How Colin & Samir Went from Burnout → Booming | ft. Josh Kaplan

Colin and Samir are the duo covering all things creators for creators. But it wasn’t always perfect. So what changed?
How Colin & Samir Went from Burnout → Booming | ft. Josh Kaplan
Table of Contents
In: Interview, Strategy

If you’ve managed to find this without knowing who Colin and Samir are…

Please tell me because that means I’m technically more famous than them 🕺

In all seriousness, Colin and Samir are the duo covering all things creators for creators. Here’s a quick rundown:

Working together for over 10 years
Subscriber count of 1.2M and climbing
A team of people helping them make content

But it wasn’t always perfect.

They seriously considered quitting
They reached the brink of burnout
This was only a few short years ago

So what changed? And what can we learn about scaling sustainably?

I sat down with Josh Kaplan, CEO of Smooth Media, to find out. He and his team are the operational support squad for all things Colin and Samir as well as a several other creators.

Our conversation covers:

  • Common creator mistakes regarding scale
  • When do creators actually need help?
  • What unlocked C&S’s potential?

Gather around 🔥

Common Mistakes?

My first question to Josh was to find out the biggest mistakes he sees creators making. He was kind enough to provide 3 traps that creators often fall into.

Quantity vs Quality

Oh… where do I start? I see a lot of quantity over quality right now. 1 piece that goes crazy on algorithms is worth so much more than rushing many…It’s just so, so much better for growth (and your brain) to find the right level of consistency that allows a creator to put enough effort into each piece without diluting their efforts.

Josh Kaplan, Smooth Media

The key phrase for me in this is “right level of consistency”. Too many creators think they have to post weekly or daily, etc. but that’s not feasible for most.

Consistency is relative to each creator.

Engineering channels making gigantic builds can’t spit that out daily. (or if they did, it likely wouldn’t be worth watching).

Additional mistake that I see tons of new creators making: quantity with zero iteration. The advice to make 100 videos is useless if you aren’t actively learning and improving with each video.

Scale doesn’t come from virality.

It comes from showing up and being better than you were yesterday for however long it takes.

Colin and Samir took 10 years. See y’all in a decade.


This goes beyond titles and thumbnails. How do you introduce yourself? Are you consistent with that introduction? Who are you really creating for?…making that persona more dynamic than “women in a certain age group” is very important.

Go listen to podcasts about David Oglivy and you’ll get what I’m saying!

Josh Kaplan, Smooth Media

TLDR: know your audience.

Understanding your target audience should impact:

Editing Style
Brand Partnerships
Monetization Options
Pretty much everything lol

Expecting growth without knowing who your content is serving is like surviving on a submarine with a screen door. (don’t try this at home)

As for the Oglivy podcast, Josh recommends this one.


Why do you want to be on a certain platform? Is it growth? Revenue? Both? Which is right for where you are right now? Short form in particular is trendy but I’m still unsure [of] the exact reward for serious views…I see [it] as the marketing function rather than the core “product” when it comes down to the business.

Josh Kaplan, Smooth Media

This is the yin to the yang of knowing your audience.

You have to know why you post on every platform. There are so many options out there for creators which is a blessing/curse. Will X platform blow up and I can be early? Is it too late to start Y?

Keep your attention focused on the places that actually move the needle forward for your goals.

When Is Help Needed?

Josh’s response to this question was so good I had to break it into what I’m calling the Fit-Focus-Delegate (FFD) Framework.

Let’s dive in 👇


I think the most important thing a creator can do early on is focus on finding content-market-fit with the right audience. Once this hits, the algorithms should do their thing and bring more and more audience. Josh Kaplan, Smooth Media

Step 1) make something that people want to watch. Colin and Samir define content-market-fit this way:


But with…growth the creator should remain focused on content and audience.

Josh Kaplan, Smooth Media

Step 2) Keep doing the thing you found in step 1.

I’ve seen way too many creators get wild with experimentation. Don’t get me wrong, it’s crucial to innovate! But you need to innovate intelligently.

Been making Minecraft content for a year? Maybe a cooking tutorial doesn’t make the most sense. Focus.


Finding someone to delegate [the] tasks [that] someone else can do becomes essential to continuing to do what only the creator can do.

Josh Kaplan, Smooth Media

Step 3) Now that growth has been happening, find ways to offload the non-leveraged tasks. For more details on this, I wrote a step by step process for how I’ve helped top creators hire.

See? That wasn’t so bad. But is there a certain size this happens?

Right Size?

I joke that when you’re overwhelmed that’s your clear sign to find partners. Partners that are particularly good at things you’re not. They should fill in gaps on your now-budding team.

Josh Kaplan, Smooth Media

Nope - no exact size here. It’s all about what you’re able to handle + your goals for growth. Do you want to build an empire or are you looking for a lifestyle play? Not one right answer here.


And of course, we now offer a fractional COO service to help build teams, plans and take on operations work. To us, operations and processes are puzzle pieces for us to put together in different creative ways depending on the scenario.

Josh Kaplan, Smooth Media

If you’re in a position where this makes sense, I’d vouch for Josh and his team in a heartbeat. That’s all I have to say about that.

How Did Colin and Samir Do It?

Addition by Subtraction

We had to say “no” a ton. There were plenty of good ideas but we needed to focus on the great ideas. It might have been big advertising deals that would have taken away from our core editorial, a new platform, testing out a new tech product… no became the default.

Josh Kaplan, Smooth Media

This 👆

Avoid shiny object syndrome like the plague. That goes directly against Step 2 of the FFD Framework. Don’t fall into the trap of saying yes to everything that comes your way. Each wild goose chase will take time away from your core, which should be the driver behind everything else.

Distractions can look an awful lot like innovations.

Strategy vs Opportunity

One of my favorite things that we did was write down our strategy. It sounds simple. But then whenever a new opportunity or idea came up, we could go graph it against what we wrote down.

Josh Kaplan, Smooth Media

But how, Trent? How can I do this for myself?

Glad you asked! I asked Josh the same thing and here’s an amazing set of questions to get your strategy clarified and actionable:

  • What’s your mission statement?
  • Who is your audience?
  • Are you solving a problem for your audience?
  • What have you created so far?
  • What has worked well?
  • What are you exceptional at?
  • What is your business model?
  • How do you make money?
  • What are the best long term ideas you can possibly come up with?
  • What are the essential next steps for the next 3 months to further your progress?
  • Focus on inputs (hire an editor, publish a new series consistently) rather than outputs (hit X subscribers).

Final Word

It is an amazing time to build an audience-first business. But when you start to really look at what you’re building as a business, as a startup, you can objectify it all easier.

Connect with an audience, tell stories, find problems within your audience, and help solve them. I’m here to encourage you to think long term, fail fast, and adopt more startup cliches other than to hustle harder.

Josh Kaplan, Smooth Media

Mic drop 🎤

Don't forget to leave a rating and comment if you found this valuable. Thanks again to Josh for taking the time to share his insights from helping build one of the most well-known C2C brands out there!

All the best,


Say hi on Twitter or LinkedIn 👋
🤝 Want to work with me?

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