You have to very quickly start opening yourself up to the feedback of your viewers.
— Philip VanDusen

Episode Summary

What’s up everyone! Today’s episode is a little different. I’m joined by Philip VanDusen, designer, founder of Verhaal Brand Design, and host of brand•muse Interviews. He’s here to share his story and some awesome insight into using YouTube for your business.

Philip came from the corporate world where he worked as the Head of Design for massive companies like PepsiCo. After building a business with a partner, he eventually dropped everything to pursue his passion for branding and design on his own terms. He has over 20 years’ experience in strategic branding, graphic design, and creative leadership for some of the world’s most successful businesses. He’s also an expert as using YouTube to build relationships and create valuable content for his audience.

Join us to hear how Philip transitioned into the entrepreneurial arena, how to use YouTube to grow your business, and some tips for course creators wanting to start a YouTube channel. Let’s get started!

+ Episode Transcript

Philip VanDusen:Y ou know, I've, I received probably 15,000 comments on videos and I've answered every single one. And people feel it's not only listening, but it's establishing a relationship because that's where things get deeper. And that's where people start to open up and people start to engage, truly engage with you on your content and that's when they feel safe to share things.

Janelle Allen: Welcome to level up your course where we pull back the curtain on what it takes to create learning that transforms lives. You will hear stories from business owners like you who share their success and their struggles. This is not where you come to hear passive income myths, friend. This is where you learn the truth about building a profitable learning platform. I am your host, Janelle Allen, and this is today's episode.

JA: What's up everyone? Today I am speaking with Phillip Van Dusen, designer and owner of, okay, I hope I don't mess this up -- Verhaal Brand Design. Did I get that right? I was practicing. Philip has an amazing youtube channel with nearly 180,000 subscribers, and I have asked him here to share how he uses youtube in his business because I know a lot of course creators are interested in either starting or growing a youtube channel. So Philip, welcome to the show.

PV: Thanks Janelle. Great to be here. Thanks for inviting me on.

JA: I'm excited to chat with you. As listeners know at the time of recording this, I'm planning to create a YouTube channel and I am definitely afraid. Totally natural.

PV: Totally natural. We can talk about that.

JA: eah, I definitely want to get into that, but first we are going to kick things off with the rapid five. I've got five quick questions to help listeners get to know you. Ready? All right. Number one is easy. What did you have for breakfast?

PV: I had a scrambled egg and bacon on a roll.

JA: Okay, cool. Nice and simple. Number two, what song or album do you currently have on rotation? Just that song you can't stop listening to.

PV: One of the most amazing albums I think is incredibly underrated is Beck's album Sea Change

JA: Oh yeah, I have that one.

PV: He won best album for I guess a couple albums after that, but I think sea changes just an amazing album.

JA: Cool. All right, so number three is a very serious question that I ask all of my guests, so I want you to brace yourself for this one. It's real. The Zombie apocalypse has hit and you have six minutes before they come in wherever you're at. So you have six minutes to grab three essential items to get you through. All of loved ones. Important people are okay. These are material items. What do you pick?

PV: Wow. Okay. I pick my Taylor Acoustic Guitar. I pick my laptop and my Canon ADD camera.

JA: Okay, interesting. Very interesting. What are you fighting with, Philip? Out of those items? What are you fight -- what are you surviving with?

PV: The way I put it is this way, I'm gonna die creative. I'm going to play my guitar, I'm gonna be out there like on the Internet, and I'm going to be taking pictures of the whole thing going down. You're going to have some very high quality video You're going to play golf and gets our, I'm gonna like be out there on the Internet and I'm going to be taking pictures of the whole thing going down. You're going to have some very high quality video up on Youtube. So I'm documenting it for humanity.

JA: I got it. Okay. You know where you stand, and I love that. I respect that.

PV: So people in the future can benefit from the experience-- to grow from having experienced the apolocalypse. 'Cause YouTube will survive.

JA: Yes, it will. Somehow, some way. Number four, if you were not doing the work that you're doing now, what would you be doing?

PV: Wow, that's a really good one. I would be a marine biologist.

JA: Interesting.

PV: I love scuba diving. I wish I could be reincarnated as Jacques Cousteau and very early in life I wanted to be a marine biologist and so that's what I would be doing. I mean, I think I'd be studying how to repair coral on the Great Barrier Reef.

JA: Very specific. I'm learning a lot about you from these questions. All right, last one. What is the hardest lesson you have learned as an entrepreneur so far?

PV: Fear is the enemy. Yeah, and that will segue later in the conversation too -- you starting your YouTube channel. I think succeeding in entrepreneurship is all about facing fear and being open to learning.

JA: Yeah, I do agree. Alright, so that was our rapid five. I feel closer to you.

PV: Oh my gosh, I'm like wiping the sweat off my brow now that I made it.

JA: You made it, you made it. So where are you from, Philip?

PV: That's a very good question. I have lived, I think before I was 14 years old. I lived in 11 different cities in the United States. So I was born in Providence, Rhode Island, kind of grew up in Detroit, in Louisville, Kentucky. Went to school in Massachusetts, went to school in Kansas City went to school in Philadelphia, lived in New York, Brooklyn, San Francisco, Cincinnati, New Jersey.

