You probably know about the YouTube giants – PewDiePie, Jenna Marbles, the Vlogbrothers – but what about all of the smaller vloggers who make up a huge amount of the content produced on YouTube?
Smaller channels often don’t make their living creating content, which means that YouTube is something they do in addition to a job or school. Why would anyone go to all the effort of constantly filming, editing, and producing videos for little to no pay?
We wanted to find out, so we talked to a few creators. Who knows; maybe you’ll find your next favorite YouTuber, or some inspiration to start your own channel.
Why Make YouTube Videos?
We’re busy people. I’m busy, you’re busy. It’s rare to run into someone with loads of free time. So with all the craziness going on in our lives, why would anyone choose to make one or more videos a week for either nothing or small amounts of advertising money?
Is it the dream of one day getting that viral hit that brings in millions of views, and with it, tons of ad money? Is it the hope that Nationwide or Audible will sponsor their videos and add to their revenue stream?
Actually, no. Not a single YouTuber I spoke to said that it had anything to do with money.
“I never make YouTube videos for the fame or the money. I … don’t have millions of subscribers, and to me, that’s okay. I do it because I’ve always loved to entertain. I moved out to LA recently to pursue the film industry, and making YouTube videos has always been an extension of my love for it. If I can make one person happy, I’ve done my job.” – John Berchtold
Many YouTubers responses were similar to what John, from the channel JohnnyBerchtold, said. They do it because they love it, not for the fame. They do it because vlogging is something that they find fun, even when other people think it’s weird, as was the case when Laura, AKA Laurbubble, got started.
She said that when she got started in 2008, vlogging was nowhere near as popular as it is today, so lots of people “thought it was odd”, which made it really hard to stick with. For her, the process of “coming up with ideas, filming, editing and then seeing the responses” from her viewers is enough to keep her going.
And of course, a huge motivation for many is just that they love it. Spending hours filming and editing videos may seem like a chore to some, but for others, it’s the most fun they could be having.
“I just love it. I love filming, I love editing, I love seeing everyone’s reactions to my content. I love being able to look back and remember different parts of my life. I love communicating with my viewers. I vlog because I love it.” – Alayna (MissFenderr)
Of course, Alayna (MissFenderr) wasn’t the only YouTuber to say this; her statement well represents what a lot of others said. They love the process, they love talking to their fans, and they just overall enjoy what they do.
For others, their motivation is the inspiration they can give.
“People have sent us Snapchats of drawings they’ve made of us. People send fanmail all the time from Brazil. People send us emails telling us that they’ve booked their first flights because of us, or that they decided to learn a new language after watching the show. It’s times like those that make all the struggles worthwhile.” – Damon
Damon and Jo often make videos on language learning and travel that inspire people across the globe to try new things. If you’re thinking about going on a trip or learning a new language, you should really check out their channel.
And then, there’s the kind of inspiration that, for many, they can only find on YouTube.
“I’ve been told that my videos stopped people from self harming and taking their own lives. I’ve also helped many young people come out and embrace their sexuality. Hearing these stories motivate me because I could never leave these wonderful people behind, and I always want to remind them of how lovely they are.” – Kaylee Schoen
Kaylee Schoen has produced over 70 videos, and many of them deal with serious topics like depression, self-harm, or coming out as LGBTQ. What motivates her is the response from her audience, knowing that she is helping people. For people across the world who don’t have someone to reach out to in person, YouTubers like Kaylee can quite literally be a lifesaver.
So while their motivations vary, they all basically agree on one thing: it isn’t about the money. It’s about making people laugh, it’s about inspiring people, it’s about helping people.
How Much Effort Really Goes into It?
A lot. Each YouTuber said that they spend hours upon hours creating their content. Watching a 3- or 4-minute video on YouTube doesn’t take up a lot of your time, but it sure takes up a lot to create it. The average vlog may seem simple, but from thinking of ideas to filming to editing to uploading, the process is lengthy for all content creators.
