Former kindergarten teacher Keith Green started his own YouTube channel, Cakes by Choppa after Spider-Man cake video viewed 15.8 million times around the globe – earning him huge advertising revenue.

Get rich on YouTube

July 19, 2013

Larissa Ham

Choppa-making-a-Mickey-Mouse-cake-620x349

Choppa making a Mickey Mouse cake.

Fancy earning $17,000 in just one hour, without leaving home? That’s what former kindergarten teacher Keith Green – known to all as “Choppa” – did after he filmed himself creating a Spider-Man cake and posted it on YouTube a year ago. It took him less than an hour to decorate the cake and edit the video but it’s since been viewed 15.8 million times around the globe – earning him huge advertising revenue. Choppa says he believes his video went viral thanks to timing – close to the release of movie The Amazing Spider-Man, and rock musical Spider-Man: Turn off the dark – but also “the fact it’s so simple”. The 33-year-old, who once dreamt of being an animator, got his first taste of cake decorating as a child while helping his mother create tasty gems from Women’s Weekly cookbooks. Two years ago, as a hobby, he started his own YouTube channel, Cakes by Choppa. It took off so quickly that six months ago the kindergarten teacher of 14 years quit his job to focus on his weekly online videos.

“When you look at it I work one day a week. I kind of pinch myself a little bit and think ‘really, one day a week’?” he says.

“I’m easily making more than I did working five days a week.”

His biggest audience is the US, but there are also fans in countries including Saudi Arabia, Korea, Israel and France.

“I’m lucky that worldwide there aren’t many cake decorators [on YouTube],” he says.

“A lot of people would show you a finished cake. It was amazing but it wasn’t ‘here, this is what you do’.”

Choppa is now in partnership with US YouTube network Tastemade, which helps with promotion and advertising deals. Tastemade also provides information on upcoming movie releases (so Choppa can create topical cakes) and studio space in LA if he ever wants to film there.

The Sydneysider says the support from several of his friends – notably those behind highly successful YouTube offerings One Pot Chef and Nicko’s Kitchen – has been priceless.

In Brisbane, Greg Hadley, the quirky creator of channels including Greg the Gardener and Greg’s Kitchen, is making “thousands of dollars a month” teaching people how to do everything from remove a tree stump (almost 160,000 views) to cooking simple lamb chops (more than 35,000 views).

But it was his video “how to separate an egg white from a yolk” that blew viewers’ socks off, with 1.1 million people tuning in to date.

Hadley says his content isn’t always original – “there’s 100 videos of it up there already, you just copy stuff that’s popular basically” – but he adds his own sense of humour to the mix.

A landscaper by trade, Hadley’s most popular channel is Greg the Gardener, which ticks over to provide a nice little cheque each month.

He earns up to $12 for every thousand YouTube views through advertising revenue. Greg the Gardener is currently getting about 8000 views a day, even though he hasn’t posted a fresh video lately.

“I don’t work too hard, I tell you,” he says. “If I wasn’t on YouTube I would be working a lot more.”

However, he’s well aware that the situation could shift at any time, if YouTube’s parameters change (as they do frequently) or the audience tunes out.

“It’s risky: you’re flavour of the month one week and then you’re unpopular the next.”

Hadley says some YouTube creators hit the jackpot, but many never make anything.

He says would-be YouTubers should do something they love, and expect criticism.

“You need a thick skin if you’re going to make videos because you are getting constantly abused, but you just ignore it.”

In Perth, Lauren Curtis, 20, is making a healthy living from her channel laurenbeautyy. With hundreds of thousands of subscribers, she’s also learnt to ignore the detractors.

Curtis began posting videos of herself doing make-up in her bedroom in August 2011, and struck YouTube gold when her video “how to get massive lashes” (3.5 million views) went viral.

As she started attracting more viewers, Curtis, a self-taught make-up guru, invested in better equipment and eventually took on a job as a regular make-up artist.

But she left that job when she realised she was making far more through YouTube.

“Still to this day it astounds me,” says Curtis, who feels a little guilty that she earns more than others working much harder in “normal” jobs.

“It varies a lot but it’s definitely the income of a full-time job.”

Her income arrives through Google AdSense and from beauty companies who pay her to review their products.

Two managers – one in Australia and another in LA – help Curtis to maximise her earning capacity.

She says her US manager receives about 150 emails a day from companies wanting their products mentioned.

Curtis has also scored a gig as a beauty ambassador for Cleo magazine and will soon move to Sydney to be closer to the action.

Her target audience is 13 to 17-year-old girls, many of whom worship her from the US.

Curtis is aware that her YouTube popularity could be fleeting – “that definitely plays with my head. I know this isn’t going to last forever”.

“I hope the momentum will keep building where I can branch off into a whole different area.”

And what do her mum and dad think of the success being generated from their daughter’s bedroom?

“My parents are really obviously proud of me but think it’s crazy,” she laughs.

Tips for YouTube success

More than 1 billion people visit YouTube each month, so how can you get amongst the action?

Tom Phillips, who manages a number of YouTubers through his business The Creators Network, provides a few tips.

1. Understand what value you’re going to be giving back to the audience.

2. Be consistent and frequently post new videos.

3. Be flexible; listen to your audience and react to requests.

4. Remember your audience is hungry for specific information.

5. Have a niche, but think globally. For instance, if you’re creating a fashion “look book”, remember to cater for different seasons overseas. Remember key events such as Halloween.

6. Don’t focus solely on quality. Some of the most popular YouTube channels, such as How to Basic, are based on “dumb” humour.

7. Make something that you can leverage. Think about merchandise opportunities, events, tours and other ideas to make the most of your profile.

About bambooinnovator
Kee Koon Boon (“KB”) is the co-founder and director of HERO Investment Management which provides specialized fund management and investment advisory services to the ARCHEA Asia HERO Innovators Fund (www.heroinnovator.com), the only Asian SMID-cap tech-focused fund in the industry. KB is an internationally featured investor rooted in the principles of value investing for over a decade as a fund manager and analyst in the Asian capital markets who started his career at a boutique hedge fund in Singapore where he was with the firm since 2002 and was also part of the core investment committee in significantly outperforming the index in the 10-year-plus-old flagship Asian fund. He was also the portfolio manager for Asia-Pacific equities at Korea’s largest mutual fund company. Prior to setting up the H.E.R.O. Innovators Fund, KB was the Chief Investment Officer & CEO of a Singapore Registered Fund Management Company (RFMC) where he is responsible for listed Asian equity investments. KB had taught accounting at the Singapore Management University (SMU) as a faculty member and also pioneered the 15-week course on Accounting Fraud in Asia as an official module at SMU. KB remains grateful and honored to be invited by Singapore’s financial regulator Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) to present to their top management team about implementing a world’s first fact-based forward-looking fraud detection framework to bring about benefits for the capital markets in Singapore and for the public and investment community. KB also served the community in sharing his insights in writing articles about value investing and corporate governance in the media that include Business Times, Straits Times, Jakarta Post, Manual of Ideas, Investopedia, TedXWallStreet. He had also presented in top investment, banking and finance conferences in America, Italy, Sydney, Cape Town, HK, China. He has trained CEOs, entrepreneurs, CFOs, management executives in business strategy & business model innovation in Singapore, HK and China.

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