Business

Ariel Bissett on following your gut, finding a new audience, and having fun with your brand

This week on the Brand Your Passion Podcast, I was joined by Ariel Bissett, a writer and filmmaker based in British Columbia who hosts multiple podcasts, runs an annual readathon called The Reading Rush, and has a YouTube channel with almost 200,000 subscribers, among many other creative endeavours.

She has spoken at VidCon, premiered videos at Buffer Festival, was an official Man Booker Prize Vlogger, has appeared in the New York Times, Variety, HuffPost, and Forbes, and has interviewed the likes of Michelle Obama, Bill Gates, and Margaret Atwood.

In this episode we talk about following your gut when it comes to your brand, creating authentic content that you love to make, finding a new audience when your brand shifts, and the controversial topic of not having a logo for your brand. We also get an exclusive story about how Ariel chose her brand font in the most hilariously on-brand way possible.

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Welcome to the show, Ariel!

Hello! Thank you for having me, I’m thrilled to be on.

So I’ve mentioned a little bit about you and all the things we’ve been up to. But do you want to introduce yourself to the people? If you can share with us what your pronouns are, and share with us a little bit about what your passion is.

So, my name is Ariel, like you mentioned. I live in Canada, I am out in British Columbia. I’m 25. I always like to mention my age because when I listen to things like this I’m always curious about how old people are. I’m like, “at what point in your career were you doing this thing?” You know what I mean? I’m 25. My pronouns are she/her.

So basically, the little breakdown of my life story. When I was sixteen I was in high school and I read a lot. (if you guys are watching this you can see all the books behind me – that was on purpose guys) So yeah, I read a lot in high school and I loved reading, but I also loved talking about the books that I would read and I really didn't have anyone to talk to about books. I have very clear memories of going to my Mom as she was doing the laundry, and just following her around for an hour telling her the entire plot of a book and THEN telling her what I felt about the plot. Like, having to build my own book club through verbal communication 'cause I was like “nobody reads!”

So when I was sixteen, YouTube was starting to become a thing and I was watching a lot of British vloggers, mainly, and I just remember one day typing in a book, and finding a couple of young women like me, most of them were in their early twenties, but it felt like not something that was a different community that it would be really hard for me to get into, no it was just young women uploading videos about them reviewing books and I was like “oh my god this is amazing.” I just spent one week watching all of these videos, consuming this content, trying to understand what this weird community was, and back then it didn't have a name but now everyone calls it BookTube. And then I got my Dad to help me set up a YouTube channel and the rest is history. So I have spent the last nine years making book content online.

And that varies, I do still, my predominant main thing is still my YouTube channel, making book related content, but I also have a book podcast, I run a yearly, week-long readathon during the summer called The Reading Rush, which you know all about, 'cause you did the branding for it. And there are other tangential things that go off into my different bookish spheres, but I am fully self-employed. So I have been working for myself in some way since I was sixteen, because that's when I started my, I call it my little empire, but yeah ever since I was sixteen I've been building this, but I guess ever since I graduated maybe, is when I would be like fully working full-time. Before that I was obviously doing it in tandem with school. So that's me. That's me, Hollie.

I love it, so it's like just books all day every day, reading, talking about books, interviewing other people about books, and creating products all about books?

Yeah!

All of those interviews that you mentioned at the beginning were all about books. Obviously Margaret Atwood is an author, but Michelle Obama had come out with Becoming that year, Bill Gates I was talking to him about books that are about climate change and the environment, so yeah it's all books. It all bubbles down to literature.

I mentioned that the reason I wanted to talk to you is because one, you're an incredible creative person who is living out, you know, your dream, and the dream of many people who get to read books for a living! But also because you've built this personal brand of yours, as well as several other sub-brands that are part of your thing but also kind of live on their own, and you do that with Raeleen.

Yes

So I wanted to talk to you first a little bit about your personal brand, so I presume that this was something that you created on your own when you were sixteen when this thing started. So, did you do anything kind of intentionally in terms of your brand from the beginning? How did that kind of happen? How has it changed over time?

