week. And number three, do that for two years. And if you do that I can 100% guarantee that your life will change in ways that you can't imagine, maybe you won't be at a million subscribers, maybe you won't be at six figures a month or whatever revenue right, but your life will change in ways that you can't imagine, mostly through like serendipity and meeting people. And suddenly, you know, the internet is open to you and all of these different things. It's just that no one does it for two years. And so if you can have a two year outlook starting out, then then you're setting yourself up, right.
Jay Clouse 31:42
I love that equation. How much does production quality matter in that, like, let's say you have really useful content, but maybe you're shooting on a webcam? Or maybe you're like, in some horrible newsletter software, and it looks terrible. Like how much does the production quality itself matter?
Ali Abdaal 32:01
That's a difficult question. I say everyone has different opinions on this, my opinion is that production value does matter. Content is important as well. But it's very difficult to find a very unique thing to be doing on YouTube. Like none of the stuff I was doing was unique, except maybe vlogging life as a Cambridge medical student, which was like, you know, I was the I was one of two people doing that even then it wasn't unique and more people in the overloading it's even then it wasn't quite unique. But giving people advice on how to study for exams, sharing about you know, I read this book, or this is a review of an iPad, this is this is a review a review of an iPhone, there are actually so many people doing it. And now the bar for production value is so high that unless you are an outlier in the fact in your content being so unique is such memorable, such valuable that production value doesn't matter for you, unless you're an outlier in that regard. People do care about production value. Like you know, this podcast could be the best in the world. But if we weren't recording it using fancy microphones, you know that there are a lot of podcasts out there, a lot of podcasts that interview protocol is basically doing the same thing. Like, if you want to compete in the same kind of in the same league, you need to have the production value. And the nice thing about production value is that it's just a one off expense. And you can transform your production value with just a few one off expenses. And again, if you're considering a YouTube channel, a two year plan, and you know treating it like a business, I personally would invest in production value from day one.
Jay Clouse 33:22
I think production values are really important. And this is something I've come around to and I'm not near the level that you're at. But I can tell from this show versus my first show, the production put into this show has had a measurable effect on how seriously other people take it, whether they realize it or not. I think it's something that we just come to expect. And without knowing that we care about production, we notice it we gravitate towards it we stick around longer if we see it because I think it's a signal that the creator really cares and how can you ask the audience to really care if you're not really putting yourself into it to the level that you could be?
Ali Abdaal 33:55
Jay Clouse 33:55
That's where I feel on it.
Ali Abdaal 33:56
The way I sort of just think about it is there were a few YouTube channels like Jonathan Morrison and Armando someone who just like take videos that I would watch purely because it's just so nice and crispy and the production value was beautiful. Like they could be saying anything but with the with like a certain level of production value just look a lot more legit. Okay, have you ever seen those masterclass.com trailers?
Jay Clouse 34:18
Ali Abdaal 34:18
Those are frickin incredible. Like, you know, Gary Kasparov teaches chess or like Gordon, Ramsay teaches cooking. But apart from the celebrity aspect, the thing that makes them incredible is their production value. And honestly, I think you could stick anyone in that position, you know, give them a suit and put them in front of a chessboard with that lighting and that camera setup. And they would they could say anything, anything at all and he would take him seriously because of the production value. So that is the production value I aspire to.
Jay Clouse 34:42
I can actually say that my life was fundamentally changed by a masterclass trailer, which is like a crazy thing to say, but there was this the Steve Martin course on comedy. I was at a time it was January 2017. And I was telling myself this narrative of like, I'm not a creative person. I don't have good ideas. In the trailer for Steve Martin's class, there's a line where he said, everything that you experience is material, like everything that you experience in the world as material you could use that.
Steve Martin 35:11
I never actually thought I was funny. You may think I don't have any talent. I guarantee you, I had no talent. None. Remember, you are a thought machine. Everything you see here, experience is usable. Oh, what? Oh, whatever makes you unique as a performer do it. And know that there's room for you. Hey, welcome to Steve Martin's masterclass.
Jay Clouse 35:44
And I thought to myself, I should use that, like, I know, you talked about like documenting versus telling, and love to parlay into that. Because I think people underestimate the value of what they can share and what they can bring just by experience in the world. Something I heard you talk about with Austin Kleon was how you title your videos, how I versus how to, can you talk about that?
