Business of Beauty: Rachel Talbott, A Pro On and Off YouTube

/ Jul 14, 2013


Watch any of Rachel Talbott’s videos on YouTube, and you’ll notice the ease with which she talks to her audience. She is a natural. That’s not to say other YouTube beauty gurus have a problem with this — they wouldn’t be where they are today if they did not know what they were talking about — but in Talbott’s case, she comes off as a true beauty and fashion pro. Which is an apt description of who Talbott is — just look at her resume.

“I was working as a skincare specialist for Clarisonic, and lots of my clients and friends suggested I start a blog to share some of my tips,” says Talbott. “Eventually, I got wind of the opportunity to do video blogs, or vlogs on YouTube. Beauty gurus on YouTube were on the rise, and I thought it would be a fun opportunity to share everything I had learned as a skincare specialist.”

It also helped that YouTube was a homecoming of sorts.

“This is a fun outlet for me, because as a child I did lots of commercials, theatre, and voice-overs and session singing,” she says. “YouTube allows me to not only be on camera, and share my passion for skincare, fashion, beauty, etc., but also gives me an opportunity that brings me back to my on-camera roots.”

From that opportunity, she has built a YouTube career that spans a channel (CheckInTheMirror) with more than 224,000 subscribers and partnerships with brands and media companies like Nine West and Disney to produce content for their YouTube destinations.

Helping her along the way is YouTube talent network Big Frame, which she says has been a key partner in helping her grow her audience and work with brands on the world’s biggest video site. “Partnering with a network you trust is key as they can really help you with income opportunities,” says Talbott. This requires a lot of listening and communicating, which Talbott says Big Frame provides in spades.

“There are a variety of road blocks when working on the internet,” says Talbott. The major ones are building an audience and, as Talbott describes it: “figuring out how you are going to make a living without taking every single brand deal that comes your way.”

A network such as Big Frame is able to help Talbott accomplish both without the risk of losing the trust of her audience, which she says would be easy to do if she took every brand deal offered to her.

This is why communication is so important. “I really made it clear [with Big Frame] that I wanted to make money hosting webisodes and creating content for other channels, and not by taking every single money-making brand deal that came up,” she says. And now that aspect of her YouTube career — the content that she is producing for other channels and sites — is where a majority of her income comes from.

It doesn’t mean she’s not open to talking about and working with brands for her main channel, it just has to be done in an authentic way — the oldest and truest adage when it comes to engaging with people online.

“I’m extremely picky with brands that I choose to work with,” says Talbott. “I’ve said ‘no’ to way more brands than I’ve said ‘yes’ to. It comes down to honesty and integrity for me. I have to really love the product to mention it on my channel.”

And to maintain her authenticity, it’s important that Talbott is allowed to speak about that brand or product in her own words, which means: no script.

“I don’t like to spout off statistics, or be given a script,” she says. “I’m okay with sharing important information and educating my viewers, that’s originally why I started my channel, but it has to be my own words.”

So far, Talbott says she hasn’t had any hiccups with brands. And as her YouTube presence has grown, she says it’s opened up more opportunities for her to work with brands she already loves, which makes it easy to talk about them on her channel — a “win-win” for all.

Of course there are other ways for beauty gurus and other content creators on YouTube to grow their audience and monetize content, be it from collaborating with other content creators or “mainstream” channels or from pre-roll ad revenue. Once again, Talbott says it’s important for creators to have a good working relationship with their representation to manage all of that.

“A lot of people say to me ‘Man, I wanna start a YouTube channel,’ as though making a channel and making loads of money is easy,” she says. “It’s really, really not. As the industry gets more saturated, it gets harder. What’s important is to focus on being you and building an audience that likes and relates to you. Once you do that, partnering with a team that can help guide your career is essential.”

“I have said no to big offers before, because I knew I couldn’t take it,” she continues. “If I’m offered an opportunity to be in a commercial outside of my channel, that is one thing. But my channel started with honest opinions, and I want to keep it that way.”

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