How is it going now? That's a really good question and I think it's kind of interesting because I really did not have any intention of a brand when I first started, like I mentioned I was 16 for like two weeks, and then I turned 17. But still, like, very much a teenager in high school. This was 9 years ago. So this was before we really had influencers in the way that we have them now. I had never heard anyone say personal brand. I would never have heard that come out of a person's mouth. So, very much I had no clue what that was, but when I look back on it, I do see that there were a few things I was doing that were branding, I just didn't think of them actively as branding.

“I would make sure that I had that consistency everywhere you went. I always used the same end screen at the end of my videos, my thumbnails all had a very similar look, and I always started my videos in the same way, which I still do now.”

So when I first started my YouTube channel I actually had a username, 'cause that was the thing back then, the cool thing was not to have your name. So for the first year of my channel, I had a username and I would make sure for example to get that same username for any platform I used. So I would make sure that I had that consistency everywhere you went. I always used the same end screen at the end of my videos, my thumbnails all had a very similar look, and I always started my videos in the same way, which I still do now. I don't mean to, I think that it's just an ingrained habit after nine years all my videos start with me saying "Hello everybody!" I don't mean to do that, but now it's memed at me sometimes. Where people will be like "Hello everybody!" and I'm like "Argh!" I cannot escape it. But yeah, I think a lot of those things were my brand, I just didn't think of it as a brand. I also know that the kinds of things that I would talk about or read or share about, were kind of really reflecting my own personality.

So very obviously, it is my personal brand, because my YouTube channel is not me as a character, it's just me as Ariel. So it very much reflects what I am, maybe more aspirational, like what I hope I am, which is bright and bubbly, and happy, and encouraging, and entertaining, like, fun. Those kinds of words – bubbly, that kind of vibe, is the thing that I think I have going. And the great thing is obviously, is because I'm not a corporation, or even like a small company, it's just me, I can change and alter my brand slightly. I've never like hard-pivoted, I've never been like "everything's black and white, and now it's full colour!" no there hasn't ever been anything like really intense. But I have slightly changed the way I've done my thumbnails, or this is crazy, like a year ago I think, or two years ago -this is a really fun fact...

I've never talked about anywhere- I was like “how is all of my font stuff, like if I'm using a text on a thumbnail or whatever, how am I not using Arial?!” Because my name is Ariel, I'm like, “no one is going to know this, but I will,” so I transferred to using Arial everywhere because I can. Um, yeah it's the little things like that that don't make that big of a difference, but to me continuing that brand of like, “haha I'm just having a good time trying to be me.” That's a little fun fact for you, Hollie.

Yeah I love that so much. One, it's font jokes, you've got me, but also you're so right that people don't know that, but now they hear this story that just adds to your brand.

It is so on brand! Isn't it. I thought you'd appreciate that.

Yeah, like you're just this person who is going to do fun silly things like that because it makes you laugh, it makes you smile and so it is part of your brand even though it's just because it's your name. I love that. That's so good.

And I noticed that you don't really have a logo, and this is something that I talk about quite a lot, and as a personal brand I don't necessarily think that you need one. Which can be quite a controversial thing to say as a branding designer.

Obviously when a lot of people think of branding that's the first thing that they think of. Gotta get a logo, that's the first thing that you do. But you don't have one, that I know of, that I could find. Was that something that was an intentional decision, you just were like, “I just don't feel like I need one?” What was that thought?

Imagine if right now I was like, “I do have a logo, I guess I just haven't shared it yet enough!” No, I don't have a logo. Let me think about this...

So basically, like I said I've been doing this for about nine years, so let's just say 10 years for the sake of this example here. For the first five years I had no logo, then the middle year I had a logo, and then for the last 5 years I haven't had a logo. So halfway through, this would have been around 2014/2015 I don't really remember, I was like “you know I want to step up my game a little but, I want a bit more cohesion on my stuff, maybe I could have a logo on my banners, or on my end screens etc.” And so I designed an autograph.

“I just felt like I was trying to be something that wasn’t me. It felt off-brand to have such a fancy brand, I guess. That’s what I’m trying to say. It felt like I was trying to push something, and force something a little bit that I didn’t really care about.”

