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.
The boys of Beta Squad are a snapshot of self-made YouTube success.
There’s five of them, and they have a lot in common: they’re all from the U.K., they’re all university dropouts, they all knew they wanted to do YouTube from a young age, and they all supported themselves working day jobs (most of them in retail) before their YouTube careers took off. None of them started off living luxe, but through their own channels and their eponymous shared channel, they’ve become full-time YouTubers who, after moving into one house this past February, now live together, work together, and create together, 24/7.
Who are they? There’s Chunkz, who’s from North West London and grew up watching a YouTube where creators from neighborhoods like his just…didn’t make it big. He met AJ, who’s also from North West London, while they were both working at the same chain movie theater. Chunkz, in early 2015, was the first one to start a YouTube channel. He didn’t think his first videos, where he plays FIFA video games and raps, would attract a sizeable audience, but they did. The success of his channel inspired AJ, who made his own channel later that year to house his videos about anything and everything to do with soccer. AJ has since grown his content to involve pranks, challenges, and showcases of his own music — and in doing so, he’s netted 224K subscribers.
Sharky came next. He’s also from North West London, and had started to grow bored with his then primarily FIFA-oriented channel, which he too had launched in 2015. He was already a fan of Chunkz’s content when he realized they were practically neighbors. He, Chunkz, and AJ met up, and their passion for YouTube inspired him to take another look at his channel — and consider creating collaboratively. He expanded his content to humorous, often 24-hour-long challenges, and currently has nearly 300K subscribers.
The Squad’s other two members, Niko and King Kenny, came along later. Niko is from Stafford, a town northwest of Birmingham, and had been making YouTube content for years before Chunkz, AJ, and Sharky ended up on the platform. He used his channel, started in 2011 and now with 1.15M subs, to post humorous skits, parodies, and challenges. While he grew his channel, he attended university and took some production jobs, but once the YouTube thing began working out for him, he left university and went in full-time.
As for King Kenny, he’s from Watford (a town north of London), and joined YouTube in 2013 with a series of dramatic vlogs, pranks, and skits. His YouTube journey was stymied when his mom’s old camera, a key tool in his nascent vlogging career, died on him. He took jobs at McDonald’s and grocery store ASDA to afford a new one — and, thanks to all the work get that camera, when he had it in hand, he knew he wanted to get out of retail and go full-time on the world’s largest video sharing site (where he now has 1.8M subscribers).
All five of them individually staked their own place on YouTube, but their new group venture, Beta Squad, is what’s caught our attention here at Creators Going Pro. The group made it official in February, when they moved in together and launched their shared channel. As Beta Squad, they’ve posted 16 videos over the past eight months, the majority of them challenges like living on £1 for an entire day, seeing who can make the biggest food, staying at a $10 hotel versus a $10 million hotel, and pretending to be employees of a local shop (below).
All of their videos, save their very first intro video, have netted more than 500K views, with many reaching over 1M. Their newest video — the employees video — has their highest view count of all: 1.2M.
But while they’re dedicated to their identity and content as the Beta Squad, and hope to turn the venture into a full-fledged brand, the goal of living together and being part of the Squad isn’t just to make content together. It’s also to encourage one another, as an entire household of creatives, to make ever-more-awesome content individually.
Here’s how they’re doing it.
Tubefilter: Tell us a little about each of you! Where are you from? What did you all do in ye old days before YouTube?
Chunkz: I’m from North West London (brap brap). Before YouTube, I was working in a cinema with AJ – that’s where I met him. I went to uni, hated it, dropped out. I studied maths because I was good at it, but I didn’t enjoy it. I knew I was good at it because I wouldn’t revise for exams and I’d still get As and Bs, and my dad said, “You have a gift, so why don’t you go and study it?” But I didn’t like it. I did a year at uni, I passed, and they said, “We’ll see you next year,” and I was like, “No you won’t!” Now, that’s my number one rule: I’ve got to enjoy what I do.
Niko: I’m from a town called Stafford. I used to do small productions for other companies, but I’ve done YouTube since way back in 2013. I took a year out of college, and that’s when I started YouTube full-time.
King Kenny: I’m from Watford. Before YouTube, I was working in retail. I remember I also went to uni for a few hours before I dropped out. Niko has it on Snapchat as a memory. I already knew I didn’t want to be there after one class. Then I got my jobs at ASDA and in McDonald’s. However, with YouTube, I’d beeen doing that for so long, on and off since I was 12 or 13. I was using my mum’s dead camera and couldn’t afford a new one, so I worked in McDonald’s to save up for one. During the time I dropped out, I just went in on creating content, and eventually it paid off.
