Lucy is the host and founder of the YouTube channel ‘English with Lucy’. Within four years, she built a channel that now has over 3.5 million subscribers and is one of the biggest language related YouTube channels out there. What started as an experiment quickly turned into a full-time business, and has now become a widely successful YouTube phenomenon. Lucy monetizes her brand through AdSense, sponsorship deals, affiliate marketing, and is now also working on her own course. In this interview, we’re going to take a look behind the scenes. We will learn how Lucy got started on YouTube, some of the growth strategies she used, and what some of the challenges are of being a YouTube celebrity.
Lucy’s first experience as a teacher
Lucy has a marketing degree, but she had always been fascinated with languages, especially Spanish. During her studies, she did a semester abroad in Spain as part of the Erasmus program. After that, she found a marketing job in Spain, but the company shut down shortly after she started. Spain’s economy was in the midst of a crisis and it was very hard to find a decent job, so she decided to do what most English speakers in Spain do – teach English. Lucy didn’t have any experience in teaching, and she had never really studied English grammar. She searched on YouTube for English grammar explanations and spotted a gap in the market for different kinds of videos.
First of all, Lucy analyzed which existing English channels were doing well and why they were doing so well. She noticed that the teachers of big channels were talking to the camera, not as if they were in a classroom setting, but more like they were in the viewer’s bedroom alongside them. Viewers really feel like the teacher is talking directly to them. After doing a bit of research, she thought that there was a gap in the market for polished, fun, entertaining, cheery, and maybe slightly more casual English lessons.
Lucy’s early business ambitions
Although Lucy had never taught English prior to her teaching experience in Spain, she really liked teaching English and considered turning it into a new career. She was thinking about starting her own language school in London, for example. Having a YouTube channel with a small following would be a good way to attract new students, she thought. Eight months after launching her YouTube channel, ‘English with Lucy’, she realized that the YouTube channel alone could really turn into something big.
Lucy doesn’t just teach English, she teaches British English!
The £500 investment
When Lucy started her channel, she was in receipt of a student loan and didn’t have any savings to buy a camera, so she asked her dad to help her out. Her father is a businessman himself, so he suggested Lucy write a business plan first. He saw the potential in her idea and he agreed to lend Lucy £500, which she used to buy a second hand camera, a microphone, and a tripod. Her channel grew slowly in the beginning, until one of her videos was promoted by YouTube’s algorithm. That’s when she realized that she was on the right track. By the time she graduated, she had to make a decision to either work full-time on her YouTube channel or to find a job.
Her father advised her to go all in on the YouTube channel for at least two years. If it didn’t work out, she would still have been young enough to pursue another career. Surprisingly, two months after she went full-time, she was making a full-time income from her channel, mainly through AdSense revenue and a few sponsorship deals.
How can you make money on YouTube?
That’s a question that many or Lucy’s family members would ask her in the beginning. Because of Lucy’s massive audience and huge number of views, she can generate a very solid amount of revenue by allowing YouTube to show ads on her channel (AdSense).
Besides that, she also earns affiliate commission for every sale that is made through the affiliate links that she adds to the description of her videos. One product she is an affiliate for is Amazon Audible, for example. And then there are sponsorship deals. Various brands pay Lucy in exchange for a shoutout in one of her videos.
Lucy is currently also developing her own pronunciation course, which will be a significant part of her future revenue streams.
Lucy’s strategies for fast growth
Growing a YouTube channel quickly isn’t easy, and becoming successful depends on many things. You need to be consistent, connect with your audience, be likable, and provide content that people genuinely like. Being pretty and being good in front of the camera helps. Besides these general ‘strategies’, Lucy spends a lot of time on something else… She loves deep diving into YouTube analytics. The numbers she pays a lot of attention to are the number of views that a video gets per hour or per day. She says: It’s less exciting to get one video that gets a million views in a week and then flatlines, than getting 40K views every day, for five years. That’s why Lucy doesn’t make lots of videos on “flash in the pan” topics, but focuses on creating evergreen content instead. Using tools like Socialblade and VidIQ, she analyzes what’s working for her channel, but she also keeps an eye on what’s working for other people in the industry. And that brings us to Lucy’s next tip: don’t overdo it! The challenge is to find a balance between focusing on getting new subscribers and creating content that your current audience wants. Don’t get too obsessed about the numbers, because this can result in burnout as well. Make sure to keep it fun and create videos you’re passionate about and that you can be proud of.
Lucy has been featured on media outlets from all over the world, like here on the BBC
The Challenges of being a YouTube celebrity
Lucy’s biggest challenge is finding a balance between her personal life and her work life. She works from home and she shows a lot of her life on social media in order to build a strong connection with her audience. It’s sometimes hard to know when her public work life stops and her private life begins. In the beginning, Lucy would say ‘yes’ to almost any partnership, radio interview, and speaking event. At a certain point, she could no longer handle requests, and had to become better at saying ‘no’. She also decided to hire a manager who manages her email inbox and can say no on her behalf.
What does Lucy’s work week look like?
She usually spends one or two days writing scripts for her videos. When the scripts are ready, she plans one day free to shoot a batch of video. Besides video production, Lucy also spends a lot of time on administration, attending meetings, and in the summer she also does farm work to spend time with her family.
How much time do you spend on social media?
Lucy loves interacting with people on social media and she spends a lot of time just doing that. She’s basically on social media all day long.
Lucy realises that she can’t fully control the future of her channel. Everything depends on the YouTube algorithm. Imagine that the algorithm suddenly changes, but not in her favor, or that for some reason her account gets blocked. That’s why Lucy doesn’t want to put all her eggs in one basket. Besides ‘English with Lucy’, she has a personal YouTube channel and she also had a big following on Instagram.
Comment from Jan: Ideally you have your audience on a platform that you can control yourself. An email list is a typical example of that.
Lucy’s tips for building a YouTube channel
Reach out to people who have a channel that has your target audience and do video collaborations with them. Some of their followers will start following you as well. Look at your analytics and notice what’s working well. Try to figure out why, and do more of what seems to be working well. Ask your subscribers what they want to see from you and how you can help them best. Tools for this are Survey Monkey and Google Forms, for example. And finally, meet and connect with other YouTubers in your industry. After talking to another YouTuber recently, for example, Lucy realized that she was undercharging for sponsorships.