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.
Let’s start small. 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 7 cents to $5 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. Shooting and editing videos takes time, but these are 30 ways to make easy money in an hour or less.
But it’s not quite that simple. 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.
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. Some brands will even pay video makers directly to make a video about their product, and those deals can be worth tens of thousands of dollars.
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. Others sell merch like T-shirts and mugs, which of course can bring in a bit of extra cash. Check out these other unusual jobs that can bring in a lot of money.
OK, OK, that was a lot of background for your burning question: 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 3 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 these easy ways to save $20,000 in one year instead. Or if you’re just looking for some side cash, try one of these 50 weird ways you can make $50.