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NZ's YouTube beauty stars

Are you aware that you're sitting in front of a goldmine right now?

In a job market that can feel like a wasteland of broken dreams, young people have been turning to YouTube as a source of pocket money and, in some cases, as a viable way to earn a living.


This is particularly the case in YouTube's beauty category, one of the website's most popular streams.


Shane Treeves, Google's spokesman for New Zealand, says that in the past five years, searches for makeup and cosmetic terms on YouTube have tripled and searches for "makeup tutorial" have more than doubled.


Famed for our ingenuity, it is not surprising that Kiwis are beginning to capitalise on this rapidly expanding market and are already reaching a global audience. While money is not often a YouTuber's primary motivator, the video-sharing platform is providing a way for people to convert their passions into profit.




Sally Jo Hickey, 20, started making videos in order to connect with others who loved makeup as much as she did (she's a natural on the camera, which is to be expected considering her dad's the iconic Jim Hickey).


Inspired by New Zealand's reigning queen of YouTube beauty, Shannon Harris, Hickey began regularly uploading make-up tutorial videos around eight months ago. The Auckland-based student's channel now has around 27,630 subscribers.


Jody Wicksteed, 37, began making videos while at beauty therapy school after searching YouTube for content on topics covered in her course. When her search returned no results, she decided to make the videos herself. The Wellington-based beauty therapist describes her YouTube channel as her main source of income and her video, What To Expect During a Brazilian Wax, has been her best performer yet with around 5.4 million views.


Those making money off their YouTube channels are enrolled with the website's Partner Programme, where they choose ads to show in front of their videos and receive revenue each time they are viewed. Though income varies from month to month, Hickey says she earned around NZ $500 in February.


Both Hickey and Wicksteed are represented by networks, these networks approached them when their channel reached a consistent 100,000 views per month.


Networks act as agents for channels, promoting them and helping Youtubers build their personal brands in exchange for a share of the advertising revenue. After signing with a network, Wicksteed says her channel's views have doubled every month.


Inspiration for content comes primarily from commenters' feedback and requests in YouTube's comment section and on other social media. Hickey says she might get a request to recreate a look seen on Instagram or do a make-up tutorial for events like Halloween:


Both of the women love interacting with their viewers and indeed, this is a crucial component of any YouTuber's success.


As her subscriber base has grown, Hickey has even noticed subscribers replying to each other's questions on her behalf, and Wicksteed says she is touched when she sees commenters encouraging each other going through tough times.


The women say negative comments are the main downside to their YouTube activities. The internet's cloak of anonymity seems to lend itself to bad manners and accordingly, the women have had everything from "stop making these videos, b****" to the more obscure "your eyebrows have ruined my life."


Wicksteed says one-off comments are easy to ignore but several in a row can get her down. However, subscribers usually intervene with a 'thumbsMaking money from YouTube is neither easy nor guaranteed: success requires a lot of behind-the-scenes time and effort, and one viral video is not an indication of a channel's continued popularity. Uploading consistency is paramount and quality of videos is more important than their quantity.


As their channels' popularity have grown, both Hickey and Wicksteed have invested in high-quality cameras, but this is not essential - an iPhone and thorough editing with iMovie or similar software is enough for a beginner.


Though such how-to videos are one of the fastest growing categories in New Zealand, the beauty of YouTube is that there's always room for more.

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