AJ: I’m from the same place as Chunkz, North West London. We have almost the same story. Before this whole YouTube and Beta Squad thing, I was working at Cineworld with him. I was working there from when I was young — well, when Chunkz started working there.
Chunkz: Then the story goes, he started YouTube because he saw what I was doing and he saw me banging the views and thought, You know what, I need to make them too!
AJ: Nah nah nah! I watched YouTube when I was younger, but I never had the belief I could do it until me and Chunkz talked about it, and then I said, “Let’s just do it.” Now we are here.
Sharky: I’m from the same area, but I’ve moved around a lot. Before YouTube, I went to uni for three months, and in those three months I went in just four times. After that, they sent me an email and said to basically not come back! I’ve never had a “real” job in my life — the only job I had was working as a steward in Emirates Stadium, which is the stadium of the team I support, Arsenal. My job was to watch the match! I saw it as free tickets to the football matches, which is why I wouldn’t call it a real job. I didn’t always watch YouTube, but I just fell into it.
Tubefilter: Do you all have dropping out of uni in common?
Chunkz: I went to school the right way, so passed Year 11, went to sixth form, and passed both years. Went to uni straight after — when I was 18. It was only when I went uni that I realized it just wasn’t for me and dropped out. When I was there, I was literally on the verge of tears, staring at the ceiling for 30 minutes when I woke up, and thinking I cannot get out of this bed. I knew it wasn’t something I wanted to do. I was doing it for my parents because I knew they had left war-stricken countries to improve our quality of life. So for me to go to them and say, “No, I don’t want to do this,” was hard. It’s the main reason we’re here, you know? I took the risk, and it’s paid off.
Tubefilter: Why did you decide to become YouTube creators?
AJ: YouTube now is the place to go to put out content, but when we started, it wasn’t the platform it is now.
Chunkz: I used to watch YouTube in 2007, and it got to the point I was watching it more than TV. I used to love watching KSI, Spencer FC, etc. From 2012, on my first day on sixth form, I thought I might start a channel and do the YouTube thing, but I had confidence issues. I was way bigger than I am now, and I had a big gap tooth, and I knew how harsh the comments were.
Then, when I was at uni, I decided I would give it a real shot, because I saw the crazy opportunities my favourite YouTubers used to have — like KSI vlogging America, for example. I had no money growing up, and thought, You know what, I’d love to have those experiences, but I didn’t think it could become a full-blown career. It was more just enjoying what I liked to do and getting people to realize where I am, and being given those opportunities.
AJ: That’s a similar way it was for me. I was studying film and always wanted to be involved in that creative stuff. I realised that film was one of the hardest industries to break into — and even if you do break into it, you need to start from the bottom and work your way up. It felt like you had to know someone to catch a break. If you’re working your way up, you have to go through uni, and then be a runner. I’ve tried plenty of times to apply for these jobs, but then I thought, Why don’t I try and make films myself? Now, I’m so glad I did it that way, because I enjoy it so much more.
Sharky: For me, I didn’t watch a lot of YouTube growing up, but I was really into football. I tried a lot of things — at one point I had a football blog and I was writing articles about the game, but I got bored of doing that and started making YouTube videos. At this point, I wasn’t aware of who these guys were, but around the time my second video came out, I came across Chunkz and found out we lived near each other.
From there, we started talking, and the rest is history. Then me and AJ started talking, and then we always did stuff together. It became a community. I genuinely believe if I hadn’t met Chunkz and the rest of the guys, I would have stopped doing YouTube after a couple of months. The community side of YouTube was a real draw — and we can all say that we helped each other’s careers online.
Niko: There was never a question for me about doing anything else but YouTube, because I grew up watching it, so it was what I always wanted to do. That was my dream job. There wasn’t another option for me; I just wanted to make videos for YouTube. I was obsessed with people like KSI. YouTube gave me the platform to make videos and get better at my craft.
Tubefilter: What is it like being part of the Beta Squad? What do you all get up to in your day-to-day lives together?
Niko: It’s been one of the most unique experiences of my life. One of the best years of my life.
Kenny: It’s mad, but it’s fun!
Chunkz: Being part of the Beta Squad is an honor. I absolutely love being part of the Beta Squad — the fact that a bunch of friends can form a group and have millions of people tuning in to it weekly it really means a lot. We’re having fun, and the fact that people are finding it entertaining, we are so so appreciative of it. I’m excited to see what happens with this project.
Sharky: It’s always going to feel amazing being a part of the best group in this country. What do we get up to? We have fun!
Chunkz: Every Sunday we film a Beta Squad video. That takes up a whole day, and then we have other days dedicated to our own channels. The aim is to help everyone in the house make the content they want to make.
Sharky: It’s all about collaboration, working with one another to produce amazing content. Since we moved in together, I don’t think there’s been a single video one of us has not featured in.
