Is YouTube a "Real Job"?

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For years, those who have chosen to pursue a career in the arts have fought the popular perspective that they don’t have a “real job”. For many creative industries, people have at least come to accept them as a viable career once the artist achieves great success. The only hold out at this point seems to be content creation. Regardless of the millions of viewers, fans, or followers a person might have, they still hear phrases like:

“YouTube isn’t a real job!”
“That can’t be a real job! All you do is play video games!”
“Anyone can point a camera at themselves!”
“Anyone can type up a blog post!”

How true are these statements though? Can just anyone do what these people do? Does a job developing content compare to the traditional idea of a “real job”? Well, today I want to take a look at some of the complaints, accusation, and frustrations people have toward a content creator’s chosen career path, as well as put it up against a more tradition example of a job for comparison.

Common Accusations & Frustrations

“All you do is play video games!”

As someone who has dabbled in the world of recording and streaming gameplay, I can tell you that this is not true in the least. Anyone who stops to think for a few minutes about what goes into producing great gaming content will recognize for themselves that it isn’t true. The most successful gamers on YouTube put endless hours into planning out their content. They pour over what will be the most entertaining for their audience. They put on a performance, just like any actor on television, every time they go to record. They stay up late into the evening editing their videos to make them as engaging as possible. YouTube Gamers are some of the hardest working content creators I know. It doesn’t just come down to playing video games.

Honestly though, I think most of the people making this accusation know this. I believe this is a statement often made out of jealousy. What kid didn’t have the dream of just playing their favorite games for the rest of their lives? Maybe that game was Mario or maybe you loved playing football. Maybe it was Zelda or perhaps basketball was your pass time. It might have been Halo or you even could have been on the hockey team. Well before video games even existed, we have always lived in a world where performers are paid to play games as a living. Video game content is just so new that few have come to respect it as a legitimate career or they are simply jealous.

“How stupid can you be to trust that YouTube will always make you money?”

They don’t. That’s the simple answer, but I will expound a bit.

For some reason, many people think that even the biggest YouTubers are just waiting on their Adsense check to come in each month. This just simply isn’t true. Just like any business, or mature adult, the content creators who are looking to turn their content into a career are diversifying their streams of income. Even as of the writing of this article, at only 560 subscribers on YouTube, I am pouring hours into communicating with brands and working on alternate platforms to make sure I never end up in the position of relying solely on YouTube. Even though my channel is only making me money on the side right now, I want to set it up for success if it ever does grow.

As well, some of the biggest content creators have turned their humble little channel into a full blow company with employees who work around the clock to make sure they keep seeing the money roll in regardless of wether or not YouTube comes crumbling to the ground one day. So the perception that content creators are idiots relying on some silly website to make them money is extremely narrow-minded, especially in light of the business deals and brand partnerships many of them doing day in and day out.

“Anyone can point a camera at themselves!”

Have you even watched the most successful vloggers do their thing? There are several different genres we could be talking about here, so let’s cover the two most prevalent.

Daily Vloggers have often been looked down upon as people who stumbled into success because enough idiots on the internet cared enough to watch their lives. Is that really the case though? I don’t mean to sound like a broken record, but could there be a bit of jealousy here? Sure, it’s great to be able to influence so many people by simply recording your life, but if we are honest with ourselves, we know that’s not all there is to it. Just like the gamers, daily vloggers pour into planning their lives around what will make great content for their viewers. It runs their lives almost entirely. When tragedy strikes, they have to toe a fine line between being open with their audience and retaining some sliver of privacy. Just like any production studio, they spend thousands of dollars on equipment to capture their lives, as well as edit late into the night to make sure the content is uploaded in a timely manner. They are not free to just do whatever they feel like. They are bound to a job that they have chosen.

The other kind of vloggers are those who share news, discuss topics and events, review products, and share thoughts and theories. The amount of research and study that goes into all of those areas generally goes completely unappreciated by the viewers. The most successful content creators in this space don’t just flip on a camera and start spouting off at the mouth. As much, if not more, pre-production and research as goes into a news network preparing the evening news can go into a single video that these vloggers release.

Comparing Content Creation to a “Real Job”

What does a “real job” consist of? Does anyone really know? Does it mean that you have to be up at a certain hour and beholden to a certain figure of authority? Does it mean you have to make a steady paycheck? I know there are some people that define a “real job” as a job you hate going to. Sounds screwed up to me, but I guess misery loves company. Even those first few qualifiers I mentioned don’t line up with businesses owners. If they have managers to open and run their business, they don’t necessarily have to be up at a certain hour. They are not beholden to any higher authority within their own business. They don’t even have the guarantee of a steady paycheck if business is bad. Would we ever say that a business owner doesn’t have a “real job”? I don’t think so.

I will play devils advocate though and actually put content creation up against some kind of traditional job. Let’s put it up against sales. Most everyone, even if just in high school at a retail job, has had experience in sales, so hopefully everyone can relate.

You have specified hours you have to work. At first glance, this seems to deviate heavily from the life of a content creator. Does it really though? Content creators work with schedules and deadlines. They are expected to have projects completed in a timely manner. Brands that they work with expect sponsored videos to live up to their standards. If the creator works within a network, they are contractually obligated to perform based on their network’s requirements. Though they don’t have a shift calendar, content creators still need to wake up early every morning, seven days a week, and work late into the night if they really intend to build their presence into a career.

You are under someone else’s authority. This is the one area I can say deviates in some small way. As a content creator, you have a certain freedom to create whatever you want. That’s not really a good idea though, if you want to be successful. In the same way a sales associate is under the authority of their managers, a content creator is under the authority of their audience. They have to create what the audience will watch and engage with. If they don’t, they are effectively fired.

You get a steady paycheck. Do you though? Yes, technically you do, however any business can go under. Any company can start laying off employees for this reason or that. Different industries have varying turnover rates, but job security is typically an illusion. You could be out of work in the blink of an eye because of something completely out of your control. The same goes for content creators. Their content is getting views, their presence is growing, they are seeing brand deals, they are gaining sponsors, then somebody posts some ridiculous rumor about them and it all comes crumbling down. They might have to start back from the bottom just like anyone else who has been fired.

Hopefully I have made the point here. Working as a content creator has a lot more in common with your traditional “real job” than a lot of people think.

Is YouTube a “Real Job”?

Well, first of all I think there needs to be a change in terminology here. The correct question would be:

Is Content Creation a “Real Job”?

Nailing it down to YouTube creates some misconceptions about the reach these people have. A true content creator goes far beyond YouTube to spread their influence and build their income. They set strict hours for themselves so they can meet deadlines and live up to the standards their networks and audiences expect. They bow to the authority of their audiences when appropriate to creating engaging content that is worth watching. They understand how to navigate business and brand deals in the best interest of their content. This is not only a real job but a truly real career. It’s as real as any career could be and it requires discipline, passion, consistency, hustle, and hard work.