Fleur Bell – or Fleur De Force as she’s better known thanks to her hugely successful online vlogs – started out as a YouTuber six years ago. Beauty vlogs are her speciality, but she also covers fashion, home decor and even has a spin-off that chronicles the antics of her adorable pet pooches, ‘Fur De Force‘.
Fleur is one of the YouTube millionaires – we’re talking subscribers, not pounds in the bank – with more than 1,280,000 subscribers to her channel. As well as being a guest speaker at events such as this year’s Beauty Con, she regularly works with some of the biggest beauty brands in the industry and has a book to her name.
Recently Fleur also featured in a series of online shorts for Channel 4’s recently launched All 4 platform, entitled ‘Internet Famous’. The series lifts the lid on what it’s really like to be a vlogger and how you can turn a hobby into a lucrative career.
So how did it all begin and what tips can we learn from someone who has been there, done that and got the subscribers…
What kit do you need?
“I don’t think you need to invest a lot. It’s an excuse a lot of people use not to get into it, saying ‘Oh it’s going to be really expensive’, but it doesn’t necessarily have to be. Yes, it looks better if you start off on a decent camera, but to be honest, I started off on my webcam. As long as you have a laptop with editing software on it, it doesn’t really matter what it is.
“My camera equipment is probably worth about £800, which is a lot if you’re starting out. But if it’s your business, it’s not a lot if you think about what you’re doing and how important that is to what you’re making. Start off with what you can afford. Don’t go and splash out before you’ve tried it. Use what you have, or borrow, and then work on it from there. Having that high production value isn’t the most important thing from the get-go.”
Do you have to have lots of technical skills?
“The most important thing, which people often forget about, is a passion for what you’re talking about. A lot of people see the glossier side of being a YouTuber and think ‘Oh wow it’s a really fun job’, which it is and I love it – but if you’re going to be doing it for a really long period of time, you have to really love what you’re talking about because otherwise it gets a little boring.
“Before I started I didn’t have any of the technical skills I needed. I taught it all to myself. It’s more about being dedicated to what you’re doing rather than being super tech-savvy and having all the skills already. They’re pretty basic to learn. You don’t have to be an expert at cameras or editing. You can learn it as you go. There are a lot of tutorials on YouYube showing you how to do stuff, which is great. And there’s always trial and error.”
What does it take to be a vlogger?
“Persistence. I think a lot of people think ‘Oh I’ll give it a go’, do it for a few months and then think, ‘Oh I haven’t got a million subscribers in three months…’. It’s going to take a bit longer. You’ve got to be willing to stick at it. You need a passion and interest in what you’re talking about.
“You also need a fairly thick skin. That’s something I get asked about a lot: the hate. It’s never really bothered me too much. But I know people that it does bother, so you have to have a thick skin. I don’t get a lot of hate, but even when people don’t get a lot, you get some. You still get ‘Oh you’ve put on weight…’ The lovely comments of the internet.
“I would say it’s definitely beneficial to be yourself. If you do end up doing it for a long time or for a living, you’re going to get bored of being someone you’re not five years down the line. But you don’t have to share everything.
“There’s so many different people on YouTube and personalities, you can kind of do your own thing. If one person disagrees with you, someone else is going to agree with you. There’s not really a right or wrong with the content. It’s so varied.”
What mistakes do people make when it comes to vlogging?
“I think it’s easy to think that it’s easy to do and not hard work to make it successful. There are so many elements to it. Filming and editing is a small portion of what I do. There’s a lot of back work behind it. If I work for a brand, or I’m writing a book, or working on a product line there’s a lot going on behind the scenes. I think that gets underestimated: people enter into it thinking ‘This is so easy I can do what you do’.”
How did you start out?
“I was at uni when I started. Luckily I had quite a lot of spare time, as you do at university… I was quite lucky really because a lot of people start when they have a job and then give up because it’s too much work. As a hobby it is a very, very time consuming. I had a lot of time to learn and dedicate to it. Although I wish I’d started in first year, as I’d have had even more spare time…”
How did you come up with the name Fleur De Force?
“I didn’t want to have my surname [Bell] in there at the time; it was the internet and I didn’t know if I wanted to share my full name. Now, if I started out again, I probably would just have my full name because it’s easier. I was thinking Fleur de Jour, but I thought it was a bit similar to Belle de Jour. The name popped into my head five minutes later and I typed it in. It’s not something I really thought too much about. You start something as a hobby for a bit of fun, I didn’t think ‘Oh this is actually going to be the name of my business in the future’.”
