When Megan Batoon left her hometown in Florida to pursue a career as a professional dancer in Los Angeles, she never expected that filming a YouTube video would help her make it in Hollywood.
Batoon, who now has over one million subscribers on YouTube, filmed her first video in 2012, in her kitchen, after leaving an audition, using her iPhone and an attachable fish eye lens.
"I didn't post my first video for three weeks after I filmed it," she said. "I edited it every day until I thought it was good enough."
The video was a comedy sketch called "Shark Week themed cooking video," she said. She had no idea that uploading it to YouTube would ultimately launch a lucrative online career.
Now, the 28-year-old has a large audience on YouTube, Instagram, and Twitter sharing home makeovers, dance choreography, and fashion.
"I can write, direct, edit, do comedy, why am I waiting for someone to give me an opportunity when I can go home and do it myself?" she said.
Making money online through sponsorships, merchandise, and AdSense
Making money online didn't come all at once, Batoon said, and she didn't land her first brand deal until a year and a half after getting a manager.
"It took a lot of development and strategizing," she said. "At the time I wanted to be an actress and was dividing my attention between YouTube videos and acting classes."
But Batoon said eventually she was earning three times what she would from small commercial roles through brand deals, and that's when she decided YouTube should be her main focus. Once she decided to go all in, she signed with the multi-channel network, Fullscreen.
Now she mainly uses Fullscreen for branded content opportunities, and every month, Fullscreen will send over a creative brief with details on channel growth, what video performed the best, which video had the highest retention rate, and engagement details, she said. She still has a manager, Ray Hughes (Ray Hughes management), who assists with other aspects of her business like her merchandise line and some brand collaborations.
She's promoted brands like Nike, Starbucks, and Target through sponsored brand campaigns on social media.
Batoon sells tee shirts, hats, and hoodies, which she designs herself. When she first launched the line, she would hand wrap every item, and write out cards in calligraphy, she said.
"The whole goal of it was to start a separate business," she said. "You don't need to know who I am to be into it."
Building a business on YouTube
Batoon edited her first few YouTube videos using her Macbook Pro and iMovie, she said.
"People think you need the best camera, the best microphone, but the only thing you can't buy is your personality, so it doesn't really matter how you are capturing it," she said.
Once she built a small audience online, she decided to integrate dance into her channel. She combined sketch comedy and dance by doing skits at the beginning and end of her choreography.
Batoon said people in the industry, and her peers who were starting to "blow up on YouTube," suggested she pick one thing to focus on because that was "better for the algorithm" — instead of trying to combine all of her passions.
"I tried to do that, but I lost passion very quickly," she said. "I felt like I was putting myself in a box. I don't tailor my content to the analytics. I just use the analytics to get some ideas for future videos."
Batoon runs her channel and social-media accounts like a business. She has an office, two assistants, and working hours from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Stepping outside YouTube with a podcast and movie roles
Outside YouTube, Batoon said she spends a lot of time posting consistently to Instagram and Twitter.
"People want more exclusive, behind-the-scenes stuff," she said. "I'll post on Instagram Stories me editing it, or being on set. If I'm really excited about a video, people will know about."
She also has a podcast, "Just a Tip," where she shares advice on life and interviews friends and fellow creators.
Batoon has been featured in multiple films, TV series, and shorts for her acting and dancing, and you may have seen her dance moves in the 2012 film, "Step Up Revolution."
"I've just carved a very interesting path," she said. "I do feel like I could have grown [my online following] faster if I did listen to the people that told me to do one thing, but if I listened to them, I would not be happy."
For more on how to become a successful influencer, according to YouTube and Instagram stars, check out these Business Insider Prime posts:
The YouTube metrics you should pay attention to if you want to earn money from brand sponsorships as an influencer: When deciding which influencers to work with, brands have stopped just looking for the ones with the highest subscriber counts, and are instead focusing on those with the most engaged followers.
- YouTube creator Natalie Barbu breaks down how much money she earns from a video with 100,000 views: Natalie Barbu, a social-media influencer and YouTube creator with 227,000 subscribers, shared how much money she earns from a video with 100,000 views.
- An Instagram influencer breaks down how much brands pay for sponsored posts, starting at 10,000 followers: The social-media influencer Jehava Brown spoke with Business Insider about how she determines her rates when negotiating with companies like Disney and Walmart.