How Much Do YouTubers Make? 2021 Top Earners

YouTube video streaming service
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The popularity of YouTube has exploded since it first launched in 2005. With more than 2 billion unique visitors a month YouTube itself is hugely successful, but the site has also served as a platform for a series of internet celebrities to find fame and fortune. One survey from Variety found that the five most influential figures among Americans ages 13 to 18 are all YouTube favorites, overtaking Hollywood superstars like Leonardo DiCaprio and Jennifer Lawrence.

These YouTube stars have huge fan bases and their videos rack up millions and even billions of views, bringing in impressive revenue from advertising, endorsements and other business ventures.

So just how much can you make when you go from an ordinary video blogger to a YouTube superstar? Check out some of the top YouTube earners of 2021 and ways you can cash in on the success.

How To Make Money on YouTube

There are a few ways to make money on YouTube. The savviest stars take advantage of all of them, including:

  • Sponsorships and collaborations with brands promoting their products
  • Affiliate sales in which you get a commission if your audience buys a product or service you recommend
  • Selling your own products and merchandise
  • Using the channel to promote your other projects

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The issue is, those ways to make money require enough fame to have hundreds of thousands of subscribers and hundreds of million views. Not every YouTuber develops a large audience, but it doesn’t mean you can’t make some cash.

YouTube Partner Program

You can start side hustling faster with fewer subscribers through the YouTube Partner Program. According to Tubular Insights, “partners earn anywhere between $0.30 to $2.50 cost per thousand views, or CPM, but there are many exceptions to the rule, with some of the bigger YouTube players earning closer to $10 CPM.” That means you can make $250 per month at $2.50 CPM if your video gets 100,000 views or $2,500 per month for one million views.

To get accepted to the program you’ll need:

  • At least 1,000 subscribers
  • A minimum of 4,000 hours of your content watched in the last 12 months
  • A linked Google AdSense account for payment
  • To follow and agree to the YouTube channel monetization policies

How To Get Started on YouTube

As you can see, even some of the top YouTubers have had their share of controversy, yet powered through and continue to make money. Not everyone will hit superstar status, but you can still make a few hundred or thousands of dollars per month.

To make money on the channel, consistency is key. It takes time to grow your following enough to catch the attention of advertisers and start monetizing your channel’s views. Some ways to increase your presence, subscribers count and views include:

Work on Your Video Presentation Skills

Before you record your first video, work on how you present yourself to a potential audience. Do you have a unique persona? Will viewers find you interesting or entertaining? Tapping into the passion you have for the topic you’re discussing is the easiest way to broadcast your energy and make your enthusiasm contagious.

Do a few practice runs and ask friends and family for honest opinions about how you come off on the screen. Based on the feedback, hone your speaking/presentation skills to be as engaging as possible.

Create Quality Content

You don’t need expensive, state-of-the-art equipment to create quality videos. But there are a few small details that make all the difference in the world. Consider the following elements when you’re producing your videos:

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  • Lighting: Face a window with natural light or invest in a small ring light to illuminate your face. Test lighting by moving around the room while recording to find the sweet spot.
  • Backdrop: Take a close look at what shows up in the background of your videos and adjust or decorate accordingly.
  • Sound: Choose a quiet room away from street or household noises. If your room creates an echo, adding some fabric to absorb sound, such as more pillows or an area rug could help.

Good To Know

One of the coolest perks of being a YouTuber with an audience of at least 10,000 subscribers was the free access to YouTube Space, a production studio complete with all the equipment you can imagine to create the best YouTube videos ever.  Available in major cities such as Los Angeles, New York, London and Tokyo, they’re closed due to the pandemic, but there are plenty of online resources for creators.

Post Regularly

Even if you have just a small handful of viewers on your channel, continue to post regularly. Building a library improves the chances that your channel will be seen by others over time.

Social Video Plaza ran an experiment on how often to post and found the most success posting daily, or at least once per week. The key is to stay consistent and post as often as you can. But remember that quality is more important than quantity.

Cross-Promote

Many YouTube stars have huge followings on other social media channels. Remember to cross-promote between all your social media accounts. If you have a larger following on Facebook or Instagram, you could encourage your followers to subscribe to your YouTube channel and vice-versa. It’s all about building awareness — and monetizing it — when people start to notice you.

Highest Paid YouTubers

Did you know that Justin Bieber’s rise to fame started on YouTube? His videos performing music as a kid went viral and catapulted him into legitimate musician status.

