For most of us, posting YouTube videos of our dogs and kids doing silly things is a fun pastime. However, for a select group of content creators, making YouTube videos is also the pathway to fame and fortune.
Every year, Forbes releases its list of the highest paid YouTube stars, and the money that some of these video-makers rake in is truly staggering. Some of them even make more money than TV actors. Take a look below at some of the top-earning YouTube stars of the past few years.
Seven-year-old Ryan might just be living the dream of most kids. In his videos, he plays with and gives his thoughts about different kinds of toys. And for this, Forbes estimated that he earned $22 million in 2018 from YouTube and his “Ryan’s World” branded toy collection for Walmart.
YouTube personality Jake Paul is living large. Thanks to his estimated $21.5 million yearly income, the internet celebrity bought a $6.9 million home in late 2017. He is best known for creating rap music and prank videos, as well as for being the younger brother of Logan Paul, another YouTube star who faced controversy after posting a video of a dead body.
Former roommates and friends Garrett Hilbert, Cody Jones, Tyler Toney and brothers Coby and Cory Cotton make up “Dude Perfect.” Their YouTube channel features an array of videos of the Dude Perfect crew pulling off elaborate sports and trick videos as well as other content, like the guys acting out stereotypes. Dude Perfect is estimated to be worth $14 million.
British gamer Daniel Middleton (no relation to the Duchess of Cambridge) has quickly amassed a ton of fans and money in the six years that he’s been making Minecraft-themed videos. Forbes estimated his 2018 income as $18.5 million.
Prior to becoming a YouTube star, Middleton stocked shelves at a grocery store.
Makeup maven Jeffree Star earned a reported $18 million in 2018, no doubt in part due to his line of cosmetics, Jeffree Star Cosmetics, that he promotes on his YouTube channel. Prior to his success as a beauty mogul, Star had a career in music and even released an album in 2009 called “Beauty Killer.”
As a gamer, Mark Fischbach, known online as Markiplier, reportedly racked up over $17.5 million in 2018 — not too shabby for a career that includes playing PS4 most days! Fischbach also made some lucrative deals in recent years, including launching his own athleisure clothing brand for gamers.
Playing video games was also highly lucrative for VanossGaming (real name: Evan Fong). Just behind Markiplier in 2018 earnings, Fong reportedly made $17 million in one year.
“Viewers really like the authentic type of content from regular people just playing games because they can relate to that. And I think that’s a huge reason why people prefer to watch YouTube videos. It really is a totally different experience and it’s something you can’t find on TV,” Fong explained to CBC in 2015.
Irish YouTuber Seán McLoughlin is another gamer who’s making big bucks from the video platform. In 2018, he was estimated to have earned $16 million. He also signed a deal to create content for Twitch.
As one of the most followed (and perhaps controversial) of YouTube’s stars, it’s no surprise that PewDiePie, aka Felix Kjellberg, is one of its best-paid ones as well. With $15.5 million in earnings, the Swedish gamer landed in ninth place on Forbes’ 2018 list. In 2017, Kjellberg was investigated for using anti-Semitic language which led to his YouTube Red series being canceled.
Despite being supposedly kicked off of YouTube’s Google Preferred program due to a controversial video of a dead body, internet celebrity and actor Logan Paul still managed to earn $14.5 million in 2018. Fans can’t seem to get enough of Paul’s prank videos and other outrageous content. However, that didn’t stop at least one outlet from referring to him as the “worst YouTuber of the year.”
DC Toys Collector
While most YouTube stars seek to become famous as well as wealthy, the creator of the DC Toys Collector channel has mostly stayed out of the spotlight, despite making a reported $4.9 million in 2014. After some sleuthing by journalists, the person behind the unboxing of toys turned out to be a Brazilian woman who had previously worked in adult films. Now, she spends her time unboxing Disney children’s toys in a very G-rated manner.
In addition to being a fun word to say, Smosh is also the sketch comedy YouTube channel and the original brainchild of Anthony Padilla and Ian Hecox. According to Forbes, the duo raked in $7 million in 2016.
However, 2018 was not the best year for Smosh. Padilla left Smosh, and Smosh’s parent company, Defy Media, closed their doors. Despite this, Hecox has said that Smosh will continue.
Actress and comedian Lilly Singh, otherwise known as iiSuperwomanii, is considered to be one of the highest-paid female YouTuber stars today. She cracked Forbes’ list in 2017 with a reported $10.5 million income. In addition to making videos, Singh has also released a feature film and even her own book, “How to Be a Bawse: A Guide to Conquering Life.”
