The top-earning creators on every platform—and what we can learn from them

Mr Beast in pile of cash blue to pink vertical gradient Passionfruit Remix
Photo credit: MrBeast/YouTube, Remix by Caterina Cox

It’s no secret that being a digital creator or influencer can net very little income, or can be an extremely lucrative endeavor that opens doors and sets those successful at what they do up for life. But just how much do the top earners make, and what platforms do they use?

How do you make money as a content creator in 2023?

We’ve rounded up a sampling of some of the top earners across several of the most prominent platforms — YouTube, TikTok, Twitch, Instagram, and OnlyFans — to take a dive into how they got where they are today, what they’ve done to solidify their success, what lessons aspiring creators can take from them, and, of course, how much money they’re actually making.

Every journey is different, but learning from the achievements and missteps of some of the top content creators today is an easy crash course for anyone looking to follow in their footsteps.

Top-Earning YouTubers

YouTube is a well-tested platform for creators looking to build a brand and an income source. While ad revenue in and of itself may not be the primary way to make money here like it was in the early days, creators have found additional ways to monetize their channels and branch out into other arenas, using their YouTube success as a launching pad.

The list of the richest YouTubers in 2021 covers gamers, pranksters, kid creators, and more, but let’s take a look at some of the top earners who have demonstrated staying power over the years.

MrBeast

YouTube subscribers: 115 million

Yearly earnings: $54 million

Estimated net worth: $500 million

What he’s known for: Extravagant stunts, philanthropic endeavors, challenges

His story: Though he started out making gaming videos, MrBeast has since become known for his philanthropy and outrageous challenges. He first saw viral success in 2017 when he posted a video of himself counting to 100,000, though in recent years, stunts like recreating Squid Game, opening a virtual restaurant, and coercing fellow influencers into competing with one another for large prizes and/or charity have helped shape MrBeast’s brand today.

What we can learn from his channel: Thinking outside of the box and a focus on philanthropy has allowed MrBeast to grow his channel outside of its initial, more specific purpose. 

Jeffree Star

YouTube subscribers: 15.9 million

Yearly earnings: $16 million

Estimated net worth: $200 million

What he’s known for: Makeup tutorials, product reviews

His story: Star actually got his start on MySpace, where he had a brief music career. He eventually began creating makeup tutorials on YouTube and launched his own cosmetics line, Jeffree Star Cosmetics. Perhaps one of the most controversial personalities on YouTube, Star has also gotten into numerous public feuds with other content creators over the years, and has been accused of racism, pushing Nazi imagery, and sexual assault.

What we can learn from his channel: Star has continued to find success both on YouTube and with his cosmetics line, although he doesn’t post as frequently on social media anymore. There’s always an argument to be made that controversy generates publicity, which gets eyes on a creator’s content, but Star’s outstandingly negative reputation in the YouTube community is also a reminder that burning bridges can have long-lasting consequences all the same.

Lilly Singh / IISuperwomanII

YouTube subscribers: 14.6 million

Yearly earnings: $10.5 million

Estimated net worth: $20 million

What she’s known for: Comedy vlogs, skits

Her story: Lilly Singh started releasing YouTube videos in 2010, soon gaining a reputation for her comedy work and collaborations with fellow creators. This ultimately nabbed her a short-lived gig hosting a late-night talk show on NBC as well as an acting career. She has also made a pivot to TikTok, published two books, and launched a production company.

What we can learn from her channel: Singh has steadily grown her brand over the years, giving her longevity in a field that doesn’t always allow for that. This, along with expanding into other ventures and garnering a reputation for positivity and collaboration along the way has ensured her ability to keep benefiting as a content creator even as the landscape continually shifts.

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Top-Earning TikTok Creators

TikTok has only been around for a few years, but has already established itself as a playground for up-and-comers to make all sorts of content — and become well-known enough to venture into acting, reality TV, music, and more. Top-earning TikTok creators might not be making as much as the top-earning YouTube creators just yet, but their numbers are nothing to scoff at, either.

Charli D’Amelio

TikTok followers: 149.2 million

Yearly earnings: $17.5 million

Estimated net worth: $20 million

What she’s known for: Dance videos, lip sync videos

Her story: D’Amelio began creating videos for TikTok in 2019. She had a quick rise to success, frequently dancing to songs trending on the platform or making lip-sync videos. From there, she went on to win Dancing with the Stars, published two books, created several product lines, and launched a reality TV show about her family on Hulu. Despite having a background in dancing, D’Amelio is largely regarded as someone who became famous just for being a normal teen girl — which has been viewed as both a positive and a negative, depending on who you talk to.

What we can learn from her page: There’s no formula for success on any platform, and sometimes the people who find it surprise both their audience and themselves in the process. What D’Amelio has done well is figuring out how to take advantage of that sudden success and turn it into a slew of opportunities that have kept her at the top of TikTok for years.