JA: I relate to that. I'm a military child and whenever people ask me where I'm from, I just get this dumbfounded look because I don't know how to answer that question. If you put me in a room with a bunch of people from Kentucky, I'm y'all this and sort of that for you. Right. And then I'm up in Boston. The accent changes in that company.

PV: If you put me in a room with a bunch of people from Kentucky, I'm y'all this and sir that. And then I'm up in Boston. The accent changes in that company.

JA: All right, so before we get into talking about Youtube, I would love to know your journey. How did you get to this place? I did a bit of research. I know you've been doing this work for about 20 years, probably 20 plus at this point and I know that you have a strong corporate background and in brand design and identity, but how did you get here too Verhaal Brand Design and a YouTube channel with 180,000 followers? I'm interested in how you moved from that corporate background cause you had a very strong corporate background to where you're at now.

PV: Yes. I had a 30 -- you were being charitable with 20 -- I had a 30 year career on the corporate and agency side both in like fashion retail and consumer product goods with a couple of global branding agencies and after 30 years of that I had some family life changes going on. My parents were getting older, my dad was towards the end of his life and I just came to this inflection point where I kind of woke up one day. I was a VP of design in a major corporation and working 70 hour weeks and traveling the globe. And I just said to myself, I think I'd rather spend the next three months of my life with my dad than talking about potato chips. So I walked away from it and I wasn't really sure what was going to be next, but I knew that I'd been there and I'd done that. And it's just one of those moments where you kind of look at your life and say, is this all there is? Or you know, what can be next? What's the next chapter?

And so I jumped before I really even knew. I just knew that it was time to jump. And you know, when I left that company, I spent a year kind of with my mom and my family and then I started an online accessories company with an old strategy partner of mine from an agency I used to work at. And, uh, we had gotten really excited about craftsmanship and the resurgence of small industry and craftsmanship in America and we decided to create a brand that was a tight curated collection of products with story online. And in doing that we bootstrapped it. We did all the strategy and brand building and design and the website and the content and the products, photography, everything ourselves.

And to be honest, I'd been at a very senior level as a creative manager for a long period of time. And so I had been very hands off in design for decades and building this brand from scratch with my partner was really eye opening because I got in there and I was getting my hands dirty and I was having a lot of fun. And I was also realizing there was a whole lot of stuff about this new digital landscape in terms of what's needed to succeed as an entrepreneur that I had never been exposed to when I was working with Coca-Cola's and Chevrons of the world. And you know, everything from content marketing too, podcasts to video marketing, to Facebook ads to small ecommerce website building, things like that. And I was loving it. I took to it like a duck to water. I love learning new things.

So kind of being faced with the two sides of learning and having to do all this new stuff to launch my business, but then also getting your hands dirty and build things myself. It was just a blast. I was just having more fun than I'd had in 20 years. And my partner and I, you know, we built that, we launched it and after about six months, both of us decided that we didn't really feel like shipping products all day. And we decided to shutter it, but I, you know, it took about a month off to think about what I wanted to do and I decided that I would start my own agency, you know, I needed that year off. And then that year with my partner building this brand to kind of clean my palette, so to speak, 30 years in the agency and industry, you know, corporate world, you develop a sense of identity of yourself and where you fit in, you know, both career-wise and in the business landscape.

And it takes a while to kind of shed that. And it took probably two years for me to tell you the truth. I had rekindled my love for design and for building brands and I decided to start my own consultancy to help other creative professionals and entrepreneurs in mediums to small size businesses, leverage the skills and knowledge that I had used to help giant corporations succeed, to help them succeed. And so that was kind of my, that was my mission. I wanted to take the strategic branding methodology that I used with large corporate Fortune 500 companies and put that to work and scale that to a point where entrepreneurs and small and medium sized businesses could use it to build their businesses. And um, so that's what I'm doing now.

JA: I love that story and I think that you were being very succinct because there is so much to unpack in each of those. I want to come back to how you were able to do that and translate that corporate experience to an entrepreneurial experience. Cause I think there are a lot of people out there who resonate with what you just shared. You had this, you know, 30 year corporate career and even though you had a very transformative two years, how do you do it? Because you're right, you do develop an identity, you develop a certain mindset and especially if you're a creative person, there can be a, I don't want to say what's the top of mind, but it almost, it's a muscle that's not flexed right when you're doing the high level corporate work. And so getting back to learning how to use that creative muscle it some work. So I want to come back to that, but you said something at the top that I feel I would be remiss if I didn't dig into. What did it feel like when you woke up and said, I don't want to do this anymore? What did that feel like?

PV: It was terrifying. It was absolutely terrifying, both from the standpoint of sense of identity, but also financially. I had gotten to the point in my career where I was very well compensated, but I knew that I could jump off and float for at least a year to figure out what I wanted to do. You know, I don't want to say it was like this completely thought through conscious decision. My father was in the midst of passing away. I was in a very high pressure global position and I just kind of burned out and it was a combination of that family side and also just the like, you know, life has got to have more to it than this because having a parent pass away, it does put all of life in a different perspective and it just kind of made me reconsider where I was in my life and you know, did I want to stay on this corporate path for another 10 years?

