How much work goes into a YouTube video?

22 August 2019


The first million is the hardest.


When YouTubers say that, they probably aren’t talking about money; most YouTubers don’t become millionaires. They’re probably talking about subscribers.


Jörg Sprave reached his first million subscribers on “The Slingshot Channel” in 2016 - after 7 and a half years.


(Today the channel is the 56th largest channel in Germany, in terms of subscribers, according to Social Blade.)


Sprave uploads one or two videos a week. This keeps him busy. Behind a video there’s more work than most people realize. In the case of Sprave’s channel specifically, the videos are about things Sprave himself designs and builds. So he spends a lot of time in his workshop building. If something doesn’t work, he has to come up with a new idea - fast.


Filming for a video is just the start of an intensive editing process. Most YouTubers look at their raw material, then make a rough cut, then a second cut. Then they need to add the title, any images like screenshots and still photos, and any sounds. At this point, it might be ready to upload.


But a YouTuber does more than make videos: a huge amount of a YouTuber’s energy goes into interacting with their community. They have to watch the comments on their videos, removing inappropriate ones (otherwise they can get in trouble with YouTube) and, of course, answer the good ones. Business requests come in via e-mail, and those need to be answered. And if they are active on social media other than YouTube, that takes time too.


Professional YouTubers have to keep their costs under control. Most of them don’t have employees; they are producer, director, host, editor, salesperson, customer support person, and PR agent - all in one. And of course, accounting. They have to make sure their “books” are in order for the tax authority in their country.


On one hand: compared to “traditional” employment, there are a lot of drawbacks to being a YouTuber. It’s not a secure job; YouTubers are dependent on a - rather unpredictable - partner (YouTube). They work long hours. There is no vacation - for most YouTubers, not even unpaid vacation. Unless they live in a city with a lot of other YouTubers, they probably have no colleagues in their physical area. They have none of the benefits of traditional employment like employer sponsored health insurance. For most, the pay isn’t great: typically between 40 cents and 1 US dollar per 1,000 views. And it’s unpredictable, varying significantly from month to month, often due to factors beyond the YouTuber’s control. The competition is only getting more intense year after year.


Why do it then? Well, it’s fun. You can get famous. You have no boss, unless you count YouTube and its algorithms. Jörg puts it like this: “The real upside is, you get to do what you love. Hopefully.”


For more about all this, you can read Jörg’s posts about being a YouTuber on Quora: