English sex education YouTuber Hannah Witton first started posting videos to YouTube in April 2011. As of December 2023, she’s totally wound down her YouTube channel, where she posted regular videos, as well as stepped back from an associated podcast.
The format of, and level of detail within, her announcement was deliberate. It was thorough and professional — one that provided a model for other creators to follow. In an interview with Passionfruit, Witton spoke about the decision behind stepping back, and how and why she felt she needed to shut down her YouTube presence gradually, rather than stopping abruptly.
What was it that made you decide to take a step back?
I think there was an accumulation of everything over the years. It was definitely something that had been building for a long time. But then, around this summer, when I was really grappling with the decision, was when it suddenly felt more urgent. … It wasn’t even a case of like, ‘Do I quit or do I not?’ It was, I knew that something wasn’t working. And I kind of went on this soul-searching journey of trying to figure out what that was — what needed to change.
The conclusion that I came to was I was like, ‘Oh, that’s the answer. I have to stop this YouTube channel and this podcast.’
I imagine it wasn’t an easy decision. Did you try to seek alternative answers that didn’t involve stopping?
I was resistant to it because I was like: ‘Oh my god, I can never quit. This is who I am. This is my job. What about my patrons? What about money? And what about my professional identity? What about my audience?’ I was resisting the possibility for a while, but then I thought: ‘I need to figure this out. How do I make this work, and how do I make myself happy?’
How long did it take you to settle on this approach?
Not that long — maybe a month. But then, once I made that decision, there was a lot to do. I told my team and, like, started making plans and stuff like that. It took maybe a month of really intense figuring things out to then come to the decision. But then it was six months later that that decision was like made public.
Because the decision doesn’t just affect you, does it?
Absolutely. I was very aware of the other moving parts. I knew that I wanted to end well. And that was like a really important thing for me to make sure that I had a plan in place in terms of letting people know, who would know when, and what the tone of it was always going to be as well. I wanted to make sure that nobody felt … I don’t know, let down, I guess? That was one of my biggest fears.
Which is weird, right? Lots of creators have stepped back or quit completely, and they always have that theme of not wanting to let people down. Why do you think that is?
I think it’s just the relationships that you build with your audience to come to expect things from you. People put in their own time, maybe even money, and people have their own form of investment in what you do. And that’s not necessarily a reason to keep going. But it is something that we’re aware of.
One of the things that really helped me make the decision was letting go of that perceived pressure of letting people down. One of my biggest worries was that patrons stood out because, obviously, they’re the people who are most interested and most supportive.
It was in peer coaching with friends and colleagues of mine, where they were like, ‘Okay, well, if you do this, what happens on Patreon?’ They were asking me all of these questions because that was one of my biggest blocks: ‘Oh, but I can’t quit. Because what would happen to Patreon?’ They really helped me realize that, actually, there was still a lot going for that community, even without the sex and relationships content.
And actually, those original fears, I have been completely proven wrong with the response that has come from my patrons. And it’s just like one of those things where … if I just sit down and thought about it, I’m like: ‘These are the people that have supported me the most over the years. And so if I make this big career change, they’re going to be equally as supportive.’
It’s interesting you’ve pretty definitively said I’m stopping, because lots of creators take breaks.
I think I didn’t want the pressure on myself. I’m very much like never say never. So, who knows? Who knows what’s going to happen in the future? But I am somebody who needs it to be clear. If I took a six-month break, all I’m going to be thinking about in those six months is, what am I going to come back with? What is the next video going to be?
And then also, during those six months, it’s a case of like, okay, am I stopping working with my producer and then being like, ‘Do you want to come back in six months’ time? But maybe she’ll have a different job, or do I keep her on?’
That’s all too stressful to me. So I said we’re just calling it; it’s done. It’s really clean. Everyone knows where they stand. I know where I stand. And it means that I can get the thing that I’m that I’m seeking, which is that rest and that emotional break from it all as well.
A lot of creators just stop, but you wound down. Why?
That’s just the way I naturally am. Everything is quite organised and planned. And I enjoy treating things as like a project. And it was nice to have this, like, project of ending well, to work on at the end of this year. I think it was also what was fair for my team in terms of giving them notice like, ‘Hey, this is the plan, this is what we’re going to do,’ rather than being like, ‘Okay, bye.’
One of the things that came out of figuring everything out was not feeling like a failure for scaling down. Everything online is about growing your YouTube channel, building your team, and building your business. I was doing the opposite. It’s actually quite liberating because you can get stuck in this, ‘Well, if you’re not growing, you’re not succeeding mindset.’ And actually, growing smaller could be a sign of success.
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