'YouTube-ing' All the Way to the Bank

Homemade YouTube videos are becoming a source of entertainment and income.

July 9, 2009, 2:50 PM

July 10, 2009 — -- Making YouTube videos is not just a hobby anymore, it's a way for some people to brand themselves and make money.

Elle Fowler, 21, is one of the most successful YouTube beauty gurus, with her own channel of 100-plus, glitzy makeup tutorial videos. The college senior, whose YouTube moniker is "AllThatGlitters21," started doing them a year ago because she was bored for the summer.

Her channel has more than 62,400 subscribers and is so popular that she hired a Hollywood agent for interview bookings and the possibility of turning her name into a brand.

"I have no idea why, but in the last five months, my videos just kind of exploded," Fowler told ABCNews.com. "I came across the YouTube beauty community and everyone looked like they were having so much fun. So I started doing it."

The blonde, blue-eyed beauty buff makes her money off a portion of YouTube's advertising revenue as part of YouTube's partnership program, which inserts advertisements in and around the partner videos and splits the revenue with the creators.

"There are tons of YouTube users making a living off the site, all across the country, hundreds of users are making thousands of dollars a month, and some are making tens of thousands a month or six figures a year," YouTube spokesman Aaron Zamost said.

But YouTube would not disclose how much money partners earned because advertisements vary for different kinds of videos.

"I wouldn't say it's difficult to get started making money on YouTube," Zamost said. "You have to engage others and concentrate on creating great content."

Richard Gordon, director of Digital Innovation at Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism in Illinois, said YouTube is a success story on many different levels.

"If you believe there is a video somewhere on the Internet or even not on it, it's the search engine you go to," Gordon said. "Anybody who has something to say that is interesting or helpful can now do so."

Fowler, who has appeared in Seventeen and Elle magazines because of her YouTube success story, insists she is in it to help girls and young women learn about beauty, and that the money comes with the package.

"When I started, I didn't have anyone helping me, no one to pull me through," Fowler said. "I was in complete obscurity, and I'm still completely shocked at how this happened to me."

Fowler also Twitters and blogs her beauty secrets, which she said are all her own and come from trying hundreds of beauty products she buys with her own money.

A YouTube Family Affair

"For every hundreds of beauty products I try, I make one video for," she said. "I don't really know what the special recipe is for being popular, but with me, I kind of attract the teenager crowd, and part of it is because they can relate to me."

The business even runs in the family. Younger sister Blair, 16, also creates her own YouTube videos on makeup and the sisters promote their mother's monogrammed key chains on their separate channels. Sales have gone through the roof with the girls' big smiles and pearly whites behind the product.

Another famous YouTube sensation, Michael Buckley of "What the Buck?" said he spent 40 hours a week on YouTube before making a dime.

While calling his celebrity gossip-infused show "silly," the money has helped him pay off his credit card debt, and he finally quit his job as an assistant for a music promotion company in September 2008 after his "six figure" YouTube revenue had exceeded his day job salary.

"It's changed my life in every single way," Buckley, who lives in Connecticut with his husband and four dogs, said. "I can't even begin to talk about it. It's going very well."

Every episode of "What the Buck?" is viewed an average of 200,000 times, and some have reached up to 3 million people. The 34-year-old said that writing, hosting and producing his videos, which have mimicked everyone from Miley Cyrus to Britney Spears, is not easy.

"It's definitely me, but it's an extreme version of me," Buckley said of his hosting demeanor. "If you meet me, I'm not as hyper in person. I'm also way more opinionated."

He also said he can "never, never" see himself going back to a regular 9-to-5 job after his YouTube success.

"I'm really just focused on enjoying myself," he said. "Even if people don't like celebrity gossip, people will like the joy of my presentation."