|Michelle Phan : ♱ My Alter Ego Look ♱
YouTube superstar Michelle Phan is a perfect representation of today’s millennial hustlers. She started off filming short videos to teach women how to apply makeup and, within a few years, built an empire that includes a beauty social network and sampling program, her own YouTube network, and most recently, a collaboration with L’Oreal for a makeup line named EM.
Still, while Phan may have carved a new definition to what it means to be a millennial mogul, her tips to success are easily replicated by anyone with drive and ambition. In fact, in order to be successful today, says Phan, all one must do is think of life as the ultimate road trip:
The first step is to know your vision, says Phan. ”Just like you wouldn’t set out on a road trip without knowing if you are going east or west, you have to know what you want to accomplish,” she says. “I knew I wanted to inspire women and build confidence, so everything [from that point on] was built around that goal.” Her vision also started small. She wasn’t driving across the U.S. in her first attempt, so to speak. When she first started posting her makeup tutorials in 2007, she attracted a mere 40,000 views.
Still, her first milepost was to make enough money from her YouTube videos to quit her day job as a waitress. It seemed like it was never going to happen. In 2008, Phan became a member of YouTube’s partners program, which shares advertising revenue with creators, she was earning only $0.25 a day. Her quit-her-job metric was $50 a day. Within a year of joining YouTube’s partner program, she met her goal, which enabled her to spend more time creating content, that in turn, attracted more fans.
The second step to success is to find the right vehicle. ”Pick a car, whether it’s a Prius or Mercedes, but you have to make a commitment,” says Phan. This advice is best transferred to the online world by focusing on one or two social media platforms rather than attempt to have a presence everywhere. Phan, for instance, concentrates on YouTube. Though she does spend time each day on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter TWTR +0.78%, her main priority and attention remains on YouTube.
The third step to success is to identify potential co-pilots. “Whether it’s a business partner, friend, or online fanbase, you need to have someone to bounce ideas off of and seek advice,” says Phan. This partner, by using the car metaphor, is also helpful by telling you where the shortcuts are. “It’s lonely to do it alone,” says Phan. “I get so much help from my fans who tell me what they like and what they don’t.” Additional support can also help identify weaknesses. Phan’s fanbase, for instance, is predominantly female, and so a recent collaboration with videogamer Freddie Wong helped Phan attract male viewers. “He made a cereal killer video and I played a cashier. I noticed my subscription spiked with males right after the video premiered,” she says. Wong, in turn, attracted more female fans.
The fourth step is to optimize your fuel. “You have to know your motivation and determination to keep going,” says Phan. “It’s not always easy.” It’s critical to constantly reassess your path to recognize if the goal remains headed in the desired direction, or if one is just wasting fuel. Phan, for instance, has long dreamed about illustrating a children’s book, but she realizes that her priorities at the moment are with her how-to videos and makeup line. Hence, her book dreams are on hold for a few more years. She must concentrate her energies on her initial goal to build confidence in women.
The fifth step is to scan the road. “You can’t just look at what is just right ahead of you. You always have to look at what’s also on the side of the road.” For Phan, this means to always be on top of trends and emerging styles. She can’t just film videos with looks that are hot today, she must recognize what is going to be popular tomorrow. For instance, she predicts dark lips and full-blow eyebrows are two of the hottest emerging beauty looks. And while it’s critical to trust your own eyes to navigate potential road problems, listen to others. “I do use suggestions from my fans,” she says. “But about 70% of my how-to ideas come from me.”
Lastly, the road trip really never ends. Phan says it’s impossible to map out everything, so it’s important to realize that obstacles are going to happen and that the best part of a road trip are the unexpected adventures. “I don’t plan a year-out. I mean, a year ago, no one was really using Instagram, and now everyone is. So you can’t predict a lot of what is going to happen.” That said, Phan’s long-term goals include an increased focus on global fans, particularly Asia, and to transform from beauty to become more of an overall lifestyle expert.