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Cookier Close-up: YouTube Maestro, Hani Bacova of Haniela's

Widely regarded as one of YouTube’s favorite cookiers, Hani (aka Haniela’s) has been producing cookie videos for us at the rate of about three per week since January 2013. That’s 387-plus videos in total, folks, and speaking from some experience, producing such a large number is no small task! For this extraordinary commitment to furthering our cookie knowledge, Hani was nominated for Cookie Connection’s Educator of the Year Award earlier this year. Way to go, Hani!


About a month ago, we had the pleasure of live-chatting with Hani, during which time we covered everything from why she pipes with plastic baggies to how she got started in cookie decorating. So rather than re-tread old territory (you can read that chat transcript here), I’m focusing today’s interview on Hani’s amazingly prolific YouTube journey and her future video plans. I’ll also trace her journey as we go by posting a progression of her videos, from one of her earliest to the very latest published just a day ago!

JMU: Hi, Hani! So glad to have you back with us! From your chat, I know you got started in cookie decorating in 2008 when you decided to make cookies as Christmas gifts for friends and family. But what spurred you to shoot your first YouTube video? And why have you chosen YouTube as your primary platform for cookie expression?

HB: Hi, Julia and everyone reading. Glad to be here. I started off as a blogger, and I've been blogging for several years now. Back in 2013 I kind of hit a wall, metaphorically, of course. I hit a blogger's block, whatever you want to call it. I felt like I was stuck. Then I had a long talk with Marlyn from Montreal Confections. Marlyn encouraged me to start with videos. So I filmed my first official video. (I beg you not to watch it. It's the soft pretzels video, LOL.) I had to face my own insecurities and fears, but I'm glad I did. The experience made me stronger and realize I had more to give as a teacher. I grew as a person, and I found a great friend in the process.  

Hani published two videos prior to this one in 2013, including the soft pretzels one she'd rather not have us watch! (So we won't!) Instead, here's her very first cookie video.

JMU: You and Marlyn were certainly some of the earliest cookie-adopters of YouTube. Kudos for being such a fearless pioneer!

How, if at all, has the YouTube environment changed since you first started uploading in 2013? Is it still an attractive environment for people just starting out with cookie videos?

HB: From what I understand, there were no playlists back in the day, making it pretty much impossible to categorize videos. I guess it is a bit more user-friendly these days. Still, things are changing, so it is important to keep yourself informed. For instance, YouTube just announced some major changes about how they will treat sponsored videos with sponsors' logos in them. They won't allow the logos unless they get their cut from the videos.

JMU: Interesting, I had not heard about this - something to definitely keep in mind for my next sponsored video collaboration!

So is it possible to make decent money – or even a living – by posting cookie videos to YouTube? Can you briefly explain to our readers how videos are monetized on YouTube?

HB: Sure, why not, anything is possible. Is that my case? Not really. I have a long road ahead of me to get there. To cover your second question, videos on YouTube are typically monetized through Google's AdSense program. In order to monetize a video, you need to have your channel connected to your AdSense account. It's pretty easy to set up and, for those who have blogs, you probably already have an AdSense account. [EDITOR'S NOTE: As Hani alluded, ad revenue takes time to build, so be patient if you venture onto YouTube! Revenue is a function of the number of monetized views on your channel times the going ad rate. If you belong to a YouTube network, as I do, the network also shares in your revenue in exchange for monetizing your channel and securing sponsorship deals for you.]

Published March 27, 2014, about a year after Hani first started on YouTube, this 3-D cookie is a true charmer.

JMU: So, three videos a week is A LOT! I post only one, and the production of weekly videos is nearly a full-time job. Can you briefly explain your typical production process and work week? For instance, how many hours do you spend conceiving of videos, creating cookies for them, shooting, and editing, and how much time in total typically goes into your average-length video? Do you have any help with any parts of this process?

HB: I totally agree - making videos is a pretty time-consuming process. I try to be as organized as possible, but often life happens. Like these past three weeks, I wasn't able to film anything. I'm planning to work this weekend and get some new videos filmed. I'd say video-making is all about planning ahead. Of course, being spontaneous is great and adds character, but as a teacher, you need to know what you want to show before you show it. If you film something and it's no good, you have to redo it.

My videos average five to six minutes long, sometimes longer depending on the project. For example my 3-D colosseum cookie took me about two to three weeks to finish, just because I had to re-film sections, bake again, etc. I had other projects in the works and so some things sat untouched for several days before I got to them. Time invested in creating videos really varies from project to project. Editing is also a really important part of video-making. I try to keep my videos concise and cut a lot of footage.

And lastly, I have no help. From drawing the designs and making the dough to icing, filming, doing voice-overs, taking pictures, handling social media, responding to emails, and washing dirty dishes, it's all me. I'm a one-woman show. 

JMU: Phew, I got tired just reading that! So, tell me, why did you choose to shoot and edit your own videos versus hiring someone to do this for you? Do you ever find it difficult to both create/design cookies and shoot/edit videos at the same time? If so, how do you juggle the two? (OK, so that was a leading question . . . but that’s because I find the balancing act so very difficult to do, and I don’t even shoot my own videos!)

HB: I shoot and edit because I just can't afford to hire someone else to do it for me. Yes, it is difficult to do it all yourself and ideally I would love someone to take the editing off my hands. But right now, I don't really have much of a choice so I'll keep doing it myself. I kind of learned what works and what doesn't through trial and error, and what can be done and what can't within my kitchen space. I usually film several videos, then I take all the pictures, and then I move onto editing. It's a process.   

