Kaiwan is a self-taught photographer who discovered his passion in his teens. To hone his skills, much of his time was initially spent learning Photoshop from YouTube videos. When he reached 16, he shared his first before and after photo in a Facebook group for photographers and Photoshop users. The overwhelmingly positive reaction led him to create his first Photoshop tutorial on YouTube. Fast-forward to the present day and he’s now selling photography presets on his Sellfy store to a growing YouTube audience of 237K+ followers. Due to his incredible success, he was able to leave his IT major in college and pursue his passion for cinematography full time.
Kaiwan chose Sellfy for its ease of use, straightforward interface, and accessibility. In this interview, he shares his inspirational story and how he became his own boss.
Give us a little insight into your background and how you discovered your passion.
I’m 22 years old. I’m currently living in Warsaw, Poland, where I study cinematography at a film school. However, I was born and raised in the Kurdistan region of Northern Iraq.
Growing up there, it was challenging to do anything related to art as you’re not well respected unless you’re a doctor or an engineer. But, I’ve always been passionate about art. So, when I got my first camera and tried photography, I fell in love with it right away and I knew I was on to something.
My early photographs were of anything that I could take pictures of. My skills were still limited as was my camera—I couldn’t even change the lenses. So, I needed to learn Photoshop and photo manipulation. I went to YouTube and taught myself for a couple of months. Then, when I knew more about Photoshop, I decided to show off my skills.
I joined a Facebook group called Photoshop and Photography when I was 16. There I posted my first before and after photo. It went viral overnight and I woke up to almost 120 people asking for a tutorial.
My English was very limited back then and I didn’t know what a tutorial was, but I decided to give it a chance anyway. So, I just recorded some videos, and people loved them and wanted more. That’s how my YouTube journey started.
How did you come across Sellfy and make your first sale?
In terms of making money with YouTube ads, it’s like 60 bucks a month, so I needed to find another way to provide for myself.
I did some research about a good platform for me to start with. Then I saw a couple of creators using Sellfy, and I got inspired by them to build a product. The idea was to start promoting my products on YouTube. I was in my last year of high school back then and all I could think of was creating a product to see what the outcome would be.
So, I launched my first photo overlay product in 2016 and promoted it on YouTube. I made $60 in just a few hours with Sellfy. I was astonished because that was like a month’s worth of work on YouTube. It was eye-opening for me and took me to a whole new level of financial freedom.
Why did you pick Sellfy over other eCommerce platforms?
I really loved how accessible Sellfy was. All I had to do was just add my PayPal account and start selling. I also loved how easy it was to purchase as a buyer or launch a new product as a seller. I purchased a couple of things before I started my online store with Sellfy and I saw how simple it is for the buyer. It’s straightforward – you want this, add to the cart, get it right away.
Unlike other platforms, Sellfy’s interface isn’t confusing nor time-consuming for the buyer—it’s very straightforward. I think that’s a big plus for Sellfy and the success I’ve had with the platform.
How did you promote yourself and grow your audience?
At first, I made YouTube tutorials with only text and music. But then I started adding my own audio and after that, some of my videos went viral. So, I feel like that was a starting point for me. Most of my audience consists of aspiring photographers and I get them from these tutorials. I had around 20,000 subscribers when I first started and now it’s approximately 237,000. The fact that I’ve been able to get all my sales organically is insane.
I used to try to push a lot of my products in my videos, but now I just promote when it feels right. For example, I’ll make a video demonstration of how my product works, such as a photo overlay or a preset. And if people like it, they can go to the link in the description and check out my Sellfy store. So, the traffic I get is pretty organic.
I’ve promoted a couple of times on Instagram too. But I think what really works for me is YouTube because that’s where my audience can see long-form product reviews. I cannot post a long tutorial on Instagram, so I just have to show quick reviews. But, despite that, I think I’ve gotten some traffic from Instagram as well.
What’s your favorite Sellfy feature?
One of my favorite features is store customization. I was able to get a sleek design. I like that there are more options and that you can change the shape of certain things so that your store looks unique. You can just give it your own touch and customize it the way you like.
Another favorite of mine is Sellfy’s email marketing feature.
With the email marketing feature, I collected around 100,000 emails by giving out freebies. I got more than 1.3 million visits to my Sellfy store, so I think that’s a great marketing strategy.
What’s your main source of revenue?
For now, my main source of revenue comes from selling NFTs (a form of a digital asset whose ownership is recorded on a blockchain).
But, until recently, Sellfy was my main source of revenue.
I made almost $70,000 with Sellfy alone and that’s how I was able to drop out of university back in Kurdistan region where I was studying IT. If I hadn’t had a proper passive income at the time, I wouldn’t have been able to drop out. And I also wouldn’t have had the opportunity to travel to 14 countries before the pandemic. I feel blessed and thankful because I can be my own boss now.
What are the biggest lessons you’ve learned?
I think I’d say, be responsible with your business and don’t let your ego get in the way.
A lot of people who become successful and make a lot of money end up not knowing what to do with that money. They don’t come up with a proper plan to sustain their business and make it even more successful. So, I think the biggest lesson I learned was to just work and then invest back into my business.
For example, the marketing part was a bit of a hassle for me. So, if I had hired someone else to do it for me, I could’ve easily fixed the issue and my business would’ve only grown from there. So, get a team or someone to help you out with the things you don’t want to do and think long-term.
And while marketing is a big and important factor, your product also needs to be good enough for people to believe in it and make a purchase. No one will buy something from you if they don’t see the value in it.