YouTube is more than just a place to watch videos of cats, dogs, babies and twerking. It’s a site that sparks creativity and, for some people, a career.

When YouTube was created in 2005, one of the first viral videos was a lip-synching clip set to the Pokémon theme song. The video was posted by two teenage boys who went by the username Smosh. Today, they are the second most-subscribed channel on YouTube with over 12 million subscribers. Smosh is one of many YouTubers to experience Internet fame. Users began to use the site as a platform for creativity, generating content on subjects from comedy, gaming, beauty, music and anything else you could possibly imagine.

Gloria Powell, a YouTube user from the Washington, D.C. area, is the host of her own travel and lifestyle series called “On the Go with Glo.” Her motivation to make videos came from a combination of her love for travel and her education in acting. However, YouTube recognition does not come easily.

“It takes a tremendous amount of time and persistence,” she said. “My channel is just starting out, and it’s already clear to me that it’s not something you can just do whenever you feel like. It takes a lot of effort to plan, shoot and edit. Not only that but you have to engage viewers and reach out to other channels in order to build your community. So although it can be a hobby, it can just as easily produce the same amount of work as a full-time job.”

The YouTube community has introduced the world to everyone from Jenna Marbles to Justin Bieber. To them, YouTube is either a steady paycheck or the beginning of stardom.

The business behind YouTube is simple. Users who produce original content can apply to the YouTube Partnership Program, which lets them advertise in their videos with a pop-up during the video, an advertisement beside it or an advertisement shown in it. A user is paid per thousand views, and the pay rate is based on factors including your subscriber count, how many videos you’ve uploaded and how often you upload. A majority of users are also involved in sponsorships with companies that want to be mentioned or reviewed in videos.

In order to maintain a steady YouTube career, users market themselves and their videos with social media. Those with stable fan bases also create channels known as vlogs (video blogs) where fans can watch their favorite users go about their daily lives. Some hardcore YouTube gamers have channels featuring hundreds of hours of gameplay of everything from “Call of Duty” to “Super Mario.”

Despite the overwhelming number of users scattered across the website, Powell still encourages aspiring YouTubers to go ahead and create content anyway.

“There’s really no magic formula to success on YouTube,” she said. “I think it’s more important to know what you want to accomplish on your channel and stay true to that. Successful YouTubers really take pride in what they put out there.”