Instagram, YouTube star Josh Peck on making 7 figures: 'I saw this ability to create an income without asking anyone's permission'

Josh Peck.
Gary Gershoff | Getty Images Entertainment | Getty Images
Key Points
  • Josh Peck started working as a kid on hit Nickelodeon shows like "The Amanda Show" and "Drake & Josh."
  • His life as an actor was filled with professional and financial insecurity, and Peck decided to parlay his skills into social media creation.
  • Across various platforms like Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, and YouTube, he now brings in seven figures.

Josh Peck has had many work lives.

The 35-year-old started his career at 13 appearing on shows like Nickelodeon's "The Amanda Show" and eventually staring opposite Drake Bell on "Drake & Josh." In the 15 years since his popular show came to an end, Peck has leveraged his performance skills to build a massive social media fanbase, with nearly 13 million followers on Instagram alone.

In March, he published an autobiography, "Happy People Are Annoying."

"I'm not a great hobby guy," Peck says about his relationship to work. "I don't want to spend my time getting good at something that's, frankly, that doesn't have the possibility of being lucrative. And that might just be from growing up with a fair amount of financial insecurity."

It might also be that there are so many avenues for him to be creative and get paid for it today. His social media career alone has brought in seven figures per year since 2017, he says. But none of his success has come without toil, frustration, and some hardships along the way.

The uncertainty of a film and TV career, even with 'some nice wins'

"I started doing stand-up comedy when I was 10 years old because as a chubby kid in New York, it wasn't going to be Little League for me," he says. Throughout his teens, Peck appeared on hit Nickelodeon shows, a career he parlayed into staring in Sundance favorite films like 2008's "The Wackness" and shows like Fox's "Grandfathered" opposite John Stamos.

"There were some nice wins in the traditional space but, you know, inevitably I found that I was in this holding pattern," he says. Because so many actors are "at the mercy of the gatekeepers, and that so many people have to sign off on us even getting a couple lines in a movie or a TV show, that it's really hard to plan your life."

When Peck's then-girlfriend (now wife) suggested he and she join her friends on a trip, for example, worries spiraled through his head. Peck immediately began asking himself questions like, "What if I get an audition? Is this a good use of money knowing that times could get lean in between jobs?"

The career simply created too much uncertainty to allow himself to take such risks, even if he might enjoy them.

Social media was 'like the second act for me'

Peck started experimenting with social media in 2013 using the now defunct Vine, a platform for making six-second videos.

"I was uniquely suited for it because I had sort of this big, shticky comedic sense from being on a sitcom for most of my life," he says. "I found that that really worked in a six-second video format."

He began to build a following, and brands began to offer deals. Dating app Badoo, for instance, was his first. They offered $5,000 for him to make one Vine video about them.

Suddenly, "I saw this ability to create an income without asking anyone's permission and without having to be at the mercy of show business," he says.

(From right) Josh Peck, Drake Bell, and Amanda Bynes at Nickelodeon's 17th Annual Kids' Choice Awards in 2004.
KMazur | WireImage | Getty Images

He used his growing Vine audience to build followings on platforms like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and eventually YouTube and has since been getting deals with "major Fortune 500 brands." Social media has been "the second act for me," he says.

After getting that initial $5,000 paycheck, "I called my girlfriend and I was like, 'Let's go on vacation.'"

'Do favors for people'

These days, Peck continues to balance his output on social media and his work in traditional media. He can currently be seen on Hulu's "How I Met Your Father."

When it comes to work advice across platforms, and in life in general, Peck says, "Do favors for people. I think it makes you indispensable."

"And I think that when you're living a life that's ultra-self-focused and you're trying to go wrestle prestige or financial security from life, for me, the byproduct of that has never been security," he continues. "It's always been a lot of stress."

It's entirely possible that being of service to your employer, your friends, or your community could put you top of mind when people have opportunities in the future. But, "I think, at the very least," he says, "you just feel good doing it."

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