Matt Hamlin is the creator of UpIsNotJump, a gaming channel that succeeds in an overcrowded YouTube niche. With 340,000+ followers, Matt is someone who knows how to get subscribers on YouTube. His success, however, didn’t happen overnight. The channel’s viability is a direct result of three years of doubt, perseverance, and strategic decision-making.
Three years ago, he was a “pencil pushing” office worker who felt stifled in his role. (Both figuratively and literally—he ultimately quit because his manager wouldn’t let him use a desk fan!). It wasn’t really about the fan, though. He hated that every decision at the office was subject to one question: What would people think? Leaving was less about the fan and more about reclaiming his creativity.
But the moment he left his comfortable, consistently-paying job, the pressure was on. He moved home, lived off savings, and kicked off an experiment he needed to work: his very own gaming YouTube channel.
Between YouTube ads and Patreon income, Matt Hamlin no longer needs an office job. Instead, he focuses on making videos for his audience of 345,000 subscribers. In this article, he shares the techniques and strategies he used to build (and keep) an audience that would support him financially.
Matt’s first year of creating videos was rough. He made a few videos in high school, but he didn’t really know what he was doing. He spent hours creating the best content he could, modeling it after what he saw other creators doing.
But as it turns out, modeling himself after other creators was exactly the wrong thing to do. Based on other successful creators, he thought he should make game commentaries and ‘Let’s Play’ style content (in which gamers play through a game while commenting on the gameplay for viewers, often in a humorous or informative manner).
The result? His channel was virtually invisible to the public. He couldn’t follow the success of other gaming video creators by imitating what they did after they became successful. Their influence and popularity meant their content would attract all the traffic for their niche. He had to do something original before he could ever think of gaining traction with commentaries (which, now that he has a subscriber base, he does successfully).
In mid-2016, a year into his YouTube project, Matt switched focus. He started remaking movie trailers and popular show scenes shot-for-shot from within games like Fallout 4 and Skyrim using mods and a little creativity. The trailers were much more successful than his commentaries. Why?
- Movie trailer remakes were current. People were excited about a new movie coming out and wanted more content to hold them over until the film’s release.
- Recreated trailers (with Matt’s own special twist, of course) were unique. Only one or two creators were doing them when Matt started.
- He made sure to spend more time and effort on creating quality trailers than anyone else.
The trailer Matt created for Captain America: Civil War was a breakthrough in getting views.
It wasn’t easy. One trailer took Matt 50–60 hrs to create on average. That’s why other creators gave up. But because he put so much effort into a quality offering that no one else provided, he was able to get traction with media and in social channels (more on that in parts 2 and 3 below).
“It took three days to make the Captain America video. I didn't stop working for two days. I stayed up all night twice. I was desperate because I just didn't want to go back to my office where I can’t have a fan,” Matt laughed.
The point of this section isn’t to say that you should go out and shoot movie trailers in games. It’s to say: how can you separate your work from the crowd? What could you do that media channels might pick up, or that could trend on socials?
Not everything you create will be a hit—it took a year and a half before Matt’s movie trailer strategy garnered enough subscribers for him to do reviews and commentaries again. But because the trailers were current, unique, and high quality, they were promotable. And successful promotion meant that Matt’s channel grew.
Matt’s rule of thumb for promotion was to spend at least one, full day promoting each video he created. “The amount of time I'd spend promoting a video was (in the early days) more important than the time I spent on the video. Because if no one watched it, I didn't grow,” he recalled.
He believes most creators don’t emphasize promotion enough; even he didn’t realize its importance initially. “I thought if I made something good, everyone would watch it.And that is true to a very small extent—if you make something amazing, people might see it even if you don't promote it. But it's really about promotion, especially nowadays. Ten years ago when I was making videos in high school, I never promoted them at all, and they would get more views than the videos I was making ten years later and putting ten times more effort into.”
