It sounds like the dream to be able to live from your passion. It surely is fantastic and can be done if you are willing to work for it, but there are parts of this job that might be less attractive once you get to know about them.
For the past years, I have made my entire living from landscape photography and my YouTube channel has definitely been a big part of why I can do that. As much as I love what I do and would not change it for anything, there are certain aspects that come with this life, which might not be obvious for most people who want to pursue such a career; so here goes.
You Are Always “on”
Back in the days when I worked in a photography store, my workday was usually from 10 AM to 5 PM. To say I hated it is a huge understatement but when I was not at work, I was “off” and I neither cared nor thought about it. My mind had a period of rest and I did not have to think about next month’s salary – it would come no matter what. As a YouTuber (or content creator, or whatever else we call it) I am always on.
I get a ton of emails in my inbox, private messages on Instagram, and comments on YouTube I have to tend to. Many of which are unrelated “business opportunities” from someone who has seen my channel and wants me to make a review of their strobe light and thought it was a good match for my landscape photography? Others are the endless amount of spam messages, especially on Instagram. If you have a decent following of a few thousand you probably know what I am talking about, just scale that up to 400,000 followers. The stream is endless. However, I also get sincere emails, messages, and comments from people who need suggestions for their next gear purchase, have landscape related questions, or people who have flattering words. I appreciate them all and I try to answer all questions as well as I can.
What takes up the most “brainpower” is to constantly produce new content. You never really get a well-deserved break from your work. The YouTube algorithm favors channels that post more, and my income is about linear with the amount of content (and the reach of that content) I produce, which always makes you think about next week’s video(s). I do not feel it as a pressure but I know my income depends on the videos I produce and it is disappointing to see a video flop when you have put a lot of work into it. To not get overwhelmed by disappointment you have to develop a stoic relationship to your work, but if the passion is not there, then the quality surely suffers. It is a catch 22.
Your Social Life Can Suffer
Even though it is not a big problem for me, I do often catch myself “drifting away” and start thinking about work. This can hurt your real physical social interactions and interrupt what I am actually doing. However, as all landscape photographers know our working hours are not in line with the rest of society. If you dream about traditional work-life balance, this job is not for you. Dependent where you live on planet Earth sunsets and sunrises can vary a lot throughout the year. If you want that beautiful light from the low hanging sun or the blue hour, your workday can interfere with the social activities of friends who usually cannot hang out before the afternoon or the evening.
These odd hours can also interfere with sports teams who train at a certain hour. I have almost given up on catching sunsets in the summer period simply because they are too late in the day, however, I can once or maybe twice a week get out of bed to catch the sunrise and get a nice early start on the day. However, that requires you to go to bed early instead.
The Nightmare of Dealing With Paperwork
If you have a job, either in a private company or in a public position, that institution usually deals with all the paperwork related to taxes. You get your salary once a month and at the end of the year, you just have to check if everything is done correctly. As a freelancer, you have to deal with all these things yourself. To mention a few things you need to keep a budget for taxes and one for VAT, you have to know in what country you should pay your taxes, you need to make invoices for each sale, check up on the rules for VAT (again), know what and how much you can deduct in your taxes, know the difference between private economy and the economy of your small company (or is it a small company to begin with?), know the rules for pulling money out of your company and much, much more. It is a ton of work and one you will likely end up paying someone else to do.
No Linear Relation
A fourth and very frustrating part about making YouTube videos is the lack of a relation between the amount of work you put into a video and how successful it will be. Some of the videos I have put the most work, money, and resources into have flopped while videos I have not to spend the same amount of time and effort in creating have been wildly popular. I have learned that the “theme” of the video has a much bigger influence on it being watched than any kind of production, teaching, or entertainment value. Check out the video above, here I go further into details with this topic and the before/after photos below show the difference between two videos that are about a year old. One of them is still alive and the other is literally dead.
The last and probably the worst part of being a full-time YouTuber is the perception of time. For some weird reason, time flies exceptionally fast when you edit videos. I have spent many years playing video games and time can fly fast in that setting, but when you edit a video, it flies at supersonic. Three hours feels like one hour. The reason why I think this is the worst part of my job is that I really love my life, and I do not want it to pass by too fast. Even though 2020 has been quite eventful, it is crazy to think it is almost summer solstice. There are a few workarounds for this effect and one is to simply not make complicated video edits, however, when production time goes down, so does production value.
I go deeper into each topic and take a couple of photos in the video above so be sure to check it out. Can you relate to some of these issues? Let me know down below. You do not have to be a “YouTuber” to weigh in.