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.
Alex Costa believes all men can look good, feel good, and be good. Whatever they want to achieve, it starts with self-confidence, and that’s what Costa is all about. His channel is full of videos offering style, fitness, haircare, and life advice (like how to get up early without feeling like you want to die) for all the dudes out there who want to get a leg up on life. He’s spent three years building up his presence as a full-time creator, and in October, he took his personal brand to product, debuting his Forte Series line of styling items.
With Costa’s career in full swing, he sat down with Tubefilter to look back at his YouTube origins. He’s drawn in the bulk of his subscribers since going full-time in 2017, but has actually been on the platform since 2010–and not just as a creator.
The earliest version of Costa’s channel might, on the surface, look nothing like what he’s developed it into. He joined to make Portuguese-language videos about Call of Duty, which already had a thriving esports community in the U.S., but wasn’t catching on as much internationally. Like his current videos, though, his Call of Duty content was meant to help others; he used it to teach people how to better their skills, and ultimately hoped to inspire folks to go pro and form a competitive Brazilian league. (Brazil now has a competitive national Call of Duty circuit.) In the process of making these videos, Costa found his passion for gaming was mirrored by his growing passion for digital content creation. So, when he got the chance to host Inside Gaming Brasil, a branch of now-shuttered Machinima’s flagship Inside Gaming brand, he went all-in, moving from Brazil to Los Angeles.
Costa’s job at Machinima took him to professional esports org Major League Gaming, and finally to Google, where he worked with YouTube to develop its Gaming vertical. Being behind the scenes, so to say, at Google just made it more and more apparent that what he truly loved was creating content. He pushed himself to put out videos for his channel, but producing multiple videos each month–transitioning from gaming to men’s wellness–and working a full-time job was killing his sleep schedule, which was killing everything else. He enjoyed his job, but he knew: if he wanted to do the YouTube thing, it was time for another all-in leap.
And Costa hasn’t looked back. With his channel at 2.37 million subscribers and netting around 9 million views per month, he’s seeing the kind of traffic and engagement he hoped he would when he made the jump. His growing platform also helped bolster his decision to get into making his own products, a development process that took two years from conception to the finished edition of his first item: an extreme hold hair clay.
For 2020, his tenth year on YouTube, Costa is planning a major rollout of more Forte products, including daily nourishing hair oil, a medium hold paste, and skincare products. He’s also getting into long-term brand deals–and both those things, he hopes, will set him up to keep building his channel–and his career–for decades to come.
Tubefilter: Tell us a bit about you! Where are you from? What did you get up to in the days before YouTube?
Alex Costa: I was born in Brazil and lived there until I was 13 years old, in a city called Belo Horizonte. My family and I moved to Cape Cod, Mass., and we lived there for about 10 years before I moved to Los Angeles, where I reside now.
Before YouTube, I had every kind of job you can imagine, from fast food places to Portuguese/English interpreter, to being an EMT. I moved to LA when I was 23 to host a video games news show for Machinima called Inside Gaming Brasil. I then worked at Major League Gaming, Azubu, and finally landed at Google, working with their Gaming team at YouTube. I worked there for three years before becoming a full-time content creator.
Tubefilter: What made you decide to launch a YouTube channel? What do you think YouTube offers you, as a content creator, to help you grow your platform and build your career?
AC: I launched my channel in 2010, and it was all about teaching my viewers how to play competitive Call of Duty. At the time, we didn’t have COD tournaments for Brazilian players, and I wanted to bring that competitive scene to my home country. It was a free and easy way to get people involved and excited to play the game with me.
Not long after that, I realized that my love for creating videos was much deeper than for playing video games. I wanted to branch out and produce even better videos, and YouTube had the audience for that type of content. Between the creator tools, insights, the immediate feedback and response from viewers, it just felt right to invest into the platform.
Tubefilter: You now cover a range of lifestyle topics–men’s fashion, haircare, fitness. How do you wrap all these together into one cohesive Alex Costa brand? How do you target your content to find audience members who are engaged with one–or more–of these interests?
AC: My brand has always been about helping guys become better versions of themselves. I see myself as an older brother to my audience, and I teach them what I wish I’d known when I was younger and figuring out my sense of style, my personality, and hobbies. Once someone finds my videos and starts to dress well, they will also want to upgrade their hairstyle, then their whole grooming routine. But for clothes to fit you well, you will also want to invest into a healthy lifestyle, and that’s where fitness comes in. If you think about it, it’s all about small improvements we can make, that will make a huge difference in the end. Feeling good about the way we look will give us confidence to crush that job interview, or be more loose and fun during a date, instead of worrying you might not look good enough.
