When you think about social media stars, you might think about teenagers on YouTube or the Kardashians on Instagram. But there is a whole other world out there of people who share their expertise and express their creativity through social channels and make a living from it. People such as Tati Westbrook. She's the makeup artist and stylist behind GlamLifeGuru, a YouTube channel with 1,167,897 subscribers (as of this writing), where she posts beauty product reviews, tutorials, hauls, and more.
"My mother's an artist, and I've been a performer my entire life (singing, dancing, and acting), and from a very early age, I've been attracted to makeup and its possibilities," says Westbrook. "As I grew up, I became a professional makeup artist, and when I discovered YouTube, it all came together. I could be in front of the camera creating connections with others from around the world who love makeup and beauty as much as I do."
Setting up a YouTube account and uploading a video is easy. Establishing a loyal following, growing your audience, and making a business out of your content is not easy. Westbrook started slowly, but then dove into YouTube stardom headfirst. She says, "My initial goal was to create a video I'd be proud enough to post. I literally practiced for 6 months before I ever uploaded my first video. Yes, I most definitely saw it as a career. I decided to make YouTube my full-time job when I had less than a thousand followers."
If you think being a YouTube personality is a cushy job, Westbrook would correct you. As with any small business, a lot of work is required. "My schedule ... is pretty demanding, as I upload five videos Monday through Friday, so I'm literally working 7 days per week," she says. "Yes, I get to go to cool events and meetings, so it's not like I'm behind a retail makeup counter on my feet all day, but I still have to be ‘on' all of the time, so it can be quite exhausting. I don't do any outside marketing beyond posting and responding on my social networks."
YouTube stars can run ads on their videos to make money from their work the old-fashioned way, but many also rely on sponsors. After some disappointing experiences with sponsors, Westbrook says she is selective about who she works with. If you're going to work with sponsors, she says that "it's a lot like dating," and you need to set up your boundaries early on.
Similar to that of many other social media standouts, Westbrook's success has led to a number of other offers. "I've been blessed with incredible opportunities to take trips, develop products, books, TV series-you name it, I've seen it. ... But the thing that YouTube has given that's even more valuable are the thousands of viewers who write letters and emails-and stop me just to talk in stores. That connection that I've built with my viewers is hands down more valuable than anything else cool that I get to do. But I am going to Paris next week with Lancôme; that should be fun!"
So if you're a YouTube star in the making, what advice does Westbrook have for you? She says, "Figure out what you love doing and talking about the most, obsessively learn more about the topic than anyone you know, and then go and be the most fascinating version of your authentic self possible. ... Be interesting, be engaging, and be responsive to your viewers' requests."