How to Make Money on YouTube: The Definitive Beginner’s Guide
By Rita Cunha
Did you know you can make money on YouTube with a lot more than just video ads? In fact, ads aren’t even the strongest revenue stream for YouTubers. If you know how to take advantage of all the opportunities that come your way as a content creator, you can turn YouTube into a full-time income.
How to Make Money on YouTube: 6 Things Every YouTuber Should Try
What do the most lucrative YouTube channels have in common? (Well, besides uploading videos that go viral and earning millions of dollars every year.) If you guessed that they get their YouTube income from multiple different sources, you’d be correct.
1. Ad Revenue
YouTube ads are the simplest way of making money on YouTube. Once you have several videos on your own channel, ad revenue becomes passive income.
How Many Subscribers and Views You Need
You can connect a Google AdSense account with your YouTube account from the moment you start your channel. You don’t need to have any views or subscribers yet.
However, you can make a lot more money once you join the YouTube Partner Program. To do this, you need at least 1,000 subscribers and 4,000 watch hours on your videos over the previous 12 months.
Turning Views into Dollars
YouTube ads are a little more complicated than most people realize.
Subscriber counts don’t matter here—you could have a million subscribers and make less money than someone with 10,000 subscribers and a viral video. Moreover, you don’t get paid for every view on your channel necessarily. Rather, you get paid for your audience’s engagement with the ads.
In other words, you get paid a small amount every time someone clicks the ad or watches it most (or all) of the way through. The only exception is when people watch those short unskippable 6-second-long ads, in which case you get paid for those ad views.
Let’s imagine that 20,000 people watch a video you uploaded. Of all those people, 10,000 skipped the ad within five seconds of it showing up, meaning you don’t get any money from those views. However, the remaining 10,000 either clicked the ad or watched at least 30 seconds of it. Thus, your engagement rate is 50%, which means you can expect to make anywhere between $20 and $50 for those views.
That amount varies so much because different channels get different types of ads. If you run a channel focused on stocks and investing, advertisers pay more money to display their products on your videos than if you did videos about make-up, for example.
How to Set Up Your AdSense Account
Setting up and linking a new AdSense account is a breeze.
- First, log in to your YouTube account and go to the monetization page.
- Click “Sign up for Google AdSense” and enter your YouTube password.
- Then, select the Google account you want to use to monetize your own videos.
- From there, you will need to follow the guided tutorial on how to start a new account. Namely, you will have to enter your contact information.
Once that is all done, your application will be reviewed. After a few days, you should receive an email letting you know that you can monetize your videos.
Not Everything Is Monetizable
YouTube can always refuse to pay you for ads played during your videos. Sometimes, ads on your videos will completely disappear, even if you enable monetization.
To prevent this from happening to you, you need to follow the YouTube Community Guidelines. For example, you can’t show nudity or profanity in your video, thumbnail, or video title; nor use copyrighted music in your content.
How YouTube Pays You
To get paid by YouTube for the first time you need to make at least $100. From then on, you will get paid monthly by the platform.
One thing to keep in mind is that advertising revenue can fluctuate a lot. This is true no matter if you’re only using AdSense or you’re also signed up to the YouTube Partner Program. Some months (particular December) can be very lucrative, while others not so much.
2. Sponsored YouTube Videos
If you want to earn money in a more stable way, it’s a good idea to create sponsored content. All the YouTube stars are doing it. Influencer marketing is on the rise and it’s not going anywhere any time soon.
Gather Your Channel’s Information
Before you reach out to a brand about sponsored content opportunities, you need to understand your YouTube metrics.
Head over to the YouTube Studio (previously known as the YouTube Creator Studio) to find out how many subscribers you have, how many views you get monthly, and what your audience’s engagement rate is. You should also find out where your subscribers are from, their age, and gender.
Understand What Partnerships Work for You
Then comes the fun part: figuring out which brand partnerships are right for you. This will help you narrow down what product reviews to accept and which ones to turn down.
Ask yourself, “What product would my audience like to learn about?” For example, if you run a YouTube channel dedicated to personal finance, you could partner with an app that lets users get cashback on their purchases.
