Ever think it would be pretty awesome to bank a cool $1 million USD yearly just filming, editing, and uploading a vlog to YouTube every couple of days? That’s what $3,000 a day adds up to: one million dollars every year. Just for having a YouTube channel. No boss breathing down your neck, no specific deadlines, no set hours– you could sleep in ’til noon every day if you wanted, while that ad revenue money continuously rolls in.
Well not so fast there. Before you get out the camera and go quitting your day job, remember that in order to make that kind of money off YouTube ads, you’ve really got to be raking in some views. According to various metrics and estimates that are easily Googleable, you’ll find that depending on the category your YouTube channel fits in (different topics monetize differently), you’ll make around $3,000 to $7,000 for every million YouTube views you get on your videos.
Easy, right? Go try it. If you think it’s easy, film something you are sure will go viral, and try to get just 500 views. See if you can get just 500. If so, congratulations! Just do that two thousand more times and you will have gotten your first million views and made your first three grand in the digital marketplace!
Well the following 15 YouTubers make at least three thousand dollars every day from ads displayed before their videos or next to them, paid sponsorships, merchandise, apps, books, music, and affiliate promotions.
PewDiePie, the king of YouTube. A young man by the name of Felix who originally hails from Sweden and now lives in the UK with his girlfriend (CutiePieMarzia, another big name YouTube star who appears later on this list), PewDiePie has more views on his channel than any other YouTube channel in existence, making him the reigning king of the video sharing website. What does he do for all those views? Plays video games. “Wait, what? This guy’s banking over a million dollars annually playing video games?” Yeah. Well now he does some other kinds of videos too with dramatic aspects, but pretty much yeah. If you haven’t seen any, watch some and you’ll see why he does so well. PewDiePie is very funny and likeable. There’s a lot of people out of all 7 billion of us who like playing video games with friends, and watching PewDiePie’s channel feels just like that.
“Hi everybody, my name is Markiplier!” So starts every single Markiplier video in existence, in the soothing baritone and crisp diction of Markiplier’s professional radio quality voice. Hailing from the United States and currently living in California where he recently moved with some business partners to expand his channel (yes his channel supports him along with partners that help with the production and editing and whatnot), Markiplier like PewDiePie above, makes a very comfortable living playing video games. He specializes in horror games– especially ones with jump scares, VR games, and indy games a lot of gamers have probably never heard of because he likes to promote quirky, indy stuff. You’ll be stressed watching his channel unless you like a lot of very loud yelling, cursing, and boisterous laughing. But if you appreciate extremely vocal, manic, and expressive comedy, you’ll like watching Markiplier play and yell his way through video games.
A meteorically rising star on the video sharing website and subject of both controversy and acclaim, LeafyIsHere is a young man by the name of Calvin who lives in the United States in Oregon. His channel is mostly videos of Leafy “roasting” other little-known YouTubers whose cringe-worthy, crazy, or otherwise unintentionally funny videos Calvin finds as he scours the seedy underbelly of the video sharing website for the best worst content he can find to feature and pretty brutally roast. Many have accused Leafy of being a cyberbully. Others argue that it’s all in good fun, nothing is off limits in comedy, and that when he roasts a video it’s really great promotion for the channel, sometimes sending the target of Leafy’s self-righteous rants millions of viewers. Whatever may be your opinion, there’s no doubt Leafy has built a massive online following and makes a great living off of the millions of views he gets from his furious, near-daily publishing schedule.
12. Ethan and Hila Klein
h3h3 Productions, a highly-subscribed YouTube channel, whose videos frequently make it to the front page of Reddit, is the work of an offbeat comedian named Ethan and his shy Israeli wife, Hila. Always funny, often righteously indignant, h3h3 has amassed a major following on YouTube by roasting and critiquing other YouTube channels. Instead of going for obscure, cringe-worthy videos like Leafy, h3h3 pulls no punches in its brutal take-down videos of popular cringe-worthy videos on famous channels. What especially gets Ethan’s goat is obviously fake prank videos, and his channel has done a lot of debunking of an array of YouTube villains: Ethan Bradberry, SoFloAntonio, Joey Salads, and many others. The crusading husband-wife duo have also stuck up for those who need it, most recently defending the humorous antics of a man who was loudly and frantically harassed in public by a woman who became absolutely unhinged when she asked him his name and he said, “My name is Hugh Mongous.”
