How to Make Money on YouTube in 2024: 5 Ways to Get Paid

Ads aren’t the only way to make money on YouTube. Affiliate marketing and merch sales may be the quicker path to earning.
By NerdWallet 
Edited by Courtney Neidel

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The growing creator economy has turned up some diverse ways to make money on YouTube. And while some methods offer a lower barrier to entry than earning through ads, there’s no substitute for quality content and an engaged audience.

If you can tap into your creative side, and are willing to put in a lot of effort, you might be able to make money on YouTube, too. Here are a few monetization methods to explore.

How to get paid on YouTube

1. Earn with ads as a YouTube Partner Program member

Let’s get this one out of the way first. You must join the YouTube Partner Program to earn money from advertisements. And you can’t become a YouTube partner who includes ads on your channel until it surpasses the 1,000-subscriber threshold. You’ll also need a collective 4,000 hours of watch time on long-form videos within the past 12 months or 10 million Shorts views within the past 90 days. (See No. 5 for how to join the Partner Program with reduced eligibility requirements.) Check those big boxes and it opens the door to ad revenue.

A few additional requirements apply before you can become a partner:

Click the “earn” section in YouTube Studio to apply. YouTube says it typically gets back to you within one month of reviewing your application to let you know if you’re approved or not.

As a YouTube partner, you can earn money through ads, chat features and from YouTube Premium subscribers who watch your content. The platform also allows YouTube partners to earn ad revenue on Shorts, which are YouTube’s version of short-form TikTok-like videos.

How many views on YouTube does it take to make money?

You don’t get paid per video view. Rather, you’re paid for the times when someone watches or clicks on an ad shown on your video.

Influencer Marketing Hub says that while payment varies, the average YouTube channel can expect to make about $18 per 1,000 ad views. That translates to $3 to $5 per 1,000 video views when you factor in the rate of ads actually viewed. The site has a YouTube calculator to gauge how much revenue you might make.

So when do you start making money on YouTube?

You'll be paid once your balance reaches $100. Say it takes approximately 1,000 video views to earn $4 from those viewers who saw ads. You would need 25,000 video views to make $100 through those ads.

If you have a small channel, you might get paid only every few months. You'll also want to be familiar with how Google, which issues AdSense payments, handles taxes.

Sound like a long road ahead?

Below are alternative ways to earn before you hit 1,000 subscribers.

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2. Take a cut with affiliate marketing

Affiliate marketing might be the most beginner-friendly way to monetize your YouTube traffic, especially if you plan to make product review videos. It works like this:

  • You find a company or seller with an affiliate program, such as Amazon Associates, and apply to join.

  • Once accepted, you’ll use their process to create custom links to products you plan to feature in your videos.

  • Demo, review or make reference to the products in your YouTube videos, and paste your custom affiliate marketing link(s) in the description field when you upload.

As an affiliate of a brand, you’ll earn a commission when a viewer clicks your custom link and purchases the product.

While Amazon Associates is a great way to make money on Amazon, endless other opportunities exist. Search on affiliate marketing sites such as ShareASale and ClickBank for possible corporate partners and products to feature. You can also search your favorite brands’ websites for information on how to become an affiliate.

If your channel eventually reaches more than 15,000 subscribers and you meet other eligibility requirements, you can explore the YouTube Shopping Affiliate program as a way to boost your earnings.

Don’t forget to properly notify your viewers about your affiliation with the brand or brands featured, and be sure to point them to the “link in description” when you shoot your video.

3. Land a brand deal and make sponsored content

Companies interested in your channel’s audience might sponsor your videos or offer you product placement deals in exchange for a shoutout, called brand deals in the biz.

The operative word here is “audience,” which means these types of deals are more likely to present themselves when you develop a following. As your channel grows, you can contact the brands you’d like to work with directly, or use resources like the aforementioned affiliate marketing sites to find corporate partners that complement your style of content.

With brand deals, you can receive lump sum payments, earn commission on a per-sale basis or get the product or service for free.

Keep in mind: If you do have an endorsement or use product placement in a video, you must notify YouTube by ticking a box in your video details.

4. Sell some merch

If you have merchandise or offer a service that’s relevant to your audience, let them know about it and provide links in your videos. For example, creator Marques Brownlee, of popular tech review channel MKBHD, leaves a link to his own line of T-shirts and accessories in every video he posts.

Selling a physical product might require you to buy materials or find a manufacturer, but you can also sell downloadables such as e-books, art prints or virtual classes. Have a secure payment system in place before you advertise your goods.

Incentive to sell: While creating your own products can be a lot harder than pitching those of other companies, you could stand to make more money this way, since you’ll keep the bulk of your proceeds as the product owner.

5. Offer memberships

A membership model is another way to monetize viewership. With this method, fans of the channel pay a small subscription fee for perks and/or an exclusive tier of access.

Patreon is a popular third-party membership platform. YouTube has been rolling out its own channel memberships feature, but you need to be part of the YouTube Partner Program to be eligible.

For channel memberships, you can join the Partner Program with 500 subscribers, 3 public uploads in the last 90 days, and either 3,000 public watch hours on long-form video in the last 365 days or 3 million Shorts views in the last 90 days. That’s as opposed to the higher Partner Program eligibility requirements if you want to earn revenue through ads on your channel.

As always, more viewers can lead to more revenue. Incentives such as members-only livestreams, chats or other perks may entice viewers to become paying members. 

How much money can you make on YouTube?

Breakout YouTube stars with millions of followers stand to make the most money, easily reaching seven figures. But even lesser-known content creators with a modest following can make some solid income on the side, or even full time.

According to Forbes, creator Jimmy Donaldson of the hugely popular channel MrBeast earned $54 million in 2023, in large part from the 237 million subscribers he’s racked up on YouTube. That kind of success is more the exception than the rule.

On the more modest side, Cinquanta Cox-Smith, a YouTuber focused on print-on-demand content with 11,900 subscribers, brings in about $120,000 in annual revenue, according to Career Ahead, a career-focused educational magazine.

Matt Par, a YouTube sensation who became successful as a teenager with a Top 10 list channel and now runs multiple channels including on how to make money on YouTube, tells viewers that the platform's Partner Program can be a good income-building source. He says he earns $30,000 per month in ad revenue through the program.

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Monitor your credit, track your spending and see all of your finances together in a single place.

Earn an audience, and earn more in the long run

YouTube offers opportunity for all, but it’s not a get-rich-quick platform. It takes time, effort and an engaged audience to make money on YouTube. The good news is, with a little motivation and a lot of practice, you can find ways to earn before the coveted 1,000-subscriber threshold.

Keep these tips in mind as you get started:

  • The more videos you make and upload, the easier it is to reach the viewing-hours threshold.

  • The better you target your content to a specific audience or niche (e.g., film photography), the more likely your viewers will be to subscribe for more.

  • Thoughtful, entertaining videos are more likely to get views, so it pays to put effort into planning and production.

  • Don’t discount the power of a targeted title and standout thumbnail to attract viewer attention.

Other ways to make money

If making money on YouTube isn’t for you, consider these alternative routes: