[Ali Abdaal]

From doctoring to blogging to YouTubing, this guy can do no wrong.

Listen to the Nathan Barry podcast (7 and 21 mins in)


So, I started the YouTube channel in my penultimate year, so I, I, I, I done five years of med school at this point. I’d set up a few businesses. I had like two SAS products that I was using to side hustle, income, most my, my way through med school. And then in 2017, when I was in my final year, the YouTube channel actually started out as a content marketing strategy for my, my business, that business was helping other people get into med school.

It was like that standard thing. Once you do something, you then teach other people how to do the thing. and it was like, you know, the creative economy before it was really called that where

[00:07:20] Nathan:

[00:07:20] Ali:
You kind of follow that model. And so the YouTube channel started.

[00:07:23] Nathan:
Because you were you teaching people like test prep

[00:07:25] Ali:
Exactly. Yeah. And it’s so similar to pet Flynn story as well.

You know, he, he started off teaching people how to do some architecture exam. I started up teaching people how to do the med school admissions exams, and that’s kind of transitioned into a coaching business, which then transitioned into the YouTube channel.

[00:07:40] Nathan:
Okay. And so as the YouTube channel started to grow, like, what were some of those first milestones, you know, as you’re getting to, how long did it take for you to a thousand subscribers and then maybe, you know, 5,000 or 10,000? Like what milestones stand out.

[00:07:52] Ali:
Yeah, so I started in the summer of 2017 and it took me six months and 52 videos to get to the first thousand subscribers, six months in 52 videos. I was putting out two videos every week while preparing for med school finals and kind of neglecting my exams for the sake of YouTube, because I could see the YouTube thing was like, oh, I really want to do this.

I think the ROI on being a YouTube or is going to be higher than the ROI and getting an extra 2% in my med school finals. that was, that was the theory. Anyway, So, yeah, it took six months of the channel to get a thousand subscribers, another like four or five months for it to get up to 5,000 subscribers.

And at the point where I was at around 4,005,000 subscribers, there were two like really good things that happened. Number one was a collab with a much bigger utuber. his name is Ibz Mo. So he and I got to know each other through university and he had 60 K at the time. And so he and I did a collab which took off and helped the channel get exposure.

But also there was a video that I made my, my very first video that actually went viral, which was a video about how to study for exams. now this video is a bit weird because like I’d actually planned for it to happen like a whole year before I made it. So when I started YouTube, I, I sort of consumed the hell out of everything on the internet, around how to be a YouTuber and, Sara Dietschy and Casey Neistat had this thing whereby Casey Neistat, enormous YouTuber, Sarah DG would take YouTube who was smaller at the time.

She went from 40 cases. Over to like one through over a hundred, a hundred thousand, basically overnight because Casey Neistat shouted her out. and the way that she described that, and I, that I found in some random interview, like on the YouTube grapevine, was that you, you benefit from a collaboration with a bigger utuber, but you only benefit from it.

If there is already a backlog of really high quality content on your channel. And so I took that to heart and I knew that, okay, at some point I want to do a collab with a bigger utuber. And at some point I want to try and make specifically a video on how to study for exams, but I knew number one, I needed to have a backlog of hot, cold, high quality content because otherwise no one would care.

And secondly, I knew that it would take me about a hundred videos to get good enough at making videos to actually be able to make a decent video about exams. And so that was like my 82nd or something video, which I, I, I I’d had in the back of my mind for so long since, because since getting started button, you know, I need to get my skills up.

I need to put in the quantity so that I can actually make videos that are hopefully.

[00:10:06] Nathan:
Okay. That’s interesting. Yeah, because coming, doing a collab and coming to a channel and it’s like, okay, they have four videos. And the one that I saw in the collab is actually the best one they’ve ever done. Like it’s sort of, it doesn’t have the same ring to it as if you come in and be like, wow, this is incredible.

Like, one of my favorite bloggers, you know, it’s separate from the YouTube space, but I got him, Chris Guillebeau was an author and blogger and I followed him in the early days. And I had the experience of, he had written a guest post for Tim Ferris and I was reading Tim versus blogging. This was probably 2011, maybe.

