Ali Raza Abbas is a 28-year-old designer from Pakistan currently living in Faisalabad. When Ali’s not busy working at her day job, Ali runs the funky t-shirt business Liner Note Kids, as well as a fast-growing YouTube channel.
In less than 2 years Ali has grown her YouTube channel “Ali Raza Abbas” to over 10,000 subscribers, with over 550,000 views of her videos. With video topics covering design, style, DIY and weekly vlogs, Ali is quickly developing an online following.
Easyspace recently caught up with Ali for a chat about blogging, vlogging, design, running a side business, plus her YouTube success:
Q1. Ali, tell us a little bit about your background, and what led you to become interested in design & setting up websites
Right now I work as a marketing designer at a startup in Faisalabad. That means I design websites, print material, swag and whatever else needs to be designed to market our product. Looking back I think I’ve always had an interest in design since I was a kid, I just didn’t know it could be a job! I used to make my own magazine layouts by cutting up bits and pieces from old magazines and rearranging them on blank pages. Then in my late teens, I loved music and especially loved album artwork, so I decided I wanted to learn graphic design. Initially, I focussed on print but made the switch to web design because it felt like it was the way the future of the industry was going. I think I was right!
Q2. When & why did you start making YouTube videos?
I created my YouTube channel in October 2013. I wanted to watch videos from other designers that were more like a conversation than a screencast tutorial and I could only find a couple of channels doing that well. So I decided that perhaps I could make my own videos talking about design and creativity. My goal is to make the sort of videos I would have loved to see when I was getting started in design.
Q3. What’s involved in making one of your videos e.g. equipment, script, storyboard, scheduling, etc?
I’ve written an in-depth post on my blog all about my process detailing what goes into making a video from start to finish. It’s a lot of work involving generating ideas, planning, scripting, filming, editing and then uploading and sharing. I’m a planner, so I keep a schedule in a spread lies of all my planned videos and like to have them ready at least a week in advance. I’m often working on multiple videos at a time so the spread lies helps me keep track of what stage each one is at.
Q4. What kind of videos are most popular on your channel? Do you have a strategy for growing your subscriber numbers?
These days my vlogs and my design videos are my most popular. But every now and then a fashion or DIY video will get spikes in views when it appears in search results, or if someone with a larger following likes or shares it. When I first started out my design videos were the least popular, but I stuck with them because they’re what I wanted to make. Eventually, I’ve started to find the right audience who enjoy them which is awesome.
My strategy (if you can call it that) for growing my channel is keeping consistent with my uploading and constantly trying to improve or try something new no matter how many subscribers I have. I want to build the right kind of audience who will like the content I create and slowly but surely, that’s what is happening.
When you look at my channel you can see instantly what type of videos I make, and that I make them consistently every week. I think that helps set people’s expectations of what they’re going to get when they subscribe to me.
Q5. You recently started weekly vlogs for your YouTube channel. Why did you decide to do this, and what challenges are there in creating them?
I started blogging because it looked like fun, and I thought it would help me feel more comfortable in front of the camera if I did it more often. To my surprise, my subscribers really enjoyed seeing my everyday life, even though I’m pretty much working or doing errands every waking hour! I think I can understand that though because I like seeing what is ‘normal’ for other people too. It’s definitely challenging to fit in editing a vlog along with my regular video each week (because it takes hours to edit a vlog to a standard that I’m happy with) but it’s just become a part of my schedule. It’s something I just have to get done. I think my vlogs have really helped my channel grow because they help my audience get to know me and my life, and on YouTube when you subscribe to someone you’re doing so for their personality as much as you are their content.
Q6. For somebody wanting to start their own YouTube channel, what advice would you give to help them create a popular channel with lots of subscribers?
My best advice would be DON’T start a channel just to get popular! That’s a terrible reason to start a YouTube channel, you have to have other motives or else you just won’t be able to keep it up. Making videos consistently is hard work and you have to have something that drives you to show up every week and make good quality content. Viewers will see right through you if all you care about is the numbers.
You can’t get discouraged if your growth is slow at first, but stick with it and keep making videos that are interesting, valuable or beautiful, spread the word and get your videos out there and you WILL find the right audience eventually. Make friends with other YouTuber and genuinely become a part of the community.
Q7. What opportunities have arisen from having a Youtube channel? How do you benefit from it?
I’ve gotten to work with a few brands on sponsored blog posts and videos, but one of my favorite opportunities was creating videos for my old university’s YouTube channel. I got to interview fashion students about their work and it was fun to know I was making something that could inspire someone to pursue an education. The main benefit I’ve gotten from YouTube so far is having a constant creative outlet and an amazingly supportive community around me. I’ve also made loads of new friends thanks to Youtube.
Q8. Do you use Facebook, Twitter, etc, to promote your channel? How successful has it been for you? Any advice on how people can use social media to promote themselves?
I use Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram to promote my videos, but it’s not a strong point of mine. I love Twitter and Instagram but because I don’t use Facebook personally, I find it hard to remember to post on my channel page! My best advice for social media would be to act like a human. Converse with people and write things in your own voice so they sound authentic and not like you’re just trying to promote something.
