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How an offshore tax/finance channel grew to 75K subscribers in 4.5 years feat. Offshore Citizen

svgFebruary 6, 2024Case Studies

Channel Overview (at time of writing)

Name Offshore Citizen
Niche – Finance
Subscribers – 75K
Watch time – 6.25M views (lifetime), 135K views (monthly)
Videos published – 793
Date of first video – May 7, 2019 
Team size – 2 (researcher and editor)

Why did you start this YouTube channel?

Since 2012, I have been travelling all over the world and learning about the financial advantages and opportunities other countries offer in the process. I was (and am) incredibly curious about how the world worked. 

My wife told me to share my journey and knowledge with others. For example, maybe I’d go to Estonia and talk about what it’s like to form a company there or go to Norway and share how you’d optimise international tax there.

Some of Offshore Citizen’s earliest videos were just sharing knowledge on the countries he was already visiting

However I chose YouTube as a medium specifically for three reasons. 

Firstly, I’ve always been better suited to long-form content

I’ll usually have very detailed, nuanced thoughts and I wasn’t very good at making things aesthetic and short (so something like Instagram wouldn’t suit).

Secondly, YouTube’s algorithm and search are a decent built-in discovery engine while other platforms (like Instagram) make it far more difficult to discover creators without already knowing them.

Thirdly, I was always impressed by the quantity and quality of the audience on YouTube. Everyone watches YouTube. My target audience is typically over 35 so platforms with younger audiences like TikTok would’ve been harder to work with (and I wasn’t sure about their audience quality).

How did you get started?

I was quite unconfident on camera long before starting YouTube. So I had to overcome that first. I had to learn how to be way less awkward on camera and communicate in a way that worked for me; which meant writing bullet points instead of a script.

Getting started after that was pretty straightforward. My wife took her iPhone and recorded me in a restaurant with a nice view (to add visual interest). The whole video was one shot. We then chopped off the start and end of the footage in iMovie, put a start and end screen on it, and published.

Offshore Citizen’s first video (on May 9, 2019)

It was pretty bad. The audio and video sucked. It basically all sucked.

I continuously improved my videos after that first one. I added a tripod (for stable footage), a wireless mic (for better audio quality), and an external source of light, all in that order.

How & when did you get to 10, 100, 1000 subscribers (etc) and to where you are currently?  

I hit 100-200 subscribers in March 2020, roughly 1 year after starting. To get there, I posted my videos on Facebook and asked people I knew to check out my videos and subscribe. My first 100-200 subscribers were all people I knew.

I hit 1000 subscribers in September 2020, roughly 1.5 years after starting. 

Getting my first 1000 subscribers was the most painful part of my journey. It’s tough in the beginning; you’re putting in quite a lot of work and not getting a lot out of it. 

To get there, I consistently produced 1-2 videos per week, had a few videos do quite well, and had an advice call with a more successful channel (who was one of my clients at the time). In March 2020, the COVID lockdowns started and I invested considerably more time into YouTube. I wanted to brute-force the process of growth through sheer quantity.

I published a video on tax withholding that suddenly got a ton of views one year after publishing alongside various Malaysia-themed videos that had explosive growth for one year (which levelled off).

Offshore Citizen’s earliest videos; withholding tax was a key topic that did well

What I found is you get disproportionate amounts of subscribers from certain videos and you don’t know which video will take off (or when). So it’s best to throw mud on the wall until something sticks.

I hit 10,000 subscribers in May 2021, 2 years after starting. By the start of 2021, I had 3000 subscribers and a lot of momentum that carried me to 10K subscribers. I was even putting out one video a day.

I think a video a day when you’re learning is great; to practice putting stuff out and get more reps in. Then you can work on improving the quality of those reps.

One of the strategies I had at the time was finding highly-viewed competitor videos (with views >50-100% of their subscriber count), copying the topic and just making a better video. If the video’s views are higher than their subscriber count, it’s a good indication of organic growth. Using this strategy, I found a video topic on the fastest countries to get citizenship in. And that video did really well.

Another strategy that worked was doing videos on what countries you should avoid/not move to; these did well and attracted a lot of subscribers. One of these videos was on why Americans shouldn’t move to Portugal. It succeeded because it went against the popular narrative at the time that moving to Portugal was great.

