Making money is something that I rarely talk about online but occupies my mind a lot. And I definitely feel weird about it. I think I’m mostly scared of the reaction it would get rather than having to justify the thoughts to myself. I’ve already done that, I know I want to make money.
Maybe that sounds cold to you. Perhaps it makes you feel uncomfortable. Talking about money makes a lot of people feel uneasy, like me right now writing this. I’m not sure how to phrase things and I’m really nervous about getting it wrong.
So let’s start at the beginning.
A couple weeks ago I attended Clamour in Palm Springs. Clamour is a conference for YouTubers and online creators with lots of talks and panels about making videos, and not just growing your channel but growing your business. I loved this event. I sat at the front of every talk taking all the notes and asking all the questions. It was like being back at school, and I fitted right back into my super-keen-nerd-persona. But let’s be real, it’s not a persona – that’s just me.
I’ve always thought I’ve wanted to create something bigger than myself, outside of the “Hannah Witton” channel. And basically I got to spend a few days having this desire being given permission to exist and room to breathe.
Let me tell you about a thing I’ve been worrying about for a while now.
The majority of my income comes from brand deals. Those sponsored videos you occasionally see on my channel make up most of my salary. I also get paid from various other revenue streams but the bulk of my income is brand deals. As a general rule you can charge more depending on how big your audience is and how many views you get. This isn’t sustainable. I’ve been on YouTube for 7 years and I’ve seen channels come and go – audiences lose interest, creators refuse to adapt, the infamous YouTube algorithm changes – and I know it could be me next.
I’m 26 years old and I would like a family one day. Right now my income is fine and I can comfortably support myself. But I don’t want to rely on something as futile and unpredictable as views and brands wanting to work with me.
The way I see it, I have 3 options:
- Completely blow up on YouTube and stay famous and relevant forever.
- Get a full time, more reliable job.
- Future-proof myself. Have a business plan.
So obviously, I’m going with number 3. And being at Clamour filled me with so much inspiration and knowledge of how to go about doing it. I still have no idea what this thing bigger than myself looks like yet but I’m working on it and I have time whilst my channel is still doing well.
Cultural differences in making money
I was the only British person (that I know of) at this event and I could definitely feel a culture difference between myself and the American speakers. There was a lot of things said that I just don’t think would have gone down as well with a British audience (imagine I’m speaking in a very enthusiastic American accent).
THIS IS HOW YOU MAKE MONEY!
IF YOU MAKE SOMETHING, PEOPLE WILL BUY IT!
THIS IS HOW MUCH MONEY I MAKE!!!
YOU COULD BE LIKE ME TOO IF YOU FOLLOW THIS BUSINESS PLAN!!!!!!
I’m exaggerating but you get it. Maybe I’m wrong but I definitely get the sense that there is a more of an entrepreneurial spirit in the US and being driven by money isn’t seen as a bad thing (hello capitalism!) We’re slightly more awkward about it in the UK. More hush hush let’s not talk about money and you should never strive to make money, but well done you if it just happens.
But what’s wrong with taking active steps to grow a business? I loved nerding out about this stuff at Clamour. Myself and 2 other YouTube friends have even started an accountability whatsapp group where we share things we want to achieve and check in with each other. We share business tips, and YouTube and social media best practices. This kind of stuff excites me.
Yes we’re creatives, we love producing content and making things but having a strategy of how to do it as a career is also important.
The Creative Contradiction
The industry I work in celebrates people who create because they just love to make things. There’s a burning passion inside to create and share. But I think there’s also the pressure for that to be the only reason you do it. YouTubers, artists, musicians, writers etc. are professionals. This is our job and jobs pay money. And it’s okay to want to make more money.
I hate the trope of the poor struggling artist. It glamourises poverty and assumes your art is better for it. You’re seen as a “sell out” if you show any interest in making money from your art.
And I get it. I’m very lucky that I’ve managed to build a career out of my hobby. But that’s just it. It’s not a hobby anymore, it’s my career. So I’m going to treat it like one.
I would love to hear what your thoughts on this are in the comments. Do you think there’s a difference in attitudes towards money in the US vs the UK? If you’re a freelancer, how much are you thinking about money and ways to grow your business? What steps have you taken to future-proof your career? Let me know!