20 Things You Should Know About What It's Really Like to Be a YouTuber
Go behind the scenes to learn how attaining online fame has shaped the lifestyles and finances of many YouTube personalities.
YouTubers can get pretty personal in their videos, updating their subscribers about the details of their lives in vlogs, giving them a glimpse into their homes and even taking them along on trips around the world. Despite all of this sharing, there’s plenty more to being a YouTuber than meets the average viewer’s eye.
A look even further behind the scenes into the lifestyles of YouTube creators reveals various surprising challenges and rewards that come with having a huge following on the video platform. There’s the time investment and equipment it takes to produce and promote content regularly, as well as the social dynamics YouTube stars have to navigate as they interact with fans and become part of a community of peers.
Click through to discover how some of the biggest personalities on the platform manage personal and professional relationships, an often demanding schedule and fan base and more.
You might have a ‘command center’ in your living room.
Being a full-time YouTuber requires a lot of production equipment -- a high-resolution monitor, an external hard drive, a scanner, the list goes on. During a 2017 visit to Lele Pons’s Los Angeles loft, a reporter for The Cut depicted a “command center” desk area where Pons edits her own videos. Pons even produces brand-sponsored content from her home.
You might live among other social media stars.
An apartment complex at 1600 Vine St. in Hollywood is basically a “dormitory” for big-name personalities on YouTube, Instagram and other social platforms, according to The New York Times. It started as a hub for stars of the now defunct social video platform Vine.
Both common spaces, such as the complex’s shared gym, as well as outdoor walkways and a courtyard, have served as the backdrop for so many YouTube videos that some fans have recognized them across channels. To keep things calm and under control for all residents, building management recently began requiring residents to obtain permission before shooting videos in common areas.
Logan Paul previously lived there (he was kicked out). Amanda Cerny, Juanpa Zurita, Lele Pons and Andrew Bachelor (King Bach) are residents. It’s even home to a Justin Bieber impersonator.
You might live with your parents.
Twenty-one-year-old Lele Pons, who has nearly 7.9 million subscribers on YouTube, shares a three-bedroom loft at 1600 Vine St. in Hollywood with her mother, Ana.
Lilly Singh lived with her parents until age 26, when she moved out and bought a $1.5 million home with her earnings from YouTube stardom.
“It was really hard to make videos. I never felt like the space was my own,” she told Toronto Life. “I couldn’t film after 10 p.m., because my parents would go to sleep.”
Then there are teens such as Brent Rivera, who by age 16 had more than 130,000 YouTube subscribers.
You might find some people don’t consider YouTube as legitimate as traditional media.
Although YouTube has propelled hundreds of people into fame, the “YouTuber” label follows them into the careers that blossom from video uploads. In the eyes of some, it undermines their work.
Twenty-two-year-old singer-songwriter Troye Sivan recently appeared on Saturday Night Live and has been gaining recognition for years. In 2015, he told Junkee.com, “I want to be careful that I’m not trying taking away the label of 'Youtube Sensation,' but instead change what that label means. I embrace it wholeheartedly. I feel like I’m lucky enough to be on the cusp of a new wave of artist who are stemming from new places. As always, it’s about trying to make good content, and good music.”
You and your business will be one in the same.
As with any creative endeavor, taking breaks often results in inspiration. As Katrina Gay, of the National Alliance on Mental Illness told Polygon, focusing on other aspects of life and achieving a healthy balance are key to sustaining any YouTuber’s career in the long term. That said, individuals have to figure out their limits for themselves, as their own bosses.
You might have to set some boundaries.
Riihimaki filters out negative language that commenters post on her videos, including “'ugly,” “fat,” “stupid” and “loser.”
“I have like, 200 words filtered out,” she told NPR. “If you don't need to see that, then you might as well not see it if you have the option to."
You might want to adopt a scheduling system.
He keeps ideas in a brainstorming list, then moves them into other lists when he eventually works on them. There’s a separate list when footage is uploaded to the cloud, then when editing is in progress, ready to review and so on. The Trello platform also gives him the ability to add notes, deadlines and labels.
Other creators, such as Melissa Flores, jot down and flesh out ideas in a notebook. Planning ahead, Flores says in a video about video planning, includes writing down the points she wants to cover so she doesn’t forget anything while filming. She also uses a planner to keep a regular schedule.
All of your money won’t necessarily come from ads.
Pairing your video content with ads is one way to make money on YouTube, but it’s only the beginning. (You also have to have 10,000 total views on your videos to qualify for this.) You may have seen some of your favorite vloggers promoting brands and products within their videos, and these brand partnerships comprise much of the revenue many creators generate.
Another option is affiliate links. Again, they’re based on products, such as clothing, featured in the videos themselves, but if creators add special links to their videos and viewers click through and purchase, the vlogger will get a cut of the sales. Arshia Moorjani is one example of a successful YouTube personality who makes a living from these methods.
Many YouTube stars hire agencies to broker these kinds of brand sponsorship deals.
You might have to navigate new kinds of opportunities.
Brands reach out to stars about partnerships, and vice versa, and stars have to decide which opportunities are aligned with their values and interests and which to pass up.
You’ll have plenty of new kinds of events to attend.
