Ever since YouTube got a local site in SA in 2010, one constantly hears that it’s a great way for young people to create their own content and earn money.

But is it really that easy, asks Grethe Kemp?

Moyin Oloruntoba

Young and vibrant Moyin Oloruntoba, Fair Lady magazine’s 2016 rising star, as well as the founder and face behind the YouTube entertainment and celebrity gossip channel, The A1, is an online presence that is hard to ignore.

With 3 963 subscribers and over 1 million views, the upbeat and vivacious online personality is also a model and radio personality.

She works with GoodHope FM in Cape Town every Tuesday night while also running her channel that has gained a large following from South African, African and international audiences. – Mhudi Khasu

Aqeelah Harron Ally

Twenty-seven-year-old fashion blogger, entrepreneur and YouTuber Aqeelah Harron Ally is the brain behind the forever growing blog and YouTube channel Fashion Breed. The channel, with 3 066 subscribers, is a hub of lifestyle for the modest woman.

Ally, a Muslim woman who felt not enough was out there for modest style, dedicates her channel to fashion inspiration, make-up tutorials and vlogs. Her work has landed her collaboration work with brands such as Cotton On and Revlon.

As well as YouTube, she has her own line of 3D false lashes that she developed herself after noticing the lack of quality lashes in South Africa.– Mhudi Khasu

Your internet access is sketchy. You’re not a famous singer or actor and you don’t have fancy video equipment. You’ve seen that South African YouTubers can make it big, and you feel like you’ve got something to say. After all, 22-year-old Caspar Lee has 7.1 million subscribers, and his sister, Theodora, has 241 000. But they’ve been doing it for years. So, is YouTube really something you can make money out of?

I caught up with a YouTuber who’s a young guy with a cellphone camera, internet access here and there, and lots of opinions, and asked him about the YouTube hustle.

Sibu Mpanza is 22 and started YouTubing in 2014. With 3 476 subscribers, his self-titled channel is a mix of social commentary and comedy. Though he started small – recording a video of his friend at university – he’s built himself up to a level where he’s worked with big brands, including Vodacom, DisneyUK, Jameson, Standard Bank, Burger King and Dunkin’ Donuts. Mpanza has also won a string of awards, including the Samsung Social Star Competition and he was a runner-up in the African YouTube Awards. He’s even started his own media production company called Mpanza Media.

In fact, Mpanza has become so successful that he’s dropped out of university to pursue YouTubing full time.

“I didn’t think I was going to become some kind of popular blogger or YouTuber. I was studying at the University of Cape Town and wanted to become a social worker,” he tells me in a Google Hangouts interview. “When I started, it was more as someone who enjoyed YouTube content and wanted South Africans to enjoy it too. I wanted to be the one to tell people about this amazing YouTube community.”

His bright, enthusiastic way of speaking is immediately infectious.
So, how is he making his money?

Google [which owns YouTube] uses an algorithm that measures how long viewers stay on your channel to calculate an income for you,” he says. “You can choose a threshold for when YouTube pays out that money. For instance, once you hit $100 [R1 370].”

But, as Mpanza says, the bulk of your income usually doesn’t come purely from Google – although many YouTubers, especially in the US, have huge enough followings that they make millions simply off their viewership.

Most of your money comes from collaborating with brands. For instance, a brand like, say, Red Bull, will pay you to mention them in a video. The creative direction of it is up to you, so you might make a clip challenging yourself to stay awake all night after drinking Red Bull.

Jaime Lizamore from PR agency 20 Across represents three local YouTubers, including Mpanza.

She explains that YouTubers have a rate card that states what they charge to mention a brand’s product.

Rates vary on how big your channel is, but an average South African YouTuber might charge R2 000 for an Instagram post, R10 000 for a YouTube video, R1 500 for a Facebook post and R1 500 for an Instagram story.

“Four years ago, brands were extremely interested in working with blogs – that was where it was at. But now it’s become YouTube. Viewers just seem to find it to be a more accessible platform,” she says.

But it’s still difficult to get to a viewership level where brands will start approaching you. The number-one challenge is our poor internet.

“We are far behind the US,” says Mpanza. “The fact that our internet and our data are so incredibly expensive is going to make it hard to get to that level. Yes, YouTubers here are going to become better known and start earning money. But people can’t watch us and it’s not their fault. The internet is not accessible to everybody.”

Starting out, YouTubers often find themselves in a situation where they’re not making a cent in the first year and hardly anyone is watching their content. The challenge is to keep posting videos regularly, even when you feel like no one is watching.

“There were definitely times when I wanted to stop – but it wasn’t about money. It was that I felt people weren’t watching or subscribing to my channel,” says Mpanza. “This is a huge issue in South Africa – the fact that we don’t have a subscriber culture. We have a huge number of people watching videos on YouTube, but people don’t subscribe to the channels.”

Subscribing helps YouTubers analytically.

“It’s a huge help when you go to brands and they ask what can you give us, and you can say I have X number of people that will watch my video,” says Mpanza.

Mpanza firmly believes YouTube is the future, a platform that’s open to everybody.

“The biggest compliment you can ever pay me is to say that I made you feel like you can do exactly what I do.”

More than the number of views you get, it’s about making yourself someone who is on top of social trends.

“A lot of companies are now looking for relevant YouTube personalities.

“I will never lie and say I have a lot of followers, but I’m a relevant party on the internet right now. Relevance is a huge thing that people don’t take into account.”

So, what are you waiting for?