YouTube Star

Journey From Full-Time Employee to YouTube Star

Popular YouTuber Chea Sinnarong shares how he quit full-time employment to launch his Khmer Drama Review Channel, which today boasts a one million strong following
A person checks YouTube in Phnom Penh, August 20, 2022. Kiripost/Siv Channa
A person checks YouTube in Phnom Penh, August 20, 2022. Kiripost/Siv Channa

Khmer Drama Review Channel’s Cambodian Youtuber, Chea Sinnarong, speaks to Kiripost’s Meas Molika about his journey shifting from employee to self-employed as full-time in the internet sector, shares his experiences working in the online world, and dishes out tips on how to build a YouTube Channel and online content for financial independence and freedom.

Chea Sinnarong, 29, made his way to fame as a famous movie recapper and YouTuber of Khmer Drama Review channel. The channel that recaps Hollywood, Bollywood, Japanese, Thai, Vietnamese movies and translates them into Khmer reached one million subscribers in August. This is the result of three years of working on the YouTube channel, which Sinnarong launched when he became bored of his previous job.

Hailing from Kandal province, he graduated with a Bachelor degree in Chemical Engineering and Food Science at the Institute of Technology of Cambodia. Sinnarong told Kiripost he started to work at the age of 23 after finishing college. He worked at a beverage and gas company.

Chea Sinnarong
Chea Sinnarong

“First of all, I worked for other companies after graduating. But after working for a while, I felt like I didn’t like those jobs and am bored with others' control. Therefore, I had to start thinking of a new method to earn money to support my livelihood. Later on, I found the idea of creating a YouTube channel,” Sinnarong recalls.

Fatigued of working for others, at the age of 27, Sinnarong quit the job he had just worked at for five months in search of more purpose and freedom in his daily life. Instead, he tapped into his favorite hobby and started watching movies, summarizing the plots for audiences and posting them on YouTube.

“Actually, I have never gotten the idea of recapping foreign movies, but the very first idea began when I saw others analyze the story as a foreign language. I love watching those videos. They cut some interesting scenes in the movie and characters to analyze. I started to think if I can do like them, it is possible, too,” he said.

Iconic Khmer drama ‘The Snake King's Child’ (Kon Pous Keng Kang), reproduced by a video production company, Rasmey Hang Meas Group, is the first Khmer drama he recapped on his YouTube Channel. Next, he recapped another Khmer drama ‘Reachiny Phum Kreus’ that was also produced by Rasmey Hang Meas. Unfortunately, he stopped doing Khmer drama reviews as his videos were taken down or banned by the original producer.

“I tried to do [Khmer drama recaps] to increase the support of our Khmer stories. But they took down my video and I feel like I don’t have value for what I have done. Later on, I switched to recap foreign movies or dramas instead of Khmer movies or dramas,” he said.

However, when he made the switch the Khmer Drama Review channel gained more traction as local audiences flocked to view the foreign films. Sinnarong believes most Cambodians also love to watch Hollywood and other foreign movies even though they are less likely to know English.

“When we start to recap foreign movies, our channel started to boom [in popularity], and we realized most Cambodians don’t know English. Therefore, we summarize the story to make the local audience understand the meaning and what the story is about. My channel boomed and there are many more YouTubers beginning to follow my path,” he said.

At first, Sinnarong faced challenges as he had to learn everything from scratch. The process involves him watching the movie, writing a script that summarizes the plot, downloading the video, and editing his video and voiceover to post on his channel.

He used to spend about eight to nine hours to produce one recap movie video.

He said, “At the time, I didn’t have any experience in making that kind of video, it’s extremely slow to produce one as we have to invest two hours to watch a movie for understanding. If I watch it once and still cannot catch what the story is about, I have to go back and watch the whole movie again. Then about three hours for writing scripts, and 30 minutes to one hour for voice recording. Then cutting the video and editing, I was also troubled by copyright of videos.”

