Being your own Boss Series: Kyle Tryon of TechSquidTV
Kyle Tryon of TechSquidTV, formerly RoboSquidTV, takes the time to share with Hover how hosting his own YouTube channel has positively impacted his life and career goals. He gives us the background on the hard work behind posting exciting content and continuing to grow and pivot, as necessary. It’s hard not to get inspired by this young entrepreneur. Make sure to catch his videos on his YouTube channel and follow him on TechSquidTV’s Instagram!
What gets you out of bed every morning and how do you start your day?
I am very self-motivated to learn, improve, and grow. I love the idea that a living can be made doing what you genuinely love in a time where our generation was told that you “had to go to college to get a good job” – even if it might not be what you love to do. Of course, if you can go to school for what you love, that is your decision to make! We live in an awesome time where anyone with a computer and internet access can take their idea and learn absolutely everything they need to in order to turn that idea into a business.
How did it feel to launch that first YouTube episode?
When I launched my first official episode for my new channel, I was really excited that this was going to be “real.” I wasn’t expecting much, knowing that a new channel with its first video is going to struggle to be found. I did have to promote it a little. I posted on Reddit, as well as some other websites and forums, to try and seed the growth at the beginning. I was shocked to see the positive feedback I was getting! People were saying that they loved the tutorials I was putting out and I even had a teacher on Reddit tell me they would share my video with their class. On another occasion, I had an entirely unrelated student tell me they saw my video in class. It felt incredible.
How did you first get involved in coding?
When I was in grade school there is this website called MySpace.com. You might remember it. One of the really cool things about MySpace was that you could customize your profile’s theme using CSS (a web styling language). Most people would go online and find these codes and then copy them and paste them into their profile, often with horrible repeating gif backgrounds that made your eyes water. What I thought was really cool was that you could change these codes or edit then press save and then your public profile would be updated instantly. It was similar to a personal website which, at the time, was not something I understood how to even start. I thought it would be really cool if I could actually make an entirely custom profile page on my own from scratch. I eventually accomplished this, however it was kind of funny because the page was basically unusable. It was a giant Xbox 360 controller and each of the buttons on the controller linked to somewhere on the profile. If you were just looking at it, it was an image of an Xbox controller, and you couldn’t tell what anything did.
“Anytime I could hack or modify or tamper with something I definitely took the opportunity to find out how that was done. Curiosity.”
What made you want to teach coding to others?
The selfish reason was that in the process of teaching someone else, it forced me to learn the subject thoroughly. I knew that if I was to make a mistake, and then put that mistake out on the internet in video format, the comments would be brutal. In effect, I learned the subject material very well while also creating my portfolio. I really do believe that everyone (and I mean everyone!) should learn a certain amount of coding. Programming is a really great critical thinking exercise.
What piece of equipment can you not live without?
Is it cheating to say my computer setup as a whole? I can’t even use a laptop properly :). I really genuinely value having two monitors even more than having one large monitor. I use my computer for everything, I am watching TV while working or gaming. These monitors also allow me to do things like watch a tutorial in full screen on one screen, while working in the other screen.
How have you prevented burnout in the tough position of running your own business?
That’s honestly still really difficult. I wish I had better advice on how to avoid burnout. Your solution is probably going to have to be fairly specific to you. It’s obviously really important to make sure that you do get away from your work and relax doing whatever it is that you do, but you do have to balance that with making sure you don’t put off your work too much. I say anytime you’re getting really frustrated with what you’re doing, walk away and try your hardest to come back to it as soon as you are mentally capable.
When did you decide you needed to pivot from RoboSquidTV to TechSquidTV?
My channel started off doing entirely web design tutorials and, to be honest, that was actually never my intent. I planned to have more broad subject matter, but once I had started making several tutorial videos it felt like I had been locked into this space. I thought that if I wanted to do this professionally, it had to work for me personally. Creating tutorials is absolutely one way to make video content but it requires an incredible amount of time both in creating the videos and in research.
Selling your tutorials as full-length features off of YouTubes is the best way to monetize tutorials, but it’s difficult to compete with all the free content available on the internet. I wanted to keep my videos educational and within the realm of tutorials without needing to rely on selling full courses. On top of that, web-design tutorials themselves don’t cater to the YouTube algorithm as well as other types of content simply because educational content is not liked or shared in the same way as pop culture type videos, which have mass appeal. In order to keep the YouTube channel growing, I had to find a way to stay true to the type of content I want to create but also cater to a wider audience.
What is the most difficult and most rewarding aspect of working for yourself?
Definitely one of the hardest things about being your own boss is you have no one but yourself to let down if you don’t complete something. It’s really easy to get behind and not do what you’re supposed to do. It’s really hard to separate when it’s time to work and when it’s time to relax when working from home, since you’re working out of an area where you would normally relax. It helps if your work and relax spaces are separate. If you can have a work computer and a personal computer that will help, but even I struggle to keep those things separate, since it’s helpful to share some of the gear.
