Jackson, the Trini digital nomad of Tortola
MARTINA JACKSON had no clue she would have a career as an internet content creator. But at 57, she is living the digital nomad lifestyle as she generates all her revenue from her online platforms while living on Tortola, the largest island of the British Virgin Islands.
The former accountant now has five YouTube channels, one of which has more than 20,000 subscribers. She has a blog called WhaTo Cook that highlights food from TT and generates passive income of Amazon Kindle e-books.
Jackson moved to Tortola in 2000. There she worked as an accountant for a resort. However, missing the food from TT, she started a blog called WhaTo Cook where she shared recipes from home.
“I first started my channel with the intention to share the recipes my mother taught me. She never used measurements but is a great cook. Cooking is her passion and she took pride and joy in passing along her knowledge to me. I have nicknamed her the ‘Food Leftover Queen’. She has the ability to prepare leftover food that tastes like it was prepared the same day. Any time we had guests over, she would quickly prepare something for them to eat,” Jackson told Newsday.
Jackson dedicates her cooking channel to her 94-year-old mother, Pearl Joseph Holder.
“Whatever I know I learned from her. I am happy I do these videos to keep her cooking memory alive,” she said.
Wanting to have more diverse content for her blog, Jackson started doing videos.
“When I did the videos the first time, it was really raw. I didn’t have the equipment. But I tried, I learned from what other YouTubers did, I implemented them and went from there. I’ve come a long way. I’m so happy to see how well I am doing,” she said.
Now Jackson focuses mostly on her YouTube channels as it generates more revenue for her than the blog. Her primary followers are Caribbean nationals who left their country to live outside of the Caribbean.
“A lot of people who watch my videos are originally from the Caribbean and now reside in the USA and other parts of the world. Many of them comment that the recipes I share bring back so many good memories to them. Many of the foods they have not prepared for themselves in a long time. One of the reasons for this is that the main ingredients may not be available in the area where they live. It warms my heart to know that my content brings back warm cherished memories for my viewers.”
One major challenge for Jackson’s YouTube recipe videos is the frequent unavailability of TT ingredients. Tortola, she explained, is a small island with a different set of foods. So when she comes to Trinidad she is in her glee stocking up on the things she cannot get there.
Jackson said she recently met a Trinidadian woman in Tortola who said her daughter is learning how to cook from her YouTube channels.
Jackson said some of her recipes are well-known TT foods such as fry bake, bread, pholourie, coconut sweet bread, and corn pie. However, she said she makes videos on lesser known foods such as pound plantain.
“Trinidadians don’t know about pound plantain. There are still a lot of recipes I think some people don’t know about. My mother is old school so I put up the recipes I learned from her,” she said.
Jackson’s digital business includes book publishing. Four years ago she did an online course from Stefan Pylarinos, called K Money Mastering, which showed her how to create passive income from Amazon Kindle. That course taught Jackson how to create e-books.
She considers her Amazon e-books production purely as a business project. Jackson uses Kindle Direct Publishing to put her books on Amazon. This produces both Kindle e-books as well as a hard copy versions of the book.
She does not write most of her books. She uses Fiverr, an online marketplace for freelance services, to hire ghostwriters for her books as well a graphic designer to create her book covers.
Jackson describes her book publishing business as an investment. She pays the ghostwriter and graphic artist for the content of the books. Her last Amazon book, she paid the ghostwriter US$90 for a 10,000 word manuscript and US$5 for the cover of the book.
“You have to set aside money to begin the process. If you want to get ghostwriters, the books are more of an expense. You have to know what the investment would be like. But after the investment, you publish it and forget it. If the book is popular, they are worth the investment,” she said.
Jackson does her research on what topics are popular on Amazon and chooses the theme of the books accordingly.
“When you do research people would suggest what niche would be right. Then you try it out. Initially it would be a test. That is how you pick your niche. You may have an idea, but it does not sell.”
She has so far published books on dementia, animal picture books, inspirational quotes book, books about how to travel for cheap, event planning books, a cute cat journal and adult colouring books.
“As long as you could find a good niche you can do well. Adult colouring books in particular are popular around Christmas time. Adult colouring books are so cool. It is a way to relax you, even older people with dementia could benefit from using the colouring books.”
Jackson wrote two books, one on her experiences during hurricane Irma and the other on how to publish videos on YouTube.
“I wanted to prove that I could write a book. I got a few sales for the YouTube books,” she said.
In November 2014 she left her job at the resort to focus on her digital business full-time.
“It was a desire I had, I wanted to invest my time on my business and I made the decision to leave. When you don’t have commitments with children or mortgages you could make that big jump,” she said.
Jackson generates her revenue from YouTube ads, from her Amazon sales and her Patreon account. Patreon is a crowdfunding membership platform that allows patrons to pay artists and content creators for their work.
Jackson believes digital media, marketing and sales is a process of trial and error. With her e-books, she would test what would sell on Amazon, and if they didn’t she would try a new topic. Same for her YouTube channels.
Jackson learned everything about creating a digital business from watching YouTube videos, trying them out, learning from those mistakes and modifying accordingly.