How Much Money Do YouTubers Make?

Could you quit your job and make a living off posting videos?

We’ve all heard about those wild success stories—people (generally young adults) making their fortunes by sitting around in the comfort of their own homes making YouTube videos. But as prominent as those people are, they’re far from the majority. With 300 hours of content uploaded every minute, the competition is fierce, and it’s not easy to get noticed. While some people’s YouTube earnings will last them through retirement, others won’t even make enough to pay rent. So how much money do YouTubers make on average? To find out, let’s take a look at the five main ways YouTubers make money by posting videos.

How much money do YouTubers make?

YouTubers make money off of ad revenue, affiliate links, donations, merchandise, and sponsorships. To bring in the dough it’s not just a simple edit and upload process. They have to work to make a name for themselves and sell on multiple platforms. So, how much money do YouTubers make? Quite a lot—if they reach superstar status. Beauty vloggers Jeffree Star (12.7 million subscribers) and Jaclyn Hill (5.8 million subscribers) have reported net worths of $5 million and $1.5 million, respectively, and video game commentator/comedian Felix Kjellberg, aka PewDiePie (84 million subscribers), has made a reported $12 million.

Unfortunately for most people, expecting to make that much is like saying your starring role in the school play makes you the next Brad Pitt. Even someone in the top three percent of most popular YouTube channels could still only be making $16,800 a year, according to a German researcher’s analysis. That’s no small chunk of change, but it’s probably not enough to quit your day job and raise a family off YouTube earnings. For a more realistic plan, we’d recommend trying one of these 50 weird ways you can make $50 instead.

Ad revenue

This is both the primary and “easiest” way to make money as a YouTuber. As you probably know, the go-to way YouTubers make money is through ad revenue. An ad pops up before their video, and if—and only if!—the viewer either watches the whole ad or clicks it, a bit of money will go into that YouTuber’s piggy bank. Google is famously secretive about how much money vloggers make per ad view, and some ads are worth more than others, but estimates range from about $3 to $10 per 1,000 views. The great thing about YouTube is, if you do it right, a popular video can become a gift that keeps on giving. As long as that video stays relevant and keeps getting clicks, the account owner will continue seeing earnings months or years down the line. Of course, shooting and editing videos takes time, but these are 30 ways to make easy money in an hour or less.

This is often the only way smaller channels and beginning YouTubers can make money, which is why we called it the “easiest” way to do it. You don’t have to do any extra work to have ads play on your videos, so it’s usually a no-brainer for people to accept any money made from ads. Of course, it’s never as simple as it seems. YouTube has a few rules in place that keep tiny YouTube channels from racking up cash from a video or two. A channel can’t get paid unless it has at least 1,000 subscribers and viewers have streamed at least 4,000 hours’ worth of content over the past year. Plus, Google (which owns YouTube) only pays YouTubers when their earnings have hit at least $100. So if a small-time vlogger is popular enough to have made $90 over the past couple of months, they won’t see that money unless they manage to inch that total up.

Affiliate links

Because ad revenue isn’t always lucrative, YouTubers have other creative ways of making money too. Some will partner with companies and include affiliate links to products they talk about in the video in their video descriptions. Whenever someone clicks that link and buys the product, the YouTuber gets a percentage of the profits—usually about 5 to 20 percent. Usually the video will also include the product in use for the links to be relevant, which also sells the product to the video’s audience, so it’s a good deal for companies as well as the YouTuber.

Donations

For loyal fans, some YouTubers also use Patreon, which basically lets viewers pay their favorite vloggers out of pocket in exchange for exclusive deals, like early access to videos, extras, and other prizes. Patreon was created to help young, new content creators fund their channels. This is a good deal for those YouTubers who are just starting out and have a niche audience that wants their content to continue, but people don’t generally pay out of pocket in amounts that make YouTubers rich. Patrons and other donation-based funding will usually just, if at all, cover the costs of creating the videos. Check out these other unusual jobs that can actually bring in a lot of money.

Merchandise

For YouTubers who already have a loyal fanbase and a distinct brand, creating merchandise is a good way to take the next steps in garnering income. Common catchphrases, the show’s logo, and even titles of videos can be printed on clothing, accessories, bags, etc., and sold for a profit. Donation sites like Patreon also usually have an option to set up a merchandise shop.

Sponsorship

This is another money-making strategy for those YouTubers who have already cultivated an audience. Companies and private entities may choose to sponsor someone who has the ear of the public and pay them to mention their name as the sponsors of a particular video. Some sponsors will pay big bucks for a video that includes a theme or activity that encourages their product or message, and others just want their name associated with a rising star whose videos will have hundreds of thousands if not millions of views. On the rare chance you end up making it big on YouTube, make sure you follow these personal finance tips the money pros teach their own kids.

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Marissa Laliberte
Marissa Laliberte-Simonian is a London-based associate editor with the global promotions team at WebMD’s Medscape.com and was previously a staff writer for Reader's Digest. Her work has also appeared in Business Insider, Parents magazine, CreakyJoints, and the Baltimore Sun. You can find her on Instagram @marissasimonian.
Isabel Roy
Isabel Roy has been a writer and editor for RD.com since February of 2019. She graduated from the University of Wisconsin La Crosse with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Writing and Rhetoric. She is thrilled to be living and working in the Big Apple although she misses the easy access to freshly made Wisconsin cheese curds and Kopps Custard. When not at the Reader’s Digest office, you can find her downing too many chai lattes and rereading her favorite Harry Potter books.