Most of the YouTubers agreed that a simple vlog can take 2-3 hours, but videos that require more complex shots or editing – like skits – can take up to 10 hours total.
Sarah Sterling of imSarahSnitch said that her Down to Disness series of videos – where she examines different Disney movies and their impact on pop culture – each take about 5-6 hours total to create, but her average for creating videos is more like 3 hours.
And that’s not to mention the costs that go into producing high quality content. DSLR cameras and lenses can cost upwards of $800, and then you need lighting equipment, tripods, and microphones. It takes quite a lot of dedication for these vloggers to do what they do.
Plus, as these YouTubers aren’t making a living creating videos, they’re balancing filming and editing with a whole host of other responsibilities.
“I’ve been a full-time student for the past couple of years. I’m a teacher’s assistant and a marker. I volunteer every week for a Teen Clinic in my city. I’m currently writing my honours thesis. My biggest obstacle has definitely been finding the time, and the ENERGY, to create quality content amidst all of my other responsibilities.” – Alayna (MissFenderr)
In addition to all of that, Alayna says that her videos take her 6-10 hours to create, and she makes videos on her main channel, MissFenderr, every Friday. Like many YouTubers, Alayna has a secondary channel (MissAlayna) where she less regularly uploads videos.
It really makes you appreciate the videos you’re watching when you realize how much time and effort goes into them, especially given the busy schedules of so many YouTubers.
How Do They Find Success?
This varied greatly from YouTuber to YouTuber. Honor Stevenson, from the channel OhHeyItsHonor, found incredible success with her first video in 2013 titled “How To Make Your First YouTube Video”, which now has over 74,000 views.
Finding such success with a premier video makes her kind of the stand-out of the group, though it certainly helped to jump start her channel. She now has over 3,700 subscribers and averages between a few hundred and a couple thousand views on most of her newer videos.
For others, success came in the form of a supportive and encouraging community. Beckii, from the channel BeckiiOfficial, said that a major contributing factor to her success was going to events like Summer in the City 2014, a UK-based YouTube gathering where she got to meet tons of other YouTubers from her community.
Her most recent collaboration has her doing the makeup of another small YouTuber, Liam Spencer.
Katie of thatkatieproject and Jessica Danielle of ohnoitsjessicaa both cited collaborations as a major part of their success. Katie got involved in the New Zealand YouTube community and then the Melbourne community before doing a collaboration with Sabrina from NerdyAndQuirky, a YouTube channel that currently has over 120,000 subscribers.
For Jessica, her collaboration came 8 months into her YouTube career when Shane Dawson (who currently has over 4.5 million subscribers) reached out to her asking to do a video together.
Although collaborations and community are obviously important for many of these YouTubers, they are not the only reason that they’ve made it to where they are. Almost all of the vloggers I spoke with cited consistency in uploading as an important factor, as well as a connection with their community in the form of comments and talking on social media.
At the end of the day, it’s clear that each YouTuber has carved out their own niche in their own unique way. Alayna summed it up best: “I am passionate about what I do, and I always strive to be better.” It definitely shows in her videos. You can watch her “Top 10 True Canadian Stereotypes” below.
But Do They Stick Around?
Of the YouTubers I spoke with, most had been around for 1-2 years, but a few had been around much longer. Laura has been on YouTube for 7 years, which is impressive considering the site was only founded 10 years ago. John, Alayna, and Sarah have all been creating content for about 5 years – that adds up to a lot of time invested into their channels!
“I can see myself vlogging as long as the Internet is around! I often think about how this is the first time in human history that literally anyone can put themselves out there to the world. It’s such an amazing tool and I think, why not use it?” – Kaylee Schoen
Very few of them said that they were unsure about what the future would hold. Most were enthusiastically ready to keep vlogging for years to come, regardless of what happens to YouTube or the popularity of vlogging. That seems to be what it’s really all about anyway: vlogging for the love of it, not for the money or the fame.