Fear-based videos and competitor research resulted in a lot of popular videos

I hit 50,000 subscribers in November 2022, 3.5 years after starting. To get there, the major changes I made were getting a professional video editor, caring more about intrigue and thumbnails, and broadening my videos to a larger audience.

If you want views, you need to get clicks. If you want more clicks, you need to get broad and appeal to more people. You can say things in a way that doesn’t niche down.

Building intrigue in my thumbnails (and titles) also worked extremely well. For example, “Is San Marino a great tax haven” is less effective than “Europe’s hidden tax haven”. More people will click on the second because people won’t know it’s San Marino.

At a certain point, when you have momentum and consistently iterate you will get results.

Offshore Citizen’s SocialBlade subscriber growth chart

What does your content creation process look like?

It has changed a lot over time. Now, it takes roughly one day to produce a video:

  • Research and filming – 30 minutes – 1 hour
  • Producing/editing – a few hours (the most time-consuming part)
  • Thumbnails – 15 minutes per video to brainstorm ideas and batch-creating them takes a few hours

Finding ideas

Once a week, I randomly brainstorm ideas based on content I (or someone else on my team) consume or people we talk to. My team also goes through videos/titles of successful channels and reviews their thumbnails, titles, and topics to brainstorm different ways of creating a successful video idea

Researching and prep

Often, I can just sit down with no notes and start talking impromptu about a topic. But other times, my researcher/assistant and I have to do further research (e.g. Portugal’s visa updates).

From there, I think of my basic talking points (without a script) and how I’m going to start and end that video. Ending a video strongly is powerful.

Video production

Filming is a fairly simple process; it just involves recording still videos of me talking to the camera. I then send my footage to my video editor with notes/reference material and he stitches in other important assets.

A typical Offshore Citizen video is composed mostly of talking head footage with some added assets

My editor also produces thumbnails based on our initial thumbnail brainstorms (in step 1 of the process). Then he schedules the video to publish at a time when our audience is most active (which we use YouTube Analytics to determine).5

Promotion

We don’t do much to promote our videos after publishing. It’s mainly ensuring the right keywords are in the title and description so a video is discoverable. We are now trying Shorts (even before we upload the main video) to drive traffic and interest.

How does your channel make money?

I don’t make much money from YouTube directly. I use it to do business as a lead-generation source for my other businesses.

My YouTube channel leads to the following income sources:

  • AdSense (which is something I don’t pay much attention to)
  • Paid consulting calls
  • Selling services to clients on consulting calls
  • Investing/partnerships with my clients

Anyone can book a consulting call with me to seek advice on things like international tax, second citizenship, wealth protection, and much more. But this involves me trading my time for money which isn’t the best.

I also sell services on those calls. We have a team of 7 people busy fulfilling a variety of services like offshore company formation, brokerage, dual citizenship, and more.

Every few years or so, I invest with/partner with clients and that is hugely profitable but not predictable. This is the main reason I will keep doing YouTube.

Offshore Citizen’s services listed on their website (at the time of writing)

I avoid sponsorships since I feel it undermines my credibility. Since everything I do is trust-based, I want that advice to be the highest quality and unbiased.

What are the key lessons you’ve learned from your journey?

🗣️ YouTube is extremely effective for building trust and your brand. I radically underestimated that early on and that cost me a lot.

I wish I’d started YouTube sooner. When someone actually sees you talking, the degree they feel they know you is orders of magnitudes higher than reading your writing.

🧠 Emphasise building intrigue around the right topics. Topics matter and are arguably more important than the thumbnail or the title. Try to present an interesting topic with intrigue.

🔃 Consistently iterate. You can overcome a lot through sheer consistency. No one knows which videos are going to do especially well; you just have to create content to see what will do well.

Where can we find out more about you? And is there anything else you’d like to add?

Check out the Offshore Citizen YouTube channel and website. Feel free to send me a message or book a call with me through there.

Follow me on Twitter for totally different content.

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    How an offshore tax/finance channel grew to 75K subscribers in 4.5 years feat. Offshore Citizen