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.
Here’s something that probably won’t surprise you, considering what Creators Going Pro is all about: ImSuda makes his living on YouTube by posting gaming videos.
Here’s something else, though, that might come as a surprise: He’s not actually good at video games.
That’s not our judgment–it’s his. And he’s not shy about it, because while his channel is a gaming channel, it’s moreso a place for his and his friends’ personalities to shine. Since 2012, the now 24-year-old creator has used his YouTube channel as a place to share highlights from group gaming sessions of popular first-person shooter games like Call of Duty, Grand Theft Auto, and Fortnite. His friend group hasn’t changed, so viewers who’ve been tuning in from the beginning have gotten videos featuring the same 10 people for nearly a decade.
Which is, ImSuda says, the big draw for his channel. His videos all feature multiple people, and all those people are friends who grew up with him and each other. All of them have become YouTubers–and when they get together, they’re producing raw footage for all of their channels. ImSuda likens his friends’ (folks like Crispy Concords, Sniping Soup, and Tranium) presence in his videos to comfortable TV show: tune in to any “episode,” and the good old gang will be around.
Making content with his friends makes it easy for ImSuda to focus on the fun side of gaming. He’s not out to compete with pro gamers; he’s out to enjoy games with friends. And that philosophy (along with the couple dozen hours of editing he puts into each video, adding sound effects and stylized subtitles so viewers can tell who’s saying what) is clearly working for his audience, especially now that he’s started uploading at least once per week. With more frequent videos, he’s grown his channel to 1.48 million subscribers, and he went from getting around one million views per month to 5 million views per month–enough for him to get his own apartment and focus on content creation full-time.
Moving out on his own was a significant step, but if things go his way, he’s not done moving just yet. His top goal for 2020 is to bring all his friends together in one big creator house, where they can snag sponsorships as a group, plus have the chance to support each other and collaborate more on different kinds of videos, like vlogs.
His other future goal is world domination–but, you know, one thing at a time.
Check out our chat with him below.
Tubefilter: Tell us a little about you! Where are you from? What did you do in the days before YouTube? Did you go to school, have another career…?
ImSuda: My name is Alex, also known as ImSuda. I live in Vancouver. I started playing video games halfway through high school, and would upload small gaming clips to YouTube for fun. Before YouTube, basketball was my one hobby that I put all my effort and focus into after school hours. In high school, I worked as a basketball scorekeeper and had a job at McDonald’s. I quit McDonald’s with $2,500 saved, then used it to upgrade my setup and get a real gaming PC to step up my YouTube game. After high school, I took graphic design in college while I made videos from home.
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?
ImSuda: I originally launched my channel with the purpose of just posting my cool gaming clips to a place where I could see and share them with my friends. I had channels with over 100 uploaded clips in 2011 before starting ImSuda in 2014. I had no intention or thought of actually building an audience or trying for monetary gain. It was just a hobby that ended up consuming all of my time.
I think YouTube offers a platform that allows anyone a way to express themselves and their creativity for free. Although nothing promises growth, if you make your content, people will discover it.
I met all my friends that I currently make videos with in 2013. We started naturally playing together for fun, making small skits/highlight videos, all while getting about 13 views per video. As time went on, and I got more experienced with editing/structuring videos, my audience began to grow. I played FPS games like Call of Duty, GTA, and CSGO, while making highlights of the funniest moments that happened when we played together. We had a really natural growth, and sort of created our own community around the personalities in the videos–which kind of turns a regular gaming video into something like a TV show with characters viewers come to expect.
Tubefilter: You’ve recently switched from uploading one or a couple of times a month to uploading around once a week. Why have you ramped up production? How are you growing your channel?
ImSuda: I decided from the start that I want to be a creator who does everything on their own, which can be very taxing. Keeping up an editing style, making thumbnails, making my own graphics and logo, merch designs, managing my own emails/sponsorships, while simultaneously trying to come up with original video ideas and organizing recording sessions with my friends is all part of the reason why it takes my videos a little longer to come out. Since my videos are more highlights rather than Let’s Plays, where it would just be a one-and-done recording session, I usually record in multiple sessions and have anywhere between three to 12 hours of raw footage for any given video.
When it comes to editing, I think I’m somewhat of a perfectionist. I have to be completely happy with a project before I upload it. I’ll go through every second of the footage to dig out content for the current video or a future video and set it aside. Once the video is structured into the final form I want it in, I add subtitles in my certain style, which takes a minimum of 10 hours. I try to improve my video effects/music/sound effect work every time I make a video, which is just me being competitive when ultimately, I make comedy videos–a genre where the lower effort, the better. It’s just a standard I’ve become accustomed to, which hurts my upload schedule and my sanity.
