Do any of us really have any idea how YouTube works, let alone know how to make a career of it? Shannon Beveridge does. At 25, she has more than 525,000 subscribers and half a million followers on Instagram—her handle for both is “nowthisisliving.”
She was born and raised in Dallas, attended the University of Oklahoma, and then settled in Los Angeles, where she works as a content creator, regularly posting videos—like a scheduled TV show—for the following she’s built. While Beveridge is known as an LGBT advocate, her content ranges from her own coming out story and updates on her life to anecdotes and collaborations with other YouTubers, including drinking games and serious Q&As. Her eclectic collection of videos includes something for almost everyone.
We talked with Beveridge about making a career out of YouTube, being a voice in the LGBT community, and the importance of being true to yourself.
Q: How do you come up with ideas for videos?
A: It’s about what’s working on YouTube at the time. YouTube is constantly changing its algorithm for what videos they recommend, and they never tell creators what that is. You have to be on the lookout for what’s doing well. For a time, it might be about how many clicks videos are getting, and then the next month it’s about how long people are watching your videos. Right now, the big thing on YouTube is “watch time,” meaning how long you’re getting people to stay and watch the whole video. You have to base what content you’re creating partially off of that. It does get hard after you’ve been doing it for a while. I never want to post a video that I don’t think is good. I don’t think people give us enough credit for having to come up with what to do.
Q: Do you ever struggle with trying to post what’s popular on YouTube while also being true to your personal brand?
A: That’s a really good question. I don’t struggle with that because my brand, in general, has always been to be myself. I think if I ever did try to push myself to do something that was popular now, everyone would see through it.
Q: What first inspired you to start making videos, and what were they about?
A: I was in school in Oklahoma, and I had this thing I felt like I couldn’t talk to anyone about. The internet became my refuge and I found other people talking about the stuff that was interesting to me, and eventually it organically turned into me making my own videos. I would get 20 questions a day on a blogging site called Tumblr, and instead of responding to all them individually, I could make a video and talk to them all at the same time.
Q: What reaction did your peers have when you first published your videos?
A: My friends had no idea that I was making videos for the first year. It wasn’t until I made my “coming out” video and posted it on what I considered my “real life” social media that they found out. I was basically a gay Hannah Montana—I had two Instagram and Twitter accounts. I felt like I lived a double life. Right after I graduated college, I knew it was too much, and I brought it down to one identity. A lot of my peers thought it was weird. At that time, nobody knew that you could make a career out of YouTube, but now we’ve all seen you can. Back then, my friends were all like, ‘Shannon, what the hell, you have a finance degree and you’re choosing to be a social media person? What does that even mean?’
Q: How does getting paid by YouTube work?
A: This is every Uber driver’s favorite question. I think the real money in YouTube comes from brands. If you get your following to a certain level, you can have conversations with bigger brands like AT&T or H&M. That’s where you really make money, and that’s where I feel like most YouTubers get their income. If a brand asks me to promote something for them, they know exactly who my audience is and can better target them.
Q: I’ve heard that the new YouTube restrictions have limited access to LGBT videos. Have your videos been affected?
A: I don’t know anyone who hasn’t been affected by it. At this point, I think everyone has seen at least one YouTube video, even if it’s to learn how to put on your license plate or something. Everyone has probably seen that there are ads in front of most videos. If you setup your Google AdSense, each creator is paid a portion of those ads revenues. This has been relatively controversial recently, because a lot of companies pulled their ads. They got upset about which videos their ads were running before—especially videos dealing with themes that they don’t publicly portray as their views. So, they pulled all their ads.
YouTube reacted by immediately moving a ton of videos to restricted mode, but they ended up targeting LGBT creators; my coming out video got put on restricted mode. Naturally, LGBT creators reacted strongly. Most home computer users don’t even have restricted mode turned on, but it is turned on in public places like schools and public libraries. Those are the computers that shouldn’t have it on, because kids go to those places to research things that they don’t feel comfortable looking up at home. YouTube has responded, but they haven’t fixed it.
Q: Why do you think YouTube is important, for the general population but also for LGBT individuals?
A: It’s a platform where you can express yourself in any way that you want, and you’re never restricted by production. Anyone can just pull out their laptop and post anything they want without being micromanaged. Your voice is completely your own. It’s important to the LGBT community because for so long we’ve been essentially voiceless. Now, for the first time, we aren’t portrayed as type-casted gay characters in a sitcom TV show. We can be who we are.
Q: Do you have any advice for young, aspiring YouTubers?
A: Be yourself. No one like you exists yet, so you could totally kill it.