The Making of Vizeh: How a Burnley lad became a YouTube sensation
The voice on the other end of the phone pauses for a second, before a laugh sounds out. "People think it has some sort of meaning but it's just something stupid. It came from Call of Duty. I wanted a name starting with an obscure letter and I wanted a 'z' in it." Another chuckle. Hundreds of thousands of people now know the name. Vizeh was born.
With over 170,000 subscribers on the world's most popular video-sharing platform, professional YouTuber Liam Waddington (aka Vizeh) is Burnley's biggest online sensation. A 20-year-old living what millions would consider the ultimate Millennial dream job, merging being your own boss, exercising ultimate control over your content, and living on social media, Liam regularly get 30,000 pairs of eyeballs on his entirely self-produced videos.
Not bad for a uni drop-out who freely admits that during his time at Nelson and Colne College he "didn't know what [he] was doing at all."
But as with every success story, there's a wealth of hard work, toil, and trial-and-error behind Liam's success. For every tweet about Dean Marney which gets hundreds of RTs, there are countless hours spent editing videos; for every viral video hit in 2019, a grainy video game montage from 2010. Liam's is a story of perseverance.
"It's been a long process," says Liam, whose first videos were shot with his dad's Sony camera on a tripod focused on the TV. "I did some terrible, terrible videos; really poor quality. I'm talking Windows Movie Maker here. But I've always watched YouTube - it's a wild place and that's what intrigued me."
With the seeds planted, Liam began his first tentative steps into the world of YouTube. Now a multimedia leviathan who's mobile app reaches more 18- to 49-year-olds than any television network in the world, YouTube is the planet's third-most visited website after Google and Facebook and the number of people whose channels earn them six-figure salaries each year increases by 50% every single year.
But you have to start small.
"I took little steps, but I was seeing progress," Liam says of his early days when he would set himself minor targets. And for someone with a speech and social language disorder who didn't speak much when he was younger, YouTube offered a microphone. And Liam took to the stage like Dean Marney to a wet and windy midweek cup fixture.
"It was just me, so people listened; I got independence and it allowed me to say 'come see what I can do'," he explains. "It's a brave thing to do to put yourself you there, but the longer I did it, the more confident I became. It was so important at a young age to have somewhere where people were listening."
Not only therapeutic, YouTube also became a sanctuary for Liam after the death of his mother, Mandy Waddington, in 2012. Having been diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis before Liam was born, Mandy sadly passed away at the age of just 49 when her son was just 13, prompting Liam to turn inwards and isolate himself from his friends by playing video games.
"Back in those days, I didn't have many friends because I'd pushed them aside to play Xbox. I felt welcome there," says Liam. Looking back, however, he knows he did wrong by pushing others away at what was naturally a traumatic time. "I don't have many regrets, but that's one; that was stupid," he admits bluntly.
"When my mum passed away, I started doing videos more consistently. I did it as a coping mechanism to take my mind off things," Liam says. Gradually finding his voice and gaining confidence, YouTube slowly became more and more important and having always harboured an interest in graphic design, he saw his blossoming channel as a CV of sorts as he looked towards university and the future.
Landing a place at Northumbria University to study Interactive Media Design, academia did not go as smoothly as planned for Liam. "My entire life was YouTube," he says of his first year in which he started to make more FIFA-based content, finding a niche that saw him started to earn more money. Committed to YouTube, Liam took the leap to drop out and focus his efforts on his channel full-time.
"I dropped out because I was spending all my time doing YouTube and while I realise how stupid that is now, fortunately it worked out for me," he says. "I'd watched and researched YouTube for such a long time; I like to see what works, and I've made my own thing on the FIFA scene. The more you do it, the more you learn."
Now based in Barrowford, Liam has been a full-time professional YouTuber - meaning he literally earns his living from the ad revenue generated by views on his channel - since September 2017. Far from work-shy, he regularly puts in 10-, 11-, 12-hour days planning, shooting, editing, and sharing his content, proving that gaining subs is just half the battle when keeping them engaged is the real name of the game.
"Like any job in life, you need to know your stuff or you'll get left behind," Liam explains, saying he has seen plenty of successful YouTubers reach 100,000 subscribers, get a shiny plaque from YouTube, and then fall off, daunted by how far the 500,000 and 1,000,000 sub milestones feel.
"It's a job where every day and everything you do is a competition," Liam adds, a hint of excitement in his voice. "People think YouTubing is easy, that you just sit at home all day and play FIFA, but you have to plan videos, execute them, schedule it all, Twitch... I'm not complaining, it's a job I've dreamed of. But I work hard.
"My mentality is if I don't upload, all I'm doing is hurting myself," he says of making a living on a website which sees 400 hours of content uploaded every minute. "I don't want to slack and fall behind. I've put nine years of my life into this thing, I'm not going to let it go because I'm lazy or get complacent."
Looking ahead, Liam says: "I've never really felt pressure with YouTube. It can be hard to please everyone but I just want to keep pushing forwards: I have a Sean Dyche mentality - take each day as it comes."
And with great fame, comes great responsibility: namely, representing Burnley on the YouTube stage. "My whole thing is I'm the Burnley fan; I'm the Burnley guy and I love that," says Liam, a lifelong Clarets supporter. "And I love that me being a Burnley fan can turn other people towards having a soft spot for the club."
While the future is important for Liam, he recognises that his past is what has made him who he is. Every year, he hosts a marathon live-stream for the MS Society to raise funds in memory of his mum, going 50 hours straight in both February 2018 and earlier this year. Packed with hi-jinks, dares, and interaction with his fans, his latest effort raised over £6,500.
"I had my Strepsils ready," Liam says with a chuckle about the latest live-stream. "The hardest part was my voice going, it really wears down your vocal chords, but I reckon I could've gone another 10 hours. Knowing people were supporting me kept me going."There's something very fitting about Liam's annual tribute to his mother. A fiercely independent character, Liam says that she found growing more dependant on others tough, so raising thousands of pounds as a self-made social media star seems somewhat appropriate.
"When my mum was still around, she knew I did YouTube," Liam says. "I know that she wouldn't want me to use her passing as an excuse and instead do what makes me happy: the most important thing in life is to make your job something you enjoy."
To make a donation to Liam's MS Society fundraiser, head to: https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/vizehformum. You can find Vizeh's YouTube channel at https://www.youtube.com/user/xViseH/featured.