For years, social media companies received content from users for free, which has helped them to grow user engagement and revenue. However, today’s content creators expect content to produce content for free on social media. Instead, a growing number of creators expect to earn revenue from their audience of followers.
According to Forbes, more than two million online content creators earn a six-figure income from platforms like YouTube (which accounts for over a million content creators), Twitch, and Instagram. However, that headline number only tells a fraction of the story. So let’s bring the creator economy to life by looking at seven real-world examples.
These Content Creators Are Earning Millions of Dollars
Content creators are increasingly earning income directly from their followers and platforms like YouTube. The following five examples illustrate some of the ways that online creators are thriving in today’s creator economy. Keep in mind that many figures cited below are revenue estimates – we don’t usually know how much each creator spends on business expenses.
Felix Kjellberg (i.e. PewDiePie)
- 110 Million YouTube Subscribers.
- Niche: Video gaming
- With an estimated monthly revenue of over $4 million, Kjellberg is one of the most successful YouTubers today. In addition to generating revenue from YouTube, Kjellberg also earns revenue from sponsors like NordVPN, selling merchandise (e.g., shirts) and affiliate marketing with Amazon. Kjellberg started on YouTube ten years ago with a Minecraft video.
- 79 Million YouTube Subscribers
- Niche: Comedy and Children’s Content
- The Kids Diana Show is thought to earn over $100 million per year, according to one estimate. Popular videos on the channel include “Diana and her Barbie car” (1.2 billion views) and “Diana Pretend Play With Princess Carriage Inflatable) (974 million views). It is also notable that the Kids Diana Show has only been online since 2015, making it one of the younger multi-million dollar YouTube channels. The channel appeals to young children and parents interested in toys, games, and brands like Hello Kitty and Barbie.
Jimmy Donaldson (i.e., Mr. Beast)
- 63 Million YouTube Subscribers
- Niche: Comedy
- According to Forbes, Mr. Beast has generated approximately $24 million from his YouTube channel. Donaldson’s most popular videos include “I Went Back to 1st Grade For A Day” (100 million views) and “I Spent 50 Hours Buried Alive” (96 million views). In addition to revenue from YouTube, Donaldson also generates revenue through direct deals with sponsors like War Robots, a video game. Donaldson uploaded his first video to YouTube in 2012.
You Don’t Need Millions Of Followers To Succeed
You might be wondering if you need millions of subscribers to achieve success as an online content creator. Fortunately, building up an audience of millions of subscribers is not required to generate an online income from your content. The following content creators are earning income with smaller audiences.
Nikhil Pandey (i.e. “Captain Sinbad”)
- 400,000+ YouTube Subscribers.
- Niche: Comedy and Productivity.
- On YouTube for three years, Pandey recently revealed that he earns $12,000 per month from his YouTube channel. His revenue sources include direct sponsorships with brands like Surfshark VPN. Additionally, Pandey creates a mix of video content, including tips on productivity and comedy-style videos.
- 100,000 YouTube Subscribers
- Niche: Authors and Writing
- With more than 450 paying patrons on Patreon, Abbie Emmons earns income by creating content to help authors with storytelling and writing. In addition to YouTube, Emmons has published a novel, “100 Days of Sunlight, “ in 2019 and sells digital products such as Scrivener courses.
Paid Search Podcast. (i.e. Chris Schaeffer and Jason Rothman)
- 4800 YouTube Subscribers.
- Niche: Google Ads advertising platform
- With 373 active subscribers on Patreon, the Paid Search Podcast earns at least $1,000 per month. This business-focused podcast provides tips on how to create successful advertising campaigns on the Google ads platform. Paying subscribers receive discount codes to the company’s product and access to a video version of the podcast. In addition to direct revenue, the Paid Search Podcast also generates leads for Schaeffer and Rothman, who provide consulting services to business clients.
- 14,400 YouTube Subscribers.
- Niche: Thriller novels sold online and an education company aimed at authors
- Successful content creators are not limited to audio and video. For example, mark Dawson earns a living from his content by publishing thriller novels like “The Cleaner” and “Saint Death.” His first two novels were published with a traditional publisher. However, he now earns a seven-figure income, and his books have been featured on several bestseller lists.
Managing The Number One Risk Of A Content Creator Career
In addition to producing content that audiences love, there is a common thread underlying the success of today’s content creators. Few of them rely on a single source of revenue, like revenue from a single platform, even if it is a large platform like YouTube. If that single source of revenue ever disappeared, the content creator might face a crisis.
Unfortunately, losing income from a platform like YouTube is a real possibility.
The risks of relying on a single online platform for income as a content creator became apparent in 2020. As The Verge reported, YouTube demonetized (i.e., prevents videos from earning revenue from YouTube) multiple content creators when they mentioned the pandemic in 2020. This decision was made due to potential concerns that some individuals may have spread misinformation about the coronavirus pandemic.
While YouTube’s stated goal of fighting misinformation is worthwhile, such actions pose a dilemma for content creators. Rather than attempting to predict YouTube’s ever-changing policies, more content creators are diversifying their income.
Building Multiple Sources of Revenue As A Creator
Many generate additional income through direct sales of books and merchandise, making direct sponsorship deals with companies. In addition to large platforms like YouTube, Instagram, and Twitch, many other platforms and services help creators make a living.
- PeachPay lets creators accept payments in more than 130 currencies, a powerful feature for creators with an international following. In addition, you can also sell ebooks, songs, and other media directly to your fans. You can also set up one-time payments (e.g. when you have a special live stream to celebrate having 100,000 fans) as needed. By giving your fans more flexibility on when and how they can pay, you have a better chance to earn more.
- Patreon makes it easy for fans to pay monthly fees to support more than 200,000 creators. In addition, the platform encourages ongoing payments and a direct connection to fans which can help creators earn a more consistent income.
- Twitter Blue. Launched earlier this year, Twitter’s new subscription service gives users additional features (e.g., undo Tweet) to manage their online presence. These features can be helpful for creators concerned about protecting their brand. To access this feature, you need at least 600 followers.
- Online Books Platforms. While Amazon is the largest online marketplace for digital books, it is not the only option. Authors can also earn income by selling books and stories on Apple Books, Kobo, the Google Play Store, and Barnes & Noble NOOK Books.
Social media is unlikely to disappear tomorrow, but content creators have more options today. The next step as a creator is simple. Take inspiration from one of the creators profiled above and diversify your income. For example, you might email a company to pitch a direct sponsorship. Alternatively, if you create content like books, look for new online stores to sell your products. The choice is up to you!