July 14, 2024
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In the beginning it [YouTube] wasn’t cool, but they were watching and then eventually it started to become cool,” Lee explained in an interview with CNBC Make It.

“Apparently, there’s more young people today who want to be creators than even astronauts, and as good as that is, I also need to explain that it’s something you should probably do for fun at first because the likelihood of you being able to make a significant living out of it is increasing, but it’s still very difficult,” Lee said.

“It is increasing because the long tail of the creator economy has increased, but to be a big YouTube star, that’s actually becoming more and more competitive than ever before.”

The creator economy refers to a growing industry where people are monetizing their skills and talents online, and it’s estimated to roughly double in size to $480 billion by 2027 from $250 billion in 2023, according to a Goldman Sachs report.

Lee previously told CNBC Make It that YouTubers with millions of subscribers can make millions of dollars, typically by joining YouTube’s Partner Program. The program allows creators to earn money by placing ads in their videos.

MrBeast, one of Lee’s fellow YouTubers, has the most subscribers on the platform, and told Time magazine that he earns $600 million to $700 million a year.

But these earnings are reserved for a lucky few. Nearly half of creators earned an annual income of $15,000 or less in 2023, according to a survey of over 2,000 content creators by influencer marketing agency NeoReach. Only 13% of creators surveyed earned more than $100,000.

Lee encourages aspiring YouTubers to find a way to be successful without relying on followers or fame.

“When you’re creating content about yourself, you do rely on your own relevancy. Whereas if you can figure out how to make content, maybe about a specific subject, you can rely on the relevancy of that subject,” he explained.

“Something I also encourage creators to think about is, how can you rely less on your own relevancy while being able to continuously create content?”

Since his YouTube days, Lee has co-founded several companies in the creator economy including the influencer marketing company Influencer.com and a venture capital fund called Creator Ventures.

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