It's my name in cursive, and then when I finish the 'L' I go around the whole thing with a heart, so that kind of it, if I can try and draw it up for everyone here visually Ariel in a heart with a b at the end. So yeah I kind of designed that up really nicely, and I think I actually got my friend to do it for me on Photoshop, cause I didn't have Photoshop back then and I didn't know how to use it. So I used it for about a year on my banners and on my end screens and stuff, and I just, after it might not even have been a whole year, honestly, I just felt like I was trying to be something that wasn't me. It felt off-brand to have such a fancy brand, I guess. That's what I'm trying to say. It felt like I was trying to push something, and force something a little bit that I didn't really care about. I didn't have any attachment to that logo, I like it as my autograph when I sign stuff, I really like it, that's why I chose it. But I'm never going to put it on merch, I don't have the kind of brand that I'm going to be like "Oh, I really need you to be able to pick me out of a lineup of brand logos'' I'm like “no, my brand is kind of my face.”

My brand is just like, the content that I make and the way that I share stuff. So I have not had a logo for the past five years, and I really have no intention of getting one. If I had, I would have already asked you to design it, you know what I mean? Because with all these other brands that I've created, they've all felt really different. So like with the podcast, I'm like” yeah it could be just Raylene and me just doing a cheesy pose or something,” you know back-to-back holding books or something. But I had kind of an image of what I wanted the logo to look like, and what is different is that it does need to stand out in whatever podcast app you're using. I want you to recognise it and not just think, oh it's just two other girls doing a podcast.

But eventually I would like to do merch, I would like Books Unbound, that's the name of the podcast - I don't even know if I've mentioned it so far - I'd like to do Books Unbound merch and I'd love to have that be tied around a theme. Which is kind of what our logo is, and similar to the Reading Rush. So the readathon that I run every summer, that did need it's own brand because it's not just me, first of all. Secondly I kind of want these projects to be a little bit distant from me. Not like distant like, fully, because they are me and I want everyone who follows me to follow them [laughs] but I want them to have their own identity and their own flavour and I want people when they look at them to have a very specific feeling, as to when you're looking at me it's kind of a different feeling than I think you will have with these other brands. So yeah there's definitely a time and a place for a logo, but not for me.

So if you're not using a logo, you've mentioned a couple of things about the kind of content you create, and books that you read, and that sort of thing. What kind of other things are you thinking about or doing to establish your brand, to let people know that "Hey, I'm Ariel, this is what I do"? Is it your values, the way you show up online, being consistent as you said. What's the strategy?

I guess - this is very interesting, because I guess for so much of my own brand, I don't think about it actively. I think it happens almost passively, there is some intentionality to it in different moments, but for the most part I think I just kind of naturally do what I'm making and that ends up being my brand, right? But if I am to think about it I think that there's two different aspects: the first is the visual, and the second is the content. So on the content-wise part of it, I don't think of it. I just make the stuff that I'm excited to make. I have never thought to myself "I shouldn't make this 'cause it's not really on brand." I have never thought that to myself and I think that if I did start to think that, I'm going down the wrong path. That's maybe just my opinion, but as a person who has been in the YouTube/influence world, it does scare me when people start to think of themselves as brands instead of thinking of themselves as people. I also do think of myself as an artist 'cause I write and I create different projects and stuff, and I think that as an artist it would be a disaster if I started to think I shouldn't make this thing that I'm excited about or passionate or passionate about because it doesn't fit my brand. I think that would be a really big problem.

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“I think that as an artist it would be a disaster if I started to think I shouldn’t make this thing that I’m excited about or passionate or passionate about because it doesn’t fit my brand. I think that would be a really big problem.”

I have had moments in my career where it has become a bit of a problem, um, so for the first few years of my channel, probably the first four/five years of my channel, I was a teenager and then just in my early twenties, and I was reading only basically Young Adult fiction. (I was reading The Fault in Our Stars type of literature, if people out there don't know what YA is.) And that was my brand in many ways. My brand was me reading Young Adult fiction, and as I got into my literature degree, and I just became older, I was becoming more and more exposed to different books. I also read a lot so I was starting to get kind of tired of reading YA because I'd read like 50 books a year, and if I was reading let's say for four years and I was reading only YA, that's 200 YA books - I was kind of like, “what else is there guys? Like, I think I've read enough of this for now.”