Ali Abdaal 36:06
Oh, yeah, yeah, this is something that Gary Vaynerchuk sort of really drives home, which is this idea of document don't create, like creating stuff is really hard. And when we think of the word create, we think, oh, it has to be original. And I have to provide something unique. And I have to have a unique twist on this. And we put up so many barriers to us doing the work because we think that our work has to be, you know, interesting or original or unique in some way. But something that Pat Flynn says and I don't know if he I don't know where the original attribution for the quote is, but I heard it on his podcast, which is that there are no unique messages, only unique messengers. And sort of that combined with Gary Vee's document don't don't create model, it's like, well, I actually have a lot of content, like, like people say, like, I wouldn't know what to make videos about. That's because you're not thinking of it as documenting the stuff you're already doing. Like anyone listening to this could start a YouTube channel right now where they just talk about podcasts that they've heard. And like every episode, you just talk about one or one episode of this of a particular podcast. And you know, just say the five lessons that you learn from it, that'll be interesting. Every single person listening to this uses apps on their, on their iPhones or on their Android, if you're one of those heathens, and so could very trivially make even like a 20 video series, just breaking down how they use each of the 20 favorite different apps. This is a little documenting, it's not creating, but that is the stuff that resonates with people because people want to follow people on the internet. People don't really want to follow, you know, clinics or like a brand or like a Yeah, and so if I have a choice of titling a video, like how to type really fast versus how I type really fast, I will always go towards the how I type because in my experience, those are the videos that have always done better than the how to's. And it just, it just changes the equation. And there's something Austin Kleon talks about as well. It's like, how to and, and the way that people normally approach creating content is thinking, I need to be an expert so that I can teach this thing to you. But actually, the way to approach content creation is thinking I am a student just like you. And I'm going to share the stuff I've learned along the way. And when you do that you realize Actually, my whole life is content that I could be sharing on my YouTube channel. And there are going to be other people in the world like me who enjoy similar things. And who might want to follow me because of that. And even if there aren't, oh, well, it'll still be a fun experience. And at the very least, it'll be a nice memory to look back on 20 years from now be like, Hmm, this was me when I was 15, making a video about iPhone apps. So that's kind of how I think about it.
Jay Clouse 38:29
Do you think that's always been true? Or do you think this is recent in the way that people today want to connect and interact with creators digitally? Like, I wonder if in the past, people might have been looking for more prescriptive advice, but we've evolved to be more interested in the relational aspect of I care about this person's perspective, particularly because it's this person?
Ali Abdaal 38:49
Yeah, I think that's definitely evolved over time with the propagation of social media. But even even in the past, I think the the tools just weren't there for people to share the process. Like, again, this is something Austin kleon talks about in show your work, he talks about how, actually, if you're a band, if you're like an artist, you know, a musician, your top fans would actually love to see your songwriting process, they'd love to see kind of which songs you wrote and then cut from the album because you felt they weren't good enough, they would love to see the struggles along the way they'd love for you to document that process. But pre internet, there was no easy way of doing that other than having like a piece of Rolling Stone where they somewhere where someone interviews you in a very produced fashion. And so I think people have always wanted to connect with other people in this sort of way. And it's just that now we have so many more opportunities to do it. And now, any kid with a phone can produce videos on YouTube. And in fact, there are a lot of people doing exactly that, like a channel I discovered recently is a year these two kids in like Cambodia who just build amazing houses out of like wood, and they just do like a whole wood build, and they just time lapse it with their phones and they've got like millions of subscribers and like millions of views and it's incredible. And you couldn't do that back in the day, but you can now Yeah, I think people have always wanted to follow the people but now it's just a lot more possible to do that. And the long tail of that is also a lot, a lot easier to find like there is there's this like a niche for everything on the internet, you could be like super obsessed with like even some like weird, niche detail about the Harry Potter universe. And there will be at least 1000 other people in the world who are interested in that same thing. And pre internet, there would be no one in your town or even your city interested in that. But post internet, you can find you can find your tribe. So yeah, I think it's just one of the things that that the internet makes possible.
Jay Clouse 40:26
I want to tie this back to your story in your experience a little bit because something you shared a recent video was what you talked about the growth from the time that you started monetization. And over the last couple of months, it seemed that your channel has gotten a significant percentage of like the lifetime of the channels views in the last couple of months.
