Working at home became a thing when the pandemic closed offices around the world. People who used to go to the office were suddenly working at home. Working at home is only new to some. The SBA (Small Business Administration) estimates that there are around 19 million home-based businesses in the United States. Some of these businesses are just starting out – remember Apple Computer started in a garage.
Other companies are created with the idea of never outgrowing their home setting. Many are who you might think they are – contractors, landscapers, writers, therapists, dog walkers, and other professionals whose work is done elsewhere or with very few other people.
Beyond the obvious home-based businesses, there are some very interesting enterprises behind those doors right here in Bedford.
I was always taught that happiness is to find something you love to do and figure out how to get someone to pay you to do it.
Meet Josh: Josh plays video games for a living. There obviously is a lot more to it than that, but that statement is accurate. Josh has a YouTube channel called Let’s Game It Out.
First, a little background on the world of video games. For people over a certain age, video games means saving your quarters and heading to the arcade to play Pac-Man. That has grown into what is expected to be a $221 billion industry this year.
With the growth of the industry, like all industries, there has emerged an accompanying media that include: competitions, magazines, blogs, groups, streaming, and YouTube channels, Twitch channels, and merchandising. Along with that, media and competition has come a celebrity culture.
An HBO Real Sports segment last year did a good job explaining what’s going on: Here is the link:
That brings us back to Josh. He is what is called a YouTube Content Creator. He has a YouTube channel with 5.16 million subscribers. He also livestreams with Twitch. (Twitch is an interactive livestreaming service for content spanning gaming, entertainment, sports, music, and more. )
Josh’s channel is filled with him playing games and taking them to their limit. Josh likes to mess with games, break them, and set them up in ways they were not meant to be played. Watching some of the videos, I kept thinking of the Mayhem ads from Allstate Insurance. Josh pushes the games to the limits and with his dry and sarcastic commentary, it’s a lot of fun to watch.
I know for a lot of people, specifically the younger crowd, this would seem to be a perfect career goal, or if nothing else, an excuse to spend more time playing games.
I talked to Josh about what it is like to be an influencer. How did he get started? And other topics.
Here’s our Q & A:
How did you get started? I assume you were a gamer as a kid, how did you go from being a gamer to a YouTuber to a celebrity?
I grew up with parents who were also into video games and I have memories of playing a lot of the earlier consoles like the Atari 2600 and ColecoVision, and also a lot of computer games.
As early as 15 (1998), I was making little videos to show my friends because I thought they were fun to make and funny to share. Back then of course there was no thought that it could convert into a career, but as the years went by and video platforms like YouTube became a big thing, it started to feel like a dream I could chase.
I missed the boat on it for a while, as I was solidly in other careers at the time (filmmaker and then later as a business developer in the games industry), but the timing eventually worked out where I could try to dive into making videos beyond a hobby, and I feel very fortunate to say that it worked out.
I’ve been asked a couple of times if I consider myself a celebrity, and I would say it’s more that I have a larger presence on a really specific place on the internet (YouTube) that makes me a public figure of sorts. But even then, the internet is a massive place. So if anything, let’s go with “D-list internet celebrity.” I like the sound of that.
When did you decide to make this a business instead of a hobby?
From the beginning. I think it’s important to make that distinction immediately because it will inform how you make your videos. Making things solely as a hobby has limitless freedom because you’re doing it entirely for yourself, for pleasure, to show your friends, all that stuff. But if you already know you’d even LIKE to do this as a career, then it’s important to tighten your scope and approach your ideas with other people’s viewing tastes in mind.
How does one monetize this? I see the YouTube ads but what other ways? How much time do you spend looking for revenue opportunities? Do you have an agent?
YouTubers primarily monetize through ads provided through YouTube. The other big thing for content creators is sponsorships, which sometimes come in the form of a creator taking a minute or two out of their video to talk about the product, or create dedicated videos around the product. Depending on a creator’s overall viewership, these sponsorships can be vital to a creator/team.
There are other revenue streams, too, like merchandise, exclusive memberships, Cameo, and many other random things.
