Welcome to YouTube Millionaires, where we profile channels that have recently crossed the one million subscriber mark. There are channels crossing this threshold every week, and each has a story to tell about YouTube success. Read previous installments of YouTube Millionaires here.
If you’ve ever gotten curious about bullet journaling, chances are you’ve stumbled across Amanda Rach Lee. Her bullet journal videos have been watched hundreds of thousands of times, and pop up at the top of virtually every YouTube search related to bullet journaling — a highly organized yet highly creative system that helps people use one notebook to track anything and everything, from daily chores to career goals to saving money.
Lee, who is an artist, gives her followers regular, in-depth looks at how she sets up her own bullet journals, and also makes how-to videos to help newbies untangle what can at first seem like a dauntingly complicated tracking system. At the beginning of each month, she invites people to plan with her as she draws out the month’s bullet journal, surrounding her handmade weekly calendars with intricate (and themed) decorations.
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For those not into journaling, Lee — who is managed by Reuven Ashtar at Never Napping — has tons of other artistic content. She also invites viewers to doodle with her (the latest: how to draw Christmas ornaments) and teaches calligraphy, figure drawing, and watercolor painting.
Now, Lee has more than one million subscribers tuning in to see her art. She sat down with Tubefilter to trace back her YouTube origins, chat about how she fell in love with bullet journaling, and reveal that everyone, even YouTube Millionaires, can run into art block.
Tubefilter: How does it feel to hit one million subscribers? What do you have to say to your fans?
Amanda Rach Lee: It doesn’t feel real! It still blows my mind whenever I see the number next to my channel name, because I remember my 14-year-old self celebrating 50 subscribers five years ago. As exciting as the number is, the fact that I reached it in a way that was authentic to myself, while creating a positive community, makes it even more special to me. To anyone who has ever watched one of my videos, I just want to say thank you for everything. I’m so grateful to be a positive part of someone’s day, even if it’s just for 10 minutes.
Tubefilter: Tell us a little about you! How did you get into art? What made you decide to take that love of art to YouTube?
ARL: I’ve been drawing essentially my whole life, and I even went to an art-focused program in high school. I actually started my YouTube channel during my freshman year of high school, but funnily enough, my content wasn’t actually about art back then. Since I was drawing every day at school, YouTube was my way to take a break from art. After I graduated high school, I started to miss having that daily artistic outlet in my life, and that’s when art started to naturally make its way into my content.
Tubefilter: What do you think makes your artwork and your voice stand out despite all the noise on YouTube?
ARL: I like to think that the reason why people enjoy my content is because I make art more accessible. Sometimes art has a bad reputation for being too pretentious; people think that you have to be the best artist in the world, or know all about art history in order to enjoy it. My goal is to dispel that idea! I hope my videos can encourage people to pick up a pencil, doodle, and have fun with art, no matter what “skill” level you are at.
Tubefilter: When you first joined YouTube, you did a lot of DIY and fashion videos! What drew you (er, no pun intended) to doing bullet journal videos? Have you noticed a strong audience reaction to bullet journaling?
ARL: I started out with DIY, beauty, and fashion videos because those were the kinds of videos I was watching and seeing a lot of on YouTube back then. I was so young when I started my channel, so naturally, my interests started to evolve.
Around the three-year mark is when I was starting to doubt my content. I was getting tired of the videos I was making, and I just wasn’t enjoying it as much. It’s as if the YouTube gods knew I was having doubts, because that was when I stumbled upon a random video about bullet journaling. As soon as I watched it, I knew it was something I would enjoy doing, because it combines everything I love: doodling, stationery, and organization. I ended up making a one-off video about it in January of 2017, intending to go back to my regular DIY and fashion videos after it, but people loved it so much that I just never stopped doing them!
Eventually, I made the decision to do a full channel genre switch, which was scary at the time, but it’s the best decision I ever made. Now, I genuinely enjoy the whole process of making my videos, which I think is crucial for any YouTuber (especially if they want to keep their sanity!).
Tubefilter: You also do a lot of “how to” videos! Why is it important to you to help other people out on their art journeys? Have any other YouTubers inspired you on your own art journey?
ARL: It’s important for me to show people that drawing doesn’t have to be this daunting and scary task. It can be quick, easy, and most importantly, fun! That’s why my favourite comment to get from people is that I inspired them to draw or journal. I know that exact feeling as well.
I also get so much inspiration from all the amazing artists and creators on the platform. Most of the people I get inspiration from aren’t necessarily “art” YouTubers. I love to see the different formats and ways in which people create and connect with their audience, and it always inspires me to switch things up on my channel.
Tubefilter: How long does it take you, on average, to make a video for your channel? Do you have set filming times/days?
ARL: My filming process takes quite a while, because I do have to actually take the time to sit down and draw. There’s not really any shortcuts to that. On average, I would say that it takes me about three to five hours to film one video. Editing is a whole other beast that can either take me a couple hours or a couple days.
Although I would love to have set filming times and days, unfortunately, creativity and art does not work on a structured schedule. Sometimes, I have so many ideas that I want to film two videos in a row, and sometimes, I have art block and can’t even bear the idea of picking up a pencil.
Tubefilter: Do you consider YouTube your full-time job? What else do you get up to in your daily life?
ARL: Yes, I consider YouTube my full-time job. It’s definitely an unorthodox job to have, and you have to wear many hats in order to succeed, but I absolutely love it. Other than YouTube and art, I love playing music and hanging out with my friends. Recently, I’ve been teaching myself guitar!
Tubefilter: When did you notice your channel really starting to pick up subscribers? How would you say you found your audience?
ARL: Since my channel had a couple different eras, there were different times that I noticed my channel picking up momentum. But obviously, the biggest growth was when I started making the switch to art content. This was about three and a half years in. Even though I went to school for art and it was my passion, I never considered making content about it before that point. I just didn’t see much of it on YouTube, and I thought that there weren’t that many people who were interested in art. But I think that’s part of the reason why my channel grew. The genre wasn’t very saturated, so I definitely filled a niche. I also think people could tell that I genuinely enjoyed it and would be doing it regardless of whether I was filming it for a video.
Tubefilter: What’s your favorite part of making content on YouTube?
ARL: My favourite (Canadian spelling because I’m Canadian!) part of making content on YouTube is interacting with my community. My channel has grown a lot over the past year, but it was never due to one single “viral” video. It was more of a steady and consistent growth. I think that helped me to cultivate a really strong and authentic relationship with my audience. They are always so engaged and positive! A lot of them will often recreate my drawings and send me pictures, which I love seeing. Through this back-and-forth, as well as things like livestreams, I truly feel like I have a constant dialogue going on with my viewers.
Tubefilter: What’s next for your channel? Any plans looking to the future?
ARL: I’m currently looking into expanding onto other platforms like Twitch and Patreon. There are also some other secret projects in the works (that I don’t want to spoil yet!), but I’m really excited for them. Other than that, I’m going to keep doodling and hopefully people will come along for the ride!
You can add yourself to the ranks of Lee’s more-than-a-million YouTube subscribers at her channel YouTube.com/AmandaRachLee.