I've come to realise that these blogs are a great form of therapy for me. I feel in control of what I want to write, I love sharing things with you guys, and it gives me a chance to reflect on myself while the keyboard rattles away.
Unless I'm doing interviews, people rarely ask why I started my YouTube channel. Because understandably there are ton of woodworking related queries that need to be addressed before the dialogue reaches that stage!
What's going on at the moment?
Currently, the UK is in lockdown due to COVID-19. When the quarantine was officially announced, I took it very seriously. I only left my house two or three times in the first three weeks to go and get shopping and that was it. This included no visits to the workshop.
Fortunately, I had videos pre-filmed prior to the lockdown, meaning I had enough content to cover the first few weeks. In this time, I read books that I'd never had time to read, I spent more time socialising with housemates, and most importantly, I rediscovered leisure time.
Why I started YouTube
I started YouTube for one reason: To do something I love for the rest of my life.
It's easy to make big decisions like this, and it's even easier to fall short of them. New Years resolutions rarely see past February, summer bodies are put off until next year, or retirement hits us before we get a chance to do our dream job.
Like everyone, I've had minor failures and I've had massive failures in my 24 years on Earth. But I attribute my current success with YouTube and my business to a series of triggers that I experienced in a short window of time during the time I started. These were vital to giving me the fuel to get where I am now.
Obviously my time studying at Rycotewood had a huge impact on my woodworking career. It taught me skills, processes, and gave me a ton of awesome connections. However I wasn't happy with the direction that I was heading upon leaving. Most alumni end up working for someone to start with, and then maybe start their own business a few years down the line.
We had many seminars from industry professionals throughout our time at Rycotewood. Some of my favourites being Sebastian Cox, Alice Blogg, and James Ryan. But there were overriding themes across many of the talks.
- It's very difficult to get work
- You will struggle to be a designer AND a maker
- You make what the clients wants, not what you want.
Of course there are exceptions to this. So don't be put off by this if you're considering a career change. In fact, many of my favourite speakers addressed these points but managed to put a positive spin on them which was very refreshing!
I came into the school intending to make a career out of my hobby. However the themes above stripped the control away from me and onto someone else. Which I knew would prevent me from gaining fulfilment in something that I started for me. I wanted to make what I wanted to make, and I wanted to do it in my own time.
Filming Jackass Videos
When I was younger, myself and my friends used to make Jackass style videos, skateboarding videos and gaming videos on YouTube. They were absolutely terrible but we loved doing them.
While I had no intentions of making YouTube my career at when I was younger. Over the following years I began seeing that many creators I enjoyed watching were beginning to make it their full time job. So I knew that it was possible.
During secondary school, I used to sell contraband sweets to other students. I went to the wholesaler with my Dad (who owned a small food store) and purchased crates of ‘Brain Lickers' for 55p each and used to sell them for £1. I had so much fun doing it, partially for the danger involved, but also the money was quite good. I had my fair share of stolen sweets from other students and confiscated stock from teachers, resulting in detentions. It was fun!
Eventually my friend also started coming to the wholesaler with me and purchased his own product. And there was another guy called Sanjit who used to sell cans of Coke from his Locker. Even though it wasn't allowed, my parents never had a problem with me doing it. I guess it's better than selling drugs and alcohol isn't it?
I rediscovered my love for this during my 4th year at Rycotewood. I realised that many veneer suppliers throw out huge crates of offcuts every day. These are no use to the likes of large furniture manufacturers and Rolls Royce for example. But for hobbyist woodworkers, they were perfect! Not to mention some of the packs came with consecutive leaves which really bumped up the value.
I started emailing these companies asking for boxes of offcuts. Sometimes I had to pay a few quid for them, sometimes I only had to cover shipping, sometimes I went and picked it up myself, and sometimes they sent it to me for free!