I spend a little time looking at upcoming revenue opportunities, but more in the overall picture of where the content creator space may be headed. TikTok and YouTube Shorts have proven that short form, easily digestible videos are incredibly popular, and it’s important to stay on top of understanding what makes that kind of content so watchable for people.
I don’t have an agent, but I do work with a business that specializes in connecting creators with sponsorship opportunities.
I know in your previous career, you were a film editor. Editing is a big part of your films. How long does it take you to make a video? I know it varies, but is there an average? For instance, how long would it take you to make a 60-minute video?
On average, it takes me anywhere from 15-25 hours to edit a video from raw footage to finished video. I’m always looking for ways to improve this, but I think right now it’s something like 45-60 minutes of editing per one minute of finished video. But it also depends on the game and how I played it. And also, for all the years I’ve been editing, I probably still suck at it. Anyway, a 60-minute video would probably take around 45-60 hours to edit. Thankfully, it’s been a long time since I had to put together a video that long.
The need to create content must be endless. How many videos do you make a week a day?
At this point, I release a video every two or three weeks or so, though I’m usually in the process of creating it for most of that time. The process of making a video starts with game research/testing (some games aren’t the right fit for my channel), and then a long period of recording, and then a period of editing, and then finally releasing the video.
I’d love to put out more videos in a quicker time frame, though I always want to make sure the quality is as high as it can be and I think churning out videos faster and faster would compromise that.
I also want to avoid burnout which is very real and common for a lot of creators due to the pressure to keep up a consistent schedule. I definitely experienced this when I was trying to put out more videos more often, or – I cry a little to remember – releasing a video a day. I was sleeping two to four hours a night back then, doing a 9-to-5 job followed by another 8 to 12 hours of YouTube every day.
How many hours in a typical week do you spend working on this?
Probably about 50 to 60 a week, but there’s a good amount of flexibility in there, which is one of the most wonderful things about being a content creator on your own. It’s not out of the question to take a few days off if I feel like it, and also I can pile on the hours when necessary. It’s easier for me to stay motivated since it’s something I really care about.
Do you ever get tired of this? How long do you see yourself doing this?
It can become physically and mentally draining at times. I’ve always been a bit lopsided on work-life balance, but I think it can intensify even more into the “work” side when it’s your own creation and its viability relies entirely on you. Early on when my videos started to go viral and reach larger audiences, I didn’t want to lose that momentum since there’s no guarantee there will be another chance to capitalize on the expanded viewership. And I sacrificed a lot of cornerstones of my life at the time, like my daily four-mile runs and healthy meal prep. Over time, that can certainly take its toll. But when I look back on it, while I would have tried to balance that more, my desire to make YouTube videos was so high, I’m pretty sure I would’ve just sacrificed something else instead.
As odd as this might sound, I can imagine myself doing this in some form or another until the internet gets tired of me. And even then I might stick around and be THAT guy.
YouTube vs Twitch. I see you have two channels. As I understand it, Twitch is for livestreaming? Do you have a preference as to the format?
I’m probably more of a YouTube guy in the sense that I like to fully create/craft a video, versus doing it live. I do also really enjoy the livestream process since you get so many other factors that you can’t get with produced content – the spontaneity of the moment, live viewer reactions, the energy is just very different since other people are there with you. Conversely, producing stuff on your own can sometimes feel like a black box. You sit in front of a machine for most of it, you’re talking to yourself, and then editing probably by yourself. But I still probably prefer the darkened room alone since I really like recording and editing videos.
How do you get a million subscribers? I can see going from 500 to 1,000, but how did you grow to 5 million? Was there a particular repost, or an event? Or was it just a slow and steady growth?
This is kind of a copout answer, but very truly, you can (in the most broad sense of the idea) get a thousand, or a hundred thousand, or even a million subscribers by honing in on making content people want to watch, and then doing it long enough that as you’re trying to perfect your craft. You’re also creating a backlog of interesting, very watchable videos waiting to be discovered, and then subsequently get “noticed.”
