This article first appeared in Forbes Africa and is republished with its permission. Subscribe today by contacting Shanna Jacobsen [email protected]
The internet is a web of opportunities. Many look at YouTube for entertainment, but some look at it for business. The highest paid YouTube channel is PewDiePie who reportedly made $12 million last year, according to FORBES. Meet some Africans who are making money online.
Not many can say they were self-made millionaires by the age of 20. Caspar Lee can— thanks to YouTube.
“At the age of 16, I started making YouTube videos because I was bored and I could use them to procrastinate my homework way more effectively,” he says on YouTube.
After about a year and two unsuccessful YouTube channels, he started Dicasp (Director Caspar).
“Six months after starting Dicasp, it became fairly popular, so I traveled to England to meet and collaborate with people like Jack and Finn Harries, Sam Pepper, Marcus Butler, Alfie Deyes and Bertie Gilbert. These collabs dramatically increased my following, and I went back to South Africa with one intention: to make a life out of YouTube because there is nothing I love more.”
And it is what he has done. On December 31, 2012, he moved to England. Thirteen days later, he moved into his own flat.
“A huge part of me wanted to stay in South Africa but I am confident and positive I have made the right decision. Living in London allows me to work with some of the best YouTubers in the world on a day to day basis,” he says.
It is this dedication that has earned Lee over 6.8 million subscribers to his channel and over 649 million views.
This is big money.
According to reports, Lee was banking R5 million ($350,000) a year in 2014 and his net worth was estimated to be $2 million in 2015.
Lee says he has no idea how to describe his channel. He posts anything that comes to mind and takes suggestions from his subscribers.
His main source of income is the advertisements before and after his videos. His fame has also stirred him to acting and book writing.
Lorton started his IT career in 1991 but he lost his job in 2011.
“I had an idea that it was coming but I didn’t expect it to come so quickly,” he says.
It gave him time to tinker and play. He started sharing videos on YouTube for fun.
“I tried work doing solar power, energy audits and heat pump installations but none of that took off. After not being paid for a small solar-powered project and being rather peeved, I decided to try make money out of running my YouTube channel full time,” he says.
It took off.
He has over 2 million views on one video, over a million on another, and many with hundreds of thousands of views. In July 2013, at 18 months, he was earning about $5,000 per month; about $1,900 from YouTube and the rest from a sponsor.
“I have over 21 million views in total across my channel and average about 500,000 views per month with 620 videos… It’s no longer enough to make a viable full-time income from YouTube alone. In the last 18 months, the advertising rates on YouTube have dropped to a quarter of what they were in 2013 and my sponsor did not renew at the beginning of this year. My income now averages about $1,500 per month.”
Lorton has diversified into affiliate sales through Amazon, earns some money from crowd-funding platform Patreon, produces videos for the channels of other companies and sells advertising space on his website.
“It’s very difficult to start out now on YouTube and make a viable income. You really need to stand out among hundreds of thousands of other channels trying to do the same thing. Your chances of success now are really slim compared to when I started out.”
The channel is for people interested in solar power, electronic measurement equipment, and multimeters. He does reviews, tutorials, how-tos, fun testing, experiments, innovative ideas and solutions.
It may take a while for Lorton to start making as much as he used to, but it is $1,500 he didn’t have.
Ossendryver has always been fascinated by wildlife. As an obsessive Kruger National Park visitor, his favorite pastime was asking his parents to flag down passing motorists asking them what they had seen. Eventually they tired of this and said no. Ossendryver looked to technology to solve his problem.
At the age of 15, he founded Latest Sightings, a wildlife crowdsourcing site for visitors who are in the Kruger National Park to report the animals and events that they are seeing live. They report their location, time and sighting to Latest Sightings, which in turn broadcasts it on social media.
“At 15 I was naïve and phoned an app development company to ask them to develop my idea. They quoted R200,000 ($13,000) and I said ‘no thanks’ as I didn’t have that kind of money.”
He spent hours on YouTube teaching himself how to code an iPhone app.
“Within three weeks, I had the app out on the App Store. I used social media to grow a community of around 30,000 in three weeks. All of this for only $10 for the domain name for my site.”
Four years later, Ossendryver has one of the top-viewed YouTube channels in South Africa. With over 307,000 subscribers and over 351 million views worldwide, it makes money.
The dream of an eight-year-old boy may make headlines one day.
Caspar Lee’s sister, Theodora Lee, is also making money online. She created her self-titled YouTube channel in 2013, and currently has over 230,000 subscribers and 10 million views. She is known for her advice to the young.
“Currently, I post weekly videos on YouTube that aim to uplift and educate people on coming-of-age topics. I like to chat openly about stuff we all go through so that people can feel less alone and find ways to get through their issues and be the happiest they can be,” she says on her blog.
Last year, she won Best YouTube Channel at the African Blogger Awards and was a finalist for Best African Blogger at the 2016 Nickelodeon Kids’ Choice Awards. She is also working on her debut novel.