Exclusive: How Much Money YouTube Partners Make

{Update from 2013 reveals YouTube stars making $4 million plus per year}

How much do YouTube stars make each year? Oh for goodness sakes. Just like my same 5 YouTube videos (see right column of channel page here) represent the majority of my online views… It seems that most of WillVideoForFood’s blog traffic comes from people searching for how much YouTubers make. If you’re curious, read on. If you want to make big bucks, buy my book first. You’ll still be facing tough odds, but at least you’ll wander into the jungle equipped with some survival tools.


We YouTube “Partners” (or “stars” as I hate saying) are all contractually forbidden to share our revenue. But I’ve given hints and clues over time. For those of you who Googled your way here, I’m both a marketer/advertiser and a creator/YouTuber, so that gives me two lenses into this Da Vinci-Code like mystery. Davinci made me think of “Da Bears.”

I’d estimate there are have at least a few dozen YouTube Partners earning $100K per year. That’s great money if you’re in your 20s or 30s and have minimal costs in production or overhead (like 4 kids and a horrific mortgage). But it’s a rounding error for a professional content creator or network.

To calculate a particular Parner’s income, here are some tips:

  • You basically take the Partner’s total views for the month, multiply it by a fraction of a penny, and you have a rough idea. TubeMogul‘s Marketplace shows some of the most-viewed people (and their monthly views). But remember: the most-subscribed are not necessarily most-viewed and vice versa. YouTube doesn’t give a hoot how many subscribers you have (although that certainly helps drive views, but increasingly it seems less powerful than being a “related video”). In general, the commercial content is getting more daily views but the amateurs have a lock on subscribers.
  • Most ads are placed by advertisers based on total 1K views, but some is on a per-click basis (CPC text ads placed by Google Adwords/Adsense). Google/YouTube is usually paid by an agency or media buyer a CPM (cost per thousand, say between $5 and $25 dollars per thousand views), then shares some of that with the creator. This can be highly misleading, because:
    • Some views earn nothing (if they’re embedded and no ad follows it).
    • And increasingly advertisers are paying a high premium for specific content they commission, target, or hand select. Sometimes this might average a few bucks and others it might be much higher… $25 CMP was the published rate of InVideo ads and I know of specific integrated campaigns that command a higher premium from YouTube. Yey!
  • Another confounding variable: potty-mouthed creator turns away advertisers. So watch the ads on your Partner for a while. Are they premium InVideo ads with accompanying display (square) ads? Or are they garbage Adwords/Adsense ads?
  • The text ads may SOMETIMES be paid on a per-click basis, which can make them fruitless or profitable depending on people clicking and buying the advertiser’s product (the latter must occur, or a savvy advertiser will quickly stop the campaign that’s raping them of click dollars and not generating business). I was telling my YouTube buds to turn these off because they’re ugly and don’t make much money, but a few of them gave me a stern stare like they knew otherwise. So whatever… maybe they make money and maybe they don’t. I don’t get a breakdown on them, and they’re still ugly.
  • Then you have to factor in “sponsored videos,” where a YouTuber promotes a product or service for a flat fee (or variable based on views) via Hitviews or related companies. That can easily be more than YouTube shells out per month for ad sharing. The going rate here is incredibly wide: from $1K to $20K and higher per video.

So in conclusion:

  1. Do your own math using monthly views on TubeMogul and assuming some CPM (cost per thousand), but recognize YouTube takes a cut and some of the advertising inventory isn’t sold or is driven by keyword Google adsense text thingies. Maybe the creator/partner gets a few bucks per thousand views and maybe more or less.
  2. Use some of the assumptions above to calibrate your estimate if you’re trying to peak into the W-9s of your favorite “Stars” like Fred. There are now dozens of popular YouTube people that make a full-time living on YouTube revenue, and I’d guess a lot of $50K-$100K per year people. I am not among the full-timers. With a family of 6, I gotta have a day job too. But Shaycarl, Sxephil, Charles Trippy, Michael Buckley and many more… they’re full-time at this. If I was making the bucks I’m making via YouTube after college, I’d probably go full-time too. Fred? Let’s just say he’s got college covered, or a nice nest-egg.
  3. Before you get excited (or jealous), it’s a long haul to cashville. And if you start with the hope of making money, you’re doomed. You need to LOVE it, and be extremely patient as the road to loads of views is tougher to climb, and requires an ass-load of persistence. Start as a hobby and “just keep swimming.”
  4. Finally, there are two forces at odds that impact the sustainability of this revenue for YouTube amateurs. First, we’ll probably see continued competition from more professionally-produced content that fetches higher ad dollars because it feels safer to squeamish media buyers (see, I’m not calling them all dense anymore… only the ones that don’t read this vlog). But the good news is that dollars are projected to grow dramatically. Currently, as a marketer, I’d argue that YouTube is selling itself short.

