Gary Vaynerchuk is Worth $160 Million. He’d Like You to Edit His Videos for Free.

Clout comes before cash for entrepreneur GaryVee

Kevin Donnellan
Oct 4, 2019 · 4 min read
Image composite: Insider Images/Andrew Kelly (used under a Creative Commons license)

Entrepreneur and internet personality Gary Vaynerchuk, aka YouTuber GaryVee, is currently recruiting for a “content army” to help spread his message.

The problem? The ‘army’ recruits need to work for free.

The new initiative was outlined by Vaynerchuk in a blog post last month. Creators make something from a vast video library of Vaynerchuck quotes and submit a short edited clip or graphic. If it’s used they will be credited, though not paid.

Vaynerchuk acknowledged there may be criticism about the lack of compensation, tackling it head-on in his blog post. He values “exposure more than cash”. Vaynerchuk said the initiative will “empower creators to put out more content to grow their brands or their portfolio” and “expand the post-production capabilities of our team given our incredibly large database of content”.

The entrepreneur has an estimated net worth of $160 million.

Image: GaryVaynerchuk.com

The content army is designed to help Vaynerchuk and his team continue to execute what he calls his “content pyramid”, where a “pillar piece of content”, for instance a daily vlog, can be broken down into 30 smaller pieces of content to be distributed across his various social channels. The pillar content tends to show Vaynerchuk making a series of definitive statements about achieving success. Sometimes they are relatively straightforward, like: “the way to eliminate fear is to not give a fuck about anyone’s opinion”. At times they look like outtakes from Veep: “I value the trenches, and people value the ivory towers. And that is why nobody scares me”.

A variation of one piece of advice constantly resurfaces — that to succeed in business you should be prepared to work for someone you admire for free. A photo of Vaynerchuk delivering this message on a sheet of paper recently attracted some Twitter criticism, but within the entrepreneur YouTube bubble it’s practically canon. In a video titled Should You Ever Work For Free? YouTuber Roberto Blake included working for Vaynerchuk as one of the few occasions where it was acceptable to not receive payment.

The idea that getting to work alongside Vaynerchuk, in any capacity, will open doors surfaces in many of his posts and powers the image of Vaynermedia as a holy grail for ambitious creators. In a video titled You’ll Pay 200,000 a Year to Work For Me, Vaynerchuk points to his cameraperson, Tyler Babin, and says “if he wants to work for Steven Spielberg, it’s all set”. His followers know the names of employees like David Rock, who started out working for free and now regularly features in GaryVee videos as a creator and colleague. When Tyler Babin left the company his (positive) vlog titled I Quit My Dream Job At Vaynermedia got hundreds of thousands of views.

Steve Campbell spent seven years ‘hustling’ for Vaynerchuk and is glad he initially took an unpaid job at VaynerMedia. “For me, it was the one card I had to play to get in the door early,” he says. “The decision to pack up my things and ship off to NYC was one of the best moves I could have possibly made, especially for my career.”

Vaynerchuk did not respond to requests for comment for this story.

“What we ultimately have is people, and especially young people, kind of powering their way through social media by pumping out all this content which is benefiting the social media companies,” says Brooke Erin Duffy, assistant professor of communication at Cornell University and author of (Not) Getting Paid to Do What You Love. “But how many young people are seeing any sort of remuneration from this?”

Among Vaynerchuk’s fans, criticism is mild, if seen at all. “A lot of social media content creators experience fear or unease about critiquing these models of work,” says Duffy. “They’re afraid to offer any public criticism of this model of working for free because of the potential for critical blowback”.

In a video titled Why You Should Work for Free, Vaynerchuk sits with celebrity real estate broker Ryan Serhant. Serhant is advising an audience member on how to break into the real estate business. He says “you should find the best agent you can, and then you should work for them for free” and throws out an all-time great description of the real estate business: “We don’t really create anything, we just sort of fuck with people in the head”.

Vaynerchuk isn’t there to talk real estate, he’s there to add to the database of content. To applause he says, “If I’m blessed with the health that allows me to stick around for 50 years, I will be one of the most impactful people of all time”. Maybe, with the help of a ‘content army’, he will.

FFWD

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