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.
Ryan McNulty is a first for Creators Going Pro: our first creator-gone-pro who’s no longer an active YouTuber, and who moved on to make his multiple businesses, both YouTube-related and not, his 24/7 career.
However, like all our other featurees, McNulty of course got his start on YouTube. And, like many gaming creators, he carved a niche for himself and his channel (then called xRPMx13) by playing highly competitive, cooperative first-person shooter game Call of Duty. He then branched out into wildly popular Minecraft, which made up the bulk of his content back when his channel was most active, from 2013 to 2015. McNulty has since made all his videos private, so exact stats are hard to come by, but before he slowed down making content in 2016 to focus on his businesses, he was bringing in between 5 and 10 million views per month. His channel, though it’s been inactive for years, still has more than one million subscribers.
So what prompted him to move on from creating successful content full-time? “Crazy ambition” is one reason, he says.
He knew he wanted to create something bigger than videos, bigger than a channel — especially because the AdSense revenue coming in for his videos was “extremely volatile and unpredictable,” making it hard to rely solely on his channel for income. But despite the difficulties, McNulty loved the business of YouTube, loved the puzzle of figuring out how to grow successful channels.
He combined his love of building channels with his desire to step back from creating content and launched GLG Inc., a YouTube production company that takes on fledgling creators and pays them a flat rate each month to make videos. McNulty and the GLG Inc. team consult with creators about their channels’ content, and help sharpen the channels’ directions and audience appeal factors with the intention of growing the channels to full-time jobs for the folks running them. McNulty now has more than 30 employees working for GLG Inc., which is currently incubating 10 channels with a collective total of 3 million subscribers and 30 million monthly views.
Starting GLG Inc. showed McNulty a lot, including how much he’d learned from YouTube that he could carry forward into being a CEO. What it showed him most, though, was that he wanted to run more than one business. His next venture, clothing production company BETR, was also YouTube-related. For it, he acquired an 8,000-square-foot facility and began making merch (something he was experienced with thanks to producing items like T-shirts for his own channel) for other creators.
And having to learn the clothing production ropes is what brought McNulty to his newest business, his passion project: a swim and casual wear shop called nood. As McNulty says below, it may seem like he jumped from being a Minecraft maker to a clothing designer, but what really happened is the ongoing tale of a serial entrepreneur who’s constantly finding new ways to pursue his interests.
With nood, which launched last month, McNulty is offering a full lineup of swimming getup (like bikinis and trunks) along with casual beachwear like hoodies and crop tops. The business has already racked up nearly 50K followers on Instagram, and is working on designing more looks for summers to come.
While McNulty won’t return to being a full-time YouTuber, he’s lately been experimenting with streaming some Minecraft gameplay on his channel, and recently uploaded a video (below) catching his subscribers up on what’s been happening with his ventures outside the platform.
Ultimately, he credits YouTube with helping him develop the self-discipline, time management, and go-get-’em attitude that drives his life as a multibusiness CEO.
Check out our chat with him below.
Tubefilter: So first, tell us a little about you! Where are you from? What did you do in ye olde days before joining YouTube?
Ryan McNulty: I was born and raised in St. Petersburg, Fla. I’ve had a variety of jobs throughout my life, ranging from delivering pizzas, to telemarketing, and a lot of hot summers painting condos outside. I really did anything and everything, which afforded me a ton of great learning experiences and definitely made me more appreciative of a dollar. I joined YouTube about 10 years ago under the name xRPMx13, aka “the incredibly good-looking gamer.” My fans were known as GLGs…or “good-looking gamers.”
Tubefilter: You stepped away from YouTube to concentrate on building your swim line, nood, as well as a YouTube-focused production company. How did your YouTube channel and experiences as a YouTube creator lead you to starting these other businesses?
RM: I’m so grateful for all the years I was on YouTube creating content. I loved the idea that just by being funny and authentic, I could make my fans laugh and smile, and really build an audience. The fact that I was making money off it, too!? I mean, that’s everyone’s dream, right? Yes, it was an awesome time and you’ll never catch me saying that I didn’t love it.
However, I found out through the years that YouTube wasn’t even close to the “play video games and make money” scenario everyone had made it out to be. I have so much respect for anyone who is a content creator. Posting occasional videos is one thing, but to CONSISTENTLY post and grow in such a competitive and oversaturated market is truly incredible. I didn’t get paid for my work on YouTube until I’d spent two years routinely posting content and adapting to what was “in” — all while still trying to stay true to my own self-values. That, in itself, was a harder balance than some might think, especially when you are in the spotlight. Working for yourself is great, but I found myself working 80+ hours a week, making less than I would at a normal job.
