What it's like to get paid as a YouTube personality

by Patrick Hechinger
November 11, 2015

The personalities behind the world's most popular YouTube channels have created careers out of sharing their thoughts and, in doing so, spawned a lucrative talent management industry for social media influencers.  

Launched in 2014, FameBit has created a marketing platform for user personalities to collaborate with brands. Co-founder Agnes Kozera built the company to meet her own marketing needs when she was working on influencer engagement programs for a beauty startup. FameBit now features more than 17,000 influencers with a combined reach of over 750 million consumers.

We spoke with three influencers to get a glimpse into the life of a YouTube personality and find out what originally inspired them to turn the camera on:


David Di Franco

One of FameBit's first users, David was an early adopter of YouTube when he began posting videos to the site in 2006. With over 120,000 subscribers, David's channel features a variety of tech and video game reviews as well as personal videos, amassing close to 40 million views. 

When did you decide you wanted to start making videos?
Even before the days of YouTube, I always had a fascination with capturing moments on video. The idea of saving a memory forever is huge to me, which is why I decided years ago to take a serious interest in YouTube. And actually, I have Apple to primarily thank for that.
Back when I got my PowerBook G4, I was introduced to the world of video editing, thanks to iMovie. I couldn’t believe how easy it was to take an existing recording and edit it to my liking. Even though it took me hours to complete such a basic edit back then, I was still excited about the potential.
How do you stay engaged with your fans?
Although I no longer host a podcast, the rules of interaction haven’t changed much. From answering viewers’ questions in the form of Ask Me Anything videos to replying to comments on social media sites like Twitter and Facebook, I take a lot of pride in interacting with my audience.
I also host gaming streams on a weekly basis, so it’s always nice to talk to my audience on Twitch and YouTube Gaming. Sometimes we even play together.
How much time do you spend a week making the videos? Does it affect your day-to-day life?
Well, YouTube is my day-to-day life. That’s how significant the platform has become for me. On average, I record and upload five videos every week — which, yes, can be quite time consuming. But because it’s taken the place as my “real job,” I treat it as such.
Some days are longer than others, but it also depends on what’s going on at the time. For example, my busiest time of the year is the holiday season. My audience seems to really enjoy our family’s holiday traditions. From Thanksgiving to Christmas, it’s really nice to be able to create and share memories with those around the world.
Can you envision this developing into a full-time career?
Believe it or not, I already consider what I do a full-time career. And that’s not only including YouTube. Aside from video content, I work in web design, affiliate marketing and content creation in general.
If I can create something, enjoy it and generate revenue in the process, then sign me up. Doing what I love in life and calling it work is what I’m all about. Content creation is my true passion.

John Flickinger of theFLICKpick

John joined YouTube in 2010 and began posting movie related v-blogs. His early days featured a handheld camera and 300 subscribers but he has since upped his video production and his subscriber count to over 150,000. His videos have been seen more than 25 million times.
When did you decide that you wanted to start making videos?
I was living at home in my parents' basement a few years after graduating college and not doing much with my life. I always had a creative passion and loved movies. I was spending countless hours watching movie-related content on YouTube and one day I thought to myself, I can do this. I created a YouTube channel, bought a cheap camcorder and pushed record on the camera the day it arrived in the mail. That was basically how I got started.
How do you stay engaged with your fans?
I don't ever want to come across like I'm speaking at my viewers; I want the vibe to feel like a group of friends having a laid back discussion. I also keep up with my various social media outlets (Facebook, Twitter and Instagram). I do my best to respond to comments and personal emails from viewers. In my opinion the best thing I do is my bi-weekly Q&A video series where I answer everything and anything from viewers. I feel this video series has allowed viewers to know personal insights about my life. This way I can become more than just "some guy on YouTube" to my viewers.
What do your friends and family say when you tell them that you make YouTube videos?
For the first couple of years I kept my YouTube videos a secret from everyone — I just didn't think anyone would get it. Eventually my YouTube channels gained attention and some success. It was the day I turned my hobby into a part-time job I started to let people in on my YouTube side of life. Most of them were surprised and really impressed and a few still thought I was just weirdo making videos on the internet ... which is true.
How much time do you spend a week making the videos? Does it affect your day-to-day life?
Some weeks I go on a video making rampage and skip sleep for a few days. I've become best friends with caffeine due to my late night video editing sessions. I typically spend a few solid days out of the week creating videos. There's also a lot of time that goes into other tasks besides just videos. I spend at least an hour every day responding to emails and checking social media messages. As for it affecting my day-to-day life, some days I skip out on doing what I want to, but the majority of the time I make my own schedule and do whatever I want. 
Can you envision this developing into a full-time career?
I never would've imagined creating YouTube videos would be my job or pay the bills, but for the last year it's been working out for me. I've been fortunate enough to have been offered sponsorship opportunities and have kick-ass viewers who come back to watch every video. Had I known when I was a teenager that one day something like this would be my job, my head would've exploded from disbelief!
To make YouTube more than just a hobby, you have to be a jack of all trades. You need to create quality content, market yourself and keep up with the business side of things. It's not always easy as pushing the record button and talking for a few minutes (which is the fun part). Most people assume that's all there is to it, but there's a lot of tedious tasks involved if you want to be successful. 

