Episode 4 of 9

Asad Chaudhry

Magician. Entrepreneur. Teacher. YouTuber. Vlogger.
Words by Kayla Hollatz • Photography by Caleb Wojcik

  • 52kards.com
  • Created YouTube channel in 2002
  • 1,000,000 views per month
  • 50,000 email subscribers
  • $125,000 raised in 2016 Kickstarter
Asad Chaudhry

Carefully opening his laptop, Asad Chaudhry logged into his Google AdSense account. He had done so every day this week and hoped to see his advertising income increase from yesterday’s number.

He was used to his YouTube videos generating a dollar or two every few days, but today he noticed ten dollars of advertising revenue had been generated from his YouTube videos.

Beaming with pride, he quickly called his little brother to share the news. While ten dollars  didn’t seem to be a number worth getting excited about, it gave Asad a small taste of the earning potential behind his magic tricks.

Getting to do something he loved while generating passive income that day? He was living the dream.

The ten dollars I made through AdSense was more meaningful to me than making thousands of dollars at my engineering job because it was passive.

On a high from his first ten-dollar day, Asad began planning out his next month’s video content while perfecting his sleight of hand technique.

No one else understood his passion for close-up magic, but Asad was determined to do something great with it.

Growing up in Colorado

Asad grew up in Colorado Springs with a fascination for collecting things. He started with rare stamps and coins, but later discovered his passion for playing basketball. This led him to collect basketball cards while also picking up a number of other hobbies in his early childhood.

Asad’s parents immigrated from Pakistan before he was born, but he remembers having a typical American childhood with his brothers. His dad came to America on an education scholarship and earned his PhD in engineering. Asad looked up to his hard-working, intelligent father and hoped to become like him one day.

Following in his footsteps, Asad considered a career in engineering—as did his two older brothers. Not knowing what he wanted to be when he grew up, engineering seemed to be a safe path.

While Asad doesn’t remember the first time he thought about becoming an engineer, he does remember the pivotal moment that sparked his interest in magic.

An Early Love for Magic

In the early 2000s, most magicians were using big props on stage to pull off magic tricks. They focused more on distracting the audience’s attention from the stunt than the actual trick itself.

It wasn’t until Asad discovered David Blaine, a popular magician and street performer, that he became passionate about magic. David Blaine revolutionized magic with his close-up magic tricks using only a deck of cards. The world watched in awe and wonder as he made cards vanish with seamless technique.

Although Asad had seen magicians perform before, it was the first time he saw a magic trick and thought, I want to do that.

For the next few years, he became a sponge and read as many books on magic as he could find. YouTube wasn’t available at the time so he wasn’t able to find online tutorials. Instead, he practiced tricks in his bedroom and showed a few of them to his brothers.

But they didn’t share Asad’s passion for magic. After seeing a few of his magic tricks, they got sick of it. They did, however, perk up when Asad did a magic trick called The Coin Matrix.

To do the trick, you set four coins in four corners and cover each one with a card. When you complete the trick, the coins jump from all three cards and fall under one card.

It was such a powerful magic trick that it caught his doubtful brothers’ attention.
He still remembers their surprised reaction and how much they wanted him to reveal how he did it. To this day, Asad still hasn’t shared that secret.

Even though his brothers never shared his love of magic, Asad’s passion only grew as he got older.

My interest in magic has gone through a number of phases. You know, there’ll be certain times when I’m just so into it, I can’t drop a deck of cards I have in my hands. And then there were periods . . . where I had to focus on other aspects of life. But the passion always came back and came back stronger than before.

Following in His Family’s Footsteps

While Asad loved magic, he didn’t think about pursuing it as a serious career in high school. But after a few semesters in college, Asad realized just how much hard work and dedication was involved to become an engineer. Knowing he needed a creative outlet after completing schoolwork, he turned to YouTube.

I would spend a lot of time on YouTube as a distraction from engineering school. I remember discovering that there are people making a living through YouTube by making videos and earning money through AdSense and online advertising. I thought that was such a cool way to make money. Once you put that video out, it continues to make money for you while you sleep. That struck me as a seriously cool thing.

Before starting a YouTube channel of his own, he spent time watching videos from other popular video creators. Instead of watching TV, Asad watched vloggers on YouTube between classes.

Launching a YouTube Channel

After college, Asad landed a job as an engineer at RF Micro Devices in Greensboro, North Carolina. While he loved the people he worked with and the technological advancements, it still felt like a monotonous nine-to-five day job. To break up that monotony, Asad decided to launch his YouTube channel.

But before his launch, Asad entered a contest hosted by Mismag822, the most popular YouTube magician at the time. A couple times a year, Mismag822 would invite magicians of all skill levels to submit videos of innovative magic tricks.

Knowing he had nothing to lose, Asad uploaded a video he recorded of a trick he calls The Trick That Never Happened. It’s a fairly long routine, but well worth the wait.

The cards are shown to be completely shuffled with the red cards and black cards randomly distributed throughout the pack. You openly separate the cards out so that you have a red pile and a black pile. A few quick tricks are performed with each pile, and at the end of the trick the deck is shown to once again be completely shuffled with the red and black cards randomly distributed throughout the whole pack.

While Asad now laughs at the poor quality of his flip camera recording, because of how well he presented the magic trick, he won the whole contest.

The prize was just a few decks of playing cards, but the real reward was seeing his YouTube subscriber count climb exponentially.

The contest got me started on YouTube. I had no idea where it would lead, but thinking back on it now, it’s pretty crazy. If I hadn’t entered that contest, I don’t think I would have my own company right now.

