Former Microsoft employee makes better living making YouTube videos

Maria J. Smith

Kevin Stratvert generates movies at his home in Seattle.

Tara Brown

When Microsoft updated its Groups interaction application with a a lot more complex way to give PowerPoint displays in January, the business printed a 500-term weblog publish on the aspect. People could study the blog site article and try to figure out how to use it, or they could consult YouTube.

On the online video company owned by arch-rival Google, a previous Microsoft employee named Kevin Stratvert revealed a video clip on Presenter Mode to his a lot more than 800,000 subscribers, garnering extra than 180,000 views and hundreds of opinions. Microsoft by itself had not released a video clip on the subject matter.

“I’ve developed a Microsoft viewers,” Stratvert said in an job interview with CNBC. “Microsoft material drives a good deal more viewership than non-Microsoft information. I’ve done Gmail and a handful of others, but they have not carried out rather as perfectly.”

That may possibly have to do with the attain of Microsoft’s products and solutions. The organization held 86% of the e mail and authoring current market in 2020, in accordance to technology exploration agency Gartner, with 1.2 billion Place of work people.

Not each and every 1 of those people 1.2 billion understands how to do almost everything in Workplace, nevertheless, and persons also need to continue to keep up with the newest updates that Microsoft pumps out. Videos from Stratvert and his YouTube contemporaries are aiding with that — and in some cases obtaining additional eyeballs than Microsoft’s official movies.

Much far better off

Stratvert arrived at Microsoft in 2006, the same calendar year Google obtained YouTube for $1.65 billion. His 1st YouTube movie showed footage from a drone flying around a town in New Jersey. Then Stratvert filmed video clips of his travels in the Puget Sound and outside of. How-to films and gadget-review movies adopted.

In 2017 he posted his first Microsoft-relevant video clip, in which he toured treehouses on the company’s campus with his wife, Kerry Stratvert, a manager at the enterprise. In the online video description, he included a disclosure saying that he was a Microsoft personnel.

Two months right after the treehouse movie, Stratvert was operating on the compact development group guiding, a web site that presents rapid accessibility to on the web variations of Excel spreadsheets and other Business office documents. The web page was not perfectly known, specially as opposed with Workplace applications for PCs, so Stratvert and colleagues questioned their peers in internet marketing if they could unfold the term about Business The entrepreneurs did not have enough resources to assist, Stratvert claimed.

So Stratvert generated a video clip displaying how folks could use Business to get most options of Microsoft Office absolutely free of demand. It done nicely, and his manager instructed him he had performed a superior career.

He went on to make films about Excel, Outlook, PowerPoint, Teams, Home windows and Term. Microsoft employees on other teams recognized and started off asking him to make videos about their products and solutions. They observed how quite a few people were being looking at and acknowledged that having him to converse about their products could carry in new customers, which in convert could indicate far more favorable personnel evaluations.

“It really is practically like groups recognize that there is certainly this other outlet that is kind of unofficial,” he reported.

Then, in July 2020, months right after the pandemic sent the Stratverts residence, he gave up his posture at Microsoft and commenced building 5 occasions as many video clips as he was before. He no longer needed to consist of disclosures in videos that he was a Microsoft employee, and he could talk more freely about competing solutions such as Slack and Zoom.

YouTube buyers have hit the subscribe button. Currently he has 85% far more subscribers than the official Microsoft 365 YouTube channel centered on Groups and other Place of work apps, which he claimed has a team of 20 to 30 folks making written content.

“Economically I’m a lot improved off,” he mentioned. His spouse nevertheless operates at Microsoft.

Selling exterior creators

Traditionally, establishing and sustaining products has been the core of Microsoft. Currently virtually 50% of workforce work in engineering. Promoting is a substantially scaled-down aspect of the enterprise, and employees work on adverts, components for Microsoft’s web site, gatherings and other approaches of advertising.

In the previous number of years, a group within Microsoft started focusing a lot more on YouTube.

“On YouTube particularly, we’re starting up to discover the notion of what it seems like to do some thing native to YouTube,” Sonia Atchison, a current market analysis lead who worked on the Microsoft Creators System, stated on a podcast final 12 months.

Individuals usually flip to YouTube when they want to get a superior comprehending of Microsoft software, and though Microsoft has lots of its individual videos accessible on YouTube, they don’t usually come up at the top of the site’s research success, Atchison explained. Movies from outsiders can acquire higher rankings.

At times a video clip from a Microsoft employee could be there. The corporation does have personnel with big audiences, which include Mike Tholfsen, a 26-yr organization veteran whose movies present how instructors and pupils can use Teams and other applications.

Microsoft preferred far more people like Tholfsen. The business formed a group to assistance people today performing on diverse products and solutions study how to establish sizable YouTube channels, said Jon Levesque, who posted YouTube video clips as a senior system evangelist at Microsoft prior to using a position at DocuSign in March. There ended up concerns at times. Some employees questioned why they were being concentrating on a company owned by a best competitor, and groups didn’t always concur with almost everything that personnel-creators said in movies, Levesque claimed.

