How to Make Money on YouTube

YouTube is teeming with talent, from educational channels like Ryan’s World to sports entertainment channels like Dude Perfect. By teaching, entertaining, or just doing what they do, hundreds of content creators have been able to make a living on YouTube. So, what’s stopping you?
Making money on YouTube isn’t as convoluted as you might think. There are several ways in which your YouTube channel could make money. Read on to learn how to unlock your channel’s earning potential.

The first step to making money on YouTube

Before you can start making money on YouTube, you’ll need to create a Google Account (you can do that here). If you already have a Google Account, visit YouTube.com and click “Sign In.”

Step 1: Create a YouTube channel

Creating a Google Account will allow you to sign in and “like” videos and subscribe to channels, but you won’t be able to upload videos, comment, or make playlists without creating a YouTube channel.
When creating a channel, you’ll be asked whether or not you’d like to create a “personal” or a “business” channel. A “personal” channel allows a single owner to manage the channel, whereas a “business” or “brand” channel gives users the option to choose one or more managers or owners.
Here’s how to create a personal YouTube channel:
  • Sign in to YouTube on a computer or mobile.
  • Click the profile photo in the top-right corner and click “Create a channel.”
  • You will be asked if you’d like to create a channel.
  • Double-check the details and confirm.
Presto! You’re now the owner of a YouTube channel.
Here’s how to create a business/brand YouTube channel:
  • Sign in to YouTube on a computer or mobile.
  • Go to your channel list.
  • Choose to create a new channel or use an existing Brand Account by clicking “Create a new channel.” To use an existing Brand Account, choose the Brand Account you’d like to use from the list.
  • Fill in the details and name your new channel.
  • Click “Create.”
You now have a new Brand Account channel. (To add channel owners or managers, follow these instructions.)

Step 2: Customize your YouTube channel

After you create a channel, you'll need to customize it to make it your own. To do this, go to your channel dashboard and click “Customize channel.” Here, you’ll see three tabs: Layout, Branding, and Basic Info.
Fill out each section with descriptive keywords that’ll help your audience find you. These keywords can include anything from your channel’s topics to your industry to specific questions your content may answer.
When you get to the “Branding” section, you’ll be asked to upload your channel art and icons. This will give your YouTube channel a unique look.

Step 3: Enable monetization

To enable monetization, click on the “Account” icon in the top-right corner of the screen. Then, click on “Creator Studio.” A menu should then pop up on the left side of your screen. Click on “Status and features.” You should now see an option that’ll allow you to enable monetization. Click “enable” and you’re done!

Step 4: Sign up for Google AdSense

Once monetization is enabled, you can sign up for Google Adsense. (AdSense is the primary advertising engine Google uses.) To do this, follow YouTube’s official guide to creating an AdSense account.
To create an AdSense account, you’ll need to input your payment information and tax reporting information, including your social security number or employee ID number (EIN) for your business.

Step 5: Decide on a revenue stream

Now that you’ve signed up for an account, created a channel, customized said channel, enabled monetization, and signed up for a Google AdSense account, it’s time to figure out how you’d like to generate revenue. To help you decide, here are six ideas to choose from.
  • Sell your merch. YouTube can help you market all kinds of merchandise, including t-shirts, tote bags, coffee mugs, hats, etc.
  • Crowdfund your next project. Crowdfunding is a great way to make a little bit of start-up money. To do this, you can offer a sneak peek or “trailer” that explains your product or project to your audience.
  • License your content to the media. If you have a video that has the potential to go viral (or a video that’s already gone viral), you can license your video(s) in exchange for money.
  • Create sponsored content. Instagram isn’t the only platform for influencers. To create sponsored content on YouTube, all you need is a brand partner and an idea.
  • Set up a “fan funding” account. Fan funding is kind of like crowdfunding, except instead of raising money for a specific idea or project, your fans are paying to consume your content.
  • Join the YouTube Partner Program. Once you’ve reached 1,000 subscribers and 4,000 watch hours (for one year), you can apply for the YouTube Partner Program.

Step 6: Upload your first video

If you managed to get through all of the steps listed above without getting distracted, you’re just minutes away from becoming one of YouTube’s content creators. To create your first YouTube video, click the “Create” button in the top-right corner and follow the on-screen instructions.
A quick note: put some thought into your video. To make real money, your content needs to be engaging, educational, and entertaining.

