He grew a Thai culture channel to 199K subscribers & 24.4M views

Mar 19 2024
Case Studies

Paddy is the Thai-speaking Australian creator behind Thai Talk with Paddy, a YouTube channel focused on exploring Thai culture that took just two years to reach 100,000 subscribers and now has nearly 200,000 subscribers.

Learn how Paddy started the channel with zero equipment or experience with making videos after living in Thailand for a year and the viral videos that grew his channel 👇

Key Takeaways

  • Adapt the strategy of successful channels in different ways. Paddy took inspiration from Asian Boss and adapted their street interview style to focus on Thai culture (instead of all of Asia)
  • It took three months to get his first 1,000 subscribers, just four months to get 10,000 and two years to get 100,000 subscribers.
  • Most of the channel's growth came from videos that created a lot of intrigue. Videos like "Would Western girls date a Thai guy?" and "Stupid white guy speaks Thai" were picked up by the algorithm and brought a lot of subscribers with them.
  • Your physical location can be a game-changer. For Paddy, returning to Thailand resulted in a ton of opportunities and less isolation compared to Australia. Finding people to share your YouTube journey with is important.
  • Average view duration and click-through rate are the most important things. Put yourself in the position of an anonymous viewer and ask if they would enjoy watching this. Be more objective.

Why did you start Thai Talk with Paddy?

I lived in the mountains of Chiang Mai, Northern Thailand during a gap year in 2014 as a volunteer English teacher for about a year. When I was over there, I found a passion for language learning, Thai culture and the way that language can be used as a vehicle to connect with people from completely different walks of life.

I'm also very interested in the differences between the East and West, and exploring the ideas and stereotypes that people have about both places and cultures. I guess YouTube was the natural platform to be able to discuss these things.

Whenever people from Western countries, Australians in particular, think about Thailand, it's always the same things that come up;  beach resorts, girls, ladyboys, pad Thai, Khaosan Road etc.

There are so many layers to the culture that I experienced when I lived in Thailand because I didn't really live in a touristy place like Phuket or Bangkok. So I wanted to use YouTube as a way to explore and show all these unique parts.

How did you get started?

Looking back, the quality of my early videos is so poor. In one of my early videos, the sound was only coming out of one ear because I didn't know how to edit audio properly. 

I had no experience with YouTube, video editing, holding a camera, making thumbnails, marketing, social media, or anything like that.

I borrowed all the equipment; my camera from my friend, and I begged the same friend who had a bit of experience in filming if he could please just come and hold the camera for me a few times. 

I was like, “I don't know how this is going to work/look”. But I took inspiration from a YouTube channel called Asian Boss; I thought I could adopt their street interview style to Thailand and use my Thai language skills.

I just said to my friend, “Let's go out for a day and see how many people we can speak to”  in Thai Town, Sydney (an area with a large Thai community). 

I just walked around the general area and spoke to different Thai people on very simple topics like “What do you like/dislike about Australia?”.

For editing, I had enough video editing skills from high school projects to use iMovie for everything for the first ten videos. 

I had no idea what I was doing half the time. It was all just winging it, to be honest.

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

First 100 subscribers

For the first 100 subscribers, I had a pretty supportive group of friends and family, so they probably helped me get close enough to a hundred not too long after starting. 

First 1000 subscribers (3 months after first video)

Getting from 100 to 1,000 was the real kicker. The main way I got there was through one video I posted called "2 Farang Speaking Thai!?". Farang is the word for a white person in Thai. 

It was an interview with an Aussie girl who had previously lived in Thailand and her Thai was phenomenal. The concept of two white people speaking Thai with each other was super simple, but it just took off on the internet. That's when my subscriber count went to a thousand. 

First 10,000 subscribers (4 months after first video)

I got to 10,000 subscribers two weeks to a month after getting to 1,000 (and four months after starting) by posting a few videos in a row that did really well. 

The videos were “Would Western girls date a Thai guy?”, “Being Thai but growing up in Australia”, and “What do foreigners think of Thailand?”. Those videos got the subscriber count moving pretty quickly. 

