Growing a YouTube following: an interview with Rob Hope from Yo!
“I started OPL back in 2008, frustrated by clients asking me for full multi-page websites while handing over a half-doc of content. There was a serious lack of great One Page website references, so I started my own resource to help convince clients with examples.”
Most recently, this former freelance developer turned passion project enthusiast started his own YouTube channel Yo! that aims to motivate designers and developers through inspiration, tutorials, and current news within our awesome industry.
While we know him as a self-starter, there was quite a journey to get Rob to where he and his projects are now. And it all started with passion.
“I’m based in Cape Town, South Africa where we have no shortage of beauty, waves, or good times. I created my first website using the O.G. Yahoo Geocities (RIP!) for a mini fishing contest we held between friends. I guess that was the bug that bit and I never looked back. I got a degree in Information Systems but knew the web game was my jam, so I started freelancing while studying.”
From there, Rob started as a freelance developer then created a side-project-turned-successful-page. So, why One Page Love? It started as a goal to make some money from a side-hustle and stop freelancing altogether. From that success launched a popular newsletter, which then challenged something completely new: Yo!
We’re big fans of what he’s been working on, so we couldn’t wait to reach out and learn more. Here’s what he had to say!
Why did you decide to start a YouTube channel?
My biggest goal of the past decade was to monetize a side project enough to equal my Cape Town expenses, allowing me to quit client work and “take the leap.” I did this two years ago with One Page Love.
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The dream right? However, I found myself complacent last year and not learning new skills.
So this year, on January 1st, I decided to challenge myself with something I’m totally clueless (and terrified) about – filming, editing, and talking in front of a camera. I gave myself one month to launch my first video on YouTube, no matter what I had to show for it.
I’ve leveled up so much since then, and it’s been incredibly exciting learning new skills again.
What gave you the inspiration for your show, Yo!?
It all started with Yo!: the newsletter. In that mailer, I’d include things that inspired me, which I guess became the foundation for the show. I’ve actually had several people refer to Yo! as a visual newsletter, so I guess that makes sense looking at the journey to where it is now.
Yo! is essentially a culmination of all my favorite things – music, design, development, positivity, good quotes, and laughs.
How do you balance working on One Page Love, Yo!, and your other projects?
It was hectic at first.
One Page Love definitely took a knock, as I was posting way less to the site.
At first, I had to basically say no to everything: friends, coffee meet-ups, surfs, that side project dreaming and scheming. If I was going to get Yo! out in thirty days, I had to go all-in.
The first Yo! episode took thirty days, the second about fifty hours, and then it leveled out around fourteen to eighteen hours per episode. All that time editing the first few episodes was challenging for me, and the burnout was coming fast. So I reevaluated things, dove into YouTube analytics, and focused on optimizing the workflow.
I started ambitiously, wanting seven or eight different “scenes” (eg. design news) per week. But each scene requires three to five news stories, and each story requires research, scripting, screencasts, voiceover, and editing.
I’ve settled now with four main scenes per episode: design, development, freebies, and something new, like inspiration, to mix up the show a bit each week. This formula was a game changer; it allowed me to get the editing around six to eight hours per show.
I learned so much through the process, that it gave me the inspiration to create a three-part Making Yo! series.
What would you call your greatest success so far?
My metric for success has always been freedom – to drop it all, go offline, and chase a wave is the ultimate freedom. I sort of got there last year, but through some recent self-discovery, I’ve decided being able to wake up and feel motivated to do whatever you set out to do is true success.
Right now I’m trying to design my life to continuously learn new skills while surrounding myself with interesting people, design, and music.
How do you come up with new, engaging ideas?
It usually stems from curiosity or trying to build a simpler solution.
My biggest two tips for anyone who finds themselves dreaming up ideas and loves to dabble in side projects:
- Aim small and launch the absolute lightest, but working, version of your idea. It will create momentum, resulting in motivation. More importantly though, once the idea is out the door, it will change the idea for the good. A big launch of a brand new idea is not smart.
- Read Seth Godin’s article on the Lizard Brain.
What were some of the biggest challenges you had in starting a successful channel?
Getting your first video out is the biggest challenge, no question. I didn’t have the skills to film or edit a video of the current standard out there, but you have to start somewhere.
To be completely honest, I kept watching MKBHD’s first YouTube video to stay motivated. He is one of my favorite YouTubers and his first video is incredibly bad!
Right now I can’t even watch Yo!’s first ten episodes because of the horrendous quality, which is a great sign of progress.
What’s your biggest advice for people looking to start or grow their own YouTube channels?
There is just no comparison to watching YouTube tutorials on filming, lighting, editing, speaking, etc. in comparison with what you learn doing all those things.
I’ll record an episode with the wrong light setting and have to re-record the whole episode. You will never make that mistake again, while learning why it all happened!
Another tip I’ve actually never read before is, if you can, redo your first video again. Yo! #001 was recorded twice and — as bad as it is now — it’s twice as good as my pilot episode.
With regards to growing your YouTube channel, there are loads of growth tutorials out there, but consistency is key. A weekly show is a great schedule to keep pushing yourself. Daily is just madness.
What are your favorite YouTubers that you watch regularly?
I’m of course living vicariously through the exciting NY life of Casey Neistat, but Peter McKinnon is probably my favorite YouTuber. Hot Ones is my favorite weekly show but shout-outs for MKBHD for his consistent quality videos and Gary Vee for the motivation. Those five fill about 90% of my weekly YouTube viewing.
So what’s next for the channel?
Definitely tutorials and opinion pieces like round-ups on “the current state of Prototyping tools,” etc. There’s a lot to learn and look forward to!
Although I’ve learned so much already on YouTube, there are definitely some lessons that hit a little harder:
- Don’t underestimate the time it takes to edit, so be prepared (and invest in a great chair).
- You can draw inspiration from anywhere, especially being offline.
- It’s okay to fail, as long as you learn from it and adapt.
- Don’t aim for perfect. Aim to ship and improve.
- Sometimes deadlines are what you need to really push yourself to succeed.
- When it comes to video sponsors, make sure you are promoting a product or service you love– it’s then easy (and not forced) to talk about the brand. This results in a natural integration in the show with your usual tone. I was lucky as I host my full network of WordPress websites with Flywheel, so it’s been really easy to talk about their services.
- If you work hard and stick with your passion, you’ll find success. There are no shortcuts or overnight successes on YouTube. Be in it for the long game.
Last, try to invest everything you earn back into increasing your output. All the support I get goes into equipment, sound, and lighting, and because of it, Yo! has become a much better show thanks to Flywheel.
We’ve loved getting to hear more of Rob’s story and learning from his experiences. Much like Flywheel’s company mission to help creatives do their best work, Rob certainly inspires others to do theirs.
Thanks so much for having me Flywheel! If anyone reading has any questions about the show, One Pagers or even taking the leap… let me know in the comments or on Twitter @robhope :)
Unfortunately, there’s a lot of competition on YouTube. Getting noticed isn’t always easy. Each video needs to have a specific focus. It’s much like writing a quality blog post. In fact, you can recycle your most popular blog content into videos.
You are right about the competition and it’s definitely more difficult that 5yrs ago but it can be done.
Think how Peter McKinnon started from scratch during a very saturated time on YouTube for Photography. Then grew 1mil subs within a year. Of course, he is extremely talented and basically an outlier – but the lesson is there. If you focus within a niche (you are passionate about) and consistently add value – you will grow.
Definitely read that Seth article linked in this post about the resistance to start. It’s the most difficult part!
All the best – I hope you start a channel:)