Why Visakan is pivoting to Youtube
The creator already has a cult following on Twitter. He's still betting on YouTube for the future of his career.
Written by Shreeda Segan
Visakan (Visa) Veerasamy was once a full-time digital marketer, writing tweets and blog posts for company accounts while running a side hustle selling t-shirts. Sometime in 2019, Visa started building a Twitter following around the concept “Friendly, Ambitious Nerd” — a guiding archetype that helps people become kinder, bolder, and more curious. Today, Visa has 50K+ Twitter followers, 100+ patrons on Patreon, publishes self-help books on Gumroad, and consults to help people grow their Twitter following. Still, he’s looking to YouTube for future earnings — and thinks other creators should too.
Why should creators pivot to YouTube?
When I started my Patreon in 2020, my pitch was: “I tweet a lot, and people like my tweets. Would you like to support me on my journey to becoming a full-time writer?” People started subscribing. As far as self-publishing authors on Patreon, I’m now in the top 20%. That’s when I realized I’m on this path from hobbyist creator to making-a-living creator. I started to research who the top-performing creators on Patreon are. That list was Amanda Palmer and then YouTuber, YouTuber, podcaster, Youtuber, podcaster, YouTuber...
Anybody can write tweets. No one is getting paid big money for it. I think in part because Twitter feels like such a casual, communal medium, it’s a little weird to pay someone for tweeting when “anybody can do it.” But people are much more comfortable paying Youtubers and podcasters for their work. Twitter is an excellent place to test the waters, experiment with your voice, and see if there’s an audience-author fit. Once you find out that people like your ideas, you should graduate to podcasting, YouTubing, or both.
Plus, Twitter’s not as great for creators. Creators get dragged on Twitter in part because everyone feels like they’re on the same playing field. On YouTube, there’s an expectation that the person making the video is the creator and that everyone else is the audience.
Where are most of your current earnings coming from? Are you making anything from YouTube?
It varies a bunch, but it's roughly one-third Patreon, one-third ebooks, and one-third consulting clients.
At the moment, I’m just building the cinematic universe for my YouTube. I’ve been publishing consistently for about three years. There's like $150 sitting in my YouTube ad revenue balance. It's not enough to live on, but I've definitely sold books from YouTube, and I’ve gotten a handful of clients from it.
Tell me a bit about your follower growth.
Currently, I have about 4,400 subscribers on YouTube and 51,000 on Twitter. The funny thing is Twitter followers don’t convert very well to YouTube subscribers. The kind of person who's hyperverbal and enjoys reading text is not the same person who enjoys sitting and watching a video.
But the YouTube algorithm does work — I haven't gotten a huge algorithmic blessing yet and I'm looking forward to when it happens — but people search for stuff. I have a video that's like, “advice for people in their twenties.” That has thousands of views, and new people discover you that way. With tweets, people don't discover your old tweets unless you repost or retweet them. It's just such an uphill battle to keep your tweets relevant; you have to publish new tweets every day. With YouTube, you make videos about all the things that you care about, and they persist. In that sense, the medium is just more creator-friendly.
I haven't made a YouTube video in like three weeks. I still got 4,000 plus views in the last month. My subscriber account is growing despite me not publishing.
Got it. What’s your endgame as a creator?
Right now I would say I'm making a middle-class living from my books. I don't make as much as our friends in tech, but more than I would have guessed I would be making at this point. So I don't worry too much about money. My main concern is building and growing a thoughtful audience.
It’s pretty common for YouTubers to do everything in their power to grow as fast as possible. And then in three or five years, they burn out because they make videos every week and are going hard. If you grow fast, you get exhausted, I don't want to do that. I want to plan long-term — all my life, 50 years out — and slowly accumulate a thoughtful audience.
My long-term endgame is just trying to introduce my Friendly, Ambitious Nerd vibe to more and more people at a sustainable rate. Because if you grow too fast, then the culture will get diluted. But that's the conflict: How do you grow without diluting too much? And are you making bullshit excuses for yourself because you're afraid of growing?
Can you share some practical tips for aspiring YouTubers?
- Early on, when nobody knows who you are, just optimize your rate of publishing.
- Whenever you find yourself saying naturally in conversation, "I'm always telling people they should blah, blah, blah," make that a video
- You don’t need to make hour-long videos. No one is going to watch that. Make it somewhere between 7 and 10 minutes.
- The modern smartphone is good enough to record on. If you’ve made 10 videos and think you’re going to keep doing it, then go ahead and purchase the nice camera and microphone.
- Practice speaking confidently and fluently. A strange thing that helps — especially if you’re a very verbal person — is to record a video as you read a transcript.
- Record Zoom calls with your friends, especially if you’re nervous and shy and wondering what you’re going to talk to a camera about for 20 minutes. If you tweet a lot and also have friends who tweet a lot, sometimes you’ll be having an interesting conversation and just say “Hey, let’s record a Zoom call about this.”
If you really want to grow your account fast, address topics that you know there are existing interests in. One of my top videos is a two-minute video about Jimi Hendrix’s clothes and fashion sense.
What do you think of TikTok and shortening attention spans?
I'm trying out TikTok but I’m not a natural. It's challenging when you're trying to work on many different mediums at the same time. I do think it’s best to pick a medium that’s a really good fit for you — if you do a fantastic job on one platform, creators on other platforms will take the trouble to share and translate your work to those platforms.
As for shortening attention spans, people have been complaining about it for centuries. Creators should believe in their work. People do make time for good work, including 3-5 hour long material.
It can be frustrating to feel pressured to condense your work into soundbites that intrigue people enough to want to check it out. Most creators will have to make some compromises on that front. But to newer creators I’d say, dare to believe that your work is valuable, and dare to believe that there are still thoughtful people who are willing to engage with it in depth — you shouldn’t have to compromise your work itself in order to find interesting angles that entice people to care.
How do you pivot between mediums?
I've always been kind of a purist/perfectionist. I don’t believe that a Substack essay should be a copy-paste of a Twitter thread. Each medium has its own dynamic; the entire internet has always been that way. But it's all right.
I'm not a TikTok native and I’ll let the kids have it. I believe that as long as smartphones are the dominant thing in people's hands every day, vertical video is going to become more and more of a thing. I wouldn't be too surprised if YouTube Shorts continues becoming bigger and bigger, and maybe eventually half of YouTube, or more than half of YouTube maybe.
I also don't think that regular long-form videos will die out anytime soon. There will always be people who are driving and listening to a podcast or doing their laundry who will be receptive to trying out podcasts and videos.
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