Career Lessons from a YouTube Star

When a video goes viral on YouTube, a lot of luck is involved for sure. But that luck is often in combination with even more hard work.

At least that was the case for Franchesca Ramsey, a video blogger with more than 29 million views on YouTube. When her video “Sh*t That White Girls Say… to Black Girls” went viral in 2012, she had been writing, filming and posting for more than six years—when she wasn’t entering standup comedy contests, trying to get acting auditions or working at her day job in web design.

“YouTube was my creative outlet and I did a lot of experimenting,” Ramsey says. “I performed skits, made parodies, did hair tutorials, you name it.”

Her hair how-tos were for natural ‘locks like hers, and when she crossed racial and cultural topics that were on her mind with parodies, she hit gold, literally.

“You can make a considerable amount of money on YouTube,” Ramsey says. “The problem is that it’s not a consistent stream of income.”

Seeing her viral success for what it was, an opportunity, Ramsey leveraged it to launch her career as a writer and comedian. Her MTV web series “Decoded,” which she produces and hosts, is now in its sixth season, and her first book, Well, That Escalated Quickly: Memoirs and Mistakes of an Accidental Activist, is on bookshelves. Ramsey will be speaking on Opening Night and at the MA Conference for Women in December. Until then, here are a few things she’s learned about taking risks, success and herself.

ON RISK-TAKING

“One thing about taking risks and pursuing your dreams that I didn’t expect—and probably others don’t expect either—is that there are repercussions for more than yourself. It’s not just about you, taking a chance, battling your fears. The people around you can also be affected—and not in a good way. Your going for it can make them feel insecure and uncomfortable and ignite their fears of failure. It’s something to keep in mind and be prepared for, especially if your risk-taking pays off.”

ON SUCCESS

“I think it’s what you make of it. Don’t let anybody define it for you. Set your goals and milestones and feel good when you reach them. I’m not in the movies or on TV every night, but I have people tell me that my book or videos encouraged them or inspired them to change something—and that is one thing I base my sense of success on.”

THE JOB SHE’LL NEVER DO AGAIN

“In college, I was a guide for Duck Tours, and we had to make the tourists quack. I had a whole spiel about how they had to quack to get the boat to move. It was good money—$30 an hour, plus tips.”

HER TOP CAREER ADVICE

“Don’t compare yourself to other people. Everyone’s journey is different, and you’ll get to where you’re going when it’s the right time for you.”

HER MAKING-VIRAL-VIDEOS ADVICE

“Do your research to see what people have done that works and doesn’t work. Then figure out what you have to say or do that no else can. What can you add to the conversation that is unique to you and people can’t get from anyone else? Answer that, and then hone your voice.”

Franchesca Ramsey will be a keynote speaker at Opening Night on December 5, and a panelist at the 2018 MA Conference for Women on December 6. 


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