Although he’s only 24, Joey Graceffa has already been his own boss for five years.
With bright eyes and perfectly coiffed purple hair, the young YouTube star tells Business Insider that he created his own moment of reckoning at 19, when he decided to ditch his home in Massachusetts to move to Los Angeles.
He and a high school friend had already started raking in hundreds of dollars a month making YouTube videos, so he decided to drop-out of college to start making video blogs (“vlogs”) full time.
“It had to really become my job,” he says. “I loved it, but I was reliant on the money I made off of YouTube to support me. I had to really put the effort in and make it into something.”
Fast-forward, and today Graceffa makes tens of thousands of dollars a month, instead of hundreds. Discounting the sums he pulls in from sponsorships (he’s worked with brands like Top-Shop, Lego, and H&R Block) and revenue from his recently released memoir, the young star makes an estimated $365,000 a year.
And although he loves his job, he admits that his schedule feels totally exhausting.
“As a YouTuber, most of your life revolves around YouTube,” he said. “It’s not something that you get to have a break from.”
What he does all day
Because he posts a new video every day, most of his morning is spent either shooting or editing the footage he filmed the day before. Graceffa’s catalogue includes clips of him going on adventures, hanging with his adorable dogs, collaborating with other YouTube stars, making well-produced music videos or short films, or simply talking, ranting, and laughing into the camera.
Once a new video goes live, he really puts his focus on the comments and on his Twitter feed.
“It’s exhausting trying to handle every social media platform,” he says. “Constantly having to keep up with social media is the hardest part.”
Graceffa opts not to use Snapchat or Vine, because he’s already busy enough with Twitter (2.66 million followers), Instagram (3.4 million followers), Facebook (1.3 million likes), and YouTube comments (his two channels have more than 6.5 million subscribers).
A few years ago, Graceffa filmed a season of “The Amazing Race” with fellow YouTuber Meghan Camarena, and he says that it was one of the first times he felt like he had a vacation from social media because the TV show took away his cell phone and internet access every evening.
He found the break refreshing, even though there were “definitely some phantom buzzes.”
In between likes, retweets, and responses, he spends his time figuring out what the next day’s video is going to be.
“It can be very frustrating,” he says. “Some days I’ll go to Toys’R’Us to get inspiration. Or Target. Some days I’ll have collaborations planned. Or some days I’ll just go do an activity and vlog it.”
Here’s a video with fellow YouTube personality Miranda Sings:
But even though it’s tiring, communicating constantly with fans has been a big part of Graceffa’s rise to fame.
Although he doesn’t reel in the kind of insane salaries as some of his YouTube star peers, he’s still the kind of creator “success story” that YouTube business exec Robert Kyncl highlighted during his keynote at the Consumer Electronics Conference in Las Vegas last week. During his speech, Kyncl trotted out the same stat that YouTube often quotes: That a a Variety study conducted last year show that teens idolize YouTubers more than Hollywood celebrities.
As YouTube tries to attract more and more premium TV ad dollars, creators like Graceffa with rabid followers and consist posting schedules mean good business.
“Being your own boss is tough,” Graceffa says. “I mean, it’s very rewarding, but it’s managing your time, managing everything… The daily stuff is very, very tough.”