Actually YouTube IS a real job: The struggle of working as a Content Creator/Creative

We're living in a world with an increasing amount of non-traditional jobs, thanks to the internet

I wasn’t originally going to write this post, but in the wake of the Wil Wheaton’s post on why you shouldn’t give your content away to other sites for free (you can read it here) I’ve been thinking a lot about what my job is and isn’t. These are my thoughts.

A while back, Ryosuke and I went to a party at one of our friend’s houses in Tokyo. It was a great party and we left a bit before midnight, to catch the last train back. That night we were staying with some of our friends in Tokyo (as I talked about in this update, Ryosuke and I don’t actually live in Tokyo anymore) – so the four of us left together.

A couple other people tagged along too and we walked to the station as a loud group of drunken foreign and Japanese people.

While we were waiting for the train, one of the other party-goers (a Japanese woman in her mid-thirties) jumped into our conversation. She turned to my friend and asked: “So… what do you do? What’s your job?”

“I work with my husband making YouTube videos,” my friend answered. One of the (many) reasons this friend and I get along is the fact that we share several things in common. Her and her husband have a (much larger) YouTube channel and have been doing it for years.

The woman snorted. “Oh, that’s not a real job.”

“Well, he has company and have several employees, so… yeah it is.”

“… Riiiiiiiiight…”

She blew off my friend, turned to me, and asked, “So what do YOU do? Make videos on YouTube too?” (insert condescending laugh)

My friend leaned over and stage whispered, “Watch out, she doesn’t think making YouTube videos is a ‘real job’.”

“That’s because it’s not a real job.” She turned to my friend, annoyed. And then back to me.

“Is your ‘job’ making YouTube videos too?” Of course, ‘job’ was in air quotes.

I was surprised by her behavior and felt uncomfortable with this line of questioning… but I continued. Silly me.

“Uh… yeah. My husband and I make YouTube videos. I also run a blog and am the author of several comic books.”

“Hmmmm…” She gave me a once-over. “And you actually make money from that?”

“Of course we do. I wouldn’t say that was my job unless I was making money from it.”

She squinted at me. “I don’t believe you.”

“I really don’t care if you don’t believe me.” I laughed, “that doesn’t change anything.”

“How much money do you make a month from this video thing?” She waved in the air, dismissively as she spit out the words ‘video thing.’

“That’s none of your business.”

She smirked. “Hah, I knew it. It’s not a ‘real job.’ You teach English on the side, right?”(There is a certain type of person in Japan that just LOVES to look down on foreigners who teach English for a whole number of reasons that I will write up in some other post, but for now there’s no time)

“No I don’t. That ‘video and comics thing’ is our full-time job.”

“I don’t believe you.”

It was almost funny, how determined she was to prove I didn’t have a “real job.” Except it wasn’t funny. It was rude.

I ended up showing her all three of my books on Amazon (each with 250 – 400 glowing reviews on Amazon). And explaining how YouTube and blogs can earn money from ads. And how crowd-funding sites like Kickstarter and Patreon allow fans to contribute to their favorite creators.

And halfway through explaining, I wondered:

Why do I care what this random, probably drunk stranger thinks?

And right away, I knew. It wasn’t about this person. Truth be told, I don’t even remember her name. Or what her job is (some sort of managing position in some company). I know she tried to add me on Facebook later (I promptly blocked her).

This kind of thing happens all the time, especially when I’m meeting new people.

“That’s not a ‘real job,'” people tell me.

“How much money do you make from that?”

I can’t think of any other career where strangers make you justify your work or prove your income, while insisting that your job isn’t “real.”

I get it. I do.

Being a personality on a video hosting site seems like an odd career. As does writing about your life on the internet.

Both fall under the “content creator” spectrum and are rather new, so it’s understandable how a lot of people don’t understand what goes into a job like that.

That being said, take a moment and think about all the other jobs that didn’t exist five or ten years ago: app developer, social media manager, digital strategist, Uber driver, Airbnb host – the list goes on.

