When Michelle Phan started creating videos on YouTube in 2007, never in her wildest dreams did she think that she could make a career out of it. Before YouTube, she was already creating content on other platforms like Xanga, after all.
Eight years later, with a YouTube channel that has over 1 billion views, a beauty subscription company, her own line of cosmetics, a book, and multiple accolades under her name, Michelle has proven that anything is possible in the digital world.
We sat down with the YouTube Beauty Guru at the recently concluded Beauty Bound Asia Finals in Tokyo, Japan—where 22 aspiring beauty creators from all over Asia-Pacific vied for the prize of being named as the next big beauty creator. Michelle judged the final round of the competition and awarded Jane Makeup of Thailand as the grand winner.
After a fun chat with Michelle, here are some tips we picked up from her on how you can make it big on the Interwebs:
1. Think about why you’re pursuing a career online in the first place.
“Don’t do it for the fame, you will be disappointed. You will burn out really fast,” she said.
2. Never mind the haters.
“Pick your battles: Will you argue with someone who picks on you or will you pay attention to the people who appreciate you? These people who appreciate you will stand up for you,” she said. She also explains that if you do choose to become an online influencer as your career, you have to be ready to deal with constant negativity. “You have to be ready to be picked apart,” she said.
3. Dedicate yourself to your channel, but do your research, too.
“Use other platforms to promote your content, because you never know what’s going to happen one day,” she said. “If one day, that one platform [that you’re dedicated to] gets sued and all your content will be gone, what are you going to do? Don’t put your eggs in one basket,” she added. Michelle recommends prioritizing your content according to what makes sense for you, as a creator. If you’re into beauty, explore YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. “You don’t have to be on everything!” she said.
4. There’s only one secret to keep yourself from burning out.
“At one point, I was actually burning out in 2012. I was just doing too much,” she said. “But I think that the most instrumental thing that kept that flame from burning out is having that strong sense of purpose and passion,” she added. She says that having a strong network of friends who are also in the same industry is a huge help. “Having that community and family is so important, because it’s a very lonely job,” she added.
5. As an online influencer, you have to think about your privacy.
“When I was 19, I wanted to show everything—going to the club, going shopping, eating ice cream, grabbing Starbucks, everything. But like everything else in life, it changes. As I get older, I realize that I don’t need to show what I do in my private life online,” she said. Michelle admits that back then, she didn’t know she would eventually make a living out of her videos, and that’s why she shared everything. “Now, looking back, I realize I shouldn’t have shared so much,” she added. Her tip is to always remember to protect what you love—your home and your family especially.
6. Your personality online is just one side of you.
“When I was starting, I wasn’t that girl that I was portraying. I wanted to be that girl that I was portraying,” she said. Michelle says that what you show people online is just one side of you, and that there is so much more to her.
8. You can create your own luck.
When we asked what inspired Michelle’s signature “Good luck!” ending in all her videos, she revealed that it wasn’t coincidental. “I thought it out,” she said. She explained that when she was thinking of how she could end her videos, she didn’t want to say “Bye!”—“That’s just so mean!” she said. “I wanted to say something that wasn’t an ending, but a way of empowering my viewers. ‘Good luck’ resonated because I really do believe that you can make your own luck. I believe that everything you do has an effect. [You] can change things,” she said.
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