AJ: It does get a little crazy, though, when everyone is filming in the house. The other day, I woke up to see a vending machine being delivered to the house, and thought What is going on? Then you realize there’s a video being filmed, and you jump in it. There’s always something going on. But some days, you need to have a chill from it all and relax.
Chunkz: Some days you need to put on the cinema or chill by the pool!
Tubefilter: In eight months, you’ve brought nearly 400K subscribers, and your videos are netting 1M+ views each. Can you talk a little about your channel growth? Has being part of Beta Squad caused your own individual channels to grow as well?
Chunkz: On an individual level, I have seen my numbers grow massively. Our Social Blades are screaming.
Sharky: Before Beta Squad, I’d see hundreds of new subscribers every time I uploaded. Now, I might not post for a while, and I’ll still see that many new subscribers to my platform each day. That’s just off the back of the regular Beta Squad videos going out.
AJ: Before Beta Squad, for sure we all knew each other and made videos together, but Beta Squad allows our audiences to see all of us together. People love seeing what we are up to together.
Kenny: For me, it’s less about my personal channel, but more how people react to me in public. It used to be, “Hey Kenny, where’s Wisdom?” But now it’s “Where’s Chunkz?”
Tubefilter: How did you decide to become the Beta Squad? What was appealing to you about the concept?
Chunkz: I’ve always loved the concept of starting a group.
Sharky: Obviously the opportunity to move out and live in a massive house was appealing — it’s that, but merged with having this experience with my best friends, it’s perfect. You could say, “Here’s the exact same opportunity but with four random YouTubers,” and I wouldn’t do it. Beta Squad is the perfect mix of being able to move out and to do it with my best friends. In a creative sense, living together is amazing too.
I think also people relate to us because we don’t come from an upper-class background; we’ve literally come from estates. They relate to us because our humor is similar, the way we speak is similar, our mannerisms are similar…So people do relate.
Niko: With making the Beta Squad, I saw it as a massive opportunity, as it felt like a way we could take our careers to the next level. We didn’t originally think of it as a YouTube channel; we thought it would be a name we’d be referred by, and now it’s so much bigger than that. We have started Beta Squad FC and are working on so many projects outside of the YouTube channel, so it’s exciting.
Tubefilter: What was that Semaphore Moment for you—the first time you realized you were a professional creator?
Sharky: When Chunkz hit 100k subs, we both cried.
Chunkz: That was 2017. I’ll be real, I was still working at Cineworld, and I wanted to quit and do YouTube full-time. But my mum, my dad, my whole family told me I was crazy. I had £50 on my bank card and I thought, I’m just going to live on it and see what happens. No one believed in me doing it, except my friends, who said to me, “You can do it, it is possible.” And those are the guys that are still with me today.
I remember my sister running into my room when I reached 100K, hugging me, and I stood there disbelieving it. I was like, Geez, this is working out! When I say I had a 100K and I was living off it, I’m not saying I was out there buying designer clothes, but I could wake up and buy a Nando’s for myself. I didn’t have to ask my mum or dad. And that was down to AdSense and brand deals.
Sharky: Brand deals came later, though, it was AdSense initially. I think the moment you quit your job and concentrated on YouTube full-time was a real turning point.
Chunkz: That was in April 2017, after the first Birmingham meetup with fans. We were expecting 20 or 30 people, but that’s when we had our eyes really opened up, because we had 200 people come out to see us in a different city. I remember leaving Birmingham feeling like The Man because of how successful the meetup was, with people asking for their photo with me and getting my autograph…and then having to go back to work the next day with my manager asking me to sweep the floors. I still remember the day after I had a shift, saying to my friends in a group chat, “Yo, I can’t do this anymore!”
AJ: When we used to work together, it was funny because we’d be working behind the till, and people would recognize us while we were working. I’d run to the back and leave Chunkz at the till, with fans asking to take pictures with him in his uniform.
For me, my Semaphore Moment came a couple of months after this. Chunkz quit, and people I worked with were going back to their universities, and I thought, I’m not going to be the only one here! I thought, You know what, I’m going to go for it as well. I just decided there and then that we were going to make videos.
Sharky: I realized early 2017, when I’d reached around 50K subs.
Kenny: For me, it was when I was working in ASDA in 2017 and someone asked me for a picture. I stayed at ASDA too long, as I was making more YouTube money than I was from working there, but in my mind, I was expecting the money to stop. But it only increased. Two months later, I officially quit my job.
Niko: After the EDL/NDL video, and breaking through to the mainstream. Newspapers were calling me up and reporting on the video, and I realized this was going to be my actual job.
Tubefilter: Who else is on the Beta Squad team, working with you behind the scenes?