Take a look at the trajectory of some of the top YouTubers right now for inspiration. You’ll find that they are regular people, even some kids, who managed to grow a following that makes them millions of dollars today.

Ryan’s World

Estimated income: $26 million

Ryan’s World is another child YouTube channel that’s dominating in views, subscribers and income. In fact, nine-year-old Ryan Kaji is the highest-paid YouTuber so far. He makes $26 million, but that’s nothing compared to the Ryan’s World annual retail sales of $200 million at major stores including Walmart and Target.

Like Nastya, Ryan started on YouTube by unboxing toys. HIs channel, with 28.5 million subscribers, has received almost 45 billion views. Ryan’s parents, who actively manage his brand, signed TV deals with Nickelodeon and Roku, where Ryan has his own ad-supported channel called “Ryan and Friends.”

Dude Perfect

Annual estimated income: $20 million

The Dude Perfect channel features five old friends from high school obsessed with the perfect basketball shot. The five guys –Garrett, Cody, Tyler and the Cotton twins– have made it into the Guinness Book of World Records a few times and vlogged with Serena Williams and Aaron Rodgers.

It all started back in 2009 and today, the Dude Perfect channel has 55.2 million subscribers, making it the most subscribed sports channel on YouTube. The dudes of Dude Perfect make most of their money from the sponsored ads on their channel. Even if they’re splitting the cash five ways, making $4 million each per year, playing sports with your high school buddies is a pretty sweet way to make a living.

Nastya

Estimated earnings: $18 million a year

Nastya, born Anastasia Radzinskaya, is a child YouTuber who started on YouTube in 2016 creating unboxing videos. Today, her channel is all about her everyday life with her dad as a sidekick. She’s a Russian-American seven-year-old who was born back in Russia with cerebral palsy. Her doctors thought she would never speak or function normally, yet here she is today as one of the biggest stars in the world.

The Like Nastya channel tops the list of most-viewed YouTube channels ever, with over 51 billion views to date. Nastya’s loyal, 69.6 million subscribers tune in regularly to watch her learn new things, study math or read a book with her dad, attend her friend’s birthday parties, play dress up and more.

In addition to her YouTube fame, Nastya recently signed a deal to create branded merchandise such as clothing, toys and homeware. It looks like you’ll be seeing more of Like Nastya and her world at a major retailer near you sometime soon.

Jeffree Star

Estimated earnings: $17 million

Jeffree Star got his start on Myspace as a DJ, but became a YouTube star and one of the highest-paid YouTubers for his makeup tutorials. Jeffree has 16.7 million subscribers who tune in for fabulous makeup tutorials and reviews.

He’s a charismatic personality that belongs in front of the camera and not hiding behind makeup brushes. One of his most-watched vlogs is about Kanye and his rumored relationship with the rapper, which broke when someone on TikTok spilled the rumor.

Like a few of the YouTubers on the list, Jeffree has a keen sense that fame on the channel could be short-lived. He launched Jeffree Star Cosmetics in 2014, hoping to leverage his YouTube success into a makeup empire. Jeffree’s net worth is estimated to be $200 million, which includes $17 million in annual YouTube income and $100 million in cosmetic sales, plus other investments in real estate and the cannabis industry.

PewDiePie

Potential earnings: $15 million a year

The star of PewDiePie, Felix Arvid Ulf Kjellberg, is a Swedish video game commentator who got his start in 2009 by broadcasting videos of him playing video games. His wild and outrageous behavior isn’t for the faint of heart, but it has earned him over 109 million subscribers.

PewDiePie has been involved in a few controversies over the years. Old videos and comments were found revealing inappropriate jokes and mentions of Nazis and swastikas. PewDiePie took it too far and his cavalier attitude at the time didn’t do him any favors. It cost him some sponsorships and he had to do damage control to explain himself.

Love him or hate him, PewDiePie gives his viewers what they want. And what they want is screaming, yelling and swearing. It may not work in the regular 9 to 5 world, but his funny hysterics have gotten him where he is today.

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Morgan Quinn contributed to the reporting for this article.

Our in-house research team and on-site financial experts work together to create content that’s accurate, impartial, and up to date. We fact-check every single statistic, quote and fact using trusted primary resources to make sure the information we provide is correct. You can learn more about GOBankingRates’ processes and standards in our editorial policy.

About the Author

Cynthia Paez Bowman is a personal finance writer with degrees from American University in international business and journalism. Besides writing about personal finance, she writes about real estate, interior design and architecture. Her work has been featured in MSN, Brex, Freshome, MyMove, Emirates’ Open Skies magazine and more.

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