And I was like, oh, this is really good. I love it. I think it was on actually on travel, hacking, you know, credit card points and all of that. And so I clicked over to his site and I think. Over the next, like two days, I just read the entire website, you know, Nate, it was like years worth of blog posts and all that, but that was the experience.

Right. The guest posts is a collab of some kind and then coming over and you’re like, you’re just deep dive and consume everything rather than the experience of coming over and be like, oh, okay. That’s interesting. You know, and like moving along and the back catalog is what, what, drives that?

[00:11:09] Ali:
Yeah. Yeah. I had, I had that exact experience with Derek Sivers who I discovered through the Tim Ferriss show and Mr. Money mustache, but it’s coming through a temporary. I was like, all right, I’m spending the next week of my life. Just binge reading all of your blog posts that you’ve ever written for the last 20 years.

And now it’s like, I’ve got this information downloaded into my brain.

Clip 2

So in the process of building a team around, which is something I wanted to talk to you about because you’ve built a big team over time, I was speaking to Derek, you’re a director of marketing as well about building a team and he had, so he had loads of advice to share.

So that’s, that’s a challenge for me right now. It’s like, you know, two years ago, it was just me last year, this time, last year, there were three, three of us full-time well, two full-time. It was me working as a doctor and a part-time assistant, and now there’s 12 of us, but now we’re hiring another 10 people.

So by next month it’s going to be maybe like 20, 20 of us a hundred. It’s all those problems associated with scaling a team and leadership and management. And that’s the kind of stuff that, I’ve been really as sort of very much on the steep learning curve of, and that I’m very excited about getting better at,

[00:21:44] Nathan:
Yeah. what’s the reason that you’re growing the team so quickly.

[00:21:48] Ali:
Well, let’s see, because we just have a lot of money. once, once we launched our, yeah, it’s a, it’s a, it’s a good problem to have. We’re just like very cash rich and expertise poor as someone described as, We launched our cohort based course part time, YouTube academy this time, last year, it did phenomenally well, I’d been doing classes on Skillshare, which started off as making like a few hundred to a few thousand a month and is now compounded to the point where we make some way between 60 and $80,000 every month, just passive income of Skillshare classes.

That means that every month we’re just making more and more money. And I see the, I see the numbers going up and I see them go up and I, I see basically like, well, why, why are, why aren’t we doing anything with that money other than just

[00:22:30] Nathan:

[00:22:31] Ali:
every year.

[00:22:32] Nathan:
Okay. So really quick, since you mentioned, are you okay sharing some of the numbers, like the numbers from part-time YouTube academy?

[00:22:38] Ali:
Yeah. so we launched the first cohort in November last year. I think this year we’re on track to do maybe like $2 million revenue and like 1.1 0.5 million profit, 1.6 million profits, something like that. next year we’re hoping to take that up to like 5 million revenue. Which again, all of these feel like, like dumb numbers, I’m just plucking out of thin air.

Cause it’s like, I I’ve, I’m, I’m really bad at like projecting, protecting financials. Like it’s all, it’s all just a guess. Anyway, like if we could do four cohorts and sell 600 places, that would be 5.5 0.1 million revenue. It’s like, that’s actually, that’s actually doable, but it’s just such a fricking ridiculous numbers.

It’s like, how on earth can that be doable? It’s just like, how, how does it even work?

[00:23:23] Nathan:
Yeah. Welcome to the internet. And, when you have substantial leverage, like things that were possible, like seemed insane before you’re like, oh yeah, I know that math checks out, you know?

[00:23:34] Ali:
Yeah, exactly. I suppose if somebody, to you for ConvertKit was I think last I checked, you were on 20 million annual recurring.

[00:23:41] Nathan:
Yeah. We’re at 20, 28 and a half. Now

[00:23:44] Ali:
Well the hell that’s going to quickly compounding.

[00:23:48] Nathan:
The magic of compounding

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