Meet James Byford, the mastermind behind “My Name Is Byf” who has forged a career producing videos about video game lore!
Patreon Page: www.patreon.com/mynameisbyf
Describe, in your own words, what it is that you create:
What I do is a little odd. I play Destiny, a video game by Bungie. But that’s only the route of what I do here on Patreon. Destiny is a game filled with magnificent stories that are often left untold. From gods to kings, dragons and ancient leviathans, legendary commanders and their daring feats, skirmishes fought in the depths of space or grand wars across entire planets, the variety is breathtaking. My job is to take the best of these stories and to bring them to life on YouTube. I do this with the assistance of artists, voice actors, animators and my own knowledge of Destiny’s vast lore.
How did you get your start as a creator?
My story started with YouTube. Like most people, it grew from a hobby. When Destiny launched I started getting more and more followers and my channel blossomed. I always questioned if I could do more though. People from the US, Canada and practically anywhere in the world but for my home country of Britain told me that I should use my great voice. The number 1 request was to tell stories. It all stemmed from there really. I knew I wanted to tell the stories properly on YouTube so I looked for a way to fund that. Patreon was the Answer.
What did it take to end up where you are today?
To be candid I can put it down to 6 factors. Pain, failure, personal growth, persistence, luck and a good friend. The most important of those are luck and the friend, but you need a bit of each to progress in my opinion.
1) Pain was a lot of late nights working on 4 hours of sleep, battling depression and crashing and burning my social life for the sake of work.
2) Failure was everything that was left unfinished or everything that simply flopped.
3) Personal growth was the result of those previous two but it was also a point of figuring out what worked and what didn’t. You grow with the territory.
4) Persistence was setting a routine and a schedule with the help of that good friend I was mentioning but it was also understanding my limits and what I could expect myself to do. Challenging myself where I could and slowing down where necessary.
5) Luck was the thing that I couldn’t teach but I think everyone needs it to get where they want to go.
6) The good friend was what I needed to constantly pick me up and tell me to keep going. In my case their name was Stephen Eastwood, a friend I’d made online some time ago and have met in person a few times since. On reflection it’s like having a brother, a mentor and a PA all rolled into one. He made the schedule that I stick to every week, he helps with my patreon work and social media presence and above all he’s one of the most loyal people I’ve ever met.
Creators take note! This is what a good friend looks like. They can save your life, your career, your sanity, your passion. Involve them, be honest with them, talk to them, trust them. A good friend is more important than all the lessons failure can teach. Stephen finding me was possibly the luckiest thing that happened. Not YouTube discovery or Patreon success. Do not underestimate your friends.
What are three tactics you’ve used to grow your audience over time?
Persistence is a pretty key one. Sticking to the schedule where you can will always help. People are looking to experience content. Give it to them regularly and they’ll be there waiting to receive it.
Another important one is to always try to offer more. Nothing turns me off more than lazy, misinformed or just generally bad content. It’s the fastest way for someone to click off a video. If left with an option that will increase my videos quality, I try to take it more often than not.
This last one’s a little weird but I like to try and be personable with people. There’s no substitute for actually caring about your fans. Listen to their feedback, talk to them, be real. My twitter is where I practice this principally and I do so very specifically because I believe it’s a way to cultivate a following but it also offers so many great opportunities. You’d be surprised how much good you can do just by replying to a comment. It can make someone’s day. Even more than that, you could have just made a friend. Remember my 6 things that made me what I am today.
What has been the most effective monetization method for you the last year?
YouTube doesn’t really offer much leeway on this one. I just do what I do. Patreon has helped me push the boundaries but it’s not a personal monetary gain for me. I use the funds to pay my artists and the excess goes to charity. On the front of Patreon I have 6 tiers for fans to pledge their support at ranging from $1 to $100. Keeping that fluid structure and allowing fans to pick from a variety of tiers has undoubtedly helped.
How have your fans helped you throughout your creative career?
They gave me a lot to be honest. They gave me the direction to start making Destiny Lore. It was a hugely important decision and one that I couldn’t make without them. I try to give them the input on content where possible. Sometimes a creator knows best but often times it’s because they already know their audience.
When did you decide to launch on Patreon, and in what ways has it affected your creative goals?
I’d made a few lore projects with my own money and I knew that I still wasn’t doing any justice to the stories in question. It was never a case of my artists being unable to deliver or voice actors being unable to do their lines… I simply needed more money to pay them for their excellent work. These stories deserved to be told. It’s been about 9 months since then and we’ve accomplished a lot. In particular my team and I have also had the chance to take a closer look to the goals we can realistically set for ourselves
What does Patreon mean for artists and creators?
Patreon provides the freedom to do what we love. It’s a great enabler for our creativity.
How did you first announce your Patreon page to your community? What was the general feedback?
I floated the question to the community a few months before I actually started it. I remember the point in time when it went live. I had just finished my degree, the last piece of work had been sent through. I slept for 18 hours, woke up with a start and said “today’s the day.” I announced it by video and made a conscious effort to provide great initial support.
The response was mostly positive and, for those that were concerned, I opened a dialogue to get their opinions. They helped shape what I did on the page. People with genuine concerns are still fans and passionate ones at that.
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?
I don’t try to force too much out of myself. It sometimes ruins the creativity. I’ve learned to take a step back when needs be.
Having said that, progress is one of the best motivators for me. Seeing a vision of something I had in my head unravel into something that ultimately is greater than what I’d dreamed up is a feeling that never gets old. It’s exciting to simply see the worlds I imagine unfold with the help of talented artists.
What’s next for you? Are there any exciting projects or big goals you are working towards?
I have a rather large goal in mind. We’re in close proximity to completing a whole plethora of projects. However I want to get something rather large done before things heat up any more on the Destiny 2 front. I want to complete the Book of Sorrows series, which is one that followers of my channel have greatly enjoyed. If we’re looking to get this all done on time I’d be looking to get it all live before E3 of this year! (Mid June). I also want to make some significant progress on a series that’s been in the works for some time called Iron Lords. There’s a lot of cool stuff on the horizon, but of course we all have to simply wait and see how the wind blows.
If you could challenge creators to do one thing that worked for you, or was transformative in your experience, what would it be?
I challenge them to fail. Not deliberately or out of malice for themselves but out of a greater need to improve. Failure is a good thing when it teaches you how to get back up. Make it a part of the plan if something goes wrong. Adapt on the fly.
That’s all, folks! Want to say hey? Reach out to James here: