You might expect videos of Gold Hill to encourage visitors to Shaftesbury. But some people have been drawn to our town after watching tutorials produced by a Shaftesbury businessman and computer expert. Graham Lord’s ‘how to’ videos have attracted so many viewers, YouTube is now paying him.
The owner of Adamant IT has produced around 350 guides for people who want to repair or build computer equipment. Graham is comfortable and relaxed as he demonstrates his solutions and fixes while talking to the camera.
He started his ‘Let’s Fix Computers’ YouTube channel five years ago. “We’re up to 10,000 subscribers which is certainly the start of a noteworthy channel, in my opinion. It’s five figures,” said Graham. “I’ve been building the channel for five years, so it’s taken quite a time but we’re certainly at the point where the numbers are starting to rise. The curve becomes deeper and you grow much faster than before. This is the start of something bigger.”
Graham’s presentation style has evolved over the last five years. “It started where I would just set up my cameras and record whatever computer I was fixing at the time. Then people would leave comments like ‘How did you do this? Where did you get these parts?’,” explained Graham. “I started providing more information. I would tell people how I would go about fixing the computer and describe the tools I was using or where the tools came from. It was more of a tutorial format. Then, I moved up another notch and started deliberately looking for more interesting repairs. These were things that were not routine, stuff that people would not have seen very often. When I am watching YouTube, it’s the stuff I am looking for. Mixed into that, more recently, I started doing more reviews of components.”
Graham is aware that there is a lot of competition and film creators will use headlines to encourage viewers to click on their videos. If footage is watched by large numbers of people, YouTube could start sharing the revenue from the adverts that run at the start of the videos with the content’s creators. “There are lots of clickbait titles like, ‘We built this $40,000 computer!’ Anyone can spend a lot of money on parts so I try to do something a bit more interesting such as ‘What’s the best computer I can build with this budget?” said Graham.
He also reviews components that people are ‘raving about’ and explains what makes them so good and how they work. He understands his role as a sharer of knowledge. “I try and put in some kind of learning experience in the video. Why is this video being made and what do I expect people to take away from it?”
Graham says there are different types of customer that he deals with and he knows who his videos are aimed at. “You’ve got consumers who don’t really care, and they just want the computer to work. You have hobbyists who are not necessarily skilled enough to do it all themselves, but they are interested in how it is done. Then, you have power users who are doing it all themselves anyway. I do get a lot of power users watching my content because they often like to see how other people do things. Then, you have the technician or engineer level people, which is me making a video. I’m primarily aiming at the hobbyist level. There are lots of other channels out there doing the same thing but a lot of them take a lot of knowledge for granted.”
Graham modestly says he’s ‘not the best by any means’ and he will sometimes watch the high-level tutorials and not understand fully. “I will be struggling to follow what they are doing. If they are not explaining a certain level of the content, then it’s going to go over the heads of a lot of people,” he said. “I thought that if I aimed at the hobbyist level, I can explain the complicated stuff in simpler terms to get those hobbyists up to the next level. They can go and watch a YouTuber, who has a much bigger budget, better production quality and looks at better hardware but that’s not worth anything if they don’t understand a word that YouTuber is saying. If I can explain it in simpler terms it might help them understand the big channels better.”
Graham says his most popular video so far has been a MacBook Pro trackpad repair. “The old 2010 to 2012 era MacBook Pros are notorious for the touch pad going wrong a lot of the time. You can fix it just by disassembling it. You clean it with a toothbrush and some isopropyl alcohol or glass cleaner. Put it back in and it will work again. If you took that to Apple, they would tell you it would be a new trackpad and they’d charge several hundred pounds. This is a DIY job that anybody with a couple of screwdrivers could do,” he said.
Some people have questioned why Graham is offering step-by-step video guides when his Shaftesbury business offers computer repairs. “This is a really common question. When I started doing this channel a lot of my family and friends asked whether I was worried I was giving away my trade secrets. But a lot of people will take one look at what I’m doing and say ‘No, I’m not doing that.’ They’ll bring it in any way,” he said.
“A lot of people know full well how to change the oil on the car. They’re still not going to do it. They take it to a garage and get somebody else to do it,” he added. “It’s the same deal here. A lot of people will look at my videos and say, ‘That’s fascinating. I’ll pay you to do that’. Some will look at it and say, ‘Now I know that I definitely can’t do it’. The other thing is that it builds transparency and trust towards myself. People can see that I’m doing my repairs and I know what I am doing. They know that the computers are not being sent off to a repair centre wherever. It’s just me fixing it on my bench with my own tools and hands. When they bring it in, they know that this is the man who is in the video fixing computers and they trust him to do a good job.”
YouTube is international, which means that Graham is taking calls and answering emails in his Shaftesbury High Street shop from all over the world. “I will often get phone calls or emails from people on the other side of the country, or even in other countries, who want to send their computers to me because they’ve seen me do a fix on YouTube and know that I can do it. It grows the business a lot more,” he said.
Graham has now put an automatic reply on his Facebook messaging to tell prospective customers that he doesn’t deal with international repairs because the postage is very expensive and overseas delivery can be problematic.
“Although I have done one or two before, I generally steer away from it these days. I do have people from up north or Scotland. To send the laptop down to the south with a courier is £20 or so. If the laptop is facing repairs costing a couple of hundred pounds, then another £20 for postage both ways is not a big deal for the client. Knowing that they’re dealing with a repair shop that is reputable and has proved their ability is worth a lot more. As much as I support independent repair, you have to be careful in this industry. There are cowboys out there,” Graham warns.
Graham hasn’t been recognised from his videos, yet. “Most YouTubers who get recognised on the street are usually at the point where they’ve started regretting their life choices,” he smiled. “Other people I do speak to sometime say, ‘Oh you’re the guy in the videos, that’s awesome.’ Every YouTuber is just a person at the end of the day. They just have a big number next to their subscriber accounts.”
And that number, currently standing at 10,300 subscribers for ‘Let’s Fix Computers’ – Graham’s video channel – is now making him money. “I do generate a revenue stream from the videos through YouTube advertising and the Google Partner programme,” said Graham. “There are two types of sponsor video. There’s a free review, where a company sends the product for free and you get to keep it in exchange for a review. Then there’s a sponsored video. They pay you money to review it. I’ve not been paid for reviews and I’m very cautious about that area because that introduces bias. Somebody has paid you for a review and they are expecting a good review.”
Graham says it’s nice to receive income from his videos but that’s not why he does it. “You must create the content for yourself. You have to do it because you enjoy doing it. The money is a by-product. Above all, I like doing it and have fun doing it. Every day, when I read the comments, somebody is saying ‘Thank you for this video. It helped me solve my problem’. That’s the best feeling in the world when people say thanks for making this video.”
And Graham is doing his bit in putting Shaftesbury on the map with engaging video content other than footage of our iconic hill. “I don’t think I’m going to eclipse Gold Hill any time soon but it’s nice to be working from a small town as well. It’s not some big store. It’s not a big brand place that has £1million in the budget for outfitting the shop. My shop is practically a shed on the side of a hotel. It’s something that I’m trying to build, something bigger than just my shop,” said Graham, adding that the hotel is nice too. “It’s true. They have really good coffee in there,” he laughed.