If you are interested in technology, lifestyle, and fashion, Justin Tse is probably the only content creator that covers all of this in a unique way.
Justin dropped out of school early this year to scale his business full-time, and never regret a thing.
In this interview, we deep dive into Justin’s view of the content creation industry, some insights of his daily life and his next steps.
You do not want to miss this.
VALDOUR @VALDOUR: Justin, thank you so much for taking some time out of your busy schedule to answer a few questions. For the people that just discovered you, can you tell us a little about yourself and what you do?
I am the CEO of a media company based in Victoria and currently specialize in online content focusing on technology, lifestyle, fashion, creator and have been creating videos since around 2011/2012.
The core focus is to create high-quality content on my social platforms including YouTube, Twitter, Instagram, while also working with consumer technology brands to inform consumers of new product releases and assist with buying decisions to my combined audience of over 450,000 and 50,000,000+ views worldwide.
Some notable brands that we have recently worked with include Google, Samsung, Amazon, Canon, Intel, BMW, Jaguar Land Rover!
Eventually, there are plans to expanding the local company into brand social media management and content creation, and even potentially talent management, a media site, podcast, and clothing line, but the current focus is all devoted towards YouTube content and maintaining the surrounding outlets.
One of the things that differentiate you from the “normal” tech creator is that your content perfectly blends fashion and lifestyle with technology. Some of your most watched videos are your apartment and bedroom tour. Are you planning to produce content focused on other categories where tech is not the main topic?
I think the most important thing when it comes to producing content is to genuinely enjoy what you are talking about.
Technology is still my main sector, but over the past few years, I had developed a passion in different areas. I felt as if the channel wasn’t an accurate representation of who I was, so I set out to share my limited knowledge in fashion while blending lifestyle and travel cinematics into my regular content.
At the end of the day, it’s important to gauge what you enjoy making as a creator, but also take into consideration what the audience wants to see. The new style in content has been very well received by my audience, which was a very prominent sign that the new path was here to stay.
With any sector, the amount of repetition can often get boring, smartphones for example release all throughout the year. Being into fashion allows me to follow sneaker and clothing releases alongside technology while keeping me excited and somewhat connected to culture and music.
The bottom line with my content is I want there to be an educational takeaway in most episodes, whether it’s informing the audience about the best smartphone or laptop, color matchings and sizing for clothing or even my favorite places to eat and visit in a city.
The past 2 years have been life-changing for you, you moved to your own apartment and your content is booming. People may not know that you have been creating videos for almost 6 years now. You even shared that you were the only person watching your videos, now you have almost 2 million views a month. Success takes time and sometimes we are very impatient with results. How do you cultivate patience, keep discipline and never give up?
A lot of it has to do with the way I was raised, my parents signed me up for sports I didn’t want to play, languages I didn’t want to learn, and instruments I didn’t really care about haha.
The bottom line was no matter how badly I wanted to quit, I had to stay with it until I had reached a certain level of proficiency.
When I finally found my passion for things I actually enjoyed (hockey, business, content creation), I think it all translated very naturally. I found inspiration within the industry that I was looking to join and knew the journey wasn’t going to be easy.
People like to look at what you have today and jump to conclusions and assumptions, but what they don’t realize is that I started at the age of 12 and have worked on this every single day since. Whether it is creating videos, thinking about the next idea, learning from other creators or reaching out to brands (I used to have maybe 1 response for every 50 emails).
Especially now, I often find myself lost with what keeps me going, but I think the least you can do is work hard and that is something that you will never regret. Even though my journey has taken a bit longer than many, there is still so much to uncover in the industry.
People may think that having a YouTube channel is easy. The reality is that it is an online marketing business that often requires a team to run smoothly. Tell us about your team, how you distribute operations and tasks and your biggest learnings in these years.
In my “day in life” video most of the hate comments were arguing against the use of the statement “entrepreneur” or “business”. I do admit that the video wasn’t exactly capturing a “busy” day (if I was busy I wouldn’t be running around with a camera all day filming it). I 1000% believe the term “YouTube channel” narrows the scope of the title, but it is a small business for sure.
You begin by investing money into production gear, and often times products to create videos of, negotiate with brands and agencies on a daily basis about product promotions and features, produce the videos, edit, distribute. It has taught me so many skills over the years and especially for independent creators it teaches you to do a little bit of everything.
There are currently around seven revenue streams that have to be managed and we are incorporated as a media company, so the argument about it not being a business or an entrepreneur in the comments didn’t exactly sit well with me, as much as I tried to explain it transparently.
“The amount of hours spent building everything far surpasses any job I could have had in school and University and beyond full-time hours today.”
