DAUPHIN COUNTY, Pa. (WHTM) — A local Central Dauphin High School graduate fulfilled his childhood dream of being a full-time YouTuber. With more than 150,000 subscribers, this Messiah University graduate is living out his dreams while doing what he loves.

Zach Hartman, who grew up in Linglestown and graduated from Central Dauphin High School in 2017, always dreamed about being a full-time YouTuber. Hartman created his very first videos back in 2013 in which he played the popular video game “Halo.” Inspired by his favorite YouTubers, Hartman posted his “Halo”-related YouTube videos to the social media platform and found himself gaining a small following.

“I wanted to take the game that I loved and share it with as many people as possible. I wanted to give the same enjoyment to people that the YouTubers I watched had given me,” said Hartman.

However, Hartman was faced with a tough choice to put his YouTube videos on the back burner while he started looking into college.

“I gained a really small following at that point, but once it was around time to start looking into college, I retired my channel to focus on school,” said Hartman.

While he was attending classes and working toward his civil engineering degree at Messiah University, the COVID-19 pandemic hit, and in March 2020, Hartman found himself with a lot of free time. Students were moved to virtual classes, and as college campuses closed to go virtual, students like Hartman now had time to focus on interests and hobbies.

“It wasn’t until March of 2020 that I decided to give it another go when I was watching someone named Ludwig (a YouTuber) and thought to myself, ‘I could do that.’ With nothing but free time and the dreaded thought of having to work a 9-5 looming in the back of my head (although at this point I didn’t admit that), I told myself I would go as hard as I could for two years so that I could fulfill my dream as a kid of doing YouTube full-time,” said Hartman in an email.

YouTube wasn’t always Hartman’s full-time job. Once he graduated from Messiah University, he worked a job in the civil engineering field for about eight months before making the transition to working on his YouTube career full-time.

Hartman creates his content by livestreaming a couple of times a week. Livestreaming has taken off over the years, especially on platforms such as Twitch. Gamers gain a following and audience by playing their video games in real-time in front of their audience. Hartman takes his livestream videos and condenses them down to post to his YouTube channel.

Zach Hartman livestreaming to his followers (Photo courtesy of Zach Hartman)

“My videos are actually edited-down segments of the livestreams that I do multiple times a week. However, I don’t just hit ‘Go Live’ and play a game, hoping that some funny stuff happens that I can compile into a video. Every livestream has multiple segments that are challenges or fun twists on the game that I’m playing that I think would make for an interesting video,” said Hartman.

Finding your audience is a big part of being a successful YouTuber, streamer, or content creator. Hartman aims his content toward gamers who enjoy playing games such as “Stardew Valley.” Rather than playing the game how it is intended, Hartman puts a twist on his livestreams.

“In one video I arranged the cosmetic farm decorations in a way that created a maze/escape room, and invited the creator of the game to try to race against other YouTubers to solve the maze the quickest. I’ve also done speedruns of games with my friends, but ahead of time we secretly decided that some of the people would be trying to sabotage the run. At the end you got points based on whether you could identify who the saboteurs were. I even created an 8-week parody series of the show Survivor, but done through the game Stardew Valley. I had YouTubers compete against each other in wild challenges and they would vote each other off of the show, it’s one of my favorite things I’ve made. Recently, I’ve been trying to branch out into a wider variety of content so that I can explore some of the other ideas I’ve had, as well as appeal to a whole new audience,” said Hartman in an email.

You may be wondering, “What all does being a full-time YouTuber entail?” Without looking behind the scenes, you might think it is a fairly simple job. However, Hartman said that making videos is a lot of work. Even though he knew he wanted a be a YouTuber full-time since day one, he always knew it would be hard to juggle his job as a director of youth ministry, fiancé, friends, and everything else in his post-grad life while focusing on YouTube full-time.

“I’m thankful that I learned very early on that growth on YouTube doesn’t really come from any cheap tricks, but rather from consistently putting out high-quality stuff. I was able to focus all of my efforts on making my videos more entertaining, which was the whole reason I wanted to get into making videos in the first place,” said Hartman.

Focused on the quality of his work, Hartman has a team that helps him to edit and create thumbnails for his videos. Hartman described what a day-in-the-life is like for him as a full-time YouTuber.

“I have a few editors for my channel, and I have someone that creates the thumbnails for the videos, so most of my work comes from organizing them and coming up with the ideas for videos. When I’m coming up with ideas, whatever I’m doing needs to be something that I know will be fun to watch, no one else has ever done it before, and it needs to be something that interests you just from the title and thumbnail. Once I’ve come up with the idea, there’s normally prep work I need to do ahead of time, such as creating graphics, coordinating schedules with other people that will be in the video with me, or doing research. Then I’ll livestream the segment, and if I’m happy with how it went, I pass it off to my editors. Once they’ve taken a stab at it, I review what they’ve done and make changes, then pass the video off to my thumbnail editor who uploads the video. We go through a few iterations of what we want the thumbnail to look like, and then schedule it to be posted,” said Hartman.

(Photo courtesy of Zach Hartman)

Hartman likes to keep himself busy outside of his YouTube career as well. “Outside of making videos I also have a job as the director of youth ministry at the church I attend, I have a beautiful fiancé that I spend a lot of time with, and I’ve been looking into real estate, so I spend a lot of time on those things too.”

One of Hartman’s most recent video ideas came about when he was in college. Hartman and his good college friend, Nathan, were talking about how there were a lot of people named “Nathan” who attended Messiah University. Jokingly, they talked about inviting all of the people named Nathan to a “Nate” party, a party consisting of people only named Nathan. Hartman resurfaced the idea around a year later and decided to turn it into a YouTube video.

“I wrote up a message, and took to Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook. I just typed “Zach Hartman” into the search field (which subsequently showed results for every other spelling of the name) and just went through the list.”

Hartman worked to get as many people with the same name as him to join a Zoom call, that he would post to his YouTube channel. He sent them messages on social media explaining who he was and what his plan was for a 30-minute Zoom meeting.

“In the end, I managed to convince 4 different Zach Hartmans to join the meeting, which is supposedly 10% of all Zach Hartmans in the world,” said Hartman.

Hartman said that no matter what, he is going to continue to create content on YouTube until he hits a million subscribers.  “I just think that would be such a cool achievement, and it’s what I dreamed of as a kid.”

Already achieving his childhood dream of making videos full-time, Hartman is reaching for even higher goals.

For anyone who is looking to pursue YouTube full-time, Hartman recommends that you start slow and just do it for fun at first to see if you like the process.  

“I think that happiness comes from doing things that excite you, so whether that’s making videos or doing something else entirely, I highly encourage everyone to find what that is and go for it.”