Addison Rae

TikTok followers: 88.8 million

Yearly earnings: $8.5 million

Estimated net worth: $15 million

What she’s known for: Vlogs, dance videos

Her story: Rae has built a lot of her TikTok empire on lucrative brand deals and sponsorships since joining the platform in 2019. She’s recently tried a pivot to acting, starring in the heavily-watched and heavily-panned gender-swapped take on She’s All That (He’s All That) for Netflix. She also created a podcast with her mother, had a reality-based Snapchat series, and co-founded a makeup and skincare line.

What we can learn from her page: Rae drummed up controversy in 2021 after being filmed eagerly introducing herself to former President Donald Trump at a UFC fight, which led to a discovery that she had allegedly “liked” tweets signifying support of him during the 2016 election. Rae later attempted to come across as neutral, but some damage had already been done. Every successful online personality has to decide whether to be open about their beliefs or not, but opting for the latter and then getting caught on video seeming partisan is a great way to lose control of the narrative.

Khaby Lame

TikTok followers: 152.8 million

Yearly earnings: $10 million

Estimated net worth: $15 million

What he’s known for: Comedy videos

His story: Lame’s TikTok popularity grew when he began posting videos making fun of complicated “life hack” TikToks after being laid off from his job during the pandemic. His exasperation with influencers who try too hard made him relatable to viewers, and keeping things simple has made his own videos easy to consume audiences. He has quickly amassed a large following on the platform, which has in turn landed him a number of sponsorship deals and a partnership with Hugo Boss.

What we can learn from his page: Reaction videos used to be a huge thing on YouTube, and Lame’s TikToks prove that variations on that, updated for a new audience, can still be just as successful. Additionally, creating content that has the ability to cross language barriers and garner international appeal can go a long way on bite-sized TikTok.

Top-Earning Twitch Creators

Who knew streaming gameplay could be so profitable? The Twitch leak of 2021 clued fans in to just how much some of their favorites were making from subscriptions and ad revenue, and even though that doesn’t paint a complete picture of most of the platform’s streamers’ income, it still revealed some pretty impressive numbers. 

Felix Lengyel / xQc

Twitch followers: 11.4 million

Yearly earnings: $8 million

Estimated net worth: $9 million

What he’s known for: Gaming videos

His story: Lengyel began streaming League of Legends as a teenager, but made a name for himself during his time as a professional Overwatch player. By 2018, he had returned to streaming and was the most-watched streamer on Twitch in both 2020 and 2021. He has drummed up a number of controversies in his career thus far, several of which have led to him being temporarily banned from Twitch.

What we can learn from his page: Even temporary bans can be devastating to streamers who make their living on Twitch. And livestreaming means being ultra-aware of the content and commentary being put out in real-time, something creators on other platforms may not have to worry about. 

Tyler Blevins AKA Ninja

Twitch followers: 18.4 million

Yearly earnings: $12.5 million

Estimated net worth: $40 million

What he’s known for: Gaming videos

His story: Blevins has been a professional gamer since 2009, getting his start with Halo 3. His Twitch stream in 2018 in which he played Fortnite with Drake, Travis Scott, and JuJu Smith-Schuster broke records for the platform and took his game to the next level. Since then, he has continued streaming on various sites, appeared on The Masked Singer, and partnered with MasterClass.

What we can learn from his page: Blevins has been involved in several controversies, including admitting that he will not stream with female gamers out of “respect” for his marriage and a desire to avoid gossip back in 2018. Collaborating with other content creators is a great way for both parties to benefit, and considering Blevins himself grew his influence due to a major collab, pointedly declining to extend the same opportunities specifically to female gamers is a reminder that Twitch is still overwhelmingly a platform for male users. 

Michael Grzesiek / Shroud

Twitch followers: 10.4 million

Yearly earnings: $2 million

Estimated net worth: $20 million

What he’s known for: Gaming videos

His story: While many gamers are known for competitiveness and exuberance during the games they play, Grzesiek’s more laid-back style contributed to his rise in popularity after he first began his career with Counter-Strike: Global Offensive. The streamer, better known as Shroud, built up both his YouTube and Twitch over the years and remains one of the most followed players on the latter.

What we can learn from his page: Grzesiek’s continued attention to his YouTube channel even when he exclusively streams gameplay on Twitch gives him an immediate additional revenue source should something happen with his Twitch — a reminder that taking advantage of multiple platforms even when one is the more obvious choice for the type of content helps insulate creators against disaster or shifting landscapes.

Top-Earning Instagram Creators

The top-earners on Instagram are all celebrities who initially became famous in some other way — sports stars, actors, musicians, not to mention a Kardashian or two. And while that’s not exactly a route to emulate for aspiring content creators, it does drive home an important point. Many of the people raking in large amounts via Instagram have another platform elsewhere, even if that just means they primarily create content on YouTube or TikTok and use Instagram as an additional way to interact with their audience. That said, brand deals and sponsorships make it a great place to supplement an income and direct new eyes to other platforms.

Huda Kattan

Instagram followers: 51.6 million

Yearly earnings: $13 million

Estimated net worth: $560 million

What she’s known for: Makeup tutorials, product reviews

Her story: Kattan started a beauty blog back in 2010, expanding to Instagram and becoming a smash hit on that platform even as she launched her own cosmetics line. Although her business has taken off, she continues to post regularly on Instagram and TikTok, sharing tutorials, reviews, and other beauty-related content, making it clear why she has repeatedly ranked among the top influencers on various lists.

