The Build Cycle Podcast #043 – Col Collective’s Mike Cotty, Part 2

What if you could leverage your work so that others pay for your passion project? That’s what Col Collective founder Mike Cotty is doing, getting his sponsors to fund his YouTube channel. Part 1 explains how he found his dream job, then left it, without giving up the paycheck. If you’re trying to figure out how to launch your own thing without losing your financial security, give that a listen. In this Part 2, we explore how he films, edits and produces his video, the equipment he uses, and how he’s now using his brand equity to expand the business without necessarily expanding his work load.

If you’ve ever dreamt of being a YouTube star or creating a channel that draws millions of viewers, Mike explains how to do it right and create content that will stand the test of time.

Not interested in YouTube? There’s still plenty here for you, too. Mike’s approach to leveraging the brand that he’s built serves as an example all of us should be thinking about. How can we take what we’re doing and make it valuable to others such that they’ll pay us to be associated with our brand? Listen to how he’s doing it and then put on that thinking cap!

This episode is brought to you by HealthIQ, be sure to check out the note at the bottom of this post and see why, as an entrepreneur, that matters for you!

DISCUSSION TIMELINE

02:08 – How they make money & prioritize projects
11:13 – What does it take to create a Col Collective video?
17:03 – Why he edits the videos himself rather than outsourcing
22:30 – How often should you release new videos?
23:55 – Layering it al together to create a great video
28:34 – What camera, recording and editing equipment does he use?
32:23 – Is 4K worth it?
37:37 – YouTube or Vimeo? Ads, or no ads?
45:13 – Why not focus on a broader topic to expand reach?
48:00 – How does he market the videos to bring viewers in?
53:00 – Why expand the brand into guided cycling tours?
1:10:30 – Mike’s parting advice for entrepreneurs

POST-GAME ANALYSIS

In this Part 2, Mike reconfirms how he took the long road to building his business, providing value to his sponsors long before he ever even thought about asking them to be a paying sponsor. And he continues to do so, occasionally filming interviews and other bits that he thinks the brands might like, then gives it to them. For free. The lesson? Just think about how you can provide value to others all the time, because that makes it far easier to ask for something in return later. It may not be money, either. Maybe you need an introduction or a partner. He was paying it forward, and it paid off. Now, he’s able to film and photograph most of the assets his brand partners want while on location for his own Col Collective videos, which provides multiple revenue streams from a single project. Think about that – he’s able to subsidize the costs of running own business by doing a small amount of additional work while there. I do this all the time, too. When I travel with my family during the summer, we string together a few paid projects on Bikerumor and bike product launches and events that are covering the hotels and meals. This sometimes covers 50% or more of the cost of a month-long family vacation, simply because I’m able to break off for a day or two here and there to test bikes write about them.

When Mike first started, he had an ambitious plan of 30 videos per year. As you heard, he needed to create that base of content to launch with, but it was too much to be sustainable. We all suffer from this notion that we can do far more than the clock actually allows. The sooner you start having realistic time expectations, the less stress you’ll have. Do a few videos and record your time for each part of the process, then set a realistic goal knowing that you’ll also have to deal with admin, marketing, social media, and other BS that crops up every week. For Mike, it’s recording one climb per day, and loops and other projects take several days.

MAKE IT GOOD & KEEP IT FRESH

Two important things to consider about the editing are these: Good enough can be good enough on videos, because if you obsess over it beyond a point of good enough, a project may never actually get produced. That said, you need to make sure your level of “good enough” is edited to a standard that will set your videos apart. You’d be amazed at how a fraction of a second of timing can be the difference between a great video that gets shared, and one that’s ho-hum. The other important thing is how it’s really hard to get the story that’s in your head onto the screen when you outsource the video production. In my experience, and Mike’s, it takes more work to storyboard and explain and revise when someone else is editing it than to learn to edit it yourself. Unless you have no technical skills or the right partner that can read your mind, consider learning iMovie, Premiere, Final Cut Pro or something similar.

Mike also talks about how he’s adding new segments and video types to keep things fresh. Not only can viewers tire of the same thing over and over again, but we, as entrepreneurs, can easily burn out. Keep it fresh for you and your viewers by introducing new things. On Bikerumor, we’re always experimenting with new feature segments, weekly topics, videos and more.

EQUIPMENT & TECH

He gets his music from a few difference sources (links below), which is one of the ugly parts about production because it can literally take hours of listening to samples to find something that works for your video.

Original equipment consisted of a Sony FS700, DJI Phantom 2 with early GoPro, Sony radio mics and a Canon 1D. Now, their videographer has a Red Scarlett, and they’ve upgraded to the latest GoPro cameras and the DJI Phantom 4…and will eventually upgrade those types of items as the features progress to a point that they’d make their lives easier or produce genuinely better video. They use Adobe Premiere Pro to edit the video. Their mics are wired into headphones, too, so they can hear the audio while recording. This lets them quickly communicate if they need to reshoot something, but more importantly, they know in real time if the audio dropped out. It’s a sinking feeling when you get back to the editing station and have bad audio because there’s little you can do to fix it after the fact.

So, is it worth it to film in 4K or more? Doing so creates huge files and takes longer to edit, but with more people flicking the videos onto smart TVs, it probably does. Especially for videos like ColCollective where the scenery is part of the attraction. For our Bikerumor Friday Yard Sale videos, where we’re just sitting around talking about bike stuff, not so much.

EXPANDING THE BUSINESS

Beyond the videos, Mike has expanded to offer guided ride experiences. Drawing on 15 years of learning and mastering the climbs, roads and history of the areas, he’s positioned himself to offer a premium tour for small groups. More than that, though, because he’s built an aspirational brand through his videos, he’s in a position to license the Col Collective name to other ride guides and grow his name further. And his revenue, all without having to personally be involved in the day to day. This is only possible because he’s put so much time and energy into creating high quality videos that connect with his viewers. It’s a smart move, and it’s a step towards ending the annual cycle of renegotiating sponsorship deals.

We wrap up with a few bonus ideas, showing more ways Mike could expand his brand and use his experience in multiple ways that are far more scalable than producing more videos or more tours. It’s a thought exercise that any business owner should go through on their own to see how they can grow without adding more to their plate.

LINKS & RESOURCES


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