It’s always tempting to look at successful people and say, “yeah, but…”
Yeah, but… they had wealthy parents.
Yeah, but… they knew all the right people.
Yeah, but… they got lucky.
Unfortunately for our egos, it’s hard to say that about Ali Abdaal. Aside from being born in the right place (which is a big deal), he managed to grow his million-dollar online empire through determination, work ethic, and the right mindset.
Here’s how you can do it too.
Who is Ali Abdaal?
Let’s start with the basics.
Ali Abdaal is a junior doctor working in the UK. He graduated from Cambridge University in 2018 and has been working in the medical field ever since.
He’s also a content creator and entrepreneur with just under 1.7 million subscribers on his YouTube channel and makes $27,000 a week just from passive income streams.
For the average person, graduating from Cambridge seems like a feat in itself. Add to that simultaneously running a successful content network and a test prep business, and you can’t help but gasp. 🤯
But, once you see the methods and process broken down, you’ll see that Ali’s only real superpower is consistency and organization. And the amazing thing is that Ali is super open about everything he does, how much money he makes from it, and how he got to where he is.
It’s practically a foolproof blueprint for success!
But let’s back up a bit before moving on.
Ali Abdaal — The Early Years
You can usually learn a lot about how people got where they are by looking at a few key decisions they made early on.
Making the right decisions today, no matter how small, has the potential to create massive returns in the future.
Here are some of the things Ali Abdaal got right.
He learned to code
Ali gained basic coding skills at an early age and found work as a freelance web designer and developer in his teens.
If you didn’t have the presence of mind to start learning to code as a youngster, don’t let that stop you. There are many amazing resources out there that make learning basic coding skills easier than ever.
And let’s be super clear about something: learning to code is not a necessary step for success but it helps.
Having some basic coding skills these days is almost a necessity if you’re trying to become a multi-channel content creator. In Ali Abdaal’s own words:
Learning to code teaches you how the proverbial sausage is made. And with that insight, you can see things in a different light.
You will start to notice problems that need solving and have the language to visualize solutions to those problems. You don’t need to gain so much coding experience that you actually execute those solutions, but at least you’ll have a starting point to rally the right people around.
He started a business
Building on his ability to code, Ali (along with five other med school colleagues) started a company called 6med.
The problem they saw was a lack of reliable and accessible test prep material for medical school entrance exams. And more importantly, they saw an underserved niche.
We’ll get more into why identifying that niche was a critical step to Ali’s success, but for now, it’s enough to know that he saw an opportunity, and he decided to act on it.
6med is still a successful business and serves test prep and tutoring material for thousands of students each year.
He Acts Like Real Flesh-and-Blood Person
Even though he’s objectively successful, Ali Abdaal has managed to maintain his “regular Joe” attitude through it all. When many people achieve minor celebrity status in their niche, they have the instinct to restrict access to themselves.
Ali took a completely different approach.
You can message him right now on Twitter or Instagram, and you’ll likely get a response.
He also reads 100% of personal emails and actively replies to as many as he can manage.
He even has a standing offer if you want to meet him in real life:
All you have to do is go to Cambridge, set up a coffee date, and he will buy you a coffee.
The key here is that none of it is a gimmick.
He does it genuinely, because he knows that it will have a big payoff in terms of trust. If you trust someone, you’ll believe that they have your best interest in mind and ready to take their advice.
In other words, he’s building true believers by being as accessible as he can manage.
The Best Things In Ali’s Catalogue… Are Free
An extremely important fact about Ali Abdaal that gets overlooked is that he focuses on audience before monetization.
It’s such a simple concept, and yet so often overlooked. I’d say that well over 90% of content creators fail because they work out how to monetize their content before they’ve developed an audience for it.
Monetization is not a challenge. Say that again, until it sinks in.
Monetization is not a challenge.
The challenge is building a devoted follower base. Once you have that, you just have to pick how to monetize your content. It can be something as simple as straightforward as setting up a landing page for donations.
Ali Abdaal — Income Streams
Let’s take a quick look at how Ali Abdaal generates income as a content creator. His medical career is certainly an important part of that, but it’s outside the scope of our overview.
And before getting into the weeds, we should point out something else Ali often toches on. When he decided to become a content creator, he was under no illusion that he would be an overnight success.
Source: Ali Abdaal
Nobody is waiting with bated breath for your content. You have to prove to viewers that you deserve attention.
The Ali Abdaal YouTube Channel (AdSense Revenue)
If you’ve heard of Ali, your first exposure was probably from his YouTube content.
And it’s important to highlight that his YouTube channel is the foundation for his career as a conten creator.
