Having Fun Making a Living

An interview with Viktória László, a Hungarian YouTuber and a YouTube Specialist at Special Effects Media

I have been interested in YouTube and online video for about six years now, but it was only about a year ago that I discovered that this phenomenon doesn’t only exist abroad. For the past year, I have been curiously browsing for Hungarian YouTubers, and about six months ago I found one of Viki’s vlogs. As I watched more of them, I realized that she doesn’t only make videos, but that she also has a job connected to YouTube. When the opportunity arose, I was thrilled to finally meet her and to be able to sit down and have a chat with her at the company’s new office space.

Viki in her “natural habitat,” the new office space of Special Effects Media - photo by author

Viki in her “natural habitat,” the new office space of Special Effects Media – photo by author

I suppose, we should start with the basics. What kind of videos do you make, and what topics are your videos about?

I have two YouTube channels, one of them is a gameplay channel, where you can see me play all kinds of videogames. The other one is a vlog channel which has more diverse content depending on what I happen to be in the mood for. There are many travel vlogs, videos about books and Game of Thrones, and other things, and I have recently started making “favorites of the month” videos.

Do you have a favorite topic or video type?

It changes with time. It happens that I start concentrating more on one of my channels and come up with a bunch of new video ideas at once. For example, I have been neglecting my gaming channel lately, but now I feel a newfound motivation to play again and to record it, and I enjoy it a lot. So there is no ultimate favorite; it varies.

How do you explain to people what your job is when they ask?

Usually if I tell people that I work as a YouTube Specialist at a networking company, they ask what that means, and I say that I manage YouTube channels. Many people react by starting to list Hungarian YouTubers they know like Szirmai, Dancsó or Sirius, so they seem to understand. However, when it comes to the older generation, like grandparents or my parents’ friends, they have no idea about how YouTube works, so I usually just say that I work on the Internet, and they always seem very amused by that. There definitely is a layer of people who have absolutely no idea about this whole YouTube thing. They don’t know what channels are, what it could mean to manage them, or what YouTube’s structure is like, that there is money involved or that there are people who do this as a job.

Yes, that is exactly why I thought we should start with these questions. So, more specifically: what does a YouTube Specialist do? How should we imagine you at work?

Well, this is where I work; this is our office. My daily job consists of looking out for the approximately 30 channels that I manage. I always watch their new videos to see if everything is okay about what they put up. We have a checklist of steps that are necessary to make the channels as good as possible. For example, every video needs to have a good-looking custom thumbnail, a good title and an optimal description so that more people can find it. In addition to that, there are many more things we do here that take up most of our time. What I am working hard on at the moment is E-Sport Fest, happening tomorrow. I have invited video creators to this event and gave them tickets to give away to their viewers, and I am coordinating that at the moment. Besides that, we have recently started to organize this year’s OVS (Online Video Stars) Festival for the summer as well. Another one of our own little projects have been making a sign-in video for a Google Internship Program to show them what we do. So there’s a lot happening around here all the time.

That does sound like a lot! I assume you need a calendar to keep up with everything.

Yes, I started to keep a very detailed calendar about three months ago, and I also have to start a to-do list soon to keep up with everything. Right now, everything is very busy, but I will have many things done next week, and hopefully it will get easier after that.

I wouldn’t have guessed that there are so many things going on at the same time here.

Yes, and also another part of our job, like you’ve just seen, is providing a studio and video equipment for our partners for filming their videos, and giving them technical help if they need it. That’s what we’re here for: to care for them and look after them.

Do you usually look for new partners, or do they approach you first?

So far, mostly we have been the ones who approach them, but we have a contact form on our website, and lately there have been more people with good quality channels contacting us through there.

After hearing about all these things that constitute your job, I don’t suppose you consider making your own videos as your job. So is making videos only a hobby?

Yes, it’s a hobby, absolutely. Sometimes I hope to do some editing in my working hours, but it never happens. So I edit my own videos in my free time.

So you don’t edit your videos here at all.

No, but what I do sometimes is that I upload a video at home before I leave, and finish typing in the title and the description when I arrive at the office. But there is usually no time for my own videos during work time. Though making my own videos is helpful in my work because I know many people in the community, and they know me as well, and I can bring in new channels to our network this way or do collaborations to help people who are only starting out. For example, there is Ádi’s cooking channel called “Ebédszünet” [i.e. Lunch break] that he started about three months ago, and he asked me to be in one of his videos. I was happy to collaborate, and I shared his video with my viewers afterwards, helping his channel gather up new views and subscribers.

Viki in her Nexus 5 Unboxing video

Viki in her Nexus 5 Unboxing video

Do you earn money from making videos as well? Is it good business?

Yes, I do. I get money for the advertisements that appear on my videos, but to be honest, it is a very small amount. The situation is much better abroad, where you can earn a normal living wage with this.

So it depends on your location as well, not just on the number of views?