I’m improving production time and getting videos uploaded quicker, which can only help with growth moving forward.
Tubefilter: Many channels build their brands on one game, but you make videos about multiple games. Why does this approach appeal to you? Have you noticed your audience crosses from game to game with you?
ImSuda: I’ve never actually been good at video games. I’ve always just tried to show the “fun side” of them while playing with friends. I try more and more to make videos less about the actual game and more about the people in the videos, so it kind of feels natural when I post a different game. My goal is to make something that allows my channel to transcend away from just gaming, such as mixing in vlogs/lifestyle content.
I actually didn’t reveal my face on my channel until I reached one million subscribers. I wasn’t sure how to incorporate my face, so I made the decision to not include it whatsoever from the start. I wasn’t exactly into facecams, and I wasn’t the most outgoing person in my early YouTube days, so it didn’t seem like a problem. I never expected to grow. Eventually my comments were filled with “Do a face reveal” just out of my viewers’ curiosity. After receiving tens of thousands of comments asking, I decided I would do it for the one million milestone. It was kind of the first step in allowing myself to become more versatile with my content, while giving viewers what they wanted.
Tubefilter: When did you get your first check for online video revenue? How much was it for?
ImSuda: I waited until I had 14,000 subscribers to monetize my channel. In my first month, I got paid $100. I probably wasted it all on in-game purchases.
Tubefilter: What was that Semaphore Moment for you—the first time you realized you were a professional creator?
ImSuda: I’d say for me, there was no exact moment. My content is very amateur. My goal from the start was, and still is, longevity. I wanted to put myself on a path that can allow my channel to continue to grow and go through stages that entice the viewer’s attention, offering up something new, fun, and interesting.
Although I now know what I’m capable of as a creator, I can’t pinpoint it to an exact moment, as my growth has been extremely steady with no “explosion.” Creating and putting out content is a big passion of mine. Being able to do that full-time while being able to support myself and others made me realize that I might be doing something right, and solidified it for me.
Tubefilter: What engages and excites you about being a YouTube creator?
ImSuda: As somebody who takes whatever pride there is in doing everything themself, it’s more rewarding to see positive feedback on things people like and engage with. It can be very exhausting and stressful, but it’s definitely the best “job” (that I consider a hobby) I could ask for if I go at my own pace. Interacting with viewers and seeing reactions to something I’ve created or came up with fuels the passion, even if it is just a gaming video.
Tubefilter: At what point did you know you could go all-in? Was there a sudden moment where you were like, “This is it, I’m going full-time,” or did it happen gradually?
ImSuda: It happened gradually. I lived with my mom growing up and through high school, so money wasn’t something I stressed about, considering I wasn’t paying rent. Once I started making income from YouTube, I used it to help out our family in whatever way possible, as my mom was a single mother raising my three siblings and myself on not much income. I did what any son would.
I was very reluctant to take sponsorship offers. I took maybe two or three small sponsors in my first two or three years. I felt that it interfered with the content I was posting. Looking back now, I feel like that didn’t actually matter as much as I thought it did. I only made money from YouTube views, which everybody knows isn’t too much, when I could make two to five times more with sponsors. In 2018, I started taking up offers and managing myself more properly outside of YouTube. Through that, I made enough money to move out on my own in late 2019 and get an apartment in Vancouver, where I can focus more on YouTube full-time.
Tubefilter: What’s your production schedule like? Walk us through an average day. What do you get up to aside from video-making? Has your schedule changed now that you’re producing more videos?
ImSuda: My editing process is much different than others. Since I’m an extreme perfectionist, I make everything a little harder on myself to make the content I enjoy putting out. And by all means, I don’t think my content is better than other creators’, or even necessarily “good.” I just want to be happy with the result, and that’s what I always go by. As the saying goes, “Your YouTube channel is only as good as your last upload.”
Content creation, for me, is similar to the process of giving birth. The fetus is the video idea. You support and nurture the baby as it grows up in your editing software. You want to provide a good quality of life and a good structure for your child as it grows up and matures into a 10-minute-long piece of content. The part I struggle with is saying goodbye to your child when it’s time to go away for college…to the point where I lock my one and only child in my basement until they’re 27 years old. Until I ultimately get sick of their B.S. and decide it’s time to kick them out into the YouTube sub boxes in the real world, after which I try to forget about their existence but wish them a good life nonetheless.
