Creating Obstacles: How I’m Using YouTube to Learn About Cocktails

Elliot Chan
Sep 28, 2017 · 9 min read
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Earlier this year I got a fantastic idea: I was going to start a YouTube channel, It’s Not a Problem Yet, to foster my education in all things beer, wine, cocktail, and food related.

It would be my way of documenting my journey from first year home bartender to a seasoned home bartender, who knows what the future held for me. Not only that, I figured that starting my own channel would be a good way for me to practice my marketing chops.

In my full-time startup gig, I think marketing all day, but like all jobs in a specific field, you can rather specialize or you can diversify. It was important that I’m able to apply what I learn at work to another project. Only then will I know I’m truly apt at what I do. It’s like being a plumber and only knowing how to fix sinks and not toilets or a golfer who can putt but can’t drive. You get the picture. I didn’t just want to be good at one thing, I wanted to be capable at many. Yep, and starting a YouTube channel was probably a fine way to flex all my muscles.

Here is the breakdown of 7 little skills I needed (and the obstacles I created) to produce a YouTube channel — now, remember, I’m by no means an expert yet, but having grind out for a few months, reading blog posts, watching other YouTubers, and learning from mistakes, I think this process makes sense in my current circumstances with the amount of time and money I’m capable of committing to the project.

1. Strategizing | Establishing the Vision

Before I started building out content, I did some strategizing. This was the marketer in me. Yes, I was doing this whole project for myself as a way of keeping me accountable for my personal education in something I am passionate about. I wanted to learn everything! But that was too broad. If I was to produce content about food one week, cocktails the next, and something else after, I wouldn’t be all over the place. I would be so likely to quit just because I won’t have a niche. It would be a much longer path in terms of finding my core audience and branding myself. Even if the whole channel was just for me, I wouldn’t be using YouTube if I didn’t want to succeed on it. I wanted to create something people can find and be inspired by. It needed to be discoverable.

I took this opportunity to revisit The Advanced Content Marketing Guide by Neil Patel. Whatever marketing project you are working on, odds are you are creating content. Therefore, once a year, reread this guide, reassess your performance, and see how you are doing.

This was great for me as I planned on building out a blog, social media channel, and so on — but all that was to drive YouTube. That is where I want eyeballs to go. In the end, here was my plan: start with cocktail content for 2 months, do beer content for 2 months and then assess and see which is performing better. Regardless, keep producing content, but gather insight as I go. Learn and see where I can improve in all things. That’s the main reason for any of this… which is so easy to forget. I’ve probably already forgotten by the time this piece is published. Above all else, the shorter term plan is to nurture my education.

After each video, I should be a little bit smarter in the world of cocktails, beer, etc. But I should also be a little more skilled in research, production, editing, and distribution. Which leads me to the next step…

2. Researching | Balancing Ideas and Limitations

Ideas are coming in the millions. I couldn’t fill out my idea spreadsheet fast enough. But I had limitations. I had a budget. Getting married in the coming days and also having the rest of my life to pay for, I couldn’t really invest all the recipes and samples I see some other YouTubers having access to. I had to build my content around what I currently have on my counter, and maybe some other stuff here and there. I had to be creative. So I looked at my inventory and started asking questions. From there, I went online and did my best to answer the questions and what I wrote down became the research.

3. Writing | Anticipating Your Performance

Writing is a key part of my day. I do it every day, but seldom do I have to write a script for myself. This wasn’t a whole new experience per se, but I wasn’t practiced at it. I was very rusty.

Writing content for me to read… under perfect circumstances I would have memorized what I want to say, because I’m an expert, but I wasn’t… I watch my marketing idols like Rand Fishkin present so flawlessly without a cut every week for his Whiteboard Friday and I can’t help being blown away by his skill. Obviously that comes with a lot of planning. He knows all the key points to hit. It’s all written out in the whiteboard for him. I needed to do something like that. I needed to structure my presentation. So I did.

The thing is… at this early stage, I found myself potentially talking too much. My episode on Bloody Mary vs Caesar, I ramble on for 12 minutes, and forgot an ingredient along the way. In the episode on Crantini and Cosmopolitan, I literally made the wrong drink while speaking. This multitasking is not something you write in. Without rehearsal, writing the script becomes a crutch when filming — but it’s also quick blog content… (TBD how well these blog posts actually do, it’s too early to tell. I’ve already put a pause on them just because it was stalling my YouTube content. I don’t see a point working on two unsuccessful channels).

4. Filming | Throwing Everything Else You Did Out the Door

This is my least favourite step in the whole process. True, it’s the most exciting and it’s the make or break part of your whole project. So much of production is facing reality.

When you are in the ideation stage, everything seems possible, when you are in the research stage, you are still optimistic, in the writing stage, you can start visualizing yourself making the same moves, saying the perfect line, and acing it. In production, that is when you have to face reality and accept that what you’ve wanted might not be the end product.