He started his channel in 2007 but didn’t start working on it seriously until 2018. In 2020, with over a million subscribers, he earned over $150,000 from his channel from AdSense revenue alone.
It took Ali six months and 52 videos to get to a point where his YouTube channel was eligible for monetization (1,000 subscribers and 4,000 watch-hours as of this writing).
Not too shabby.
🚨 IMPORTANT NOTE: By Ali’s own admission, every other stream of revenue that he has developed as a content creator is directly related to his YouTube presence. In a nutshell, his channel’s success is what provided a receptive audience for every other revenue stream.
Ali is not a dedicated affiliate marketer but that doesn’t stop him from recommending products that he uses and trusts.
Since a big part of his audience are productivity wonks, they’re pretty likely to listen to his recommendations on productivity tools, which he recommends quite a bit.
His top affiliate partnerships are:
- Paperlike — iPad screen protectors
- IQUNIX — mechanical keyboards
- Epidemic Sound — music and sound effects for his videos
- Amazon — obvious
- Building a Second Brain — a course on retaining and capturing knowledge
He also has a long list of other partners, but those are his top five. By recommending a variety of products from that list of partners, he earned $185,565 in 2020.
And he makes the most of it by recommending everything and anything that he personally uses.
It’s worth repeating that this income doesn’t happen in a vacuum. He achieved it by capitalizing on the trust he developed with his YouTube audience primarily.
Sponsorships are what many people see as the holy grail of creators. Once you have a sponsor, you’ve basically made it 🏆.
The truth is a little more complicated, and other avenues of success could be more profitable for you in a lot of ways.
But, sponsorships are still high on the list and the top source of income for many creators.
In Ali’s case, he joined a sponsorship sourcing agency at the end of 2019 on the back of his YouTube success. This agency helps match sponsors with creators and simplifies the process for both parties.
In 2020, Ali made $190,500 from various sponsorship deals.
Believe it or not, Ali Makes more income from online courses than any other revenue stream.
In 2020, he started releasing courses on Skillshare. His first course was a video editing class which was relatively successful and earned him $3,100 in January of that year.
The big breakpoint came when he released a course on how to study for exams and he started making tens of thousands per month on Skillshare. Fast forward to the end of 2020 and Ali made around $515,000 on the platform.
Somewhere along the way, Ali’s experience with Skillshare crystallized another idea he had been thinking about, which was to create a course for people who want to build a successful YouTube channel.
Ali correctly reasoned that he had the “clout” to create an online course independently of Skillshare and be successful.
He launched his Part-Time YouTuber Academy as a course separate from his Skillshare content on his own website. The very first cohort of people who signed up for that $1,000 earned him a total of $294,000 in 2020.
Walking in Ali Abdaal’s Shoes
Now that you know how Ali Abdaal makes a living, all that’s left to do is make a YouTube channel, put up some online courses, and watch the revenue flow in.
Yes and no.
Everyone’s journey is different, and just because you know where someone ended up doesn’t mean you know how they got there.
In this section, we’ll discuss some of the habits, learnings, and lessons that Ali Abdaal preaches regularly. Hopefully, that will help you figure out how to pave your own path to financial freedom through content creation.
1. The Three-Pronged Promise
One of the mantras Ali hammers home constantly throughout his catalog of videos is consistency. He goes as far as to say that if you follow three steps, he guarantees you will find success.
Those steps are:
- Create content that is useful to someone.
- Upload useful content at least once a week.
- Continue doing steps 1 and 2 for two years.
There is no doubt in Ali Abdaal’s mind—and we agree—that if you follow that simple process, you will find success as a creator.
Steps two and three are pretty straightforward, and you probably don’t need any help getting your mind around that. Straightforward doesn’t mean easy, but we’ll get to that a little later.
However, step one is where a lot of people get stumped.
How do you make useful content?
Pretty simple, and we already touched on it earlier in this article.
Find a problem that someone has and solve it.
Notice that we say a problem that someone has. Not a problem that everyone has.
2. Focus Your Effort On Small Solutions First
These days, you can’t swing a cat without hitting some productivity guru who wants to teach you how to find your niche.
Meanwhile, there are just as many telling you that you have to create your own niche.
Both of those are somewhat valid, but there’s a middle road.
Ali Abdaal used what we call the step drill bit approach to audience building.
Instead of trying to jump right into a big and competitive niche, he used progressively larger niches.
Each small niche gave him a foothold to a bigger niche that he could exploit.
Like you would with a step drill bit into a surface.
You simply need to find a problem that you absolutely know you can solve and solve it; even if it will only help 100 people.
