Erin Winters is a master class in owning your talent and starting where you are. The Detroit native launched her digital marketing and video production company Erin On Demand in June 2018, premiering her YouTube channel under the same name six months later. Less than a year in, the Creator on the Rise surpassed her goal of 50,000 subscribers, opening her Internet home to a flood of entrepreneurs and content creators seeking to fortify their brands and impact.
Erin didn't see this chapter of her life coming. While in college, the broadcast journalism major spent her summers interning full-time at Fox 2 Detroit with the intention of gracing screens as an anchor, but her final year sparked a change of plans. "I didn't like the stories they were sifting through and overlooking, but I still loved being on camera and telling stories," Erin tells xoNecole.
Courtesy of Erin Winters
One week after crossing the stage at Howard University, she took on a position as a spokesperson for a credit union in Michigan. "Everyone was expecting me to be the girl they saw on TV," she reflects. Deep-diving into speaking engagements and social media management, however, was exactly what Erin needed. "It really introduced me to a more creative side of storytelling and digital marketing that a lot of companies need," she muses. "They let me be super creative, and I hit the ground running."
Once her yearlong contract drew to a close, Erin would later stumble across National Geographic's nationwide call for its first-ever digital correspondent. Between her infectious personality and razor-sharp skill set, she not only soared to the top three but beat out a professional videographer and news anchor in the process. "I fell somewhere in the middle," she says of her mega win.
As grand as the opportunity was, like her first job after college, her gig was ultimately temporary, leaving Erin to face one question on her way back to Detroit 10 months later: Now what?
In this xoChat, the brand strategist talks building her business in the thick of unemployment, growing her YouTube channel with authenticity, and maximizing what you have now to create the future you want.
*This interview was lightly edited for clarity.
After your contract with National Geographic ended, how did you navigate the silence when you were applying for jobs and nothing was sticking?
Courtesy of Erin Winters
It was really hard. I had one big lead that I thought I would get, so when I didn't, it was even more crushing. It was a dark time for me in a way, but I'm glad I didn't get a job because it really gave me time to think about launching my business. I was working on my website. It gave me time to value my health. I was working out twice a day. I was eating good.
Even though it was hard emotionally in terms of what I was going to do next, it was also like, 'I'm here, I saved money, I can handle these interim months. Maybe this is the time to pivot, and you need this moment to be still and figure out what direction you want to go in instead of trying to beat God's timing.' It's crazy to look back on those months because if I did get a job, I wouldn't have any of this.
What I appreciate about your channel is that you’re very transparent about moving back in with your parents and living at home while building your business. When you first made that move, was it humbling for you in any way or were you just thankful to have that support in your corner?
It wasn't one or the other. It was both. I felt so grateful that I could actually come back home, and they let me convert one of their rooms into my office space where I can be focused and build. My parents are super supportive, and my mom is my business manager, so it's actually convenient for us to be in the same household because we literally talk about my business nonstop. It's good, but when you've come from living on your own and being able to go and do as you please, you do have to revert. I need to respect their household, check-in, and fix dinner for all of us, not just me. It's different things that I did have to readjust to, and it was a humbling experience, but at the end of the day, when you're building something, you have to sacrifice. There's no way you're going to be able to build something sustainable without that.
Why did you decide to create a YouTube channel after launching Erin On Demand?
Courtesy of Erin Winters
Two reasons. People were asking me the same questions over and over again (laughs), and I really did miss being on camera. That is probably my top passion. There was about six months in between launching the business and starting the channel. It was very important to me to get in the game in terms of entrepreneurship. I was still an infant, but I was still six months further than a lot of people who hadn't taken the full leap. I could still tell them things like how I prepared for the journey, how much I saved, what my target audience is, and what my goals are. I wasn't giving hardcore marketing advice at that point, but I still realized there were people at ground zero and I could help them get to level one. That was the mindset, and [my business] has completely blossomed since then.
"It just goes to show that you can't discredit your passion. If you are talented in some area, you're going to make money in that area if you put your energy into it."
I love that mindset of not waiting until you’ve “arrived” and sharing the process.
People appreciate that. I think that has contributed tremendously to the growth of my channel. One of the most frequent comments I get is, "I just love watching your journey." It's just crazy when you just start, and you don't care about the house you're in or the backdrop. It's really about capturing your journey as you go. I didn't see that on YouTube. I saw people in the entrepreneurial and productivity space who were already "there" or who had "built it". They weren't showing themselves grow. I just slid in there, and here we are.