ToyFreaks is a YouTube channel for kids starring a single dad and his two daughters, Victoria and Annabelle, as they have adventures playing with different toys and making huge messes. They seem to love toy sharks, dinosaurs, and giant insects, casting these toys alternatively as friends that the girls feed lots of real food, making a huge mess every time, or as villains that the two girls run from and attack with spatulas from the kitchen. The videos are all pretty weird and as anyone with a toddler can attest, kids really love bizarre stuff, which is why the average video on this channel gets tens of millions of views, sometimes within days of being posted. With so many YouTube views, according to some estimates, this channel goes far beyond the minimum threshold of $3000/day required to make this list: ToyFreaks could easily make $24,000 in ad revenue daily!
The Fine Brothers have been producing content on YouTube since 2004, first achieving widespread notoriety for their React series of videos in which different aged demographics of people in a focus-group like setting react to items or videos, usually something outside that demographic’s typical range of experience (e.g. Elders React to Deez Nuts Vine Compilation, Kids React to First iPod, Parents React to Don’t Stay in School, and Teens React to Encyclopedias). The Fine Brothers have garnered billions of YouTube views with millions of subscribers to their channel, though they did court controversy in early 2016 when they tried to license and trademark the term “React” as if they had invented the video genre, leading to heavy criticism from other YouTubers, including Ethan and Hila of h3h3 Productions.
JackScepticEye is a young man by the name of Sean who hails from Ireland and since starting his YouTube channel in 2007, has built a following of over 13 million subscribers and an audience of nearly six billion views total– all around videos of Jack playing through video games and offering his very energetic, often frantic reactions and commentary as he plays. “What? Not another video game YouTuber! How are there so many people who’s job is actually, literally playing video games??” I told you, people love playing video games with friends, and watching these channels feels like watching a friend play a video game you both like. If you’re likeable enough and lucky enough (Jack’s channel exploded after winning a contest to get a shout out from PewDiePie), you could become a millionaire off of playing video games just like Jack.
Jenna Marbles made her debut into world wide fame back in 2010 when she released one of her earliest videos on YouTube, “How to Trick People into Thinking Your Good Looking.” It went viral, garnering 5.3 million views in its first week and launching Jenna’s channel to the top of YouTube where it remains as the seventh most-subscribed YouTube channel with over 16 million subscribers and the most viewed YouTube channel starring a female YouTuber. Jenna is her real first name, but the Marbles part is a pseudonym that comes from her dog, Mr. Marbles. Overall Jenna’s channel has accrued well into the billions of total views and now pays more than just Jenna’s bills: she now employs a personal assistant, a business manager, and her mother as the CEO of her company.
7. Lindsey Stirling
Lindsey Stirling has deployed her YouTube channel to spectacular effect, using the video sharing website as a springboard to launch her musical performance career into the stratosphere. Lindsey is a classically-trained violinist who plays classical, rock, hip hop, and classical cross-over, often mixing dance into her performances as well. While many of the YouTubers on this list have made their fame and millions playing video games, Lindsey’s channel features her music and performance, and has over 8 million subscribers putting her right at the apex of YouTube stardom.
Forbes named Stirling on their 30 Under 30 In Music: Class of 2015. Her 8 million YouTube subscribers played a big part in earning her that honor, as well as her quarter-finalist position on America’s Got Talent and her number 2 position on the Billboard 200 for her second album Shatter Me, which also won Top Dance/Electronic Album at the 2015 Billboard Music Awards.
