Pursuing a Career as an Internet Star is Not Always Easy — Or Cheap

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Ask a little kid what they hope to be when they grow up, you expect to hear doctor, firefighter or teacher. These days, professional YouTuber is a popular dream job among the world’s youth. Though some are successful, there are downsides to a career as an internet star.

Are There Really Downsides to a Career as an Internet Star?

It is easy to see why some younger people think this is the way to go. In recent years, the biggest names on Youtube have become household names, like MrBeast and PewDiePie. On top of that, they’re worth tens of millions of dollars. As YouTube and other social media channels grow, we likely will see more aspiring internet celebrities hoping to rake in similar figures.

However, it sometimes is a perilous business. Becoming a professional YouTuber can serve as a way to indulge a hobby, build yourself a side gig or share a passion. But making it your full-time career can lead to several financial pitfalls that could cost you big.

There are Startup Costs

People who aren’t experienced in making videos may assume that the process is straightforward and easy. Turn on your computer’s built-in camera and dazzle the world with your sparkling personality. You’re now the next MrBeast with a home in Beverly Hills and trending videos every time you post.

But like any other art form, high-quality equipment matters, and decent video equipment is expensive. A high-quality microphone can cost more than $150, a quality camera can cost more than $600 and recommended video editing software programs, such as Adobe Premiere Pro, costs at least $20.99 a month. If you want to make the sort of quality videos that popular creators make, expect an investment of around $1,000.

Making videos will also take up a lot of time, and shooting the video is only the first step. Editing is also a lengthy process — according to professionals, each minute of a highly edited video takes one to one and a half hours to edit.

The editing process can become so time consuming, many channels hire an editor, which is more money out of your pocket. Hiring a decent editor can range from anywhere between $30 to $150 per hour.

Even if you plan to livestream video games on the live-streaming service Twitch, thus editing will be a nonissue, you will still need a solid gaming PC. That can cost thousands of dollars in addition to the previously mentioned expensive recording equipment.

Of course, as the saying goes, to make money, you need to spend money. However, don’t take this level of investment lightly.

Multi Channel Networks May Take Advantage 

While not as relevant as they were in the early days of YouTube or other video hosting sites, many video makers still warn about the downsides of Multi Channel Networks. These groups, aka MCNs, are organizations that work with multiple channels across Youtube, Twitch and other video hosting sites. They promise to help manage, promote and grow channels in exchange for a percentage of a channel’s revenue.

Hank Green, a prominent member of the YouTube community and the organizer of YouTube’s most prominent convention, Vidcon, is one of many creators who warn about the pitfalls of signing a contract with an MCN. Some creators, such as Markiplier, have had success with a MCN. However, many more have found their channels undergoing no growth or development, no added benefit and were stuck in unfavorable contract terms.

Hank Green, partnering with an advocacy group for online content creators called the Internet Creators Guild, advises content creators to sign short-term contracts without an auto-renewal clause. Above all else, he wants to ensure content ownership and creative control always remains with the creator.

You’ll Battle Numbers and Algorithms

If you still think,”At least it is nothing like a corporate job,” think again. Content creators often are at the whim of a giant, faceless corporation. The decisions made by the people running major social media sites often seem baffling to the communities that make their homes on them. If this is a career you want to pursue, you will need to learn to roll with some pretty harshly thrown punches.

Twitch, for example, has a notorious algorithm that governs its search function. There are extensive guides on how to navigate its byzantine code and get noticed. However, there is a degree of unfairness. The algorithm promotes already popular channels as a first priority. That makes it harder for new channels to grow and attract viewers.

The tendencies of Twitch’s algorithm is at least predictable. Youtube’s algorithm is often viewed as constantly changing, making conditions on the site unpredictable and unstable for many channels. The best way to deal with it is to apply a certain degree of adaptability and watch what other channels change as new trends hit.

The problem is the algorithm of these sites have an impact on your viewer numbers, and viewership determines profit. Not staying on top of the latest trends and not playing nice with the algorithm can cause otherwise promising channels and creators get swept away in the hustle.

The sheer mass of people using these sites also impacts the algorithm. Many articles have tracked the phenomenal growth of websites like Twitch, Youtube and TikTok, citing that there are already over 50 million content creators making channels and videos. This is a crowded market, which you would expect from the most desired job for younger generations.

Other Challenges Ahead

Some of the downsides to a career as an internet star come from ignorance and a lack of long-term thinking. Sponsor deals, for example, can be predatory in a similar fashion to predatory MCN contracts. If a sponsor wants any degree of creative control, don’t take the deal.

Similarly to dealing with Youtube’s algorithm, something as simple as the design of your video’s thumbnail can have a major effect on your viewing numbers. The thumbnail is, after all, your first chance to advertise your video to new viewers.

Hoping to make it big as the next internet celebrity is as valid a career goal as any other. But that doesn’t mean it’s easy. Creating content for people to watch online, building a brand for yourself and dealing with the politics of various websites are time-consuming problems. You’ll need to work hard and have creative problem-solving skills if you want to rub digital elbows with the other YouTube millionaires.

William Fewox has worked as a freelance writer since 2017, and his work is featured in literary magazines such as The Aquarian, The Navigator and The Historian. He has also self-published a handful of novels.