How to Build a Successful YouTube Channel in 2023 with Ruri Ohama

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Ruri Ohama reached 1 million subscribers on YouTube in 2 years

But before that she had 4 channels which failed ✖️

Ruri Ohama is a full-time Youtuber with over 1 million subscribers.

In this episode of Creators on Air, Ruri joins us to discuss how she grew her YouTube channel, how to create viral videos, and how to generate ideas.

Follow Ruri:

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🐦 Twitter

🎥 YouTube

Episode Transcript

Akta: [00:00:00] You might look at successful YouTubers and think they got lucky, but sometimes it's a process of learning. 

Ruri: I feel like I was just posting random videos, not necessarily the best videos, not necessarily the videos that people wanted to watch. So I was just creating for the sake of creating, but I think we should always switch our minds to what people want to watch and whether that really matches with what you want to create.

Akta: [00:00:22] Ruri Ohama reached 1 million subscribers on YouTube in two years. But that's only part of the story. She had five failed channels before that. In today's episode of Creators on Air, Rory shares the strategies that she implemented to grow her channel and monetize. 

Ruri: So basically I started YouTube in 2016, so it's basically like seven years ago.

Yeah, I was watching a YouTuber and I thought, it's so cool to become a YouTuber, let me become one. And the next day I published a video, I remember that. And then, since then, I created like four channels, and this channel should be my fifth one. Yeah, this is my fifth channel, basically. So, it's been seven years.

Um, during those, like, seven years, only probably three of them where I was super, super consistent, and I was like... really dedicated to it. I really wanted to become a YouTuber, but I didn't know any strategies or any tools to make it happen. But during the lockdown, I decided, okay, this is going to be the last time I'm going to try.

And we're not going to give up even the stakes were like five years, 10 years, we're going to become a YouTuber. And we did. 

Akta: [00:01:30] Nice. I love, I love the commitment to the journey. So What do you think it is about this channel that was different to the other channels? Like, were there previous lessons that you took from the other channel to help with this one? What changed? 

Ruri: Definitely, like, everything, to be honest. Like, I learned so much by failing four times and being a joke to my, like, you know, classmates and everyone was making fun of me. But I learned so much, to be honest, I feel like I was just posting random videos, not necessarily the best videos, not necessarily the videos that people wanted to watch, so I was just creating for the sake of creating, but I think we should always switch our minds to what people want to watch and whether that really matches with what you want to create, and if you can't find that match. And if you keep improving, then eventually, of course, your videos will get watched.

Akta: I love that. So how did you figure that out for yourself? Like, how did you find out what other people wanted to watch?

Ruri: So actually, I said that, but sort of the videos that I wanted to create. Versus the videos that people wanted me, um, in the beginning was very different. So basically my first viral video was about being half Japanese, half Turkish.

And a lot of people followed me because of that, like cultural differences and language related stuff. But I knew a language video was going to get views, but that's not what I want to create, but I'm going to still do it. And then sort of like lead the crowd into the things that I want to make. So I guess that's something that I did differently this time.

I knew the areas that I'm really good at and I can bring a lot of value in it, but I'm not really necessarily interested in it. I wasn't learning languages because I was passionate. I did them because I had to. So slowly I sort of changed people's mind and then sort of made them adapt to my content.

It took so long to be honest, like We're still doing that, I'm still trying to convince people to be interested in self improvement every day.

Akta: But I feel like that's actually a really hard thing to do, like I know so many YouTubers who have had like viral videos, and it's almost been, I don't want to say their downfall, but it's been really hard to recover from because then the videos they do want to make don't do as well.

So how have you managed to do it? You have loads of videos that aren't about learning languages that have, you know, surpassed millions of views. So how have you managed to bring that audience along for the ride?

Ruri: [00:03:52]: I think the important thing is basically like understanding the bigger picture. So if somebody wants to learn a language, sure, language learning and productivity might seem very irrelevant. But if you want to learn a language, most people have, you know, full time jobs or kids or I don't know, school, or other responsibilities.

So to make that happen, they need productivity. No matter what you want to do in your life, if you want to learn something, if you want to try something new, you need productivity and productivity itself is not enough because yes, you can have the best systems, but if you don't have the right mindset, then you're not going to apply that. You need that discipline too. 

So, I started to implement more productivity, more self improvement, more mindset into my language videos to make people realize that they actually need those topics because what most people don't understand, I guess, about productivity and self improvement is that yes, people who are already into that will watch our videos, but I think the game is about making people realize that actually this might be helpful.