So I started to branch out, and what I really realised was wow yes i'm much more excited about adult books and what are graphic novels and what is that and what is that, right? And even though that's content, that maybe wouldn't seem like it's my brand because my YouTube channel everything that I do is so closely tied to what I read, it actually was a really big shift in my brand. I went from being a person who predominantly reads YA, to a person who predominantly does not read YA and that changed, it actually changes a lot. It's very interesting because the cover designs of YA are a lot brighter, they're a lot more pink, they're a lot more cute etc. So a thumbnail where you're holding up a lot of YA books automatically looks different to a thumbnail where you're holding up a lot of adult books, right? So that has nothing to do with the branding that I've chosen, it's the branding that the book has chosen, right? Or like, that publisher has chosen.

“I have never let my brand stop my content. If I just wanna make somethin’ I just make it.”

But it did, it did change, and honestly my channel very much stalled for a while, as new people were finding my channel, but a lot of people were leaving my channel because they were like "Oh this girl doesn't review the types of books that I care about anymore I'm going to leave" and I'm like, that's totally fine. And now, many years later I've kind of bounced back up and things are going well again so that was definitely a thing. But all of that to just say, I have never let my brand stop my content. If i just wanna make somethin' I just make it.

On the other side that I mentioned is the visuals. So, whenever I make something I try and make it more pink and yellow – those are not like an active decision and I don't know if I would say pink and yellow would be my brand colours - maybe they would be, I guess I haven't thought about it - but I've just noticed that whenever I post a photo I make it more yellow or more pink. Whenever I am editing a video it's very important to me that it has colour correction on it, and that that colour correction is making the whole room look more pinky/yellow, you know what I mean? Like that kind of happy calm colour. You see that in my thumbnails and my instagram photos, so visually I'm also just trying to push the kind of "I am happy, I am nice, this is a calm place!"

I think it's really interesting, yeah what you said about not kind of thinking too much about your brand and letting that get in the way of what you're creating. Especially - you're right - as an artist and as a personal brand, because you know, your personal brand is you. So it needs to be you. So no matter what you choose to create, it's gonna be on brand because it is you.

Right, yeah

It's interesting that kind of, as you changed it kind of stalled and grew back up again, because that happens. Because I recently changed my kind of brand and what I was offering and what I was doing, and the same thing happened because the audience that I had before was there for a specific thing and then now they're like okay you don't really do that thing anymore, that's fine and then you've gotta find a new audience. Which is normal and you know, if anyone is listening and going through that process then it's, you will kind of grow back up as you find that new audience so it's fine.

I would totally encourage people to still do it, and I'm not going to say it's not scary or frustrating. Especially if that brand - if we want to use that word - if that brand is your income. Like I mentioned I've always been self-employed, this has always been my business, my work. So when I started, I never lost subscribers, my subscriber count never went backwards, it never went down, but it very much stopped growing for a long time. During that I was really scared. My views went down, I was getting less views on videos because I wasn't talking about the same kinds of books, or making the exact same kinds of videos.

But the two things that I super noticed were, the first thing is the core group of people who really really like you and know who you are, they don't care. And there will always be that core who are excited about, no matter what you do. They're kind of like, “I just like you, I'm just here for your adventure and your journey and whatever kind of thing that you're excited about.” Those people will be there and they will stick around.

Then the second thing is you will find a new audience. Just in the exact same way that you found your original audience. You're not trapped in one audience. There's a katrillion people on the internet. You're always able to find a new audience. Which is a comforting thought, I think.

“You will find a new audience. Just in the exact same way that you found your original audience. You’re not trapped in one audience. There’s a katrillion people on the internet. You’re always able to find a new audience.”
Ariel’s YouTube channel
Ariel’s YouTube channel

I think - and you can correct me if I'm wrong about your experience - but that it's worth doing, to feel excited about the content you're creating and authentic and aligned with yourself and what you wanna do. Whereas if you had felt trapped in reading YA forever, you probably would have gotten a little bit over it and been pretty miserable, and then your audience probably would have slowed down anyway because you're not being as excited about creating.

