YouTube is full of an incredible range of content, but is it a good platform to build a successful channel around teaching a skill? On this episode of TubeTalk, we talk to a creator that’s done just that.
Gabby Wallace runs a very successful YouTube channel called Go Natural English which teaches American English to learners. She’s generated 55M views for her videos, and with a growing subscriber base of 1.6M, she’s tapping into a clear demand from viewers for this type of content.
I was fortunate enough to spend some time with Gabby at one of the recent video conferencing event held in Los Angeles, where we got to unpack her channel, understand her strategy. In this podcast you will learn:
- How you can use your skills to teach others on YouTube
- How to leverage the huge demand to learn new skills via YouTube
- How to monetize your educational content on YouTube
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How Teachers Can Use Their Skills to Build a YouTube Channel: Full Transcript
Liron Segev: Gabby, welcome to Tube Talk
Gabby Wallace: It's my pleasure, Liron.
Liron Segev: So Gabby, for people who don't know, what do you do on your channel? How would you describe it in a tweet?
Gabby Wallace: Go Natural English helps non-native English speakers to speak and communicate in English fluently and confidently.
Liron Segev: You're literally the first person I think was able to do it in a tweet.
Gabby Wallace: Because I say that tweetable all the time, try to explain what I do. So yeah, hopefully that's clear.
Liron Segev: That's nice and concise, and you know exactly what you're doing. You already know that you're communicating your message clearly.
Gabby Wallace: And I like to say it in terms of what do I help people do, not what I do because I love it. Because I do love it, but it's to help other people.
Liron Segev: Perfect. And how often would you say that you currently upload on your channel? How many subscribers have you got? Just to kind of get a mental picture, because again, this is something very different that's not your typical vlogger or your typical something that you would expect on YouTube.
Gabby Wallace: Right now I'm uploading 1.5 times a week, and it's been once a week for the last two years, three times a week a few years ago, and then before that it was a bit sporadic. And right now after eight years of YouTubing at Go Natural English it is at 1.6 million subscribers.
Liron Segev: Beautiful. So, did you hear that, that overnight success didn't happen overnight? It has been a long, long mission.
Gabby Wallace: But it's interesting because it is like a snowball. When you gather momentum it does get easier. Sometimes people ask me, does it get easier after 100,000 subscribers? And I believe it does as long as you're keeping up with what people want to watch, because my channel has kind of doubled in size or roughly speaking for the last three years or so.
Liron Segev: Well, yeah, I think that once you start figuring out what you want to convey to your audience, you start figuring out what your audience wants from you, you're then you're not all over the place. You're very specific, very focused.
So Gabby, if people are kind of thinking, look, I'm in the education space, which is where you fit in, and a lot of people that I've spoken to, they're saying, look, it's not sexy, it's not cool, it's not the hip thing, it's not Red Bull, right? Is there a place for education on YouTube?
Gabby Wallace: Absolutely. And I've heard, I've seen, I've experienced that YouTube wants to support educators and educational channels, tutorials, how to's, anything that is informational. I mean, look at some of the huge science channels or the informational, I can't think of any names right now of course, but some of these channels are just huge because people have curiosity.
They want to know why, why do things happen, or what's inside things, or how do you build things. But with language and English, and the arts as well, there's so much curiosity, and many, many people love to be lifelong learners, and many, many people have to learn for work or for school, and so they go to YouTube as a resource.
Liron Segev: And then where do you find that your audience is coming from? Are they already kind of English speaking to a point? Are they based in the U.S., which is an English speaking country?
Gabby Wallace: Yeah. Well, English language is something that is global. So I do have viewers from all over the world. It's quite interesting. But the majority of my viewers are actually in the United States from other countries. So they've arrived in the U.S. and still looking to improve their English language skills.
Liron Segev: Okay. Wow, that's interesting because you would expect that people who are living abroad perhaps and they want to kind of improve their language skills, that make sense?
Gabby Wallace: Right.
Liron Segev: All right. And then is it male, female skewed? What would you think?
Gabby Wallace: On YouTube, it's interesting because I do have more of a skew toward male viewers, but on my website where I have a blog, same name, Go Natural English, it is more females. So I don't know what's going on there. Just more men are on YouTube and more women are surfing the web. I'm not sure. But it's interesting to see that.
Liron Segev: And are you finding that you're being discovered by new people because of word of mouth or because of maybe Google searches?
Gabby Wallace: I think it's definitely a mix. After eight years there's certainly word of mouth, but I think there's also that momentum that comes from having a bunch of content on YouTube, from being online on my website for so many years, building up the search engine optimization and whatnot. Building up that content.
And not to say that it's too late to start, because people hear the, oh, eight years, well great, I'll just go ahead and do my channel for eight years and hope for the best. It doesn't have to take eight years. I think if I had known then what I know now, it's very possible to create a channel, create a presence and build much, much faster.
Liron Segev: You think it's easier now because technology has changed and has evolved?
Gabby Wallace: Yes. So it's easier now because we have so much access, like an iPhone or any kind of smartphone you can record with. Eight years ago, not so much. It's easier now because we have conferences and websites, and channels and vidIQ, things that help you that we didn't have eight years ago. But, on the flip side, there's more competition perhaps. But you can't get bogged down by that. You really can't. It's your mindset matters a lot here.
