What Does It Take To Work As a Full-Time YouTuber?

When you tell people as an adult that you want to quit your job and become a full-time YouTuber, you’ll probably get one of these looks:

These are the same voices that tell us our dreams and goals are too high for us to achieve. We hear these voices from others at times, and we hear them from ourselves at other times. In either case, listening to them causes us to stop before we even allow ourselves to begin.

But there was a much different, much louder voice that four strangers who met by chance and left stable lives to make YouTube videos full time wanted to listen to instead.

It’s a voice they’ve encapsulated in their rapidly expanding YouTube channel:

They’ve grown to over 310,000 subscribers thanks to that voice, and have gone from living on a mutual friend’s couch in Montreal, Canada, to having a position in Venice Beach, California, and traveling the world for free thanks to it.

Along the way, they’ve made headlines on major news outlets including BuzzFeed and Fox News, made friends with Canada’s Prime Minister, and exploded in popularity thanks to a Snapchat Discover collaboration with a production company named Brother.

I sat down with Matt Dejar, one of Yes Theory’s founders, to discuss the often-overlooked voice at the heart of their YouTube channel’s philosophy, their journey, and the lessons they learned along the way to becoming full-time YouTubers.

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The “Yes Theory” Explained

Yes, Theory is a popular YouTube channel with four young strangers-turned-friends from various backgrounds.

To their parents’ dismay, both of them set aside what most would call “stability” and “success” to follow a risky, ambitious experiment that would become known as the “Yes Theory”:

  • Matt Dejar: Basically stopped being a “traditional entrepreneur,” closing a successful streetwear business and putting his savings into the channel.
  • Ammar Kandil: He turned down a $100,000 funding bid for his startup after dropping out of a full-ride scholarship.
  • Thomas Brag: He gave up a career in technology to concentrate on being as successful at video editing and storytelling as he is now.
  • Derin Emre: He put the film he was moving to Montreal to co-write on hold in order to join the rest of the guys as the cameraman.

These otherwise ordinary 20-year-olds have chosen to document themselves performing extraordinary feats such as jumping from a helicopter into the ocean amid fear of heights or finding a way to mingle with well-known billionaires.

Yes, Theory can seem to be similar to many other YouTubers who do insane stunts for views or encourage people to pursue their dreams at first glance. But behind it all, there’s a story and a message about the importance of saying “yes” to the only voice that matters. And an initiative to show it to others by demonstrating it in their own lives.

It’s not about taking a huge risk and abandoning everything, as they did when they gambled on their idea. It’s not even about starting a YouTube channel, a blog, or a bank, or something else you’ve always wanted to do.

The Yes Theory, in Matt’s words, is about listening to “the voice in your head telling you ‘yes’ while everyone else is telling you ‘no.'”

“You know it’s something you want to do, but everyone else says it’s too frightening, dangerous, or whatever, but you know deep down that it’s something you want to do. It’s the concept of perseverance, of refusing to accept no for an answer, and of simply following your heart and trusting your instincts.”

They want to create a much larger media enterprise and campaign to help others practice the “Yes Theory” to break free from routine and live happier lives, and the inspiring stunts they pull are just the seeds of that.

And, despite the name of the site, they’ve received a lot of rejections, which they frankly discuss in their videos to avoid portraying an image of perfection that doesn’t exist.

After all, as they’re never shy about sharing, being a profitable and self-sustaining YouTube channel—like any business—is far from simple.

Persisting Until You Get Lucky

Persistence is a recurrent trend with these men, as shown by their platforms, videos, and Matt’s conversation.

It was never for a lack of trying that they failed at everything they set out to do.

You can see how much luck is involved in their videos as they try these extremely improbable challenges, as much as the high quality of their content and their engaging storytelling format led to their current growth and success.

If “luck” is described as being in the right place at the right time, entrepreneurs may create their own by working to be in as many places as possible before luck strikes.

According to Matt, you must be patient and accepting of imperfection:

“I think the trick is to recognize that it’s a long-term commitment and that you won’t be able to sort it out right away. Make a bucket list and try out some of the items on it. Maybe you despise it and decide to stop doing it. Perhaps you like it and will stick with it.”

“That was my experience. I tried to start a few different businesses, but I was never particularly enthusiastic about them. And, as soon as you find the right thing, you’re like, “All right, this is what I’m going to stick with.”

“An entrepreneur’s attitude is to never give up. So when I left [the business I founded], I thought to myself, “Wow, I feel sort of crappy that I let this thing go, that I’ve been working on for two years.” I suppose I’ve just discovered that something better will come along, and you just have to jump on it or you’ll miss it.”

