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 creator has a story to tell about YouTube success. Read previous installments here.
Lindsay Nikole fell in love with big cats in high school, and, after working at a South African sanctuary with her dad, she knew she wanted to spend the rest of her life studying them. So, she headed to Oregon State University, where she graduated with a degree in zoology and dreams of working in big cat rescue, protecting them from things like the exotic pet trade, poaching, and canned hunting.
Unfortunately for Nikole, that graduation happened in 2020, and jobs were the scarcest they’d been in years.
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That’s when she turned to TikTok.
“I decided to start sharing some information that I learned in my zoology classes on TikTok. As my platform grew on there, I realized that I really enjoyed sharing the information in little bite-sized pieces,” she says.
Nikole–with her unique, attention-grabbing, friendly cadence and her comedic approach to Earth’s wonders and horrors–quickly began amassing an audience for her quick-hit edutainment. But before long, those 60-second clips weren’t enough for her. She wanted to start experimenting with longer-form videos on YouTube–videos where she could really dig deep into Earth’s history and trace the evolution of humans and animals, from our very earliest ancestors (that we know of) to the no bone zone (aka when bone-ful creatures crossed from water to land) to the year 3957, when we will all be crabs. (That last one is a joke. For now.)
Now, three years later, Nikole’s success on TikTok (where she has 2.5 million followers) and YouTube (1.1 million subscribers) has changed the course of her career. She’s not exactly sure where she’ll be in another three years, but for now, she’s found her groove.
Check out our chat with her below.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Tubefilter: Hello! Not to be creepy, but I’ve been watching your videos since you very first started uploading. Your growth has been astronomical. Really excited to get to talk to you!
Lindsay Nikole: Thank you so much. I’m stoked to talk to you as well.
Tubefilter: For anyone who’s not familiar with you, can you give me a little bit of an intro about you, where you’re from, what you do, and your journey up to getting on social media?
Lindsay Nikole: Yes. My name is Lindsay Nikole. I am a zoologist. I have a zoology degree from Oregon State University. I initially started my degree in order to work with big cats, which is something I’ve been passionate about since I was about 18. Throughout college, I had the opportunity to work at different big cat sanctuaries around the world.
I graduated in 2020. I couldn’t find a job right when I graduated, and I decided to start sharing some information that I learned in my zoology classes on TikTok. As my platform grew on there, I realized that I really enjoyed sharing the information in little bite-sized pieces. As time went on, I realized that I was ready to share more because I felt really limited in the short-form, minute-long videos. In October of last year, I went over to YouTube, and I started making 10-minute-long videos about different topics that I’m interested in. I have absolutely loved the switch. I think it has become the perfect place for me to share just the right amount of information and keep me learning about things that I’m also interested in.
Tubefilter: How did you originally become so passionate about big cats?
Lindsay Nikole: Well, in high school, you have those weird obsessions. Mine was lions. I found a volunteer sanctuary that I could go to in South Africa. I figured out that I could do it for my senior project, and my dad went with me because he did not want me traveling to South Africa by myself as an 18-year-old, which was totally valid. We got to work with lions and tigers in the safest way possible, didn’t do any of the cub-petting stuff. I just fell in love. I realized that I just wanted to help these animals. I wanted to rescue them from the exotic pet trade, from canned hunting. That is what pushed me to go through zoology for college.
Tubefilter: Did you have other career plans before that?
Lindsay Nikole: I wanted to be a musician. I have played guitar since I was eight years old. I was in a rock band throughout high school. I make music on the side as well, so I thought that I was going to be a musician. I also thought maybe criminology, because I was also into criminal minds. My initial plan was to go to school for criminology, and I did my first year doing that. After the volunteer experience in South Africa, I realized that that was my passion. I jumped all over the place and landed on that because that was the right path for me, I realized.
Tubefilter: Do you want to pursue zoology in an offline capacity, where you’re going and working at a sanctuary again, or do you plan to do content? Did social media change the course of your career?