Liron Segev: Okay. So let's unpack that a little bit. So, tell me about your process. So you have an idea for a video, then what happens?
Gabby Wallace: I have an idea. So usually my ideas, first of all come from real-life questions or problems that English learners ask of me, or that I see that they're having or hear that they're having. And from there, I do of course think about, is it going to maybe be a popular topic? So is it something that someone would want to click on? Is it something that would spark their curiosity? Is it something that's maybe a little different than what's been done a hundred times before? Although, it is also good to take a look at what has been done and what has been successful to get an idea of what people do click on and want to watch.
So my process is, first of all, before I even look at anyone else's content, before I see what other people have done on the topic, I write down my own thoughts because I don't want to lose those. So, as someone with lots of years of experience teaching English, I do have some ideas.
And if you're listening, if you're a content creator, if you're a teacher, if you're a tutor, if you have some expertise in a topic, write down your own ideas first before you go look and see what other people have done. Because I find when I look at other people's videos, then I'm comparing myself and I start thinking, oh, well maybe I should do it just like they did it. But no, we should not. You have to keep your own ideas first and foremost.
So that is really kind of my process, is to jot down my own ideas first, then take a look at what other people have done to see if maybe I could improve on it, or somehow maybe relate to that or talk about it somehow, and then put it all together into a script or talking points for my video.
Liron Segev: So it's your own content, it's the way that you're going to bring it across, and that's what your audience are going to respond to.
Gabby Wallace: And here's the thing about English or any academic subject, it's all been taught before, it's just that you need to put your own spin on it, your own experience, even your own opinion or your own kind of synthesis of your experience, the topic and helping a specific niche of people.
Maybe I might be helping business people from Japan who are advanced English speakers, and maybe you're going to start a channel that's helping beginner people from Mexico, beginner English speakers from Mexico who want to attend Harvard business school.
Liron Segev: So don't be put off by the fact that it was done before. Bring your own spin to it, make it your own, find your own voice and then connect with an audience, because there's going to be an audience for you.
So if somebody kind of thinking, look, there's no money in this right now. You can't make brand deals out of these things. Would they be right, wrong?
Gabby Wallace: Yes. So with educational channels, I think a very smart way to monetize is actually to have your own course. But let's go back to brand deals and sponsors, because there are of course many, many products and services related to learning. And so, if you can find a product or service that is related to your topic, that's an obvious fit.
Or take another step out, people need notepads, and pens and whatever you study with. Adjacent products that you could probably promote or sell on your channel. And so, there are many things related to learning. There's just, I mean you have to be a bit creative, but I think it's almost more obvious than if I had an entertainment channel, it's like, okay, well what am I going to promote here? But if you have a subject you're teaching, I think it's almost more obvious and a stronger pull.
Liron Segev: Well, and the beautiful thing is that, guess what, these companies who sell the stuff, they need an outlet, they need an audience. If you're the one providing that audience, you can make some amazing grand deals.
Gabby Wallace: There's also lots of companies that offer tutoring in different topics, and so either you could offer tutoring yourself or you could promote a company that does. So I think there's so many options for educators.
Liron Segev: Absolutely. Become an affiliate for them. Get a referral commission for doing that. Sell stuff on Amazon that you speak about in your video. Have a link and a description to all that. So there's lots of money to be made. Don't believe the press.
Gabby Wallace: Well, and I really want educators to do well because teachers don't make much money traditionally. And so, I think there's so much opportunity online, on YouTube especially. And so I just, I really want to empower teachers to do well and to enjoy what you're doing, because we teach because we're passionate about our subjects and helping students. And I think that teachers deserve to make money too.
Liron Segev: Couldn't agree with you more. Absolutely 100%. And we speaking here about a language skill, but education is across lots of different industries, lots of different topics. If you have a skill that you can teach somebody else, that is the education path. Find a way to bring a voice, bring it online, and you can also get 1.6 million followers if you do the work. But you've got to put in the effort, right?
Gabby Wallace: Yes. It is not for the fainthearted. Not at all. And I've had to grow a bit of a thick skin as well because it's not always easy. I won't go into the negative things. There's not many negative things. But for someone who's a bit sensitive, you might have to grow a thick skin.
Liron Segev: But I think lots of teachers do have already a thick skin. They’ve got to put up with our kids in school.
Gabby Wallace: But it's so rewarding. I mean, I received messages from English learners from all over the world, and it just, it warms my heart hearing from someone, they say, hi Gabby, I'm living in Afghanistan, and I'm watching your videos, and it's helping me so much. And it's like, wow, I can't even imagine what life is like over there.
Liron Segev: And you had an impact.
Gabby Wallace: Yes. Oh, it's magical. It really is.
*Liron Segev: Totally, totally love it. Gabby, if people want to find you, find your channel, now is the time to tell them.
Gabby Wallace: Yes, yes. Please come to Go Natural English everywhere. On YouTube, Instagram, Facebook, and the website is also Go Natural English. I'm Gabby Wallace and it's been awesome talking with you.
Liron Segev: Really appreciate it. Thank you for hanging out here, Gabby, sharing some amazing information. And you know a teacher, you know someone who's frustrated maybe where they work and you want to give them this opportunity, share this episode with them. Let them embrace YouTube culture. Gabby can do it, lots of people are doing it, and we'll catch you guys on the next episode of Tube Talk.
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