Upon receiving the package, I unboxed it and identified all the species within. As well as how many leaves came within each consecutive pack. Then I lay them on my bed with a ruler next to them, took a photo, and uploaded them to eBay. Some packs of Oak only generated a couple of quid. Packs of Walnut Burr however constantly reached in excess of £30!
It got to the point where diverting via the post office on my way to Rycotewood was part of my morning routine. And it was so satisfying to see this constant flow of cash coming in that I could invest towards more tools and equipment!
(This is still a great income tactic today. Go give it a try if you want some extra money)
The biggest trigger I had was when my long term relationship broke down. This was bad in itself, but it uncovered a lot of demons that I had boiling up for years prior. I was massively introverted and shy, I didn't socialise with friends as much as I should have, and I lost all enjoyment with the course that I had been studying and investing in for 4 years.
Put it this way, prior to this happening I figured that if I came out of the course after 5 years and didn't get the job I wanted, it wouldn't matter because I'd have a nice relationship to come back to. But when that opportunity disappeared, I wasn't left with much to look forward to. These negative thoughts spiralled for months until I got to the point where I thought I have 3 options:
– Move to Australia and disappear
– Join the army and disappear
– Press the off button
I'm only just getting used to speaking about this 4 years later. Because quite honestly I'm embarrassed to admit the thoughts I had. Fortunately, I had an incredible support from my family and friends who helped me get through it. My Mum even paid for CBT for a few months which really helped switch the way I perceived and acted in life. I've strongly embraced the notion of stoicism ever since.
In addition to this, my friend Henry gave me a book that I think should be essential reading to anyone going through a hard time. And I was also came across this video from Gary Vaynerchuk regarding what to do after college:
The perfect timing of these events allowed me to completely pivot the direction of my life in a single decision. I was going to use this low point to be constructive rather than productive.
I combined my love for woodwork, making videos, and entrepreneurship together. Then used this to take me away from the career that was intended after Rycotewood and instead aim for a career on my terms than allowed me to make money doing what I love.
When I made this decision, I knew it would be successful. It had to be. Because not being successful meant I would be unable to climb out of the pit I had descended into. God knows what life would be like now if I hadn't acted on it.
The Current Situation
Skipping forward a few years now. I'm really happy with how far I've come. My workshop is insane, I've got all the Kit I could have ever wanted, I've connected with thousands of people worldwide, and feel a great sense of fulfilment and significance in what I do.
By the way, If you want to know how I afforded all this kit at a young age, read this blog post.
Despite this, If you are watching the Garden Workshop series, you'll know that I'm currently experiencing some ups and downs with my motivation when in the workshop. Mainly due to paralysis of choice with all the options I have available, and how little time I have to carry them out.
To combat this, I'm taking a step back from teaching at Rycotewood three days a week next year to just two days. Hopefully this will allow me to spend more time doing the other things I love and dedicating more time with friends and family. Two things that I rarely get the chance to do.
It's been a fun old journey getting to where I am now and there are still so many outrageous plans I have for the future. This will be in a separate blog post though. In the meantime, I just need to get better at this re-balancing of life and work!
It’s so hard when you put so much of yourself into a relationship and it comes apart…it can be really hard to see the path you started off on or to find a new path. For whatever it’s worth, I really appreciate you being open about these things. And I’m sure other people do too. It’s hard to be open for people but it can put a lot of good into the world. Take care, man.
-An American Woodworking Nurse
Thanks for going through all this, Matt. It can’t be easy talking about some of these topics but you’ve landed well and truly on your feet and absolutely smashed it out of the park. Your channel is fantastic, and one of the best things about YouTube for me. Always good to have a couple of laughs watching your videos while still learning some real skills. I think the biggest draw to your channel is that you don’t take yourself too seriously, and it just makes watching so much more pleasant.
I’d love to see that old channel with you doing some Jackass stuff though, please share if you ever see this 🙂
Great stuff mate. It’s always nice to see good people doing well for themselves.