The effort and hard work didn’t get significantly, and Microsoft started advertising and marketing video clips from non-workforce alternatively, with the establishment of the Microsoft Creators System. The organization began such as outsiders’ films in its online video playlists, and it offered to use their movies for buyer guidance. That led to some added movie sights, mentioned Jason Sele, whose YouTube channel goes by the identify Sele Coaching. In
late June, Microsoft declared designs to set the software on pause.

Among the the dozens of people today who joined the Creators Application, the most common is Leila Gharani, a computer software teacher in Vienna, with in excess of 900,000 subscribers. Following finding up capabilities in Excel and other software package on the occupation, Gharani began teaching courses in particular person and on the internet. She made her YouTube debut in 2016, with the hope of improving her filming techniques.

The channel took off, and that introduced in revenue, furthermore it drew extra students to her quality classes, which her company, XelPlus, carries on to offer you. With the company expanding, her partner left his placement as a main economical officer to be part of her. They introduced on an editor and a writer, too.

Quite a few of Gharani’s YouTube videos depth areas of Excel. That does not imply she completely ignores the competitiveness. A person of her additional preferred videos in 2020 was identified as “Google Sheets BEATS Excel with THESE 10 Characteristics!”

Like Stratvert, Gharani has read from Microsoft staff members. Immediately after she posted a video clip on the Whiteboard application, a software manager claimed the crew beloved her video and supplied to exhibit her updates that have been coming soon. The system supervisor did not tell her to make a online video but rather preferred to see if she considered the enhancements would be video clip-deserving, Gharani reported.

She reported end users could possibly ascribe bigger authority to YouTube creators who do the job at Microsoft, compared with her.

“People today respect that they are at Microsoft,” she claimed. “‘They have to know what they are saying. They’re not going to say it if it’s not real. That authority factor does arrive with it. But not a whole lot.”

Jason Sele would make YouTube films from a higher-tech RV.

Jason Sele

It has not stopped Gharani from increasing into a significant entity. She features additional subscribers than practically all of Microsoft’s YouTube accounts. The Xbox channel stays a prime attraction, with around 4 million subscribers.

Sele would like the sort of YouTube good results that Gharani and Stratvert have had. Films of his that contain suggestions and tips on Excel and other apps have received more than 1 million views, but he’s not an on-digicam star. Sele, who helps make films from his RV immediately after 25 a long time of publicity to Microsoft merchandise as a director of data technologies, narrates whilst supplying all the visual consideration to the video clip feed from his laptop or computer. He said he spends time carefully crafting and editing scripts in advance of hitting document. The YouTube dollars is sufficient to stay on, he mentioned.

He stated he is just not worried about competing with Microsoft. “They are going to crank out all this training, but it seriously is just not coaching you can just hand to your employees,” he mentioned. “It is possibly way too substantial-stage or reduced-stage.”


When YouTube has no scarcity of program stroll-throughs, YouTube is additional than just a spot for thorough mastering. It can be a venue for entertainment. Gharani receives that.

“It’s extra passive, they really don’t have to actually focus,” she mentioned of folks who look at her video clips. “They can enable themselves also think about other items and arrive back again and just observe and nonetheless get anything out of it. You are unable to get that out of crafting.”

She strives to continue to keep her YouTube movies shifting along at a rapid pace. She won’t want the videos to be also uninteresting. Usually she will not have a lot of people observing.

“It can be not needed that they basically find out one thing, but they just see the prospective that they could study something, or they experience like they’ve realized something,” she claimed. Her on line programs have a various purpose. There is certainly no background songs, they are slower, and there is less of her speaking on digital camera.

The thumbnail pictures for her video clips on YouTube usually present her face, and her channel works by using her full name, alternatively than some jumble of phrases these as OfficeIsSuperGreat, which helps her do the job stand out in search outcomes.

The similar can be reported about Stratvert’s channel.

But his video clips can be longer. Some run nicely previous 20 or 30 minutes. He retains them from getting wearisome by chatting about how he utilizes application within his created-up company, the Kevin Cookie Company. In a person movie about holding webinars in Groups, Kerry Stratvert designed an look, posing as a Kevin Cookie Organization employee who preferred to air her concerns. As the person operating the meeting, he turned off her microphone and digital camera, demonstrating what webinar hosts can do in that predicament in genuine everyday living.

For yrs she had referred to as Stratvert’s YouTube channel a pastime and pointed out that he hadn’t recouped the investment in manufacturing gear. She failed to imagine he could ever go complete time. Then, previous yr, he did.

“It can be finished very well,” he stated. “My spouse appears to be like at that — ‘Oh, gentleman, performing at property, cranking out a online video a day, it’s possible I ought to do this, way too. Probably I need to pull together videos.’ Same with her sister, much too.”

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