How Much Do YouTubers Make?

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Professional YouTubers and Influencers didn’t exist a decade ago, but they now act as some of the most sought out careers in the entertainment industry.

Why? The ability to create content on your own time for money is appealing enough on its own, and in more recent years, it seems that YouTube giants are building increasingly lucrative careers. It’s easy to see why many people wonder if they can make money on YouTube.

Custom Mercedes-Benz G-wagons, living in beautiful houses in expensive cities, attending meetings with thousands of adoring fans. It all seems so glamorous and naturally leads you to wonder, “How much do YouTubers make?”

It’s difficult to determine what’s fact and what’s fiction, but one thing’s for sure: Being a successful professional YouTuber is not as easy as we’d like to think.

5 Ways YouTubers Earn Money

Before diving into the exact numbers of, “How much do YouTubers make?” it’s important to understand exactly where a content creator’s income comes from. YouTubers earn money in 5 main ways:

  • Affiliate Marketing: Content creators have the option to include affiliate links for products they talk about or recommend through their description boxes. The creator receives a commission off of purchase completed through their link.
  • Partnership Program: YouTuber partners earn money off of advertisements played before their videos or hosted on their page. To be an active Youtube partner, an individual or brand must have 1,000 subscribers, have more than 4,000 watch hours in the last 12 months, and live in a country where this program is available.
  • Donations: Content creators earn money from crowd-funded donation sites such as They can ask their audiences directly for donations, or offer up content exclusives as a way to encourage funding.
  • Sponsorships: Brands can choose to cut out the middle man and work directly with content creators. Instead of playing before or after a video like traditional advertisements, sponsorships are embedded within the content.
  • Merchandise: Content creators often advertise their own merchandise and products through their videos, creating a stream of income independent of the platform.

How Much Money You Can Expect to Earn as a Beginner YouTuber

With all of the success of the platform, it makes sense that you would want to get involved. Unfortunately, at least in the beginning, there’s little to no money produced from content creation.

Most of the viable streams of income are predicated upon your acceptance into the partnership program, although not all are directly tied. For example, in the case of sponsorships, brands are most likely to trust a particular audience’s potential if the content creator has reached the threshold for the official YouTube partnership.

The only loophole is through outside donations or merchandise sales, but to turn over a profit a content creator must cultivate a highly dedicated fanbase, which is something that only comes with time and consistent work.

To start earning any money, you’ll most likely have to invest a good amount of time and effort before seeing any results. Just like a small business, in the beginning, you’re more focused on cultivating dedicated consumers rather than a profit.

How Much do Top YouTubers Make?

It can be difficult to determine precisely how much top YouTubers earn since they have so many independent streams of income. Moreover, since so much content on YouTube is based on a personal brand, the numbers are highly volatile and subject to scandal, personal setbacks, and “cancel culture”.

However, in terms of YouTube’s top 10, it appears these creators all made at least $14 million in 2018.

  1. Ryan ToysReview: $22 million
  2. Jake Paul: $21.5 million
  3. Dude Perfect: $20 million
  4. DANTDM: $18.5 million
  5. Jeffree Star: $18 million
  6. Markiplier: $17.5 million
  7. Vanoss Gaming: $17 million
  8. Jacksepticeye: $16 million
  9. PewDiePie: $15 million
  10. Logan Paul: $14.5 million

Most of YouTube’s top ten ended up being video game-related or affiliated, though there’s no telling what the most popular category will be at the end of 2019.

The platform is constantly evolving with user interest and engagement towards certain subjects changing weekly.

Can You Make a Career Out of YouTube?

Technically, the answer is yes, but it sure isn’t easy. YouTube pays out 55% of their Ad revenue to creators, so a creator would earn $550 off of $1000 worth of ads.

However, to get to that point, you would have to cultivate a decent following who engage regularly with your content and be accepted into the partnership program, which is much easier said than done, especially with so much competition.

It’s difficult to pinpoint a true CPM (Amount paid by advertisers to Google per 1,000 views). CPM rates vary drastically depending on factors like video topic and country, but Ad tech company Adstage reported a median CPM of $9.88 for the fourth quarter in 2018. Google would take 45% of this, leaving the creator with $5.43.

In order to make median wage hovering right around 50K annually, one would need to amass approximately 10,000,000 views per year going off of Adstage’s statistics. From this view count, the content would produce $98k, leaving the creator with 54k after Google payouts.

Successful careers on YouTube are unfortunately few and far between, and the wealth gap between top YouTubers and new content creators continues to widen year after year.

What Most YouTubers Make

Unfortunately, about 96% of the population pursuing YouTube as a full-time career will not make enough to break through the U.S poverty line.

The bottom 85% of YouTubers only bring in about 485 views monthly, making profitable channels increasingly rare. Content creators just starting now have to work harder than ever before to enter into the exclusive section of channels earning livable sums of money from the site.

In fact, only 3% of the most viewed channels bring in revenue of at least $16K a year.

It’s pretty clear that most YouTubers are clamoring to get to the top and make very little in the interim.

YouTube is Just Like Any Other Glamour Industry

Once at the top, you can make a lucrative career out of crafting videos on a regular basis. However, just like other glamour or entertainment industries, getting there is more about the strength of your brand, talent and willingness to commit rather than the platform itself.

What makes a successful YouTuber is someone ready to adapt and grow with the evolving interests of their audience. Channels are no longer single entities, but often have large teams surrounding them, making it more difficult to get your foot in the door when you’re just starting out.

So yes, while some YouTubers make a staggering amount, for the vast majority, it’s very little, or nothing at all.