Fisayo Fosudo recently celebrated hitting the 200,000-subscriber milestone on YouTube. We spoke to him about his work as a YouTuber, his first paid request and one unfortunate result of his online success.
What was Fisayo like as a child?
I was introverted; I was more of the be-on-your-own type of child. I was fascinated by tech and I liked to read. My dad, too, was quite the reader — he was a lecturer teaching town planning.
Is there a disconnect between the kid you were and the YouTuber you are?
There’s no real disconnect. I am still talking alone in my space. It’s just that thousands of people are now watching.
How did you start?
I was a designer and did graphic design for a tech start-up. I learned to make videos on the job and before that, I did comics. I saved up from that and some freelancing work, and I put the money into buying gear. I didn’t even know what I was doing.
Were you thinking about money at the time?
Not necessarily. I was already making money. I just took everything I had — it was around $5,000 — and dumped it into getting gear. I wasn’t thinking about being profitable, although I should have. I just thought things would magically appear.
But nothing happened for like six months! Then Tecno discovered my channel. They were like, “Oh! We can’t believe you are in Nigeria.” They sent me a phone, then another. Then Samsung noticed, too. They sent me their own phone. And things took off from there. I have now worked with over 70 establishments.
Did you leave your job to start?
No. I was using weekends and midnights for my YouTube videos, but I was also making videos for the company.
Your trajectory suggests that even before you found your audience, you already had corporate attention?
Yes. I think it was a bit easy for me. And it was because we weren’t that many YouTubers reviewing smartphones.
Man, that’s both strange and wonderful.
So what was the hack for getting the audience you now have?
I think it was the turtleneck!
I had a catchphrase, too. I have a Yoruba accent [he barely has one], and when I say “Without further ado,” it sounds like I’m saying somebody’s name — like Sade Adu. People were like, “This is a thing.” Those two things helped me stick in some people’s minds.
Technically, that’s branding.
Elizabeth Holmes didn’t ruin turtlenecks for you?
Well, there was Steve Jobs. There will be bad eggs, but let’s not be judgmental about turtleneck people. I keep buying it.
At what stage did it seem to you like you were making it?
I don’t feel like I have made it yet, but the Future Awards nomination was really good for me. I got Google verified. I also had a Wikipedia page for some time, but they took it down — apparently I’m not famous enough.
Haters. What were you earning as a graphic designer?
It varied a lot. I was earning about ₦150k at the time. The freelancing bit was bringing in about $1000 a month. Sometimes, it would bring in zero.
I can imagine. You said dollars for the good months. Your clients weren’t Nigerians?
No. I didn’t freelance for Nigerians. I used Upwork, 99 Design and others.
So, you went from the startup to YouTube?
Yes. But I had two internships when I was in UNILAG.
What did you do as an intern and what were you studying?
I was studying Economics and doing graphic design as an intern. I also taught English.
[Laughs] I really love economics. I had a 4.0 GPA.
Bad guy! Back to YouTube. Did Tecno pay when they first hit you up?
No. I did the review and got about 20,000 views, which was something.
I think so too.
As much as we like to hate on Tecno phones, people are searching for it. They are number 8 in the world! So yes, they are making money from Nigerians. We can’t all afford iPhones.
Did you keep the phone you reviewed?
No. I returned it.
Not fair. So what was your first commercial request?
That would be ARM. It was an interesting experience. I talked about finance. It was the first time I was receiving money and the video did well, so maybe I was just lucky.
Did they reach out to you?
Yes. The agency that manages Samsung reached out about their project.
How long after your start did this happen?
It was about a year after I started.
How about YouTube monetisation?
That one took a further 6 months. I tried applying multiple times and didn’t get it. I gave up. Then, one day, I got the “Congratulations!” message.
How does it work for you?
It’s based on views. Subscribers don’t really matter. There’s something called CPM (Cost Per Mill). Mill means 1,000. So, if your video gets 1,000,000 millions, you divide it by 1,000. That is 1,000. Nigeria has a CPM of about $1. The US starts from $10, sometimes $30. So, if you get 1,000,000 views from Nigeria, which is not really possible, you get $1,000. If it’s 1,000,000 views from the US, then you make $10,000.
