Posting YouTube videos can make you money. And you don’t need to build a huge audience for the dollars to start rolling in.
“Back in 2015, a friend told me I should consider starting a YouTube channel because that’s where all the heavy hitters are,” says Annagjid “Kee” Taylor, a celebrity hairstylist and owner of Deeper Than Hair, a salon based in Philadelphia. “It freaked me out. I didn’t want to share all my secrets with the world like that.”
“Then a hair client mentioned to me that payouts from YouTube were how she and her husband paid their bills every month. I was sold from that moment on.” Taylor shot her channel’s first video on her smartphone. Seven years later, she’s a millionaire, and her YouTube channel has 1.3 million followers.
Between paid partnership opportunities, ad revenue, and directing viewers towards your own websites or offers, YouTube enables many different ways to make money using video – with or without a big audience. We asked successful YouTubers with a variety of strategies for how to make money on YouTube to weigh in. Here’s what they had to say.
Strategies For Making Money on YouTube: An Overview
The good news is that you don’t need to be a film school graduate or a GoPro videographer to start generating YouTube revenue. Before we get into how much money you can make on the platform, let’s first define the different options you have when it comes to monetization and having a successful YouTube channel.
The strategies for how to make money on YouTube can be teased out into three categories:
From video ads to in-platform tips and YouTube premium subscribers, creators on YouTube aspire to get and hold your attention, then allow ads to run on their videos. Every time you watch an ad within a YouTube video, the channel that posted the video gets paid because the channel has enrolled in the YouTube Partner Program. Google owns YouTube, so part of signing up for this program includes setting up an Adsense account.
Each video view only adds a fraction of a cent, but if your video goes viral or has staying power, the views—and dollars—will begin to add up. In addition to YouTube advertising revenue, channel memberships are a way to create recurring revenue on the platform.
If you have an engaged audience, another revenue-generating strategy is to explore paid partnerships and create sponsored content on your YouTube channels. When a creator plugs a product within their video, it’s likely that they’ve been paid upfront to do so, are making money off a commission-based affiliate link, or both.
Outside Revenue Sources
Many creators leverage YouTube as a way to direct viewers toward other properties: a website, an offer, or an affiliate link to someone else’s product. For any of these strategies to work, however, you need multiple videos, clear video descriptions, and an engaged audience. YouTube influencers and aspiring entrepreneurs alike are drawn to YouTube because it creates opportunities to earn money and build an audience of raving fans along the way.
“It’s harder to grow on YouTube than other platforms,” says Humphrey Yang, an entrepreneur and ex-financial advisor who currently has 653,000 subscribers on YouTube. “It’s harder to establish a community, but those community members will be loyal viewers and fans.”
How Many Views or Subscribers Do I Need to Make Money on YouTube?
The number of views or subscribers you need as a video creator for things to take off depends on how you want to make money on the platform. If you’re directing viewers to your website or an affiliate link that pays you a commission, you technically could make money from day one.
“I’ve made 6+ figures from my relatively small YouTube channel,” says Luisa Zhou, a business coach whose YouTube account has 11,900 subscribers. “I started seeing real progress when I was getting, on average, about 400 new YouTube subscribers a month, which took me a year and a half to achieve. The best way to quickly make money from your YouTube channel isn’t to make money off your videos; it’s to direct people to your website.”
It’s okay to focus on both on-platform and off-platform monetization strategies concurrently. If you want to enable YouTube’s monetization features, you’ll need to join the YouTube Partner Program. To be eligible, your youtube account will need to have at least 1,000 subscribers and at least 4,000 hours of public watch time on your channel in the last 12 months.
“YouTube is the second-largest search engine in the world,” notes Jose ‘Caya’ Cayasso, co-founder and CEO of Slidebean, a company that helps startups pitch to investors and whose YouTube channel has 354,000 subscribers. “Find questions people are trying to answer, and answer them better than anyone else. Focus on topics that are underserved, rather than competitive ones.”
Whether you enroll in the YouTube Partner Program or not, an overall priority relevant to every monetization approach is to cultivate an engaged following. Develop a sixth sense for what your audience likes to watch and you’ll have a running start when it’s time to start raking in the revenue.