12 People Making Real Money on YouTube and Instagram

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female vlogger recording a make-up video for her vlog
Photo credit: jacoblund/istockphoto

It's not easy to make a living on social media, especially if you're not already famous. The main way "influencers" earn money on platforms like YouTube and Instagram is through advertising and sponsored posts, but both require building a massive fan base before those precious views translate to cash. Still, it can be done. From video game stars to jewelry curators, we found some of the world's most successful social media personalities who started with nothing but a few followers.
DanTDM
Photo credit: TheDiamondMinecart/youtube.com

Estimated income: $16.5 million in 2017
If you're going to cover video games on YouTube, it helps to cover one of the most popular games of all time. That's what catapulted 26-year-old Daniel Robert Middleton to internet fame in 2012 when he created his channel "The Diamond Minecart" (now called "DanTDM"), which explores everything in the Minecraft universe. According to Forbes, Middleton was the highest-paid YouTuber of 2017.

Fortnite's 'Ninja'
Photo credit: Fortnite Clips/youtube.com

Estimated income: $6 million
Better known as "Ninja" to his 7 million followers on the live streaming video platform Twitch, 26-year-old Tyler Blevins is arguably the most famous video game streamer on the planet. He's become a master of the popular battle-royale game Fortnite, and it's paid off: He earns about $500,000 per month from Twitch and sponsorship deals, and even recently hooked up with the rapper Drake to play the game online.

h3h3Productions
Photo credit: h3h3Productions/youtube.com

Estimated income: $660,000
In 2013, husband-and-wife duo Ethan and Hila Klein started making hilarious and subversive "reaction videos" that satirized the more popular (and often more obnoxious) YouTube channels of the day. Since, their channel has earned more than 5.6 million subscribers with comedy videos of all types, and the Kleins now run a popular podcast on which internet personalities and mainstream artists alike talk about pop culture, comedy, and, of course, the ever-changing state of YouTube.

Unbox Therapy
Photo credit: unboxtherapy/youtube.com

Estimated income: $1.5 million
Perhaps surprisingly, videos of people unboxing products have quickly become one of the most-watched activities on YouTube. A hugely popular channel called Unbox Therapy arguably leads the genre with its funny and well-produced videos that explore gadgets ranging from iPhones to $30,000 gaming chairs. The channel currently has more than 10 million subscribers and is run by frontman Lewis George Hilsenteger and a cameraman simply named "Jack," whose appearance was a much-discussed mystery until earlier this year when he revealed his appearance in a video.

PewDiePie
Photo credit: PewDiePie/youtube.com

Estimated income: $12 million
Felix Kjellberg — better known on the internet as PewDiePie — is arguably the world's most famous YouTuber, and he's managed to earn a multi-million-dollar salary since 2013. His videos, which currently have more than 17 billion views, feature playthroughs of popular video games, comedy, and commentary on internet culture. In 2016, Felix made Time's list of "The World's Most Influential People."

Rosanna Pansino
Photo credit: RosannaPansino/youtube.com

Estimated income: $6 million in 2016
YouTube is flooded with cooking channels. But actress, baker, and author Rosanna Pansino managed to cut through the noise and gain nearly 10 million subscribers with her channel "Nerdy Nummies," a bright, bubbly collection of video game playthroughs and cooking videos that teach subscribers how to make pop-culture-influenced dishes, such as "My Little Pony Cupcakes." In addition to her acting and YouTube careers, Pansino also maintains a popular Instagram account with more than 3.5 million followers.

Gem Gossip
Photo credit: GemGossip/facebook.com

Estimated income: $100,000+ in 2017
Danielle Miele, a Nashville-based jewelry influencer, never planned to make money when she began blogging about gems and jewelry in 2008. But the industry eventually took notice, and now Miele earns a six-figure income through sponsored posts on her Instagram account, which has about 174,000 followers.

Jen Selter
Photo credit: jenLselter/facebook.com

Estimated income: $15,000 per post
Jen Selter might not be a professional athlete or certified fitness trainer, but her work over the years as an amateur fitness model has catapulted her to Instagram fame. Selter, who Cosmopolitan once claimed has "the most famous butt on Instagram," currently has about 12 million followers and spends much of her time traveling the world.

Ryan ToysReview
Photo credit: Ryan ToysReview/youtube.com

Estimated income: $11 million in 2017
Ryan (his last name is kept secret) is arguably one of the highest-paid elementary school kids on the planet. It all started in 2015 when he and his parents started Ryan ToysReview, a YouTube channel that's been described as a mashup between a vlog and an unboxing channel. Ryan ToysReview earned modest views on its early videos, but quickly shot to fame and, at least for a few months, was the most popular channel on YouTube.

Dude Perfect
Photo credit: Dude Perfect/youtube.com

Estimated income: $14 million in 2017
These five former high school basketball players, two of whom are twin brothers, have managed to earn a cult following and make millions of dollars doing what they love: playing sports and making people laugh. Dude Perfect's videos typically feature sports commentary and satire, stunts, and, most famously, extremely unlikely trick shots, some of which have even broken world records.

The Cece Show
Photo credit: thececeshow/facebook.com

Estimated income: $72,000 from Instagram in 2017
Cece Price is another elementary school pupil who's making it big on social media, having earned more than 1 million Instagram followers in recent years with the comedy videos she makes with her friends and family. Adept at impressions and off-the-cuff humor, Price has met Kevin Hart, regularly gets paid to appear at events, and recently just scored a role in her first movie.

Doyoutravel
Photo credit: doyoutravelphoto/facebook.com

Estimated income: $9,000 per post
Jack Morriss and Lauren Bullen earn six-figure incomes doing what most people pay to do: travel the world. The couple document their often luxurious and enviable international exploits on their Instagram account doyoutravel, which currently has just under 3 million followers. Bullen and Morriss were also recently featured in a story about social media influencers for the New Yorker.

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