Three months after starting the channel, that first video caught the algorithm, and the next month I went from 1,000 to 10,000 subscribers.

I think getting some initial momentum is a double-edged sword. It's good because it encourages you to keep posting, but when one video does really well, you might expect the same for the next video, which is almost never the case. 

First 100,000 subscribers (2 years after first video)

I remember getting about 800 to 900 subscribers a day for a couple of days, maybe a week, and then it would slow down to like 300 a day. 

7 months after my first video, I was on 15-20,000 subscribers. After posting a video that went viral (“Stupid white guy speaks Thai”), I remember getting hundreds of thousands of views and a lot of new subscribers in just a few days.

However, it also put pressure on me to produce more content like that, which wasn't my original intention for the channel. I decided not to focus on making "white guy speaking Thai shocking people" videos as my brand.

I've tried to balance making videos that I enjoy with those that I know will perform well in terms of viewership. It's about enjoying the process and not just gaming the algorithm.

I was at around 55,000 subscribers after my first year and then eventually reached 100,000 subscribers about 2 years after my first video.

My growth was steady for a long time until I finally returned to Thailand after three years. That's when I started growing at a faster rate again because of the new opportunities and collaborations I was able to do (like being on a Thai TV show).

YouTube isn’t huge in Australia; watching it is, but being a creator isn’t (compared to Asia or the USA). I never really had anyone to share the journey with in Australia; but going to Thailand changed that. 

How does your channel make money?

I balanced YouTube with a full-time job for so long, so I guess I was never focused on the money. It was always a side hustle until very recently when I quit my job.

Other than AdSense, sponsorships are one of the best things that you can do to make money. Quite often, there are different rates depending on the product and company that you're partnering with, and what they require. I negotiate the price and try to align myself with products that most align with the Thai Talk brand.

I sell merch as well. People will just buy stuff whenever, and I have orders regularly coming through. But it's nothing to write home about, you know.

What have been your biggest problems and frustrations throughout your journey?

💖 The videos that I'm the most proud of usually do the worst. For whatever reason, YouTube just doesn't recommend them and that can be frustrating as someone who loves to make genuine content with genuine stories of people.

⚖️ Learning how to balance YouTube’s hamster wheel with my life was tricky. For the first two years, I was working full-time in a pretty intense job at the same time and having to come home and edit till midnight every day and then go to work the next day, which was really tough.

You kind of have to always be thinking of content, and I would be lying if I said I don't think about YouTube every day. A day doesn't go past where I'm not thinking about YouTube. 

👤 Isolation. I honestly think YouTube is a very, very isolating journey, especially in the early days when you're trying to build your channel. The thing I liked most about my corporate job was the people around me and the fact I could work in teams. 

What do you wish you knew when you first started?

ğŸŽ‰ Enjoy the process. If you're in it purely for the money from the start, your motivation will exhaust super quickly. You have to be able to talk to yourself and know yourself deep enough to ask, “Do I believe in this as a product? Do I like it? Do I enjoy the process?”

👥 Keep your family and friends close during the whole process. Ultimately, anonymous people on the internet judging you can affect a lot of people. People can become obsessed with the numbers and live in this digital world which isn't real, while feeling the judgments of anonymous people. 

The people watching your videos can't replace your real friends and family.

📊 Average view duration and click-through rate are the most important things. When editing, you need to put yourself in the position of an anonymous viewer and ask if they would enjoy watching this and be more objective.

You have to design your video to flow in a way that brings people in and offers them value. Don't be so self-centred in the process.

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

My YouTube channel and Instagram (where I post shorter and more personal stuff).

If you’re half thinking about trying YouTube or any other pursuit, just give it a go and learn along the way. You’ll learn pretty quickly if it’s something you do or don’t want to do.

Get the best YouTube advice in 5 minutes per week

Just enter your email below and you'll get a weekly 5-minute email packed with key lessons from successful YouTubers.