After Ten Years In The YouTube Game iJustine Is Still On Top

Justine Ezarik, best know as iJustine, is a YouTube personality, writer, actress and model. She is one of the most successful YouTubers of all time, with over 775 million views across her YouTube channels since 2006. She’s one of the top 1000 Twitter users, with over 1.8 million followers, and has 1.3 million followers on her Instagram account. Justine was one of the first lifecasters, communicating directly with her fans about a number of different topics: gaming, tech, cooking, and travel. She’s written a New York Times best selling book, I, Justine: An Analog Memoir and even advised Arnold Schwarzenegger on The Celebrity Apprentice.

There’s not much that Justine can’t do.

I was lucky enough to sit down with her and we talked about her career, influencer marketing, the future of tech, and what advice she has for the next generation of influencers.

Tom Ward: I was talking to an influencer agent and he was talking about a travel vlogger he worked with that was so afraid of losing his audience that he obsessively created content: Shooting every day, traveling non-stop, editing every night and promoting on social hours every day. He eventually fizzled out and had a breakdown. How have you avoided this?

Justine Ezarik: I think everyone has had that kind of burnout. It’s something that I don’t even really talk about that much because it probably happened to me three, four years ago. I’ve been doing this for eleven years now and I always enjoyed making videos but I eventually hit that point. I mean I was still shooting and editing everything myself. I was running like four channels. I was posting like four gameplay videos a day and then on Fridays I’d do a highlight video. I’d also post a video on my main channel every other day. I’d do a daily, unedited video on my other channel and then I was posting behind the scenes stuff that didn’t make it on my main channel. So I was doing like 50 videos a week and I was going crazy. So I slowly pared back my content…I kind of stopped and asked myself, “What did I like doing when I started and what do I like doing now?” I like video games, I like tech, I like travel, I like my dog, I like food. I’m like, “That’s what I’m going to focus on.”

Ward: When you made that decision did you lose followers? Was there pushback from fans saying, “We want more content? We want daily vids.”

Ezarik: I don’t think so. You gain fans, you lose fans. You’re gonna make some mad but the key thing is to never stop and to keep making things that you like and enjoy it.

Ward: What are you? You don’t fit in any one category. Are you a beauty blogger, a gamer, a travel blogger? What do you call yourself?

Ezarik: Laughs. I don’t know! I don’t feel like I’ve ever fit into a specific mold ever since I was very young. That’s what so cool about YouTube is that you can do whatever you want.

Ward: What’s your most popular content now versus when you started?

Ezarik: I’ve always loved tech. Loved Apple. That’s what I started vlogging about. I just started making more of that kind of content. Then I started to make content that I thought that people were going to like and it wasn’t even something that I was into. So I kind of went back to what I liked in the beginning. I was like, “Sorry guys. I forgot you liked this stuff.”

Ward: When you see your peers that you came up with, that you started out with, at places like VidCon, is it kind of like a high school reunion?

Ezarik: The rate of the Internet and the rate things change, this is like a retirement home now for some of us. Laughs. We’ve been doing this for so long. But it’s great because people that were doing great things then, like Philip DeFrancoRhett & Link, those were people that I looked up to then, and they are still absolutely killing it today! And it’s great because they still have the passion that they did when they started out.

Ward: Why do you think you’ve had the longevity where a lot of the people that you came up with had to stop and get regular jobs?

Ezarik: I think it’s all about if you still enjoy doing it. Are you having fun or has it completely destroyed your soul? Are you able to handle the criticism? It’s not an easy thing at all.

Ward: How long did it take to assemble a team? Like when did you have to start hiring people? When you hit a million subscribers?

Ezarik: I really started bringing people on when I couldn’t handle it anymore. I mean, I still shoot most of the videos and do the editing myself. I’m sitting there for hours editing the vids myself. But I have a PR company and a management company. I use some editors for some of the cooking videos because they can be so long. But I feel like I’ve been a businessperson long before I started doing this because I was a graphic designer. I was freelance, so I had my own sort of business. While I was doing that, I was doing YouTube. I started posting stuff on YouTube to show people that I could edit for them. So I basically was putting myself in the videos as a demo reel so that people would hire me as an editor. And now here we are! I’m like my own client, which is probably more difficult. Laughs. All of this is a lot of stuff that people don’t even know. Like I spend a lot of time sitting at my computer. I wrote almost my entire book on a plane, which is great, because I couldn’t go anywhere. I had nothing else to do.

Ward: What about women in tech? What about the girl out there that says, “I’m not into makeup or fashion or whatever else I’m supposed to be into.” What’s your experience been? Is it still a boys club? Are they hating on women in the space?

Ezarik: In gaming I get that a lot. But I want to be like, “I’ve been playing games since before you were born so you’re kind of in my space.” Laughs. But seriously the percentage of women playing games is actually higher than men. Even though they are sometimes playing mobile games, they technically are games. Maybe they’re not vocal about it. I really love Karlie Kloss. She has her Kode With Klossie thing that’s bringing coding to women. I love everything that she’s doing to help inspire younger girls. She’s got a non-traditional thing she’s doing. I mean, she’s a beautiful model but she’s like, “Listen I love to program and I want to teach you how to do it too.” I think we need more of that: Women being vocal and being role models that aren’t the traditional ones that they have now.

Ward: I just read a survey of young people that said their number one career aspiration is to be a YouTuber. What advice, the good and bad, do you have for those starting out?

Ezarik: I was just thinking about this college graduation that I went to. Michelle Obama was there. It was crazy. It was for all these college kids that were the first ones in their family to graduate college. I was thinking that when I was in their shoes, graduating college, my job wasn’t even in existence. Something that I’m excited about is that girl out there, who wants to be a YouTuber, what job is she going to have that isn’t even out there now. So you might aspire to be a YouTuber, but you should aspire to be what the next thing is.

After answering the final question, Justine was ushered away by her publicist to host a panel, followed by more interviews, a meet and greet with fans, and a meeting with a company about a new product. And she still had to shoot and edit videos for her YouTube channel.

Who said this was easy?