What would a brain look like if it were a paper shredder? What about a manicure robot or a popcorn helmet? Simone Giertz knows. And it’s questions like these — along with Giertz’s genuine enthusiasm to find their answers — that grew her YouTube channel into one of the platform’s most prominent engineering channels.
Video views: 171,858,148
Content type: Tech
User created: March 15th, 2013
We had the pleasure of sitting down with Giertz to discuss her remarkable YouTube journey, as well as her secret to success on the platform.
An unconventional start
Simone Giertz’s path to YouTube success was a bit of an unusual one. Hailing from Sweden, Giertz traveled abroad in high school. She had a broad range of skills, having even worked as a journalist covering mixed martial arts. However, she always had a particular passion for building things.
“I remember I was in advertising school, and we had this exercise where we had to make a magazine cover for ourselves [showing us] five years in the future,” Giertz recounts. “I made this Popular Science Magazine cover, and it’s me holding a blurred-out object and [saying], ‘Inventor of the year!’ I definitely had a vision of who I wanted to be, and this was before I’d started building things at all.”
For a time, Giertz debated if she should get a degree in the field of engineering but ultimately decided the formal path wasn’t for her.
“… I wasn’t really interested in electronics or programming until I understood all the stuff I could make if I just learned those things. I was never interested in the tools themselves and [debated] whether I should go to school for it or not. [Ultimately, I thought] ‘No, I kind of just want to see if I can learn on my own.'”
After high school, Giertz had the opportunity to develop her engineering skills thanks to her unusual living arrangement:
“In my early 20s, I couldn’t afford an apartment, and the cheapest housing option was a houseboat,” Giertz explains. “I bought this old tugboat, and I remember [thinking] this is a context in which I will be forced to learn how to use tools and build things … Now I have a [environment] where I’m naturally encouraged to keep on exploring new tools and new ways of making.”
From memes to making a living
Giertz soon began channeling her engineering experience into creating video content. Initially, Giertz had hoped to develop a kids’ TV show centered on electronics. She even filmed a short pilot in her bedroom for a Swedish network back in her home country. While nothing came of the pilot, Giertz still thought others would get a kick out of her toothbrush helmet invention. She shared a short GIF of the helmet on social media and Reddit sub-forums. It quickly went viral.
After the success of her toothbrush helmet, Giertz decided to continue making “shitty robots,” branding herself the “Queen of Shitty Robots.” Initially, Giertz focused on doing projects that she could easily translate into GIFs and share on social media. Their success led to Giertz starting a YouTube channel to post videos that gave more insight into her creations. Giertz emphasizes that building her YouTube channel was initially more of a byproduct than the main product.
“I was very much thinking about what are really simple memes or projects that can be translated into GIFs. These were all things I was building with the content in mind. I made projects that translated really neatly into GIFs. The YouTube channel kind of came as an afterthought as people wanted to know more,” Giertz shares. “So I thought, ‘I guess I could make a video around this, I do have some experience, and I enjoy making videos.’ [The longer content] kind of started as a companion piece to the GIF. Then it shifted to the video as the main product.”
The Simone Giertz YouTube channel proved to be a hit and quickly gained traction. She decided to focus her attention on developing her YouTube channel into a full-fledged career, transitioning from meme robots to a broader array of engineering projects.
“I was in a really fortunate position when I started getting a little bit of traction online [in 2015]. So I was able to drop everything and just go full force because I was moving back from the States to Sweden. I [moved] in with my mom, which meant I had very few overhead costs. I didn’t really need to have a job, so I [decided] I’m just gonna spend a couple of months and go as hard as I can on [YouTube].
It didn’t take long for Giertz to start making a living off her channel.
“Within four or five months, I was making enough to live off of. It was really, really fast,” Giertz says. “I think — I think I got lucky with a lot of initial success … There were a lot of tech companies that were interested in what I would do. I got a lot of speaking engagements at tech conferences and ended up kind of being a ‘poster child’ in an industry that has a little bit more money to spend. So I was making a living off of it incredibly fast.”
Staying the course
Currently hovering around 2.7 million subscribers, there’s no denying her approach to YouTube works. Giertz naturally grew her production team as her channel grew, but her process for creating videos has stayed the same.
“I have three people full-time for my product business, but that’s separate,” Giertz explains. “For the content production team, it’s just me and my assistant. She helps me with filming and sometimes does rough cuts — the assembly of the video — and then I do the editing.”
It’s a lot of work, but Giertz is up to the task. Her philosophy of dropping content “when it’s ready” allows her to make not just content that helps her channel grow but also content that she takes pride in sharing with her viewers.
Into the future
In 2018, having felt the “schtick” of Shitty Robots had run its course, Giertz shifted the focus of her channel. As she grew personally, so too did her methods and thought processes for creating products. It was a scary proposition at first.
“It requires a level of confidence and comfort in where you’re at. I definitely have moments of being, ‘Oh my god, I’m sinking my channel into the algorithm like this!'” Giertz says. “But I tried to follow my gut feeling through this and my sense of where I want to go. I never want to fake enthusiasm for things.”
Giertz finds comfort in what has always worked, staying true to herself.
“I’m focusing on these other long-term projects,” Giertz says, referring to her newly launched product business called Yetch. “I’m not obsessing about numbers or growth in the same way I was before … I don’t feel very motivated to increase my level of fame or notoriety. I just want to build things and have been interested in product design for a long time, so I kind of turned my channel into an R&D department. I’ve started using my YouTube channel as a tool to do these other ventures. But I’ll keep on making content for as long as it’s fun, and I’m still loving it.”
Do your thing
Simone Giertz’s journey on YouTube may have been an unusual one. However, her success shows that there’s no one specific way to succeed as a content creator.
Offering some parting advice, Giertz stresses that the key to success on YouTube is to make content that you — the creator — are proud of.
“Make things you’re proud of. If you find [something] interesting, there are probably other people who do too. People are too concerned with who’s going to like it or who’s the audience. I’m always trying to be audience agnostic. If I really like it, then I think other people will, too. Everything else kind of comes from that core.”