Tan Jian Hao has not slept for four days. It’s cold and wet and he is out in the rain. But that’s all part of being a successful YouTube star.
TODAY caught Tan, 21, in the midst of filming his next video for his YouTube channel. He is one of Singapore’s most popular YouTube stars, with two of his videos listed as Singapore’s top 10 trending videos (non-music) of the year.
His YouTube channel has more 250,000 subscribers. His most popular video, on teenagers past and present, has more than 1.9 million views. But just a year ago, Tan said he was just “someone with a camera”.
“I started with a Sony handycam and I didn’t even know what cameras were good for video. I was just like ‘ooo… that camera looks big, I’ll go get it.’”
Then came a chance meeting with Ryan Tan from Night Owl Cinematics – who runs another popular local YouTube channel, Ryan Sylvia. “Ryan taught me a lot. In one year, I became someone with just a camera to someone who directs a lot of people. My knowledge for cinematography and production had increased so much,” Tan said.
“If anyone had told me one year ago that I would achieve this level of capability, I would never have believed it.”
Ryan Tan is equally complementary of Jian Hao: “I think Jian Hao displays a very different persona when on cam and off cam. In real life he’s a very humble, down to earth and mature guy; He is also receptive to advice and able to put his ego aside to listen to another man!”
“He being our neighbour (Ryan Tan and his wife, Sylvia Chan) also means that’s many late suppers and late nights at our house brainstorming or editing his videos, we genuinely want the best for him and he’s getting closer each day!”
Today, Tan Jian Hao acts, directs, shoots, produces and writes for his videos. He said he likes making “silly and retarded stuff”.
His legions of fans on social media certainly appreciate it too. “Amongst all the local YouTubers; I think JianHao Tan stands out the most. His videos are really entertaining,” said Gabriel Balana on Twitter.
But of course, there will always be haters. “No, YouTube, I don’t want to watch Tan Jian Hao. Stop recommending me someone I couldn’t care less about,” Twitter user Alfi Fahmi said.
LIVING THE DREAM
Regardless, the 21-year-old is living his dream, even though he struggles at times with the workload.
“Being a YouTuber isn’t just about making videos, it’s about sharing, thinking about ideas, it’s gathering casts… (which) can take about one full day to gather everyone. And there’s a lot of admin and logistics stuff involved.”
He produces one video a week for his YouTube channel, and the rest of his time is spent on creating branded content for corporate clients.
Tan registered his own company, a production studio called The Jian Hao Tan, in July and now has three people in his employ. He declined to reveal how much he earns making these videos, but said he rakes in a low six-figure annual income.
He admits he likes to splurge and the money earned from producing corporate videos helps to sustain his lifestyle.
“Obviously who doesn’t like money,” he said. “YouTube income alone wasn’t enough; Well that depends on what you define as enough, because for me, I live quite a high-maintenance lifestyle. I take taxis everywhere, and I shop a lot, so I really try to earn enough to continue doing that.”
That said, Tan is also looking to grow this company. He carefully noted that despite his high-maintenance habits, the company’s finances are in good shape. “We’re looking to make (the company) bigger and the bigger it gets, we can get perhaps a bigger office, a studio.”
At least for now, Tan feels he knows how to connect with his target viewers.
“People watch YouTube because YouTubers are just normal people. I try to keep that essence of just being a bit more down-to-earth and having something more raw.”