Yes! And I have seen it happen on other YouTube channels, and like, it is not important to name names, it is absolutely irrelevant, but I have absolutely seen it happen. It's not just YouTube obviously, it's just across the board – it happens with television shows, it happens everywhere. Once somebody, some body of people or one person, once they believe that their brand is stuck and they then start to realise that they want to change but they feel like they can't, that's when worse deeper problems happen. If we use TV for example, there are shows that will become really popular after like three or four seasons, but things have changed after three or four seasons right?

Like the world changes, we're in a new political climate, we're in blah blah blah, characters change. But they're like, “no we have to stay the same, we're not going to allow ourselves to grow with our own show,” and then the show falls apart for the last few seasons and people stop watching, and then people stop talking about it altogether.

And like I mentioned I also see that happen on YouTube channels. People, you can see that they're not passionate about what they're talking about anymore. I'm like,” I would rather you go from being a book channel to switching over to being a gardening channel that you're actually excited about, rather than staying here as a book channel that you're just lukewarm about.” Because I truly believe that an audience can see that. I truly believe, even if they can't pinpoint it, even if an audience member can't be like "Hmm I think what's going on here is that this persons brand has become stale" No, like I don't think people would ever think that, but I think that they can just sense like, this person isn't as enthusiastic about this, I don't feel their passion, and they won't subscribe, or follow, or buy or watch whatever right.

So we're in agreement. If you're feeling it, you've gotta change.

You've gotta change my friend, it's scary but it will work out.

Okay, so let's talk a little bit about these other brands that you've created. You mentioned that with your magazine and podcast and reading rush, that these were ones that you were like “okay I need to get some help with these, rather than just doing these myself or kind of letting them sit under my brand or whatever.” What kind of made you make that decision to do that? And how has that process been different from obviously building your own brand?

Yeah. Well, I think the first biggest difference is the intentionality. Obviously everyone listening can tell that when it comes to my own channel I am just trying to go with my own flow. I am trying to just make the stuff that I'm excited about, and I do deeply think about things like "What are the visuals of this video and what is the message that I'm trying to share?" but I'm maybe not thinking so actively about the brand. Whereas with my newer projects, like the podcast, like the readathon etc. I do feel much more intentional and I have actually sat down and been like "Okay, what is this project?" and I guess it feels different because it's not me specifically, it's a separate project, it's own entity, it's own one off thing. And like, the podcast could end, I can't end right? Well, I guess we're all gonna end. Um...

But like, my brand will be ever evolving, ever changing as I grow and change and my quote-unquote brand will be here when I'm 80, right? Whereas, Books Unbound podcast could end next year. So it does feel more specific and a bit smaller I guess, in a good way, that meant that I could sit down and be like, “okay what is this? How do I want this to work?”

Let's start with the magazine because that was the first time that I ever reached out for branding. So what I realised was, I wanted to make a literary magazine and I was like "Okay cool, I definitely want to do this, I've thought about doing this for years." I also had experience because I ran one of the magazines on my university campus, so I kind of knew what was involved. I really felt that I could do a great job creating my own team and doing this for real.

So I started thinking, “okay I think of this as its own smaller business, even like a mini business”, but I thought of it as a small business. I was like “how would I want it to look?” I was like, “I want it to look awesome, and I don't have the skill to make it look awesome. I think I have the skill to make the content really good, and to curate it, and market it etc. but I don't have the literal branding skills to make it look good.”

And I'm trying to remember, but basically I think I went to our mutual friend Charli, and was like "You know about branding stuff, do you know anybody who might be able to help me make a logo?" and she was like "You've gotta check out this girl Hollie." and I looked you up and was like, “this is perfect!” At the time you were also a lot more about hand lettering, like a lot of your content was about hand lettering and that was very much the style of thing that I was interested in, so I was like "yeah, this looks sweet!" I also was really excited to work with a female creator, just because I really thrive in that kind of environment, this would be awesome.

