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My Struggle To Make Minimum Wage As A Youtuber

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I’m a 22-year-old guy who grew up in, and currently lives in, Ontario, Canada. YouTube is my full-time job. I get paid less than half of minimum wage and living with another person (my mother) makes doing my job on YouTube challenging because there isn’t a lot of opportunity or space. My mom is super supportive of my job, but currently our relatively-cramped living situation makes it challenging to keep my content new and current on YouTube. Nearly everything I upload now is just stuff I stockpiled before I moved into my current situation. 

I’ve been doing a video per day, at minimum, for over four years straight now. No down time, just constant content. Despite this, I’ve never been popular enough to make minimum wage, even with Patreon (a website that allows fans to give money to their favorite YouTubers). Whenever I made a good amount of money in the past, I’d reinvest every dollar I could back into equipment, so I have a solid audio setup.  

I have a disability, as well: Cerebral Palsy and Ehlers-Danlos syndrome. But I just work through it and keep doing my comedy and informative videos. I don’t really care about getting wealthy or popular, I just want to make a stable enough income to be comfortable, and to do my channel.  Learning and laughing are what I like, so it’s what I try to provide to people.

YouTube, in all honesty, is an insane job. The best thing I can compare the disconnect between the perception of it and the reality of it is to compare it to professional wrestling.  Pro-wrestling in the 70’s was where people would put on a great show by fake fighting each other, without seriously hurting anyone. Now in 2015, pro-wrestling is where people absolutely brutalize their own bodies getting injuries left and right in front of the entire world, even though people know it’s likely fake. That’s where YouTube is right now. People (not everyone, of course, but some YouTubers) are ruining themselves just to put on a good show for a huge audience who has no knowledge or appreciation of the time, effort, and skill that goes on behind the scenes.

YouTube is a job where you can get one million subscribers and make a living in one year like Markiplier, or work for two full years before you even get paid, like me. YouTube is a job where your knowledge of law is irrelevant, because even if you made a video completely within your legal rights, a company can (and very well might) claim they own something within your video. If that’s the case, they can try to steal the revenue your content is generating. YouTube is a mecca for scams and if someone successfully pulls one off, it can screw the original content creator out of a lot of money. False ID claims happen constantly, and I have firsthand experience with someone who has gone on Twitter and claimed my voice was actually theirs. The man later deleted the tweets and dropped the claim when I went public and denied it. 

YouTube is a place where I’ve legitimately done a minimum of one video a day for over four years now and the only reason I’m getting close to minimum wage is because of donations that I get from my viewers on Patreon. Donations are more stable than my pay checks. The payment system is so insane that I can have an average of 250,000 people watching my videos every month and still struggle to make an income. Most of the videos I’ve uploaded have never earned more than one dollar for me. As it stands, I would make more money working a minimum wage job for an hour a day, every day. Even when I produce a high-traffic video, the creator only makes money off of the ads if a) the viewer watches the ad for a specific length of time and b) the creator makes half the revenue, because they split the profits with YouTube (50/50). 

Many people genuinely think they can get into YouTube “to get famous”. I’ll tell you, if people who said that had any idea how much work goes on behind the scenes, they might eat their words. Yes, it can be done, but it’s not easy. You need to learn so many technical skills, marketing skills, have the money to invest in the editing software and hardware to run it, time to record, to edit, to publish. You need to be able to self-promote well (and in a way that’s on brand) and you need to have an inhumanly thick skin. I’ve had every threat and insult under the sun and that’s just part of the job at this point. You have to learn to not care about that and focus on the good.

For everything awful I have to say about it, YouTube is also a place where I get to do my brand of comedy and have an audience who cares. YouTube is a place where I can be told every week that I deserve better than what I have. YouTube is a place where there are hundreds of people who thank me for what I do on a regular basis. YouTube is a place where I can ask a question and countless people will answer within a day.

I have the ability to make people smile and laugh just by doing my job. I have an entire forum of over 1,000 people who come to meet people all of whom share the common interest of my YouTube show, and that is an amazing feeling. I know people who have not only met great friends, but who have become couples after meeting because of my show. I can make a video where I teach something, and not only will people learn from it, but when I get something wrong, I have people who will explain what is right and provide proof so I can learn too.

YouTube is the best, worst job in the world, if that makes sense. I can’t think of another job in the world that is so amazing despite being so awfully hard (and so unsteady in terms of income). 

YouTube is an unstable place where you never know when a slight change in the search engine or payment system will leave you bankrupt, or when a company will literally claim to own your voice. But it’s also a place where you can go viral over night, and get great sponsorships (if you’re lucky and smart about it). My best advice would be to never get into YouTube without a backup plan or without a side job to pay the bills. Due to my disability, I’ve struggled to find employment which is what convinced me to make YouTube my full-time job far earlier than I would’ve otherwise chosen. I took a massive gamble by doing that even if it was my only real choice. Hell, it’s still a gamble. I’m still struggling financially, but at least despite all of this, when I’m working on my content for YouTube, I’m happy and I have a huge appreciation for my fan base.

Medraut Stowe is a YouTuber living in Ontario, Canada. Find his channel here.

Image via Pexels

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