And sometimes that means focusing on what you want to do rather than thinking about what someone else is concerned about. It’s like using the right tools.

Equipment Is Useless Without a Story

The type of equipment that many YouTubers use is a frequently asked question.

Yes, Theory began with a Canon EOS 70D and video editing software Final Cut Pro 10. But, according to Matt, none of it would have mattered if they didn’t know what story they wanted to share in the first place.

Sometimes, aspiring designers are more concerned with purchasing equipment than with developing an overarching narrative through which they can reliably build.

Matt mentioned Casey Neistat, one of their heroes, and how, despite his love of vlogging gear, he believes that even the most expensive equipment is worthless if you don’t have the right story.

“If you can tell them the story,” Matt says, “people won’t care.” However, if the story you want to say needs professional equipment, you can use Google to find inexpensive cameras and microphones, as well as free video editing software. Many smartphones nowadays come with enough features to get you started shooting.

Matt, on the other hand, advises aspiring YouTubers to take Austin Kleon’s advice and steal ideas. As if you were an artist.

“Create the piece of work you wish your favorite artist had done,” or “Create the piece of work you wish your favorite artist had done.”

Yes, Theory’s bucket list approach and editing style were modeled after Casey Neistat and MTV’s Buried Life in the beginning until they discovered their own unique voice.

Execution, Ideation, and Keeping a Schedule

The guys were putting out a video every day during their initial Project 30 campaign, where they filmed themselves doing one spontaneous act every day for a month.

They started doing two videos a week as their direction progressed and the bar was raised, and are now ramping up to three videos a week without compromising quality.

When you consider the size of some of their stunts and the obvious effort that goes into each video, this seems insane. But, according to Matt, it’s all possible if you plan ahead.

“We try to be three weeks ahead on videos just in case anything unexpected occurs. A lot of it is simply timely at times. We’ll do something special if there’s a holiday or something special going on that we want to do. There’s a [certain high-profile sporting event] coming up, for example. We’d like to do something about it. I won’t say what it is, but we’ll see how things go.”

In comparison to other YouTubers who’ve worked out their method, Matt thinks their performance isn’t so crazy: “Some people I know would make a video and then send the footage to an editor. The video is edited and ready to post by the time the YouTuber wakes up in the morning. That’s genius, in my opinion.”

“If editing isn’t your strong suit and you want to focus on shooting and entertaining, find someone who can edit and don’t spend eight hours or more learning how to edit. Unless you’re dead set on learning how to edit.”

“What works for us is that we each have our own set of skills. I have no idea how to edit, and I’ve never edited anything before. I’m not really sure how to use a camera. Producing, arranging, and negotiating brand deals are my specialties. Anything that isn’t as technical. That, I believe, is how every team functions. Different systems, that’s all.”

Maintaining a Backlog of Good Ideas

Matt says they strive to do things that are interesting for them, try new things, and even create ongoing “mini-series” based on what has worked in the past when it comes to coming up with new ideas and always having to one-up themselves.

“I believe it is similar to every other company in that if you have a successful product that customers want, you want to keep producing more of it. You will see how it works in the Abandoned series and the Asking Billionaires For Things series. Obviously, you don’t want to go overboard and turn your channel into just that, but you do need to give the viewer what they want a lot of the time if you want to keep doing what you’re doing.”

“We’ll schedule a video that we know [will work] every three weeks, such as an Abandoned video that we know will get a lot of views but is also fun to make. Then, in between, we’ll do things we really want to do and advocate for ones that will help people learn more about us.”

Putting Yourself Out there as a YouTuber

Putting yourself out there is difficult at any time, but it’s particularly difficult early on when you have little validation. Furthermore, not everything you create will be gold.

“It’s difficult to know when to promote yourself. If you have a product that you feel strongly about, such as ‘People must see this.’ This is fantastic, and they are losing out if they don’t see it.’ It’s not as if you’re thinking, ‘Oh, I hope they see it so I can profit from it.’ You genuinely want to assist and inspire others. It doesn’t feel selfish to do it; in truth, it feels very selfless. So there you have it, this gift. We sincerely hope you enjoy it.”

As an entrepreneur or a creator, however, you will still have to face those fears. According to Matt, the best way to defeat them is to work relentlessly: “I believe the only way to do all of this without being depressed is to make the next video better than the last, to push it to the media harder than ever, and to get more friends to post it. Every day, I’m really going to work harder.”

Building a Tribe on Youtube (And Dealing With “Haters”)

Yes Theory has a few hundred thousand subscribers, which isn’t as large as other YouTubers’ millions, but the level of interaction they get is exceptional.

Their admirers adore them. Some of them even frequent the comments section to express their dissatisfaction with their lack of additional resources. And Yes Theory does a fantastic job of listening to their fans and reacting to them.

