My Security YouTube Channel Hit 100K Subscribers & Makes $25K/Month

Josh Summers
$25K
revenue/mo
1
Founders
1
Employees
All Things Secured
from Chiang Mai, Mueang Chiang Mai District, Chiang Mai, Thailand
started February 2017
$25,000
revenue/mo
1
Founders
1
Employees
309K
alexa rank
1.39K
followers
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My Security YouTube Channel Hit 100K Subscribers & Makes $25K/Month

Hello! Who are you and what business did you start?

Hey guys! My name is Josh Summers and I’m the founder of All Things Secured, a personal security and privacy brand that produces tutorials and educational content online. I started the company about 5 years ago while living in a sensitive part of China where the internet was highly censored and my activities were closely monitored, but have since moved to a more comfortable location in Thailand.

To date, All Things Secured has published over 160 written guides and 110 videos that have reached 11 million people worldwide. The goal has been to produce high-quality content that makes online security and privacy attainable to anyone, no matter their age. So basically…my parents :) Selfishly, I want to make sure mom and dad don’t get scammed out of my inheritance…er, I mean, their life savings.

This past year, we crossed the 100,000 subscriber mark on YouTube and have continued to grow our content through email, live workshops, and other social media channels.

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What's your backstory and how did you come up with the idea?

My experience in China left me with a healthy dose of paranoia about governments and tech companies. And keep in mind, this was long before Snowden, Cambridge Analytica and other major data breaches hit the mainstream news.

For the sake of any shred of privacy within the country, I was always using VPNs (virtual private networks), encrypted email, and keypad-protected USB drives. I simply wasn’t sure what kind of surveillance was possible and I didn’t like the idea of the Chinese government knowing everything I was doing. At first, I thought I might be going a little overboard, but in the end, my fears were justified - authorities detained me on false charges in 2018, interrogated me, and then kicked me out of the country.

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A photo of Josh with his camera filming at some ancient ruins in 2016

My experience is an extreme one, I realize, but it’s been the driving force behind most of the content that is produced on All Things Secured. There was no testing or validation process with the idea, I just knew based on my research that most of the security and privacy content online is geared towards tech nuts and IT professionals.

Statistics show, however, that the average internet user - especially those 50 years and older - is the one who needs to understand how to secure their digital lives the most. I’ve always enjoyed creating media (I studied music business in Nashville) and I have a knack for simplifying complex issues, thus All Things Secured was born.

Take us through the process of creating your blog and YouTube channel.

All Things Secured isn’t my first online brand, so I’ve had some experience with website SEO and video production in the past.

One such example is a China travel website that I built as a passion project while living in the region. I enjoyed creating vlog-style videos that I’m still extremely proud of but never gained much traction on YouTube. One video that did net me tens of thousands of views and no small amount of income, though, was a piece explaining my favorite VPNs to evade censorship in China.

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This one video alone earned more than $50,000 that year, which opened my eyes to the wonderful world of affiliate marketing and the high-profit margins of SaaS software. I didn’t know it at the time, but this was my “MVP” product and I was determined to improve upon it.

I didn’t want to dilute my travel content, so I spun up a separate “VPN Video Reviews” brand where I figured I would create video reviews of every VPN I could get my hands on. The costs were minimal - a new URL, a premium Wordpress theme, and a logo - but it did require a lot of time.

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Everything about that first iteration was centered around earning that coveted VPN commission (it’s still a very competitive search term today), and it wasn’t until I made a shift in focus that things started to click.

Describe the process of launching the business.

One of my favorite shows on the US-based NPR is one called “All Things Considered”. Perhaps you’ve heard it before? I remember listening to that in the car one day and thinking to myself: “Why am I focused so heavily on VPNs when my experience in China indicates that security involves so much more than that?”

So in August of 2020, I rebranded to “All Things Secured”, an homage to the NPR show and a clear pivot toward broader security concerns. I didn’t have a massive audience or any partnerships to leverage toward a huge launch, nor did I have any kind of marketing budget for an ad spend. Everything had to be bootstrapped.

Thankfully, I’m very patient and methodical with content marketing, because it took years before any of this initial groundwork paid off. I tried investing in content writers and various link-building tactics in the early days, but I was never satisfied with the results. I felt like I needed to hold on to the biggest competitive advantage I had, which was my ability to write or articulate an idea so that it could be easily understood.

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As you can see, the growth has been slow. I’m aware of plenty of link-building tactics that might have had a greater impact on the number of visitors to the website, but I’m very bullish on video. I’m proud of the website and all the work it represents, but when you break it down, the website only accounts for 1.5 million visitors. YouTube accounts for the other 9.2 million.

Since launch, what has worked to attract and retain customers?

YouTube has been an incredible audience-building platform. What most people don’t realize about YouTube (that is different from the pay-to-play models of Facebook, Twitter and others) is that YouTube wants to organically show good content to new audiences.

A good example of this are two All Things Secured videos that have surpassed 1 million views:

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I don’t have an audience of 1.2 million people…yet.

But what I have created is content that fits a need, opens a loop, and then keeps people engaged for long enough in the video to close that loop. The way that the YouTube algorithm is designed, these videos get shown to hundreds of thousands of people every month, most of whom are not part of my audience. The teal line below represents those viewers who aren’t in my audience compared to the purple line representing those who are.