At the time we’re talking about this, YouTube is an interesting and sometimes nebulous system to work with. Basically, a channel will grow on YouTube if YouTube’s algorithm notices that your videos are doing well. “Well” is a relative term, and it can start with 50 people watching a lot of it, at which point YouTube will show it to a larger pool of people to see if they like it, too. If it does well again, it’ll share it to an even larger audience, and so on, until it stops getting amazing returns. But by then, it will also have the memory that “Hey, Josh’s video did well, we’ll remember this for the future and trust that his new videos might be really successful with viewers, too.”
That was probably the standout moment for me. Like it was a really big deal when one of my videos did 100,000 views instead of the 1,000 views like the rest of my videos at the time, but even more than that was that all those eyeballs started looking at all my other videos, which caused a lot of them to simultaneously also go viral. I went from getting 500 views a day, to 500,000 a day in like two weeks.
That did eventually subside, though. But I had a much larger audience interested in what I was doing and I was able to more steadily grow from there. I still have videos occasionally go crazy viral, and every time that happens, that’s more people who are subscribing and willing to check out your stuff.
How has the industry changed since you started?
Short form content, like 30 second videos on TikTok or YouTube Shorts, has become a powerhouse. This is a far cry from the kinds of videos I make that are far longer. But honestly, while the format may change, there’s creative and interesting people everywhere, especially making short form content. Other than that, I’d say the industry is also getting a lot more streamlined when it comes to brands/advertising. I mostly mean the boring stuff like regulations and making sure content creators are being explicit when they’re advertising something. Stuff like that.
Are most other YouTubers like you? One or two people? Is there an ESPN type network that puts all this content together? Is that the future?
I don’t know enough YouTubers to know this for sure, but I think it’s fairly uncommon for YouTubers of my audience size to be a one-person shop where they juggle all the pieces, like recording, then editing, then creating a thumbnail and title for YouTube, following it up with Twitter posts and shorter form versions on TikTok, securing sponsorships, etc. It just becomes a lot to do and narrows how quickly things have to be done when you’re doing everything. Usually, at the very least, YouTubers typically have a video editor.
The beauty of a platform like YouTube is there’s space for all types of content to exist, be it from a one-person shop like me, or a whole production team. Unsurprisingly, some of the biggest and most watched creators on the platform have robust and creative teams and their videos easily rival or exceed stuff you would see on traditional TV channels. But both can certainly exist and find popularity on YouTube. I’m hopeful that’s the future, as well.
What would you say to a kid who dreams of emulating what you do? How do you start?
I’d ask them what they’re excited about. And then I’d probably tell them they could make a cool video out of that.
For starting out: start making stuff, straight up. It’s all going to suck when you first start. It doesn’t matter how good or bad you think you are, you WILL get better with practice. If you want to do this as a hobby, it genuinely doesn’t matter what you make or how you make it, just that you’re making it and that it’s enriching you personally in some way.
If you want to do it as a career, then you’ll have to answer some of the tougher questions like what kind of content you want to make, and if it’s going to be something people want to watch. Understand that the kinds of videos you set out to make may not match with what people want to watch, and that’s okay. Part of the game (and to me, part of the fun) is finding a way to inject your personality into a format that you may not have necessarily chosen. As an example, 10 years ago I was not at all a fan of heavily edited YouTube videos that are so extreme that they edit out nearly every pause and every breath from the person talking. But, edited stuff just does better on YouTube and is usually more entertaining because the video is giving you all the good stuff and leaving all the boring stuff on the cutting room floor. So that’s how I started editing my videos, even though I didn’t fully understand the appeal, but I grew to really like it and have a lot of fun with the format.
Oh, also. SUPER important here – Make your audio not sound terrible. YouTube audiences tend to forgive a lot of things, but if every time you talk, they’re slammed with a ton of echo and distortion from your mic volume peaking, people will leave very, very fast.
Anyway, just start making stuff. That’s the most important part. As you hone it in, try to find the thing that can make you special versus everyone else and run with it to see if it works. Some people are really funny, some people are really good at teaching you something, some people are REALLY good at something and you can’t help but want to watch. These are things that make these people really compelling to watch, so you have to find the thing that makes YOU really compelling to watch.
Do you know other interesting businesses behind the door? Let us know.