Yes, and it also depends on what kinds of companies are advertising on YouTube at the time, and a lot of other things, but basically we can say that in Hungary, we make about a tenth of what YouTubers make in the US, for example. Many people disregard us for earning money with YouTube videos, but I don’t think it’s a big deal that I get enough money in a month to buy one new game that I can play with in my videos. However, there are already some YouTubers in Hungary who are generating enough views to earn a living, especially because they tend to get sponsors as well. But the business opportunities appear in the long run, and at the beginning it’s just pocketmoney.

Approximately, from what number of views can we say it’s beneficial, or worth it?

That’s a hard question because it depends on what one wants. The fact that I have as many subscribers (14,083) and views (2,211,685) as I do is very much worth it for me because if, for instance, my mouse breaks, I have money to buy a new one. Or I can buy the game I want to play with in my videos. But there are people who do this on a commercial scale, and there are people who want to make a living out of this, and that is much harder because then you have to produce heavy numbers. Very many people do this as a living in the US, but even they don’t only live off of what YouTube transfers onto their bank accounts, but also from sponsors and merchandise for example.

Let’s talk about how you arrived at your current job. Does what you studied have anything in connection with what you do now?

I graduated in 2013 as a military and security engineer at the National University of Public Service. (laughs) So that has nothing to do with my current job at all. My degree is just simply sitting in the drawer and that’s it.

And you started making YouTube videos towards the end of your studies, right?

Yes, it was during my last semester that I started making videos.

Weren’t you too busy for that in your last semester?

Actually, I finished a semester later than expected, so I didn’t have any classes, only a final exam at the end. At the time I was doing a vocational training in software development, but I didn’t really like it, so I never even finished it. The thing is that I didn’t really know what my next step should be after school, and I started this training just to be doing something. And then I started making YouTube videos on the side, but I didn’t have any idea then that it would eventually become my job.

I know that your younger brother had started making YouTube videos before you did. Was he the one who inspired you to start making your own videos?

Well, my brother had already been making videos for about nine months when our family found out about it. I had already been watching foreign YouTubers, and a few Hungarians, but I had had no idea that there were more Hungarians out there doing this. Then through my brother, I found a few more Hungarian gamer channels. The way I started is a funny story. One day my brother and I were doing some mundane chores around the house, and we were chatting to keep ourselves amused, and he was telling me about his number of views and that he was at PlayIT [a Hungarian gaming expo], and somebody asked for his autograph, and stuff. And I was making fun of him like “Wow, really?! Then I’ll make a Sims video, sure there’s gonna be someone who’s going to watch that.” And he said, “Yes, sure there will be someone.” And then sort of as a joke, I made my first Sims video as a reaction to that, and indeed, there were people who watched it. Then it kind of caught my fancy and I was enjoying it a lot, and I kept doing it. When my brother saw after a few weeks that I was still really doing it, and it wasn’t only a joke, and I seemed to be doing it well, he shared my channel on his facebook page with his followers.

When you were little, did you have any aspirations to become famous or to be in front of the camera or anything that is close to what you do now?

No, there wasn’t anything that is similar to what I do now. I had ideas of becoming a vet and an archeologist, and things like that. Then again, recently, as we’ve been watching our old home videos back, I saw how very hyperactive I had been in front of the camera; I was dancing and singing and I always wanted my parents to record me. I didn’t remember that I was like that, but it seems like that was part of me back then already. However, I still have stage-fright in front of the camera; I’m still working on that.

Interesting. I thought it would go away after a while. Never mind, all that matters is that it’s not visible.

(laughs) Thanks!

Your first YouTube channel was a gameplay channel, your first video ever was a Sims video, and you’ve played with dozens of other games on your channel since then. Where does your passion for gaming originate from?

I think somewhere in my childhood somebody in my family had already planted the seeds, especially because we used to play a lot of Nintendo games; my grandparents still play on the Nintendo to this day. One of my family members – I can’t even remember who exactly – taught me all the little tricks and secrets of Super Mario 3, for example. And so I kept playing, and when we got our first computer, I played games on there too; I remember my brother was always sitting next to me, watching me play, and soon he started to throw tantrums that he wanted to play too. Soon, we had two computers and both of us were playing games, and then at some point he overtook me, presumably because he was still in elementary school, while I was finishing high school, so he had more time to play. So, he’s lucky that he was born later. He had more time to play computer games in his youth.

Back to the present, and to your job: what are the best parts of it?

To that, I would say that most of the time I am just having fun. No, but really. It’s part of my job to watch the others’ videos, and that is like “hallelujah!” (laughs) And just the fact that I can see these guys [other YouTubers] so often, and I can help them just gives me so much. I feel like I am part of the community, but I can do more through this job than if I was just making videos.

Why videos? Why this job exactly? I suppose it was a gradual process.