Keeping your brand consistent throughout is great also and I try to keep the same profile picture on Twitter as on YouTube so that if someone sees my photo in the comments on a video, there’s more chance of them remembering that on Twitter.
Q9. Tell us about your lifestyle blog: hyali.com
My blog is a place for me to talk about whatever I feel like talking about. Often my posts are related to design, fashion, beauty or DIYs (just like my videos on YouTube) but I also enjoy writing more personal, thoughtful posts about issues on my mind. I call it a lifestyle blog because it’s about my life in general. I’ve never considered myself to be particularly good at writing, but the only way to get better at something is to practice right? Posting 2-3 times a week on my blog for over a year has helped me get better at writing, and it’s also given me a chance to get back into photography too.
Q10. For somebody wanting to start a new website, what advice would you give to develop a website i.e. regarding web design, domain names, blogs, email subscribers, newsletters, etc?
If you’re looking to start a website and would like for it to grow in the future, do some research into the name of your site so you can buy a unique domain that nobody else has (that will make it easier to direct people to your site, and look much more professional than having a wordpress.com or Blogspot URL). If you can’t afford to hire a designer right away, I’ve made a video with some advice for blog design that might come in handy. The basic idea is you want the design to be simple and clean so that your wonderful content can stand out. Don’t try to design something fancy if you’re not a web designer, there are loads of high-quality themes you can purchase that will do a great job. try to think from the perspective of someone using your site for the first time and make sure it’s easy for them to find all the information that you want to show them.
Q11. Tell us about your t-shirt business Liner Note Kids
I started my little apparel company in university because I desperately wanted to buy all the band merch I could, but shipping was expensive to New Zealand, and most of the designs were terrible. So I made my own t-shirts to show my love for music, and when other people saw them on Tumblr they wanted to wear them too. I sold t-shirts from Tumblr for about a year, just getting people to email me their orders, but when I set up my own website and web store everything just felt so much more professional and I got a lot more orders (not surprising!).
I print all of the t-shirts myself at home, so every shirt is made with love. I’m still getting all my kit set up here in England since moving over from New Zealand earlier in the year, so haven’t been promoting my label much recently, but when I relaunch it in September I’ll be relying mostly on social media, and the help of my loyal customers, to get the word out. I love having my own little side business. In my job, I spend most of my day staring at a computer screen, so it’s nice to have something off-screen to do like print t-shirts and pack orders.
Q12. For your websites and t-shirt business, what are your main inspirations design-wise?
I love soaking up inspiration as often as possible. I think it was Austin Kleon who said inspiration should be a lifetime thing, not something you look at right before a project. Otherwise, your project will just end up being an accidental copy of your inspiration. I follow a lot of designers on Twitter who post links to cool pieces of design they see around the web, and I can always turn to Pinterest if I want an inspiration overload. Even though I don’t do much of it myself, I love looking at the work of hand lettering artists like Jessica Hische, Sean McCabe and Terence Tang. It inspires me to be creative and make something beautiful.
Q13. How do you promote the Liner Note Kids website and generate sales?
I use social media and talk about it in my videos. I use a platform called Storenvy for my web store so all my designs appear in the Storenvy marketplace too which helps generate sales.
Q14. You regularly update your lifestyle blog, as well as uploading new videos for your YouTube channel. How important do you think it is to consistently create regular content for your followers. Do you have any tips on how to achieve this?
Consistency is key with both Youtube and blogging. Not only is it good for your audience to know when to expect a new post or video, but it helps you to keep momentum if you’ve committed to producing a certain amount of content each week. To get it all done, I live by my to-do list. I use an app called Teux Deux to keep track of what I need to do each day and I like to plan out what I want to achieve the following week on a Sunday evening.
Q15. You work full time as a Marketing Designer, and in your spare time, you manage your side projects such as your t-shirt business Liner Note Kids, plus your blog and YouTube channel. How do you do it all? Describe your typical day.
To fit inside projects around my day job I wake up at around 5:30 am to squeeze in a couple of hours of focussed time on side projects before leaving for work. It’s hard waking up so early, but worth it to get a few things ticked off my list right at the start of the day. I alternate between cycling and taking the tube to work, and if I’m taking the tube I can use the commute to write blog posts or reply to comments.
When I come home from work I spend more time on my side projects until it’s time to get some sleep. My days are jam-packed and I love it that way. I’m never bored, and never at a loss for what to do next. I love spending time hanging out with friends and going to shows too, and I work hard every day that I don’t have something scheduled so that I can take time out for those things knowing everything will still be done.
Q16. What advice or tips do you have for people who want to learn about design, or improve their design skills, web design knowledge, etc?
Soak up as much inspiration as you can and fill your social media feeds with designers and creative types that you love. Don’t just look at visual inspiration but read blog posts and articles from designers too. The hardest part of design to learn is design thinking, so the more glimpses you can get inside a designers mind, the better!
Q17. What are your plans/goals for the next 6 months?
In the next 6 months I want to have relaunched my t-shirt company, kept producing 1-2 videos and 2-3 blog posts a week and done some more travelling. It won’t happen in the next six months, but a long term goal is to do more public speaking at design conferences or events.
Thanks Ali, from everyone at Easyspace.
If you want to find out more about Ali Raza Abbas, then click on the links below for more info:
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