And I just decided I didn't. It was scary. It was really, really scary. And like I said, I took almost a year off where I was connecting with a whole lot of people who I'd loved and worked with in my career. I was doing a lot of informational interviews with small to medium sized businesses who were more entrepreneurial just to see what was out there, see what was happening. You know, cause when you live in the corporate or agency world where you're working with the fortune 100 you know, I mean my clients were P&G and Chevron and Sony and Paramount Pictures. It's a different strata of number one the type of conversations you're having. But number two, the level of influence that you can have. And I think that's one of the things that's the most exciting to me about what I'm doing now is that the amount of influence, what I'm doing and what I can bring to the table for clients has such a massive impact on their business. And when you're working with large corporations, you're part of a team, you know, I mean the managing 30 people and bringing them to the table. But the impact that what our project is going to be doing for a P&G is pretty small in comparison to what, you know, my team of partners I bring to the table with Verhall can do for a $50 million company, the amount of impact is really markedly different.

JA: I definitely resonate with that. You know, longtime listeners will know that I came from education publishing, working with big corporations, Pearson, McGraw Hill, so on and so forth. And there is a completely different feeling when you go from being part of a team and you know you're making things happen for your client but you're not always connected to see -- you're not always able to see that transformation. It feels wonderful to shift and be able to make such a huge difference in a person. It's, you know, it's like you're connecting on that person-to-person level and seeing the transformation not only in their business but for them personally.

So let's come back to where we left off of talking about you made this shift. You talked about translating that corporate experience to, now you're an entrepreneur and you're helping small and medium business owners. How did you approach translating your corporate experience to making it work for this new audience?

PV: Well, the interesting thing about branding and brand strategy and design is that it's really only a matter of scale. You know, the size of teams or the number of people on a project on the large corporate project could be, you know, 20, 30 people. But the fundamentals of brand strategy and the fundamentals of business building and brand building and how you can leverage design to impact a business are the same whether you're working for, you know, a mom and pop bakery that makes $500,000 a year or you know, P&G and a lot of the strategic tools that you use for those large businesses, you can use those same tools for smaller businesses.

The differences is that there's a level of education that has to take place when you're working with smaller companies because number one, a lot of times they don't even realize these tool exists and they also don't realize importance of establishing a strategy for what they do. And I think that my experience in the corporate and agency world has given me the tools to be able to educate people and to communicate the real ROI of strategic design work on a business. And so that's the really fun part is that, you know, it's not really that hard. They're using the same tools, you're just using them on a different business. And, but the added part of it is, you know, you go into Coca-Cola and you say, we're going to use the suite of branding tools and we're going to go through this methodology. They go, yeah, okay. Right. We've done that five times with your agency already. You do that with a smaller company and they're going, what a competitive audit, what are you talking about? And you show them one and they go, oh yeah, I want that.

You know, it's like when you can illustrate and educate your clients to an extent of what you can bring to the table to make their business stronger -- you have to show them what it is. When you know, larger clients already know what it is. So there's that added level of due diligence or partnerships, strategic partnership that you have to build and kind of establish that relationship with your clients on the smaller scale. But once that relationship is built and once it's set in place, it does become a clear strategic partnership and there's a level of trust that's even stronger than it is when I was in corporate and agency life.

JA: I would absolutely agree because oftentimes when you are working with small or medium sized business owners, they've never had that before. Even if they've attempted to work with someone to do something similar, there's not a lot of people who take the time to develop that partnership and educate and say, here's the process and we're going to start with this. The last thing I'll say before we get into YouTube is for anyone listening who has a full time job and it's thinking about, you know, might even be in the place that Philip was in and saying, I think I want to do something different. A lot of times it's easy to feel like you have wasted time or you know your corporate career has kept you from doing what you need to do and you can see that in a negative light.

But one of the positives of having that corporate background is you get to learn processes and strategy that you can take into your own thing as you segue, and I think that we don't often think of it that way. We're so caught up in feeling the doom and gloom of this isn't what I want to be doing anymore. Instead of taking a step back and saying, wait a minute, I've learned how to do all of this stuff. I know how to take a client from a to z. There is a proven process I can tweak and make it my own and apply it, to my own clients and customers. So just want to put a positive spin on it and still go for it. But just, you know, think about things a little bit differently. You've got a ton of experience and strategy and process to draw from.

PV: And I will share one thing. I was working with Paul Pressler who at the time was the CEO of GAP Inc. on thee brand identity for Banana Republic and we were having a chat and we were talking about careers and he said something to me that I thought was the most amazing quote and I've said it in a lot of my podcast appearances I've had, but he said, 'Philip, a great career as more like a web than a ladder.' And what that means is that careers aren't always linear and a web of a career where you go forward a little bit, you take a side job, you take another path, you take another side job, all of those sorts of threads of a web, make the web stronger. And if you think about it that way in terms of what you've learned, garnered, internalized from a previous job or previous experience in your life and how you can bring that to bear on the next career move, whether that's entrepreneurial or in a company.