Do you think that’s why your Day in the Life videos resonate with your audience so much?
Yes, because they can see me doing the work instead of just hearing me talk about it. When I started those, my channel really took off because people like to see you "do". It also goes to show that you can't be scared to try new things. The way that started, I didn't have a video planned, so I brought my camera along with me to a meeting. Girl, they loved that video. The thing in marketing is if it works, keep doing it. That really helped with the growth. It gives people more to connect with, and those connecting points build trust. So many people get caught up in the information, but it's also just [as] important that people like who you are.
Courtesy of Erin Winters
At some point in your Day in the Life videos, you always share your Top 3 list. How did you arrive at this method?
I've always been a to-do list type of girl, but my lists were too long. It would be a week's worth of stuff that I would try to put on myself for one day, which wasn't healthy. My first degree into the Top 3 was writing my to-do lists on sticky notes. If it can't fit on a sticky note, it is too much to do. Maybe I lost a sticky note or something, but I stopped doing that (laughs). Then, I bought a planner that had a section for priorities, and I decided to start listing my Top 3. So much of productivity is feeling like you've actually got things done, and I felt so much better, so I started sharing it. I get tagged on Instagram, and people send me emails and DMs about how this really works. It was just about simplifying it. You'll get so much more done. Baby steps are still steps, and Top 3 is literally turning into this big thing that I did not expect.
You recently posted a video about how you make over $10,000 a month through seven streams of income. Why was it important for you to share this information with your subscribers?
It was important to share so people can know the possibilities that they can create for themselves with whatever it is they want to do in life. I just wanted to open people's understanding that there are so many ways to make money and once you understand that making money doesn't have to be hard, then the opportunities come. At the beginning of this year, my income streams looked nothing like this. Even six months ago, they didn't. It was very spotty and sporadic. I would always say, "At the end of this year, I don't care how much it is, I just need consistency."
"Once I really started to pour into how I could make things more consistent and didn't worry about the actual figure that I'm making, the opportunities kept coming and the streams of income kept growing. You can't get discouraged when you're in that seed-planting phase. You can't stop watering the seed. At some point, it has to harvest."
You’ve mentioned that things are changing over at Erin On Demand. Where are you right now when it comes to the evolution of your brand?
Courtesy of Erin Winters
The bulk of my time is YouTube. I always call it the heartbeat of my business. Aside from that, it's my eBrand Club. Once YouTube took off, I was never getting questions about video. It was always, "How do I build my brand?" and "How do I grow my social media?" I didn't have anything in place, so I had to create something that was affordable. I am firmly against absurdly charging people when they're trying to get their businesses off the ground, which is why the membership club is only $30 a month. I do weekly live lessons, Instagram audits, YouTube audits––I really get in there and help them figure out the best way to brand and monetize their businesses. We bring in experts every month as well to talk about different things like Facebook ads, media kits, and pitching yourself. That's what I spend a ton of time doing because it's growing so fast. Then I'm doing one-on-one strategy calls, helping people get clarity on their businesses and helping them package it in a way that attracts their target audience.
People decide to become entrepreneurs every day. What’s in your Top 3 for thriving as one?
Faith. I have a very strong sense of faith. Without faith, I wouldn't have even taken a chance on myself. Faith is just so interwoven into everything in business. After you take the first leap, there's going to be a thousand more you need to take.
Support. I can't stress it enough. It's very hard to thrive as an entrepreneur, especially as a full-time entrepreneur, when you don't have support. That was another reason why I created the [eBrand] Club because people were coming to me about not having friends or parents who supported them, so I wanted to build a community of like-minded people.
Adaptability. There are just so many things in business that change. At this point, video projects are not the first thing I'm taking on [anymore], and it's only a year and a half later. If you are so stuck in where your business is when you first think of the idea, and that's not what your audience wants and that's not what's bringing in revenue, you have to adapt. I think I have really mastered adapting to my business and how it's shaped and just being a student to how all of this works.
I tell people all the time, "I don't know everything, but I'm very good at figuring it out."
For more Erin, follow her on Instagram @erinondemand and check out her videos at Youtube.com/ErinOnDemand!
Featured image courtesy of Erin Winters.