How much do YouTubers make?

YouTube is the new television and YouTubers are the new celebrities. How much do they really earn?

Some YouTubers earn a fortune

YouTube has more than two billion users login each month, and this continues to grow. It’s the world’s second most-visited website after Google, and more than a billion hours of video is watched there each day.

So how much do YouTubers earn from their content? According to Forbes, Ryan Kaji was the top-earning YouTuber in 2020, earning an estimated $29.5 million.

Highest paid YouTube stars of 2020, according to Forbes

Channel Views Subscribers Earnings
Ryan Kaji 12.2 billion 41.7 million $29.5 million
Mr Beast 3 billion 47.8 million $24 million
Dude Perfect 2.77 billion 57.5 million $23 million
Rhett and Link 1.9 billion 41.8 million $20 million
Markiplier 3.1 billion 27.8 million $19.5 million

How to make money on YouTube

YouTubers make their money from five major revenue streams:

Advertising

Those irritating adverts that bookend (and sometimes intrude on) your favourite videos? The channel owner gets 55% of the revenue generated from them.

How much that equates to depends enormously on territory and audience. A major corporate placement in a high traffic country like the US or UK is worth more than a small business ad in Argentina, for example. Roughly speaking it can be £2-£8 per 1,000 viewer engagements.

Affiliate links

If your videos feature any products, you can earn money by sending your viewers to buy them on Amazon, ebay or any number of stores. Join an affiliate network and you get a commission from sales you send their way. It’s usually a percentage of the sale price so expensive items will bring greater affiliate earnings.

Sponsorship

YouTubers tend to be popular with younger audiences that are difficult to reach with mass media like radio and television. So big corporates looking to buy youth attention often turn to YouTube influencers.

If you are doing sponsorship deals you must declare your commercial interests correctly, including ticking the ‘paid promotion’ box before publishing content that advertises a product or service. The Advertising Standards Authority has published guidance for social influencers.

Merchandise

Once you’ve built a dedicated following, you can start selling merchandise – t-shirts, hats, mugs and so on. Many creators use drop shipping so they can sell their merchandise through an online shop and have someone else fulfil the orders. All they have to do is submit the designs.

Donations and paid content

If you have a deep connection with your followers – who are dedicated to your content – they might be persuaded to sponsor you, or to pay for a subscription to additional content.

It’s not easy

The earnings may be tantalising, but it’s important to remember that millionaire YouTubers are the exception rather than the norm. Don’t underestimate how much hard work and luck is required to build a large audience.

Even if you do start to earn decent sums from your YouTube channel, there’s no reason to assume this is going to grow over time, or that YouTube’s current earnings model will continue unchanged.

What’s the best way to make money?

There are better ways to increase your potential earnings. Yes, tremendous sums can be pocketed from vlogging or streaming, but in most cases you’ll earn more per hour in a minimum wage job.

One of the best ways of increasing your potential earnings is by getting a degree. On average graduates earn £9,000 more each year than non-graduates.

YouTubing and streaming might be profitable for the select few right now, but there’s no guarantee it will continue to be a money-maker. Investing your time and money in it is a gamble. Investing your time in studying is much more likely to improve your career prospects and potential earnings.