So making them realize this is the first step, in my opinion. 

Akta: [00:05:02 ]Definitely. And I feel like there's quite a lot of well known productivity and self improvement YouTubers. So how have you managed to stand out so that, you know, you were growing and you're not just kind of making the same video as Matt D'Avella or like Ali Abdaal?

Like how have you stood out? 

Ruri: I think the main difference between them and me is that, since my childhood, I struggled with everything so much. So, when it comes to the things that I really wanted to do, like, you know, watching anime and things, I could watch them for 8 hours straight. But, when it comes to like. studying or anything, since my childhood, I always hated studying but, I've always been a good student.

So I guess we're pretty different. I don't want to do things, but I still do them. I guess they're more motivated than me. And when it comes to me, for example, I sometimes even procrastinate with going to the toilet. It’s a huge problem with me.

And when they talk in their videos, they're like... You know, you don't procrastinate on the things that you love. No, I do procrastinate. Like I procrastinate with everything. Sometimes I don't even eat because I'm too lazy to choose something. So I guess my main difference is that I'm just really lazy, and not motivated to do anything in my life.

Akta: [00:06:30] Love that. And I feel like one of the hardest parts about being a YouTuber is just coming up with ideas. And I mean, you're posting so consistently as well. So how do you come up with  fresh ideas all the time?

What is bringing you inspiration?

Ruri: I guess I actually also dunno why  I'm able to come up with so many ideas on my notion.

I have like 300 video ideas that are like waiting for me to create them, but I guess it’s just the fact that I consume various media. So I consume Eastern media, Western media, this and that. So there's so many aspects of the same topic. So many opinions, so many discussions from different cultures.

So I always have a way to sort of bring a new perspective because of the language knowledge that I have, because even in this productivity genre, Japanese people think very differently than American people and the tools that they use, the methods that they use, and the topics that they talk about are very different.

So I guess how I do it is that I read books in Various languages, so that I can always come up with new ideas. I used to read English books, but then I realized I was becoming more like Ali Abdaal etc. I decided to stop that and really read Japanese books and they have a lot of ideas, I guess, and they always help me come up with new ideas.

Akta: [00:08:00] Yeah, that's how I do. I love that because it also means that you're appealing to wider audiences as well, which is great. And you said that you have over 300 ideas in your Notion page, which is crazy. When it comes down to, you know, sitting and selecting which ideas actually make it to videos, what are you considering?

Ruri: I usually look to the, basically, trends of YouTube, what people are interested in, in that specific, like, month, or maybe season, let's say. You know, what people are interested in, depending on the season, is really different. Like, what people want to achieve around, like, November, December, is to establish new goals, like, all these stuff.

And during summer months, for example, they're not that ambitious with their goals. Maybe before the summer, everyone wants to get in shape - exercise videos are popular. But during summer, everyone wants to chill a little bit more. So I feel like understanding trends and seasons and what people want currently is the most important thing.

For example, there's so many videos that I want to publish right now, but I'm, I know that if I publish right now, it's going to flop and it's also important to sort of make it easier to understand for people. So I think there is definitely an order of posting videos, even if they're not so related and even if everybody is not going to watch those videos, I feel like there is like a connection between those videos - even though every single video of mine may seem like it's irrelevant.

So for example, let's say, let's talk about my future videos. I don't know. Maybe this will flop. Who knows? But basically I recently released a video about how to make money online. So, and then I uploaded the video of “I'm moving to Dubai” because now it makes more sense. Now people have an understanding, “Oh, she's moving to Dubai because she wants to save taxes”.

It means that she makes a lot of money, but how does she? And then this is like the connection. And then the next series is going to be more about my Dubai life, how I'm going to manage it as a business owner, med student, this and that. And from there, we're going to publish more time management videos.

Because now in the vlogs, I'm going to show how I manage my life. And people are going to be more curious about my lifestyle. So I'm going to explain that. And from there, we're going to branch out more and more. 

Akta: [00:10:30] That's crazy. Yeah. And your videos are also like, so, I mean, I'm always blown away by how well researched they are and how well edited they are. So how much time do you actually spend on video production? 

Ruri: So the problem with me is that I'm not really like…  I'm going to work for three hours here and there.

More so, I guess I'm working all the time because it's like I'm reading a book before going to bed, I'm listening to an audio book and suddenly an idea comes into my head and I like I'm writing for hours and hours. So I actually don't know how many hours I actually work - probably all the time. But when I'm even consuming content, let's say I come up with an idea, or when I like that specific word, then I would write it down, and then I would start to read a book, this and that. So I actually don't know, probably a lot of hours, but I'm not really sure. 