And I particularly find this to be the truth with a lot of entrepreneurs and creative professionals is that their careers aren't always very linear and if you are consciously aware of what you were just saying Janelle of how you can take your experience, what you learned, aspects of what your previous role was to apply to your new one. That's what really makes the difference in helping people succeed or helping yourself succeed is how you are going to leverage what you've done and learned in your next thing.

JA: Absolutely agree. Absolutely. Thank you for sharing that quote. I love that. I love that perspective. It's all about perspective. Okay, so let's talk about Youtube and let's put a timeline around this. So when did you make that entrepreneurial leap? I know you had the partnership when you were doing products, but when did you go out? What was the year?

PV: Probably the early part of 2016 okay. I started my YouTube channel.

JA: What was it that made you decide you were going to start a youtube channel? Why Youtube?

PV: Well, it wasn't YouTube first. First of all, I had started my agency and I got involved in a kind of a membership mastermind community and started to really learn a lot of aspects of digital entrepreneurship. Well I learned a lot about content marketing. And the value of content marketing and content marketing really, you know, five or six years ago was really kind of coming into its own. And I decided that I wanted to start a newsletter. You know, I learned that you can't build your brand on borrowed land, right? You have to have an email list, you have to be able to control and speak directly to your audience when you want to. So you've got to build an email list.

So I learned, okay, how do you build an email list? Well you give away lead magnets and opt-in magnets, people to giveaway free stuff to get people to sign up to your email list. And then I started publishing a newsletter every two weeks and I published that newsletter for probably six months. It's around, you know, branding and entrepreneurship and my email list was growing and I started to kind of get comfortable with that. And I was starting to get interviewed on other people's podcasts and other people's YouTube channels. And I thought, okay, the next step is I have to do something in media. And so I had to weigh the difference between a podcast and a YouTube channel. And for me, design is a visual medium. And you know, if you can't show it, it's like, you know that famous quote like what does it, talking about music is like dancing about architecture. And that's not the quote I totally bastardized that.

But essentially it's like if you can't show it, I mean sure there are podcasts about design, but I knew that being able to show visuals was going to be important. And then also, you know, youtube, you can turn videos into podcasts, which can't turn podcasts into videos. So I just thought, I'm just going to start a YouTube channel. And I started studying some of the people in the, the branding and design space on youtube and saw who was out there and what they were doing. And I thought I can do this.

So I just started and it was terrifying. It was exposing. It was scary. It was bad at the beginning, but I knew I had to start and I knew that, you know, confidence doesn't come naturally. You don't wake up with confidence. You get confidence, you earn confidence, you have to do something 20 or 30 times to get confidence. And you know, the message I was getting from the people I was watching on YouTube was like, you just got to start. No matter what the first 20 or 30 videos that you post when you've posted a hundred and you go back and look at those videos, you're going to cringe. And if you don't cringe, then you waited too long to start. And so, you know, now I can cringe. Lighting is bad. Sometimes the sound's bad. Sometimes I was changing, you know, the camera settings or the lighting settings we're using. And I like bleached my face out and I look orange and you know, hitting the microphone with my hand. It's just like, yeah, there's bad stuff. And also I was incredibly nervous, so my content felt too scripted. You know, I, my mouth was dry all the time. My first few videos, I'm like smacking my lips all the time. But it was, I just did it and I feel like I've over answered your question.

JA: You did it. You just started.

PV: Yeah, I just started.

JA: I love it. I had the same experience with the podcast. You know, I get a lot of compliments now, but when I go back and look at those first, like you said, first 20, 30 episodes, especially the first 10, the sound is horrible. It's just echo-y. It's just, it's -- It's not a good feeling. But it is though because it feels good to start, especially if you know you'll get better with practice, with time

PV: And we're all living examples. You are helping people improve and grow their businesses. That's what I do and I think we have to live as examples of in practice what we preach.

And I think the showing up and being rough and practiced and you know, an expert at the beginning, it's encouraging to people. You know, one of my youtube man crushes Roberto Blake, who's a designers like really published 2000 videos at this point. I remember watching some of his first videos and he was like sitting on a futon and like some bad dimly lit apartment in New York City, you know, like recording with the phone. It was horrible. And they were long and they were unedited and I was just like, oh my God, I can do that. And so I think showing up and showing people that it's okay to suck and when you start is great. I think it's great.

JA: Okay. I love it. You've convinced me. This is probably the third conversation that's made me say, okay, okay, I'm going to do it.

PV: Here's the part for you Janelle that I think is important for you to know. This is what made it harder for me was that I've been operating in an executive creative director, vice president level of corporations for 20 years, and to go out and be a YouTuber and to be new and bad and screw up, it was like really hard because you have this level of expectation of yourself and having operated at a certain level for a long period of time in your career and suddenly you're like backing up to the Newbie level. And I think that was the hardest part for me. So that's my pointing the finger at you digitally, which is as someone who's accomplished in the corporate world, you know, and accomplished in the podcast space, you know, then doing something new and being a Newbie at something is really hard. And so you gotta give yourself a pat on the back for doing it because that's a hurdle.

