Megan Umansky, a sophomore creative producing major, has more than 86,000 subscribers on her YouTube channel, “Megs Umansky.” Umansky created her YouTube channel in 2011 and has been continuously evolving her content ever since. Beginning with simple clothing hauls, and month favorites, Umansky now creates videos about college, fashion, food, travel and beauty routines designed to appeal to other young women. Her most-watched video, a room tour from 2016, received over one million views. Her second most popular video, a Chapman move-in vlog, garnered more than 100,000 views.
Prowl talked with Umansky about the work of running a YouTube channel: brands and sponsorships, advertisements, making money and how the changing rules of YouTube have affected her channel.
Q: What are the benefits and the downsides of having sponsors and a large following on social media platforms?
A: You are offered a lot free stuff. You are also given the opportunity to work with different brands, such as Peet’s Coffee, Re/done Denim, Bondi Self Tanning, Sugar High Shop, Burga cases, Cocofloss, and Zaful. From Peet’s Coffee, I received free coffee, free jeans and t-shirts from Re/done Denim, tanning products from Bondi Self Tanner, clothes from Sugar High Shop, phone cases from Burga cases, floss and goodies from Cocofloss and swimsuits from Zaful. It’s really fun seeing what these brands are passionate about and see what you have in common with them. You also get to talk to all the people and different businesses. It has been a learning experience for sure.
The downsides … sometimes companies don’t give enough control over what you’re doing. A lot of brands have specific guidelines and rules. Some of the rules are that the brand must be mentioned in the first two minutes, it must be talked about for at least a minute or more, you can’t mention any brands before that brand, things like that. Almost all brands request this especially when there is money involved. And if I don’t want to go with their rules or if I want to do something different, it’s sometimes hard to work it out. But usually they are very negotiable, but some [brands] have stricter rules than others.
Q: Do you make most of your money from product placements or advertisements?
A: A lot of money does come from product placements and sponsorships, but I won’t put just anything in my videos. I get dozens of emails each week offering me free products or compensation for a dedicated video or mention. Most of the emails I delete are because it’s not anything I am truly interested in. If I do like the product or know the brand, I will respond and the brand and I will work together on making a fair deal for both of us. Advertisements on my videos also make money. It’s all about the number of views and watch time people spend on my videos.
Q: In relation to monthly income, how does making money on YouTube compare to having a conventional job?
A: I want to clarify that yes, making money from my videos is nice, but it’s not why I do it. I started my channel at 11 years old just for fun and, to this day, it’s still fun. YouTube money has its ups and downs. It’s similar to a job as in, if I don’t put any new content up for a month, my revenue is going to decrease. If I post a video every day, I will make more money. If you go to work every day of the week, you’re going to make more money than if you only went one day of the week.
Q: Has your business been affected by YouTube’s changing rules concerning demonetization? If so, in what ways?
A: Basically, I just can’t make money off some videos anymore. The entire demonetization thing has affected my videos. I have multiple videos that have been demonetized because of the new “YouTube rules.” It’s annoying because some of those videos [that were demonetized] are still viewed and doing well, but I can’t make money off of them anymore. Songs get my videos demonetized all the time. I have to make sure they’re under 30 seconds if they’re not copyright free. If they’re copyright free, I can use them. Also, I have had them demonetize videos that have nothing wrong, and I just request for review and it will usually get monetized again.
Q: How do you plan to stay relevant and watched given the changing YouTube and social media climate?
A: What’s seen as relevant is always changing, and I think my content will always be changing as I change and grow as a person. I plan to do my thing, and if people like it, that’s awesome and more of a motivator to keep making content.
Q: What future do you see for your YouTube channel?
A: Everything is really confusing. Basically, if a channel can’t grow their subscribers to over 1,000 subscribers, with 4,000 hours of view time, they can’t monetize their videos and make money. This doesn’t [affect] me but it’s hurting a lot of small YouTubers with great content, which sucks. . . . Many people are saying that influencers are starting to die down. I don’t exactly see that, because I look up to so many people and see how passionate they are through their content. Hopefully people will see the same in mine. And I hope to come up with a specific and positive message to share and become a good example.
Q: What do you anticipate your biggest challenges will be in the future? Do you plan on continuing your YouTube career after you graduate?
A: I have no plans to stop making videos. It’s my passion and it makes me happy. My biggest challenge is finding my niche. I have been making videos for a while and am just now starting to try and figure out where I fit in in the YouTube community.
Q: What is the key to a successful YouTube channel?
A: You have to enjoy it. You can’t be in it for the money or fame. You have to want to do it because if you’re not enjoying it people are not going to enjoy your content as well. Be passionate.
Q: What advice would you give to new YouTubers who are hoping to gain sponsors or exposure?
A: I have rarely ever reached out to brands for a sponsorship. They usually send me emails or Instagram direct messages and I choose to reply based on if I want to collaborate with them or not. But, if you are reaching out to bigger brands, be honest about why you want to collaborate, what you can do for them, and have really good communication with the brand, so nothing goes wrong. And again, it’s about loving what you’re doing and being passionate. If people see the passion in you, they are going to want you to represent their brand and products. Grind out the videos, put a lot of effort and time into them.