Turning a Viral Video into a Career

From 'The girl with the funny talent' to a bonafide digital star


Photo credit: Danielle Chloe Potts

When she was 14, a hilarious 30-second clip of Sarah Ellen’s dancing eyebrows became an overnight sensation on YouTube. Now, four years on, she secures the gaze of 2.5 million followers through her own personal social channels and lends her face (with those dancing eyebrows) to collaborations with Topshop and Prada and editorials in Oyster magazine. She also bagged herself a spot on iconic Aussie TV soap Neighbours as Madison, daughter of Scott and Charlene Robinson (aka Jason Donovan and Kylie Minogue), documenting the journey on her website, Perks of Her.

But don’t think the ‘Girl with a Secret Talent’ didn’t work for everything she’s built since that viral video. Here’s how digital influencer Sarah Ellen built her own media empire.


Following her sense of direction.

School wasn’t for me. [I left school at 15 to study business and fashion at The Fashion Institute in Sydney.] I already knew what I wanted to do – I wanted to work in the entertainment industry – and I love fashion and art.

Not bowing to pressure.

Everybody was telling me to make more YouTube videos. I definitely could have gone down the beauty blogger route or the YouTuber route, but I am so glad I didn’t. At this age, I really feel like I have a point of view and I’ve found things I’ve fallen in love with.

Knowing the slow and steady wins the race.

I knew what had happened [with the YouTube video] had happened for a reason and I didn’t just want to do the first thing that would get me more followers. From a young age, I’ve been a perfectionist, so whatever I put out there, I wanted it to be great.

Keeping a sense of what the future holds.

I don’t want to be one of those girls who are famous for selfies on Instagram. Looks fade and I have so much more to offer and I have so many other interests. I am grateful to have this platform where I can share all of these things that I’m doing.

Not being afraid to say ‘no’.

I say no a lot. There are brands that reach out to me every single day offering me loads of money and amazing opportunities to fly to wherever, but if it is not the right thing for me and it’s not something that I stand for then, sorry, but I don’t want to do it. It’s not an easy thing to say no all the time. Sometimes I think, ‘But I want to go to Cuba!’ but I always think about how certain decisions will affect my longevity later on.

Working hard.

A lot of people don’t understand the behind-the-scenes of what I do, because I try and make it seem effortless. It’s frustrating when I see people commenting on my pictures and saying things like, ‘Oh, you just grew up in a rich family!’ I think to myself, ‘You have no idea!’ I grew up out in Campbelltown [in Sydney’s south-west] and I didn’t come from a privileged background. I had to buy my own car, I moved out on my own last year and I pay my own rent; I do everything myself. I work hard.


Sarah Ellen’s social media 101:

BE CLEAR. You need to have a sharp vision of what your brand is about and communicate this through your content.

BE UNIQUE. Find your own point of difference. What makes your brand unique? What makes you stand out from everyone else? Once you nail this, your content plan will flow seamlessly.

BE CONSISTENT. In my experience, consistency is key when it comes to having high levels of engagement – you need to be having a regular, ongoing conversation with your audience.

BE BUSINESS-MINDED. Treat your social media like it’s your business. Remember that businesses take time and effort to develop, so don’t be surprised if you don’t gain thousands of followers overnight. It’s a process that needs time, and numbers aren’t always everything.

BE YOURSELF. Authenticity is everything, and keeping things real will become increasingly important as audiences tire of too much ‘fake’ content on social media.

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