The big difference was, I loved the concept of everything being in my own hands. My mentality quickly turned from “clock in, clock out,” to “clock in…and here we are eight years later still clocked in.” The largest and most important thing I learned, and continue to develop, is self-discipline. I was able to create my own hours, but I still had to balance getting footage, editing and rendering that footage, commentating, collaborating with other YouTubers, researching trends constantly, etc. This is a lot to handle while still trying to balance school, friends, relationships, and health. It’s quite the juggling act, but after trying and failing over and over — at anything — you start to really learn what to prioritize.
I also learned to make a lot of sacrifices. Whether it was financial, social, or personal, I was constantly sacrificing things in my life that I believe a lot of people are willing to let go of to really take things to the next level. Combined with some crazy ambition, all of these things led to a heightened sense of exactly what I was creating. That’s really when I knew that it didn’t stop for me at YouTube, and that I wanted to build something so much bigger than myself.
Tubefilter: You originally created a lot of Minecraft-related content for YouTube. How did you go from Minecraft to swimwear?
RM: I originally started my YouTube career with Call of Duty, but really started to gain traction when I began posting funny videos of me playing Minecraft with friends. I think the jump to creating my clothing line nood wasn’t necessarily a jump from Minecraft content to clothing. There was a ton of stuff that happened in the four years between Minecraft and nood that was behind the scenes.
Because I didn’t make any of it public, I can see why it seemed like I “jumped” from one thing to the other, when really it was all a calculated move with tons of unseen work and hours. I became hyperaware that YouTube (and its revenue) was extremely volatile and unpredictable, so that’s when I decided that I needed to work behind the scenes on some other revenue streams.
At the time, I was doing merchandise for my subscribers, creating shirts and stuff they could wear…It was a younger demographic, so the clothing I was selling was flying out the door, but it wasn’t necessarily something I would wear. So after about seven years of learning fashion, clothing, merchandise, marketing, and succeeding at it (and of course failing a lot at it, too), I finally decided to start working on something much, much bigger than just merchandise. I wanted to make something people would wear regardless of whether or not they knew I was the one who created it. That’s when nood was born.
During this time, I also acquired an 8000-square-foot office space to run all my businesses from, and that really help boost my creativity. I hired a team over time and began producing all of my YouTube merchandise as well as merchandise for other YouTubers in house, working with some of the biggest creators in the world.
Tubefilter: When did you get your first check for online video revenue? How much was it for?
RM: My very first check from YouTube was around summer of 2011. It was about $200, give or take, and I remember never feeling so accomplished in my life, and spending it all on a new microphone! Really crazy to think about, and puts everything into perspective. At that time, even being paid on YouTube at all was nearly unheard of still.
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Tubefilter: You mentioned a lot of things went on behind the scenes between Minecraft and nood. What happened in the leadup to nood’s creation?
RM: nood started out as an idea for a couple of custom pocket T-shirts with quality and comfort as the main goal. I wanted you to feel “nude” when you wore my clothes, hence why I called it “nood.” After about a year of different designs, samples, and trying to figure out exactly where I wanted to take this brand, I made the decision to make something even bigger than just a couple of custom items. I wanted to drop an entire clothing line.
I was involved start to finish with every article of clothing you see on the website, but not without specific consulting or expertise in certain fields. In the beginning, I hired freelance workers for everything that I was unsure of as far as cut and designs. That threw me for a loop more than anything because there were so many people giving their opinions on the brand that it was starting to trail off from what I originally wanted. There were multiple times where my right-hand man/manager/best friend Mitch Thomas would step in and remind me not to deviate from my vision. He had worked with me for a few years prior, and had been with me through thick and thin, constantly supporting and pushing everything I did to that next level.
Then, I started to link up and hire people in a different way. I knew I was 85% there, but needed some people to come in and run with that same vision. Around that time, I was in a bar in downtown St. Petersburg and ran into a close friend I hadn’t seen in a while. After a few drinks and catching up, he explained to me what he was doing in New York City, and showed me all the designs he was working on. It wasn’t just important to get someone on board who was good at design work, but also someone who knew me and my vision. That’s why I ended up hiring him, and he’s now our lead designer, Alex Fox. He’s been working with me on nood for the last 18 months, and is just KILLER at what he does. I couldn’t be more stoked to have him along for the journey of making the whole world “nood.”
As far as the production of products, the only thing we make in-house is the hats we embroider, which we haven’t even launched yet. Although I have a full apparel production company and merchandising company and could have made a lot of the stuff in-house, I quickly realized that the level of intricacies and customization I wanted far exceeded an 8000-square-foot space.