Matt’s remedy? Reach out to magazine or news companies in your niche with content you think will interest them (based on what they’ve shared and reported on in the past—do your research beforepitching editors and reporters). Since Matt was in gaming, he targeted companies like Kotaku, Gamespot, and IGN.
Eventually, it worked. For example, a video that got featured on Kotaku garnered over one million views—a record for Matt at the time. The article was about his remake of some favorite Rick & Morty scenes.Here’s the word-for-word pitch he sent to the editor who shared his video:
"Hey (name), I absolutely love the website, and all your posts on Fallout 4! I am just emailing about a video I think you would like to see. Rick and Morty is one of the greatest shows on TV, so I have used Fallout 4's character customisation tool to remake all the characters, then re-film the funniest scenes from the show as accurately as possible. You can see it here: Thanks! Matt Hamlin"
I absolutely love the website, and all your posts on Fallout 4!
I am just emailing about a video I think you would like to see. Rick and Morty is one of the greatest shows on TV, so I have used Fallout 4's character customisation tool to remake all the characters, then re-film the funniest scenes from the show as accurately as possible.
You can see it here:
His pitch worked because it was concise (long pitches tend to lose attention), clear (it was easy to understand what he did), and relevant (he chose a topic that should interest Kotaku’s readers). Plus, he threw in a little flattery at the beginning just in case it would help.
Matt was extremely motivated to make his channel work, and that resulted in some creative marketing. He tried to use Reddit to share his videos in the beginning and does NOT recommend the strategy to newbie channel owners.
“When I started, I didn't know what I was doing and I was promoting videos that weren't very good, so they got a very bad response on Reddit. But as I started to improve, people actually were quite happy about the posts,” he shared.
Reddit is only a good marketing channel if you’re creating high-quality work, then sharing it in a subreddit where people find value in what you do. Some of his later work actually trended on the front page of Reddit—but not before his earlier work was eviscerated.
The best technique he found for sharing his work on Reddit was creating 10 second GIFs of the funniest parts of his videos. He’d post them on Imgur and share them on Reddit and got many more views (from both platforms) as a result.
For example, when he made a video of Bob Ross in Fallout 4, the GIF he made of it was viewed over two million times on Imgur.
A good GIF can act as a mini-trailer for your work. Matt recommends making the text really ‘pop.’ Otherwise, viewers won’t understand the point and your efforts will go to waste. It’s also important to choose scenes that will entertain viewers or pique their curiosity—if the GIF isn’t interesting and shareable, it won’t drive traffic the way you need.
To put his promotion efforts into context, Matt shared the quarterly growth of his channel views and subscribers over time.
Matt’s channel growth in 2016 was slow but steady, experiencing a gradual increase after he implemented movie trailer remakes. It wasn’t until mid-2017 that his view count crossed 2 million per quarter. That growth peaked in early 2018, which is when he resumed making commentaries and reviews of games (as opposed to making more trailers).
If the trailers were working, why would he stop making them? There are two main reasons: first, he prefers making commentaries and reviews. He’s happy to be using his own audio again and relying more on his own creativity. Second, he realized that his videos have higher engagement (and more patrons) now that he’s doing commentaries, in part because it allows him to be more interactive with his audience.
His favorite way to measure engagement is by the ratio of ‘likes’ a video gets to the number of views it gathers.Many of his trailer videos would be in the 1%–2.5% likes range. One of his recent commentary videos, on the other hand, got ~25,000 likes over 500,000 views.That puts it at 5% likes. It’s a 2x improvement over his best previous videos. And, that increase went hand-in-hand with increased pledges on Patreon.
It took him over a year of making videos (and 8 months of being on the platform) before he got even one patron. Two years in, he was making $200-$300 on Patreon. Now, three years in, he’s making $1,500/mo on Patreon. That revenue—plus the (unfortunately not as large as you might think) ad revenue he gets from videos—is enough to support his life in London.
It’s gotten to the point where he doesn’t feel the need to promote himself anymore: instead, he focuses on making his content better and better. He played the long-term game in growing his channel and won.