Ali Abdaal 40:43
So this is the lifetime revenue of my youtube channel since about June 2017, when I first tried uploading videos, and so we can see that for the first absolutely ages, I'm making sometimes one penny per day. But basically, I'm not making anything until April 2018. I think it was 17th April, I remember the day when I turned on monetization. And so now I'm going from making absolutely nothing per day to making you know, 11 pounds, eight pounds, nine pounds, 16 pounds. So immediately, you know, having already been a YouTuber for like nine months at this point. And having made 77 videos already, I'm now making sort of between five and 15 pounds a day off of YouTube ads, which at the time was was pretty great. Like I was already feeling like I was winning at life because that pays for a takeaway every single day if I want to. And that just felt like, you know, it kind of felt like cheating. But I can basically eat for free now that I have a YouTube channel, which is quite nice. So we can see in May 2018 16 pounds 72 and then kind of dropping down to three pounds, three pounds, 68 10 pounds. And then we start in June 2018. I think this was when I made my iPad video. Yeah, this was a special video how to take notes on my iPad at medical school. But as soon as that video comes out suddenly my revenue skyrockets from five pound 91, and four pounds 69 a day, all the way up to sometimes 60 pounds a day and 40 pounds a day and 70 pounds a day. And again, this really felt like cheating at the time, because I can't believe I'm making this much money on youtube, I'm making like 50 pounds a day, that was like 1500 quid a month. And that just felt again, like, this is amazing. I'm making real actual money from YouTube, it's not just a few pennies here and there, this is 1500 pounds a month, this is actually a large amount of money over time, we can see like, it doesn't really change much for the next like year. So for around 12 months after that I was sort of hovering between the making a few dozen pounds a day off of YouTube ads, which was still pretty good. But then like over time, we can see that the graph really starts to increase. So in throughout 2019, the rate bumps up a bit. So some days I'm making over 100 pounds a day, which is again, absolutely insane. And then you know, we've got a 97,88, 95, 100, 100 all the way through to September 2019. And then what's really cool about this graph is just how much of an exponential rise it's been over the last six months basically since lockdown started. So I think kind of locked down was pretty good for me in the YouTube channel. Because now all of a sudden loads more people are watching sitting down and watching videos. And now we can see that these days. You know, for example, Friday, the third of July 578 pounds in a single day. That's pretty good Sunday, 23rd of August 2020 711 pounds in a day, if you told me a couple of years ago, I was gonna make 700 quid in a day from YouTube ads, I would literally have had a stroke. And I would have thought that go home. This is not it's not gonna happen.
Jay Clouse 43:19
Can you talk about the growth curve? And what that looked like? And if there are any key moments or levers that happen to attribute to that?
Ali Abdaal 43:26
Yeah, I think on YouTube, and with a lot of these things, it's it's all it's all just compounding. You know, there's that someone, someone famous once said that every every good thing in life is a result of compounding, where at the start, it's very slow, and you don't see any growth. But if you do it long enough, then the returns start to multiply. And like, you know, the reason Warren Buffett is so rich is because he started investing really I'm going to still investing into his 80s or 90s, or however old he is. And there's this book called The Psychology of money by Morgan Housel, where he runs the calculation. He says, Okay, what is Buffett had started investing at the age of 30. And he had exactly exactly the same return. So he's as good an investor, but he started with like, let's say 30 grand at the age of 30. And then he quit at 65 when he retired, what would his net worth be. And it's absolutely astounding, because currently Warren Buffett is worth like 90 billion. But if he had just done it from age 30 to age 65, you'd only be worth 11 million. And that is the power of the exponential function. And I think that's the same with YouTube. It's the same with writing. Same with Twitter, that Yeah, early on, you're not gonna see any growth, but given enough time, and then they'll start to compound. So for me, it's like you have a very, very slow tick. And then very occasionally, you'll get a video that does particularly well and then you'll get a slight the gradient of your curve will be a bit more steeper and then you get a bit more and then you'll have another video that does reasonably well. And it's kind of this idea like you know, with with Walt Disney, the first like 400 cartoons like animated cartoons, world like loss making, they didn't make any money that actively lost the company money. But then culture number 401 was Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs and that one movie made up for all of the other losses, similar to the model that VCs use and like You know, angel investors use that they invest in a large number of companies in the hope that one of them will pull, it will make a big, and it's kind of like that with YouTube, like, at least for me, and most people that I know, most of our videos are fairly average. But then occasionally you get a video. And usually you don't predict in advance. But occasionally you get a video that particularly resonates with the algorithm particularly starts to promote to other people, and people particularly resonate with it. And so you find that a lot of the subscribers and views and stuff are coming from these big hitter videos. Whereas the rest of it is just sort of a slow, a slow burn. But again, it's like what Gary Vee says is that, you know, it just takes one piece of content to change your life, you just never know what that one is going to be. So you have to keep on producing content to kind of make that happen.
