Meet Bite Size Vegan, an activist and video creator who makes short, fun, informational videos about Veganism. (FYI: She might very well be the reason your vegan friend went vegan).
Name: Emily Moran Barwick
Patreon Page: www.patreon.com/bitesizevegan
Q+A with Emily Barwick
Patreon: How did you get your start as a creator?
Emily Barwick: Oddly enough, when I launched my YouTube channel and website, I had no experience with making videos, and only used YouTube a handful of times for the odd cat video or similar ridiculousness. But as my goal with Bite Size Vegan is to reach as many people as possible with readily accessible and approachable educational information, I realized that—for better or worse—most people these days spend a significant amount of time on social media.
So, despite my total tech-phobia and lack of social media savvy, I met the people where they’re at, so to speak.
P: What did it take to end up where you are today?
EB: I’m not certain I’ve really ended up anywhere as of yet! I am constantly pushing myself for further growth and reach. As for what’s gotten me to wherever it is I am at the moment— relentless persistence, (some would say) excessive work habits leading to more sleepless nights (than not), staying connected to my goals—and, in general, being too stubborn to quit.
P: If you could be any ocean creature aside from a dolphin or a shark, which would you pick and why?
EB: The pre-elimination of dolphin and shark gives the impression that you’ve asked this question enough to have run into ocean-creature bias, which I find amusing. I would be a manatee. As for why… have you seen a manatee? That’s why.
P: At what point did you decide to develop your creative passion into a business?
EB: I still have a hard time seeing what I do as a business—for some reason the business world has always been and remains largely foreign to me. For example, I started medical school so that I could fund my activism and art (as becoming a doctor is far less intimidating to me than selling something or asking for financial support).
But when I really sat down and looked at my plan, I’d be spending the next 10+ years in school, with realistically no time to create anything. And I couldn’t justify holding off for a decade out of fear of the money side of things.
So I very uncharacteristically took a flying leap into full-time activism without any solid concept of how I would fund my work.
P: What are three tactics you’ve used to grow your audience over time?
EB: Starting off, and actually still, I really had no idea what I was doing. But I think one of the most effective actions I took was engaging as much as possible with my viewers. I think it wasn’t until I was well past 10,000 subscribers that I stopped answering every single comment (and even reply to their replies) on every video, as well as other social platforms, and emails! And not just with some quick superficial response, either.
Looking back, I think my engagement reflected my honest investment on what I’m doing, and instilled a sense of community.
One of my least favorite aspects of Bite Size Vegan’s growth is that I’m no longer able to keep up with all the comments, emails, et cetera. It really breaks my heart, as I want to be able to help everyone.
The second tactic is being as open and transparent as possible. This wasn’t a conscious strategy at first, but looking back, I learned it was vital for growth. Veganism is a topic most people approach with their guard fully up. My work centers around things the majority of people don’t want to hear about.
I’m not here to make anyone vegan—I won’t pretend to have that power. And no one really makes any lasting change through force, anyways. This is why it’s so vital for me to provide citations and solid research for viewers. It’s unrealistic and unproductive to ask or expect anyone to trust a complete stranger on YouTube, especially about issues they’re already prepared to dismiss. It’s human nature to resist any significant change in our habits—especially when we feel forced. But if we have access to the facts, we can make a fully informed decision as to whether our actions align with our values.
Finally, I strive to empower my viewers to get active in whatever way speaks to them. As challenging as it is for some people to go vegan, learning how to live vegan in a non-vegan world is daunting. Vegan or not, being aware of the realities of this world can be overwhelming to the extent of total hopelessness. This is why a message of action is so key, and I think a strong component of building an engaged community.
And I guess I’ll add a quick fourth, which is that I make a concerted effort to craft my content’s delivery for my intended audience, which may even vary video to video. This is not about pandering by any means—but if my goal is to reach people with information, it’s important that I deliver that information in a relatable manner. This is one of the reasons I have such varied content on my channel, from ridiculous skits and humor, to thoroughly researched academic reports, to engaging videos for kids, to mini-documentary style videos. I try to provide a range of educational approaches for diverse learning styles. And to—as utterly corny as this sounds—make learning fun. I think I just painted myself as the PBS of YouTube.
P: What has been the most effective monetization method for you the last year?
EB: Patreon, hands down. Because of the nature of my content, advertisers aren’t necessarily clamoring to put their ads on my videos. As a result, I receive a very low CPM from AdSense (YouTube’s monetization system). A good number of my videos are de-monetized within a day or two of publication as YouTube finds them “not advertiser friendly.” I suppose if you’re trying to sell a cheese-lover’s pizza, a pre-roll add on a video explaining how the dairy industry fuels the veal industry (unwanted male calves are taken shortly after birth from serially-impregnated dairy cow mothers, who cry for them for days) isn’t exactly a ringing endorsement of their product.
But the day vegan companies get in on AdSense, I’m golden.
P: When was the hardest time in your creative career, and what do you wish your present self could’ve told your past self during that time?