Akta: [00:11:10] And which part of theYouTube process do you think is the most important? If you only had time for like one part of it that you'd put most of your energy into. 

Ruri: So, I think idea generation. Idea is the most important thing in my opinion, because even if your title and thumbnail is awesome, if nobody's interested in it, nobody will click on it.

And even if your thumbnails suck, if the idea is so good, people will still click on it. Yeah, no, I agree. So, how often do you sit down for idea generation or is it just as and when it comes? 

Actually, probably, I sit down every single day. I... Oh, really? Yeah, I do. Wow. Yeah. And that's just generating ideas or going through ideas that you already have.

Both actually, because sometimes I come up with an idea, but then I realize that I already came up with something similar. So I think about how I can merge them. And I also like combining my ideas together, so that it will be different from other people's. So let's say I have like 300 ideas, but then out of these 300 probably...

It means only like 50 videos because I merge them. I deleted them. I say, okay, this trend is now over. Now people are not thinking this way, blah, blah, blah. So, but every single day I sit down and I guess I spend around like an hour every single day looking into my notion page, writing things. And I also like multitasking in writing scripts.

For example, I have a script written for a video that's going to be published four months later. Wow. But I still did that. I don't know why, but I did that. Like, I write here and there and I add some parts there. So it's really messy, the whole process. 

And what have you learned about packaging your ideas in a way that audiences will want to watch and listen?

So like in terms of titles, thumbnails, one thing I understand is I think looking at book covers and book titles is really important. If the book is best selling, it probably means that they're using the keywords that people are searching for. Right. So whenever I'm titling a video, I would go to Amazon and I will look into the similar book categories, Japanese and  English, so that I can sort of title my video in that way.

Because I think the most important thing when you're packaging your video is that the viewer should feel like this video is meant for them. So you need to sort of like make them feel that, Oh my God, this is something I can watch. So definitely not making things overly complicated. YouTube is for the general masses.

I think this is also something that I really misunderstood back in the day. If you want to get numbers, sure, you can be a niche YouTuber, create niche products and make money out of it. But the majority of the time people want to get numbers. And if you want to get numbers, it means that you are talking to the masses and masses usually don't know much about productivity, self improvement or anything.

Obviously there are intermediates and more like. You know, they're advanced people, but beginners will always take the majority. So you're going to talk to the beginner. So you really need to remember what you were thinking in the beginning. 

Akta: [00:14:15] So I love that that's, you know, you've given us such a new way of thinking about it. How have things actually changed for you in terms of challenges since being a, I hate saying it, but smaller creator to a large creator? What has been different about it? What's changed - especially in terms of what's been difficult?

Ruri: So whenever I post a video, when I was like more of a smaller channel, it was everything. Everything was fun. Just getting views, just people commenting. Everything was so fun. I love that whole process, but now that I'm paying people and getting sponsorships, this and that, and I have this, I created this brand, every single time I post a video now I have like this anxiety of, oh, is this going to get views? If not, oh my god, is my career dying? 

So I actually decided to create a faceless channel. Um, yeah, and I'm not going to announce that to anyone else, and I'm just going to create it because I really want to share the things that I want to do without really worrying about numbers.

I'm sure it's going to get like numbers in the future, but I really don't want to tie it to sponsorships, this and that, so that I won't get nervous about performance, I guess. 

Akta: [00:15:45] And you mentioned, um, sponsorships. So how do you currently approach sponsorships and negotiating prices for that?

Ruri: So how I do approach is that whenever I come across a problem, so this is actually something I've been doing for years, is that let's say I have a problem and then I think about a product that can solve it and then I Google it and usually somebody else already came up with it, because obviously they're probably smarter than me. 

And then I find that product all the time. Like even before YouTube recommendations and that, I would always come up with like: let's say, I need a water bottle and I want to carry that with me to school. But it's too heavy. So what would I do if I were an entrepreneur?

I would create a foldable, you know, water bottle that is really light. And then I looked at it and there are so many water bottles like that. So I purchased it. So when I'm approaching sponsorships, I think about a problem and then how I would solve it. And then usually a brand comes up and then I use it for a while.