Step 7: Optimize your videos

Creating videos instead of copy (i.e. blog posts) doesn’t mean you can skimp on optimization. To create a discoverable video, you’ll need to optimize each post so potential subscribers can find it.
Here’s a super-quick guide on how to do that:
  • Optimize the title. Be sure to use Google-friendly keywords in your title. Use a free keyword tool, like KeywordTool.io, to help you figure out the best keywords to use.
  • Optimize the description. The description should be concise, yet descriptive. Add keywords (avoid keyword stuffing) and link out to related videos. You can also create a “table of contents” in the description area to help viewers find what they’re looking for.
  • Add tags. Include a few tags that are relevant to your content.

Step 8: Promote, promote, promote

Don’t forget to share your videos on social media! Tell your friends, family, co-workers, and everyone in between about what you’re doing. You can also add a YouTube link to your website, email signature, Facebook, Instagram, and Linkedin profiles.

How to choose a revenue stream

If you’re still trying to figure out how to make money by creating YouTube videos, here’s an overview of the revenue streams listed above.

Sell your own merch

Before you can begin selling merchandise on YouTube, you’ll need to design a product. (If you already have a product, kudos to you!) To do this, test the waters with one or two products, maybe a t-shirt and a coffee mug or a tote and a sticker.
Once you’ve figured out what you’d like to sell, you’ll need to find a manufacturer or supplier to make and deliver the said product. There are several companies out there, like Bonfire, that will create and ship your products for you. All you have to do is think of a design!
Here are a few ways in which you can promote your merchandise and/or products in your videos:
  • Wear your product/merch in your video
  • Feature subscribers who have bought and/or are using your products/merch
  • Ask subscribers to submit product reviews
  • Host a giveaway
  • Add your store’s link to your video descriptions
  • Include compelling calls to action at the end of your videos
Quick note: if you want to link to your product, you’ll need to refer to YouTube’s list of approved merchandise sites. (Bonfire is an approved site!)

Crowdfund your next project

YouTube has a list of approved crowdfunding sites to choose from, including Kickstarter and GoFundMe. Sites like these could help you purchase a new mic or a new laptop, or whatever else you may need to keep your creativity alive.
You can promote your crowdfunding campaign by offering perks to fans who donate or by creating a one-of-a-kind trailer that gives viewers a sneak peek of your project or idea.
Need an example? PewDiPie (one of the most well-known YouTube stars out there) created an Indiegogo page to help raise money for Save the Children, a charity that’s helped provide more than 125 million children around the world with food, blankets, shelter, and school books among other things. During the campaign, PewDiPie offered YouTubers several perks, including a live stream special and a custom “Brofist.” He not only met his goal but surpassed it by 37%.

License your content to the media

News outlets love getting ahold of viral content. As a video creator, licensing your most successful videos to the media is easy — just make sure your business contact information is listed in your channel description.
You can also sign up for a video rights marketplace like Jukin Media. The best news? You don’t have to have a knee-slapper of a video. Jukin has a catalog of “newsworthy” content users can contribute to. So, if you happen to catch something newsworthy (i.e. a natural disaster) on video, you can upload your video!

Create sponsored content

Influencer marketing is huge on Instagram and YouTube. According to YouTube marketing expert Brendan Gahan, you could be making up to five to 15 cents per view. (Just multiply your average number of views by that number to see how much money you could make!)
Before you can dive into influencer marketing, you’ll need to create a following and a solid brand pitch. If you’re just starting, you may want to consider signing up with an influencer marketing platform, like FameBit (AKA YouTube BrandConnect).
Remember, brand-sponsored content is advertising. Don’t forget to be transparent about your #sponcon. You should also ensure that your video content adheres to Google’s Ad policies.
Brand sponsorship is a great way to make money because the company pays you directly! According to Ager, YouTube is the highest-paying platform for influencer marketing. But, if you’re uncomfortable reaching out or joining an influencer marketplace, you can (alternatively) join an affiliate marketing program.
Affiliate programs allow members to gain a commission for each sale they make. (If product reviews or software tutorials are a part of your YouTube channel, affiliate marketing could be an easy way for you to make money.)

Set up a “fan funding” account

Fan funding is similar to crowdfunding, except instead of raising money for a specific cause, your fans are paying you to keep delivering content.
A few popular fan funding options include:
  • Buy Me a Coffee. BMC is a platform where content creators can receive one-time (supporters) or monthly donations (memberships). Through BMC, creators have the option to customize their membership options and offer exclusive rewards. (I have a BMC account, too!)
  • Ko-fi. Ko-fi is just like BMC: there are no fees and creators get 100% of their donation. Creators can set up monthly subscriptions, sell products, or get a one-time donation.
  • YouTube’s Super Chat and Super Stickers. Super Chat and Super Stickers offer video creators the option to monetize their channels through the YouTube Partner Program. These monetization features allow viewers to purchase chat messages and pin them to the top of a chat feed. The more money a user spends, the longer the Super Chat or Super Sticker stays at the top of the feed. Super Chat and Super Stickers are only available to YouTube Partners.
  • Channel memberships. Channel memberships allow viewers to join a creator’s channel by paying a monthly payment. Channel members get member-only perks, like badges, emojis, etc. Only members of the YouTube Partner Program can offer channel memberships.
Additional fan funding platforms include:

