Some of us are able to maintain relative purity by minimizing our cost of living. Social justice vlogger Kat Blaque is one of the only people I follow on social media who talks about her real life without making it seem glamorous. Her videos have low overhead and little production value. She doesn’t own a car and lives outside LA, in a cheaper area. This is good financially but limits her ability to collaborate and grow her channel. Blaque, however, views YouTube as a platform for other opportunities, like speaking about trans issues all over the country, illustrating original merch, and making videos for sites like pride.com and Everyday Feminism. It’s symbiotic. She needs these outside gigs to keep up her channel and she needs her channel to get these gigs.
“Having subs doesn’t mean you’re Gucci all the time,” she said. “You have to reach a point where you’d be getting other opportunities.”
For the few of us who do make a middle-class income, the answer is to say “fuck it” and do as many brand deals as possible. Whitehurst said she has at least 15 different sources of income. One is the Amazon affiliates program, where she shouts out things she’s bought on Amazon and gets commission if fans buy using her code. But because it’s view-based and click-based, “it’s not a stable income,” she said. And her checks only come once a month, which leaves her waiting.
“There are endless ways to sell your soul on YouTube”
Still other YouTubers make money by relying on “rage clicks”—saying something inflammatory for the purposes of press and views. Take “Dear Fat People,” a fat-shaming tirade by YouTuber Nicole Arbour. “Dear Fat People” made so much money that Arbour posted a Snapchat counting 50 dollar bills…but she also lost some of her branded deals and got blacklisted by the tight-knit YouTube community.