Grace Helbig Talks Gaining Her YouTube Independence

/ Oct 3, 2014


To commemorate the 52 week of “Ear Biscuits,” Rhett & Link re-invited the podcast’s first ever “interesting from the internet” guest, Grace Helbig. Since her initial appearance on the interview podcast, Helbig’s had many major career developments, one of which included leaving My Damn Channel to start her own independent YouTube home, It’sGrace.

Helbig’s independent YouTube channel launched back in January, and it allowed YouTube star to face a lot of important questions surrounding the platform. Would her fans feel betrayed at the change, especially one that she couldn’t explain due to legal reasons? Would they move with her from DailyGrace to her new YouTube channel? What does it feel like to reach milestones on the platform (think subscriber numbers, view counts) as an individual creator rather than an “independent contractor” for a larger MCN?

After all, that’s how Helbig was getting paid by My Damn Channel, as an independent contractor. The damn channel owned the rights to Helbig’s channel, and, for the first two years, it lived exclusively on My Damn Channel’s website before migrating over to YouTube (where it remained for the subsequent three years). Once on YouTube, Helbig started talking to other creators on the platform and learned of her unique situation, eventually asking herself, “How do I change this?”

How she changed it relied largely on her fans’ loyalty, and the culture of connection between YouTube celebs and their audience base. Though one of the positives of working under My Damn Channel was that Helbig “didn’t have to think about any of the financial stuff with YouTube,” getting to work on “cultivating a really great fan base and content” since that’s where her control lay, she also found it “frustrating when something did really well and you didn’t get the benefit of that.”

Thus, Helbig spoke to colleagues like Hannah Hart and the Fine brothers to figure out how to branch out on her own on YouTube. “I wasn’t afraid,” Helbig said of walking away from My Damn Channel, “but I was terrified.”

Helbig managed to err on the side of the former emotion, explaining, “My Damn Channel owned DailyGrace, but they didn’t own Grace Helbig.” She was her own personal brand, and as such, she didn’t technically need anyone to work for but herself. This gave her “leverage,” as she put it, in her break-up with the MCN, which she deemed an “amicable split.”

As it turned out, Helbig should not have been terrified at the move. It took just a couple of months to gain over 1 million subscribers on her new channel (she’d left 2.2 million on DailyGrace), and though she was worried about not giving her fans a proper goodbye on her old channel, the YouTube community pulled through to help her out. Since Helbig couldn’t legally explain the change, John and Hank Green, for instance, stepped in for her, articulating the reason behind Helbig’s new channel. Thus, Helbig was able to pick up, more or less, where she left off.

“I wanted it to seem at least as familiar as possible so the audience wouldn’t feel like that much had changed,” she described. As her own brand, Helbig easily maintained her personality and talked about the same stuff. All fans had to adjust to, really, was “a different box clicked in your YouTube browser.”

However, sticking with the same brand of content for so long can become a bit of a drag, or, as Helbig put it, “stale.” Having been accustomed to maintaing a format to please the company she worked for, Helbig now faces the challenge of making something new that’s still very Grace.

Among those new projects, Helbig has a podcast called “Not Too Deep,” inspired by Rhett & Link’s own “Ear Biscuits.” Unlike with “Ear Biscuits,” Helbig makes sure not to glean such intensive information from her YouTubing guests, which remains in keeping with Helbig’s new, old personal brand.

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