Lindsay Nikole: Yes, it has completely changed my career. It’s really hard to say at this point. I think I still have a desire to rescue big cats. It’s still a necessary thing. One of my lifelong dreams is to open my own big cat sanctuary and maybe using this momentum that I’m building online create enough of a presence to make that a possible thing. Maybe I would join forces with another big cat sanctuary. I’m also thinking maybe I would want to go back and get a master’s in something. I feel like I’ve developed all these new interests within zoology that I’m at a point where I’m really comfortable with what I’m doing right now. I still have all of these future plans in mind, but I just don’t know exactly what direction I want to take them in right now.
Tubefilter: Sorry, that’s a lot to ask when you’re still newly out of college and all these unexpected things have happened to you. I was just curious if you have any goals.
Lindsay Nikole: Yes, totally. It’s a weird spot right now because I do really just want to continue doing YouTube, but I know that that might not be what I’m doing in four years.
Tubefilter: Speaking of YouTube, I remember your first long-form videos, you changed so dramatically. Your first long-form video, you were like, “I don’t really understand this editing thing. How do I stand? Where do I stand? Am I in the wrong place? Does this help?” Then, I know you got an editor. Your video production has just improved in leaps and bounds. I was really curious about the behind-the-scenes of that for you.
Lindsay Nikole: Thank you so much. When I first thought about going onto YouTube, I wanted to edit everything myself because I didn’t know any editors. My first video turned out super boring. I never posted it. I actually waited a couple of months to try again. Then I got in contact with another YouTuber named Miniminuteman, also known as Milo, and he has an editor in Argentina that was looking for new clients. I reached out to him and we just clicked immediately.
He’s been helping me with my videos since day one. The first couple of videos I was definitely unsure of where to stand, I had never that before. I’ve never really had to talk into a camera, because TikTok, you’re just looking at yourself on your phone. That was definitely a weird adjustment for me, but I feel like I got used to it really quickly because I really enjoyed it.
I got some new equipment. I ended up moving to a new apartment. I film my videos in my apartment at the moment. I was able to rather than just throw things together on the wall that I did the first time, I tried to be more, just, consider the placement of everything more and create a better background. I’m really happy with how everything is going now. I’m still with the same editor. I think both of us have improved in our work throughout this time. It’s been really cool to see all of that develop.
Tubefilter: From the viewer’s side, the hard work has been really apparent. I think lot of people get on YouTube because they made videos as kids or they have other experience in videography. It’s unique to see somebody who’s starting from zero and improving so quickly.
Lindsay Nikole: Thank you so much. I appreciate that.
Tubefilter: You said you’re focusing more on YouTube now, more on long-form. Are you moving away from TikTok, or how are you feeling about you’re spread across different platforms?
Lindsay Nikole: I wouldn’t say that I’m moving away from TikTok, but I have really worked on finding a better balance for myself. When I was just doing TikTok, I was pretty much posting every single day. That was a lot of short-form content to keep up with, coming up with something new for every single day. I tried to continue doing that when I started YouTube, and I quickly realized that that was going to make me hit burnout so quick.
I really struggled with that for a couple of months because I didn’t want to abandon TikTok. I didn’t want my followers there to feel like I was leaving, but I also recognized that I’m really enjoying YouTube. This is where I can see some longevity. I just can’t keep up with that amount just mentally because I do all the research myself, I write the scripts, I do all of it myself at the moment. Right now, I feel really comfortable with trying to get out with a YouTube video every 7 to 10 days and post 2 to 3 short-form videos on TikTok and Instagram every week. I feel like that’s pretty consistent. Maybe if I add some people onto the team, I can increase that amount. For now, that’s where I’ve landed with what works for me mentally.
@lindsaynikole NEW SERIES #evolution #homosapien #earlyhuman #prehistoric ♬ Blade Runner 2049 – Synthwave Goose
Tubefilter: How much production time goes into the average YouTube video behind the scenes?
