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How to make money on YouTube

There are five key ways you can earn money on YouTube. We’ll look at each in turn and look at how you can leverage your content to provide financial gain. 

A part of a laptop screen with YouTube opened and a few thumbnails of videos showing
Photo by NordWood Themes on Unsplash

We’ve all heard the stories of huge YouTubers that are making tens of thousands of dollars from every video, but is that only possible for the big lifestyle vloggers? Is it even possible for a new YouTuber to make money on the platform?  

Fortunately, yes, it is. However, if you want to make serious money from your YouTube channel, you need to be looking at additional income streams besides AdSense. 

Your content and niche are all down to you, but here are some of the best ways to make money on YouTube, how much YouTubers make, and how much YouTube pays. 

5 ways to Make Money on YouTube

There are five key ways you can earn money on YouTube. We’ll look at each in turn and look at how you can leverage your content to provide financial gain. 

1. Ad Revenue

This, of course, is the most well-known method of making money from YouTube and is the easiest to set up. Unfortunately, this method takes a lot of time to build up to a good monthly revenue but is a great foundation for your YouTube income. 

To get paid for the ads that display on your videos, you need to join the YouTube Partner Program (YPP). You can only do this if you are:

  1. In good standing with YouTube – you have to be aware of their guidelines and not have too many videos that are ineligible (e.g., have copyright claims).
  2. Have racked up at least 4,000 watch hours in the previous 12 months.
  3. Have more than 1,000 subscribers.

This may sound daunting if you’ve yet to set up your channel but is fairly achievable after a short amount of time. Plus, once you’re approved, the cash will keep coming in for as long as your videos are live.  

It’s also worth noting that the age of your audience and where they are in the world will affect how much you can make with AdSense. A mature audience (25-40ish) will make far more money than young teens because a mature audience is often worth more to the advertiser. Similarly, a US or UK audience is worth more than say, your audience in the Philippines.

2. Encourage Memberships and Super Chats 

Relatively recently, YouTube introduced a “members” feature, which is essentially an in-built Patreon for your YouTube channel. Subscribers can become channel members by paying a monthly fee, and in return, they get exclusive content, members-only live chat, emojis and badges. 

This not only brings in dollars but generates a feeling of community and engagement among your subscribers, which will help you make additional income through the other methods we’ll talk about shortly. 

You can also take advantage of the Livestream Super Chat feature. During a live stream, your subscribers can, for a fee, have their comments highlighted and pinned. The more they pay, the longer the comment is pinned. This is a great way to prioritize and give more time to questions from your audience, and thank your members for supporting you. 

3. Affiliate Marketing

Affiliate marketing is where you promote someone else’s product and get a commission when someone purchases through your link. This is a great way to get started making money from your YouTube channel because you can literally get started right away. 

Of course, the more views your video gets, the more likely it is that someone will purchase the product you reference or review in your content, but it is possible to make a commission from just a few views. Plus, it will continue to generate income for you for years to come. 

The first step is to join an affiliate network like Amazon’s Affiliate Program, ShareAsale, or ClickBank and look for products that would be a good fit for your audience. 

4. Brand Sponsorship

Once you’ve built up an engaged audience (even a small one), you’ll likely be able to work with brands to promote their products and services to your audience. Brand sponsorship can vary from free products to big-money deals. 

Choose the companies you approach (or who approach you) with care, and make sure they’re a genuinely good fit for your channel and your audience. If your pitch of a product to your audience feels disingenuine, you’ll get a lot of negative feedback and damage the trust you need to make money from your channel. 

Some brands will approach you, but there are websites that act as go-betweens, like Upfluence and AspireIQ, which help partner brands with YouTubers.

5. Sell Your Own Products

This is, by far, one of the best and most profitable ways to make money from YouTube. Promoting your own products can be everything from merch, a physical product you designed, digital downloads, or an online course.

Another advantage of being a YouTube partner is that you can take advantage of their shelf feature to sell your merch, so it will display below your video.

One word of caution: don’t hard sell in every video. People come to YouTube for entertaining and informative content, not to watch ads. So don’t alienate your audience by becoming so promotional that you aren’t actually offering them any value. Once you’ve done one launch video, simply mention your products and offerings from time to time or at the end of your videos. 

So How Much Do YouTubers Make?

Of course, for the vast majority of channels, the answer is very little or nothing (there are around 31 million channels)! However, there are great rewards for those who are dedicated and smart. It’s also difficult to know because a lot of deals and purchases take place off the platform. That’s not to say we can’t make educated guesses, however. 

As of 2019, the phenomenon that is Ryan Kaji with his “Ryan’s World” channel was the leader on the YouTube rich list earning $26 million. This comes off the back of having 23 million subscribers. As I said, a phenomenon. But that channel is not unique. Dude Perfect’s simple premise is that five 30-somethings do stunts and break records. This raked in some $20 million in 2019 and has been running for over 10 years. They now have over 51 million subscribers.

Anastasia Radzinskaya trumps that subscriber number. The little Russian girl’s “Like Nastya” currently has 56.2 million subscribers! And earned her, and her parents, $18 million last year.

The list of people earning millions of dollars goes on with the comedy duo Rhett and Link garnering $17.5 million, Jeffree Star and his cosmetics $17 million, 26-year-old Preston $14 million and both PewDiePie and Markiplier raking in $13 million apiece.

If you’re looking for a more realistic view of what you may be able to achieve, Roberto Blake is a great guy to look to. He creates videos around creative entrepreneurship and motivational topics and is upfront about his earnings because he was once broke. Now, with 453,000 subscribers, he makes around $30,000 per year from AdSense on his YouTube channel but makes six figures from his own business surrounding his YouTube channel and coaching. See his 2019 income report here

How Much Does YouTube Pay?

68% of Google’s AdSense advertising revenue is paid to publishers. That’s 68% of $134.81 billion in 2019. It is a huge amount of money, but that works out on average at just 18 cents per view or $18 for every 1,000 ad views. Get 20,000 views a day, and that’s around $35/day or $1,200/month. It’s okay money, but 20,000 views a day is a lot.  

Affiliate marketers receive between 5% to 30% as commission depending on the industry and individual product. Profit from sponsorships and selling products also varies wildly, and results aren’t often shared publicly.  

The Bottom Line

The bottom line is the content. It all begins with the content and quality of your videos. Whether they are interesting, informative, funny or a mixture of all three, they have to be entertaining and engaging. Produce quality content regularly regardless of your number of views, and you will make money from YouTube in the long term.

While we all lust after the multi-millions made by the top YouTubers (often 10 years in the making!), realistically, how would an extra $100, $500, or $1,000 make to your life? That is certainly achievable in your first year or two, depending on your niche and creativity, so get on with it and create your content!  

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