That wasn’t always the case, however. Every developer has to deal with trolls, haters, and negative feedback. That is the entrance fee.

“When it comes to haters, we’ve had them since the beginning.” That’s just a fact of life. You won’t get very far if you don’t become immune to it quickly. That goes beyond YouTube, as everyone can tell you.”

Matt, on the other hand, remembers how much of the worst hatred he had to contend with was offline and early on.

“It was more dealing with family and friends asking, ‘What the hell are you doing?'” says the author. You’re a 23-year-old man who has graduated from college, is well-educated, and is launching a YouTube channel with no subscribers. Many of your mates have real jobs and are earning a lot of money.’ You’re in a bad mood. You’re uploading videos with a total of 200 views.”

The idea that they chose something where they could lose themselves in the process each and every time kept them going.

“Right now, we’re taking things one step at a time.” I’m just one step ahead. And we never stop to consider how difficult it is to live with just five people on a YouTube page.”

“When I look around a venue, I think to myself, ‘Wow, this is maybe 20 people.’ It appears to be quite a variety. Then you consider the possibility of 50,000 people watching a single video. When we got our first thousand views, we were completely taken aback. “That’s 1,000 *expletive* views from all over the world!” we exclaimed. You’re kidding, right? That is the best thing I have ever seen!”

This level of enthusiasm can be seen every time they share an achievement with their audience, like when they reached 30,000 subscribers.

However, according to Matt, the statistics have no bearing on the moments when people share how Yes Theory has impacted their lives.

“It’s great if we get a million views or ten million subscribers, but it’s even better when a kid from Cairo drives all the way to the pyramids, through the tourist line, through security, just to see us in Egypt and tell us that we inspired him—better that’s than anything else in the world.” It’s what everyone refers to as ‘intention.’ Having a sense of mission is unquestionably what keeps you alive.”

However, they must make money in order to continue providing more material to their audience.

Ad income from YouTube alone isn’t enough to feed a family of four.

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Being Your Own Influencer to Make Money on Youtube

With such a large following, there are several ways to make money on YouTube to help their project grow.

It’s all about being innovative with how you see yourself as a YouTuber, which for Matt and the others meant drawing on their experiences in more conventional forms of entrepreneurship, especially influencer marketing.

“When I was running the streetwear label, it wasn’t particularly special. Every day, it seems as if thousands of people are launching new clothing businesses. I was looking at how to get the product out there, how to get people to know about it, and other such stuff. I kept reading the same thing: you need celebrities or influencers to wear your product and promote it. You’re now on the charts. If that’s the case, it’s legal.”

“I began sending my product to everyone and anyone. I sent it to actors and influencers, especially in Montreal. At festivals, I did stuff with musicians. When we started making these videos, we thought to ourselves, “Why don’t we just become those people?” That way, we’ll never have to beg someone to put on a shirt again. We have hundreds of thousands of people willing to listen and hear us out if we want to encourage something. That’s the plan: you just miss the move in the middle.”

In reality, the guys from Yes Theory went above and beyond by creating a Shopify store called Fan of a Fan to help other YouTubers get into the merch game. They want to bring on more influencers to help, as well as look at other products they might launch as part of the Yes Theory media empire they’re forming.

They also do the occasional sponsored video, being cautious and imaginative not to bombard their audience with advertisements or “sell-out” in order to allow for further sponsorship deals. They understand that they can’t stop it, however, they want to do it in a way that is respectful of their audience.

“I completely understand selling out because we won’t have Exxon Mobile as a sponsor. It will be a brand that we like and are familiar with.”

Read: How to download YouTube videos on iPhone and Mac

Finally: Saying No (Occasionally)

Every entrepreneurial journey begins with a resounding “YES!” whether it’s a YouTube channel like Yes Theory, a startup, or a blog. However, the willingness to say “no” to such things keeps it alive.

They now say no to a lot of the stuff that most people their age do (and that Matt admits he used to do) for Yes Theory: “To be frank, we decline a lot of invitations to parties. We don’t have a lot of parties. We work so hard, particularly in LA, that we don’t feel the need to go out with our friends and get wasted or do something like that.”

“No” means making some sacrifices, such as living a minimalist lifestyle to bootstrap your company, declining a Friday night out to edit a film, avoiding negative people, or even putting your smaller dreams on hold in order to pursue your larger ones.

Nonetheless, we are confronted with life-changing and day-changing decisions and moments in which we deny ourselves satisfaction rather than responding to our gut with a positive ‘yes.’

That’s what the Yes Theory is all about, and without that three-letter phrase, none of what you’ve just read will exist.

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