Ever wonder how much money the biggest YouTube channels in the world make? We surveyed over 200 YouTubers with channel sizes ranging from a few thousand to hundreds of million subscribers and the results are, to put simply, astounding.
How do YouTubers make money?
Before we look at how much YouTubers make, it's important to understand HOW YouTubers make money.
YouTubers have several different options to make money. Here are some of the different ways YouTubers can monetize their channel.
1. Advertising with Adsense
2. Direct advertising deals
3. Affiliate links
4. Selling courses
5. Selling other spinoff products
6. Offering consulting
Not all YouTubers monetize the same way. Some rely solely on programmatic ads from YouTube's Adsense network, some people turn off Adsense altogether and prefer to do their own ad deals. And some YouTubers will use their channel only to promote their own products and services, along with affiliate offers from reputable companies.
We'll break down each method below. But first, let's get to the info we're all here to see: How much YouTubers really earn.
How much do YouTubers really make?
If you read our post highlighting the richest YouTubers, you'll know that the biggest channels make millions of dollars per year. Some channels make millions of dollars PER MONTH.
Insane, I know…
But, as we also mentioned in that report, the biggest YouTubers make the bulk of their millions from direct advertising deals, and creating their own product lines and using their built up audience to drive free promotion to their launches.
These are all only possible AFTER you get a significant amount of subscribers (at least 100k subs).
But what about for smaller channels that don't have millions of subs? What about if you only have 5k subs, but have a viral video that gets millions of views? What if you have millions of subs, but only a few thousand views per video?
There are so many factors that determine your monthly YouTube income. Let's try and break this down and average it out.
In this section, we're going to break down how much YouTubers make, in comparison with their respective subscriber/view counts.
How much can YouTubers make with X views and X subscribers?
To make this a fair comparison, let's use the most common monetization method as our unit of measurement: Programmatic advertising with Adsense.
This is YouTube's built in ad network that YouTubers can apply to once they hit 4000 watch hours in the past 12 months, and have at least 1000 subscribers.
The average CPM (how much you make per 1000 views) ranges from around $1 to $10. That means that for each 1000 views your videos get, you'll make $1 to $10. This can go all the way up to $100 (very rare) if you're in a highly competitive and profitable niche, with an established audience.
Let's take $5 CPM as the average and do our calculations.
With a $5 CPM…
With 1000 views, you'll make $5.
With 100,000 views, you'll make $500.
With 1M views, you'll make $5000.
With 10M views, you'll make $50,000.
Is the math really that simple?
Yes. However, view counts are always going to be different each month and largely depends on the YouTube algorithm to give you some extra love.
Some months, you may get only a few thousand views. Other months, a video might go viral and you might get 1M views. CPMs are also always going to be fluctuating. It's never consistent. Some days you might make $1 CPM. Other days you might make $10 CPM.
This is why being a YouTuber is all about embracing the inconsistent income, and just grinding your way through and keep going.
Even if you make $1 CPM today, it doesn't mean you're fixed at that rate forever. CPMs are always fluctuating, and will mainly depend on your niche topic
How much YouTubers earn from ads depends on their niche topics
The CPM you make (how much money you're paid per 1000 video views) can wildly differ depending on your video topics. For instance, topics like finance and real estate have more high-paying advertisers. Therefore, it's not uncommon for YouTubers in this space to make 10x more in CPM than other YouTubers creating videos around hobbies like rollerblading.
So why doesn't everyone just create finance videos then?
Well, they kind of are. That's the downside with profitable niches. They're ultra competitive. It'll be more difficult to grow a finance YouTube channel than something like a gardening YouTube channel.
But the numbers are staggering if you do get traction in a competitive space.
For instance, here's how much personal finance YouTuber Graham Stephen makes with over 3 million subscribers.
And here's Elliot Choy explaining how much he made from one viral video that got 23M views:
And here's a smaller channel breakdown with only 9000 subscribers
Jimmy now has over 100k subs, but he made this video when he only had 9000 subs. And it's very interesting to see a realistic view of what it's like for smaller channels with lower CPMs.
For most people, learning that the top YouTubers makes tens of millions, if not hundreds of millions, of dollars is unbelievable.
But like we mentioned in the beginning of this article, the majority of the richest YouTubers make the most money from launching side businesses and doing brand partnership deals. These only start to come in when you have hundreds of thousands of subscribers.
For example, here's Andres Jihk explaining his sources of income from YouTube + outside opportunities that came from having a large audience:
The big bucks roll in from other forms of monetization
Programmatic ads from Adsense can make YouTubers a ton of money. We're talking millions per month.
For example, some of the largest channels get millions of views PER VIDEO. If they upload 10 times a month, and we conservatively average it out as a million views per video, that's 10M views per month.
With a CPM of $5, that's $50,000 per month and $600,000 per year income ONLY from Adsense.
While it's tough to ignore, that's actually really low compared to what other forms of monetization can offer.
For example, affiliate marketing and selling your own products can drive CPMs as high as $80 to $100 (sometimes higher). That means that if you promote a high priced affiliate offer or sell something like an online course or merchandise, you could make upwards of 10x what you make with Adsense.
This is because selling products is in most cases much more profitable than relying on ads. For instance, if you have 100,000 subscribers, you can promote a $500 online course, and if 1% purchases, that's 1000 sales.
1000 sales X $500 = $500,000.
Build an audience first
This is only possible once you've built an established audience who trusts you. Until then, you'll have to rely on Adsense like every other channel. The good news is that Adsense can be extremely lucrative. It's by no means a “bottom of the barrel” monetization method. YouTubers are literally making millions per month from ads alone.
How you monetize will be up to you
Adsense is by far the easiest way to monetize. You set it up once, and everything works automatically. You don't have to worry about managing inventory or signing deals with advertisers. Everything is taken care of on YouTube's end.
Some people love this type of freedom. They can then spend the time doing what they do best: creating content.
You can always mix in monetization methods
You can do direct advertising deals, promote affiliate products, offer coaching or membership services, or sell your own stuff… ALL in the same video.
You're not restricted to only picking just one. Play around, experiment, and you'll see what you're comfortable with and what your audience is most receptive to.
YouTube doesn't gain everyone fortune, but there are tons of successful YouTubers that prove that being a YouTuber can pay off, even when starting off as a small side hustle. While most beginners won't be rolling in cash right away, it could be a solution to step out of a current 9-5 job and pursue something more interesting.