JA: Yeah, it is a hurdle. Okay. Convinced, fully convinced enough about me. So we talked about, you know, why you chose YouTube and it makes perfect sense. You know, especially talking about design, it is a visual medium. I love that you said that, and I do want to emphasize this because there are a lot of people who just decide to do something like YouTube or a podcast because it seems popular. And while that may be the case, it all comes down to what is the best fit for your audience, your medium for you and your audience and what you're talking about. It's not just, I'm going to jump on this bandwagon. It's an informed decision. So I want to emphasize that because I think that sometimes people jump into a medium that isn't necessarily the best fit. There's something else that might have been a better choice for you. Youtube makes a ton of sense. You've talked about how bad the videos were, but if you had to say, you know, the three things that you really struggled with and how did you overcome those challenges when you started?

PV: So we talked about, you know, why you chose YouTube and it makes perfect sense. You know, especially talking about design, it is a visual medium. I love that you said that, and I do want to emphasize this because there are a lot of people who just decide to do something like YouTube or a podcast because it seems popular. And while that may be the case, it all comes down to what is the best fit for your audience, your medium for you and your audience and what you're talking about. It's not just, I'm going to jump on this bandwagon. It's an informed decision. So I want to emphasize that because I think that sometimes people jump into a medium that isn't necessarily the best fit. There's something else that might have been a better choice for you. Youtube makes a ton of sense. You've talked about how bad the videos were, but if you had to say, you know, the three things that you really struggled with and how did you overcome those challenges when you started?

There's technical things. Yes, bad lighting. You know, I struggled with like where to do it, like what should be in the background, what I should be wearing, you know, things like that, all that technical stuff. But I think that the stuff, the challenging part of it is deciding you come out of the gate with a thought of what your channel is going to be about and what you want to focus on and what you want to do or show or talk about or teach.

You very quickly have to start opening yourself up to the feedback of your viewers and two, hear them and recognize and deliver on what they want from you. And I've seen many, many YouTubers who have started off with a particular perspective or desire to do one thing and then they find that their audience is slightly different and they have adjusted or shifted their brand or their focus to something else in order to truly serve their audience. And so I think that I certainly was there, you know, coming out of the gate. I think I was teaching I think a lot, very academically. I wanted to share some very specific kind of process, branding process, things that I thought people should know. And then I started to branch out into things that were career-based or more emotional or more motivational based or things that were more inspirational in terms of design, inspiration or kind of career inspiration.

I started about halfway through doing videos, I started to do trend videos. So I started to now leverage my experience in gathering trend that I learned in the fashion industry to developing presentations on graphic design trend. And those turned out to be incredibly popular. And they're very difficult to produce. They take a lot of time, but my audience absolutely loves them and they have skyrocketed my subscribership. So listening to the response of your audience and delivering on what they want from you, it's one of those things that you know, you have to learn, and I can't say it was a mistake at the beginning, but it's something that, you know, you'd put a stake in the ground, but then you have to be ready to pick the stake up and put it somewhere else.

JA: I love that visual. Okay. So the technicalities is a given. But you know, I always tell people when it comes to technology, you can figure that out or you can hire someone to figure it out. That is the least of your worries. People reach out to me all the time about platforms and I had to stop talking about it intentionally cause I would say that is the last thing. You can figure that out. Start where you are. But I love that you talked about listening because I think that that it's just business, right? It's good business to listen to your audience. You know? And it's not just a YouTube thing. If you have a podcast, if you have a business, listen, I tell course creators all the time, listen to what people are asking you instead of focusing on your idea. And I heard the same thing with what you said. You know, you might come in with an idea, but ultimately if you want to grow and if you want to have sustainability, you've got to listen to what your viewers are asking for and give the people what they want.

PV: Absolutely. I have responded and answered every single comment I have ever gotten on Youtube and I pride myself on that and I usually answer them within a day or two. I've received probably 15,000 comments on videos and I've answered every single one and people feel it's not only listening but it's establishing a relationship. Yeah. Because that's where things get deeper and that's where people start to open up and people start to engage, truly engage with you on your content and that's when they feel safe to share things and also to share it with others when they feel like they know you and they feel like they can trust you and you're talking to them and they're feeling heard, then they'll share your content. You know, you don't have to like publish your stuff, everyone everywhere and they'll share it for you, which is what, you know, content marketing is all about.

JA: Yeah. Making that human connection. And I think that's one of the things that separates video from other mediums is it does feel like more of a human connection when you can see the person and hear the person. It definitely changes the dynamic. And then, you know, on top of that, like you said, you're engaging, you're answering questions, and you're absolutely right. It's all about that relationship and building that trust that helps you to grow. A lot of times people think about the end result or the big picture of success that they want, but it's that relationship by relationship, person, by person, building that along the way that helps you get there.

PV: Yeah. And it's slow. You know, one thing I wanted to say about starting in the fear of starting is that when you start, you don't have any subscribers. You know, you may have your mom and your brother and sister, but you have like maybe a handful. And the beautiful thing about that is that you can go out there and suck and fix your technical errors because no one's in the room. No one's watching. That's the freedom at the beginning. And it's like you think that the whole world is watching you. And in reality, unless you're bringing, you know, a mailing list of 30,000 with you to youtube, you're talking to an empty room. And that's okay because then you're going to be able to practice and work through the rough spots. But yeah, so I totally agree with you. The other really amazing thing about YouTube in terms of relationship building is that frankly, one of the major reasons why I did it was also to share my experience, my expertise with people who could use it, entrepreneurs and small and medium sized businesses and when they come to me through my YouTube channel, they already feel like they know me. They already feel like they can trust that I know what I'm doing, what I'm talking about. They already feel like they have a relationship with me. So many times it cuts out that first 45 minute hour long conversation where your pitching yourself and establishing a relationship because they're coming to you saying, I already know you can do what I need done. So it's just a question of like when and how much.

