One of the most commonly asked questions about YouTubing is how much money a typical YouTuber makes, and it’s a tough one to answer because the variation between one YouTuber and the next can be substantial. A much less commonly asked question is what percentage of YouTubers make money? Arguably, it’s a more enlightening question for someone considering getting into YouTube to ask. Here’s why;
If you ask how much a YouTuber earns, you could have an answer anywhere from $30 per month to £30,000 per month. It’s not a particularly useful question in that regard. But the question of what percentage of YouTubers make money at all will give you pretty good idea of how hard it can be to make money on the platform, which, for most users, isn’t as easy as they’d like.
What Percentage of YouTubers Make Money?
Firstly, let’s set a few ground rules for this section.
When we say “make money” we are talking about a substantial enough sum to be considered an income, be it a secondary income or the main thing. Technically speaking, someone who makes the equivalent of $3 a month from their YouTube channel is making money, but it’s hardly worth noting. For the purposes of this post, we’re going to arbitrarily put a cut-off point at $50 a month. This is still a very small amount when you consider the amount of work that goes into an average YouTube channel, but it’s at least enough to pay for a nice meal or the occasional upgrade of your gear.
The other rule is that we are talking exclusively about money made through YouTube. We’ll explore this a little more near the end of the post, but it is entirely possible for someone to make almost nothing on YouTube and still be earning a lot from Patreon or merch sales. We are looking exclusively at things like the YouTube Partner Programme, memberships, and super chats.
YouTubers That Are Eligible to Make Money
At the time of writing, there are around 31 million YouTube channels on the platform. If we start with the lowest barrier to entry for YouTube monetisation—the YouTube Partner Programme—we know that the criteria here requires the YouTuber to have at least a thousand subscribers. There are other factors, such as 4,000 hours watch time and good standing regarding the community guidelines, but we can’t easily find this information out for every YouTuber on the platform. However, according to AskWonder, the number of YouTube channels with over 1,000 subscribers is less than 80,000. Now, granted, these numbers are a little rough around the edges, but the disparity is clear, even if you allow for a substantial margin for error.
Based on these two metrics alone, we can estimate that at most, around 0.25% of all YouTube channels are making money. That’s not a lot.
And, when you consider that not all channels that are have over a thousand subscribers can actually make money, and that even those that can make money might not be making much money at all, it starts to paint a bit of a bleak picture.
Why is the Percentage so Low?
There are probably a lot of complicated factors that play some role in this number, but the biggest, simplest explanation for this enormous disparity between channels and money makers is the low barrier to entry.
It costs nothing, financially, to set up a YouTube channel, and it doesn’t take much in the way of effort, either. This is great for giving more people the opportunity to create content, but it has the side effect of allowing people through the door that haven’t really thought about what they’re getting themselves into. For zero dollars and a minute or two creating a YouTube account and channel, you can have your very own YouTube channel. And, if it doesn’t pan out, you can just delete the channel, or even abandon it.
Potential YouTubers don’t need to ponder the implications or weigh up the pros and cons because there is no penalty for failing. If there was a fee to create a YouTube channel, there would be far fewer channels not making money, because YouTubers would put more thought into whether they really wanted to start a channel—and whether that channel could succeed—before they started.
Of course, we are not arguing for YouTube to raise the barrier to entry on YouTube, just highlighting this dynamic.
What Does This Mean?
We can’t tell you what to take away from information like this, but it is worth noting that there are two ways to look at this. On the one hand, the fact that such a vanishingly small percentage of YouTube channels are even in a position to make money through the platform (which, again, doesn’t guarantee that they are making money) is a bit grim if you are considering becoming a YouTuber and hope to make it a career.
On the other hand, the vast majority of the channels on YouTube are either hardly updated or abandoned entirely. We don’t know exact figures, but if YouTube ever decided to run an automated sweep and delete all the channels that have no videos, there would almost certainly be a noticeable drop in the total channels.
In other words, you shouldn’t be disheartened by the number of channels that fail. There is no external factor making them fail for the most part; it’s just them. Either a lack of ambition or drive. The truth is, if you can make semi-decent content in a niche that has enough interest, getting over a thousand subscribers is a matter of time and patience.
Other Ways of Making Money With a YouTube Channel
The above methods rely on YouTube’s moneymaking methods, and, as such, we can make inferences from other aspects of the platform, as we did with the subscriber count and the YouTube Partner Programme criteria. The reality of making money as a YouTuber is a little more complex than that.
It is entirely possible to make money from your YouTube channel away from the YouTube platform, and it is also possible to be in a position where you have a substantial following but can’t monetise your content on YouTube itself. Granted, we are not talking significant numbers here, but these channels do exist.
