According to a recent study, kids these days would rather be a YouTuber or a vlogger than an actor, athlete, doctor or lawyer. If you’re the parent of just such a kid, you probably have some questions in your mind about the viability of YouTube as a career. Questions like:
- Can YouTubers make enough money to survive, much less thrive?
- And what about when they’re just starting out?
- Can anyone become a YouTuber?
- Is there a class or textbook or degree someone needs to become a YouTube star?
- Is it safe for kids to become online personalities?
And the list probably goes on. But fear not, noble parent: I’ve got you covered. In this article I’m going to set the record straight.
A Viable Career?
Let’s tackle the big issue first: is YouTube (or being a YouTuber) a viable career? The short answer is yes, it can be. But of course the issue is more nuanced than that.
Like any job, a person that takes it very seriously, who works hard and is driven to succeed has a much better shot of becoming an online sensation. Of course there is a big difference between a YouTuber and a successful YouTuber. Same goes for a YouTube channel versus a profitable YouTube channel.
Choosing a profitable focus (not just a passionate focus), using the best YouTube-related tools and resources and setting up a minimum viable studio are all foundational to a successful YouTube start. Next, it’s important to understand how to create videos that will get hundreds of thousands of views (even when published by a smaller YouTube channel) and how to monetize those views in an effective way.
In my book, From You to YouTuber, I write at length about how to start a profitable and successful YouTube channel (so I’m not going to get into the nitty gritty details here, but rest assured it is very doable). While I wrote this book with aspiring YouTubers in mind, I think parents and teachers who are wondering about this potential career path their kids are heading down will also find it invaluable.
Key to winning on YouTube are planning and perseverance. It can take an investment of five to ten years of a person’s time to “hit it big” on YouTube. The lesson? Starting sooner, rather than later, is a very good idea. Some YouTube creators got started when they were living at home with their parents and were able to be full-time YouTubers by the time they graduated from college (MKBHD is the perfect example).
What Kind of Money Do YouTubers Make?
Of course you want your kid to be well off in life and the thought of them becoming a YouTuber instead of a lawyer might have you worried. As a parent (or teacher) you’re no dope. You realize that there are some people who have become giant stars on YouTube who make lots of money (think millions of dollars). You also realize there’s everyone else. Very astute. I think the real question on your mind is whether or not there is room for new YouTubers to make enough money to survive before hitting it big so that’s what I’m going to tackle.
I’ll start with my own example. I went from someone who knew nothing about being a YouTube creator to a full-time YouTuber in just under two years. I learned how to earn money from ads, affiliate sales and, most importantly, from sponsorships. I think it’s quite possible (I won’t say probable because that really depends on the individual) for YouTubers who have followed the advice in my book to earn somewhere around the national median income in the U.S. within 24 months of starting their channel.
If you’re looking for a benchmark I’d say it will take between three to five years of full-time, hard work for the average YouTube creator to start making enough money to really become self-supporting (and to not just be scraping by). Depending on the channel's focus and the creator's initiative that number could be slightly more or less.
Of course there are all kinds of caveats. How frequently is a person uploading? How good is a person’s basic business knowledge? Is the channel focus inherently profitable? You get the point. I’ve seen plenty of YouTubers complaining in forums that they’ve been on YouTube for seven or more years and haven’t gotten any traction. More often than not I believe those channel picked poor (inherently unprofitable) channel focuses.
One nice thing about being an online influencer (including a YouTuber) is that earning power tends to increase over time. Unlike a traditional job path where earnings might hit a ceiling at some point in a career, YouTubers tend to earn more and more as their audience grows!
Is It Safe for Kids to be YouTubers?
I think the best way to answer this is to say that it’s probably safe for kids to be YouTubers just like it’s probably safe for you to drive a car to the grocery store. Is it possible that there could be an accident or that someone could try to do something physically harmful? Yes. Are the chances very, very low? I think so.
The thing to be most worried about with kids being YouTubers is probably negative comments. Negative (and oftentimes downright nasty) comments are par for the course these days (despite YouTube’s efforts to try to clean things up from time to time). Even as an adult in my 30’s the comments I received when I started my YouTube channel threw me. It’s taken me time to build up some immunity to the dumb things people say online.
Still, basic online safety rules should apply. Addresses and locations should never be given out, passwords should be tough to guess and rotated frequently, abusive comments should be reported and blocked (which is a built-in YouTube feature), etc. Basically, caution and common sense should prevail.
What Should Kids Study to Become YouTubers?
A teacher recently asked me what she should tell her kids who all wanted to become YouTubers. I think se was really looking for an answer along the lines of what school or courses could be recommended for aspiring YouTube creators. The thing is, you don’t really need a particular education in order to become a YouTuber. You could, for instance, go to film school or take some business classes, but it’s hardly a requirement. Actually, there are several great online courses, free blogs and loads of tutorials that can help someone become a full-time YouTuber. I’ve included an entire section dedicated to learning how to become a successful YouTuber on the resources section of this site.
So there are definitely YouTubers who skipped college and became successful human beings. Austin Evans is a good example. But then again there are other YouTubers who have used their college knowledge in order to get views on the platform. For instance, some YouTubers “give away” their degrees online one video at a time.
The truth here is that there is no “right” way to become a YouTuber. You can go to college or not. You can acquire certain technical skills before you start a channel or pick them up as you go. If there’s one thing that’s certain it’s that every YouTuber arrives at success by taking their own path.
If your kid wants to become a YouTuber you can rest easy knowing that it can be a real, stable career option. Just like any job, it takes a lot of hard work to be successful on the platform — but it is definitely doable. Yes, there are YouTube superstars who earn millions of dollars, but there are also smaller creators who earn enough money to become self-sustainable.
Is being a YouTube creator for everyone? No. But there’s no harm in letting your kid give it a try to see if it’s really for them. At best, they will enjoy it enough to make a real job out of it. At worst, they’ll figure out they might want to try something else. In any case, you should know that being truly successful on YouTube takes a commitment measured in years.
Whether you're a parent or a teacher, if you want to learn more about helping the kids in your life become serious and successful about a YouTube career, I'd recommend picking up a copy of my book here.