So I just reached out to you and I mean, you know this, but people listening don't, but I basically was "I'm doing this project, and this is what I want, what would that look like?" and that really was my first experience, and I remember being nervous because it was imposter syndrome because I was like "I don't know what a brand is, I don't know what a logo is" I'm pretending I know but I don't know. But one thing that Hollie knows, is that I always come prepare with a lot of source imagery, and I was like "Hollie, here are 18 million photos of things I like, I don't know if they're relevant but here you go!" and then from there we made that mood board and I was like "yep, this is totally the mood that I want" and we are able to keep moving forward.

And then after that experience, I was like “okay this is really positive. I feel that if I were to talk about this magazine I would feel proud to share it. To direct people to it.” So everytime that I had another project where I was like "I want it to feel that way again" I would just reach out to you, and be like "Hollie, I have another thing, and another thing, and another thing.." just wait until the next one Hollie, don't worry there's always one coming!

Branded merchandise for The Reading Rush 2020
Branded merchandise for The Reading Rush 2020

But yeah, so that's kind of how it happened for me. The value has just been insane. I think it actually gives me more confidence in the whole project, do you know what I mean?

I guess it's sort of like going out and like wearing an outfit that you love, you just feel good. You're walking around and you're like, “you know what, I look great and no one else can say otherwise.” I feel that way about the brand, with the podcast, I'm like "this logo, is sick" on spotify or on apple podcasts or whatever, I'm like “Books Unbound looks gorgeous.” I feel very happy to push the brand and to make merch about it etc. I also think like, it's something I would be totally proud to show people that I really expect. Like, when I mention "Oh yes I have this readathon that I run, thereadingrush.com" and I'm talking to some author or something that I really care about, I want them to check it out and be like "hey, look how good it is!" it looks really legit.

“I guess it’s sort of like going out and like wearing an outfit that you love, you just feel good. You’re walking around and you’re like, “you know what, I look great and no one else can say otherwise.” I feel that way about the brand.”

Okay, so what do you think has been the biggest lesson you've learnt over the nine or ten years that you've been building your personal brand and building these other brands –  what is the biggest lesson that you think you've learnt about branding?

Ooh wow, it's a big question Hollie.

I think actually it is what we were talking about just a few minutes ago, but it is that you can change your brand. This is something that I've talked about in different contexts and in different conversations, but I really am glad that I have always felt the freedom for my personal brand, to change things up. It always leads to the right path. Following my gut content-wise is always the right move. If I think that something is a good idea, that means it's a good idea for me, and that's the person that I should be trying to make the happiest. Because I'm the one running this whole ship, if I'm starting to get fatigue, or if I'm starting to resent my own thing, the whole ship will sink. The ship will sink, so it's much better that I'm making sure that I'm really excited about my content, proud of my content, and therefore if I start to feel like "Oh it's time for a pivot" or time for a slight change, then I should trust that gut. It doesn't mean that it's not scary, 'cause I mentioned the one big time that it's happened, but it's happened other times in my career and it's always scary. It's always really scary when things like that start to happen or I start to feel some sort of a change, but it always led me the right way to let that change happen.

“If I think that something is a good idea, that means it’s a good idea for me, and that’s the person that I should be trying to make the happiest.”

I would also say, similar to what we were just saying, but another important lesson for me, has been creating more of a team and not doing everything myself. Especially brand-wise, because I have no talent when it comes to like Photoshop or something, I now understand Photoshop, (thank god I've come so far!) I now understand PhotoShop and I've always made my own thumbnails and stuff and I think that i've definitely gotten better at a lot of my own branding. I can throw together a nice thumbnail, if I do say so myself! But I don't think that I'm good at creating a logo, or understanding what's the perfect font. I mean my reasoning for a font is that it's my name! You know what I mean? Like that's gonna be the extent of my knowledge, so reaching out to someone and hiring someone and investing in myself it's always scary, again, it is always scary.