6. Rosanna Pansino
Well cable television wouldn’t be complete without the Food Network and YouTube wouldn’t be complete either without an immensely popular cooking channel, and of course for YouTube and the Internet, it’s not enough that there should be a cooking show, it’s got to be a nerdy cooking show. Enter Rosanna Pansino, who after a couple stints in daytime television acting, went on to start her own cooking show on YouTube called “Nerdy Nummies.” Her channel has over 7 million subscribers who tune in to watch Rosanna show off her baking recipes, sometimes with guest appearances by other famous YouTubers such as Markiplier and Michelle Phan (who you’ll read about later on this list).
5. Roman Atwood
Roman Atwood, comedian and prankster. An American YouTuber hailing from Ohio, Roman always wanted to make silly videos just to make people smile, but spent a decade of his life working in a factory after graduating high school in order to support his wife and child. In one speech he gave regarding his path to YouTube success, Roman said that during that time he would actually break down in tears upset that he wasn’t doing his life’s calling, which was to make “stupid videos.” His first major viral hit was a video of Roman appearing to urinate in public in front of police officers, turning to reveal that it was just a bottle of water at the last moment. Since then, Roman’s channel has exploded to over ten million subscribers and he has had many run-ins with the law because of his penchant for pranking police officers for YouTube views.
Smosh is an American sketch comedy duo by the names of Ian Hecox and Daniel Padilla. Smosh started in 2002 before YouTube had even been started, and consisted of funny flash animations and comedic shorts. The advent of YouTube opened up an entire new market for Ian and Daniel’s comedy and they began diversifying onto YouTube’s platform, writing short skits for a channel that grew in popularity until it became one of the most subscribed channels on YouTube. Today Smosh has over 22 million subscribers and uploads new videos at a breakneck pace with a grand total of over 6 billion video views and counting. Smosh had three stints as the most subscribed channel on YouTube; from May to June 2006, April 2007 to September 2008 and January to August 2013.
3. Michelle Phan
Hailing from Tampa, Florida, Michelle Phan is an American YouTube personality whose channel features make-up reviews, demonstrations, and tutorials. When she first began posting makeup tutorials to YouTube back in 2007, Michelle deliberately patterned her production style after Bob Ross, taking a cue from his style in narration and voice overs. When BuzzFeed featured two of Michelle’s articles in 2009 and 2010, her channel went viral and brought her over a million subscribers, launching her to the success she enjoys on YouTube today. She now has over 8 million subscribers, but doesn’t post as often as some of the others on this list, because of the time she spends managing her own line of cosmetics.
Michelle Phan isn’t the only YouTuber to find fame and fortune in uploading make up tutorials. An Italian YouTuber who lives in England with her boyfriend PewDiePie (talk about a YouTube power couple), Marzia has over 6 million people subscribed to her channel, which she updates four or five times weekly with videos about fashion, beauty, and make up, occasionally interspersed with books, movies, and video game content. In addition to ad revenue from YouTube’s platform, Marzia has scored deals with advertisers off the platform as well. The 24-year-old is also a published author and has done voice acting work on various web series such as Oscar’s Hotel for Fantastical Creatures and Purgatory.
Epic Rap Battles of History, the hilarious brainchild of Peter Shukoff (a.k.a. Nice Peter) and Lloyd Ahlquist (a.k.a. EpicLLOYD), is one of the all time most viewed YouTube channels, with 14 million subscribers and more than 3 billion (yes, spelled with a “B”) total views. The quirky channel features a “rap battle” between famous historical figures who trade increasingly more volatile insults until the viewer is called on to decide in the comments who won the rap battle and make suggestions for the participants of the next battle. Videos have featured epic rap battles between Steven Spielberg and Alfred Hitchcock, Darth Vader and Hitler, Justin Bieber and Beethoven, and Deadpool and Boba Fett, among others. There seems to be no limit to the personalities these guys will feature in their videos.