A YouTube Creator Explains How She Makes Up To $6,000 Per Month From Thrifting Videos And How She Built A Career Around Sustainable Fashion

 

  • Alexa Hollander is known as Alexa Sunshine on her YouTube channel, where she posts videos about going to thrift stores, styling second-hand clothing, and discussing sustainability in fashion.
  • She is part of a trend of thrifting YouTube videos, which have surged in popularity the last few years.
  • Now a full-time YouTube creator, Hollander earns most of her income from ad revenue on her videos.
  • She explained how much she earns through ads, the challenges of finding brand sponsorships as a creator focused on sustainability, and the evolution of her brand.
  • Subscribe to Business Insider’s influencer newsletter.

 

This is the latest installment of Business Insider’s YouTube money logs, where creators break down how much they earn.

Alexa Hollander’s YouTube career started nearly six years ago when she began making videos about going to thrift stores to find affordable alternatives to fast-fashion clothing. But it didn’t become a full-time job until last September.

Hollander, 26, is known as Alexa Sunshine83 on her YouTube channel, where she posts videos about going to thrift stores, styling second-hand clothing, and discussing sustainability in fashion.

She’s part of a trend of “thrift with me” YouTube videos, which have surged in popularity in the last few years. Videos with “thrifting in” or “how to thrift” in the title increased by 10X between 2017 and 2019, according to YouTube’s culture and trends data.

Last year, Hollander signed with a management team and quit her job in retail to focus on YouTube full time.

She now has around 231,000 subscribers and generally makes between $3,000 and $6,000 each month in pre-tax revenue from Google-placed ads placed on her YouTube videos. Business Insider verified her YouTube-based income range with screenshots of her analytics dashboard.

Creators with 1,000 subscribers and 4,000 watch hours are able to monetize their YouTube channels through ads placed by Google (referred to as AdSense). Factors like a video’s length, watch time, type, and viewer demographics all impact how much money a creator earns.

“I basically make my full income from AdSense,” Hollander told Business Insider.

Outside of AdSense, Hollander also does a small number of brand sponsorships, but they can be tricky to navigate because of how central the values of sustainability and minimizing consumption are to her brand. She estimated that she does 2-3 sponsorships per month, and said payment usually ranges between $1,000 and $4,000. 

“I feel like the subject on my channel is the worst for making money,” she said, since she does fewer sponsorships than other categories.

But Hollander said it’s not just about making money.

“If it was, I probably would’ve chosen a different subject,” she said.

To keep her channel running, Hollander said she spends about $100 each month sourcing clothing from thrift stores. But that has changed because of the pandemic, as some stores have closed or have limited hours and capacity. Hollander said she now spends about $200 to $250 each month, balancing both online thrift alternatives and minimal in-store shopping.

Hollander spoke with Business Insider about her strategies for earning ad revenue on her videos, working with brands like Goodwill, and the challenges of finding sustainable fashion brands to partner with.

Alexa Hollander outside of a Goodwill store. Alexa Hollander Even without many brand deals, it’s the ad revenue that sustains her YouTube career

Learning how to strategically use Google-placed ads in her videos was what allowed Hollander to go full time as a YouTube creator, despite the low volume of brand deals she does.

Hollander said that after watching some videos and talking to other creators, she realized that mid-roll ads, which are ads that can be placed throughout a YouTube video if it is over 8 minutes (previously it was 10 minutes), could significantly increase her ad revenue. 

“If you would have earned just $50 on a video, if you put two ads in it, you now could make $100,” she said.

Hollander said that her highest-earning video in AdSense was about her shoe collection, which she posted in January 2020. The video has around 460,000 views and continues to make money today, she said. She attributed the success of this video to its length (18 minutes) and her editing (which kept viewers engaged as she revealed each shoe).

“They don’t know what shoe I’m going to show next, and so it’s more interesting and people want to watch longer,” she said. 

Her income from Google ads isn’t always reliable, however. Her AdSense income was cut in half earlier this year as the pandemic spread widely in the US, she said. Other creators told Business Insider in April that they had seen steep declines in their ad rates from the platform.

Alexa Hollander Alexa Hollander How she makes money through partnerships, outside of ads on her videos

Thrifting content generally revolves around used clothing that is anywhere between five and 20 years old, so it isn’t often conducive to brand deals.

Hollander has, however, partnered with a few brands in the last year, including ThredUp (an online thrift store and resale company) and Goodwill.

The ThredUp partnership initially started at the beginning of 2019 and made up the majority of her sponsorships that year. The partnership evolved from sponsored YouTube videos into Hollander creating an ad for ThredUp, which is still used as part of the company’s social-media advertisements.

For the Goodwill partnership, the company reached out to Hollander’s management team and asked for her to appear in a video alongside its CEO. She’s also built a relationship with her local stores in LA, such as the Goodwill in Orange County, which is nearby and one of her favorites.

“This was the first time I actually had a sponsorship that finally made sense,” Hollander said about her work with Goodwill. It’s also one of the highest paying partnerships she’s had to date.

Besides sponsorships, Hollander also sometimes will use affiliate links to make money by linking her videos to similar styles her viewers can buy elsewhere. If a user follows her links, she can earn a small amount of money through commission. Hollander uses MagicLinks, a popular affiliate link program for creators. 

“Affiliates are so interesting because you won’t see anything and then all of a sudden you have $200 sent to your PayPal account,” Hollander said.

Fast-fashion brands still offer sponsorships, but Hollander politely declines

Hollander said she receives about 100 offers from fast-fashion brands every month for sponsorships — some paid, some in exchange for free products.

But she politely declines all of these, knowing that if she collaborated with these brands, her community would see her as a “sell-out,” since it conflicts with her values as a consumer and creator.

Fast-fashion brands produce massive amounts of clothing to meet the demand of changing trends and at a more affordable price point. There is a toll on the environment though and reports of poor labor conditions and low wages at various companies.

When Hollander first started receiving brand sponsorship offers in 2018, they were mostly fast-fashion brands. She worked with a few of them like Nasty Gal and Boohoo, but they were unpaid sponsorships and she only got free products out of them. But in September 2019, when Hollander decided she would make being a creator her full-time job, she stopped doing fast-fashion content (especially hauls).

Now Hollander uses her platform as a way to educate her viewers about the impacts of fast fashion.

“It made it hard for me to work with brands,” Hollander said of shifting her content more toward sustainability and thrifting and actively speaking out against fast fashion. 

“I want to make sure the companies I’m working with are 100% in line with my channel and my values,” she added.

Still, Hollander frequently receives new offers from fast-fashion brands. 

“Like, did you watch my videos?” she laughed. “Because if you would watch my videos, you probably wouldn’t want to work with me.”

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