EricTheCarGuy is a car repair expert and one of the most viewed creators within YouTube’s autos category, with over 290,000 subscribers. Through his site EricTheCarGuy.com, Eric offers troubleshooting forums and premium content in the form of detailed, exclusive manuals that can be purchased through premium membership or as a one-off download.
Before making a name for himself on YouTube, Eric worked in a variety of places (mall tree suppliers, gas stations, dealerships, etc.). He is an ASE and Acura Certified Master Technician and a graduate of the Rosedale Technical Institute.
I spoke with Eric in July 2013 to get a better idea of the factors that contributed to his success on YouTube and as an online entrepreneur. The top insights gleaned from our conversation are summarized below.
The Advantage of a Background in Video Production
EricTheCarGuy was not Eric’s first venture into the video world. Before launching his car-centric channel on YouTube, Eric spent around eight years doing freelance video work. In addition to creating videos for corporate clients, Eric shot dog shows, sporting events, and a large number of weddings (talk about non-car-centric subject matter!).
These years of experience with video equipment and production have definitely contributed to Eric’s success on YouTube. Eric’s involvement with local Final Cut Pro groups and relationships with other videographers also helped him to improve his skills and explore new opportunities.
The idea for EricTheCarGuy actually emerged from an experience Eric had when attending a WEVA (wedding and event videographers) convention in Orlando. One of the presenters at the conference elaborated on the use of video to generate passive income (e.g. through sales of special videos, documentaries designed to accompany a book, etc.), which got Eric thinking about how he might leverage his personal expertise to earn money from his work as a videographer in a way that did not involve regular work for clients.
Mitigating Risk with a Slow Transition and Multiple Sources of Income
Eric’s transition to full time work as a videographer was very gradual. Much of Eric’s freelance work was done when he was still working as an automotive technician. Even after Eric left a steady job to work on his production company full time, he still bolstered his income with odd auto jobs on the side.
Just as Eric slowly shifted from auto work to his production company, he moved very gradually from his production company to EricTheCarGuy- in fact, he was not comfortable enough with EricTheCarGuy’s traction and earnings to transition to it full time until it had been up and running for four years. Heck, Eric did not even have the option to begin earning ad revenue as a YouTube Partner until his channel had been live for about a year. Eric may not have made it through the long and laborious process of cultivating EricTheCarGuy had he not had a video production company to fall back on for income.
As you consider your own YouTube ventures (or any internet-based profession), determine what tactics will make it possible for you to continue to make an income while your new venture is still getting on its feet.
Giving Your YouTube Channel a Competitive Advantage
One of the reasons EricTheCarGuy succeeded as a YouTube channel was that there were not many good auto channels on the platform. Most tutorial videos were one-off instances in which their creators filmed some auto work. Few auto uploads were created with a specific audience or goal in mind. Few YouTubers were actually making an effort to make a dedicated autos channel.
Eric, on the other hand, made his YouTube debut with a very distinct plan, focus, and audience in mind. He created a cohesive channel. He asked himself what a viewer would want from a car tutorial on YouTube and made every effort to deliver videos that exceeded those reputations.
Tips on Creating Successful YouTube Videos
When asked what one should do to produce a top channel within one of YouTube’s categories, Eric recommended:
- Carefully researching the competition
- Reading and watching guides to making money on YouTube
- Giving careful attention to video quality and lighting
- Never wasting the viewer’s time (more on that below)
The Importance of Succinctness
Eric specifically emphasized the importance of never wasting a viewer’s time.
When in doubt while editing footage, kill your baby. Be ruthless. If content is off topic or does not contribute to the goal of the video, it goes. It doesn’t matter if you cracked a funny joke if the joke is not related to the specific purpose of the video. Nobody cares about your niece or that annoying thing your neighbor keeps doing. Edit, edit, edit.
Also keep in mind that the vast majority of the people watching your videos will be otherwise engaged (in the midst of checking their emails, browsing through other sites, playing video games, etc). You will need to make sure that, in addition to commanding viewers’ attention, your videos are simple, straightforward, and easy to understand.
Diversifying by Complementing Your YouTube Channel with a Website
EricTheCarGuy.com is a key component of Eric’s online career. Though the site has gone through several iterations since EricTheCarGuy’s inception, Eric had the domain well before his YouTube channel went live.
Eric’s site features his videos (this is the most popular part) along with manuals, forums, and an OBD code search function. He added the forums in an effort to reduce the number of emails he receives asking the same question (they are grouped into categories, equipped with a search function, and supplemented with answers Eric composed in response to popular questions to make it easy for people to find what they’re looking for).
Though the majority of Eric’s income still comes through YouTube ads, Eric hopes to earn a higher and higher proportion of his income through his website over time through the sales of:
- Premium membership
- Premium video content
Eric’s interest in diversifying his income comes from understanding how risky it is to depend on one channel (completely out of one’s control) for income.
Though it is scary to think about it, YouTube could cut off your ad earnings in a day should they determine that you have violated their site policies. They can also change the site’s suggestion or search listing algorithm in a way that completely buries your videos, thus decimating the views that lead to your livelihood.
It is therefore very important that you build income channels over which you have more control. Eric does this through the sale of manuals; you may do it through the sale of other premium content, services, products, books, or speaking engagements. What is important is that you do not place all of your eggs in one basket.
Promoting and Selling Products and Services
When Eric first launched his manuals, he promoted them via previews on his YouTube channel. He admits he got flack for this from some of his viewers, but he also admits that the marketing push made a significant difference and lead to sales.
Should you, too, leverage your YouTube following to sell products, premium content, or services, be prepared for some grumbling (nobody likes ads, right?), but also remember the importance of not putting all of your eggs in one basket.
When it comes to selling premium content, Eric recommends sticking to downloads rather than offering physical options. He started out selling DVDs, but discontinued the option pretty quickly after he realized the amount of overhead and time (production, fulfillment, etc.) that goes into selling physical goods. Keep in mind, however, that other types of products that one might download, such as books, albums, and art, still hold a lot of cache with customers as physical products.
Reinvesting in Your Business
At this point, all of the income Eric makes off the sale of manuals gets reinvested in his business. His website has gone through several iterations and had just been overhauled before our call.
When considering how to utilize your earnings, don’t neglect projects that will help you to earn more (and earn from a wider variety of resources) in the future. Most importantly, don’t rest on your laurels. Just because you are earning money now does not mean that you will continue to earn money, or even that your present income level will remain relatively stable.
It is important that you’re always finding ways to improve the content (plus any products and services) you offer. If you don’t, your work will likely lose its luster and/or be overtaken by the competition.
Final Words of Wisdom
Before our call was up, I asked Eric if he had any final tips or pieces of advice for those who would like to share videos online and create their own online businesses. He offered some very useful tips:
- Have a plan from day one (the plan will inevitably change, but your logn-term strategies and priorities will contribute to optimal decisions)
- Know your market
- Know how you’re going to make an income
- View the pursuit as a full time profession; maintain what you’ve built and look to the future
- Don’t ride on success brought about by blind luck (e.g. a video going viral); it will only last you so long
- Never lose respect for your audience
- Keep your work fresh and continue to reinvent your work so it caters to your audience’s evolving needs