JMU: Many cookiers have visions of creating their own videos and posting to YouTube. What would you say to them? Is it too late to get started on YouTube? Is it already super-saturated with decorating videos, or is there still room to make a statement?

HB: I don't think it's too late. I've been seeing more and more cookie videos lately. It's really fun to see others make decorated cookies, and I learn from it. I'm not an expert here and so, if you want to try YouTube, go for it. You'll never know if you don't.

JMU: What advice would you give to cookiers who have already decided to take the YouTube plunge? Any key dos and don’ts?

HB: Be yourself and be nice.  

JMU: Easy enough, I guess. Though sometimes "being yourself" on camera is tough when you're talking, decorating, and worrying about what your unruly hair is doing, all at the same time! (I'm speaking of my own experience, of course.) 

So, once you’ve created a great cookie video, are you assured that your subscribers will see it on YouTube? Or is YouTube like Facebook insofar as only a portion of your subscribers will be shown the video? What additional steps, if any, must YouTube creators take to help grow their subscriber bases?

HB: I think YouTube is doing a better job than Facebook on this. However, I still share my videos and/or images from videos on all of my social media to ensure maximum exposure. 

JMU: I mentioned collaborations earlier in this interview, and I know you have participated in collaborations with other YouTube content providers (including myself - wee!). How do collaborations typically work? Are they a helpful strategy for growing your subscriber base, or are they primarily done for fun and learning? [EDITOR'S NOTE: BTW, collaborations are themed video projects that are produced and co-marketed by several YouTube creators.]

HB: Collaborations are fun! I'm not 100-percent convinced that they bring tons of new subscribers, but they offer some exposure, and I personally like to connect with people. I was very actively doing blog collaborations with up to 30 participants, so collaborations are kind of close to my heart. I just love doing them. It's definitely helpful to reach out to other YouTubers to do collaborations, though don't expect miracles in terms of new subscribers. I feel like I learn something with every collaboration though.

Published March 28, 2014, this video is one Hani did for an Easter cookie collaboration with six other YouTubers.

JMU: I've been on YouTube for a little over one and a half years, and despite growing views and subscribers, I haven't seen the same rapid growth in my ad revenue. This is because YouTube advertising rates on my channel have dropped precipitously over this time, making it harder for me to earn the money I once did from YouTube ads. I'm already looking for other ways to combat declining YouTube ad revenue, such as seeking contributions from viewers through YouTube's fan funding feature and joining other new pay-to-view platforms like Vessel. Has this been your experience? Have you heard of others experiencing the same thing? If so, what do these changes signal to you?

HB: Yes, you've heard correctly. I'm going to see what this year brings and then I'll decide what I want to do.

Published February 11, 2015, the famous colosseum cookie that rocked Hani's channel - and this site!

JMU: This all said, where do you think online cookie videos are headed in the future? Will there be even more free content like on YouTube, but on new platforms? Or more in-depth, pay-to-view content like that starting to become available on Craftsy, eduK, and other platforms? Why do you think the video market is headed that way?

HB: The online video world seems to be changing quite a bit. Facebook is killing it with native videos, and honestly, I think it has the potential to be the new YouTube down the line. Then, there's Vine, Hulu, and other free-sharing platforms available to creators, but I think it is too soon to tell what's going to happen. Things may get clearer as we get into 2015 to 2017. Healthy competition can be a sign of something good in the future, I hope.

As far as prepaid videos, I, myself, bought several classes on Craftsy, and they are really well done and worth the money.          

JMU: Agreed. I think that more competition for YouTube means more opportunities for creators to share content elsewhere (aka added exposure) and also higher ad rates on these new, less saturated platforms. For instance, Vessel is promising ad rates nearly 20X those on YouTube. But, promises are one thing . . . only time will really tell.

And last but not least, what are your cookie-related plans for the future? Do you have any new and exciting video (or other) projects up your sleeve? Do tell!

HB: I'm hoping I'll be able to start cookie decorating classes soon. As far as my YouTube channel goes, I'd like to bring more of me into the videos. I'll keep creating fun and creative content for my fans, and I'm planning a very special month of April.

JMU: Ooh, it kills me that you're going to keep us hanging like this! But, fortunately, April is just around the corner! Thanks again for joining us here. I wish you continued success on YouTube and everywhere else your cookie adventure takes you!    

Hani's latest, published about one day ago, just in time for Easter! Stay tuned - I think she has an April Fool's Day collaboration posting tomorrow.

All cookies, photos, and videos by Hani Bacova of Haniela's.

Interested in learning more about Hani? Please check out her site, Facebook page, and YouTube channel, of course!

Interested in getting to know our other Cookiers' Choice Awards nominees? Find links to their Close-ups in our recent finalist announcement here.

Cookier Close-ups is the place on Cookie Connection where we celebrate the change-makers of the cookie decorating world. Whether forging new enterprises, inventing novel decorating techniques, or consistently charming us with their cookie decorating prowess, each of our featured thought leaders has redefined in his/her distinctive way how we interact, create, or otherwise do business here in cookie space!

If there are other cookiers you'd really like to get to know, please post requests in this forum. We'll do our best to round them up for an upcoming Cookier Close-up! Thanks!



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  • Haniela's Cookier Close-up Banner: Cookies and images by Haniela's; banner by Julia M Usher

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thank you, ladies! This was such a great, informative article! Wonderful insight from two talented women! Thanks, Julia, for bringing Hani onboard for a little chat! Thank you, Hani for spending your time with us!

Thank you Hani, and Julia. This was very interesting, and enlightening. 

Hani I have been a huge fan.  I love the simplicity, and easy to follow instruction.

i often refer back to your tutorials. 

I will be watching for your up and coming new videos. 

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