Now, if your YouTube channel doesn’t have a sufficient number of subscribers or watch time to meet the YouTube Partner Programme requirements, it’s unlikely you or your brand is known enough to be making any substantial earnings somewhere else, like Patreon. But YouTube channels find themselves excluded from the YouTube Partner Programme—either on a video-by-video basis or channel-wide—on all the time. The most common cause would be creating content that goes against YouTube’s monetisation policy (politics, violence, firearms, anything made for children, etc.). In this manner, a channel could have a million subscribers but be excluded from the YouTube Partner Programme and be unable to make money through YouTube directly. They could also be excluded because of copyright or community guideline strikes.
Still, given the above information about how many channels have over a thousand subscribers, we can’t see the percentage of YouTubers making money using systems other than the YouTube Partner Programme being significant enough to change the shape of things.
In addition to channels that make their money from places other than YouTube, we could also quickly mention YouTubers with multiple channels.
It’s not uncommon among popular YouTubers to have more than one channel.
This typically happens because they are in a niche and their audience wants to see a specific type of content from them, but the YouTuber wants to branch out and do new things. Creating a second channel allows them to do that branching out without alienating any of their audience who might not be interested, since anyone who follows them to the second channel will know they are getting something different.
Now, we can’t practically find out how many of those 31 million YouTube channels belong to a YouTube with more than one channel. Almost certainly some of the 99.75% of YouTube channels that have less than a thousand subscribers will belong to a YouTuber with another channel that is making money. Still, we see no reason to believe the number is high enough to significantly change the landscape we have laid out.
After all, even if every single channel in the 0.25% that has over a thousand subscribers owned a second channel with less than a thousand, that would still only be a quarter of a percent shifted from the not making money side to the making money side.
At first glance, the number of YouTubers that are able to monetise their YouTube channel at all—let alone make a good amount of money from it—looks a bit depressing. Sure, 80,000 is a big number, but it’s a tiny fraction of the 31 million strong whole that is all the YouTube channels.
Just remember that most of that 31 million belongs to YouTubers who gave up, or perhaps never even got started in the first place. Let this post be a reminder that success is far from guaranteed when you start YouTubing, but don’t let it put you off starting at all. If anything, this should illustrate the importance of having some kind of plan.
Now get out there and be the 0.25%!
Top 5 Tools To Get You Started on YouTube
Very quickly before you go here are 5 amazing tools I have used every day to grow my YouTube channel from 0 to 30K subscribers in the last 12 months that I could not live without.
1. VidIQ helps boost my views and get found in search
I almost exclusively switched to VidIQ from a rival in 2020.
Within 12 months I tripled the size of my channel and very quickly learnt the power of thumbnails, click through rate and proper search optimization. Best of all, they are FREE!
2. Adobe Creative Suite helps me craft amazing looking thumbnails and eye-catching videos
I have been making youtube videos on and off since 2013.
When I first started I threw things together in Window Movie Maker, cringed at how it looked but thought “that’s the best I can do so it’ll have to do”.
I soon realized the move time you put into your editing and the more engaging your thumbnails are the more views you will get and the more people will trust you enough to subscribe.
That is why I took the plunge and invested in my editing and design process with Adobe Creative Suite. They offer a WIDE range of tools to help make amazing videos, simple to use tools for overlays, graphics, one click tools to fix your audio and the very powerful Photoshop graphics program to make eye-catching thumbnails.
Best of all you can get a free trial for 30 days on their website, a discount if you are a student and if you are a regular human being it starts from as little as £9 per month if you want to commit to a plan.
3. Rev.com helps people read my videos
You can’t always listen to a video.
Maybe you’re on a bus, a train or sat in a living room with a 5 year old singing baby shark on loop… for HOURS. Or, you are trying to make as little noise as possible while your new born is FINALLY sleeping.
This is where Rev can help you or your audience consume your content on the go, in silence or in a language not native to the video.
Rev.com can help you translate your videos, transcribe your videos, add subtitles and even convert those subtitles into other languages – all from just $1.50 per minute.
A GREAT way to find an audience and keep them hooked no matter where they are watching your content.
4. Learn new skills for FREE with Skillshare
I SUCK reading books to learn, but I LOVE online video courses.
Every month I learn something new. Editing, writing, video skills, how to cook, how to run a business – even how to meditate to calm a busy mind.
I find all of these for FREE with Skillshare – Sign up, pick all the courses you want and cancel anytime you need.
5. Shutterstock helps me add amazing video b-roll cutaways
I mainly make tutorials and talking head videos.
And in this modern world this can be a little boring if you don’t see something funky every once in a while.
I try with overlays, jump cuts and being funny but my secret weapon is b-roll overlay content.
I can talk about skydiving, food, money, kids, cats – ANYTHING I WANT – with a quick search on the Shutterstock website I can find a great looking clip to overlay on my videos, keeping them entertained and watching for longer.
They have a wide library of videos, graphics, images and even a video maker tool and it wont break the bank with plans starting from as little as £8.25 ($9) per month.