By no means is it a piece of cake, but making a living on YouTube is possibly one of the most fun careers imaginable. Everything from fashion accessories to kiddie toy reviews is part of a lucrative, multi-billion dollar industry whose bread and butter is advertising revenue.
Clearly, there is no one true path to becoming a YouTube millionaire, as these ten YouTube channel owners demonstrate so very well.
1. Mimi Ikonn
Mimi Ikonn is a great example of someone making a living doing what they love most. In this case, her passion for haute couture fashion has propelled her in just a few short years (she started her YouTube channel in May of 2012) to becoming a recognizable name in the world of fashion blogging and marketing. As outlined here on Quora, a major component to Ikonn’s success was utilizing YouTube as a hub for drawing viewers, using social networks such as Pinterest or Instagram as spokes that brought in additional traffic to her channel.
As she has grown in popularity, she has tailored the scope of her brand to match the interests that her shifting demographic is most engaged with. Not only does Ikonn make videos sharing back-to-school and other fashion tips, she has also tapped into the fierce desire many Millennials have to travel, with some of her videos reviewing destinations such as Sardinia and Morocco.
At this point, if you didn’t know the smash pop hit Gangnam Style, you’ve spent the past three years living under a rock. But you’re reading this, so you’ve probably seen Korean artist Psy’s music video, currently sitting pretty with 2.4 billion views and counting. Various articles written at different times in the last few years have estimated his earnings—just from YouTube ad revenue—at between $2-$8,000,000. And really, it’s not like Psy is a one-hit wonder.
“Hangover,” his collaboration with Snoop Dogg, has another 215,000,000 views, so it’s safe to say that Psy has mastered the art of making big bucks from YouTube videos. Provided you’re a reasonably talented musician (or dedicated to becoming one), know a great music video director, have a big advertising budget, and pander to just the right tastes in pop culture at the right time, there’s no reason why you can’t make it like Psy did.
3. Epic Rap Battles of History
A favorite of lazy Saturday afternoon gatherings in my friend’s living room as well as frivolous high school history teachers, Epic Rap Battles of History (over 12.5 million subscribers) is the brainchild of improv comedians Peter Shukoff and Lloyd Ahlquist. Their videos basically market themselves, something which Shukoff thinks is no secret to becoming a success on YouTube.
In an interview last year with Business Insider, they revealed that a loyal audience has kept ERB ahead of the curve and able to keep making great videos. “I got my joy from tweets from our fans telling us how proud they are. It reminded me how much we and the audience are in this together.” With such strong connections to their subscribers, it’s no wonder that Epic Rap Battles of History has found incredible success.
Jenna Marbles is an upstate New York native who turned her daily struggles experi ences into a successful YouTube venture. While anyone can make videos about the quirks of everyday life, a combination of great personality and at times brutally-self-effacing honesty are what have propelled her to fame. Plus her two dogs Kermit and Mr. Marbles star in many of her videos, sharpening her niche to include dog owners, who are notorious consumers of merch for their precious canine pets.
A lot of what has propelled this eccentric, loudmouthed New Yorker to fame isn’t a secret either; with the right know-how it’s easy to market and grow your business on YouTube.
As ridiculous as it seems, this video game nerd from Sweden has made some serious bank—his YouTube videos have been watched over nine billion times—making videos about everything from video game commentaries, to slapstick montages, to the delightfully NSFW Cards Against Humanity.
He’s also benefitted from his romance with fellow YouTube sensation Marzia Bisognin, managing to not only snag followers for his cheeky videos, but also for finding a girlfriend who’s as media savvy as he is. And if there’s any doubting his cred, South Park parodied him in an episode—a windfall of free publicity worth its weight in gold.
6. Hulyan Maya
Two shrewd parents have turned occasional purchases of toys for their young children into a full-blown million-dollar venture. They started doing product reviews in 2010, and they are on track to make $1.5 million this year in ad revenue from their YouTube videos.
One hallmark of successful YouTube stars is that they are both prolific and consistent when it comes to publishing content. In the case of Hulyan Maya, a minimum of two videos are published daily, which explains how they have built such a loyal and consistent following online. Regularly publishing content that your audience engages with, is essential to building a loyal following.
The dudes behind YOGSCAST are not the only ones making big bucks in the oddly specific genre of Minecraft YouTube channels, but they are definitely one of the most popular. Their channel has over seven million subscribers and they have over three billion total views. They’ve also been on YouTube for a solid seven years, so they have had plenty of time to tailor their videos to the short attention spans of kids under the age of 15, arguably Minecraft’s biggest demographic.
This probably explains the PG-rated lewd humor in a lot of their videos, but if you were making millions by purveying fart jokes in sync with videos of a 16-bit video game you wouldn’t complain, would you?
In a world where “In a world” has become the banal, clichéd opening line for every campy movie trailer ever, Screen Junkies has established a close to five million-strong following of people who just want an honest, undiluted, mostly satirical movie preview.
With close to a billion total views since their inception in 2008 (and you should totally see their take on Inception), Screen Junkies have cornered the movie trailer satire market and milked it to perfection.
9. Dude Perfect
Epitomizing one of YouTube’s original purposes—making studying for a test a nightmare because there was one more crazy/funny/epic video you just had to watch first—is Dude Perfect, a channel that has turned into a viral video powerhouse thanks to some epic trick shots as well as some major faces in the world of sports.
The dudes behind Dude Perfect aren’t just a bunch of amped-up jocks, however. There’s a ton of clever marketing that goes into their videos. Their collaborations with recognizable household names in sports, not to mention their slapstick comedy videos give them an added level of crossover appeal, and they have successfully leveraged their fame on YouTube to appearances on Jimmy Kimmel, Good Morning America, and other mainstream talk shows.
10. Epic Meal Time
I don’t know anyone who has actually attempted to make any of the monstrous, bacon-wrapped creations that the masterminds at Epic Meal Time frequently create, but then, they never really were meant to be taken seriously. What is serious about this cooking show is their loyal following, going on five years this September. With almost seven million followers and close to a billion total views, they have excelled in making money not just from advertising revenue, but have pulled in corporate sponsors including Wendy’s.
Their over-zealous use of bacon has even earned them a sponsorship with meat company Hormel.
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