On the face of it, the Mark Ellis Reviews brand is run by one guy – me. I’m literally the face of it, but also the writer, editor, publisher, community manager, and tea boy.
But that doesn’t tell the whole story. Far from it, in fact.
When I became a full-time creator earlier this year, I knew it wouldn’t be easy. I was, after all, turning off 50% of my business revenue in order to pursue a career that relies on people I’ve never met clicking things I’ve made on the internet.
It’s a business with no customers. It’s a business that features possibly the most inconsistent and unpredictable form of revenue you’re ever likely to come across. It’s a business that relies on borrowed audiences, happy accidents, and the whims of colossal platforms. But I wouldn’t change it for the world, and I feel incredibly lucky to be in this position.
The reason I’m in this position is down to one person, and it’s a lesson for every creator who is plugging away trying to make their own thing work.
We cannot do this without significant support from someone else.
It’s a lonely job
If I don’t write, shoot, or edit a video, no one else does it for me. This blog post wouldn’t have been published and placed in front of your eyes if I hadn’t rolled out of bed and half-stumbled down the stairs at 6am this morning.
“Dave, you couldn’t write tomorrow’s blog, could you?”
Dave doesn’t answer. Dave isn’t there. Dave doesn’t exist.
Unless you’re Marques Brownlee, you probably haven’t got a team behind your creator brand. I certainly haven’t. Sure, I have an accountant, and I’m slowly introducing external support for some of the day-to-day stuff, but the engine behind this business is managed entirely by yours truly.
That makes it a pretty lonely job at times. It’s why I’ve made a concerted effort to develop friendships with other creators, but it’s also why I occasionally need someone to talk to who isn’t part of this world.
It’s an unsociable job
There’s a bank holiday coming up soon for us Brits. At least, I think there is; you see, I have to be reminded of this stuff these days. I genuinely have no idea where these gifted long weekends fall in the calendar, and this is coming from someone who used to pray for more of them.
We also have family coming to stay this Sunday, and as great as it’ll be for them to be here, I will have to make my excuses come Monday morning and crack on with that day’s content.
I’m not suggesting I’m a martyr, at all. Indeed, it would be fair to suggest that I possibly work too much and occasionally miss out on stuff at which I should be present.
Working hard to the point where you can’t attend birthday celebrations or have to ‘dine and dash’ doesn’t make you a more impressive human being or more likely to achieve success. At your funeral, no one gives a shit about the number of followers you have on Medium or your connection count on LinkedIn. But making some of these social sacrifices is the reality of building a business from the ground up if you want to reap the rewards later on.
My business doesn’t feel like a job, which is a lovely thing, but in my experience, the jobs that don’t feel like ‘real work’ are also the most unsociable.
It’s an uncertain job
As noted earlier, the business of content creation is an uncertain one when it comes to revenue generation. There are ways to build consistent, reliable forms of income, but that’s a longer play; to begin with, you have little choice but to rely on ad share, affiliate revenue, and partner program earnings.
All of those numbers fluctuate wildly, and you have very little control over them. You can’t dictate how well a piece of content performs and you’ll forever be surprised by what does and doesn’t perform well.
It can be frustrating at times. I’ve made several YouTube videos that have taken an inordinate amount of time to create, and whose creative process I’ve deeply enjoyed, only to watch them completely tank on the platform. By the same token, I’ve published videos which have felt a little stretched or regurgitated but which have taken off like a rocket.
It’s important to remember that, as a creator, no one owes you anything. The platforms on which you publish your content don’t owe you a thing. The members of your audience – be it returning or new – don’t have any obligation to read or watch your stuff. All you can do is keep plugging away, remain consistent, and hope that you’ll bump into the odd bit of luck along the way.
My source of inspiration and support
“You’ve got to do it.”
Those were the words of my girlfriend, Jen, when I revealed that I wanted to go full-time with the Mark Ellis Reviews brand.
It’s important to put this into context. Jen was – and, at the time of writing, still is – pregnant with our first kid and acutely aware of what I’d be giving up if I decided to switch off my other business. Soon, there’d be another mouth to feed, and here was her boyfriend suggesting that he should give up several well-paying contracts to pursue his dream of becoming a professional content creator.
Most people would forgive Jen if her response had been, “erm, I really don’t think this is a good idea at the moment”.
But that wasn’t her response. Instead, Jen did what she has done since the moment I started Mark Ellis Reviews (and, indeed, since I first met her) – she simply offered her unwavering support.
I’ve lost count of how many hours I’ve spent sitting on the sofa bashing away on my laptop while she catches up on her favourite TV shows, or how often I’ve had to say, “I think I’m going to have to work this Saturday, sorry”. I’m often entirely vacant due to my head being full of business-related stuff, leaving Jen with the unenviable task of having to continually remind me of previous conversations in which I’d seemingly been engaged. It requires an inordinate amount of patience on her behalf. Trust me – I get on my own nerves.
Jen hasn’t complained, once. She has simply let me get on with it, while occasionally checking that I’m not in danger of burning myself out. I couldn’t ask for any more and feel incredibly lucky to have her in my life.
Although she never appears on camera, Jen is the real inspiration behind Mark Ellis Reviews, and the reason it is where it is today. I couldn’t do it without her.
Here’s to all of those supportive partners out there. You know who you are!
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