Join the YouTube Partner Program

The YouTube Partner Program gives users access to some income streams. In addition to making money off of ad revenue generated by YouTube ads, channel memberships, and Super Chat and Super Stickers, the YouTube Partner Program offers monetization via:
  • Merch shelf. The merch shelf feature allows eligible video creators to showcase their merch on YouTube.
  • YouTube Premium revenue. YouTube Premium allows viewers to watch videos ad-free. Creators who are a part of the Partner Program may be eligible to get a part of a YouTube Premium subscriber’s subscription fee when viewers watch their content.
To be eligible to join the YouTube Partner Program, you must:
  • Adhere to YouTube’s monetization policies (i.e. making sure your content is “advertiser-friendly”
  • Live in a country or region where the YouTube Partner Program is available
  • Have more than 4,000 valid public watch hours in the last 12 months
  • Have More than 1,000 subscribers
  • Have a linked AdSense account

Cost and fees

Starting a YouTube channel is free! However, to make a high-quality video, you may need to spend money on video production equipment, editing software, recording software, etc., which could cost anywhere between $300 and $500.
Ultimately, the cost is up to you. To get started, your smartphone camera and a laptop should do!

Pros and cons

Before choosing a revenue stream, you may want to look at the pros and cons of each. This way, you’ll know exactly what you’re getting into by the time you’re ready to start making videos.

YouTube sell your own merch

Pros
  • Selling merch online means you can operate your business 24/7
  • An online store gives you the chance to reach global markets
  • Having an online presence will help boost your organic traffic
Cons
  • With the ongoing battle with security, you may have to work harder to build trust with your customers
  • To link out to your store, it must be on the list of approved site and you’ll need to be a part of YouTube’s Partner Program
  • You must be 18 years old or older and have more than 10,000 subscribers to use the merch shelf

YouTube crowdfund your next project

Pros
  • Little to no financial risk
  • Your campaign could go viral
  • You could build a large community of followers who will, in turn, support you and your business
Cons
  • Crowdfunding takes time
  • Sometimes, campaigns don’t succeed
  • Someone could steal your idea before you’re funded
  • You may have to pay a fee, depending on the crowdfunding platform you use
  • You can only link to your crowdfunding site if it’s on the list of approved sites and you are part of the YouTube Partner Program

YouTube license your content to the media

Pros
  • User-generated content (UGC) gets more views on Facebook and YouTube
  • By selling or licensing your content to a site like Jukin Media, you save on marketing costs
  • UGC is a great way to generate organic traffic to your site/channel
Cons
  • You may be unhappy with the deal that’s offered
  • The video may be transferred to another channel
  • Anonymity isn’t guaranteed

YouTube create sponsored content

Pros
  • You get to decide which brands you work with
  • 100% of the profit goes directly to you
  • Consumers trust sponsored content more than traditional ads, according to Time
Cons
  • Creating sponsored content is time-consuming
  • Sponsored content can be seen as deceiving
  • Failure to disclose sponsorship may result in community strikes or account termination

YouTube set up a “fan funding” account

Pros
  • Fan funding offers a low-risk way to get funds/donations
  • Easy to set up
  • Increased exposure and community building
  • Channel memberships make it easy to receive recurring donations
Cons
  • Some fan-funding sites take a percentage of your earnings
  • You may encounter payment issues
  • To participate in channel memberships, you must be a part of the YouTube Partner Program, have more than 1,000 subscribers, and be at least 18 years old

YouTube join the YouTube Partner Program

Pros
  • Make money on YouTube
  • As a YouTube Partner, you retain all copyright and distribution rights of the content that you create
  • Get access to special programs and tools (including YouTube analytics) to help you increase your following and boost viewership
Cons
  • All content must be 100% original
  • The YouTube Partner Program is only available in certain areas of the world
  • YouTube has tons of rules that restrict what you can do and what you can monetize

The bottom line

There’s no harm in creating a YouTube channel, but if you’re serious about making money on the platform, it’s going to take a bit of elbow grease. Before you begin, take another look at the pros and cons listed above to see which revenue stream fits your schedule and budget. And, remember: This isn’t an exhaustive list.

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