We’re living in a world with an increasing amount of non-traditional jobs, thanks to the internet. And you can’t say that that those people’s jobs (and lives) are any less legitimate than a more traditional 9 to 5.

I’d also like to mention that making a living off of YouTube isn’t as simple as pointing a camera at your face and throwing it online. Or, in the case of blogging, throwing a short rant on your blog every week.

It requires time, hard work, dedication, skill, and a little bit of luck to build a respectable brand and years of effort to build a community.

If I wanted an “easy way out,” this wasn’t the way.

Over the years, I’ve met dozens of other creative entrepreneurs who make a living off of blogging, writing, and making videos on YouTube – and every single one of us works our fingers to the bone trying to entertain the masses.

It’s hard work. And yes, it is work.

I find my job emotionally fulfilling and make enough money from it to pay all the bills and put a bit in savings every month. I pay taxes (both in America and Japan). I have a legitimate brand, business cards, and a business email. I upload engaging and informative content in the form of blog posts, comics, and videos several times a week and negotiate contracts and work with other companies, government offices, and tourists organizations to gain access to additional content.

What about this isn’t a “real job”?

About Grace Buchele Mineta

I got into the writing business by accident. Now I live in the countryside near Tokyo with my husband, Ryosuke, where I draw comics, blog, and make videos about our daily life. Contact: Website | More Posts

56 Comments on Actually YouTube IS a real job: The struggle of working as a Content Creator/Creative

  1. well it isn’t. A job involves an agreement between two persons one offering a service or product and the other money. One major requirement is that if you do not finish the work in time or the quality is lacking you do not get paid. who reviews your “work” and decides if you get paid?

    • Will G. // 28 May, 2016 at 3:00 am //


      “well, it isn’t”?

      By your own definition, it is. Otherwise, what would you call all the freelancers and original content creators? Independent musicians? Artists? Really? Did you read what you wrote before posting?

      Your definition is not accurately “a job”; if anything, it’s closer to the definition of a “contract”, which may or may not be a job: Offer, Acceptance, Time, and Consideration (often money, but can often be other things — consequences, etc.).

      Dictionaries also seem to disagree with your “definition”; you should use them sometimes.

      From just a few of the dictionaries online (and in “dead trees” on my desk):
      – Cambridge Dictionary (first and primary definition): “the regular work that one does to earn money”
      – Business Dictionary (.com) (first and primary definition): “A group of homogeneous tasks related by similarity of functions”
      – Merriam-Webster Dictionary (.com) (first and summary definition): “the work that a person does regularly in order to earn money; a duty, task, or function that someone or something has; something that requires very great effort.

      Work (requiring effort) that one does to earn money — what Grace actually does (and Ryosuke, as well).

      The part you’d emphasized: “One major requirement is that if you do not finish the work in time or the quality is lacking ” while very hopeful, isn’t a condition of almost any work performed by any government agency anywhere in the world, and as an enforced condition isn’t present in a horrifyingly large number of private jobs. Otherwise, based on quality and timeliness, there would be a *yuge* amount of unpaid effort.

      Last time I looked, parenting isn’t a paid position either, and only a troll would deem it not a very great effort.

      Notably, that condition (timeliness and quality) is not, unfortunately, in any of the primary or secondary definitions by any of the dictionaries I own or had researched. It wasn’t even mentioned in the variants or conditionals, except as related to a contract (again, which may or may not be a “job”).

      Your last comment I assume is rhetorical: “who reviews your “work” and decides if you get paid?” Really? Really? You’re posting that silly, ill-considered comment on the successful and often-read blog of a published author who is earning enough from her efforts to pay for things. The Irony, it overwhelms.

      Perhaps you’re confusing the difference between a vocation and an avocation?

      You know, you don’t have to believe everything you think. Please read before posting, and don’t let your personal issues or jealousy drive your comments. You simply must have *something* useful to say, don’t you?

      “You are entitled to your own opinion, but you are not entitled to your own set of facts.” (You’re welcome to look up that quote, and those definitions. Think of it as. .. (wait for it)… a job.)