With considerable student loans to pay off, Asad decided it was time to start a passion project with magic that would allow him to generate some extra income on top of his engineering salary. Remembering that YouTube had been a good source of passive income for other video creators he followed, he decided to join YouTube in 2011.   

After years of practicing magic in his childhood home and college dorm room, Asad finally had an opportunity to teach other people magic. Unlike his brothers, his YouTube subscribers weren’t bored with his magic tricks. His audience couldn’t wait to watch Asad’s weekly tutorials, anxious to see what trick they would learn next.

He realized early on that other magicians on YouTube were uploading video tutorials that weren’t well-produced or well-taught. But even though the videos were poor quality, they still received thousands of views—and sometimes millions of views. Knowing he could create a better teaching experience, Asad set out to learn more about video production while putting his magic expertise into action.

During this time, Asad also relocated to Silicon Valley for his job. He wanted to live in California, so this opportunity came at the perfect time. Asad would come home from his engineering job and spend his whole evening creating videos for his YouTube channel.

As the audience grew . . .  I knew at a certain point it would just click where I started thinking, “This is gonna be a company. This is gonna be a business, and I’m going to be able to pivot from being an engineer to being a full-time YouTuber.”

Becoming a Full-Time YouTuber

Asad grew his YouTube channel to 5,000 subscribers in his first year. And as he continued to publish weekly video tutorials, he saw his organic traffic spike. This led to more subscribers and more collaboration opportunities.

As his subscribers continued to grow, he saw the opportunity to create a larger strategy for his brand to stretch his YouTube channel into other platforms.

At the beginning, I was definitely focused only on YouTube, but I was aware of how important it is to have your own platform and to have your own home.

I wanted a brand. I didn’t want just a YouTube channel.

To treat his YouTube channel more like a business, Asad built a companion website and rebranded his channel under the name 52Kards. He also opened a community forum on his website while connecting with more followers through his Facebook page. In addition, Asad started his email list around this time but now says he wishes he would have started it sooner.

Once Asad hit the 100,000 YouTube subscriber mark, he noticed he could pay for most of his living expenses from his video ad revenue alone. His engineering job now took time away from growing his business rather than sustaining him while he grew it. Recognizing this pivotal shift, Asad quit his job to pursue 52Kards full-time with a launch date in late 2014.

There’s just a sense of fulfillment that comes with business. I think another part of the reason why I’m so interested in YouTube, in magic, and in this business is because it’s also a great avenue for self-growth. I’ve learned so much in the process of doing all this, and I want to keep growing because I’m getting better at it.

Finding Success With Kickstarter 

While most of his family and friends were a bit skeptical of Asad’s decision to pursue his business full-time, he was motivated to transition fully into online education. His first big step was creating a Kickstarter project.

Instead of focusing on a physical product, Asad created a Kickstarter for an online course he wanted to create called Foundations of Card Magic. In the course, he planned to teach the most powerful card magic tricks he had learned in over ten years of experience. Because he already had a highly engaged audience on YouTube, he figured he might be able to hit his ambitious funding goal of $10,000.

To his surprise, he raised almost $70,000 at the end of the thirty-day period. Because it was a digital product, it was almost pure profit—and it sold even more copies after it was officially released.

Asad attributes much of his success to taking the alternative route to educating people on close-up magic tricks in an online format. Instead of having to flip through outdated books or watch DVDs, his course students can access lessons and tutorials from any device. It also provides Asad with a great profit margin.

Since his first Kickstarter was so successful, Asad plans to do at least one every year. It’s his biggest promotion of the year, and he focuses the rest of his time on providing valuable free content on YouTube.

While $70,000 is an impressive amount to raise on Kickstarter, Asad raised even more funding for his MINT custom deck of luxury playing cards. After creating several digital products, Asad was inspired to try out the physical product income stream. He raised over $125,000 with 2,140 Kickstarter backers. A large portion of his revenue that year came from this campaign.

No End in Sight for 52Kards

When asked to reflect on the success of his company, Asad can’t help but remember his first deck of playing cards or his first viral video.

As one of the leading magic educators in the world, Asad focused on building diversified passive income streams that allow him to focus on creating great content for his audience of almost one million YouTube subscribers.

His most successful income stream, at around 60% of his income, is generated from his annual Kickstarter campaigns. Another 10% comes from YouTube advertising revenue, and 30% comes from his digital products and e-commerce shop, which is relatively new to 52Kards.

His biggest struggle in expanding 52Kards has been facing growing pains head-on. Adding more physical products to his offerings has complicated the order fulfillment process, but he loves having multiple income sources. While developing and selling physical products has been time-consuming, it’s helped him better serve the loyal audience he’s built on YouTube for over five years.

His favorite part of the business is still recording free educational videos for his subscribers, and all of his income streams intentionally fuel the helpful tutorials he creates on a weekly basis. He proudly considers himself not just a modern day magician but a vlogger too.

I would say being a creator means that you’re taking your passions and expertise and then presenting it and distributing it to other people who are also interested in that subject. It’s a great way to be able to express yourself.

Asad didn’t start his entrepreneurial journey knowing how to design a website, market his products on social media, or build an online community, but he’s picked up all of these skills and more while consistently creating YouTube content.

He may not have known where his contest video would eventually lead him, but he’s grateful that he’s been able to turn his favorite hobby into a thriving career and business.

He’s an example of what can be achieved when we mix curiosity and hard work with a little bit of beginner’s luck.

Follow Asad

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