With all that being said, there’s no correct way to put something together. I would only recommend people do what they’re comfortable with. Viewers want content that feels natural coming from the person they’re a fan of.
When it comes to editing, I break it down into stages:
- Record the footage. Usually a group effort, which takes a lot of organizing.
- Cut the footage. Usually three to 12+ hours of footage that I dig through to set content aside. Sometimes I back up footage into a library where I cut it, mark it, and put it aside for a future video while I work on the current one.
- Structure. This is where I think I spend the most time editing, as I’m very indecisive on how I want a video to flow. I go back and fourth and ultimately procrastinate until I find the best layout.
- Audio. I have a bad habit of wanting to improve with audio. My music/sound effect library is well over 200 gigabytes with more than 80,000 organized files now, which is a lot to fathom when looking for the right song or sound. This step can take anywhere between three and six hours, depending on what the video is and how much I want to manipulate the audio.
- Video effects. I’ve been getting into these more as of late as I’m trying to improve my videos, scouring the internet for filters/overlays/tutorials almost every day.
- Subtitling. This stage, for me, is the most straightforward, It just takes 10+ hours, considering I have a certain method I use for letter-by-letter subtitles. I think this stage is important, because when there’s six or more people in my videos, things can get hectic, and my job is to make everything as easy to follow as I can.
- Thumbnail. These usually take one or two hours once I get a screenshot I think fits.
Tubefilter: Tell us about some of your sponsorships! How else are you pursuing monetization outside of AdSense?
ImSuda: I’ve worked with companies like Twitch, Fortnite’s developer Epic Games, Activision Blizzard, and various other video game developers and companies, including travelling to events and gaming conventions.
When it comes to merch, I wanted to release something that is unique to me. I used to have a generic design available, but it was too basic and boring for me, so I decided to stop merch until I was ready to do a bigger drop. On Black Friday 2019, I did my first merch drop with a very different piece of clothing, which was definitely a statement compared to traditional YouTuber merchandise: a colorblock hoodie with the four primary colors (RGBY) that match my logo.
I released a super limited amount that sold out in four days. It was something I’ve wanted to release for a very long time. Sure, the hoodie may be ugly; it was just something unique that represented my channel/logo. It cost a lot to produce, since the merch team had to use five different materials and patch them all together by hand. I wanted to make the hoodie somewhat affordable, so I decided to drop the suggested price significantly, leaving me with very little profit from the drop. I was more happy that I launched something cool and recognizable that I wanted to release for over a year.
When it comes to revenue streams. I’m currently working with companies similar to the ones I listed above. I’m also looking into branching out once I move into a house with my friends. We plan on starting a podcast, music, and various other things besides just YouTube content. Living together will open up new opportunities sponsor/content-wise.
Tubefilter:As you mentioned, you do all production yourself. Do you have anyone working with you behind the scenes at all? What about a manager or network?
ImSuda: I like to do all the production myself. Once I move in with my friends, I may look into different ways to take the total load off just me, distributing the work while maintaining my creative touch.
I work closely with a few agencies, such as 3BlackDot and Up North Management Group, which helps me put more attention into the creative side.
In my videos, there’s the same seven to 10 people who also make their own content–creators such as Crispy Concords, Sniping Soup, and Tranium–over on their channels. We all started YouTube for the fun of it. We grew together, and all currently do it full-time. We all have our audiences for our different content and succeed individually. We support each other and take part in recording everyone’s videos.
Tubefilter: What do you think is the most vital skill you possess as a creator?
ImSuda: Creativity is the most valuable trait to have as a creator. And as corny and as over-said as it is, being yourself is your best asset on YouTube.
People will come back if they enjoy the person behind or in front of the camera. Being genuine with your viewers trumps any production value you could have, as it gives them someone to talk and relate to. I want people to see a video from me and just think, “He probably made this edit while on back-to-back all-nightes,” because there’s mistakes/errors everywhere. Whether a joke lands with the viewer or not, I’m happy with what I’m putting out, regardless of how awful a joke or conversation could be.
Tubefilter: What’s next for you? What are you building toward?
ImSuda: My goal for 2020 is to move into a house with my YouTube friends I’ve known over the years. I can’t fathom what kind of ridiculousness will take place in that household with all the different personalities. It’s something that needs to happen–and it could also create some opportunity for in-house cameraman/editor positions.
- Making content on my channel more diverse, coming up with more original ideas with higher budgets attached to them.
- Starting a group project.
- Starting a podcast.
- World domination.
ImSuda is a client of Up North Management.
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