In Ali’s case, that problem was the BioMedical Admissions Test. That’s an admissions test used by only a few universities in only one part of the world.
And he talked about it in this excellent interview with Noah Kagan.
As a point of reference, only 1,713 people took the BMAT in 2019. But that didn’t matter to Ali because he knew he could make useful content for those people.
After all, he had been running a company for years that provided tutoring help for the exam.
And because he was the only one creating high-quality content for that problem, he had no issues gaining his first few true believers.
From there, he moved on to videos about preparing for medical school interviews. At that point, he started to target all medical students in the UK, not just those who were preparing for the BMAT.
Since he was a medical student at the time, he then started making content about his life and how he balances studying with his business and so on.
That opened broadened his audience and allowed him to appeal to an even bigger audience in the productivity niche—which is where he wanted to end up all along.
He started with a few people who found his content useful enough to become followers and built on that.
If he had jumped directly into the gadgets and technology or productivity niches, it would have been much more difficult to grow as quickly.
3. Don’t Be Afraid to Borrow Ideas
A big part of Ali’s Success comes from the fact that he’s pretty darn good at creating and editing videos. How did he learn to do that? Simple imitation.
In his own words:
At the start, I told myself I want to be the Peter McKinnon of studying and so I modeled my videos based on his.
If you take a look at this video by Ali Abdaal:
And compare it to this video from Peter McKinnon:
You can see how Ali learned a lot of the basics from Peter. And yet, you’ll be hard-pressed to find anyone who would immediately make a connection between the two.
That’s because Ali Abdaal went on to develop his own style. While some of the same beats are still there, the music is entirely different.
There’s no shortage of guides to teach you how to edit videos and create content. But they won’t teach you to have your own personal style.
For that, find a role model and figure out why what they do works. Then, do that for a while and your style will develop organically.
Always remember that the most important thing you bring to the table is yourself.
People can get courses and content anywhere but they can only get your course from you.
4. Look For Long-term Content Ideas
Remember part three of the three-pronged approach?
Here’s a refresher: create and upload useful content for at least two years.
That’s easier said than done for most people. But there’s a simple hack that Ali discovered, and it’s to come up with serial content.
In other words, create content topic clusters that you can build around over long periods.
That’s how he started doing book summaries. It’s not a particularly innovative thing to do, but he’s an avid reader and so would have enough material to continue producing book summaries ad infinitum.
The simple truth is that creativity takes time. And if you want to stay on schedule with uploads, you’ll need something you can fall back on while you untangle the creative process.
You should still try to release innovative and creative content as often as possible. And use your serial content to fill in the gaps.
Book summaries are far from Ali’s most popular content.
But at 50K to 300K YouTube views per summary, they’re still an excellent source of watch time for his channel.
There are many tools out there you can use to help get you started, too.
SEO Surfer’s content planner feature produces clusters of content you can use based on specific keywords.
With a little creativity, you can find a lot of tools like this one that streamline content production.
5. Learn to Delegate
Ultimately, the goal should be to scale your business, and that’s not going to happen reliably if you’re doing everything alone.
Even if you’re the most dedicated content creator in the world, eventually you’ll need to start delegating things you don’t want to do. Otherwise, you’ll eventually get sick of the whole process and that should never be your goal.
The legendary business consultant Peter Drucker coined a phrase that’s still a mainstay in most productivity circles to this day:
There are tons of avenues for you to outsource parts of the creative process that you’re either unable or unwilling to do. You’ll probably have to start the marathon alone, but make it a relay race as soon as you’re able to.
6. Reinvest in Your Success
Another key point that Ali raises is how important it is to continuously push your boundaries and look for ways to make new and better content.
One of the simplest ways to accomplish that is to reinvest the money you earn. When your initial efforts start paying off, put a portion of your revenue into upgrading your setup.
You can purchase better recording equipment, invest in a new PC setup, or even start expanding your team.
Not to mention, you may have to invest continuously into purchasing new products or services if you run a review-based channel.
The takeaway is that when you first start earning money is not when you really will start earning money. Always think about the long term, whether that means paying for coaching, getting new gear, or anything else that can help your business grow.
If you walk away from this article with only one lesson, let it be this:
Show up and do the work consistently, and in two years you will be better off than you are today. There are no guarantees about becoming an international success, but there is no doubt that if you follow that simple formula, you will be better off.
Wanna get started right now? Create a Hyax account and start selling your digital products and courses.
If you want to learn all these lessons from the man himself, look into his Part-Time YouTuber Academy and try to grab a spot in the next cohort.
Ali’s journey is still very much in full swing and we’re very eager to see how he continues to evolve. Are you?