JA: That's absolutely true. I'm so glad that you said that and I think that that happens with podcasting as well, but it's just YouTube. Like I said, there's that added layer of seeing the person and really connecting and seeing them in their genuine state. I definitely think that, you know with podcasting, my best clients are the ones who listened to the show and they say, Oh, I love your show. I've listened to all the episodes. I can't wait to work. It's just different and you're right, you cut out that extra pitch and that's a perfect segue into what was my next question of how has your youtube channel, what effect has it had on your business? When you started the youtube channel and you went through that period of growing, was it immediate that you saw once you got some subscribers, was there that correlation always there or was there some type of change that you had to make at some point and then you saw a big spike with regards to your business?

PV: In regards to my business, it's been pretty even in terms of my subscribership, there was a big spike and that's when I did my first initial trend videos. They did very, very well and they were also picked up by some major websites that got, you know, hundreds of thousands of visitors a day. So I had massive spikes in my subscribership. But in terms of its effect on my business, I think that that's been much more kind of constant. And it's, you know, I think it's kind of run along with the volume of subscribers that I've had. But I want to say 70% of my new business comes directly from my YouTube channel.

JA: That was my next question. Okay.

PV: And it can be people, and this is an interesting thing that happened just recently. I published my YouTube videos, but then I also cross publish them on Facebook and also on LinkedIn. And one of my old clients from 15 years ago saw one of my videos on LinkedIn and saw, you know, my videos coming across as skied every week for probably a year. And then suddenly when he had a big branding project, he was like, oh, I'll call Philip. And that's what he did. And so the consistency of my content output and staying in front of people on whatever platform you put it out on, it's a valuable business card that you're constantly leaving on people's desks. And there are, you know, brand new clients who, you know, didn't know me from Adam who found me on YouTube when they were searching on, you know, how to do a content marketing plan. Then they reached out to me and then there's other people who I've had relationships with or who connected with me on LinkedIn over the years, who by seeing my videos constantly showing up in their feed, I was top of mind when it came to do what they wanted to do.

JA: Yeah. So much there. I want to just anchor the takeaways there because it kind of goes back to what we said earlier, that first thing of just start. Don't worry about being perfect. It's not going to be perfect and perfection is a myth anyway, so just start. But the other thing that you just said, which is another milestone in my opinion, is consistency. It's not enough to start and then just, you know, after a few episodes you just say, Eh, yeah. Consistency is so powerful and once you are able to commit and be consistent, it really just changes the game because honestly, sometimes it's just simply outlasting other people in your market and you showing up continues to reinforce that trust that people have in you. So I love that you said that.

PV: Absolutely true. That is gold Janelle, and you're absolutely right because if you're in YouTube or podcasting to get famous, you're in the wrong place. It's hard work. It's a slog and you have to make a commitment to produce content on a regular basis for a long period of time before you get any results. And that's hard. When I started my newsletter, I said, I'm going to publish a newsletter every two weeks for a year and I'm going to see what happens. When I started my YouTube channel, I said, I'm going to publish a video every week for a year and no matter what happens, I'm going to do that. I'm going to treat it like a job. Absolutely have to hit that deadline. And if I don't, I get, and that's what I did.

And you know, the first six months where it's like you're slogging through like, oh my gosh, I have a hundred subscribers. Oh my gosh, I've hit 500 it's very slow in the beginning and it's hard doing the videos and editing them and posting them and you know, doing the show notes and all that sort of stuff. And you really have to make a commitment and you have to do it consistently because people that you have one as subscribers are expecting that from you and you can't give up on them. It really has to be a commitment. And you know, just like anything, consistency is the probably most important thing in branding anyway, right? I'm talking about the three Rs all the time, which is you have to be recognized, you have to be remembered and you have to be revered. To be recognized you've got to show up and you've got to show up consistently in time and you have to show up consistently and visually that should be recognized to be remembered. You have to, you know, show up consistently and constantly and then by delivering that value and developing that relationship and that conversation, that's how you get revered. So consistency is like step number one.

JA: Yeah, it's so critical it I think that it's so tied to commit me because if you're not able to be consistent, you have to question your commitment. You have to, and if you ask yourself, okay, I'm not showing up consistently, I'm not putting out content. I'm not doing what I said I was going to do. Am I truly committed to this idea or is it just something that I thought would be a good idea and I'm not, my heart's not really in it. If the answer is no, then figure out what you can be consistent with. Because the thing about consistency is it shows that you give a damn. It shows that you enjoy the work and not that it's always fun and games. Nobody's saying that, but it shows that this is important to you and that you value your audience. The other thing is if you aren't able to show up consistently, because I don't want to make it seem like consistency is easy. It's not. If you aren't able to show up consistently, but the answer is yes that you are committed but you're just struggling, you're overwhelmed, you've got a lot going on. Then the question or this solution to that is you've got to invest in some resources to help you be consistent. Whether that is automating some systems or delegating, bringing on a virtual assistant or some type of help if you need that. Just something to think about for the listeners out there.