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I’m making it sound easier than it is. The reality is that it has taken me years of consistent video production to cross the 100,000 subscribers mark.

In addition to the video, one of the first things I did when launching All Things Secured was to simultaneously launch an email list. It was small at first, but I knew from past experience that I wanted to own my audience, as opposed to renting whatever Facebook, Instagram or even YouTube was willing to offer me.

This direct line of communication with my audience has been key to building trust. And trust, quite frankly, is the foundation of anything having to do with security and privacy.

It also helps with scale. When somebody starts following me on Facebook or YouTube, I have no control over how they interact with the content, and that’s frustrating to me. Email, on the other hand, allows me to send new subscribers through a sequence of pre-written emails that explain my philosophy on security (“protection, not paranoia”) and directs them to the best videos and written articles on the website.

Just this year, I decided to launch a live security workshop as a way to provide more personalized help to those who were constantly emailing me questions. It was an actual beta product because I created a landing page for the workshop and sold it before I had even come up with exactly how I would run it.

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Most of those who signed up came from my email list, and I knew based on their feedback that even though my messaging wasn’t very clear, they signed up because they trusted what I had to say.

I have an active Twitter profile and Facebook page, but a lot of that content is scheduled by my admin assistant. Those channels have never really taken off for me as YouTube has.

How are you doing today and what does the future look like?

At the end of 2021, I was able to look back and see that over 85% of our income was based on affiliate sales. This included sales of VPN software, password manager software, identity monitoring services, and a host of other products. The rest of the income was divided between a couple of random sponsorships (5%) and Google Adsense advertising on the website (10%).

Overall, the business has a 63% profit margin, even after paying my salary, but I wasn’t very happy with the income breakdown. There were two key things I wanted to change:

  1. I didn’t want us to be so overly reliant on one revenue stream (affiliates).
  2. We didn’t have our product to offer our audience.

The workshop is the first step to creating that product, which may end up being a course or a digital download - I’m not sure yet. The feedback from the first group was overwhelmingly positive but there’s plenty I want to tweak to make it better.

The good news, at least to me, is that in less than 6 months from when I did that initial income breakdown, we’ve been able to shift the balance of income ratios where affiliates represent only 62% of our income and we’ve grown sponsorships to 17%, advertising is at 13% and product sales now make up 8%.

The main reason for this shift is that products and sponsorships represent a quicker path to 10x the business than affiliates did. The tradeoff is that the income is a bit more active (as opposed to passive affiliate income), but so far I’ve been ok with that.

Through starting the business, have you learned anything particularly helpful or advantageous?

It feels obvious to say this, but the biggest lesson I learned was to chase the customer, not the commission.

I’m not saying you need a business partner, although that might be helpful. I’m saying you need to find a select group of people whom you trust to listen to your unique challenges and offer advice.

When I started VPN Video Reviews, I was chasing the commission. I was optimizing everything to show up higher in the rankings and make sure that I was able to get a user to click my affiliate link. Any “rankings” on the website were based on which company offered the biggest payout, not which software I liked the most.

The pivot to All Things Secured represented a change in my philosophy. Not only was I starting to take a more holistic approach to digital security and privacy, but I was also finally creating an avatar of the person I was trying to help. And once I did that, an audience started to form.

What platform/tools do you use for your business?

For email marketing, I’ve been very happy with ConvertKit, and it even worked well to sell my workshop as a digital product.

As I write and research content for the website and YouTube channel, the two most valuable tools for me have been Ahrefs (SEO research) and TubeBuddy (YouTube). Both of these tools allow me to dive deep into keyword research, track rankings, and keep an eye on general trends.

What have been the most influential books, podcasts, or other resources?

While there are so many books and podcasts related to SEO and content marketing, the best resource for me by far has been a local group that meets up here in my city. Being able to rub shoulders with people who have been doing this longer and better than I have, and ask them questions or listen to their stories, has been invaluable. I highly recommend you try to find a group that meets within your industry nearby.

For specific resources, though, I’d say that The YouTube Formula by Derral Eves was helpful to understand that platform and I enjoyed The One Thing by Gary Keller as a general “how to focus on what matters” kind of book.

My podcast list is limited, but I’m a big fan of How I Built This by NPR.

Advice for other entrepreneurs who want to get started or are just starting out?

Don’t do it alone. Seriously.

I’m not saying you need a business partner, although that might be helpful. I’m saying you need to find a select group of people whom you trust to listen to your unique challenges and offer advice.

Perhaps you’ve heard of an advisory board or a mastermind group before. I tried to join one for the longest time and for some reason could never get an invitation. I finally gave up and decided to create my own. I invited a couple people I highly respected and we meet 2-3 times per month virtually, each business owner taking a turn on the “hotseat”.

It’s an invaluable resource that’s essentially free (unless you pay to join a mastermind), and it’s the best hedge against burnout.

Where can we go to learn more?

If you have any questions or comments, drop a comment below!

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Josh Summers, Founder of All Things Secured
Pat Walls,  Founder of Starter Story
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