I traveled the world during all of this, sampling apparel and working with multiple factories so that I could really dial in the most high-quality product anyone can produce. At this point, I can confidently say that our quality and attention to detail is the absolute best in every way, shape, and form…but there’s only one way for you to really believe me, and that’s to actually get your hands on it. I will let the line speak for itself in that sense!
Tubefilter: nood isn’t your only — or first — business. What else do you have going on?
RM: So this might seem a little scattered just due to the order of the questions, but the process went from me doing YouTube full-time myself, to creating a production company on YouTube (GLG Inc.) so I could step away, to creating a merchandise production company (BETR), to my clothing line (nood). Those are my four main businesses, along with other partnerships, business consulting, Minecraft server development, paid sponsorships/ad agency work, and a few other things along the way I have my hands in.
Anyway, when I decided it was time for me to part ways from YouTube, I was ready to leave the spotlight…but I also knew I needed to use all the skills I’d acquired, and my extensive knowledge of the platform, to ensure I continued to have revenue coming in. I decided to start making multiple channels and hiring different voice actors, editors, and talent to produce content I would be able to promote before I left the scene.
I am very lucky to have built such an amazing network of friends around the world who were doing big things in the space. Two of my closest friends, Ryan and Scott ( also known as LittleLizardGaming on YouTube), were the first to give me the big heads-up that kid-friendly content was the play, and proved it big with how successful they were and continue to be. The teams I started hiring to put on kid-friendly Minecraft content took off as planned, and I couldn’t have been more excited.
It works like this: I provide the ideas, management, insight, and direction, as well as (the most important part) the promotion, up until the channels were doing well enough on their own. This way, I can step aside and have my manager stay on top of all the talent and teams for that company, which is still growing to this day. We find creators who are passionate about YouTube and creating videos, and pay them a base rate to produce the content we think has the most potential to take off.
I always think back to when I was working 12 hours a day on YouTube, not getting paid at all, and make sure that the opportunities I’m creating for people are always opportunities I would have jumped at before all of this. It’s always extremely rewarding for me on a personal level when one of the new teams or channels start to become successful, and their initial base pay turns to revenue share, which often becomes a life-changing amount of money. The goal with everyone on the team is to take these very talented individuals who are working on YouTube for free, whilst trying to hold down a full-time job, to a point where YouTube becomes their full-time job.
I now have over 30 people in that company alone working on different projects and channels. Ten channels have over 100,000 subscribers, with a total of close to 3 million subscribers in the network. A few years ago, Mitch took over most of the day-to-day for this business, so I could focus on the bigger-picture stuff and the success of the next companies. I’m truly grateful for my team and everyone who works with me on the YouTube channels — we’ve continued to grow our views up to nearly 30 million per month across all of the channels.
Tubefilter: What was that Semaphore Moment for you—the first time you realized you were a professional creator?
RM: When Machinima was the biggest name in gaming on YouTube and they invited me out to accept an award in front of hundreds of the biggest creators at the time, all of whom I was looking up to — that was insane. They’d picked me as the creator who showed the most growth that year, and most potential in the future. I had close to 10K subscribers at the time, and to be speaking in front of creators who were truly the greatest YouTubers in that moment…I will always have so much love for the original Machinima crew, and will never forget everyone who believed in me. Legends.
Tubefilter: Have you considered becoming a YouTube creator again now that nood has launched and your other businesses are doing well?
RM: I am definitely excited to be creating content again for nood. However, I don’t think I will necessarily go back to YouTube as a “YouTuber.” Again, I’m so grateful to have all of people who watched me, and I will never forget the millions of fans who supported me when I was consistently posting on YouTube, but that’s something I made the conscious decision to move on from.
From when I began creating content in 2010 to the time I stopped in 2016/2017, the climate had changed completely. The thing about YouTube is that if you’re inconsistent, you are usually punished for it, so taking a break for a week or a month could potentially mean that you are killing your entire channel. For some people, that means years of work, gone in an instant. That constant pressure to create relevant content, with so many people financially dependent on me, as well as the extra businesses I began doing in the background, became very difficult to manage. If I needed to take a break for my mental health, I put everything I worked for on the line.
Toward the end, I remember I was doing vlogs every single day. Let’s be honest, life is going to throw unexpected things in your direction. Some days you may feel depressed, tired, busy, or just not in the mood to record, but you HAVE to post and be fun, entertaining, and constantly doing entertaining things, otherwise your videos won’t perform as well. Not only that, but it’s also extremely personal. Imagine letting a million people into your life to see everything you do every single day. My relationships, friendships, family, and what I would consider “myself” was all out there for people to see, and I started feeling like I was living for the viewers rather than myself.
