What It’s Really Like Being a YouTube Star

In our 9–5 series, we ask boss babes what a day in their work lives entails. This week, YouTube sensations Grace Helbig and Hannah Hart give us a glimpse into their daily grind as digital phenoms and movie stars (their new film Electra Woman & Dyna Girl is out now)!

grace helbig and hannah hart

(instagram.com/gracehelbig)

Age: Hannah is 29; Grace is 30

Education: Hannah has undergraduate degrees in English literature and Japanese language from UC Berkeley; Grace graduated summa cum laude from Ramapo’s School of Contemporary Arts

Length of time at current gig: Hannah has been on YouTube for five years; Grace has been on YouTube for nine years

What do you do first thing in the morning?

Hannah: I’m a morning person. I make a glass of warm water, and I add lemon to it; that’s my little routine. Then I like to take a walk, if I can. I love walking, it’s just what I do.

Grace: The first thing I do is wake up and watch Hannah’s Snapchats, of her being up for hours before me. I go through the new Snapchat filters, make quirky commentary on them, and Snapchat my dog. Then I like to sit in bed with my laptop, and start going through all socials that come in that are high priority. And then I go make coffee. What a millennial morning!

How did you feel about the jobs you had before starting YouTube as a career?

H: Before being a YouTuber, I worked as a proofreader at a [Japanese] translation firm. I really did like that job. I think of it as white-collar mining, because you’d have these massive stacks of papers [to dig through]. And it wasn’t just in Japanese, they’d be like, “Hey, we need you to check to make sure all the numbers are right for this German washing machine patent.” I’m somebody that loves stimulation, so it was hard, because you really have to pay attention to look for errors, so you can’t think about anything else. So in a small way, it was like a living hell.

G: When I first graduated college, I interned a bunch, and I worked at a Viacom channel called The N that then got merged into Teen Nick in the end. When it was The N, it had old-school Degrassi; I used to get all the dailies sent to me as an intern to categorize them, and this was before I knew the extent of the fandom, so I was just like, “Oh, yeah, this show.” I really loved [the job], but then I got hired eventually into their project management core. I had just moved to Brooklyn, and was doing comedy at the People’s Improv Theatre, and really wanted to audition and make things. So I quit the job to wait tables, so that I had a more flexible schedule to go on auditions. I think my parents were gutted because I was saying, “No, I don’t want it” to the job my college education had gotten me. But the reality was, they gave me this courtesy job because I’d interned so much for them, so I sat in a room all day and did nothing for eight hours. I shared the office with my boss, because there was limited space, and she had a clear view of my computer. I would try and write sketches during the day for my sketch-writing class, but it would be like minimizing and maximizing this window the whole day.

What was the hardest part about building your YouTube followings?

G: The beginning wasn’t that hard because—

H: —there wasn’t a goal.

G: Yeah, and there was no standard set in place. You were just sort of creating for the sake of creating. And enjoying whatever happened after that. If people watched it, that’s amazing. If someone got in touch with for another opportunity because of something you did online, incredible.

H: If you got to collab, that was super-fun.

G: There were no expectations.

H: I do remember, in 2012, Jenna Marbles telling me that I had to pick a day of the week; I had to do weekly. So I said fine, and picked Thursday. That, for me, was so hard to commit to. Now I do two days a week. But it was really hard.

G: It’s like scheduling your creativity.

H: There have just been so many learning curves, in terms of audio, in terms of editing.

G: When I first got into digital creating, I got hired by a website, and I was making videos for them, without knowing that there was this platform called YouTube where creators owned their content. So I was putting my content on this website first, and then putting it over on YouTube, and I started building this audience, but I didn’t own any of my content, and so it felt like I was this fraud on this platform with all these other creators. My channel looked like everyone else’s: it looked like I was just this girl living in my apartment, making videos from home, when really I was being paid a salary.

H: But then Grace’s brand outgrew the other brand, and then we met.

G: Yeah, Hannah was my Jenna, and she told me, “You can’t work with that company, you’ve got to go off on your own.” Me starting my own channel independently was really scary, and also really liberating at the same time. It was cool, but terrifying.

How do you push through and post on those scheduled days when you’re tired, with your channels being so personality-based?

H: It forces you to learn about self-care. Which is awesome. It forces you to take care of yourself, it forces you to regulate your mood and take care of your own emotional management, to create routines and regimes and systems that make it so that you are able to shoot. It’s kind of like that thing when you start smiling and you start to feel better; if you sit back and have good posture, you start to feel more confident. There are certain days where I’m like, “God, the last thing I want to do is shoot anything.” But I have to. And sometimes you walk away from it being like, wow, thank God I did.

G: [There’s] the authenticity or the honesty of, “Hey guys, I have a mental block today, so let’s talk about mental blocks.” I remember, I couldn’t think of anything to do for a video, so I did a stream of consciousness video, where I talk for 20 minutes about nonsense, and [say] whatever comes into my brain, by myself, anything I’m thinking of. Which, for me, was like an improv exercise that you do a lot, where you’re just going, and saying yes to whatever thoughts you have. It was really fun, and people seemed to really like it, because for some weird reason they could follow these thought patterns, or they have [those] moments. People resonate with that human thought of, hey, the thing I normally do, I can’t do right now, because I’m having a moment.

H: But it has to stay the thing you normally do. There’s a temptation, if you have depression or something like that, to every day be like, do you guys want to talk about the void again? But you have to know that about yourself. So maybe, I could do a void video once a year, but I can’t make that my daily.

G: And some people want to make it their daily, and want to talk about that, so it’s really knowing the self-care of it. What’s your balance online? How much do you really want to speak to, and how much do you want to keep for yourself?

H: How much do you want to indulge yourself and how much do you want to challenge yourself?

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