Sharky: We have three cameramen. Kaynan is there every week, George is there every week, and Starplayer will also be filming. Then we have Oscar editing. We have three rotating cameramen and at least two editors, but they switch. When it comes to creating for our channel, we have a schedule between everyone in Beta Squad. If it’s my turn, I’ll plan the video, write up how I think it’s going to run, send it to the guys — sending the times and dates we will film it, what the format will be, what the rules are, what the forfeits are. Then we shoot it, send it off to the editors, communicate with them to make the amendments. Then we add the voiceovers toward the end. In terms of network and managers, we are represented by Grace O’Reilly at Moxie, and are part of the Studio71 network.
Tubefilter: You mentioned earlier that there’s always something going on at the house, whether that’s someone filming a video or planning one, and you each make content for Beta Squad and your own channels. Have any of you ever experienced creative burnout? How do you stave it off?
Sharky: We can write you a whole separate article on this. Creator burnout is a real thing. Creating content with four other people, you need to keep the energy up and put all your efforts into the success of the group project. But then it’s hard going back to a one-man show, and it can stifle your efforts to make your individual content.
Now, though, seeing the success of Beta Squad has meant that we’ve got more motivation and are refocusing our energies back on our own content, too, which is just as important. It’s been tough to adjust to it, but we have new systems in place and the process has become self-sustainable. Creator burnout has happened with our own channels because we’ve put a lot of our energy into the Beta channel.
Chunkz: Big facts. And it’s happened throughout the years, not necessarily just in Beta Squad. There’s been times where I have gone a month without uploading. The process can take its toll on you mentally.
Tubefilter: How do you deal with the pressure to constantly create?
Kenny: I don’t, I just take a break. That’s I overcome it. If I’m thinking too much, it gets to the point where I feel I’m going to explode, but if I take a break, I feel like I can focus and create.
AJ: With me, if I’m demotivated, I just have to switch it up to something I like. If your content feels stale to you, it starts to feel like a job. You go back to your drawing board and think about what you like. I feel like it’s a dangerous thing if you sit back and don’t do anything, because when it comes to creating again, you’re thinking, This is the thing I’ve been dodging the whole time, and the pile of work seems even bigger. People deal with it differently.
Tubefilter: What do you think is the most vital skill you possess as a creator?
AJ: I think passion. If you have passion and drive, you can get up regardless of what situation you’re in, and I think that’s especially true for YouTube.
Sharky: I second that. That’s the skill you really need. You can have talent, but if there’s no passion, what’s the point?
Chunkz: For me, I need to be successful. It’s not a chore, it’s something we love doing, but sometimes the spark needs to be reignited. My most vital skill is wittiness, being able to react on the spot. Personality is my strong point…but consistency is the worst.
Kenny: Mine is being able to make content entertaining.
Tubefilter: What’s next for you and for Beta Squad as a whole? What are you building toward?
Chunkz: For my channel, it’s to upload more! To get 1M subscribers is the dream. Niko has hit a million, and I’m so gassed for him. When I started YouTube, a million subscribers sounded ridiculous — even 10K, 100K. But now we’ve passed that, it’s a million we have in our sights. For the Beta Squad, my aims are to just be the best group in the UK.
Kenny: For me, it’s coming up with new and exciting content. Hitting 2M. Diversifying my content. Switching it up.
AJ: My goals are always to keep making better content, keep elevating. I have the same goals of hitting those subscriber milestones. And of course, see how far we can take Beta Squad.
Sharky: They say no one makes it from my ends, so I want to be that guy that does.
Chunkz: When we were younger, we had no one from our areas to look up to, aside from Raheem Stirling, but there was no one else. So, my aim is to become a role model for the kids where we are from and let them know that you can be from anywhere and still make it. We hope to inspire people to create their own channels and make content on YouTube. With Beta Squad, it’s a real group of five friends, ordinary guys trying to make it big. That’s where the name comes from.
Niko: We’re also working on content that transcends the boundaries of what’s expected from creators and digital talent, and these projects both on YouTube and off-platform will demonstrate how far we can go.
Kenny: What I’m building toward? I love to travel, so I want to be able to travel to as many countries as I can, but I also want to be acting in movies.
Chunkz: The dream for me is I want to be the guy that does it all. Look at KSI — he’s a boxer, a rapper, and a YouTuber. I want to be like Donald Glover: a jack of all trades, be the guy that everyone goes to for everything in entertainment.
AJ: In the next ten years, I’d like to do a feature film — break into the film industry, whether that’s directing, producing, or editing.
Sharky:I just want to be the best version of myself.
Niko: We want to make Beta Squad much more than a channel. We want it to be a brand.
Header photo: Riya Hollings/Studio71
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