Tubefilter: Did you come into content creation knowing exactly what you wanted to make, or have you shifted the direction of your videos over time?
AC: When I started, my content was all about video games, and it was all in Portuguese, geared toward a Brazilian audience. I got to 135k subscribers before I decided to shift to English, which was a very difficult transition and made me want to quit constantly. Between the hate messages, and the loss of subscribers and engagement, my channel was dying quickly. I went all the way down to 123k subs before I started gaining English-speaking viewers. I’m glad I stuck through it, because it all worked out in the end.
Tubefilter: When did you get your first check for online video revenue? How much was it for?
AC: After about one year of creating content, I joined an MCN and was able to monetize my videos, but it was really really low pay for a long time. I actually had to wait two or three months to get my first $100 check from AdSense in March of 2011.
Tubefilter: What can viewers always expect when they tune in to one of your videos?
AC: I guarantee they will feel more confident by the end of each of my videos, because that is my main goal. I want them to click out of my channel and immediately start acting on what they learned.
Tubefilter: You launched your first styling line, Forte Series, in October. How did you hit the point where expanding into your own products made sense? What was the production process for Forte like?
AC: I spent so many hours testing and reviewing other men’s hair products, and I have really become an expert in the area. I have probably tried hundreds of different hairstyling products, and decided that I wanted to make something that would really stand out from all the other brands. It took me two years to develop this product, so I’m very happy to finally have it out there in the wild! Plus, this will be a full men’s grooming line, and we’re going to be launching many more products in 2020.
Tubefilter: What was that Semaphore Moment for you—the first time you realized you were a professional creator?
AC: In the end of 2017, while I was working at Google full-time and creating YouTube videos part-time, I was going a little crazy. I was working so much, getting no sleep, and had no time to be social. But I remember seeing my channel respond really well to my hustle and consistency, and that’s when the sponsorships started rolling in. I decided that once I had a good safety net, I’d take the leap and leave my (incredible) job at Google to pursue this dream of making videos full time. Of course, it was a really scary moment for me, but I needed to let go of that job in order to fully dive into this new chapter of my life. My last day was Friday, Jan. 26, 2018. I went home that evening and sat in my bedroom in silence for a few minutes, trying to take it all in. I just remember thinking, “Okay, this is it. This is my full-time job now, and I have to crush it. There is no other way.”
Tubefilter: How long did it take to make the decision to go full-time?
AC: Oh, this was very, VERY gradual. I had to think long and hard, and I posted videos for seven years before I ever thought of going full-time, or monetized it in a meaningful way. It was a long, challenging road. Sometimes I see new YouTubers with only two or three videos somehow already going viral and getting hundreds of thousands of subscribers, and I just think to myself, Wow, that was definitely not my journey. But I’m actually happy that it took me that long to grow on the platform. It taught me that if I really want something, it’s not always going to be easy. Just don’t give up.
Tubefilter: How long does it take you, on average, to put together a video, from conception to upload?
AC: It usually takes us anywhere between six and eight hours per video, from research, to scripting, setting up, shooting, editing, SEO research, and then upload.
Tubefilter: Who works with you behind the scenes? Do you have a team? An editor? What about a manager or network?
AC: I was finally able to build a team this year, and I’m really happy with how things are going. At the moment, my brother William helps me with research and scriptwriting, my photographer and videographer Justin shoots most of my YouTube and Instagram content, and my editor Daniel edits my videos and thumbnails. It’s a great team, and I couldn’t be happier with them.
I also hire photographers on all of my trips to make sure that I get the best Instagram content possible while abroad.
I’m signed to UTA, which has been amazing and really looks after my brand and partnerships.
Tubefilter: What do you think is the most vital skill you possess as a creator?
AC: I love to work. I love to hustle, to prove people wrong when they doubt me. I’m extremely competitive. Also, because I’ve had a corporate career behind the scenes, I have a good balance of being creative and visual, but also being able to look at contracts and build a brand like Forte Series.
Tubefilter: What’s next for you and your channel? What are you building toward?
AC: So much is happening! I’m happy to be partnering up with brands that want to build a long-term partnership for 2020, and really create special content that will make my viewers happy. At the end of the day, I want what’s best for my subscribers, and being able to partner with amazing brands is a huge part of that.
And of course, posting four videos a week isn’t easy, but I’m working hard to get ahead on my content so I can take some time off during the holidays. Can’t wait!
My main focus outside of my channel right now is making sure Forte Series develops the best men’s grooming products in the market. I want to make it a household name, and we’re in the middle of developing a handful of new products that will come out in 2020, like a daily nourishing hair oil, a medium hold paste, and skincare products.
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