Photo by Erica Techo.
Cullen and Katie
Cullen and Katie post daily vlogs on their YouTube channel featuring their daughter Macey Gaines.
Taking a vlogging hobby and turning it into a full-time job took a leap of faith.
“I was 30 at the time, and I said, if I don’t take that risk, I’ll be 40 in 10 years. What if we don’t do what we love and just look back and regret everything? So let’s just take this risk, and it’s paid off just in the last year and a half tremendously,” said Cullen, one half of the YouTube duo Cullen & Katie.
The Hoover residents first started vlogging, or video blogging, on YouTube four years ago as a way to keep up with friends and family. At the time, they were living in Tallahassee and wanted to stay in touch with everyone in Birmingham.
When they moved back, they decided to keep up their daily videos to preserve their memories.
“The craziest part was just jumping straight into it,” Cullen said. “Most YouTubers start by uploading like one video a week and learning how to edit it and trying to make the content as best as they could, and we just went ‘Let’s just do daily vlogs,’ and didn’t realize how much time and effort went behind every single day.”
Katie said along with getting more comfortable in front of the camera over time, they have also learned the best content for their viewers.
“We’ve learned a lot more how to actually put in the things that are interesting,” Katie said.
“It took us three and a half years to realize, OK we don’t need to put every single thing in there,” Cullen said.
Since their first vlog in May 2011, Katie and Cullen have received more than 30 million views on their channel and have 189,154 subscribers. They asked not to publish their last names due to this online visibility.
“It’s a weird phenomenon to think about that there’s that many people that want to watch somebody else’s life,” Cullen said.
Accumulating followers was not an easy process. After being laid off from his job, Cullen decided to transition to work on videos full time and spent most of the time networking. He responded to almost every comment on their channel, monitored social media and worked to build an audience. At that time, their channel only had 5,000 subscribers.
“Within that time, we happened to find out that we were expecting her [daughter Macey Gaines], and YouTube loves babies, so we put a lot of effort into talking about that on our channel, and our channel kind of just took off,” Katie said.
As they began to pick up subscribers, transitioning to full-time YouTubers became more feasible. Social media is becoming a more respected form of media, Cullen said, and companies realize the potential influence YouTube channels have.
That means Cullen and Katie can make money through brand deals and advertisements on their channel, and thankfully, Cullen said, their fans realize that is how they are able to spend all of their time working on videos.
“They know this is how you’re making a living and because you do that, they can watch you every day,” Katie said.
They described their channel as a ‘completely unscripted reality show.’ Maintaining a daily vlogging channel means they can’t hide many aspects of their lives from the camera.
During their time on YouTube, Cullen and Katie went through two miscarriages. Even though it was difficult, they chose to share their experience on a video.
“That day, we could fake it and just say we’re sick, we don’t feel good,” Cullen said. “… But we took a nap, we slept on it, and we just talked about it. We just got an outpouring of support.”
Talking it through on camera was also beneficial to them, Katie said. While helping connect to audience members, they also could work through some of their emotions.
“I think it does go both ways,” Katie said. “It’s hard because you think, ‘I don’t want to turn the camera on. I’m just not in the mood … but then once we started talking about it, not only helping other people, but a little bit it helped make us feel better.”
A factor for connecting with a vlog, Cullen said, is finding things you have in common. This can range from owning the same appliance or outfit to experiencing the same real-life struggles. They often get comments thanking them for bringing some joy into a hard day or for openly talking about an issue, and they hope to connect with viewers in little things as well.
“I think with it being vlogs and that we put our life on the Internet every day, people know it’s got to be a mess sometimes,” Katie said. “And I think sometimes it makes people feel better, like, ‘Oh, I’m not the only one who has a messy house.”
Even when the camera is off, the job is going 24/7, Cullen said. After vlogging for the day, they have to edit and upload the video and then promote it over social media. Although it took some time to explain how Internet videos are a full-time job, Katie said their friends and families are realizing how much work goes into a YouTube channel.
The time commitment is worth it, they said, and they consider it a blessing to stay home with their daughter.
“It’s definitely not the norm,” Katie said, “and it’s not something five years ago I ever would think. If you told me we’d both be staying at home doing this YouTube thing, taking care of our baby, being together every day, I would have been like, ‘What? There’s no way.’”
For more, visit youtube.com/user/bamachick1101.