Inside the business of SA's professional YouTubers

25 December 2018 - 08:25 By Odwa Mjo
YouTuber Mihlali Ndamase has over 100,000 subscribers.
YouTuber Mihlali Ndamase has over 100,000 subscribers.
Image: Instagram/mihlalii_n

YouTube has become a successful social media platform that allows users to view, upload and share audiovisual content.

It has also become a lucrative money-generating platform that has established the careers of many content producers, social commentators and lifestyle and beauty enthusiasts.

Professional YouTubers have already made a name for themselves in much of the developed world. Now the rest of the world is catching up - including SA. TimesLIVE spoke to four South African YouTubers who have turned their passions into full-blown careers.

1. Mihlali Ndamase

Professional YouTuber and social media influencer Mihlali Ndamase, 22, has a total of 6.1-million views and a subscriber base of over 107,000 who keep up with her lifestyle and beauty videos.

Her make-up tutorials and fashion vlogs have allowed her to collaborate with beauty brands such as Bobbi Brown, Essence Cosmetics and NYX Professional Makeup, who have sponsored her videos.

Since she started making videos in 2016, she has also collaborated on social media campaigns with major brands like MAC Cosmetics, Vodacom, Nedbank and Telkom.

"When one starts a YouTube channel, they should monetise their content by creating an Adsense account, which will be linked to their channel. That way Google can pay them for the content they put out." said Ndamase. 

On the sustainability of being a YouTuber, Ndamase said adapting to the new and ever-changing offerings on the platform and keeping up with viewers' changing interests will allow one to stay relevant.

2. Yolenda Jawe

Yolenda Jawe started her Yolz Channel  in 2015 and now has over 22,000 subscribers who watch her videos for tips and tutorials on how to take care of natural hair. 

She quit her full-time job as a property investment analyst earlier this year to be a professional YouTuber. 

"We earn from YouTube adverts," she said. "The rate per ad is minimal - R10 to R15 per thousand views. This is a really small amount at the end of every month." 

Jawe said her main income was from collaborating with different brands to review and promote their products. She has worked with brands such as Dark and Lovely. "The hair brands sponsor my videos in exchange for a mention or a dedicated review of their products," she said. 

She also earns extra income from sponsored content on Instagram.

"We are still battling to condition and prove to brands that using YouTube as a sales and promotional platform is more effective than using traditional media," she said.

3. Snikiwe Mhlongo 

Snikiwe Mhlongo started her own YouTube channel in 2016 as a university student to create quirky lifestyle and beauty content for young people. She has a subscriber base of over 27,000.

Mhlongo said being a YouTuber could be a sustainable career - but one should have multiple streams of income because brand collaborations did not always come along.

"The majority of the South African population is not privileged enough to have the resources to consistently watch YouTube videos," she said. "Depending on views to generate income is not enough."

4. Zuziwe Gcuku 

Full-time YouTuber Zuziwe Gcuku has 18,000 subscribers and is known for her fun and unique take on make-up and lifestyle videos. 

She makes her money by reviewing hair and make-up products from various local and international brands.

She said the profession could be a blessing, but there were no support structures available in SA to help it grow because of the relatively limited internet access and high data costs in the country.

"It's not easy if you don't have a back-up plan," she said.

With more South Africans catching on to the unconventional career of YouTube content production, Gcuku warned that saturation was inevitable - meaning that professional YouTubers must marketing themselves effectively in order to earn an audience.