Jay Clouse 45:39
What were a couple of videos that call out to you as gradient changing content.
Ali Abdaal 45:45
Yeah, so I had sort of pretty slow uptake, run about the 4000 subscribers mark, which was when I was it was it was like March 20 2018. So six plus three, like, eight, nine months after, after I started out making two or three videos a week, around my March 2020, I did a collaboration with someone who's bigger than me. His name was IPS, Mo so at the time, he had like 60 k subs, and I had like four. So it was it was very gracious for him to do a collab. And we did a collab where I shared revision tips. And that put a lot of eyeballs on my channel. And actually, so on that note of this collaboratives Mo, this was something I had wanted to do ever since I started the channel because he was big, and he was at my university and he had like 20k subscribers at the time. And I thought, okay, I really want to do a collab with this guy someday. But then there's another a tech YouTuber called Sarah Dietschy, who I've been following for a while. And she, she had a very interesting experience in that her channel was like, a few 1000 subscribers. But then she made a parody video about Casey Neistat. And he shared it on his thing. And all of a sudden, overnight, she got like 40,000 subscribers, and then again, like from 40,000 to 100,000, immediately overnight. And what she said was that she knew that if she went for this big collaboration opportunity, this viral hit, it would mean that eyeballs would land on her channel. But if she didn't have a pre existing backlog of amazing videos on her channel, they would just leave and forget about her completely. So she knew that she wanted to have a library of really good videos before going for like a big collaboration opportunity. And so I really took that to heart because I saw that video in like June 2017, as I was getting started, so I thought, I thought to myself at some point, I really want to do a collaborative mode. But I want to make sure I have really good videos on my channel before I do that. And again, this was one of those weird things where that nine months later, he and I met at some University Pakistan society ball and we got talking and he'd he'd he'd come across my channel and he's the one who suggested Hey, we should collab sometime. And then he's the one who reached out to me saying, hey, do you want to come over to my place tomorrow, just shoot a video? And I was like, hell yes, I will cancel everything I've got, we're gonna film this video. And so that was a gradient change. And then now I had eyeballs on my channel, I said, I went up to like 7000 subscribers from 4000. And I was like, Okay, this video about how to study with it's move resonated really well, people were like, people seem to be interested, intrigued by this studying thing. So then I spent the next like 48 hours painstakingly plotting out a half an hour long video about how to study for exams, knowing that okay, this is my chance. Now I've got the eyeballs, I need to make this an absolute hit. And I spent like ages and ages and ages on that video, like doing the literature searches, like drafting it out word for word, scripting it getting all the evidence, creating these custom graphs and like after effects to make sure I could show the graphs of the study that was quoting, and really putting everything into that video. And that video was the real gradient change. And all of a sudden, my channel was sort of getting like 10 k 15 k 20 k subscribers. And then another gradient change was a video called how I take notes on my iPad Pro at medical school. And that was really that I thought maybe this couldn't be this video could do well, because I had seen another video on YouTube called How to take notes on my iPad Pro as an engineering student. And that had 2 million views. I was like, wait a minute. medical student is like more interesting and more brandable than engineering student. Why don't I just make this video but do it as a medical student. So again, this was a case of documenting, not creating, I made a 17 minute long video where I just talked about exactly why I take handwritten notes and some of the evidence behind it. I talked about how I use notability and I showed different use cases of how I use notability to take notes and from lectures. And that video completely changed my life. And that video is still the gift that keeps on giving. It's now in like 5 million views. That is the video that sort of initially brought in the vast majority of the subscribers and overnight almost overnight, my channel went for as this kind of skyrocketed teller sort of analysis getting 25k, 30k, 40k, 50k subscribers just off of the back of this iPad video. So from that point on, I sort of became a sort of tech sort of productivity sort of study type YouTuber.
Jay Clouse 49:34
Yeah, your channel has obviously grown in scope a little bit to what you focus on. And you may not have a great way to nail this down. But I bet you have kind of a sense. You started off with people that were med school students following you. How do you think that portfolio of like your YouTube subscribers looks now and what they're interested in?