How’s that? About as specific I can be without breaking my contract or confidence from my friends.

I know some of you peeps know more than I do, so feel free to comment below anonymously or not. Da bears.

How Much Money Does a YouTube Partner Make?

All the YouTubers are cruising with these. Let's not let them be the only ones, dangit.
All the YouTubers are cruising with these. Let’s not let them be the only ones, dangit.

Editorial Update…. here’s a newer post on how much YouTube partners make. Since this post gets so many daily views via search engines, let me answer your question simply. It’s a fraction of a fraction of a penny per view. It’s not enough to cover the mortgage for most, and it’s certainly not yet the reported $2.50 per 1,000 views. It’s often far less, and varies greatly on whether the views have InVideo ads (YouTube charges $25 per thousand and shares that with creators) or the flat square ads (cost far less for advertisers, and doesn’t pay creators). Although I can’t reveal my income, I can tell you it’s highly influenced by my top 5-10 videos, which get millions of views per month (as opposed to the new ones). That said, if you get millions and millions of views per month and live cheap, you could quit your job and buy my dang book, “Beyond Viral.”

Beyond Viral: Tips on Marketing You & Company on YouTube

YouTube’s Fred was rumored to be making seven-figures, but Google clarified that as six figures. But if you take his 350,000,000 views and multiply it by a conservative $1 per 1,000 views…. you’re talking $350,000.00. I’m making more on YouTube than I made in my first job out of school, but with four kids and a lot of debt, it’s not enough for me to pull a Sxephil, Shaycarl, or Michael Buckley and rely on it as a primary income source.

Oh how’s THAT for a blog title, when you’ve signed a confidentiality document that precludes you from talking about your revenue as a YouTube partner?! Don’t worry, YouTube. I’m not breaking rank. But I’m very interested in what people THINK partners are making.

Before YouTube, I’ve always been transparent about my revenue related to online video. I feel that’s part of my role on this blog… to give creators a realistic sense of what they can make in online video (beyond food). Alas, YouTube prohibits it for reasons that aren’t quite clear to me — are there tiers? If compensation varies, then I can be sure I’m at the bottom based on my complete lack of negotiation skills.

I do believe that some prominent YouTube partners are beginning to earn what amounts to a full-time job through the site. But I also understand that some of the early Partner contracts are up for renewal about now.

  • Could some be overstating their earnings? Yes. But some partners are doing $10K a month, especially those that already had an audience and moved them to YouTube. And some creators get millions of views consistently.
  • When some say they’ve quit their day jobs, is that because their costs are so low that even a couple grand a month can sustain them? Maybe.
  • Could the earnings be based on a point of time where, say, they had a video featured that was monetized? Sure.

While there’s no question that many could still earn more money per hour doing something else (like consulting or bartending), I am happier with my income from YouTube than what I was making from YouTube before I became a partner (zero). And while I’m not sure whether the per-view profit is as strong as Revver’s and Metacafe’s (I don’t even have access to any such metrics), I’m not getting any significant views on those sites anymore. So YouTube is far outperforming them.

My advice remains: if you’re looking to get rich, create a bunch of mortgage blogs and sell adsense. Or go into financial services or recruiting like the former co-worker that just called me to “network.”

But if you love video and the community around it, then it’s nice to get an income subsidy that helps you justify the time commitment to yourself, wife and family. I remain optimistic that more of the top creators of YouTube will be able to quit their day jobs, but that’s partially because amateurs will slowly get trumped by the semi pros (whose day job is performing or video creation). It’s already happening. While the amateur vloggers are holding top positions, we’re seeing more semi-professional content done by comedy troups, bands or known offline celebrities.

Now here’s the purpose of my post. I’m curious what people THINK partners make. I can tell from a lot of comments that people WAY over estimate what creators make: “You get paid for this shit?” “You’re asking us for ideas? You’re the one who gets paid.” I can’t participate in this thread, but it will be fun to watch.

And if you’re not a Partner yet, don’t let it upset you unless you have hundreds of thousands of monthly views. Grow the audience and reapply later. Even if YT did make you a partner, it’s not worth it unless you have some views. Take it from a guy that tried Google ads on his blog for a while, and quickly realized that it wasn’t worth the cosmetic interference.