PV: I totally agree with that and I was doing everything myself. Well, let's right a couple of these pieces off. One, I was doing a video every week for like six months, so I would of recording it, editing it, writing everything, doing the thumbnail, posting it. Next week I would record it, edit it, right, the whole thing, and then after six months I'm like, Duh, I should batch record these things. So then I started doing four at a time. So I would take two days, write record, edit everything at a time and then I'd schedule them to be posted over a month. And that was great. Right? So then like I was getting the efficiency of bundling and then you know, two and a half years in, I got an editor and now I have a virtual assistant who does my thumbnails and does a lot of my crossposting and re-purposing.

But the one thing I wanted to add to that general, which I think that was a discovery than I had born of struggle and that was that. Here's the thing about content marketing. If you're successful at it, your business is going to grow and you're going to have less time to do content, which is exactly what happened to me. Like my channel took off and I started getting incredible and that's a new business. And so I was doing a lot of client work and it made doing my content harder. And there were periods of time where I was like really struggling to get the content out.

And one of the things I did as a bandaid was, you know, one week it was like Saturday and I was like, oh great, I have to post a video on Monday at 10:30 AM and I got nothing. Like I haven't even recorded anything yet.

I said, okay, you know, I'm going to post it, but I'm going to put a camera on myself. I'm going to sit in my lounge chair, I'm just going to talk and I'm going to talk on a subject. I'm not going to edit it, no, throw a thumbnail on it. I'm just gonna throw it up there. I'm just going to post it. And so I tried something new out of this kind of consistency of posting desperation and people loved it. It was like I'd been doing these four and five minute videos that are very succinct, very straightforward slides, highly produced, all that sort of stuff. And then I sit in my lounge chair and like blab on on a topic, not even editing out my sneezes and stuff for 15 minutes. And people really responded to it. They're like, oh my God, you know, I feel like I really know you now. it was great to hear you just talk and you know, this is really cool, do more videos like this. And I was like, Oh wow, okay.

So now I have a couple of different formats. You know I do an interview series, I do, you know my more produced things. I do my little what I call fireside chats where I sit in my office chair and I just talk on a subject for 15 minutes and so I have different variations and they serve different purposes. You know when I'm up against it and I have a deadline to hit on posting a video and I got nothing, I'll do one of those more informal ones. And so that also I think is something to think about when you're starting to get into this and developing content is you can set a plan for yourself and set a format for yourself, but should also be open to experimenting and trying things because you never know what's going to hit.

JA: Yeah, I love that. I do the same thing now with the podcast. I have solo episodes that I do every now and then usually once a quarter, but it's also something that, you know, when you do run into those times where you know you just need to switch it up for whatever reason. Really quickly, before we get into the final few questions, I just want to say that you know, you talked about when you started out you were doing everything yourself and you did that for about six before you started batch recording and then you did that for a while and then I think you said two years in, you got an editor. So for someone listening, you know, they may jump right to, Oh, I need an editor, but here's the thing. You have to go through that process. You have to go through that pain because initially when you're doing everything yourself, you're figuring out your style, you're figuring out how you want things to be, you're figuring out how everything works. Then you start to get more efficient with it, right? So for you, you are batch recording. You know, for me, I started batch interviewing. Then you get more systematic with it. That is helpful and you need that stage because when you hire someone, you need to be able to say, this is what I need done. You need to understand what you want so you can communicate and they can do the work. So it feels painful, but it's just sometimes I take a step back and I realize that all of that pain helps you to be able to get to the point where you can then say, okay, now I'm going to get some help. So again, perspective on the pain and the challenges in the overwhelm.

PV: I got throw something in there. The hardest thing about getting an editor was I had to give my editor my unedited footage and that was the most terrifying out of everything because it's like I'm going to give this guy 15 minutes of footage of which five of that is usable, of which 10 of it is just me messing up and misspeaking and going off on a tangent and like picking my nose and he's going to get to see all that. Yeah. And then he's got to sort through it and make something decent out of it and see all my flub ups. And I'm just like, that was incredibly exposing. But he's gotten great it now, you know? And now I don't feel so bad about it. But at first my first Skype with him, when I was explaining my project, I was like, okay, this is the deal. I mess up all the time. And it's your job to sort it all out.

JA: Yeah. And it feels so freeing. I mean, at this point now I'm able to just record and because it allows you to focus on what you love. For me, I love interviewing. I don't love the other stuff and I don't want to, you know, contaminate the process with having bad feelings about having to edit. You know, and it just feels so good.

So last question before we get into the final three. For anyone out there, you know, listeners are interested, either have an online course or want to create an online course. Everything you've said so far is very applicable to anyone. You know, anyone, especially any entrepreneurs out there, but is there anything specific that you can think of for course creators in how they can use YouTube?

