Welcome to Creators Going Pro, where in partnership with Semaphore — a creator focused family of companies providing business and financial services to social media professionals — we profile professional YouTube stars who have hit it big by doing what they love. Each week, we’ll chat with a creator about the business side of their channel, including identifying their Semaphore Moment — the moment they truly went pro.
Nerf blasters abound on the Twin Toys YouTube channel, which stars eight-year-old twins Eli and Liam, along with their younger brother Camden, often locked in all-out family-friendly wars with foam-based weaponry.
Started in January 2015, Twin Toys was originally a challenge and toys review channel (like some other incredibly popular YouTube channels with preadolescent talent), but its subscriber count exploded when Aaron, the twins’ YouTuber dad, started uploading videos of Eli and Liam showing off their Nerf skills. More similar uploads ensued, with the special effects getting slightly more advanced and the kids-oriented storylines (e.g. the kids have to clean up their room) getting slightly more elaborate.
Now, Twin Toys has more than 3 million subscribers, and its videos have garnered more than one billion views. New uploads are posted every Friday, regularly resulting in view counts in the multimillions just days after posting. The success has spawned spin-offs, too. Twin Toys branded branch-off channels include Twin Toys Clubhouse (500,000+ subscribers, 135 million views), a toy-focused comedy channel that uploads three times a week, and Twin Toys Access (nearly 300,000 subscribers; 65 million views), which is centered on family-friendly life lessons.
All in all, Aaron, his wife Katie (who also helps run the biz) and his sons are averaging north of 50 million YouTube views per month and consistently delivering big view counts on a number of brand deals. But they didn’t start out this way. Check out our conversation with Aaron about how Twin Toys went pro below:
Tubefilter: How’d the Twin Toys channel get started?
Aaron: Twin Toys first started January 2015 where the kids and I would create fun toy unboxing and candy review videos. After 10 months of trying different formats and content strategies, we stumbled upon our first successful video when creating a Nerf War short skit about arguing over what to watch on TV. It was only 2 minutes long which cracks me up because now every Nerf War video falls above the 10 minute mark. Afterwards, we uploaded a second Nerf War video and the traffic was incredible. This is when we knew what the brand identity of Twin Toys was going to be.
TF: When did you get your first check for online video revenue and how much was it? What about your first check outside of AdSense?
Aaron: We received a whopping $2.92 on our first adsense check and that was March of 2015. We never started working with brands until the summer of 2017, so that is when we received our first check outside of Adsense.
TF: When was that Semaphore Moment for you–the time you first realized you were a professional creator?
Aaron: We realized we had something when the first Payback Time video was uploaded on February 2016. It was a fun little skit about the kids getting back at me for tricking them about eating all of their Halloween candy. So we created another Payback Time episode and it blew up just as big as the first one. Currently we have created 19 Payback Time episodes which to date is our most successful series totaling around 230 millions views. We were still creating other Nerf War videos, but realized this series is what the audience really wanted to watch.
At around that time I left my job as a fund accountant at Wilshire Associates and my wife Katie stepped away from being an elementary school teacher so we could both focus on this new business full time. Life in general was actually relaxed since the twins went to morning preschool, Camden was sleeping all the time, and Beckett wasn’t born yet. Now it’s a little more hectic. Everyday I am always juggling the YouTube, Dad, and Husband hats, but that is the adventure that gives life a purpose, all the challenges and never a dull moment.
TF: Do Eli and Liam consider this a job? Or do they know it’s your job? How do they conceptualize all this?
Aaron: The twins definitely don’t consider this a job since they always keep asking me, “When do we get to be on camera and blast you again?!” They do understand that I am always working on the channel whenever I step into my office at home.
TF: How are earnings handled when it comes to Eli and Liam (and Camden)?
Aaron: We have created savings and college accounts for each of the kids. We have also created three physical buckets for each child, Camden will get his own when he gets older, but the three buckets are Give, Save, and Spend.
We give the kids a certain amount of dollars per week and help them allocate their money wisely into these three buckets. That way if they want a new video game, Nerf blaster, or whatever, they have to check their Spend and Save buckets. We try to help them realize that the “Save” bucket is for something really special and takes time to accumulate money to purchase. Then at the end of the month, the kids will take the “Give” bucket and place it in the tithing plate at church. I was never taught as a child or even as a teen about money responsibilities, so I want my kids to learn these best practices at an early age so they can be better prepared than I ever was.
TF: How big is your team right now? And when did you decide to bring other people on and what are their roles?
Aaron: We have a team of four right now, besides me working on 3 channels. We just recently hired Scott Pellegrino as our new COO and he has been a huge help since I have always been playing the “One Man Army” hat ever since Twin Toys took off back in late 2015. I hired my first editor for Twin Toys at the end of 2016 since juggling the hats I mentioned earlier was getting harder and harder. Then we created Twin Toys Clubhouse and Twin Toys Access which required two more editors. Now with the help from Scott, we have a well oiled machine that is causing us to increase our quality of production immensely.
TF: What are your sources of revenue and how does it break down?
Aaron: We are about 70/30 Adsense to brand deals when it comes to revenue breakdown.
TF: What’s next for Twin Toys?
Aaron: Our current big focus is to expand and place our business in a brick and mortar so we can take our well oiled machine locally instead of remotely. We are also looking into a Twin Toys mobile game as well as an animated series where we bring Payback Time into the cartoon world. Currently, we are creating a Twin Toys Top Trumps deck which will launch in the next several weeks. But when it comes to YouTube videos, we will keep creating what the audience loves to watch, more and more Nerf War videos, and maybe a vlogging channel in the future.
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