I currently have one full-time staff member, and although there are other avenues that I have wanted to expand to, I do have a trouble with letting go of control in most aspects haha. I believe in a very small and concentrated team at the moment. He assists with gear pack, operates the camera and gimbal, and starts the initial edit on travel-related episodes. I still try to be involved in every video clip that is seen on the channel and edit all of the tech videos myself.
You dropped out of college a few months ago to focus full-time on your business. As you have shared several times, most of the pressure came from your mother. How did you make the decision? Was when you told your parents about it a difficult moment, how did you handle it?
University wasn’t really something I was crazy about from the start, my high school grades were never really great, and the objective of it didn’t seem to align aside from my parents wanting me to get a degree.
The first two years of the program were general classes which I think only exist to earn the school money (most classes had nothing to do with the business degree), and the core years of the degree felt very structured and outdated.
My parents knew from the start that I wanted to leave, but it took until the start of the 4th year to finally convince them. It came to the point where the opportunity cost of staying in school was taking away from the potential growth of the business, being unable to upload enough, find time to refine and improve content, and not being able to attend events that required travel.
I definitely understand the long-term sustainability of a degree, but I strongly believed that there was an opportunity in front of me that I had to take as far as I could and was confident that the skills gained from this industry would allow me to remain sustainable in the future whether it was in marketing, content creation, or sales.
got invited to speak at a Digital Entrepreneurship event at the University i dropped out of earlier this year haha
— Justin Tse (@JustinTse) October 24, 2018
Let’s talk about the business itself. Brands love what you do. You have done sponsored content and traveled with Intel, LG, Cooler Master and more. What is your best advice for someone that is starting to see some traction in his/her content to dealing with big brands and negotiating?
The best advice I can give is to let your content speak for itself, if you can prove to the client that you can produce good work while reaching a respectable audience from a marketing standpoint, the negotiation process can often be very easy if the brand believes in your vision.
There was a point in my channel where I was spending too much time justifying myself to brands, when clearly the results and quality wasn’t there, it’s something you see throughout the industry and creators are often quick to blame external factors that they believe is out of their control, when in reality the content just isn’t good enough.
“As important as it is to know your worth, you still need to be honest with yourself more than anything.”
Do you have a process or formula for presenting your services and determining the price? Are you mostly pitching to brands, or are they the ones that more often than not contact you?
Nowadays, most collaborations are from brands that contact myself, though I still do pitch ideas especially to brands in the lifestyle, fashion, travel sectors which I am new to.
After a number of years, you have a ballpark rate when it comes to pricing, but the law of supply and demand applies to everything. There are times where the queue is backed up multiple months, therefore the rate by nature needs to increase.
From there, you step back and analyze the new baseline to charge in order to operate at an efficient capacity.
Creators make money on 3 different streams mostly: AdSense, affiliate marketing and sponsored deals. In your case, what percentage of your revenue would you say each one represents, roughly?
It really varies, but sponsorships are definitely the largest piece of the pie at the moment.
Sponsorships, licensing, and product sales are considered active areas of income, whereas AdSense and affiliate marketing are seen as passive forms of income. Improving passive income, however, contributes to growth in the active income.
The influencer and media creator’s industry is extremely fast-paced. Where do you see the industry in the next 5 years, and where do you see yourself? Any special project you can share with us?
The tech industry has definitely changed a lot from an influencer standpoint since starting. The more opportunity there is, the more new creators join the industry and vice versa.
By diversifying into lifestyle, fashion, travel it not only keeps me excited as a creator but positions a brand in a way that it can be versatile.
I don’t really know how to answer the 5-year plan question for the sole reason that just 5 years ago I was just starting out in the space.
The goal is to continue to produce better content with the intention of testing new forms of content as well (podcast, website). I’ve also really wanted to create clothing haha.
We look forward to seeing that clothing brand! Quick question: If you only had to use one camera for both photography and YouTube, one smartphone and one computer, what would be your choice?
The Canon 1DX II is my favorite camera I have ever used. It isn’t perfect, its heavy, memory cards max out quickly and are stupid expensive. But it is professional grade for both photo and video (full-frame, 4K 60P video, Full HD 120P slow motion) while having great autofocus.
Phone – Apple iPhone XS
Computer – MacBook Pro 15” 2018 TouchBar
I’m overall really happy with the current workflow setup I use at the moment, but it definitely took a lot of trial and error to find what exactly works.
And the final question, if you had a billboard that people could see in their morning commute, what would it say?
I have to get back to you on this one haha.
Justin, thank you so much for sharing the insights about your journey as a content creator and young entrepreneur. We forecast a great future for your brand and yourself.