Yes, initially I was just watching YouTube videos, and then I started making them myself, and I got to see how many other people were doing this in Hungary as well; I started to get to know them and saw what an exciting community it was and it was entirely different from what I had been used to. I had no idea that these networking companies existed in Hungary when I reached a point in my life where I didn’t know what to do next. I had a diploma but no motivation to go into that direction. And that is when I saw this job advertisement, and immediately thought: “Oh my gosh, this is awesome; I could be doing this all day!” And actually, I was already sort of doing this all day, but now I also get money for it, which is much better.

What do you consider as a success in your job? When do you feel successful?

Well, there are many moments like that. For example when I start working with someone, and I see that their channel is really progressing and growing, and they are reaching 1.000-2.000-5.000-10.000 subscribers. For instance, I picked up someone with 2.000 subscribers last September, and now they have over 40.000 subscribers. And that is incredible! I know that it is mainly their achievement, but at the beginning I helped them a lot, and answered many of their questions, and I still talk to them several times a week about what is going on with their channel, and I try to help wherever I can. And it’s a great feeling to know that I could help with their success.

So you kind of gave them a push and supported them.

Yes, exactly. And it’s great to follow along and see someone who I picked up in such an early stage and insisted on how awesome their content was reach such high numbers, because that shows that I was right. It’s always mind-blowing when I look at a number and wonder when that happened.

Since you’re kind of an expert on the topic, let me ask you a YouTube question. How do you find the Hungarian YouTube scene compared to the British or the American ones? What differences do you see?

First of all, the biggest difference is that in Hungary we have a huge amount of unexploited areas. So far, most people have been making gameplay videos. Now, I’m beginning to see that a pretty solid community has started to form around beauty vloggers as well. We don’t have many vloggers. We have one quality cooking channel. We don’t have news channels, crafts channels… we only have one tech channel that has consistent and quality content… There are so many possibilities that if I had all the time and money in the world, I would start 10 new channels at this very moment. It’s weird that everybody’s saying that it’s not worth starting a YouTube channel anymore. That is completely nonsense! It’s even worth it to start a gameplay channel if you can bring an interesting personality or a twist to the topic. People are not going for the topic, but for the personality. You might be playing with the same game, but you do it differently. There’s this new game that my buddy, Diesel is playing with on his channel, and his viewers who also watch me are already asking me to play with it as well. They are willing to watch through the same game twice just to see it in the presentation of a certain person. Abroad, there are a lot more channels of course, and it is much harder to find an area where you can come up with something new. But if someone really feels an inner motivation to make videos, and starts doing so, the most important thing is that they keep doing it because sooner or later something’s going to come out of it. Unlike someone who starts only to make money and build a business out of it. That usually doesn’t work because these people can’t persist for as long as it would take them to find the success they are looking for.

It’s good to hear that it’s not too late to join the game yet. I have been contemplating making videos for a long time, and I know some of my friends have as well. I am, however, very hesitant of putting myself out there on the internet so publicly, where everyone can watch whatever I put up, and I am sure I’m not the only one.

Viki and me after the interview - photo from instagram.com/malnaspite

Viki and me after the interview – photo from instagram.com/malnaspite

Yes, it is very hard to step over that line. From the other side, I can tell you that it’s great over here, but there are situations when I find out that for example one of my high school acquaintances has found my videos, and then I often feel embarrassed. If there was a box on YouTube that said “people I know won’t see this,” I would definitely tick that box. But then again, I think about this a lot, that I find it so much harder to assert myself in front of people who I know, but not really care about compared to strangers, and that’s not good. I either don’t even have anything to do with those people anymore, or if I do, they will tell me what they think anyway. When I started making gameplay videos, I had a university acquaintance who kept telling me that I was wasting my talent, and I should rather be looking for a proper job that has something to do with my degree, and that hurt my feelings a lot, and I even contemplated quitting. But where would I be today if I had given it up then? On the other hand, I also have an acquaintance to whom I sent my first video when I put it up, and to whom I always send all my videos, and they love it. Whatever I show them, they say they liked it. If that person says they don’t like something I put up, I know that it’s probably really not that good.

We should listen to those who encourage us. If we find something enjoyable and exciting, then why not give it a go?

Yes, and making videos gives me so much. Who cares if someone dislikes one of my videos or says something insulting about me, when those who follow me and like what I do make me so happy. Actually, three months ago, I received a very good job offer in connection with my degree. I literally had the opportunity to become a secret agent, but I would’ve had to give all this YouTube thing up. And my reaction was: there is not an amount of money for which I would give this up. And that made me realize that this really is what I need to be doing. If I enjoy it so much, what’s the worst-case scenario? Some acquaintances of mine might say I’m an idiot. So be it. I’ll still enjoy doing what I do.

You can find Viki on YouTube at https://www.youtube.com/VictoriasGames and https://www.youtube.com/malnaspitevlog.

This interview was conducted and written at the end of March, 2015.

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