  2. Frederick // 5 March, 2016 at 11:14 am //

    Good for you, Grace! /salute

  3. Some people are just jealous and it’s hard not to take it personally but like you say, there are new jobs being created every day. One just needs the courage like you have to jump out and grab it :)

  4. Definitely a real job. But working at something until it earns you money is also a pretty real job. It does take a lot of hard work to build up your community, and if it pays, it’s real.
    People are jerks – and that lady was extremely rude.
    9-5 is easy for some people, and that’s great, but it’s never been something I can do well. I need more challenge, and I need to be doing something that is personal and fulfilling.
    I love writing, and that sorta led me to blogging.

  5. Of course its a real job. If the lady had any smarts about her she would realize that you are probably in a better place compared to most. Youre not stuck in some dead end job with a jerk boss, or as just another cubilce/office drone shuffing papers while making others rich. Youre doing something that you enjoy and getting paid, or at the very least, earning a living doing it.

    Thats something that most people usually wish for when it comes to a “dream job”. Sure there are down sides to it, but every job out there has negatives. Dont worry about justifying your livelihood to others. Just enjoy what youre doing, and if they are too narrow minded to comprehend it then they are not worth your time.

    – DM

  6. Thank you for all your hard work!!! I really appreciate all you do and it’s a shame that others don’t see how important it is.

  7. I know the feeling.

    I get this in two ways. The ones like this, where websites/blogs/YouTube aren’t “real jobs.”

    And the opposite type… Where they’re super nice to your face, talk crap behind your back.

    I get this a lot about my service:

    I know you already know, but just ignore them and keep on keeping on! ;)

    — Chad

  8. I think your job is amazing! Even if you weren’t making money out of it but had decided that xyz untraditional occupation is what you decide to dedicate your time and talent to then it counts as an occupation which I believe is more important than having a “job” that just pays the bills.

  9. It typically means 1 of 3 things when someone asks what your job is.
    1- Their trying to make small talk to pass time and possibly open new career options for themselves that they didn’t think about.
    2- They’re sizing you up to decide if hanging around you is worth their time. Typically for dating purposes but some people choose their friends by the size of their wallet.
    3- They just want to flaunt their own job as superior and will mock your job.
    … well 4- if they know you’re unemployed at the time, they might ask to make you feel bad.

    From the looks of it, she was doing the 3rd one; and after finding out you were making cash as some sort of internet idol or w/e switched gears to the 2nd one. Although she could have just felt bad about how she acted while drunk. She might’ve been putting down other people’s jobs because she felt stressed at hers and wanted to feel better about it. idk, I wasn’t there after all and have no way of knowing her motives or usual attitude.

    But in my group of friends, the only time we ask someone about their job is when they themselves announce something about it (or to check if their working when we want to hang out). For all I know, one of my friends could be a part-time firefighter and I’d never know till they told me.

    Though, I have to say I’m impressed you had the patience for that and while both of you were drunk at that. (If I’m reading that right.)

  10. How silly of that woman! I really believe that what you do adds true value! Your posts and videos are thoughtful, make me feel like I get to experience a tiny slice of Japan, and without fail brighten my day! Know that for every person who misunderstands the impact of what you do there are many more who would take up your defense! Thank you for making your corner of the internet so wonderful!

  11. Some people don’t get how the internet continues / will continue to change how people contribute to society. At one point in history, same could be said for the telephone, television, automobile, etc.

    • True, people were so against telephones and dramatic about it to boot. “This will kill written word and ruin minds!”

  12. Can I just say that I love your job. . .or more specifically that you do your job? You leave me with a smile every time I encounter some of your created/creative content.

  13. I should stick this on a big, big wall, where everyone can see it and read it. (I’m not making any profit out of my drawings, blog (which I just started) or writings; or, at least so far, but it really annoys me when I hear those same exact lines you wrote up there, but about random “popular internet people”.)

  14. Anonymous // 2 November, 2015 at 3:09 pm //

    Why don’t you write a polished editorial piece about this or make a Youtube video? I feel like this blog entry is relevant to a lot of people out there, and you very much eloquently stated their side: content creation IS a job.

