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.”
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”?