Lindsay Nikole: Oh, man. I would say if I’m really trying to get a video out once a week, it’s probably six hours of research for at least five days. At least 30 hours of research just because–The videos end up not being too long, they’re about 10 minutes long, but just making sure that I am up to date with everything that I’m talking about, making sure that every single word that I use is correct because I don’t want somebody to misinterpret what I’m saying. I would say probably about 30 hours of research, and that’s pretty much the bulk of pre-production. Then the day of, I am able to film the video within 30 minutes and it’s all set. It’s mostly research right now.
Tubefilter: It’s interesting that you’re able to film the video that fast. I think most people I talk to are like, “Yes, filming takes me eternity, and then editing is the next longest.” That’s interesting.
Lindsay Nikole: I think editing on my editor’s end takes maybe four days, but it ends up being about a week. There’s a week of research and writing the script, and then day of filming, sending it off to him, and then another week of editing.
Tubefilter: I’m really curious if you’ve noticed a difference in your audience from TikTok to YouTube as you’re transitioning into more long-form. Do you feel like you’re building a more sustainable audience on YouTube? Do you feel like you’ve had issues bringing an audience over from TikTok?
Lindsay Nikole: Totally. I would say I’m building a more, I don’t want to say well-rounded, but it’s just a different type of audience. I first off feel like I’m being a lot more honest in my YouTube videos. With how short TikTok videos have to be, I can’t really leave any room for like, “I’m not sure about this part.” I just have to really keep it super concise. YouTube gives me the ability to express myself, express where I’m at, where the research came from, what parts of the research I’m not entirely confident on. I think that the honesty aspect of that has given me a much stronger community on YouTube.
I think that’s what people are looking for in creators nowadays, is just honesty and not the whole theatrics and all of that. On top of that, I also think it just allows me to express my personality more. On TikTok, it’s people watching me for the information. YouTube people are watching me for the information, but also for who I am like how I’ve gathered the feedback.
Tubefilter: I will say, with short-form, your whole “That we know of” quip is very effective at communicating that science isn’t entirely sure and/or discoveries could still be made. Have you gotten any cool opportunities since starting all this?
Lindsay Nikole: Yes. I have had some incredible opportunities. Most recently I was able to go to the San Diego Safari Park, which was a full-circle moment for me because when I was studying zoology, I thought that would be the ideal job for me would be to work with the big cats there because they’re in San Diego. I love San Diego. They reached out to me to promote what they’re doing with their northern white rhinos. They’re doing a de-extinction project, which there’s a couple of companies working to resurrect the woolly mammoth, the Tasmanian tiger. The Safari Park is working to just stop these species that are going to go extinct in a couple years from going extinct, which was so cool.
I was able to go and see their labs, and see behind the scenes, and meet the rhinos. To be able to experience that on the creator side at this company that was my dream job throughout college that pushed me to continue throughout college was so incredible. It felt really good to know that I got there in a very alternate route.
Tubefilter: Maybe it has something to do with COVID, but I really feel like there’s a new appetite for educational content across all platforms. Have you noticed there’s a growing need for it?
Lindsay Nikole: Totally. I think just people wanting to connect with nature since quarantine, I’ve definitely noticed. A lot of that is just learning what exists outside. There’s so much information to know, there’s so many animals to know about that you don’t realize you’re walking by every day, or you don’t realize these little microscopic animals that are in the puddle that you walk by. It’s definitely something I’ve noticed as well, and I think it’s a really beautiful thing to come out of everything that happened.
Tubefilter: Absolutely. I have a very important question to ask you, and possibly the most important question: Do you plan to eat any more bugs?
Lindsay Nikole: Ooh, that’s a good question.
Tubefilter: Bugs or other interesting proteins.