Ali Abdaal 49:53
I think yeah, I think you definitely have to evolve over time. So initially, I started out very niche at like people applying to medical Cambridge, tiny, tiny, tiny proportion of people, then it was okay people applying to medical school in the UK generally, then it was people interested in life as a Cambridge medical student. And then with the studying thing, it was like, Okay, now I'm targeting students in general. And then with the iPad thing is like, and the tech stuff, it's like, okay, now I'm targeting people interested in tech and stuff in general. And it was only after a while, after, after many months of doing this, that I stumbled across the word productivity. I was like, Yeah, I guess that is my thing, productivity. And I was like, Okay, cool. Let's gear things towards the idea of productivity now. And so the way I think about it these days is, it's the the phrase that I use is, on this channel, we explore the strategies and tools to help us live healthier, happier, more productive lives. And I think that is the thing that ties everything together. But also, I'm not really saying anything like, you know, that's just just the general definition of personal development. And so, yeah, I've, I have sort of landed in this place where it's like, I kind of make videos about whatever I want loosely themed around productivity and personal development. And that's fine. I wonder a lot about Should I niche down more, or should I whatever, but then I think you know, what the sort of YouTuber I want to be, is the sort of YouTuber who can just whip out a book and say, Hey, guys, I want to talk about this book I read today. And here are the lessons I learned from it.
Jay Clouse 51:14
For people who are listening to this, and they're starting to fall off the fence to say, Okay, I want to focus on putting some effort into YouTube in the next two years, like Ali selling me to, you mentioned earlier that it's a little bit difficult to find something unique to do and be on YouTube. How would you recommend somebody approach thinking about their initial positioning or how they're going to frame what they do with their channel?
Ali Abdaal 51:35
I think, again, it depends on what you want from it. If you kind of want to take it seriously. And you're thinking that Okay, let me give this YouTube thing a serious shot, and I'm willing to devote two years to it. At that point, you can start thinking, Okay, what is the sort of youtuber I want to be? Who are the youtubers that I watch myself? And can I basically do what they do, but just do my own spin on it? So for example, if someone watches me a lot, they might be like, Okay, I'm gonna start making videos about personal development, productivity and notion. But okay, cool, go for it, like, you know, steal like an artist or whatever. That's all, it's all fine. Think another way of doing it is to start off niche. Like, if you're a new youtuber making a video called 10 productivity tips. That's very broad. No one's watching that, like, no one cares. But if you're a new YouTuber, be talking about 10 specific ways to use the Zettelkasten method of notetaking. And room research versus obsidian. That is sufficiently niche that you will actually find people through search or searching about how to take notes using the desert caster method in researching obsidian. And then you can sort of build your channel around becoming an authority in these apps. And then once you've done that, you can then now you have this audience of people that know like and trust you because you're an expert in Rome, researcher obsidian, at that point, you can start being like, Okay, let me push the boat out a little bit. Let me do a video about my morning routine. And in that I'll reference how I use Rome to plan out my morning routine. But the whole video will be about my morning routine. Okay, cool. Now, let's push the boat out a little bit more. I quite like what he's doing with with the whole book review thing. Let me pick a book. You know, let's even take like the Book of Mormon, I was I was hanging out with a fan the other day, who was actually a Mormon did like two years of mission work. And he's does just personal development videos where he actually like, References The Book of Mormon, because he says that that book changed his life. That's pretty cool stuff. Like, you know, that's interesting. It's his own hard won experience. I think when you can do stuff that is from your own hard won experience, that's when you're increasing your odds of success. However you define that success, because it's an unfair advantage that other people can't immediately copy. So I don't know. Yeah, I think it's just a case of copying what other people are doing. And over time you sort of find your niche. Find your invoice.
Jay Clouse 53:39
I'm really excited to join your first cohort of the part time youtuber Academy.
Ali Abdaal 53:43
Yeah, thanks for thanks for joining.
Jay Clouse 53:45
For sure. And I'm still a little blown away that I can do this part time. So talk to me again, talking to the person in the audience who is just like me, who is saying, this seems like such a time commitment. How should they be thinking about bounding their time commitment to YouTube while still taking it seriously enough to give themselves a shot?