And if I like it, I would approach them, or sometimes they approach me, and that's how we work. When it comes to the sponsorship rates, I guess it really depends on my mood too. How much I want that sponsorship. Like if I really, really, really want to talk about it. Because also, when it comes to the sponsorships that we select, I come up with a video idea, and then potential sponsorships while I'm idea generating.

So I will have, yeah, I will have lists of like five to ten sponsorships, and then we will reach out to them, and if one of them replies, we would make that sponsorship into a video, and then the video will be very seamless. But if they're not necessarily connected, then I would charge more obviously.

Akta: [00:17:20] So do you do sponsorships quite regularly then? 

Like, yeah, I do. 

Do you have a cutoff for it? Or are you thinking like, okay, I don't want to annoy my audience too much with this. Like, how do you approach that?

Ruri: I did. I actually, I guess there was a time I uploaded four videos and then three of them were sponsorship and people were like, I understand Rudy, you want to make money, but isn't it too much?

I was like, yeah, that's right. So right now I decided to sort of like take two to three sponsorships per month and publish four to five videos. So. Yeah, like 50 percent would probably be the ideal number, but in the future, I want to decrease it to like 25 percent of my content being sponsored posts.

Akta: And what are your other revenue streams as a creator? 

Ruri: So currently, um, we have Google AdSense, basically YouTube, um, and then sponsorships and then affiliate marketing a little bit. And recently, I published a Skillshare class, but it doesn't really count that much. Because I just released a language related Skillshare class because I don't want to talk about languages anymore.

So it's like an end sign, like this is the end. We're not going to talk about it anymore. If you want to learn it, go there. And then the last one is coaching. I'm actually starting a YouTube coaching, a small group coaching, and then maybe eventually an online course that I would create. So that's another stream.

Akta: So how did you decide how you're going to monetize your audience? 

Ruri: I mean, I always wanted to talk about YouTube because I'm a huge YouTube nerd. Like, I have like this viral video library in my brain and if somebody would talk about this viral video, I'm quite sure that I know that video and I've watched that video and I've already analyzed that video.

I watch YouTube a lot and I love YouTube so much. That's definitely something I always wanted to do when I was watching, like, Patty's course, I was like, I want to be Patty so much, like, I'm going to be Patty, but I'm going to be different than them, but I'll be Patty. Yeah, so, I guess that's another reason why I want to create a faceless channel, because a lot of people say, oh, you know nothing about YouTube, it's all because you're young, attractive, female, this and that.

I mean, sure, it will help, obviously, but I don't think it's the only thing, and I want to sort of, like, prove that, but it will be a fun process. 

Akta: And are there any, um, of your revenue streams that surprised you or like was there something that you just weren't expecting with them? 

Ruri: I guess YouTube AdSense in a bad way.


Yeah. I guess the difference between the Western like YouTube world and then the Japanese YouTube world, for example, is that Japanese people make the most chunk from YouTube AdSense rather than sponsorships. But in the Western YouTube, it's more like sponsorships and then less YouTube AdSense.

Because Japanese YouTubers are crazy. They upload like every day. Some of them upload like five times a week and then three times a week is like the standard there. And because it's such a small market, with Japanese speaking people, it's really easy to target people. So you will get a lot of views compared to your subscriber count.

In the west, it's the opposite. You will have like a million subscribers, but you will get like, what, 100k, 200k views? In Japan, you will have like, 50k subscribers, but you can't get like, consistently 300k views. So they make a lot of money from views, and when you do a lot of sponsorships in Japan, people don't really like it.

So, it really surprised me the difference between those countries. 

Akta: [00:20:50] Do you ever worry about that? So, I mean, you mentioned having like a million subscribers and then your view count is like a lot lower. Does that ever stress you out or is that something you worry about? 

Ruri: Yeah, I guess so because I know the days that I wasn't getting views and for my YouTube career that was the majority. So I feel like: oh one day I'm going to wake up and nobody's going to watch my videos. But then I also remind myself that I can always start a new channel.

I guess in the Western YouTube world, there isn't really a formula. Some people say it's 25%. Some people say if your channel is getting bigger, it's 10 percent of your subscriber count. And we do hit that with most of the videos. 

Akta: [00:22:00] And you said that you have people that you're working with as well that you've hired. What was your process for building a team? Like, how did you decide, you know, who to hire, what to hire for? 

Ruri: We actually don't work full time, like, neither of them, so I have two people in my team. One is my editor, he edits my videos, but he works as a freelancer, because he's also a YouTuber.