  15. Ugh I hate it when people say “not a real job”. If you make money for your work – it is a job. I recently got into a discussion (or argument) about someone saying that JET Program ALT isn’t a real job. I think people who say that are just finding a way to validate themselves.

  16. Don’t worry Grace. We find your work choice inspiring and for me personally, it gives me something to aim for, to get out of this corporate drudgery. Thanks for all your hard work to entertain us.

  17. How patient of you! She probably think this way as it is a hobby for a lot of people… Me included XD I put in a lot of effort but I do not make a living out of it :) I personnally prefer people who embrace youtube as their career than whiny successfull youtuber complaining they don’t make much compared to the effort they put lol

  18. This type of career is relatively new, many (not all) consider it a self indulgent choice similar to majoring in Art or Philsophy. Even in America you would get this type of reaction. I think the majority of people don’t consider it work because it is untraditional and new (less than 10 years.)

    But obviously you are successful so I wouldn’t let the haters get to you, there isn’t many sites I’ve come across with a unique insight on living in Japan. Though I think if you moved back to America it would be a lot of re-tooling to find your audience.

  19. It is not a “real job” in Japan because here the definition of that is so narrow.

    Some people seem to think a real job means you work under somebody. But maybe the real-est job of all is working by yourself!

  20. You know, I agree that making Youtube videos and running a blog is not a job. Jobs give you fixed pay and the annual increment is pathetic no matter how hard you work. I think what you are doing, is a business. If you work harder and smarter, you will keep earning more and much more in the long run. And you get to decide how to grow your brand, rather than being an animatronic puppet like most of us.

    So yeah, making Youtube videos and running a blog is not a job. It is way cooler than a job!

  21. Anonymous // 1 November, 2015 at 4:56 pm //

    You’ve a lot more patience than me. If someone was being that rude I’d probably have said ‘screw what you think’ and closed the conversation. But in all seriousness, your job is awesome and hers is probably boring as hell. :p She’s just jelly!

  22. Jayisoldem // 1 November, 2015 at 1:37 pm //

    Grace you are a beautiful young talented woman don’t let anyone try to put you down

  23. Don’t worry too much about such comments Grace, people will be people and if something is new or unusual to them they will always find a way to make you feel bad or weird about yourself… sometimes it is because they just want to feel better about themselves or are jealous of you…but you know jealousy is thought to be the highest form of complement, because if people are jealous of you that means they would want to be like you. I think that what you are doing is great and the fact that you can enjoy your job is awesome and not many of us can do it. I remember when I first stumbled upon your blog, I felt a little bit scared and anxious because there already was someone that did what I wanted to do, and really I only found your blog because out of curiosity I have typed few keywords I was interested in in google search…Well I guess what I am trying to say is that I find the work you do being my greatest motivation so please don’t worry about such a trivial matter and keep on doing your thing x]

  24. Such closed minded people as she are really suffering in the long run.

    You’re doing brilliant.

    Keep on with your life the way it makes you happy!

    (I really love that you are exactly this way!)

  25. Heck yes being a “content creator” is a real job. You Tube is just one outlet for content. There are all those web page designers working for large companies and startups all over the world. There are people who have online comics (you’re one of them) who keep us NEETS entertained and supply ads that give us something to buy besides takeout. You “guys” (you’re American, you know what I mean) are absolutely necessary in this new environment that we have created. I’m only sorry that at some point I am going to die and I won’t get to see how far this all evolves.

  26. Right now I am working from home as a tutor part-time for an educational company and left the other “real” part-time job I had to pursue a full on job search because at this time in my life I had the conditions and savings to do so. When I go to interviews I get asked “how does that work?” about my tutoring position. It’s really annoying and people don’t treat it like a real job. I work from home tutoring students online and get paid by a company. You create content and you get revenue from from ads. People who think inside the box will be the ones working the traditional 9-5 the rest of their lives.