The fact that I had a fixed time limit for myself to work and also a limited supply of provision, I couldn’t reshoot. I could do multiple takes when I mess up a line, but what I film is what I have to use. This hit me the hardest right off the bat, when I did the Gin Fizz vs Tom Collins episode (my inaugural episode, the one where I started taking it seriously), when I literally forgot to press record on my second camera. I was left with one angle throughout the whole cocktail making part. It was fine, not a big deal. Luckily I caught it before I started doing the tasting section.

I don’t love the uncertainty of Filming in the environment I’ve created for myself. I can’t predict how I will perform. I can’t anticipate distractions in the neighbourhood. I can’t be prepared for myself to leave something in frame that shouldn’t be. I try to check the storage of my camera before shooting now, after running out of hard drive space once or twice — battery life as well.

If I could, I would have another person help me with production. That is the number one place I need help. But I know, at this early stage, if I involve another person into my passion project (my hobby), I would lose momentum. I can live with the unpredictability caused by myself, but the unpredictability of others — such as someone bailing last minute or me having to meet up with them across town — might be enough friction to cause me to quit entirely. Eventually I would have help, I would have better equipment, I would have a better set to perform, I would have better ingredients and topics, but at this beginning stage, I need to make things as easy for myself as possible.

It’s like cooking. If I had to read the recipe, get the ingredients, and cook the food every time I needed to eat. I’m never going to have cooking become a habit. That’s why my fiancé, soon to be wife, Sharon got me a two week subscription of Chef’s Plate (Canadian’s Blue Apron). It was easy enough for me to get some momentum. Then I was able to do one step on my own and then the next. Same goes with anything you are starting out. Make it as easy as possible.

5. Editing | Picking Up the Pieces of the Project

If filming is scattering the puzzle pieces, editing is when you put everything together. If filming is “quick! get it done,” editing is monotonous work. I have gotten used to watching myself over the course of my acting career in the early days when the only way I can get acting gigs was when I wrote and cast myself and then produced the film myself. I was my Scorsese and my Deniro. It’s not so different now to be honest.

I don’t mind editing myself. I know I shouldn’t, because many times I’ll end up picking shots that make myself look less stupid or ugly. Vanity gets the best of me when editing so I can’t always be fully conscious of what’s best for my project. I also probably leave too much in. I enjoy watching myself. Most people don’t — not yet at least. I know very well at this early stage that I’m not cutting enough. But I can’t help it… I’m interested in what I’m saying (at least the first time I watch it), and if I can still entertain myself, that is my benchmark for the time being. Focus groups and feedback will happen later. It will be brutal.

6. Publishing | Putting A Bow On Shit

YouTube has changed a lot since its inception. I can’t help imagining myself making money from the platform. It sounds pretty nice to have that passive income. Here is where I have to optimize my videos to give it the best opportunity to be discovered. I didn’t want to pump advertising money into it — ever. So I needed views to come organically. I didn’t even want to share it with my friends off the bat either. I want them to come in and see what a success I have.

I put a lot of effort into making sure I’ve given my video the best start in life. This goes down to SEO and even the thumbnail, which makes sense. The thumbnail really does help decide whether I want to watch a video or not. So here I am, applying my photoshop skills as well. It’s not right to call what I do on Photoshop skillful, but at least I get to use it. Graphic designers probably hate what I do, but hey, like I say, I’m learning… practicing. This project is literally keeping me flexible in all these platforms and it’s refreshing and exhausting. Every step is different and I’m trying to improve in all of them.

7. Distribution | Announcing Yourself to the Haters (and Lovers)

Once a video is live, you want to give it one big boost. Here is where you try to get some eyes on it. When I picked the name for my project: It’s Not a Problem Yet (probably the poorest SEO name I can think of), I also got that name for all the other social media accounts. However, I didn’t have any following. I had to pick which platform I wanted to dedicate my time on. In the end, the one that has gotten the fastest result is on Reddit. Although, I haven’t really gotten any loyal following from it. I have gotten engagements. Sharing “awesome” content and spamming. I’m just trying to walk the fine line right now between promotion and community building.

As scary as filming is… this is the really scary part. Because all my mess ups in the filming stage, this is where it comes to life — this is where I can really get ripped apart.

Going into this project, I didn’t know that there were so many people on YouTube making cocktails, creating recipes, reviewing beer, etc. It is absolutely daunting trying to compete with them at the early stage. But like doing anything, you remember the goal. You are not competing with them necessary, but rather yourself. Make each video better than the last, that is all you can ask for at the start. There is this brilliant quote that has kept me going every day that I work on this project: Don’t compare your beginning to someone else’s middle or your middle to someone else’s end.

When you say you are going to do something, what you are really saying is that you are going to create a bunch of obstacles for yourself. Obstacles, yes, at every stage, there are obstacles, but hey, It’s Not a Problem Yet.

If you care to see my progress, please check out It’s Not a Problem Yet. Leave a comment and subscribe if you so choose.

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