How Many YouTube Creators Could be “Full Time”?

This was sparked by a user on the /r/LetsPlay subreddit asking how many content creators were making a living on YouTube. I like running the numbers sometimes, and so here we are — together.

It is very hard to make a living off of YouTube. Many non-creators don’t realize how hard it is. Time spend per dollar earned is generally very poor compared to other vocations. If one is just trying to earn money to support yourself, one would likely be better supported by a typical day job, going to college or trade school, etc. but all the same, let’s take a look.

First off, let’s start with a few assumptions:

  • Creators that have at least 100,000 (active) subscribers are able to earn on the order of full-time minimum wage pay from ad revenue alone (if only just barely). The exact value is going to vary a great deal from creator to creator, but let’s call this the minimum.
  • More and more smaller creators are able to go “full time” earlier due to wonderful platforms like Patreon (like I hope to!). Let’s assume that this allows about half again as many channels to go full time, even if they’re below that 100k subscriber cutoff.
  • By my best estimates, there are something like 25,000 creators above about 100,000 subscribers, and there are over 12 million or so channels in total (though this is tricky to estimate, I’ve used SocialBlade’s tracking to get an approximation. They start tracking at 5 subscribers, so we’ll call anyone over that line “a channel” among that 12 million-ish).

Okay! So let’s call it 40,000 channels that are able to earn full-time minimum wage as a result of their ad revenue, Patreon support, etc. That is out of the ~12,000,000 channels out there, giving us:

40,000 full time creators / 12,000,000 total channels * 100% = 0.33%…

So! About one third of one percent of YouTube creators are able to potentially support themselves full time through their creative efforts.

For perspective, I encourage you think about what percent of grocers are making full time minimum wage or better. Or what percent of HR people, or factory workers, any other vocation for that matter. 75%? 90%? I’d wager it’s a lot higher than 0.3%.

And so you can see that the vast majority of us YouTuber creators are doing this because we absolutely love it, not because we’re making easy dough (because a huge proportion of us are, in fact, not).

I encourage you to reach out to a favorite creator today, and tell them you appreciate what they make — they’re doing it for love of creating something new… for you.

If you enjoyed this article, or any of my other ramblings, you can support me in making more internet-shaped things by buying me a coffee, or by subscribing to my YouTube channel!

I’m also always down to chat on Twitter, and have created an 80-page pay-what-you-want guide to help you make your YouTube channel better.