For Damon and Jo, YouTube is more than just a vlog – it’s a chance to express themselves in a way that’s impossible on television. It’s a medium in which they have complete creative control, and can educate and inspire in the way they see fit.
“We have a natural entrepreneurial-spirit, and we were completely turned off when we noticed nothing was moving from TV development meetings, etc. Our success was literally out of our control and in the hands of these money-hungry executives who were talking about butchering our concept by creating a dramatic reality TV show. On YouTube, you have control of your content, what you’re producing, how you’re represented, and the business opportunities that come with it. It’s our generation’s definition of the self-made man. In five years, we hope to be continuing to build our travel and self-help empire!” – Damon
I think it’s safe to say that for most of these vloggers, creating content on YouTube isn’t a passing fad, it’s a lifelong ambition.
So You Want to Become a Vlogger?
There’s a good chance that, if you’ve read through this far, you’re looking to start your own YouTube channel. Well, I asked each of these YouTubers what advice they would give to aspiring vloggers, and this is what they had to say.
“I always say to make content that you would want to watch. Be yourself, and be consistent! Making videos on a schedule really is a huge way to keep people coming back for more. At the end of the day, if you like your content, you will feel good about what you are doing.” – Sarah Sterling
Beckii, Jessica, Laura, Alayna, and John echoed similar sentiments: Be yourself. Make videos that you like and that you have fun with, and the rest will come naturally.
Another common response I got was don’t do it for the fame. Being a vlogger isn’t the fast track to fame and fortune, and you’ll be sadly disappointed if you expect it to be. It’s a niche market for people with a passionate interest in it, so don’t get involved if it’s not something you truly love.
But if you do love it, don’t let anything hold you back.
“I would simply say, go for it! The hardest part is making that first video. Don’t do it for fame, attention, or money because you will be discouraged very quickly. Do it because you have a fire in your heart that can’t be put out. Do it because you have a message for the world that can’t go unheard. Do it because you genuinely love it, and you will find your success within, regardless of the numbers.” – Kaylee Schoen
There is a darker side to being a vlogger, however, and that’s the hate you will inevitably receive. As is often the case on the Internet, women are more likely to receive hate and harassment than men (as is the case with Anita Sarkeesian or online dating as a woman), and unfortunately, you have to be ready for that if you’re going to put yourself out there.
“Don’t put yourself out there until you know you’re ready. I know it’s kind of odd advice, but I know from experience that if you’re not confident in yourself, the hate that you can get will take a toll on your self esteem. You have to learn to accept yourself for who you are before asking others to accept you.” – Honor Stevenson
I think the real takeaway from this, though, is not to be afraid of vlogging, but to be confident in yourself. Internet commentators who can hide behind the veil of anonymity can be horrible, but confidence in yourself and your content can help you ignore the haters.
Who Is Your Favorite?
But YouTube has allowed for a new, unique type of content to exist: the vlogger. These small YouTubers are as quintessentially YouTube as possible, but their stories often go unnoticed in the wave of content produced on the video platform. Hopefully now you’ve been able to glimpse a bit into their lives.
For reference, here are all ten YouTubers’ channels for you to check them out:
- JohnnyBerchtold (John)
- Laurbubble (Laura)
- MissFenderr (Alayna)
- DamonAndJo (Damon and Jo)
- KaySchoen (Kaylee)
- imSarahSnitch (Sarah)
- OhHeyItsHonor (Honor)
- BeckiiOfficial (Beckii)
- thatkatieproject (Katie)
- ohnoitsjessicaa (Jessica)
And if you have any questions for these vloggers, feel free to reach out to them! They’re all legitimately nice people who are happy to talk with fans and aspiring vloggers — and nearly all of them are on a plethora of social networks. There was so much of their interviews that couldn’t be included in this article, so if you have any of your own questions, please hit them up.
Who are your favorite vloggers or YouTube channels? Do you watch any of these folks regularly? Let us know in the comments!