  27. I actually have all three of your comic books. I haven’t finished reading the third one though, i got it on Kindle. I don’t know, maybe I need a physical copy too. ;) can’t wait for your fourth book.

    I wish I could do what you do. I’d love to write my blog as a job. I’ve spent years branding and rebranding myself, and to see you do the same thing is actually really cool.

    Don’t worry about your value to others. Just believe in yourself. It took me a long time to do that and now, I don’t care what other people say about my job or hobbies.

    Good luck, Grace!

  28. My daughter is a self employed artist who works her bu** off to earn an income that contributes substantially to her life with her husband and child…many days she works 12+ hours to do this! So, don’t let yourself be intimidated by some ignorant, rude person who tries to act ‘holier than thou.’ Not to excuse this person but to explain her: perhaps she was drunk?

  29. I find what you have created rather remarkable..

    Starting from a personal blog, leveraging that to get contracting work for other websites, then using kickstarter to self publish a book, and having youtube vlogs create more interest in both website and books.

    I enjoyed all three of your books and can’t wait to buy the 4th in the series.

    I wish you and the business you have created continued fortune and success.


  30. Just dont trouble yourself defending your job. There are too many people who think that youtube videos, blogging etc are just for fun and they dont see how hard it is to bring content all the time!

  31. Grace, you must file your taxes, but that does not mean you must pay tax.

    All U.S. citizens and residents who earn more than US$10,150 (single) or US$20,300 (married, filing a joint return) in a year must file a U.S. personal income tax return no matter where you reside.

    But, the foreign-earned income exclusion (referred to in tax-planning circles as the FEIE or “the exclusion”) allows you to exclude up to US$100,800 in 2015 foreign-earned income from U.S. federal income tax.

    I didn’t know if you knew this, and since it’s really valuable information, I wanted to share it with you, and hopefully save you tens of thousands of dollars in taxes every year.

    In any case, please do your own research to verify that this is the case for you.

    • Thanks! I will do more research. I know last year because I visited America twice, I had spent enough time on American soil (30 days or something like that) to qualify to pay taxes for the entire year (ugggghhhh). But I should be in the clear this year!

  32. Guess it’s still not “common” enough so some people react that way.
    I kind of had to struggle with that when I tried to do that kind of stuff as a freelancer.
    I remember people saying that teaching English is not a real job. I have never ever had anybody tell me that directly, but I noticed it’s a very common “idea” among foreigners in Japan. No idea why. How was THAT not a REAL job??
    So, I totally understand your feelings.

    Now, I’m working in a full-time job here in Germany and I probably earn a lot less than you guys do (thanks to Germany crazy taxes and all), but is that a “real” job? More than being a blogger? More than being an English teacher?


  33. Musician … That is also a career that many people find difficult to take seriously. I’m a violinist, classically trained and with degrees, yet all my life I’ve had to deal with all those same questions and attitude from strangers and sometime even friends.

    • Yup! I’m a dancer. We deal with the same thing all the time. From just about everyone. Even when I was in university, my professors insulted us for studying dance.

  34. I honestly think that a lot of people still don’t understand the full potential of what the internet and the technology we have today offers. I agree with a previous poster who said the woman was probably jealous. I have a “regular” job in media and am hoping to become increasingly freelance over time. I think if we must be “available” via phones and emails 24/7 then surely it is smart to try and make technology work for you and give you as much freedom and flexibility as possible.

  35. You work very hard on all of this, so yes. It is a real job. You just are your own employer! Whee!

  36. ::high five:: … You tell ’em, sister!

  37. Good for you Grace!!!
    It must be really hard to no being appreciated in what you are doing… Try not to worry too much about it. Above it all… Thank you so much for sharing and keep it up!! ??????????????

  38. theandysan // 31 October, 2015 at 3:54 pm //

    I’ve been doing the blogging and YouTube thing for over a decade now, and even though I don’t make enough money to support myself (yet), I still enjoy what I do and my audience is super-supportive of me!

