Entrepreneur and Biz: Philip VanDusen

Tilt: Marketing, design, brand strategy, and entrepreneurship   

Primary Channels: YouTube (256K), private Facebook group (4.9K), LinkedIn (7.4K), Brand Design Masters podcast, website 

Other Channels: Twitter (3.1K), Instagram (4.3K)

Time to First Dollar: 2 years

Rev Streams: 50% from YouTube sponsorships, YouTube ads, appearances on other channels, paid mastermind groups, online course; 50% from agency clients 

Our Favorite Actionable Advice:

  • Keep your eyes open: Formerly head of design for Pepsico snack products, Philip ended up building a design agency. His content marketing for that business led him to create an educational content business. 
  • Repurpose everything: Show up in people’s feeds regularly is important. But you may not be able to create new content every day. So repurpose what you have – turn a video into a short video, an audio clip, an Instagram post, and/or a blog post.
  • Don’t try to be everywhere: Content creators have many distribution vehicles, from social media platforms to newsletters to website content. Pick one and focus on that for at least six months.

The Story of Philip VanDusen

Philip VanDusen’s career has taken him to all kinds of places. He’s taught fine art at the collegiate level. He’s sold T-shirts featuring his fine art designs on the streets of Manhattan. He’s led brand design teams at places like PepsiCo and Old Navy.

And now, you’ll find him on YouTube, sharing his wisdom on everything from marketing and design to entrepreneurship. His trajectory to content creator and entrepreneur was unconventional, for sure, but it wasn’t haphazard.

“My career has actually been a very convoluted web,” Philip says. “Each strand led to another one, and it wasn’t really planned out. But it was strategic as I went through it.”

My career has been a convoluted web. Each strand led to another. It wasn't planned, but it was strategic, says @PhilipVanDusen. #ContentEntrepreneur Share on X

Getting hands dirty building a brand

Philip’s move to content entrepreneur began eight years ago as he reevaluated his life, eventually walking away from the biggest job of his career — head of design for global snacks at PepsiCo. He was responsible for the brand design strategies for Lay’s potato chips, among other major brands.

With a partner, he built an online accessories company. He dove deep into the work to build a brand, completing the hands-on, day-to-day tasks he used to assign to his team members in his corporate jobs. “It really excited me because I was in there, getting my hands dirty. I was building something from scratch,” Philip says of opening the accessories company.

Philip and his partner shuttered the accessories company when they realized they didn’t love the back-end work of shipping products to customers. Philip leaned on his love of building brands and launched Verhaal Brand Design in 2014. The strategic branding and design agency helps solopreneurs, entrepreneurs, startups, and small to midsize businesses.

Just as he had with the accessories business, Philip VanDusen was excited about helping others build a business from the ground up. “What I realized was that I was kind of done with the Fortune 500,” he says. 

Finding clients

Philip soon realized the founders of startups and small and midsize businesses mostly ran in different circles than his extensive network of corporate contacts. But he didn’t want to go out and pitch to clients to drum up business. So, he gave content marketing a shot, luring clients by freely sharing his knowledge from 25 years in branding, marketing, and design.

Philip started with blog posts, then a newsletter. After about six months, he launched his YouTube channel. “At the beginning, it’s really hard because No. 1, it’s scary. No. 2 (is) you feel like you’re being judged. And, No. 3, you are talking to any empty room for the first 25 videos or so,” he says. 

.@PhilipVanDusen says starting a YouTube channel is hard because it's scary, you feel like you're being judged and talking to an empty room for the first 25 videos or so. #CreatorEconomy Share on X

Every week, he got a little bit better. And soon, the benefits of that time spent on YouTube were clear – especially as an effective SEO strategy for businesses like his. In a recent YouTube Short, Philip explains how it consistently puts him in the top results when people search on Google for information about creative directors. “Video is SEO rocket fuel,” he says. 

Adding a content business

As his content drew clients seeking his brand expertise, it also garnered the attention of another group – creative professionals who wanted to grow their careers and learn about design.

So, to monetize his influence and serve the creative professional community, he created a private Brand Design Masters Facebook group, launched a 12-week paid mastermind group where he helps people grow their businesses and creative practices, and developed a brand strategy course. 

Today, Philip’s revenue streams include YouTube ads, YouTube sponsorships, paid mastermind groups, and the video course. About half of his revenue comes from working with clients through his design agency.

Half of @PhilipVanDusen's revenue comes from his #ContentBusiness: YouTube ads, sponsorships, paid mastermind groups, and video courses. #CreatorEconomy Share on X

And, as he starts thinking about retirement, he’s considering what he loves doing most – teaching those nascent creatives how to grow their brand and business. His ultimate goal is to transition from working with design clients and focus on the community of creatives he’s built. “It is teaching, and I love teaching,” he says. 

Advice for content entrepreneurs

Some of Philip VanDusen’s power tips for newbie creators: 

Don’t waste viewers’ time 

Get to the topic right away. Don’t waste precious minutes recounting some personal story or explaining who you are. “When you are doing a video, don’t post a 30-minute video where the center five minutes is where you get the value,” Philip says. “One of the things I hear all the time about my videos is like, ‘Oh my god, I learned more in the last five minutes than I did in my whole last semester marketing class.’ I get in, I deliver really great value, and I get out. I don’t waste people’s time.”

Repurpose everything

Customers usually interact with a brand an average of seven times before they engage with it, Philip says. So, showing up in people’s feeds regularly is important. But creating a video a day may not be possible. That’s why repurposing what you’ve created into other pieces of content – a short video, an audio clip, an Instagram post, or a blog post, is so critical, he says. 

“Constant exposure is what builds brand recognition,” he says. 

Don’t try to be everywhere

From social media platforms to newsletters to website content, content creators have so many distribution channels to build their brands and influence. Don’t do all of them at once, Philip counsels.

“The first major hurdle you have to get over is building the content generation engine,” he says. “And that takes a while to build that muscle because you have to have ideas and develop content on demand. And that’s not something that most people are used to. So, pick a platform, and go deep into it for six months to a year before you start expanding.” 

About the author

Sarah Lindenfeld Hall is a longtime journalist, freelance writer, and founding editor of two popular parenting websites in North Carolina. She frequently writes about parenting, aging, education, business management, and interesting people doing remarkable things.