How Seth Williams built REtipster, his YouTube channel for real estate investors

Welcome to the latest edition of Creator Collab House. I’m your host, Simon Owens. For those who don’t know me, I write a media industry newsletter you should definitely check out.

Today’s featured creator is Seth Williams, the YouTuber behind the real estate investing channel REtipster. I’ll start by asking him a few basic questions, but my main goal is for you, the audience, to ask him questions of your own. Seth is an expert on everything from real estate investing to running a successful YouTube channel.

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Ok, let’s turn it over to Seth…

What's the origin story of REtipster?

After working as a real estate investor for a few years and struggling through a lot of issues on my own, I realized I had some value I could offer the world, but I wasn't entirely sure how to do it in a way that would fit my voice and personality.

In mid-2012, I discovered a website called smartpassiveincome.com from Pat Flynn, and I was blown away by how much free education and value he was giving away to his audience without asking for anything in return. I was also amazed at how much money he was making from a website that didn't seem to sell anything. When I saw his humility and down-to-earth personality, and how his teaching style seemed very close to mine, I realized I could probably do a similar thing for real estate investors that he was doing for internet entrepreneurs.

In late-2012, I started writing blog posts, making videos, and giving away all the best things I knew, and I did it all for free. It took several months before anyone paid any attention to what I was doing. A big part of getting traction was spending a lot of time in various forums and social media sites, not trying to put my content in front of them, but just trying to legitimately help a lot of people for free. This helped me build a reputation of being a giver and helper who didn't expect anything in return. It was a very time-consuming process, but it built a strong foundation for what REtipster would become.

What have you found to be some of the most effective growth strategies for getting new subscribers? 

Regarding new subscribers: The only way I've ever gotten subscribers is by offering people not one, not two, but SEVERAL things that were free and insanely useful in return for signing up (ebooks, calculators, templates, videos, etc). Things that have real, demonstrable, monetary value, but they'll get it for free if they opt-in. It also helps to have a well-written and visually engaging opt-in form that people can't ignore (I'm currently using OptinMonster for this).

Major turning points with a lot of growth: Probably the biggest growth I saw was soon after I was interviewed on the BiggerPockets Podcast (this is by far, the biggest podcast in the real estate investing space, and has been for several years). I built this relationship by engaging on their forum and contributing a lot of valuable information to their community, and through being a guest writer on their site for about a year before this happened.

Can you walk us through your workflow each week for creating new episodes?

We actually have three channels: the blog, the podcast, and the YouTube channel. Most of the time, these things will work together (a YouTube video will be embedded within a blog post, a podcast episode will be repurposed into a YouTube video, and/or a podcast will be embedded into a blog post), so they all work in a supportive fashion. In the beginning, I picked topics based on what I knew to be my own biggest pain points and how I had overcome them. Nowadays, we continue to do this, but we also pick our guests and/or topics based on what our audience is asking the most questions about and/or big information gaps we notice (things that haven't been explained at all, or haven't been explained well).

We spend probably 90% of our time on content creation and 10% (at the most) on promotion. Much of our traffic is organic. Our approach is to try and make the best content about the chosen subject matter, and once the search engines figure out that we're doing a great job, the traffic comes naturally. There are some risks to this (like if Google changes its mind about what it considers to be the best content), but we've always weathered the changes they make.

We frankly do better at content creation than at selling ourselves, so we spend our time on what we're best at doing.

For a podcast episode, it usually takes a total of four hours (give or take an hour) from planning to interviewing, to editing, to publishing. YouTube videos and blog posts take much longer. We will often spend a full day, sometimes multiple days writing one blog post and/or making one well-done video... but we've also found that these pieces of content have a much bigger long-term impact.

Can you walk us through the business model for the YouTube channel?

For REtipster, the YouTube channel started as a supplementary way to explain the content on the blog. Sometimes, it's much more effective to show readers how something works rather than writing about it (and some people prefer watching or listening instead of reading), so that's where our YouTube videos come in. We have some videos that only exist on YouTube (i.e. - they aren't embedded anywhere on our site), but those are few and far between.

We do enable YouTube ads on our videos, but it's a relatively small stream of monthly income (we don't make videos because of the ad revenue, we make videos because they're more effective at explaining some things than text is).

YouTube has also been a great way for us to get exposure to new audiences that would've never otherwise discovered REtipster. A lot of people find our videos after searching for answers to questions that we've answered better than anyone else on the internet.

Are there any specific episodes that you're particularly proud of?

Aside from the episodes that have been downloaded the most, I'm proud of the content we've done where we've gotten vulnerable, real, and transparent. Whether we're talking about things we've failed at, things we're embarrassed about, or some of the "real life" material that isn't effective at selling stuff, but still needs to be said nonetheless because it's important. More than anything, I want our brand to be respected as a source of truth, even when it's not popular or self-serving to share those truths.

What are some other YouTube channels that you always make sure to watch every week?

Some of my favorite channels are:

  • Charisma On Command: A treasure trove of information on how to be charismatic and confident, and how it can completely change your life and relationships.

  • Real Men Real Style: Some of the best information on how an adult male can present themselves professionally and why it matters.

  • Income School: A constant stream of brilliant ideas and insights about how to grow an online audience and build more traffic.

  • Nick Nimmin: Tons of great information about how to thrive as a YouTuber.

  • Tom Scott: A channel filled with interesting factoids and explainer videos about things I never knew I wanted to know about.

Most of our best YouTube video ideas have come from other channels that are in a completely different space (internet entrepreneurs, men's fashion, tech reviewers, etc). Whenever we find a video we love, and it has proven to perform well for that channel, we try to think of ways we can take the same idea and apply it to our own content. More often than not, it works out pretty well!

Want to ask Seth questions of your own?

Go ahead and leave your questions in the comments section and he’ll dive in and answer them.

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