Jason Hibbs operated Bourbon Moth Woodworking in Albany, Ore. as a custom cabinet and furniture shop until the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, when orders slowed. Now it’s the set of a popular YouTube channel.
His humorous how-to content and penchant for outlandish projects has drawn over a half million subscribers, providing a sustainable income and fresh spark of creativity.
“I think I’ve found a new freedom in doing YouTube that I didn’t have in doing client work,” Hibbs, 33, tells Woodshop News.
“When I was doing client work, I loved it. I like dealing with people and being able to build a piece that they’ve been thinking about and making that come to life, but it is limiting. You are having to work within the scope of somebody else’s ideas. When I switched to YouTube, I realized I can pretty much make anything I can imagine, that there are no limitations other than my own creativity. That was really exciting to me.”
Frequently, Hibbs is asked to unshroud the mystery on how he makes money, develops content, engages subscribers and more. He’s happy to share anything he knows, giving a simplified breakdown of the arrangement in this interview. But to answer the question he’s asked most often, there is no secret meaning to Bourbon Moth. It just sounded good.
‘I knew nothing’
In 2010, Hibbs was enrolled in nursing school when his wife’s custom print-making business, “Oh, Little Rabbit”, took off on the craft sale platform Etsy. He dropped out to help her run that full-time, and a few years later they purchased a new home. They were on a tight budget, so he decided to build some of their furniture himself. He invested in some reliable tools, thinking he might even start a side business at some point. It was a rough start.
“I knew nothing about woodworking, and I mean absolutely nothing. I might have used a chop saw twice in my life at a friend’s house. I went to the Grizzly website and just started adding stuff to my cart that I thought I needed or saw on the show Home Improvement.”
Working in a one-car garage attached to the printing studio on their property, his first experience with the table saw was quite a wake-up call. Naïve to power tools, he moved the fence aside to rip a sheet of plywood and got a kickback that felt like a punch to the stomach.
“I’m surprised I didn’t lose a hand. That was when I realized I needed a little bit of an education here and I just started diving down the YouTube rabbit hole watching every woodworking video I could possibly find and just slowly taught myself to woodwork over the years.”
After completing what he calls his “baptism by fire” period, requests from friends, family and an interior design firm got the ball rolling. Hoping to get more clients, Hibbs started posting work on Instagram. But the reaction was mostly from woodworkers curious about his techniques.
“I didn’t exactly know the right way to do a lot of things. A lot of the pieces I was doing I couldn’t find examples of and I was just making up ways to do it, and I think people maybe thought it was an interesting way of doing it. I’m not sure. But I started getting a lot of other woodworkers following me,” he says.
Hibbs was busy with commissions until the pandemic started and customers balked.
“They just didn’t want to spend money right then. This meant, for the first time in a long time, I had a lot of free time on my hands. That’s when I made the transition of just posting on Instagram to posting videos on YouTube.”
An honest approach
Hibbs has averaged about one video per week since he started. Most are about building cabinets and furniture. But he’s also turned a lawnmower into a tank, completed a gorgeous 16’ McKenzie River drift boat, and shared several delicious cocktail recipes.
Sometimes, he turns on the camera and just starts building. “I’ve done videos where I’ve had an idea for a coffee table, like one out of metal pool furniture, but out of walnut. I didn’t know if it would work, but the video was about if I could do it or not,” he says.
Hibbs has done a three-part series on cabinetmaking but doesn’t consider himself an expert. “I present my videos so viewers know that I can do some things, but I can’t do everything. I’m just honest with that. I don’t pretend to be some kind of know it all, which I know I’m not. I let everyone know I’m open to criticism and input.”
Multiple revenue streams
There’s lots of ways to make money on YouTube, which adds up to a decent living, according to Hibbs.
“I won’t say how much I’m making – I’m not comfortable with that - but I will say I’m very surprised at how much money you can make on YouTube. And I’m making more now on YouTube doing what I want to do and sharing that experience with other people than when I was just strictly doing client work,” he says.
“If you build for one client, you’re paid by the client and have one income stream. With YouTube, there are a lot of different revenue streams, and it’s not a ton of income from one place. But when it’s all put together, it’s definitely enough to make a living.”
YouTube income streams include partner programming and ad revenue, product placement and video sponsorship, affiliate marketing, premium subscriptions, patron pages, and merchandise sales.
By connecting his channel to Google AdSense, YouTube’s advertising system, Hibbs became an approved partner and could monetize his site after meeting platform requirements on watch hours and subscribers.
“YouTube automatically puts ads on videos over certain lengths, and several on longer videos. Then there are other options, such as company sponsorship through advertising. I also have companies that reach out that want to sponsor a video, and that’s basically ad revenue that comes from me including a paid ad spot within the video. So, it’s actually me on screen saying the video was sponsored by them and talking a little bit about their company.”
Affiliate marketing works well with his channel, too. Hibbs provides a link to the tools he uses in a video, and if a viewer buys the tool through the link, he gets a percentage of the sale. He also sells project plans and merchandise.
Hibbs films and edits content with an iPhone. “Don’t let not having fancy equipment limit you,” he says. “It’s very easy for me to use my phone to do everything. I can sit on the couch at night and watch TV with my wife while I’m editing videos.”
Fun for all ages
In the video “All about drills”, Hibbs welcomes children to his “Whacky Woodshop” and builds a small catapult with his six-year-old son, Iver, available on the YouTube Kids app.
“I have so many people telling me that their kids love watching my videos,” says Hibbs. “Then I have a lot of older people in their seventies and eighties that say they’ve either been woodworking for years or they’re just getting into it as a hobby and enjoy watching my videos. It’s really humbling to me to think that people who’ve been around that long can get something out of my videos. It’s fun having a really wide demographic like that. I try really hard to keep all of my videos clean and family friendly so anybody can watch them.”
But he can’t please everyone. Hibbs says he gets plenty of negative feedback.
“It doesn’t bother me at all. I laugh at it more than anything else. When people get really nasty and ridiculous, I comment back to them with just a random comeback. One of my favorites over the years is I’ll write back that ‘your mother eats her pizza with a fork.’ It’s usually just so random they don’t reply.
“The fun thing is, when you get a lot of subscribers - and I have such loyal, amazing followers – they will jump on the negative comments. I have this really nice support system and it’s nice to know people care.
Hibbs is still absorbing the success. “This whole YouTube thing happened so quickly, it’s been barely over a year since it happened and things have kind of exploded with it, so I’m still playing catch up a bit on how to manage it. I probably need to hire an assistant or somebody.”
For more, visit www.bourbonmoth.com.
This article was originally published in the July 2021 issue.