I was also very sarcastic, funny, and “PG-13,” which, in today’s climate, I genuinely think my authenticity and sarcasm would be used more against me than for me. I quickly realized that my self-worth wasn’t just numbers of views and fans, and if I didn’t get out, I would forever value myself on that. I was also doing so much cool and exciting business stuff in the background that I wanted to be known as more than “that guy who plays video games for a living.”
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Tubefilter: Do you have any words of advice for folks who are also hoping to turn their creator careers into entrepreneurial endeavors?
RM: Go for it! If you’re already a content creator, you already know the feeling of trying and failing, and that’s the part that stops 99% of people from doing great things. If it wasn’t for my failures, I would never have any of my successes. You shouldn’t let the fear of failing stop you from trying to do something new in the business world — as big or as small as it is, you just have to go for it. The only way to really learn something is by doing it. I’m not saying to throw your life savings at your first project, by any means, I just believe the most important thing someone can do is just that: DO.
Of course, you never want to go into something completely blind or start throwing money at a project without a proper action plan and research. Also try to build your network! Networking is huge in building business, and fortunately, my network is full of extremely driven people. It took a long time to build out this network of friends and coworkers, but the effect it has had on me and my businesses is priceless. When you do succeed, let your actions speak for you — there’s a huge reason why I work in the background and don’t constantly spotlight my accomplishments. This decision alone has built up a credibility that is priceless in the industries I work in.
I could go on forever in this section, but I will end on this: always do GOOD business and be transparent about everything upfront…The amount of people I have worked with who overpromise and underdeliver is incredible. You always want to ensure you overdeliver.
Tubefilter: Did YouTube give you any skills you’ve carried forward into your time as a CEO?
RM: YouTube equipped me with an insane amount of skills that have definitely carried over! First off, it taught me to have thick skin. There is always so much positivity and people cheering you on, but there is also going to be a lot of people rooting against you. The people who are posting negative things in YouTube comments, the people who tell you that you CAN’T do something in real life, are the ones you need to learn to block out. Mostly, they are doing it because of their own insecurities. Once I realized that, it was really easy for me to show love to anyone who loves me, but to also show love and empathy for anyone who didn’t.
The same thing can happen in the workspace, and has happened countless times in eight years. If I paid attention to the unproductive negativity, let it impact me even slightly, it would be seriously detrimental to the business. You have to learn to take the blatant animosity with a grain of salt — the people who are truly supportive will voice their thoughts constructively, and those are the only people you should spend time engaging with.
YouTube also taught me the importance of proper time management and self-discipline, which are both KEY factors in being a CEO. You have to be able to balance your time, which is a constant learning curve, and is something I am consistently working to get better at. Self-discipline is the next key factor — the discipline to get videos and content out consistently. Coming to terms with having to sacrifice some of my social time to get where I want to be carried right over from content creator to my role as CEO of these companies.
Tubefilter: What’s next for you, your businesses, and your channel? What are you building toward?
RM: Next for me and my businesses is steady growth. I feel confident with my teams on all fronts, and I know I’m not going to be hitting the brakes anytime soon. As far as building businesses, for financial stability, I’m there already, so I think anything I build from here on out will have to be passion projects like nood. I plan on all of my passion projects and businesses to be profitable, of course, but that won’t be the main reason I build them out.
I’ve realized that I don’t think I will ever stop working, because I’m a complete serial entrepreneur, but as unhealthy as that can be, I think it can be balanced out with passion projects. I just want to make people happy, and try to play my part in building a better world all around. I hope to inspire and find some sort of happiness through all the chaos that comes with running multiple companies. As you can imagine, it gets pretty isolating not having a mentor or boss to go to anytime something breaks.
My main goal is to take nood to that next level and start having events and coordinating content all around the world so I can travel everywhere while still running everything from my laptop.
As for YouTube, I have privated most of my videos, which I know may have upset a lot of my fans, but don’t fret! I have a plan. I made video explaining all of this to my subscribers (above). I’m going to try my best to re-release all of my big Minecraft series, with all profits being donated to charity — but, as I said in the video, this could take a year or so to have the videos edited together and ready for viewing, so you may have to be patient!
Lastly, once I start traveling again, I think I may be able to do a biweekly or monthly video on the channel showcasing snippets of my life and the insane things I have ready in the chamber! In the meantime you can follow everything I do on Instagram @THEREALRPM.
Huge thank you to Tubefilter for the interview, and thanks to anyone who took the time to read! I hope this gave some insight, and at least gave some sort of takeaway for each and every person!
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