Ali Abdaal 54:00
Yeah. So it is a time commitment. But it's one of those things where it's actually the time commitment is more about kind of just doing it for a very long time and not stopping. And so if we think about the workflow of making a video, it's like coming up with ideas, writing the video, like writing us talking points, and then filming and then editing and then publishing. And I think most early YouTubers, consider making videos like a really big heavy lift that right, I'm going to spend this whole evening I'm going to sit down I'm going to make this video and it's going to happen. That is unsustainable, because it's hard to carve out five hours of your life to bash out everything about a video. But if you think of it as Okay, I've got 10 minutes while I'm sitting on the toilet and I'm on my phone. Why don't I just kind of look through Twitter and see if anyone if anyone's tweeted something that I could make a video based around. Okay, cool. Oh, that's interesting. Show that into notion in my videos to other video ideas database. Then I've got like 20 minutes in the middle of like one of my night shifts where I haven't got any patients coming up. Let me just look through my notion database and find a video that I was sort of working on and let me just type out some stuff and just sort of roughly plan out how would be doing it. Okay, cool. I've got you know, after a few days of doing this, like, I've got a few of these videos, they're actually I've been, they have been on the slow burner for a while, and they just sort of been cooking. And now I guess, Hmm, interesting. I've got this video that's sort of half planned already. Why don't I just kind of film and see what happens and filming a video and it takes about half an hour to an hour, so you can film it. And then you're like, Okay, cool, I've got the footage for that. Now. Now over the next kind of few evenings, I can squeeze an hour here and there, or maybe even three hours here. And there was, you know, staying up to two in the morning, because it's kind of fun editing this video and publishing it. So you break down the process of making videos into these different steps and you realize you, you know, one thing I'm going to teach on the closest idea of parallel processing, like you don't want to batch like to think of things one at a time, you want to think of it as you're going to be doing this for the next two years, you need a factory, you need a machine that churns out videos. And if you can find a way to make to keep the machine fed with ideas, and squeeze out time, and you know, from random moments of the day to refine your ideas, through kind of systematically structuring videos and stuff, then finding the time to film to find time to time to edit or hiring an external editor, which is a big thing that you should do. At that point, it doesn't become much of a time commitment, it becomes a Oh, actually, I can film a video in half an hour, and I can edit a video in three hours. That's, that's about four hours a week. That's like a four hour workweek on YouTube. If I could do four hours a week, for two years, my life would change. And I think that's kind of how I think about it, and how I encourage people to think about it.
Jay Clouse 56:19
I love that I've had a similar realization with this podcast, because I used to think five hour block, I'm gonna edit this thing, and has actually expanded over a couple of days, it made the episodes better because it gave me more days to think about that episode, and make sure that I was hitting certain points in the intro that I wanted or tying things together in a certain way that I wanted. So I love that. Is there anything that I didn't ask about YouTube that you think people absolutely need to know or need to be thinking before they leave this episode?
Ali Abdaal 56:44
I think if anyone's listening to this and has a YouTube channel, you just hire an editor as soon as possible. Basically, I think even if you have like, if you have any income coming in at all, there is such a huge ROI on hiring an editor. That just be I think people just don't realize the power of hiring an editor and outsourcing editing. Even you with this podcast. Like why are you still editing yourself?
Jay Clouse 57:05
Well, I have an editor. I have an engineer, but I do a lot of like the creative editorial myself. Why do you outsource that? Well, I don't know. Because I'm a control freak.
Ali Abdaal 57:14
Okay. Yeah, I outsource everything about editing.
Jay Clouse 57:17
Amazing. Maybe that gives me more confidence.
Ali Abdaal 57:19
Yeah, man, I would I would 100% recommend like as soon as I was editing, suddenly, my everything started to exponentially grow.
Jay Clouse 57:30
I had so much fun talking with Ali and editing this episode. He's such an endearing easy to talk to guy. And I think that really shines through not just in this interview, but on his channel as well. We talked about production and how impactful that can be. The production quality of creative elements. This show is actually one of the things that I get the most compliments about. And so I created an entire five hour course called podcasts like the pros, that shows you exactly how I produce this very show. If you're interested in creating a high quality professional sounding show with a small team or a small budget, I'd love for you to check it out in a link to podcasts like the pros is in the show notes. If you wanna learn more about Ali, his YouTube channel is linked in the show notes as well. Or you can find him on twitter @AliAbdaal thanks to Ali for being on the show. Thank you to Emily Clouse for making the artwork for this episode. Thanks to Nathan todhunter for mixing the show and Brian Skeel for creating our music. If you liked this episode, you can tweet me @JayClouse and let me know and if you really want to say thank you, please leave a review on Apple podcasts. Thanks for listening, and I'll talk to you next week.