Is it hard to start up now with so many big names already vlogging?
“Yes and no. I think a lot of people use it as an excuse as to why not to do it saying ‘Oh there’s so many people doing it already’. Well, why get into anything? Why try and work in journalism? There are loads of journalists. There’s always space for people and new voices. It tends to come in waves on YouTube. People I’ve seen who started at Christmas have gained a huge following in the past six months. It’s definitely not saturated, there is space. But it is harder than people think in terms of how much you have to put into it and how much of yourself you have to put into it.”
Is it hard to work for yourself?
“As long as you’ve got a big enough work ethic and you have that motivation behind you to do it, it’s fine. For me, the motivation comes from enjoying it and that I get to do something that I love as my job. I never sit back and think ‘Oh, I can’t be bothered to work today’. I have to think, ‘I could be in an office’. I have to make the most of this because one day I might be back in an office. So I think that’s what motivates me. People are different. Some really struggle to motivate themselves, but that isn’t an issue that I’ve ever had.”
Can you make a lot of money as a YouTuber?
“Yes – that’s all I’m going to say about that. That’s kind of a private thing. Everyone’s different.”
Do friends and family give you grief about ‘working from home’?
“To be honest my family tends to be the opposite saying ‘Oh you’re always working’, because they see the other side of it. But my friends are like ‘What are you doing today?’ as if I’m chilling out in the garden and I’m like, ‘I’m working!’. At the end of the day a lot of my work isn’t like work, it is fun. “
Do you stick to 9 to 5 hours?
“No, absolutely not. I just make it up as I go along. That’s what’s great about doing something different. Some days I’ll be working from 7 till midnight. Other days I won’t work at all. If I want a weekday off instead of a weekend, I just have to work around it. A lot of the work I do with brands I have deadlines and stuff. That takes some of the freedom away. If I’m organised I can generally make it up as I go along. It’s very different to a 9-5 as I’m always working but I’m always able to take a step out if I want to.”
How do you separate your online life from your real life?
“I don’t really as I do daily blogging. I share a lot of my life. I have a line about what I want to share and what I don’t want to share, but it’s not necessarily a fixed solid line.
“Some of my friends aren’t comfortable being in videos, as they have normal sensible jobs. That’s the hardest part for me, working out when to share my friends if I’m vlogging my day. There’s certain people I know won’t be in vlogs, and certain people I know who will. Some don’t mind giving a wave, some don’t want to be in it at all, some people are chatting away… that’s the only bit for me that’s difficult.”
Is your husband Mike keen to be involved?
“Mike loves it now. In the beginning he was like, ‘No I’m not going on YouTube’. For the first two years he wasn’t in any videos at all. Then it became part of our life. He has his own Instagram following, he has nearly 100,000 followers of his own. He has quite a big following on Twitter too. He really enjoys that. He’s never going to quit his job and do YouTube, ever. I can firmly say that. He works in the motor trade. Totally different. But he does love it.”
How did you make the jump from your YouTube channel to being involved in brands, writing a book, being invited to speak at events and such?
“It’s very, very gradual. It’s over time and building the audience. When I started, YouTube was this island away from all other media. But then it entered mainstream consciousness: ‘hang on, YouTube exists and there are people doing it who have a big following’. That’s when things started to change and turned it into something that was outside the digital space.”
Do you need to contact a lot of people to get noticed?
“No. I’ve never done that. I know other people have. It can be very effective. I’m very bad at all of that kind of stuff, blowing your own trumpet is a very awkward thing to do. I have management now who do that for me to some extent. But it’s more that they manage the relationships rather than actively trying to get me invited to things, which has never really been a priority for me.
“It depends what your personality is and where you position yourself in the space. For me I’ve always focused on being a consumer expert, as it were, rather than just going to parties. That’s great and that’s one side of it. But the focus for me has always been the content and being a useful resource for people if they want to know about beauty.”
How many subscribers are you aiming for?
“No, you can never say that. When I started 20,000 subscribers was a huge deal. Now, as it evolves, the numbers are just bonkers. It’s just absolutely crazy. I’m not sure how many YouTube millionaires there are.
“For me I’m always just looking for the next step. It’s not ‘I want to be the biggest’. Everyone’s journey is different. My growth has been very steady over time and I’ve been there for a very long time and I hope to be there for a long time in the future. That’s my goal: to make it last as long as I can.”