    I’m working towards making content creation my main income, but getting a large enough audience to support that has been an uphill struggle for me. Thankfully nowadays, you don’t need that big of an audience to make a living online. You could have 50-100k subscribers on YouTube and make a sustainable living off of that, depending on where you live and your spending habits of course. But the notion of needing millions of followers and getting picked up by a network to “make it” in the field aren’t holding water anymore.

  39. Now i’m left here wondering whether you wrote this because you actually wanted to talk about this topic or you just found something to entertain the masses like me :D

    Apart from that, as a programmer i think both ways are legit, considering content creation or programming as a hobby just as much as doing it as a job.

    We are all using open-source software every day, code which was written by enthusiasts who never saw a single penny for their hard work but who had fun along the way and probably a related daytime-job to pay their rent.

    At the same time we rely on programmers we pay for to get exactly what we ask for in a timely manner. So in the end, programming is and can be both, a hobby and a job.

    Probably the same is true for content creation or entertainment in general.

  40. Actually, content creation is one of the most amazing jobs *ever*. When some ignorant yo-yo like that dismisses your work, point out (in simple words, and very slowly, so their little minds can absorb it): A good majority of the perceived and actual value in the world is in intangible ideas. When AOL bought Time Warner (“cause they only made, y’know, movies and silly stuff”), AOL was thought to be very valuable, because it had “captive” income from paid, repeat users, etc. It was only a little while later when Time Warner realized that the content they had was worth *far* more than the cash-in-hand and cashflow from AOL.

    There are hundreds and thousands of other examples. Ideas have weight, and importance and value now and *later*. Who will remember what she did on Tuesday? Nobody!

    Real job? You’re not only doing your “job”, you’re creating and supporting every future possibility that you help create and inspire.

    Hey, what’s she done lately? “Managed” something? Stacked BBs? Phhht!

  41. Hi Grace, in my opinion it sounds like this woman is jealous of you. You are able to do what you love, with a husband who is clearly in love with you, and make a living at it.

    Many people have to tear others down to make themselves feel better about their choices.

    I’m glad you can shake these rude people off. Keep up the great work cause we all know it is WORK. :)

  42. Follow your dreams. Live, love, and be happy !

  43. Behind the Story // 31 October, 2015 at 11:16 am //

    After reading your blog for the past year, I’m amazed at how hard you work and how successful you’ve become. Congratulations!

    I could sympathize with the woman at first. There are so many of us who blog on a casual basis. (I only post once a week.) But your business is in a different category from that of an occasional blogger or YouTuber.

    I couldn’t believe how rude she became, refusing to accept that you know about your own business. I’m sorry you were insulted by a stupid person like her.

  44. Preach it! I work a 9-5 job which certainly isn’t easy (application interface/database development in the medical field), but I probably don’t work half as hard as you and other content creators do. I’ve always been appreciative and even envious of others with that kind of creative talent and drive. I know I probably say it too much, but thank you for doing what you do! You’re providing people around the world with a unique perspective on a myriad of experiences that they may never get to otherwise experience on their own. If that doesn’t deserve the title of “real job” I don’t know what does.

  45. S. J. Pajonas (spajonas) // 31 October, 2015 at 11:03 am //

    Word. Every last bit of it.

  46. Nicer then I am about it. I’d have said a few things which would have included adverbs, adjectives and even a proper noun or two

  47. Hey Grace. Though I don’t do anything similar to that like running a blog and making YouTube videos, I can totally understand your frustration.

    Although maybe not to the same degree, I had to defend my university major/job every day. Although right now I am teaching English in Japan just after graduation, I majored in dance in my university wanting to be a dancer. Many times when people asked me my major and I told them, people told me things like “I can’t respect you for that” or “so what are you actually going to do with that?” While it may seem like we are just having fun, dance is a lot of hard work, physically and emotionally, and it is very competitive and difficult to get a job.

    I always got really emotional and defensive when people tried to insult me and my life choices like that. So I really understand where you’re coming from in this blog post. Don’t let them get to you! Haha:)

  48. I personally am most grateful for all the time and effort you both put into YouTube and your blog and books, thank you very much! ^_^

  49. Yeah!

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