There are ways for serious video creators to approach YouTube other than as a full-time job. Though Josh Sundquist has a robust channel on the platform that features vlogs, raps, and collaborations with other YouTubers like Grace Helbig, Hannah Hart, and TomSka, he considers video-making more of a “a really intense hobby,” which he explained to Rhett & Link on this week’s “Ear Biscuits.”
So what is Sundquist’s “primary” job? Most of his income comes from motivational speaking. To give some background, Sundquist was diagnosed with Ewing’s sarcoma, a rare kind of bone cancer, at age nine, which led to him getting his leg amputated. Several years later, he began race skiing, and in 2006 he joined the US Paralympic Ski Team (he was also named to the US Amputee Soccer Team). He published his bestselling book, “Just Don’t Fall,” in 2010.
Where does YouTube fit into that equation? Sundquist describes it as part of the triad of his career. Though on its own he doesn’t really see it as a job, if someone where to ask him what he did for a living, Sundquist would answer, “I give motivational speeches, I write books, and I make YouTube videos.”
There’s a certain “symbiosis,” as Sundquist put it, to those elements. He’s often hired to speak somewhere because people discovered him on YouTube. On the flip-side, people will read his book or hear him speak before learning he makes videos for YouTube, where they’ll wind up as his subscribers.
In fact, Sundquist started using YouTube as a part of his career to promote “Just Don’t Fall” in 2010. He made a video called “The Amputee Rap,” and it wound up getting lots of views. “It was kind of like people were more excited about that than the book,” Sundquist said, which surprised him in part because he spent years writing the book while he made that video in just a couple of weeks. From there, Sundquist realized the power of the platform, “finding out that there’s this whole world out there of YouTube” and discovering major creators like Rhett & Link.
Though it may have marked his turning point in regards to YouTube, “The Amputee Rap” wasn’t Sundquist’s first video on there. Besides some of his recorded motivational speeches, Sundquist had made a vlog a couple years back (not knowing, then, that it was a “vlog”) about a funny situation that happened to him in a bathroom at a black-tie gala. He was in the men’s room, trying desperately to tie a solid bowtie, when another man walked in and complimented Sundquist on what Sundquist believed was his bowtie tying. As it turns out, the guy was complimenting Sundquist’s ability to live life with one leg, which explained the facial expression he made when Sundquist noted (about wearing a non-clip-on bowtie), “Tonight I’ve been feeling like it’s just not even worth it.”
Weeks later, the misunderstanding dawned on Sundquist. He’d thought, “I have to tell someone about this story, and I had a webcam…I was like, maybe I’ll just record this onto my webcam and put it on the internet.”
That was in 2008. When Sundquist saw the success of his amputee rap video in 2010, he also took a look at how many views this initial vlog had gotten — it was in the thousands. This made Sundquist think that he could keep making vlogs, and that people would actually enjoy watching them. The rest is history, which he further describes on “Ear Biscuits with Rhett & Link.”