VidCon is a major trade show for YouTubers. It’s been hosted in Southern California since 2010, and more than 26,00 people attended in 2017.
Then there are public appearances associated with brand partnerships.
“Obviously [I'm] in college, and it’s difficult to manage leaving on weekends -- especially when you're missing fun events with your friends -- but it's definitely worth it to grow your business if you're really passionate about it,” Brooke Miccio told Teen Vogue.
You might struggle to make ends meet.
Rachel Whitehurst quit her job at Starbucks when fans memorized her schedule.
“In other words: Many famous social media stars are too visible to have ‘real’ jobs,” wrote Gaby Dunn (who has more than 86,000 YouTube subscribers) for Splinter News, “but too broke not to.”
You might be shy in real life.
British beauty vlogger Zoe Sugg, better known as Zoella, has said she wasn’t striving for fame when she began posting videos to YouTube.
As her follower count grew, she began using YouTube as a platform for raising awareness about the hidden battle with anxiety that many people face.
“A lot of people get the assumption that because someone is able to sit here in front of a camera and speak for 10 to 20 minutes and broadcast it in front of hundreds and thousands, potentially millions of people, on the internet, that must mean they are 100 percent confident, have no self-esteem issues, have no real life problems,” Sugg said in one of her videos.
People might start to recognize you -- or your loved ones, to their surprise.
Brent Rivera was at a hockey game with his dad, John, when a woman got his attention. She gestured up a few rows, where her daughter and her friends -- fans of Brent’s -- were celebrating a birthday. They screamed when Brent turned their way, and that’s when John realized his son was famous on social media, The Atlantic reports.
Even when YouTubers themselves haven’t been present, fans have recognized their family members from multiple appearances in their videos.Casey Neistat reportedly stopped showing his daughter’s face online after a fan approached her.
You might get surprise visitors to your home.
Zoella has experienced this:
I know that nobody means harm & I'm not angry.It's just, yanno, one minute your shaving your armpits & the next there's viewers at your door— Zoella (@Zoella) April 10, 2015
You’ll have to adjust to talking to your fans IRL.
Tyler Oakley went from being a college student with a vlog to an author, Warby Parker collaborator, live performer and more.
“People are used to seeing a three-minute, edited, fun version of me. It’s a ‘social’ job but I usually create in solitude,” Oakley told People in 2017. “To go out on a stage or do a meet-and-greet is a whole different thing.”
You’ll definitely have to work hard.
"I think there's this theory that YouTube creators have a really easy job, like people think these five-minute videos -- how much work can that be?” Lilly Singh told CBC Life. “Well, I've had a lot of jobs in my life, but creating content on YouTube or being a creator in general feels like three full-time jobs.”
It’s a lot of responsibility as well, as creators are often their own bosses.
“It's a complete entrepreneurship business where you drive yourself and you have to channel how successful you want to be and work relentlessly at it,” Singh added.
Olga Kay told Fast Company in 2014 that she rarely left her apartment at the time, unless for a work-related reason. “Sometimes it stresses me out more because I know I have to come back,” she said of taking breaks. “If I’m taking time off, and it’s a lot of time off, I have to come back and work twice as hard.”
You might run out of ideas or get burned out.
PewDiePie (real name Felix Arvid Ulf Kjellberg) recently uploaded a video in which he admitted to feeling a bit uninspired, but pressured to keep going.
“The problem with being a YouTuber or an online entertainer is that you constantly have to outdo yourself,” he said. “I think it’s a good reflection of what happened with Logan Paul. I don’t think Logan is necessarily a bad person. I just think he really got caught up in that idea that he has to keep pushing himself to get those numbers."
You might get to the point where you can use your platform to raise awareness for a cause.
Anna Akana started out on YouTube as a comedian and has expanded her focus to include social justice advocacy. She’s posted a range of videos addressing everything from women's issues to mental health to responsible conduct on YouTube itself.
Tyler Oakley is another star that has become extremely involved in charity work, including with the Trevor Project.Lilly Singh is the founder of #GirlLove, an organization against girl-on-girl hate.
You might feel pressured to seem younger than you are.
At age 26, beauty vlogger Laura Lee uploaded a video titled, "15 Back to School Heatless Hairstyles,” because she knew it would resonate with her young audience. Two years later, it’s her most popular video to date. She also admitted to Byrdie that she’s avoided mentioning her husband in her videos, so as not to alienate her teen fans.
Fellow YouTuber Stephanie Ledda told the beauty site she finds a happy medium between appeasing viewers and producing authentic content.
“Instead of a prom look, I'll do a 'special occasion' look, or a 'quick everyday look' instead of 'back to school,'” she said. “That way it can capture a larger audience.”
You might apply your knowledge in ways you never would've dreamed.
Being a YouTube star is about more than setting up a camera, hitting record and then uploading the footage. Knowledge from a range of disciplines can come in handy when building a channel and following.
College students who split their time between studying and creating for YouTube know this well. Some have even adapted their schedule to take classes that will complement their work on the platform.
“I’ve designed my course load such that the classes that I’m taking are focused on this really unique and fast-changing intersection between business and media marketing and digital and content creation,” Catherine Goetze, a student at Stanford University, told USA Today.