This story is part of CNBC Make It’s Millennial Money series, which profiles people around the world and details how they earn, spend and save their money.
Graham Stephan pulls up to a high-end Hollywood Hills property in his matte black Tesla Model 3. It’s a four-bed, 2,300-square-foot home listed for $2.169 million by The Oppenheim Group, where Stephan has worked as a realtor since 2015.
He’s sold multiple properties like it — and every time he closes a deal, he collects a nice commission check.
As of September 2019, Stephan has earned $77,152 in real estate commissions on the five properties he’s sold so far this year. But that represents just a fraction of his income. While the 29-year-old millionaire got his start in real estate, he now earns most of his money making YouTube videos.
Stephan, who was born and raised in Los Angeles, never dreamed he’d make his living as a YouTuber. He was earning good money as a realtor, a career he started at 18 after he didn’t get into college. He’d watched YouTube videos for years — “it was my version of TV,” he tells CNBC Make It — but didn’t think he had the personality to be a creator himself. “It looked like such a fun thing to do and I’d always wanted to do it, but I also felt like, Who would want to watch me?”
About three years ago, he decided to film and upload a video. It was an explainer on how to be a successful real estate agent that he shot “selfie-style” on his iPhone.
“I remember that video getting nine or 10 views,” says Stephan, “and thinking, Oh my God, nine people somewhere have seen this video! So I started making more videos. Once I started doing about two videos a week, the growth really just exploded.”
Today, Stephan has close to 1.5 million subscribers across two channels. He earns an average of $90,684 a month on the platform and will bring in well over $1 million for 2019. His videos cover a range of topics, from how to build wealth as a teen to buying a Tesla “for free.” And he regularly posts reaction videos to CNBC Make It’s Millennial Money series, offering commentary on how the subjects could improve their finances.
This year will be the first time he’s earned seven figures in a calendar year, a milestone he’s been striving for since 2017. “Two years ago, I made a goal challenge video,” says Stephan. “My goal was to make $1 million in 2018.” He didn’t quite achieve it, but he surprised even himself by hitting it just a year later.
What he earns
Stephan currently has six revenue streams. His average monthly income is $150,420, though it goes up and down month to month, as low as $61,200 and as high as $221,300 in 2019. He’s on track to earn a minimum of $1.6 million this year, but could bring home closer to $2 million, he estimates.
The numbers below are based on Stephan’s income as of September 2019.
Stephan’s main YouTube channel, Graham Stephan, has over 1 million subscribers and focuses on his experiences in the real estate industry. It’s earned him, on average, $81,428 a month in 2019, though the most he’s made in one month from the channel is $136,330.
He launched a second channel, The Graham Stephan Show, in May 2019. It has over 200,000 subscribers, covers a variety of money and business topics and has brought in, on average, $9,256 per month in 2019, though he’s currently earning closer to $24,000 per month from this channel.
Stephan estimates that 85% of his total yearly earnings come from YouTube. Still, he treats it like “bonus income” and hasn’t spent any of it. “If YouTube were to vanish tomorrow, I would be disappointed,” he says, but from a money perspective, “it’s never been something that I’ve relied on.”
Stephan sells two online courses: “The Real Estate Agent Academy,” which focuses on how to get started in the industry, and “The YouTube Creator Academy,” which helps people grow their YouTube channel and turn it into a business.
The classes, which he started selling in early 2018, earn him nearly $30,000 a month. “Since it’s all online, that’s pretty much all profit,” says Stephan, who pays $90 a month to use the platform Teachable. “There’s almost no overhead whatsoever.”
That said, creating them was “quite the ordeal,” he admits. ”‘The Real Estate Agent Academy’ took me nearly a year to make. That involved speaking with over a dozen real estate agents about their careers, what they wished they learned, what they wanted to improve on … filming each segment, editing and then putting it together in such a way that the user wouldn’t have any questions whatsoever.”