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The Hidden Downsides of Being a Professional YouTuber

"Sometimes I wanted to go out and have a meal without having to film the food."

by Ruben Wissing
06 December 2019, 12:01pm

All photos provided by the interviewees.

This article originally appeared on VICE Netherlands.

Becoming a professional YouTuber is a lot like becoming a professional footballer: a lot of people want to do it, not very many get to do it.

For these three former vloggers, a potential future of fame and fortune was enough to give it a go – but the dream didn't last. I spoke to them about leaving the wild world of YouTubing behind.

Saske de Schepper, 28, works in the arts

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Photo courtesy of Saske de Schepper.

VICE: Why did you decide to start vlogging?
Saske de Schepper: My sister, Teske, was part of the first generation of Dutch vloggers. In 2010, she convinced me to create my own channel. It sounded like fun. Because Teske was one of the most successful vloggers at that time, I had great promotion. I had 10,000 followers in no time. I really liked all of the positive comments. I got hooked on the attention, even though I didn’t realise it at the time.

What were your vlogs about?
My first channel ikbensaske ("I am Saske") didn’t have a topic. I filmed myself at music festivals and talked about my day. But when I started a channel with my ex in 2014, called Vet Gezellig ("Mad Cosy"), we tried to make it more meaningful by talking about important topics like poverty and mental health. We mixed it up with vlogs about our daily life. We also made short docs – for instance, about my ex’s anxiety disorder.

People think it's easy to make money, but for us it was a full-time job. We had thousands of views and fans, and were recognised on the street, but we didn’t break even. Luckily we ran a film production company alongside our channel, but money wasn’t pouring in by any means. YouTubers can make some money through Google ads, but you mostly make money when brands buy sponsored videos.

Is that why you quit in 2018?
No, I stopped because I felt like I couldn’t be myself anymore. People would say I was too cranky, or like: "If she’s going to be this grumpy all the time, she shouldn’t be in the video." I was so obsessed with making sure I didn’t get negative comments that I caught myself acting differently. Sometimes I wanted to go out and have a meal without having to film the food. Being recognised on the street was fun at first, but I started feeling more self-conscious as time went on.

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Saske and Alwin in one of their vlogs.

Have you ever regretted publishing a vlog?
Yes, one vlog was too personal. I was engaged to my ex, and he filmed everything about that whole process: buying the ring, the proposal, our reactions. I’m happy it’s no longer online. Did we publish it because we were happy to be engaged, or because we wanted to get more views? It’s a thin line.

How do you look back on that time?
It helped me develop, but I didn’t realise how addicted to the attention I was until it ended. I used to easily get 1,000 likes on an Instagram post, but as soon as you stop being active, that goes away. I had a hard time with the fact that my ex still had the attention and I didn’t. I wouldn’t want to be a vlogger anymore, though I do miss the freedom to do whatever I want whenever I want. These days, I have a regular nine-to-five job.

Daniëlle Spoor-Oostwouder, 25, works in customer service

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Photo courtesy of Daniëlle Spoor-Oostwouder.

VICE: Why did you start vlogging?
Daniëlle Spoor-Oostwouder: I wanted to help women who struggle with their weight, but I was also desperately in search of a hobby. The idea was to vlog for 365 days straight and show everything I do and eat in a day. I’ve struggled with my weight my whole life and was looking for a way to motivate myself to make a change. I thought my videos could add a unique perspective.

People around me were very responsive. They liked the videos, but I got a lot of unsolicited advice: I had to change the way I ate, my videos needed to be shorter and they wanted me to live in the moment more.

Why did you decide to quit?
Look, I had approximately 36 views per video, and zero comments. Meanwhile, I worked full time and had another part-time job I felt very responsible for. I had to think about a catchy title, edit, go out to do fun things, and all the while nobody cared whether I actually did it or not. When the mum of the kid I babysat demanded that I delete 30 videos featuring her daughter, I felt like there was no point in continuing.

I don’t regret it and I learned a lot – I went out on the street and awkwardly talked into a camera lens, so now I feel a lot more confident to speak up. But I do know that vlogging is not for everyone, like people who don’t already have 10,000 followers on Instagram. Oh well, it will be a good story to share at bingo night when I’m old.

Mick van der Waag, 31, works in IT

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Photo courtesy of Mick van der Waag.

VICE: How did your YouTube career start?
Mick van der Waag: I'd always wanted to experiment with filming and editing, so in 2011 a few childhood friends and I made a parody video of the Lady Gaga song "Alejandro". Almost half a million people stumbled upon it. That was the start of DoubleDutchVideos.

The algorithms worked very differently in the early days of YouTube; when you looked up an artist name, parody videos were also shown in the search results. So we went looking for popular pop songs, from artists like Justin Bieber and Carly Rae Jepsen, and created comedy scripts to go along with them. The "Alejandro" video, for instance, was about a gay guy who has to fend off the Lady Gaga character while she keeps trying to seduce him. We got hundreds of thousands of views every time.

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A scene from "Alejandro Supergay".

Was it lucrative?
No, it actually cost us a lot of money. We were students, so spending a few hundred euros on a video was a lot. And because we made parodies, we couldn’t make any money from sponsor deals, because that would fall under the original artist's copyright. We tried to monetise our success by making backstage videos, but of course much fewer people watched those. You barely see any music parody videos on YouTube anymore – the genre probably disappeared because you couldn’t really make any money off it.

Why did you decide to stop making videos?
It took so much time and money. I wasn’t completely broke, but I ate instant noodles more often than I would have liked. I had a really good time with it, but when I see what's on YouTube now I just sigh. Everyone is so competitive; people use misleading titles in angry capitals with hundreds of exclamation marks.

Why are your videos still online? You want potential employers to see you as Justin Bieber?
I’ve thought about deleting them, but they haven’t gotten me into trouble yet. As long as I don’t apply for a job with the government, I think I’ll be fine. My previous boss did find the videos, but he thought they were funny. I also lost the password to the account.

This article originally appeared on VICE NL.

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