It’s not that Nigeria is bad or anything; we just don’t have enough advertisers. Samsung US can do more than Samsung Nigeria.
People that are taking tutorials can also have high CPMs because of educational ads that are selling something. Sometimes, you can have CPMs as high as $100 dollars. In real estate, for instance, but it’s not common.
It depends. If you are selling something for $1,000,000, you might not even mind spending that much. It’s a billing system that is democratic, but YouTube takes 55%.
Isn’t that a bit much?
It’s not. I think it’s fair. They give you the platform.
You are very pro-YouTube…
You wouldn’t be interviewing me if not for YouTube…
Alright. You win.
They might as well have not given anything. Facebook didn’t give anybody money for a very long time.
True. You recently hit the 200,000 milestone. Congratulations! Do you have any insights into how you got there?
It took four years to get to 100,000. I started the year with 106,000 and basically doubled the subscriber rate in a year. It must have helped that we were able to add a new category to the regular tech content we produce — the Finance Friday series. It brought a new kind of audience, one that is more passionate about the videos I was making (including tech).
We also grew in terms of video quality: We got a Sony A7SIII right at the beginning of the year, in January, and added some gear that slightly boosted production value.
In all of the time you have been on YouTube, have your money habits changed?
Yes. I read a book titled The Millionaire Next Door. It’s written by Thomas J Stanley. I really, really recommend it. I took plenty of notes. I took stock of the mistakes I made and started budgeting. I saw that I was spending a lot on airtime and eating out. So I knew what to cut down on. I then started saving 70% of everything I made.
70! That’s a lot!
I wouldn’t advise it. There was a time I couldn’t pay rent, but I had money. I had to show the balance on my app and ask for my creditor to wait till December so I could pay back. Funnily enough, I use PiggyVest. This is not an advert.
Don’t worry. I am with PiggyVest. We are happy. Advertise, please.
So how much did it come up to?
I actually saved over ₦15,000,000.
I have never seen that kind of money before!
I travelled to Dubai and stayed for two weeks. I did a video about all of that saving and investing. It did really well and made the most money I think I have made from videos. I was confused.
How did it happen?
I realised that YouTube monetisation also depends on industry. Finance videos have a higher CPM. If you have 100,000 views on a finance video, you could make more money than with a comedy video that has more than 2,000,000 views.
That’s why we launched the finance series. Brands reach out. Some Ponzi schemes, too.
Yes. How else would they get word out?
How do you handle it?
I give them an outrageous figure and they go away. But there was one that wanted to pay. I had to tell them to go.
How do you know they are not legit though?
You just know.
But if it was easy to know, people wouldn’t fall for it.
People are greedy now.
They want to make fast money. You tap into that and scam them. Someone has used my name, still using my name, to promote a fake crypto card that promises 50% return in 4 days or so.
Someone was calling me a scammer. Why would I scam you?
The perils of being Fisayo.
What are your biggest hits in terms of CPMs?
I have done 30, I have done 40.
So what’s a good video earning profile for you?
It might be about $1,000 for the finance videos. Nothing close to that for the tech ones.
Altogether what are the opportunities on YouTube?
There is the revenue share with Adsense on YouTube. Brand deals with companies. Then you can have paid subscribers on YouTube. I don’t sell courses but YouTubers can do that.
What’s the most lucrative for you?
Working with brands.
What do you say to anyone looking to pull a Fisayo?
[Laughs] Don’t be a Fisayo. Someone was wearing a turtleneck and people were asking him why he was acting like Fisayo. Someone tagged me; I didn’t even see it.
LOL. Let me rephrase. What do I need to do to find Fisayo-like success?
I would say to try to make something that you enjoy. Something that you find valuable. There are different kinds of values. Inspirational value, entertainment value and so on. Always be learning. I read a lot, maybe too much sef. That’s it. People ask me, “How can I open a YouTube channel?” If you have a Gmail account, you have YouTube already.