Unless you’re a parent of a young child, chances are you’ve never heard of Evan. But this nine-year-old’s YouTube videos have more than one billion views and, according to one estimate, earn $1 million a year.
What’s Evan doing in these wildly popular videos? Reviewing toys.
Intrigued? I sure was. So I talked to Evan’s family to get the inside scoop on why they started making YouTube videos, how they earn money with YouTube — and how you can do the same.
The Story Behind EvanTube
Back in 2011, five-year-old Evan asked his dad if he could make a YouTube video. He had watched some music videos on the platform and was interested in how they were made.
Sensing a teachable moment, Evan’s dad Jared showed him how to make a stop-motion animation video using some of his favorite Angry Birds plush toys. The next month, they worked on a different Angry Birds craft project. Proud of what he’d created, Evan asked Jared to put the video on YouTube.
“We didn’t think much of it at the time. [But] we checked back in a week or so and saw that a few thousand people had watched it!” says Jared. “Many of those viewers wanted to know how we made them. So our next video was a tutorial. We just kept listening to what the viewers wanted to see next.”
And the views kept rolling in. The fact that the videos were both fun and informative, combined with Evan’s appeal and relatability to other children, was a recipe for success.
“Our videos are a bit unique in that the kids don’t just describe what the toys do, but also demonstrate them in an ‘out of the box’ way, whether it’s doing a funny skit or using humor or special effects… We’ve been told many times that some kids even memorize the videos verbatim and will recite them, giving their own performance,” explains Jared.
Three and a half years, a million subscribers and a billion views later, Jared is shocked by the channel’s growth: “When we started the channel, we didn’t expect anyone other than the grandparents to be watching.”
They now work together to produce videos for three different channels: EvanTubeHD, on which Evan and his sister Jillian review toys; EvanTubeRAW, which shows behind-the-scenes family footage and activities; and EvanTubeGaming, on which Evan reviews video games.
In spite of their YouTube fame, they say they’re still just a regular family. In fact, Jared attributes a lot of their success to this fact, saying: “We work as a tight family unit. Everyone contributes and has their special roles… Family is the driving factor behind everything we do on YouTube.”
And though Evan and Jillian are undoubtedly YouTube sensations, Jared and his wife do their best to maintain normal lives for the children. “They go to school, hang out with friends, and do their extracurricular activities. Evan is really into karate, while Jillian loves piano and dance,” says Jared.
Normal — besides the fact that both kids now get recognized on the street. Jared views it positively, though, saying: “I think it really helps their self-confidence knowing that so many kids look up to them and see them as role models.”
How YouTube Is Funding Evan’s Education… and Retirement
Evan’s family didn’t set out with the intention to earn money from the channel. Jared didn’t even know earning money off YouTube was possible; at first, his only payment came in the form of “father/son bonding time.”
Then one day, Jared decided to click the “monetize” button just to “see what would happen.” They started earning a few dollars a day that way and, savvy to the power of compound interest, Jared realized these dollars could eventually grow into something:
I thought if I took this small stream of income and put it into a mutual fund, by the time the kids were ready to go to college, there would be a nice chunk there to assist with rising costs of education.
They’ve likely built up a nice chunk of change by now.
A Newsweek article published in November 2013 estimated that Evan’s channel earned $41,000 a year. The channel has grown a lot since then, and a recent Business Insider video estimated they make $1 million a year.
Though Jared didn’t share how much the channels earn, he made it clear they don’t rely on Evan’s YouTube stardom to support their family. Jared still runs his own business to “cover the costs of everyday expenses” and the majority of the YouTube earnings “are invested for the future.” In fact, both kids have their own Roth IRAs (which they max out each year) in addition to their 529 education plans.
They also make an effort to use their popularity for good. They donate the majority of the toys they receive to charities, and they help raise awareness for various organizations by featuring them on their channels. Most recently, they had a “really incredible experience” working with the Make-A-Wish Foundation to fulfill one young boy’s dream: meeting Evan and making a video with him at LegoLand.
How You Can Earn Money from YouTube
Inspired to start your own YouTube channel, but wondering how you can actually earn money from it?
Making money on YouTube follows the same pattern as other forms of traditional and digital media: advertisers pay you for exposure to your community.
“Basically, the more eyes and ears you have watching or listening, the more attractive you are to advertisers and sponsors. With a lot of advertisers turning to online media, a content creator with substantial viewership can make a pretty good living,” Jared explains.
If that sounds like something you’d like to pursue, here are a few key pieces of advice Jared shared with us:
Build a Channel Around Your Passions
People can tell when you’re passionate about something — like Evan is with toys. Make sure you have the necessary enthusiasm, knowledge and relatability to sustain an entire channel and community around your chosen topic.
Case in point: Evan is so relatable to his viewers that Jared often receives messages from parents whose kids love talking about their “friend” Evan.
Make Videos You’d Want to Watch
If you’re focusing on something you’re passionate about, it should be easy to come up with topic ideas: just think about what kinds of videos you would be interested in.
“Chances are somebody out there has a desire to see the exact same thing,” Jared points out.
Focus on Quality
Since Jared and his wife have backgrounds in arts and education, they ensured their videos were not only entertaining — but also visually inspiring and educational. Nobody wants to watch poorly-made videos, so make this a top priority.
Connect With Viewers
As with all social media platforms, it’s essential to connect with your community. Ask viewers what they want to see, then listen to them. Get further involved by replying to comments on your videos or giving shout-outs to avid viewers.
Collaborate With Other Channels
Find other channels in your niche and start making connections with them. Eventually, pursue video collaborations with them; Jared calls these a “great way to widen your viewer base.”
Earning money on YouTube takes time and dedication. You can’t just put up a few videos and expect the dollars to start rolling in.
Jared advises aspiring YouTube stars to “Set realistic goals and don’t give up.”
Your Turn: Do you dream of being a YouTube star? Are you inspired by Evan’s story?