He has actually decent subscriber amounts, but he's also a YouTuber. And then I have my, um, sort of, like, partnerships manager. Um, she manages all the sponsorships, she does all the communications and, like, these invoices and everything. So, yeah. We have, I guess, we're three, but they're not full time.

I feel like finding an editor for YouTube is really, really difficult. 

Akta: How did you find someone or train them to kind of bring your own vision to life without, you know, compromising what you'd already built? 

Ruri: I didn't even train him, actually. I tried to find a good editor for a year and a half, but then I gave up and I started to edit my own videos. I guess till 700k or maybe 600k I was editing my own videos. Then he suddenly DM'd me and said: I can edit your videos. And then I was like, hmm, okay. And then he edited one of my videos and it was really nice.

I didn't even say anything, but he got it, everything right. And I was like, let's work together. And now we work together. 

Akta: [00:23:28] That's really lucky. Yeah. And how important have your other social media profiles been for YouTube? Or are they just a secondary thing? 

Ruri: I guess for Instagram, it's more so like I post whatever I want to post and I definitely want to make it more systemized and actually create content there too because I feel like Instagram has a huge potential.

But I personally don't use Instagram that much. So for example, I'm a firm believer that to be a good creator, you need to be a good consumer first. So for YouTube, I can apply that. But for Instagram, because I don't use it much, I don't really understand what people would like to see from me on Instagram.

So I'm trying to figure out what I want to do on Instagram recently. And on Twitter too. I actually just started using Twitter recently. I didn't even know what the hell people were doing on Twitter. 

Akta: What else is next for you then?

Ruri: I guess for next, I will probably start posting more often on Instagram.

Sort of like shifting once again my YouTube niche towards more self improvement, plus lifestyle content more. And then ditching the language just because it's enough. Like, I don't want to talk about it.

Akta: [00:24:40]And what advice would you give to someone who feels like their channel is failing and they don't know whether to keep going with that channel, start a new channel, they're not really sure what direction to take or whether they, they should even be a YouTuber. 

Ruri: I mean, it's always good to analyze everything, so I would recommend, like, asking yourself what type of YouTuber you want to become, and then why, and then ask yourself whether you can keep talking about this stuff for the next five years.

Because if you can't shut your mouth about that topic, then probably you should talk about it on your YouTube channel, but if you get bored about it, if you will get bored about it in a year, then you probably shouldn't pick it as your niche, maybe. And another thing is, watch, and then, like, after deciding your niche, the topic that you want to talk about, pick like five YouTubers that you love, and then completely analyze their ideas, thumbnails etc.

One thing I actually recommend people doing is that copying the transcriptions of their videos, and then literally analyzing their script, how they do their hooks, how they introduce every single topic, and then see a pattern, because once you start to analyze 10, 20, 30 of their videos, you will realize some like patterns, maybe that they don't even realize.

So you will start to come up with how to write hooks, how to write the video script, and then how to sort of make people engaged and offer new ideas and this and that. And also with the thumbnails, actually, I have a video on it, how to grow on YouTube, I guess. There's like a video on it. What I would recommend is that whenever you're going to talk about a topic, search it on YouTube.

And then find people who overperformed for their channel size. Download their thumbnails, 5 to 10, put them in the middle of the note, and then analyze the pattern between all these thumbnails. Find the... Like the same thing in them and then do it on your thumbnail and then improve every single time and keep doing this and then you'll probably have good videos.

Akta: [00:26:43]That's really good advice. I'm going to end with a quick fire round. So I'm going to ask you five questions I ask every creator that comes on. What’s your favorite thing about being a creator?

Ruri: Freedom and money. 

Akta: I love the honesty. And what's something that gives you the most inspiration for what you create? 

Ruri: Books. Definitely books. 

Akta: Okay, nice. And what's a tool that helps you the most as a creator? 

Ruri: Notion and Milanote. 

Akta: Nice. Yeah, Milanote's really good. I feel like that's a new one that's really come on the scene. Um, what's something that helps you with your creator work life balance? 

Ruri: Coffee, probably. 

Akta: And what's one piece of advice that you'd give to other creators? 

Ruri: So, not necessarily just YouTubers. Don't just keep going. I don't really believe you should keep going. Always analyze if your video is not performing enough and then solve that problem and then keep doing that.

Akta: I love that answer. That's such a good one. Amazing. Thank you so much for coming on air. This has been such a fun conversation. I love to work on YouTube as well, so it's so nice. 

If you're a creator working with sponsors, check out Passionfroot. We help you to streamline the entire workflow. I'll see you in the next one.