What we can learn from her page: While some creators may find success shifting from their original intentions, Kattan’s narrow focus on beauty and makeup all these years has allowed her to build a niche empire with clear opportunities for expansion. Despite finding success with her cosmetics, her continued dedication to social media proves that she understands her audience and allows her to keep taking advantage of the most powerful, direct platform she has.

Emma Chamberlain

Instagram followers: 16.1 million

Yearly earnings: $12 million

Estimated net worth: $12 million

What she’s known for: Comedy videos, fashion

Her story: Although Chamberlain got her start on YouTube, creating a wide variety of videos that highlighted her deadpan sense of humor, her penchant for fashion and work with a number of brands has helped her amass over 16 million followers on Instagram. Not one to be contained, the influencer has undertaken a number of endeavors, including launching her own coffee line, gracing the covers of multiple well-known magazines, and starting a podcast. She also has her own show on IGTV, Styled by Emma.

What we can learn from her page: Chamberlain rose to notoriety for bucking the existing YouTube trends and focusing on her own strengths and creativity. Although she has moved away from the chaotic videos for which she became known, she utilized that success to pivot to pursuing new interests and goals, which she was able to do as her success largely revolved around her personality and versatility as a creator.

Aimee Song

Instagram followers: 6.9 million

Yearly earnings: $2.8 million

Estimated net worth: $25.3 million

What she’s known for: Fashion

Her story: Like Kattan, Song got her start blogging, with Forbes calling her “one of the first people to prove that social content creation…could be a full-time job.” At the time, she focused on her architectural studies, but soon expanded into fashion, collaborating with a number of top brands, publishing several books, and creating both a jewelry and apparel line. During this time, she built up an Instagram following of nearly 7 million followers, where she posts curated content about her life and her travels.

What we can learn from her page: Song’s longevity as a content creator shows that cultivating good relationships with companies and proven expertise in a niche can make working in this space more than just a flash in the pan, particularly for those willing to branch out beyond social media into business-oriented endeavors.

Top-Earning OnlyFans Creators

Like Instagram, many of the top OnlyFans creators were initially famous for something else. It didn’t use to be that way, but when the platform shifted its focus to celebrities like Bella Thorne and Cardi B, things changed. That said, for the time being, it’s still entirely possible to make good money from OnlyFans without getting started somewhere else first. And for those that leverage other social media success into getting fans to pay for an OnlyFans subscription, the potential is even greater.

Danielle Bregoli / Bhad Bhabie

Yearly earnings: $51 million

Estimated net worth: $20 million

What she’s known for: Music, going viral on the Dr. Phil show

Her story: Bregoli is a masterclass in taking advantage of a viral moment. First becoming famous for being the “cash me ousside” girl on Dr. Phil, the teenager soon capitalized on that notoriety and used it to launch a music career, rebranding herself as Bhad Bhabie. She found a  shocking amount of success in the venture, and in turn used that to open an OnlyFans account on her 18th birthday, where she claimed to have earned over $1 million in the first six hours.

What we can learn from her page: Bregoli’s career path isn’t easily replicable but does highlight that being prepared to take advantage of 15 minutes of fame can open a number of unexpected doors. Despite already being embroiled in a lot of drama for her young age, Bregoli’s openness about trauma and addiction has garnered her a fair amount of goodwill.

Gemma McCourt / gem101

Yearly earnings: $27.6 million

What she’s known for: OnlyFans

Her story: McCourt has one of the most popular accounts on OnlyFans, continuing to break into the top ranks even after the platform began catering to celebrities instead of the content creators that built the business into what it’s become. She charges $30 per month for her content and currently boasts “no adverts” on her page.

What we can learn from her page: McCourt’s Instagram and Twitter accounts, which help direct people to her OnlyFans, have just 23,000 and 101,000 followers, respectively, proving that success on OnlyFans without already having millions of fans elsewhere is entirely possible. Unlike other platforms, the direct subscription model also means that having a small group of engaged, dedicated fans can translate to income better than sheer numbers.

Mia Khalifa

Yearly earnings: $6.42 million

Estimated net worth: $5 million

What she’s known for: Adult content, social media personality

Her story: Khalifa first became known for her short-lived porn career. After a brief pivot to sports commentary, she has since built up a following on various platforms for her outspokenness and social observations. She joined OnlyFans in 2020 and has been candid about upcharging followers who don’t respect her boundaries, having stated multiple times that she doesn’t post nudes to the site despite frequently being asked. Khalifa is considered one of the top earners on the platform and claimed to make around $10,000 per day when she opts to post.

What we can learn from her page: Khalifa’s refusal to be who anyone expects her to be because of her past is a reminder of just how important setting boundaries between creator and fans can be — and also that reinventing yourself as a public figure can prove challenging, but that doesn’t mean it can’t or shouldn’t be done.