Benny And Rafi Fine
Having made it onto Forbes’ 2015 list of top YouTube earners, brothers Benny and Rafi Fine reportedly made $8.5 million that year. (They even had their own TV show on Nickelodeon for a brief time.) However, that all changed in 2016, when the brothers tried to trademark their “react” videos and lost hundreds of thousands of followers in the process. The brothers eventually regained their followers and expanded their YouTube success into a full-fledged media company, Fine Brothers Entertainment.
With a reported $8 million income in 2016, YouTuber Roman Atwood has made some serious dough vlogging about his life and creating stunt videos on the platform. In 2018, Atwood announced he’d be discontinuing daily vlogs in order to create “something bigger.”
Most professional violinists don’t make $7 million a year, but then again, most violinists aren’t YouTube star Lindsey Stirling. Not only does she play the violin, but she also sings and dances, making her YouTube channel a fun musical mash-up. Stirling has also released four albums and appeared on “America’s Got Talent.”
Not only is he a YouTube star, but Tyler Oakley has used his fame to be an LGBT activist as well. He is best known for his vlogs on the video platform. In 2016, he reportedly made $6 million.
German Garmendia (pictured on left) is a Chilean YouTuber best known for his channels, HolaSoyGerman and JuegaGerman. He earned a reported $5.5 million in 2016 from his Spanish-language videos showing him doing everyday tasks like working out at the gym.
Colleen Ballinger (Miranda Sings)
Colleen Ballinger is an actress, comedian and YouTube sensation who created a character that is bigger than herself. On the Miranda Sings channel, Ballinger posts videos and songs, all in character as Miranda Sings, a quirky and not terribly self-aware wannabe star. Ballinger also wrote and starred in a Netflix series from 2016 to 2017 as Miranda. Her yearly income between 2015-2016 was thought to be $5 million.
With an estimated income of somewhere in the six figures to several million dollars range, Jenna Mourey, who goes by the stage name “Jenna Marbles,” is one of the most successful YouTube vloggers around. In addition to sharing about her life on the video platform, she has also hosted a radio show on SiriusXM. Mourey produces her own podcast as well.
Rhett & Link
Rhett McLaughlin and Link Neal are engineers-turned-comedians who’ve found an audience on YouTube. In 2015, the duo pulled in a reported $4.5 million, according to Forbes. In addition to their videos, they’ve also produced a podcast and a book.
Olajide Olatunji, known on YouTube as KSI, is a British gamer and musical artist. In 2015, he earned $4.5 million, according to Forbes. He also released a book that year titled “KSI: I Am A Tool.”
In a short amount of time, Michelle Phan has gone from YouTube makeup vlogger to beauty mogul. In 2015, Forbes reported that she earned $3 million, but it’s likely that she’s made much more now that she’s the founder of a successful beauty company, Ipsy. However, Phan no longer makes YouTube content and has been on hiatus from the platform since 2017.
Gamer theRadBrad, also known as Bradley Colburn, is known for his “walkthroughs” of popular games. (He shows viewers how to play and win games.) In 2014, Business Insider estimated his yearly income could be as much as $1.38 million.
PrankVsPrank was a YouTube channel created by then-couple Jesse Wellens and Jeana Smith. At the height of their fame, it was estimated that the couple made as much as $2.26 million. However, the duo split in 2016 and stopped creating videos together.
YouTuber Samuel de Luque is a Spanish gamer who reportedly earned up to $2.59 million in 2014. He is known for creating backstories for characters in video games to make them more interesting and narrative.
In 2016, baking expert and YouTube personality Rosanna Pansino made Forbes’ top-earners list with a $6 million income. On her cooking series, Nerdy Nummies, Pansino shows viewers how to make recipes with “nerdy” themes.
Crazy Russian Hacker
As his name implies, the CrazyRussianHacker, also known as Taras Kulakov, makes life hack videos on YouTube. He also films science experiment videos. His reported annual earnings were estimated to be around $1.8 million.
Most adults don’t make $1.3 million a year, but a 12-year-old named Evan has reportedly made that much reviewing toys and making fun kid-friendly video content, according to 2014 figures. It will be interesting to see how his channel changes as he gets older.
YouTuber Joey Graceffa has not one but two self-titled YouTube channels, a gaming channel and one where he vlogs. For his efforts, Graceffa averages about $365,000 a year. He has also written a YA novel.