These YouTube sensations are raking in millions and you may be surprised by just who’s doing it. Remember Justin Bieber? He can thank the video-sharing site for his fame. YouTube has the power to make celebrities out of everyday people and because of the site’s monetization structure, these folks are profiting from the comfort of their home. YouTube keeps 45% of all ad earnings while the content creator keeps the remaining 55%. The Google-owned platform brought in more than $15 billion in ad revenue during the 2019 fiscal year. This article examines the YouTube stars who have successfully used the service to build their riches, according to a 2020 list published by Forbes.

Key Takeaways

  • YouTube's ad-sharing revenue program allows users to pocket 45% while the remaining 55% goes to the company.
  • Ryan Kaji, the top YouTube star of 2020, earned $29.5 million, according to Forbes.
  • Mr. Beast, Dude Perfect, Rhett and Link, and Markiplier were the others in the top five.
  • Product reviews, comedy sketches, DIY experiments, stunts, and taste tests were the most popular videos produced by the top five.

1. Ryan Kaji

  • Earnings: $29.5 million 
  • Number of Views: 12.2 billion
  • Total Number of Subscribers: 41.7 million

The person who earned the top spot for 2020 is only nine years old. Ryan Kaji's YouTube page is full of music videos, skits, DIY science experiments, arts and crafts, as well as challenges. Kaji also reviews toys and games on his page for all his fans. He's so popular that a video he uploaded on Dec. 20, 2020, (entitled Ryan's Bug Hunting the backyard at home Pretend Play!!!) racked up more than 378,000 views in just one day.

The young star makes most of his money from retailers Target (TGT), Walmart (WMT), and Marks & Spencer, which sell Ryan's World products, including clothing, books, and toys.  The Guardian reported that Kaji also has a deal in the works for his own television series with Nickelodeon.

2. Mr. Beast (Jimmy Donaldson)

  • Earnings: $24 million
  • Number of Views: 3 billion
  • Total Number of Subscribers: 47.8 million

Known by his fans as Mr. Beast, 22-year-old Jimmy Donaldson is famous for his stunts. According to Forbes, he's amazed his fans by freezing himself in ice and making the largest Lego tower. He's so popular that one video can rack up almost 20 million views in less than two days. That's the case with a video he uploaded on Dec. 19, 2020, called I Opened a Restaurant That Pays You to Eat At It.

Donaldson also profits from merchandise he sells on his website, including apparel, hats, aprons, wristbands, water bottles, and gift cards. The YouTube sensation also introduced MrBeast Burger in December 2020, where fans can order burgers, sandwiches, and sides from delivery apps like Doordash .

3. Dude Perfect

  • Earnings: $23 million
  • Number of Views: 2.77 billion
  • Total Number of Subscribers: 57.5 million

YouTube's number three star is actually a group consisting of five young men—Coby Cotton, Cory Cotton, Garret Hilbert, Cody Jones, and Tyler Toney. These "five buds," who are based in Texas, upload sports and comedy videos, including card throwing, playing with flame throwers, having a Nerf battle in a corn maze, among others. The group are brand ambassadors for Nerf and partnered with names like Fiat and Bass Pro Shops who sponsor some of their content.

The group also makes money from Dude Perfect-branded merchandise, including apparel, sports gear, and accessories. If you're a fan, you can buy an official basketball for about $40 or a reflective hoodie for $55.

Becoming a full-time YouTuber requires a lot of hard work and dedication.

4. Rhett and Link

  • Earnings: $20 million 
  • Number of Views: 1.9 billion
  • Total Number of Subscribers: 41.8 million 

Rhett McLaughlin and Charles Lincoln "Link" Neal, commonly known as Rhett and Link, work together bringing fans entertaining videos on their YouTube page, Good Mythical Morning, and through their entertainment company, Mythical Entertainment.

The pair upload videos each weekday, where they taste-test foods, explore different products, compete with celebrities, and conduct experiments. The two also have a podcast and sell their own merchandise, including apparel, grooming products, and accessories. According to Forbes, the duo brings in roughly $11 million in revenue from YouTube's ad-share. If you're a huge fan, you can join the pair's fan club, which gives you access to exclusive content. What's the cost? About $10 to $20 per month.

5. Markplier (Mark Fischbach)

  • Earnings: $19.5 million
  • Number of Views: 3.1 billion
  • Total Number of Subscribers: 27.8 million

Mark Fischbach, who goes by Markiplier, is well-known for his gaming videos, comedy, and parodies. The 31-year-old takes fifth place on Forbes' list of the most successful YouTube stars of 2020.

In early December 2020, Fischbach ended up in the hospital, telling fans about the troubles he was having with a bowel obstruction in a video he posted to his page. The video racked up more than five million views. The young entrepreneur is also dabbling in the apparel business. He co-founded Cloak with Sean William McLoughlin, an Irish YouTuber better known as Jacksepticeye.

The Bottom Line

You've shot a video and you've uploaded it. Now you just sit back and wait for the money to roll in, right? Sure, it seems like an easy way to earn money. But it takes more than a camera and good lighting to get yourself noticed on YouTube. It's all about personality and quality content. The most successful YouTubers, like the ones listed above, review products and test food while others do crazy stunts to get fans to click on the videos on their YouTube page. If you think you have what it takes, you may be able to join these elite stars and watch your bottom line grow.