What’s really rewarding about working for yourself is you actually see the direct results for your actions. When you work in a company, particularly a large company, it’s very easy to feel as though your actions don’t make any difference. It’s very hard to measure them or see the results of your actions. When it’s just you working on a project everything that comes as a result of that is directly from your hard work. It’s a very measurable form of success or failure.
Can you discuss a time where you regretted taking on a project?
Something I have a habit of doing is under-estimating the length of time a task may take. I don’t necessarily regret the projects I take on, but I definitely have an issue with overfilling my plate. Quite often things do not go as smoothly as you expect them to and they end up taking two or three times longer than you plan for. I recently thought I was going to deep dive into Android development, as it is relevant for my job (though not required). Once I saw how tall a cliff I was walking to the edge of, I had I had to shelf the Android development for a while.
Was there a project or person that encouraged you to keep going?
YouTube has a bit of a stigma for having a comment section that is less than savoury, but I can say that that has genuinely not been the case in my experience. The amount of support I have received and the gratitude I have witnessed continue to inspire me to keep making videos. It’s rare on the internet to have an audience that is so positive and I really would like to see it continue and grow.
What is an opportunity you’ve been able to do, thanks to running TechsquidTV?
Starting this channel has given me every major opportunity in the last year of my life. About a year ago I was working in a retail store, fixing computers, and not making very much money at all. I had also spent nearly three years attending a college that was shut down just as I graduated – long story short, it was a terrible scam of a school. In my pursuit of getting a better job, and working on YouTube, I decided to put all my effort into making these web development tutorials. This allowed me to learn, while showing future employers what I was capable of, since I had no degree or portfolio. Within weeks of starting my channel, I was able to secure a sponsorship with the wonderful people at Hover, and within a few months, I landed a new job, in part due to the work I had demonstrated on YouTube and with a ton of help from a good friend at the company. Getting this new job has allowed me to move out of my parent’s house and secure a nice apartment where I have enough room to dedicate space to making YouTube videos. I really can’t stress enough how positive this entire experience has been.
Which episode is your favourite, and why?
My second most popular video, “How To Mock-Up A Website Design!”, is my favourite for a whole bunch of reasons and is behind my recent decision to pivot. I think it’s just a far more interesting video to watch than a programming tutorial. Programming tutorials don’t have to be boring but it was more fun to talk about the design aspect of websites rather than code them. The more interesting you can make a video, the better it will perform.
Which accomplishment are you most proud of/which is your favourite and why?
So much has happened over the last year that it’s almost impossible to answer this question. Getting sponsored on YouTube validated all of the hard work I was pouring into this crazy idea, and that drove me to keep going, not give up, and work even harder. That all helped lead to getting my new job!
What is the number one step a person can take to get their own business off the ground?
It’s impossible to start any type of business or plan without actually writing things down. It’s very easy to believe that you have it all planned out in your head, but small things will start to change or be forgotten and this will cause problems later on. Start documenting your business plans, make rough drafts, second drafts, refine your idea until you have a solid plan. After that, just get started! It’s easy to believe that you’re not ready yet and some excuse, like not having the right equipment. Don’t make excuses for yourself, just launch!
“Quality content [is more than] just flipping on a camera and pressing record, there is an incredible amount of planning and preparation involved followed by a lot of work in filming and post.”
What do you wish everyone knew about running their own YouTube channel?
It’s a lot more work than you may realize to create quality content. Videos could take anywhere from a few hours to several full days to complete. You need to at least be aware of, if not have expertise in, a wide range of skills to create video content. If you do not, you are going to need a lot of help, and help in this field generally isn’t free or cheap. This isn’t meant to scare anyone away. You should try to make the best videos you can, but be aware of what that means and what you can do to improve your videos. It will take years of practice and learning. If you’re going to have an on-screen presence, watch some videos or classes about videography and learn how you should frame your shot. Learn how to get the best audio possible for your video. Rarely is quality content just flipping on a camera and pressing record, there is an incredible amount of planning and preparation involved followed by a lot of work in filming and post.
What is your favorite thing to do to relax and step away from the stress?
I love going for a walk and listening to some chill hop / glitch hop. I also love playing video games, and I watch a lot of YouTube and my Plex media server. Sometimes playing some music or watching a show and cleaning up the room is a great way to zone out and calm down and when you’re done you feel accomplished.
What is the best piece of advice you’ve given or received?
I wish I could remember exactly where I had heard this statement: if you are looking for advice on how to become rich, you shouldn’t ask a billionaire. There are a lot of people out there on the internet that will tell you about their success and how you should follow what they do, but this is survivorship bias. There will be many others out there that have done the same thing and try just as hard and have not gotten anywhere. The path that someone else takes can be an inspiring story but it should not be a roadmap for the path that you take.
“I want to see where this goes and what the next thing coming is.”