PV: Yes. I mean, I'm in the process of developing my first course actually. And YouTube has essentially been the filing cabinet into which I have put all of the content that's going to be in my first course. So I've torture tests -- I've basically airedvia, you know, videos, tons of content and tons of approaches to different content that has given me a very clear picture of what my audience wants from me and what is the most valuable thing that they want to learn. And so it's been a great petri dish for me, but it also has given me, by writing the scripts that I've written to produce those videos, it has given me essentially everything that I need to create my first course. Now it's just a question of kind of reorganizing it, establishing, you know, kind of a cadence to it, some worksheets, et cetera, and organizing it in a way that it's creating a very valuable deliverable for the person who's taking the course. But I think that for course creators, that's one of the things that it can do for you.

Number one, it can give you a practicing platform for performing on video, which is something you have to get used to, which is talking to a camera like it's a person and it's not a very natural thing to do in the beginning.

And then you also can refine your onscreen presence and a lot of people are not natural on camera. They don't realize you have to overact to a certain extent in order to even come across as normal on a video and that you have to entertain to an extent with your content. And you know, people become very aware of their affectations and their ums and their ahs and where they look and you know how they move their head and stuff like that, which when you're taking a course and you're watching, you know, six hours of someone on camera, that stuff can become really annoying if you aren't aware of what you're doing. So I think youtube is a great platform for practicing. It's a great platform for collecting your content and kind of putting it out there and bite sized chunks that you can then repurpose.

JA: I think that's a great way to put it in. The last thing I'll add on there is you will get questions from people in your audience and that is a great way, you know, one of the things that I teach in my group program is how to what I call pre validate your course idea. And part of that is serving your audience. If especially for people who may not have an email list or don't have a large email list and feel a little apprehensive if you have something like a YouTube channel, you know that's the benefit of YouTube over a podcast to be honest. You can have people who submit questions and you can see what are the common questions, what are the patterns popping up? So I love how you framed that. Thank you so much for putting that out there. I think it's going to cause a lot of course creators to say, hmm, never thought about it like that.

All right, we're down to the final three questions, Phillip. First one is easy. What is next for you? Anything exciting coming up?

PV: There's always something coming up. There's two things on horizon, ones for fall of this year and ones for spring of next. And the fall for this year is I'm going to be launching a paid mastermind group. It's going to be a tight group. You're going to have to apply for it. And the people I accept will be a curated, a group of people that I will meet with on a regular basis to help them build their businesses and careers and the businesses of others. So that's going to be in the fall. And then in the spring I'll be launching my first course.

JA: I love it. Love it, love it. Where can people find out more about you and your work?

PV: and uh, if you'd like to join my newsletter, it comes out every two weeks, it's called Brand Muse and I don't send a lot of spammy stuff every day. So it's a safe subscription. And you can go to ... and sign up for my newsletter and I think you'll enjoy it. And when I go live on YouTube, which I'm doing increasingly, or when I launch my mastermind or my course, the people on my email list and the ones that are going to get to hear about it first.

JA: Well we will be sure to get those links in the show notes. Last question, Philip. What is your why? Why do you get up and do this work?

PV: I love helping people succeed. I do. I've had some incredible mentors and amazing opportunities in my life that have given me a life beyond my wildest dreams. And there aren't people who in my life who made that possible either by sharing their energy and their inspiration or by sharing their knowledge or by providing me with tools or opportunities to work hard and make what I wanted to make happen happen. And I want to be that for people. And when I do my videos, I always talk about the fact that they're for, you know, creative professionals who are building their own brands and the brands of others. And so I talked to entrepreneurs who are using branding and brand strategy and design to build their own brands, but then also creative professionals to help those people do it and to help them build their personal brands. So helping people do that is what gets me up in the morning. I just absolutely love it and I love the work that I do more than I ever have.

JA: I can tell it, it just, it emanates from you and you're great at what you do. Philip, thank you so much for being on the show and sharing your story and all of these tips about YouTube. I think you're gonna inspire a lot of people, including myself to take that leap.

PV: And Janelle, thank you so much for having me on the show. I really appreciate it. And we're going to hold you to that. Me and the rest of the audience.

JA: Oh, no, it's real!

PV: It's real, it's real. You've outed yourself now.

JA: All right. My friends. That is my time. Remember before you can level up your course, you must first level up your mind. As always, thank you for hanging out with me for another great episode. I do not take it for granted. I am Janelle Allen, and this has been Level Up Your Course. Peace!

Episode Highlights

00:59 Getting to know Philip VanDusen, Rapid 5 Questions

06:05 Philip's entrepreneurial journey

12:01 What did it feel like waking up and saying, "I don't want to do this anymore"?

15:01 How Philip translated his corporate experience to an entrepreneurial experience

18:09 Benefits of being in the corporate world before becoming an entrepreneur

19:23 Insights that Philip received from Paul Pressler

20:57 How Philip got into YouTube

27:57 How to overcome the challenges of starting a YouTube channel

30:48 The importance of listening to and building relationships with your audience

33:40 Pros of using YouTube in relationship building

35:00 How YouTube channel affected Philip's business

37:24 The power of consistency in your business 

41:53 Pros of having different content formats for your channel

46:50 Philip's advice for course creators on how to use YouTube

50:03 Exciting things coming up from Philip, website link

Connect with Philip

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