EB: I don’t know if there is a single time, really. Of course when I’ve been preparing for international speeches while trying to maintain the channel, website, team-building, etc, it can be utterly exhausting. But that’s the minutia of things.
I think the hardest part of what I do is knowing it’s not, and can never be, enough. I receive hundreds of messages from people who’ve gone vegan from the information in my videos—people of all ages and backgrounds, from all parts of the world. And vegans who’ve become active in educating others.
While these messages mean more to me than I can say (and keep me going when I feel like I’m just yelling at a wall), the very nature of my work means being intensely aware of serious and often heartbreaking realities. Whether it’s our environmental crisis and the fact that we’re already beyond the point of reversing the damage to our oceans from animal agriculture and fishing, or standing at a slaughterhouse and seeing hundreds upon hundreds of terrified beings on their way to a brutal death whitewashed as humane slaughter.
For the trillions we kill every year, what I do is not, and will never be, enough. But the only other option is doing nothing. So I try.
And it’s my job, so to speak, to encapsulate incredibly complex and—at times—horrifying facts into a simplified, approachable, engaging presentation (all without dumbing down, pandering, or sugar-coating the truth). It’s an understatement to say it can be a challenge at times!
P: What is the greatest challenge you face right now as a creator?
EB: At the moment, my greatest challenge is keeping up with the growth! The workload outgrew me long ago, and even if I devote every waking hour—which is pretty much what I do—I cannot accomplish all that is required to maintain and develop Bite Size Vegan.
So currently, I’m working to build an infrastructure to bring in volunteers—I need to have a plan in place for communication and such, so that I’m not spending the same amount of time managing as I am now creating.
An eventual goal is to bring on a full time volunteer coordinator.
P: How have your fans helped you throughout your creative career?
EB: My viewers, or the Bite Size Vegan community, as I see them, keep me going when I feel like I’m not reaching anyone. Hearing from people who have gone vegan or become active as a result of watching my videos—that keeps me going.
And their feedback has also helped me change! I really do take criticism and suggestions to heart. Being on YouTube I am very aware it’s impossible to please everyone, and I don’t change my methods for every suggestion. But I do seriously consider feedback I receive and do my best to adapt when necessary—even when it’s outside of my comfort zone. Which most things are.
P: When did you decide to launch on Patreon, and in what ways has it affected your creative goals?
EB: I decided to launch my Patreon page sometime after reaching 10,000 subscribers on YouTube. I’d been working on Bite Size Vegan and creating regular content for close to two years, and more than full-time for 6 months.
It affected my goals in that…I get to have them! Up until that point I’d been burning through my savings. Patreon and my Nugget Army (as they are known) have allowed me to not only continue creating regular content, but travel the country and world to give speeches for free, and begin planning for long-term goals beyond the channel.
P: What does Patreon mean for artists and creators?
EB: For me, Patreon has meant possibility, opportunity, and empowerment.
P: How did you first announce your Patreon page to your community? What was the general feedback?
EB: I announced my page—appropriately enough—in a YouTube video. I was very nervous as I had never asked for financial support in that manner. But by and large, the response was overwhelmingly positive. I had envisioned launching this thing only to have no one show up. But the support of the community was incredible.
P: When times are tough as a creator, is there anything you continue to come back to, something that keeps you going and keeps your eye on the prize?
EB: Absolutely. For me the same thing that makes my work incredibly challenging is what keeps me motivated to continue—knowing what the trillions of non-human animals we kill every year are experiencing.
No matter what struggle I may be having, it’s nothing compared to an hour in their place. Now, not everyone goes vegan “for the animals”—there are so many reasons to make the change, and I try to address them all on my channel—but for me, they are my driving force. And having visited many slaughterhouses and looked into the eyes of many individuals in their final moments, it’s hard to sit around and stagnate.
P: What’s next for you? Are there any exciting projects or big goals you are working towards?
EB: Yes! Building a volunteer team is a huge undertaking at the moment, and part of what will allow me to pursue additional goals and projects. I’m building an ecourse academy that will have courses on going vegan, nutrition concerns, common challenges, as well as courses on effective activism.
A long-term goal is to start a farmed animal sanctuary here in Iowa—at the heart of America’s industrial agriculture, and the birthplace of mechanized assembly line slaughter. When we reach that goal, all my Nugget Army patrons will be founding members. If anyone wants to be informed when the academy is launching, they can sign up for the newsletter on my website for free, and get a free ebook out of it too.
P: If you could challenge creators to do one thing that worked for you, or was transformative in your experience, what would it be?
EB: I guess I’d say to stay honest and open—to really take in feedback and utilize the incredible resource of your patrons! To me, my patrons aren’t just supporting MY activism—they are an integral part of it. I always ask them for their input on big decisions regarding the direction of Bite Size Vegan. Because without them, there wouldn’t be a Bite Size Vegan. So I’d challenge creators to strive to keep an open mind and never take their supporters for granted.
That’s all folks! Want to say hey? Reach out Bite Size Vegan here: