When i first started blogging as an angsty teenager, I would never imagine where I’d be today. I started a blog when I was 14 years old on Xanga. It was where I ranted about anything from Britney Spears to that boy I had a crush on. Now, as a 25-year-old, this is what I do for a living and to be completely honest, it’s a bit surreal. It’s surreal because I was raised in the Internet Age. I remember logging into AOL and hearing that all-too-familiar rhythmic beeping sound as my router struggled to get me online. I remember taking web design classes where we had to use FrontPage to design websites about whatever we wanted. I remember logging into NeoPets in the library after school and thinking it was the coolest thing ever. I grew up in the age where the Internet was just becoming accessible in homes and it was a Wild West of new and scary issues. At the time, having a blog like the ones I had made me unique. One of the few, young queer voices that people could latch onto and follow. I enjoyed having a blog, and then I moved into YouTube in 2005, when the website was just starting. 10 years later, here I am, making a living making videos and to be honest, my life is a roller coaster.
In the 2000s, the Internet was so different and so unpredictable, and honestly while so much about it has changed, so much of it really hasn’t. What gets me so much at this strange phase I’m entering is being recognized. I get recognized more and more and it’s always a combination of terrifying and flattering. For the longest time, I made a point of hiding myself; Keeping my life distinctly separated to the point where people would never recognize me. But it’s silly to think that you can do what I do not get recognition at some point. I discuss this a lot but my audience has grown and is growing really rapidly. I have never wanted this much attention. I’ve always enjoyed my hardcore 50 or so fans that enjoyed my content and connected with me in an intimate way. Now I have so many followers, I can’t keep up with them and I’ve stopped reading my YouTube comments past the first hour or so that a video goes live. I remember the first person that recognized me: A girl named Allina. She was such a sweetheart and totally made my day. She met me at Comic Con and when she got to speak to me after my panel, she told me that my content had changed her life. That really touched me. What a lot of people don’t understand about me is I am a very insular person. I work extremely hard and once I’m finished with something, I instantly want to jump up and do something else. To be honest, writing this is pretty therapeutic for me. This is almost a breather for me and I know this post will be at least 1,000 words when I’m finished with it. Because I work so hard and very rarely look up and look around me, I never really look at my whole body of work and really recognize just how much content I have and the hard work that goes into it. Right now I”m in the process of doing some frame animation for my next Everyday Feminism video. That’s extremely intense and a lot of hard work, but I’m determined to do it and I know that I will do it. And I know when I’m finished, I’ll maybe take a day and then I’ll be right back to editing or writing a new video. What I mean is I don’t always take a moment to recognize who’s watching me and really appreciate how many people are consuming my content. I know I get positive emails but I rarely read them. There’s something, however, about just going out to the city and having someone almost cry when they run into me. I still don’t quite know how to respond to that honestly. I don’t view myself as a celebrity or really anyone that’s important. I’m just a girl who loves to blog. But I’m coming to accept that hey….maybe I am a big deal? It was hard to type that last sentence honestly. It’s so hard for me to view myself in that context and I think that a lot of that has to do with not really knowing my worth.
Understanding my worth is something that has been extremely hard for me as a person who does things that she loves for a living. When I graduated from college, I fell into a bit of a funk. I worked a minimum wage job at an Animation Studio and was just happy to be there. When that job didn’t work out, I started doing freelance work and got my first Children’s Illustration gig. This was my first real freelance job and I had no clue what I was doing. When I gave the man I was working for my rate, I told him it would be $15 an hour. He sorta acted like that was too rich for his blood, but eventually agreed to pay that rate. By the end I finished the book for him, I was paid around 6,000 dollars for the book and while this money helped me move out of my parents house, it took me a while to realize that it really wasn’t a lot of money for the work I was doing. Keep in mind, this book was 45 pages with around 40 or so characters that I designed. Full backgrounds, and full colors. It was a lot of work. A lot of sleepless nights, but I was happy to simply be paid for my time. I accepted it and I was honestly grateful. I worked the same rate on the second book that I worked on and made about the same amount at the end of the day. Neither of those books have been published and both of the Authors refuse to have a cohesive conversation with me. From their perspective, they paid too much. But listen, I have a degree in Character Animation from one of the top schools for animation in America (Cal Arts) and what I’m realizing and what I’m learning is that I’ve been selling myself short. I have loans to pay back and food to put on the table. I live in a shared house with about 3 other people (and one girl who doesn’t pay rent). I’m 25 years old and I feel so behind in life and I know that a large part of that is not knowing my worth. Not drawing the line in the sand and saying this is what my rate is, take it or leave it. When I spoke to one of the men I used to work with, he told me that I should be charging somewhere around 45 dollars an hour. That rate makes me extremely happy and the concept of being paid that much makes me feel really good, but at the same time there’s this nagging thing in the back of my mind that keeps telling me that I”m not worth it. And what is this? What is that thing that keeps telling me that I don’t deserve to be paid enough to afford to move out of this place and get my own place? What is it that tells me that my work doesn’t deserve that? I don’t know honestly I guess it’s self-doubt, but I’m confident in what i do.I may not know much but as an artist, I know that I am more that good. But I don’t feel like I deserve it.
I ended up getting into a funk after finishing my second book and jumped into doing YouTube videos seriously. I had a bunch of YouTube videos but they weren’t organized, they were quite random and they had no cohesion. So i started writing scripts and thinking things out to their conclusion and my channel changed drastically. Eventually I connected with other Youtubers, collaborated with them and now here I am producing videos for two amazing websites and in so many ways I was pushed into an online spotlight. A few weeks ago, Google flew me out to Charleston,South Carolina to discuss my YouTube channel with community organizers. It was a surreal experience. It was like a deity from the vast land of the Internet reached out and touched me. However, meeting people who actually worked at Google was surprisingly pretty chill and I loved meeting so many amazing black people who worked for Google. That event set off a tidal waves of people approaching me for speaking events. Most of these people give me their rate for speaking and honestly their rates, at least for now, are always really nice. When I say nice, I mean, my rent it paid probably 3 or 4 times over. However, today, i spoke with a college that wanted to book me and when they asked me to give them my rate… I hesitated. Speaking is still so new to me. I know I’m good at it, I’ve been on enough panels at this point, but it’s still pretty new to me. At least with art I had somewhat of an idea of what i was supposed to charge. When it comes to this, I’m pretty much lost. I’m still fascinated by the fact that people even want me to speak to begin with. I told them about what everyone else was paying and eventually I gave them the lowest I’ve ever charged for speaking. Not to be tacky, but that rate pays my rent once and gets me a few groceries. The fact that they’re paying for everything else, though, makes me pretty ok with that rate honestly. When I told my boyfriend about this, he told me that I needed to sell myself more and to not really be so straightforward about my lowest rate. I am a very honest person by default, so I said it didn’t feel right to do that, but he just laughed at me. My boyfriend, however, is a white man and I find that confidence is easy when you’re white and male. I’m confident, but this is all still such a gray area for me. I’m terrible at negotiating or asking for more. I know I deserve it, but asking for it is so scary. One thing I’ve learned though is that if you present a rate to a costumer and the customer wants to work with you, they’ll be willing to pay.
It’s strange that I have the conversations I have and get paid to do so, but this is my life now and I love it. I love that I was able to take something so silly and turn it into a career. One thing I have to continue to remind myself of daily is that my time is valuable and my voice is valuable. I hope that I can grow to the point where I won’t feel apprehensive about asking to be paid for my time and voice.