Real Connections with Natalie BarbuBecoming an entrepreneur takes hard work, a lot dedication and some faith. Natalie Barbu shares with War Cry what it takes to be the boss of your own life.
Becoming an entrepreneur isn’t an overnight success. It takes hard work, a lot dedication and some faith. Natalie Barbu has maintained a successful influencing career, started her own podcast and opened up her own consulting firm, Barbu Agency. She left a corporate job to pursue being entrepreneur in New York City. One of the riskiest and boldest moves someone so young can make. Natalie shares with War Cry what it takes to be the boss of your own life.
WC: Tell us a bit about yourself.
Natalie: I’m a YouTuber, podcaster, content creator and I also own my own business called Barbu agency. I went to North Carolina State University and started my YouTube channel in 2011. I was offered a job right after college, and then I decided to pursue YouTube full-time. I’ve always wanted to start my own business, and I really thought that I was good at helping others with creating channels and maintaining personal brands, so I started an agency where I’m now helping individuals with their personal brand but also helping businesses with influence marketing strategy and PR.
WC: Did you ever expect YouTube to become a full-time job?
Natalie: Never! When I first started my channel, I don’t think people were even getting paid. It’s definitely different now though. People start YouTube channels with the idea that this has the potential to become a full-time job. I just was bored one day and wanted to film a video and see what it was like. I loved the interaction with people online and have always been into making videos.
WC: What type of videos do you create?
Natalie: I definitely started with the makeup tutorials, which is funny because I was 15 years old. I definitely did not know how to put-on makeup. It was just a fun way to be creative, and then I transitioned to lifestyle videos once I got into college.
WC: What advice would you give to others who want a career as an influencer?
Natalie: I think the best advice is to be authentic and post consistently. A lot of people tend to think, “This is going to be an overnight success.” But it’s not. You can’t expect to post a little and get a ton of followers. Having patience and consistently is important because it is a slow and steady growth and its exponential growth, so you might only gain five subscribers your first month, but then the next month you will gain twenty and then the next month you will gain three hundred. I want people to know that it is going to take time, but you have to be consistent or else people will not subscribe to you. You should also try to be as authentic as possible.
Don’t be afraid to show who you really are. Being vulnerable and being yourself is going to go such a long way because when people say the market is oversaturated, I think it is just oversaturated when people are copying everyone else but it is not oversaturated for people that are unique and who are themselves.
WC: Right, so while you were in university, your experience was different from someone who went to a completely different school.
Natalie: Exactly! Even if there is a million college YouTubers, there is not a million at your school. Therefore, your experiences will be different from other college students. Your experience makes you unique even if in general, yes, there are a lot of 18-year-old girls that are posting vlogs, but your experience itself is what’s going to set you apart.
WC: When you were in school, did you ever get referred to as the “YouTube girl?”
Natalie: I kept my channel a secret throughout high school, but towards the end of my junior year in college, people started to recognize me from my NC State vlogs.
WC: Did you ever find that some people were trying to be your friend for the popularity or did you not have a problem with that?
Natalie: I don’t think so. I’m pretty good at seeing who is genuine and who is not. People at school knew I did YouTube, but I never felt that people tried to be my friend just to gain followers or popularity.
WC: Tell us a bit about why you left a corporate job to pursue a career as an entrepreneur.
Natalie: I majored in Industrial Engineering at school and got a job at Accenture, which is a consulting company. I was there for nine months, and the reason I quit was because I always knew that eventually, I would do YouTube full-time. I couldn’t do it at first because it wasn’t financially feasible for me to live off of what I was making on YouTube when I got this Accenture job. Eventually I started making more money on my channel and even making more money through YouTube than at my corporate job.
This took serious dedication and hard work though. During my lunch breaks, I would go to a local coffee shop and work on YouTube stuff. I would wake up two hours earlier and stay up until the wee hours of the night working on all of my other platforms like my podcast, Instagram or YouTube channel. It started to become overwhelming, and I knew that my time at Accenture was coming to an end.