I've had a lot of conversations with people about how important it is to invest in yourself, and there's a fine-line between treating yourself and investing in yourself! A year ago I desperately needed a new camera. Hilariously, I had broken up with my boyfriend at the time, and I had been using his camera. So I had to give him his camera back, that was literally the only reason. So because that happened I had to go back to using my old camera, and I was like “you know what I need to trust myself and have confidence in myself that an expensive purchase like a brand new camera is going to be something that will help my brand, my confidence, my content, everything.” So it was a very expensive investment but I've never regretted it. The second I paid off that credit card, I was like “I have not regretted this!". So in the same way I am really glad that I had invested in good branding for these different projects that I care about. Yes, maybe it's a bit more expensive, it's obviously more money than doing it myself,( 'cause if it was just myself then it would be free!) But like, yes it's money, but it has completely paid itself off, not only in I think, how good it looks and how others perceive it, but how proud I am of it. Those are my two lessons I think.

“I need to trust myself and have confidence in myself that investing in myself with an expensive purchase like a new camera is going to be something that will help my brand, my confidence, my content, everything.”

I love it. Also it pays itself back in merch sales!

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Okay, my last question for you - which might tie into some of those big lessons that you've just shared - is what advice would you give to some other creative out there, maybe another youtuber or artist in some way when it comes to branding their passion? What advice would you give them?

I think I would - it is very similar to what I've just said - but I think it would be to trust yourself, and to have fun. I get asked a lot from people who watch my channel and are like “I want to start a youtube channel. What's your advice?” Obviously there is tech advice and I'm like "film with natural lighting, it always looks better than not-natural lighting" there's little tips like that and stuff, but the biggest piece of advice I always give to people is have fun.

Genuinely, you can tell - I can tell when I'm watching a video and someone's having fun or if they're feeling like they're doing a chore. Even if it's just slightly a chore feeling, I don't want to watch that video. I don't wanna subscribe to that channel. I don't want to engage with that content. However on the other hand, if I'm watching someone and I'm like "oh my goodness they're having so much fun. They LOVE books'' right, like that's my sphere, but I'm like "WOW this person loves books almost as much as I do" I'm like this is as close as other people can come to loving books like me. Like when I see that in someone else, I get so excited. So basically, I try and just advise people to do that in all aspects of life.

It's not about having fun all of the time, like you said right at the beginning, for a lot of people this is kind of a dream job that I have, getting to work for myself, read books, it sounds beautiful when we put it that way. It isn't just me sitting around reading books. Oh god I wish. [laughing] I really really wish it was just me sitting around all day long reading books, but it's a lot of replying to emails - I hate emails, but that' a story for another day - but replying to emails, collaborating on thing and setting things up and following up and chasing people to pay me and it's a lot of admin and maintenance and idea-making etc. etc. forward planning. There's a lot of crap that goes into being self-employed. It isn't all fun.

But when I am sitting down to make the content, I am having fun. That I think is the core of everything else that operates around it. I would say with your brand, have fun. Let it be the thing that you want it to be. Whether that's a personal brand and it's just yourself, and allowing everything on your page to be pink, or always having, I don't know, penguin imagery or something, whatever that is for you, allow yourself to do that because that is what's going to sustain for the longest. Even if it's more specific, like oh I'm making a logo, you can still have so much fun and imbue yourself in that logo, so have fun. Have fun, trust your gut.

I love that. I think that's such beautiful advice. It just echoes everything that we've talked about today. So I am excited for people to hear that advice, and I'm thankful to hear it as well.

Have fun, Hollie!

Yeah, I will always!

Okay, so thank you Ariel. Do you wanna tell the people where they can find you and something maybe that you've got going on right now that they can check out?

Yeah for sure. Well, the thing that I'm most excited about right now is the podcast, it's Books Unbound, if you just type that in anywhere it will come up. But it's @Books_Unbound on instagram. But if you ever want to find me, it's just my name Ariel Bissett. Also Ariel isn't spelled like the font, unfortunately, it's spelled like the mermaid.

Thankfully I am Ariel Bissett everywhere on all platforms. I care about cross-platform consistency!

A huge thank you to Ariel for joining me on this episode of Brand Your Passion - I hope you learn a lot from this conversation and are particularly inspired by Ariel’s commitment to having fun, being yourself, and trusting your gut when it comes to your personal brand.

Hollie stands resting her hands on the white desk behind her, wearing a black t-shirt tucked into orange pants and clear glasses, and smiling into the camera.

by hollie arnett

The brand coach for creatives, hand-lettering artist for herself, and cup of tea lover forever.

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