After one month of self-producing recap movie video, the time was cut to four to six hours to do one story recap video.

“While I watch a movie, I also write a script to summarize at the same time for two hours. Voice recording for another two hours; therefore, it’s now taking from four to six hours for the whole process,” he added.

During the time that YouTube allowed monetization in Cambodia, he was working from 8am to 11pm every day, producing two movie recap videos. He was able to earn between $3,000 and up to $5,000 per month with 300k to 400k YouTube subscribers. Now, after no monetizing from YouTube, his profits from his channel have decreased significantly to between $500 and $1,000 a month.

Since stepping into the world of YouTube, Sinnarong has vowed to never return to being an employee, despite his profits plummeting. In 2021, YouTube advertisements produced in Cambodia were halted by the media platform, according to the Cambodian Ministry of Post and Telecommunications (MPTC).

He said, “This work [Youtuber] is not as stable as I did for a company, but it’s full of independence. I can do whatever I want. I can do anything following my ideas. All the things I do are from my ideas. I feel like it’s worth the price compared to working for others. Sometimes, the work I have tried to do, they don’t even use it.”

“And one more thing, I love to watch movies and like to summarize for others,” he added.

When he was studying at high school, Sinnarong said he was an introvert with his friends and others. In contrast, on YouTube he is good at explaining things on a deeper level than communicating.

Even though his hometown is in Kandal province, he works in Phnom Penh as a full-time online movie recapper or Youtuber due to the internet service working better than in the province. As an online movie recapper, the speed of the Wi-Fi is essential for him to carry out his work.

He estimates he is able to earn between $5,000 to $10,000 in a month with his current one million subscribers, if YouTube allows monetization in Cambodia again.

The Khmer Drama Review YouTuber told Kiripost that earning money from the online platform is not convenient as it is necessary to monetize advertisement videos.

“YouTube does not count for one person to earn a specific amount of money; they count on the number of views. On the other hand, for one view you cannot get profit unless that video has an advertisement video on it, then the money can go through that creator,” he clarified.

Normally, 1,000 Cambodian viewers can earn from $0.1 to $0.5 compared to Americans viewers, which can earn $5.

Now he is creating another movie recap YouTube channel, which recaps stories spoken in English only. However, he is not announcing this to Cambodian fans as he worries about poor YouTube algorithm. This refers to a set of computer instructions designed to process videos and associated content, such as comments, description, and engagements, to rank and recommend videos based on relevance and viewer satisfaction.

The lower the video on YouTube algorithms is, the lower the benefit that the creator can get.

Even though working as a YouTuber he can earn a lot of money independently, without pressure from a boss, Sinnarong fears he may lose his YouTube channel or his Facebook page will be blocked by people's reporting.

“Being self-employed with YouTube, sometimes I also feel the risk. I’m scared that one day someone will report my story video and make my YouTube channel break. I will lose the source of income,” he said.

Sinnarong has built another YouTube channel as a back-up plan in case his YouTube channel of one million followers is deleted from YouTube. If the original video producer reports his YouTube account, he faces the threat of removal.

“I think the livelihood of being a YouTuber, earning money by posting videos on YouTube, is much better than working for others, if one day YouTube will allow for monetization in Cambodia,” he said, raising his concern.

His advice to those who want to be financially independent by working online, such as creating content on social media platforms like YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, is to start by building up content on Facebook rather than YouTube as this can earn more profit.

“For those who know themselves and are talented in making videos should do it. Whenever we make a video, not only the popularity from YouTube that we can get, we also have a chance to get sponsorship from outside for additional profit. And it needs a lot of patience and consistency,” he said.

He added, “If you are motivated to work on YouTube, you have to be more patient and spend time for at least one year to see the achievement.”

He encourages those who want to start a profitable YouTube channel to make it at fun first and post every weekend without expecting to earn money. He advised not quitting employment without money to support themselves. Instead, wait till the YouTube channel has enough fans and subscribers to make a profit.