Lindsay Nikole: Other interesting proteins…I am open to it. I know that the company that I got those bugs from, they have a tarantula that I specifically avoided for that one video, but people have been asking me to try it because that one would freak me out the most. I want to say if I am going to eat any other weird proteins, I would want to do it for a reason, and not necessarily in my room next time. Maybe if I travel somewhere and the opportunity comes up to try some interesting food, I definitely would. I also recognize that making that a consistent thing might not sit well with my audience because eating animals on an animal channel…
Tubefilter: That’s true, yes.
Lindsay Nikole: I don’t want to make it a consistent thing for sure.
Tubefilter: I know we’ve talked a little bit about your plans and goals overall, but do you have anything that you’re working on for the next year or so? Any cool projects?
Lindsay Nikole: Yes. I am super excited about a project that I am getting started on to extend my History of Life series. I did it on TikTok a year ago. It’s my most popular series I’ve done so far, where I went through each of the geologic time periods, starting from the Cambrian period, and talked about everything that appeared, all the different types of animals that appeared in each period, and also highlighted some of the cool species that existed then.
I want to extend that into long-form content because there’s– I had to simplify it in unbelievable amount for it to be 45 seconds. I’m going to get started on that within the next month or two. I want to line it up with merch, and so I’m waiting to have that situated. I’m planning to do an episode every three weeks, and so it’ll take me about a year to complete and just really go in-depth on what we know about each period, really highlight that that we know of aspect.
I think knowing what existed before and being able to mentally picture at least how we think things have evolved throughout time really gives you a newfound respect for what exists today and can push people to get involved in conservation even further. I’m super stoked about that and hopefully, we’ll get started on that very soon.
Tubefilter: Very cool. Are you bringing in any additional production team for that?
Lindsay Nikole: At the moment, no. I think I’m really comfortable with keeping the homey vibe that I have going right now. Maybe for other episodes of different series, I would do that. I definitely want to start highlighting places, sanctuaries, conservation centers. For those types of videos, I would definitely bring in more production. For the History of the Life series, I just want to keep it pretty simple, pretty cozy, and just continue doing the videos as I’ve learned how to do them.
Tubefilter: Clearly it’s working for you.
Lindsay Nikole: Thank you.
Tubefilter: I honestly don’t know that I’ve ever seen an education-based channel grow this quickly. It’s just very interesting to see this new hunger for nature learning.
Lindsay Nikole: It’s so cool to see how many people are interested in learning about the natural world. I absolutely love the community that I’ve built there.
@lindsaynikole NO BONE ZONE #tiktaalik #evolution #skit #funny #prehistoric #learnontiktok #nobones ♬ original sound – lindsay nikole
Tubefilter: Do you have any plans to take that community elsewhere? Have you launched a Patreon or anything like that?
Lindsay Nikole: I do have a Patreon. I do weekly livestreams there. I’m really focusing on just getting to know my community more, getting them to know me better. I don’t want to turn Patreon into another paywall. I don’t do any additional information there, but we just do livestreams. We talk about fun stuff. I just had some of my Patrons create a Discord server so that they can just talk about whatever they want to because Patreon doesn’t really allow for that type of communication. The community is growing. We’re adding some additional elements that create more of a community feel. It’s really cool. I love my community there and everyone’s super supportive. They help me out with figuring out new topics. I ask them for advice on what do you think you’d be interested in seeing more about this specific topic. Love it. Definitely going to continue building that there.
Tubefilter: To wrap up, are there any organizations you want to spotlight?
Lindsay Nikole: One organization that I’m a huge fan of that I’m hoping to create some content with in the future is Cheetah Conservation Fund. They have a full-scope approach to conserving the cheetah in rescue, rehabilitation, release education, conservation through genetics, and just an enormous amount of research that they do on-site in Namibia and Somaliland.
I’m hoping to highlight more of what they’re doing in the future by going there and showing people what they do. For now, I’m just hoping to get people involved by getting them to visit the website cheetah.org. That’s it.
Lindsay Nikole is repped by Viral Nation.