I was more passionate about YouTube and felt that my corporate job was not fulfilling. It wasn’t something that I truly loved. I just realized that this wasn’t the path that I wanted to go. I made the decision to quit and saved up a lot of money. I made sure that I had saved at least a whole year’s worth of expenses before I quit because I’m someone that is financial responsible, and I couldn’t jump into something without a safety net.
It’s been over a year now, and it is still the best decision that I have ever made. I’m really happy with doing what I do now, and I’m able to work on other projects as well. I have my own podcast, my social media platforms, my YouTube channel, and I started my consulting agency. I’m able to put more effort into my videos and podcasts and I have more time to do things that are going to help grow my own personal business, which has always been the goal.
WC: Did you always have other goals outside of YouTube?
Natalie: Yes, so once I had quit my job, I had already started my podcast. I also had this idea for consultations and an agency, and I was like, there is absolutely no way I can do this while working a full-time job. I made the decision that once I quit, then I would immediately start working on building my own business. I knew before I quit what the plan was going to be. It has shifted a little bit, but I knew exactly what I wanted to do.
WC: Was it scary leaving your full-time job?
Natalie: Not really because I had that stability in the savings. I was honestly more excited than anything. The thing I was most worried about was telling my subscribers about my decision. I was scared about that because I knew that a lot of people came to me for my corporate content. I didn’t want my subscribers to think that I was unrelatable or that I was just “another YouTuber.” But I realized that that’s an unhealthy way of thinking.
I can’t make decisions based off of other people’s opinions. I was doing what is best for me, and honestly, the response was really great. Like 99% of people were super supportive. It was not at all what I was expecting, but I was really happy about it.
WC: You kind of started the trend of YouTubers leaving their full-time jobs to pursue being an influencer full-time. You show us in your daily videos what a day-to-day life looks like, and it looks very different than just a 9 to 5 job.
Natalie: Thank you! I take my content seriously and try to set myself apart from other content creators. I’m always so busy and I want to have my own thing separate from other creators, and YouTube has given me that platform. So, yes, YouTube is running a business, but it has also given me the platform to start my own business and have that audience and those initial first customers or consumers, or whatever that may be but it gives me the platform to start it.
WC: Have you always been very career-driven?
Natalie: I think so. When I was younger, I always wanted to start my own business, and I always wanted to do something in news or tv production. Even when I was younger, I used to force my siblings to do “news reporter shows.” When I was 16, I started my YouTube channel!
WC: Did being an influencer guide the marketing part of your business or did you want to work with something like fashion or news that you mentioned earlier?
Natalie: I think as I have gotten older, I have now wanted to do more marketing and strategy rather than fashion and news. I think YouTube and social media as a whole have taught me how much I really enjoy marketing. My favorite thing in starting a business is coming up with how to advertise it.
WC: What makes you different from other marketing agencies?
Natalie: Barbu Agency has a more personal approach. It’s not just an algorithm where you plug in your campaign and it spits out a bunch of influencers and that’s it. I wanted it to be a boutique agency where it’s personal and you are working one on one with me. A lot of people on the agency side are not influencers themselves, and so I feel I have that advantage that I am on the influencer side and I have seen so many brands that as an influencer, I have thought, “Okay you could be doing this better or this is like not the best way for you to manage this campaign.” Or they will ask me to do things and I know that my audience would hate that. Other agencies may not know how to connect with an audience. I’m not saying other agencies are bad, because they’re good at what they do, but the difference is that I also know how to connect to an audience firsthand.
The biggest thing I hope brands realize that when they are working with me, I am really going to pay attention to how the audience reacts to a campaign and really make sure that the creator knows that we trust them with what they are going to deliver because they know their audience best. I also want to educate brands and individuals. I have an Instagram account with a bunch of tips and advice on how to grow a platform, how to manage finances and how marketing can affect a business. I want to be an educational resource as well, and I want people to be informed on social media trends, what influencer marketing is and how to use it. That’s how I differentiate myself from other agencies.
WC: Would you ever be interested in publishing a book?
Natalie: I would love to do that some day! It’s a life goal of mine.
WC: How has COVID-19 affected your business?
