Hello friends: Alumna Morgan Long builds a business on creativity and positivity
Morgan Long’s bright smiling face shines through the screen as she greets her almost 60,000 YouTube followers, “Hello, friends! It’s amazing that you're here, right here, right now.”
The 2017 Virginia Tech graduate who double majored in literature and language and Spanish is the videographer, illustrator, and content creator for her YouTube-based business, Morgan Long Creative. She creates cozy videos centered around simple joys and all things bookish. “I try my best to encourage people that they’re valuable just for being who they are and that they deserve to enjoy their lives,” said Long.
Before she became an entrepreneur, you could find Long with a camera in her hand and her nose in a book at Newman Library, where she held two student employee positions — one on the student services team planning events and the other as a videographer on the strategic communications team.
Long loves libraries. She said the scent of old books, quiet sounds of paper turning, and great minds at work is as comforting as a favorite blanket. “My time at the library makes up some of the best parts of my overall college experience. I absolutely loved working at University Libraries, and I’m so incredibly grateful for my work experience there,” said Long. “I learned how to work with a team on big organized events, such as the Virginia Tech Authors Recognition event. Clear communication, punctuality, and reliability were essential skills I learned with the student services team.”
Long learned how to professionally see a video project from start to finish, including communicating with clients, storyboarding videos, filming and editing quality content, and managing social media posts. “This job exposed me to so many valuable cultural experiences I would have missed out on as a student,” said Long. “I had the privilege of filming poetry readings, seminars at the Lyric, fashion shows celebrating Asian culture, exhibits on El Camino de Santiago, and so much more.”
Her library work experience was essential in helping her land a job after graduation and aided in the development of the skills and discipline she now relies on every day as she runs her business.
After graduating in December 2017, Long landed a job with Brew Dr. Kombucha on the field marketing team coordinating events. She then became a professional videographer with the Portland, Oregon, company Revant Optics, which she credits to her time at the library and the skills she learned there.
“All the while, I was making personal YouTube videos of travels or simple lifestyle content for myself,” said Long. “Then one day, I decided to see how many books I could read in a single day and film the process. For whatever reason, this video took off, receiving multiple thousands of views. It was then that I decided to start making more book-related videos and began to gradually grow an audience.”
On the contrary to trending short videos seen on TikTok and other social media sites, Long journeyed in the opposite direction, creating longer videos averaging 25 minutes and setting herself apart. Through her Spanish degree, she has also grown an international community for her business, with the United States only making up 30 percent of her audience.
At the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, Long was laid off from her full-time job at Revant Optics and decided to jump in and pursue YouTube full time. “Miraculously, it has all led to the life I now live,” said Long. “I’m extremely grateful to be able to run a business centered around love for life and books.
“One of the reasons I love reading is because it blurs most all boundaries of space, time, and life-circumstances,” said Long. “For the time you are reading, you are entirely immersed in a different reality, characters are friends, your world fades into the world of your book. And, somehow, you begin to see your book world in your actual world.
“I always remember how understood I felt when reading 'Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire',” said Long. “Harry has to face a literal dragon. The gut-churning nerves he feels, followed by the adrenaline rush and confidence of just jumping in, concluded with the relief of having faced and completed the task are so relatable. When applying for and interviewing for jobs, I’d feel similar feelings and say to myself, ‘This is my dragon I’m facing.’ Immediately, I’d feel comforted and more confident.”
Just like books, Long said, video has a way of blurring boundaries and connecting people all over the world, despite life circumstances. “For however long the video lasts, we’re all sharing an experience,” said Long. “Usually, a love for books is what brings people to my channel. Then I think they stay because I begin to feel like a friend. I most certainly try to be a friend.”
Long’s goal for her business is to brighten peoples’ days and inspire them to live their best lives. In addition to her YouTube channel, Long also runs a popular tea-themed Patreon account, where she earns the majority of her income with around 856 subscribers. It includes a worldwide book club, and subscribers receive a monthly illustrated postcard, hand designed sticker, exclusive videos, and printable content. Long also sells her art and illustrations there as well.
Once a year, Long launches a flower project that typically sells out within an hour. Long creates and designs specimen frames of pressed flowers, hand picked from her yard in Portland, and dried by pressing them in books.
Next on the horizon, Long is in the process of writing three books: a magical realism novel about a witch in her mid-20s trying to figure her life out; a children's story involving a mermaid with an underwater library; and a collection of poems.
She also is working on a yearly stationery planner and hopes to launch a tea business in the coming years.
Long said her journey hasn’t always been easy. “Working in an industry that relies entirely on the whims, flighty trends, and elusive algorithm logic is crushing if one relies on numbers of likes and views as a measure of success,” said Long. “I can have a video that does extremely well, and then spend triple the amount of time on another very similar video and it flops.”
Long wants people to know that pursuing their interests, hobbies, and the things that bring them the most joy is never a waste of time. “The things that feel like a waste of time are quite often stepping stones to your dream life,” said Long. “Reading was this for me. When I was totally lost, trying to figure my life out after graduation, I sought comfort in my childhood’s favorite books. I’d spend hours reading and then feel guilty afterwards because it didn’t feel productive.” She didn’t know then that those hours of reading were leading her to her life now.
“Your interests are unique and have a purpose," said Long. "Believe in yourself, oh wondrous you!"
By Elise Monsour Puckett