Photo: Mo Vlogs/YouTube

Don’t waste your time trying to be a full time YouTuber. 96% make less than 12k a year

Bradley Wint
By - Founder/Executive Editor
Mar 11, 2018 8:04pm AST
Photo: Mo Vlogs/YouTube
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With internet stars like PewDiePie, Logan Paul, Casey Neistat, and Mo Vlogs making a decent living from YouTube, more and more people are considering pursuing YouTubing as a full time career. A new study now suggests that achieving YouTube fame may be just as difficult as becoming a Hollywood star.

Many of today’s smaller YouTubers either run their channel purely as a hobby or to supplement their main income, but if you plan to join the big boys any time soon, don’t get your hopes up just yet.

A new study by Mathias Bärtl published in the Convergence, The International Journal of Research into New Media Technologies journal shows that 96.5% of those trying to make it as big YouTubers still earn less than the U.S. Federal poverty line figure of $12,140 a year (for a single person). Bärtl, a professor at Offenburg University of Applied Sciences in Offenburg found that those who break into the top 3% of most viewed videos, could see an average income of about $16,800 a year. You’d still be able to make more than that serving coffees at Starbucks.

Unless your channel brings in millions of views per day, don’t expect your earnings to be incredibly high without some other form of support such as sponsorships.

Shifting market share

Things start to get easier once you hit the top three percent, but the problem for most is getting to that point. As YouTube has evolved over the past few years, the bottom 97% of YouTubers are losing ground as the top 3% continue to grab up viewership market share. Back in 2006, the bottom 97% accounted for as much as 36% of site’s viewed videos. Ten years later, that figure dropped to just 10%. This trend could be somewhat blamed on YouTube favouring and promoting content of its top tier producers rather than putting more focus on new content from smaller creators.

Low payout rate

Another barrier includes abysmally low CPM rates, with some channels earning a mere US $0.35 per 1000 views. Compare that to some of the top creators who can earn anywhere from $5-8 per 1000 views. That in itself makes sense as advertisers will obviously want to pay top dollar for channels with more viewership. It’s hard to really pin down a video’s payout as well as CPM rates vary significantly as more focus is put on ad engagements rather than strictly on the number of views.

Many YouTubers fail to realize that a lot of financial success comes more from sponsorships rather than the payout from the platform itself. That explains why a lot of up and coming content usually features a small sponsored segment for totally unrelated products like Squarespace, Dollar Shave Club, and Audible.

It’s difficult to qualify to earn money

New YouTubers are now required to have at least 1,000 subscribers and 4,000 video watch hours within the past 12 months to be eligible to earn money from their videos. This means that if you’re looking to quickly qualify to make money on your content, your videos should not be short, and you need to publish content on a regular basis. Looking back at one of my past channels, even with 450 subscribers, I have a mere 366 watch hours over the past 365 days.

“If you’re a series regular on a network TV show, you’re getting a good amount of money,” said Alice Marwick, an assistant professor of communication at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. “Yet you can have half a million followers on YouTube and still be working at Starbucks.”

Technically speaking, creating YouTube videos is as simple as having an internet connection, a computer, and basic editing software. The reality though is that decent YouTube channels offer quality content, which involves some combination of decent camera equipment and/or editing software, the ability to put together creative content, and also forking up extra cash to pay for props, tools, travel, and any other expenses required for your videos.

The content you like may not be what’s popular

They say it’s always a good idea to focus on a niche topic, but according to the study, videos on “People and Blogs” has a very low chance of being successful, hovering below the 1% mark, while “News and Politics” shot us as high as 11%. Comedy and Video Game content have also maintained decent success rate levels around 5-7%.

A single restriction could kill your channel overnight

Not all content is exactly family oriented. Even though it may be interesting, it may not sit well with everyone. Should your videos or entire channel ever be blocked or demonetized permanently, it could be game over for your YouTube career unless you have some really good inside links to reverse the ban.

While the idea of making quick bucks online may sound interesting, giving up school or a stable career may not be worth it. For most, it makes more sense to do it as a supplemental income.

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