Ask any parent how they would like to spend their days, and they'll likely give you one of three answers: "Spend more time with my kids," "Work my dream job," or "Solidify my family's financial future."
For one father, all three of these dreams are a reality.
Jared (who asked his last name be withheld to protect his family's privacy) is a self-employed filmmaker who has combined his passion for films with his 9-year-old son Evan's love of toys to create the wildly popular YouTube channel EvanTubeHD. The father-son duo post up to three videos a week; the videos feature Evan reviewing toys.
It may seem simple enough, but their channel has taken YouTube—and children's imaginations—by storm. Evan and Jared posted their first video back in 2011 and, since then, their channel has amassed a staggering 1.3 million subscribers and racked up 1.2 billion page views (yes, billion). What's even more impressive about EvanTubeHD is that the channel is now bringing in over seven figures annually for their family.
"When we first started the channel, we had no intention of making a cent from our videos," says Jared. "We didn't even know it was possible. Our payment came in the form of father-son bonding time and the idea that others were enjoying something we created."
But one day, after Evan's videos started attracting thousands of views, Jared got curious about that little "monetize" button YouTube content creators can click. So he clicked it on one of Evan's videos.
"Lo and behold, money started showing up in our AdSense account," says Jared. "Granted, it wasn't much—maybe a few dollars a day. But I thought if I took this small stream of income and put it into a mutual fund, by the time the kids were ready to go to college, there would be a nice chunk there to assist with rising costs of education."
It's now safe to say his children's college costs are covered. Though he won't specify an exact figure, Jared says that EvanTubeHD and its sister channel EvanTubeRAW, which features his wife, Alisa, and their 6-year-old daughter, Jillian, brings in a ballpark figure of around $1.3 million annually. Jared says most of that revenue comes in from the embedded ads controlled by Google, but he and his family now also frequently get requests for outside projects, due to Evan's popularity.
"Last year Evan shot a Spy Gear commercial in Toronto," he says. "This year the kids have some cool opportunities, including voicing their own animated show."
But better than the money, and almost as good as getting to spend his days with his family, Jared says one of the main benefits of producing EvanTubeHD is being able to teach Evan—and his rising-star little sister—the importance of being a good role model.
"I think it’s hard for a 9-year-old to fully grasp the concept of fame. But as more and more people are recognizing him on the street, I think he’s starting to catch on," says Jared. "At first, he was a little shy and didn’t know what to think. But I think he enjoys seeing the smiles on kids’ faces when they meet him. My wife and I like to use these opportunities to reinforce the idea of being a role model and setting a good example."
Part of teaching his children what being a good role model means is showing them the importance of giving to others who have less than them. Jared says that most of the toys Evan and Jillian review are donated to charity. They've also used the power of EvanTubeHD to raise the awareness of several charities they donate to.
"Most recently, we had the opportunity to work with the Make-a-Wish Foundation, and were able to fulfill the wish of a young boy whose dream was to meet Evan and make a video with him at Legoland," says Jared. "It was a really incredible experience. YouTube has definitely opened many doors, and the kids have gotten to do some pretty amazing things."
As a professional filmmaker and now uber-successful YouTube content producer, Jared believes more than anyone in the power of online video. If you're looking to create your own seven-figure YouTube channel, Jared has some tips for you:
"Some channels take off faster than others for different reasons. The key is to hang in there," says Jared, who notes that while EvanTubeHD has over a billion views now, it started off with only a few hundred a week when he and Evan began posting their first clips. The key to persistence is to keep creating content.
"We try to upload at least one video for each of our three channels each week. The videos for our main channel are usually a bit more involved and take the most thought and preparation," says Jared.
Some videos he and Evan post are "pretty straightforward," while others require him to write scripts, draw storyboards, acquire props and costumes, scout locations, and add special effects. Is that a lot of work? Sure. But it can be worth it. "If you’re making quality content, an audience will come," says Jared. "It may just take some time."
One of the keys to growing your YouTube channel is to attract repeat viewers, Jared says. To do that, you need that extra something that is going to make them want to hit that Subscribe button. That "extra something" is knowing your viewers well enough to create a connection.
"I think one of the biggest attributing factors is Evan’s ability to connect with viewers," he says. "They see him as their friend and somebody they can relate to."
Jared and his wife often get messages from parents saying how their sons and daughters run around talking about "their friend Evan."
"It’s that connection which is going to get them to hit the Subscribe button and become a repeat viewer," says Jared.
In the videos, it may look like Evan is having all the fun, but in reality, Jared loves the toys as much as his son. "Growing up, I was a huge Lego, comic book, and video game fanatic," he says. "So it’s pretty awesome that that has become my job’s main focus."
Jared says that his experience making videos with his son has taught him the importance of embracing his inner youth. "When creating these videos with him, I find myself observing through the eyes of a child. Will they think this is cool? Will they find this funny? It’s really given me a whole new perspective on things, which helps a great deal when trying to understand kids today."
But don't think your video's focus has to be on toys or other interests primarily aimed at children to embrace your inner youth.
"Enthusiasm [for any subject] goes a long way," says Jared. "Chances are somebody has similar interests."
Anyone can make videos about their hobbies or passions, but in order for those videos to capture a large audience, your viewers need to get something of value out of them. Jared says you should ask yourself, "What are your viewers taking away from the viewing experience? Are they likely to share it with others?"
In Jared's case, he and his wife know many parents worry about finding quality content for their kids online, so he makes sure EvanTubeHD not only entertains kids, but provides value to their parents.
"When my wife and I realized how many young eyeballs were watching our videos, we thought it was our responsibility to create content that parents felt comfortable allowing their children to watch," Jared says. And he knows they've been successful because he and his wife now frequently "get reports of kids who have taken control of their parents’ iPads."
Jared's last tip is, perhaps, the hardest to follow. "Don’t be afraid to change things up to stand out from the crowd," he says. EvanTubeHD wasn't the first toy review channel on YouTube and it won't be the last. The reason it's the most successful, Jared argues, is that he and his son bring a unique twist to the format.
"I know when I watch YouTube, it’s either to be educated about something or to be entertained. I thought it would be cool if we could incorporate both into our toy videos," he says. "Before each video, we would outline the main features of the product. Then I would let Evan fill in the blanks with his own commentary and antics. I might add some special effects or we may do a little comedy sketch. The formula seemed to work."
And for Jared, a huge part of EvanTubeHD's uniqueness comes from something no one else can ever have: his family. "Another key element for us has been that we work as a tight family unit. Everyone contributes and has their special roles. And the channel really wouldn’t be where it is today if it was missing any one of these elements. Family is the driving factor behind everything we do on YouTube."
It's that last aspect, he says, that makes EvanTubeHD the dream job of dream jobs.
"Like most people, I’ve often thought of dream jobs I’d love to have. But never in my wildest dreams did I think one of them would be making a living creating videos while doing fun things with my family. This is definitely one dream job that is going to be hard to top."
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