Reach Out to Brands
Once you know what type of product you want to promote, it’s time to reach out to brands. You can either e-mail them to discuss your rates (more on that in just a bit) or sign up for an influencer marketing program on their website.
In the example we just gave, you could visit the Swagbucks website to become a YouTube marketing affiliate partner. This way, you get money for every person who signs up using a link in your video description, while your audience can make some extra money using only their phones. Neat, right?
Set Your Working Rates
If you’re not doing affiliate links and are getting paid by the brand to promote their products, now is a good time to set your rates. How much will you charge per YouTube video?
Depending on how many subscribers you have, you could charge anywhere from $500 to $10,000 per video.
Whatever you do, always disclose sponsorships and affiliate links in your video descriptions. Not only is this a good practice, but it’s also an FTC law.
3. Collect Subscriber Donations and “Gifts”
Fan funding is another one of the monetization features you can use to support yourself while creating videos.
Stream On YouTube
You can start making money from your YouTube live streams. This is part of the YouTube Partners Program. Let your fans pay to have their messages highlighted in the chatbox during a live stream.
The requirements are pretty minimal:
- Be at least 18 years of age
- Allow monetization on your YouTube page
- Live in a country where the super stickers and super chat streams are available
Doing a live chat stream on YouTube can be very rewarding personally because you get to connect directly with your audience.
Allow Subscribers to “Join” Your YouTube Channel
You can also sell channel memberships to your audience. Your most loyal fans pay a monthly fee to find videos that are completely exclusive and special. Channel members get things like stickers, bonus content, special-edition emojis, and more.
The main requirements are:
- Be at least 18 years old
- Join YouTube’s Partner Program
- Have at least 1,000 views
- Not make videos (including music videos) for children
- Stick to the YouTube Channel Membership guidelines
Collect YouTube Premium Revenue
YouTube viewers with a premium membership don’t have to watch ads, but creators still get paid for their views. YouTube calculates how much members watched your channel (in hours) and gives you a proportionate amount of their YouTube Premium fee.
4. Create Paid Bonus Content for Your Fans
Another form of fan funding involves you creating an exclusive paid membership program for your subscribers. You can use this platform for generating revenue and giving your fans bonus video content.
Set Clear Free-Paid Content Boundaries
Before putting out exclusive content behind a paywall, it’s best to make a clear distinction between free content and paid content. What type of projects will you make available only for paying viewers? And what schedule will you follow there?
Setting up these boundaries will help you get organized and grow a paying following, since people like knowing exactly what they’re paying for.
Choose a Platform for Your Work
YouTube has its very own platform for dedicated fans—you can sell membership access to bonus content.
But YouTube isn’t the only platform out there offering this type of service. Patreon is incredibly popular and allows you to set up a tier system so your viewers can donate as much or as little as you want.
Whatever platform you choose, make sure to leave a link to your fan funding page on your video descriptions so that it’s easy to access.
5. Design Your Own Line of Merchandise for Your YouTube Channel
Creating your own merchandise can be very lucrative once you have a strong online presence. Ryan Kaji, the famous 9-year-old who made headlines by being the top-earner on YouTube in 2020, makes most of his money thanks to exclusive merch.
Choose a Partner to Do Business With
If you choose a partner to launch your merch with, you don’t even have to know how to sell products. Companies such as DFTBA handle the business side, while you only have to worry about promotion.
Come Up With an Idea Perfect for Your Audience
The best official branded merchandise line you can launch is one that resonates with your audience. You could do T-shirts, a coffee line, gaming accessories, and more—it all depends on what you and your viewers are into.
Promote Your Merch to Your Audience
Once your branded merchandise is ready, it’s time to promote it.
You can leave a link to your merch store in your video descriptions and watch pages. Additionally, YouTube has built a merchandise shelf to give your products an even bigger showcasing boost. If you are a YouTube partner, you can get this shelf to appear on your content once your products have been reviewed by the platform.
It’s also a good idea to create hype for your merch ahead of the launch on your social media outlets.
Which Income Opportunity Should I Go After?
The best way to make money on YouTube in a stable way is to bet on multiple income streams at the same time. You don’t have to choose just one—you’re encouraged to dip your toes into all of them!
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