How the most creative DIY couple on YouTube avoid burn out
“It’s just surreal that this is what we've made our job.”
If you build it, they will come.
Evan and Katelyn Heling are DIY YouTubers who aren’t afraid to break the mold. The couple has amassed over 1.3 million subscribers by creating outlandish works of art like a coat rack made out of plastic hands and a mood-ring keyboard.
The Texas-based duo has been married for seven years, and started posting videos on YouTube in 2017. Their content is personable yet professional, reveling in the chaos that comes from creating the outlandish and absurd. They take that same approach to their Twitch streams, playing indie games with cat-ear headsets at least twice a week.
“Creating content is very time-consuming and can often be an expensive investment, so it's good to keep your "why" in mind while making decisions about how you'll be going about it,” Katelyn tells Inverse.
Inverse spoke to the pair about how their content has matured since they started, their favorite games, and how they deal with the need to be constantly creating.
The interview below has been edited for clarity and brevity.
How has your content evolved since you started streaming?
Katelyn: The vibe of our streams has not changed much over the past three years, which we're really happy about.
We started streaming as a way to re-introduce gaming into our lives and just have fun. It has been tempting every now and then to optimize our game selection or stream type to grow faster, but we try to keep our original intent in mind.
Evan: Streaming has also actually helped us refine how we film our channel videos, too. In the past, we would often film smaller snippets of video at a time. Since we started streaming, we will often just let the cameras roll to get that more casual hangout feel. The main way things have changed is that we now have better cameras, better mics, bigger sets, and so on.
What were your favorite video games when you were younger?
Evan: Some of my earliest memories around gaming fall into two categories: multiplayer with my brother, mainly console games, and single-player games on our family computer.
Some really stand-out memories were waking up early to play a round or two of Mario Kart 64 before we had to go to school, or playing the library level of GoldenEye 007 and laying proximity mines ALL over the place.
I also remember getting sucked into this potentially obscure space trading and combat game on Mac called Escape Velocity.
Katelyn: My favorite games, when I was younger, were Ocarina of Time and Majora's Mask, closely followed by Banjo-Kazooie. I tended to like single-player adventure games where I could explore at my own pace.
What's the weirdest experience you’ve ever had while streaming?
Katelyn: Streaming underwater from Evan's parents’ pool with 3,000 people watching us. We put a camera, monitor, batteries, etc in a watertight package we made, then rented the same scuba gear used to film Shark Week that allows audio to be recorded underwater, and just hung out and had fun!
It’s just surreal that this is what we've made our job.
How do you deal with burnout?
Evan: We have felt some warning signs of burnout for two different reasons: when we put too many hours into our work, and we are exhausted.
If we put out fewer videos and get fewer views, that is not too upsetting — it's expected. But if we're putting out the same amount of videos, or even more or higher-effort ones, and we start getting fewer views and subs, then it can lead to disappointment.
But we can always focus on why we started doing this in the first place: to spend time together and have fun with our work. That is still true even if our numbers are currently falling. That often re-focuses us and frees us to try something new!
How do the algorithms shape your creative process?
Katelyn: We try not to let the algorithms shape what games, crafts, or art we stream. But we do definitely put time and thought into the titles and thumbnails.
When choosing projects, we consider a few things: First, is this something we will enjoy? Second, is this something our current audience will enjoy? Third, is this something a broader audience will enjoy? We try to optimize for that.
Who are the content creators you like to watch when you’re not streaming?
Evan: We don't actually take much time to take breaks to watch content, so most of what we consume from other content creators are podcasts that we can just listen to, or what we call ‘meal videos’ — entertaining stuff we don't to keep our eyes on the whole time.
What's the best game you've played in the last year?
Katelyn: The first Subnautica! When you get plopped down in the middle of this seemingly endless ocean and just have to survive alongside some MASSIVE creatures, it really makes you feel small and vulnerable in a way we had not felt before. Also, the way the story unfolded in such an organic way was extremely refreshing. We really felt like we were having our own unique adventure!
How do you think streaming will change in the next five years?
Evan: We were surprised the first time we saw esports on a TV at a restaurant bar or the size of some esports arenas, but it's likely that many hobbies will evolve due to streaming, just like gaming and sports have evolved.
What advice would you give to new content creators?
Katelyn: Figure out why you want to make content. Is it just to have fun, to learn, to turn into a job, to meet new people?
Creating content is very time-consuming and can often be an expensive investment, so it's good to keep your "why" in mind while making decisions about how you'll be going about it.
Streamer Secrets is an Inverse series where the most fascinating people online share insights about their creative process, the algorithm, and the future of streaming.