Michelle from ReadySetGlamour

A relative newcomer to the site, Michelle joined YouTube in 2013 and has gained over 190,000 subscribers since then. Her videos — which include makeup tutorials, product reviews, and fashion videos — have been viewed nearly 9 million times. 
Is there a moment when you realized that people were starting to take real interest in your videos?
Definitely. When I would get tweets or comment of people saying they're staying up late to watch my video before they sleep, I was like, "Wow, there's something really special here." Now, people comment that they stopped studying to watch my video or they're hiding in the bathroom at work to watch my Snapchat. I think that's so sweet!
How do you stay engaged with your fans?
I am constantly talking to them, whether it be through my YouTube comments, Instagram, Twitter or Snapchat. I owe a lot of my engagement to Snapchat because it's a lot more personal. I respond back to pretty much every Snapchat message I get and I respond to 95% of comments I get on my videos — it's important to me to show them I care and that I listen.
What do your friends and family say when you tell them that you make YouTube videos?
They think it's incredible! At first I was nervous to tell anyone because not many people understand what it means to be a "YouTuber," but thankfully I have very supportive people around me.
How much time do you spend a week making the videos? Does it affect your day-to-day life?
Not a day goes by where I'm not working on a video, whether it be filming, editing, uploading, etc. Depending on the type of video, filming takes anywhere from 1 1/2 hours to 4 hours and editing takes about 3-6 hours. There's a lot of downtime between waiting for exporting to finish, to video processing, to the actual upload, so during that time I'll fill out the description bar, make my thumbnail and/or use social media to let my subscribers know I'm about to have a video go live.

Kevin Nether of Kevin the Tech Ninja

Since joining YouTube in 2009, Kevin has accumulated over 70,000 followers for his tech rants and reviews. While dabbling in game reviews and Vlogs, Kevin has found his niche in smart phone reviews. 
Is there a moment when you realized that people were starting to take real interest in your videos?
I think the first time I was recognized in public. I think right there it hit me that I'm not just behind a camera, but I'm integrated into people’s lives. A real humbling experience, for sure.
What do your friends and family say when you tell them that you make YouTube videos?
I don't know really. I don't mention it, usually they know or find out. I try to keep that separate from real life. I think that helps me stay grounded. I sort of live this duality. I even made a vlog channel called Kevin's duality.
How much time do you spend a week making the videos? Does it affect your day-to-day life?
I spend around 10-15 hours a week working on videos. Looking at that number it looks insane, but I enjoy doing it. It does affect my day to day life, I've had "the talk" with my fiancé several times in regards to this, and I'm getting better. It is tough to balance it all, for sure. 
Can you envision this developing into a full-time career?
I never envisioned it getting this far, honestly. I didn't even look to make any sort of money until two years ago, so thinking about having enough to provide for my family and more seems far fetched. However, who knows what will happen down the line? I think I'll be open if the time comes. 
Some answers have been edited for length or clarity. 

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