Natalie: Starting a business in the middle of COVID-19 is probably not the smartest thing, but it’s honestly allowed me so much time to work all of my projects. Everything I’m doing is digital and I want to highlight how important a digital presence is, so honestly, COVID has been great for me to see how to make a digital company and how social media is important. Companies that are not on social media that were only in person right now are struggling a lot more than if they had like that social media presence to connect with their audience, even when they are not physically there in person to connect with their customers. Even when they are not physically there in person, I think that it has given me a lot more ideas on how I would implement strategy as well. During COVID, a lot of companies that don’t have social media can’t connect with customers during these times. I think it’s shown me how important it is to have that digital presence to connect with people.
WC: You’ve been pretty open about your faith online. Do you ever receive any backlash when you talk about your faith?
Natalie: No, I really don’t. My audience is very open to hearing what I have to say. I receive a lot of compliments and direct messages of followers telling me that they really needed to hear that or that they are glad I’m not silent about my faith. I’ll even get requests to talk about it more. They appreciate the vulnerability and the fact that I’m open about it online. If anything, it has made me closer with a lot of my followers with believing that same things that I do. Even with followers who don’t believe the same things as I do, we mutually respect each other and that is most important for me and my channel—to be a very respectful place for everyone. I’m glad my subscribers respect me as much as I respect them, and I’m proud that I’ve fostered a great community online.
WC: Did you ever reserve yourself from talking about your faith? Or was it something that you casually mentioned and didn’t even think twice about it?
Natalie: I think it is intimidating at first because you don’t know how people are going to take it, and I also feel like a lot of times you don’t want to say the wrong thing. There’s also this terrible stereotype that if you’re open about your faith online, you can sometimes be put under a microscope and people start to question you such as, ‘Why are you doing this or that if you’re a Christian?’ It can definitely be scary putting yourself in that position, but it’s something that I have grown up with my whole life. My family and friends have always been very open about talking about faith. It honestly felt natural once I felt comfortable in front of the camera to talk about that as if I was talking to a friend because I do talk to the camera as if it is like my friend. If this is something that I would tell a friend, then it is something that I should feel comfortable talking about online. I learned to really trust my community and trust my audience. So it did come naturally but it was still scary because you never know how it is going to be received.
WC: You’ve made a lot of huge life decisions such as quitting your corporate job, working YouTube full-time, moving to New York City—When you did all of that, what is your process when making those decisions? Do you rely on family and friends for advice? Do you turn to God?
Natalie: I think it is a combination of all of that. I always want to trust my gut feeling, and I always do pray about any major life decisions that I’m contemplating. I always have faith that I am on the right path. When I left my job and moved to New York, everything sort of fell into place. It didn’t even make sense how everything was working out. It had to be God’s plan for me. I share some of these stories on my YouTube channel, but basically, I had about a week’s worth of vacation to take before I left my job. On my way to this vacation, I got into an accident. It was a minor accident, but it was enough to total my car. Since the accident wasn’t my fault, I got paid out for the car which was nice because now I have some money in savings, and I didn’t have to deal with the hassle of trying to sell my car because I was moving to New York. It sounds funny, but this is the best car accident, no one got hurt and now I get money for my car without ever having to sell it! Then during all of this, while I was looking for an apartment, a sublease fell through, but then the apartment we are living in now came up out of nowhere, it wasn’t even on the market, and the minute we saw it, we signed the lease the same day.
It just made me realize, it just all kind of fell into place and to me that is like such a God thing. You know these things don’t happen the way that they are supposed to happen unless I think God puts them into place. Even though some moments were stressful, overall I trusted in God and it ended up working out. I do rely on family and friends for advice, but I think the best thing for me is to work on it individually, pray about it and trust my gut with whatever God is telling me.
WC: What is moving to New York like?
Natalie: It has always been my dream to move here. I love the city so much, but it’s very expensive, and you have to save money just to move here. But it’s a really motivating city. The energy here is amazing, and there’s so many different types of people here, and you can’t find that anywhere else. New Yorkers have a bad rep, but they are actually one of the most united group of people I have ever seen. Even during COVID-19, New Yorkers have stuck together.