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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 methods to explore.
How to get paid on YouTube
1. Reach 1K subscribers and apply for the YouTube Partner Program
Let’s get this one out of the way first. The biggest hurdle to joining the YouTube Partner Program is surpassing the 1,000-subscriber threshold. Once you do, it opens the door to earning advertising revenue.
A few additional requirements apply before you can become a partner:
Your videos must abide by the site's advertising guidelines and have more than 4,000 valid public watch hours within the last 12 months.
You must live in an eligible area.
You need to link a Google AdSense account.
Once you meet the requirements, you can apply by clicking into your profile and navigating to the “monetization” section.
As a partner, you can earn money through ads, membership perks and features like Super Chat, which lets viewers pay to have their messages highlighted during a live stream.
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.
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.
2. Become an affiliate marketer
Affiliate marketing might be the most practical 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 straight from the source.
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. Create sponsored content through brand deals
Landing a brand deal, also a form of affiliate marketing, is another way to get paid on YouTube: Companies interested in your channel’s audience might sponsor your videos or offer you product placement deals in exchange for a shoutout.
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 the advanced settings tab of your video manager to indicate your video contains paid promotion.
4. Create and sell your own product or merchandise
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. Turn to crowdfunding
Crowdfunding is another monetization method you can use to keep your channel going. There are two primary types of crowdfunding: recurring and project-based. In the former, which is better suited for content creators, fans of the channel pay a small subscription fee for perks and/or an exclusive tier of access.
More subscribers means more revenue. Incentives such as one-on-one video chats, private classes or merchandise can entice viewers to sign up. Patreon is a popular crowdfunding platform, and serves as an additional income stream for many video creators, musicians and other artists with more than a modest following.
If you have an idea for a project that requires financial support, a project-based crowdfunding campaign is the way to go. Get started with sites such as Indiegogo, Kickstarter or GoFundMe.
How much money can you make on YouTube?
This question is a complicated one. The answer is akin to the landscape of the music industry. Like the breakout bands and artists that strike the right chord and amass an exponential fanbase, YouTube stars with millions of followers stand to make the most, easily reaching seven figures.
According to Forbes, creator Stevin John, of the hugely popular kids' channel Blippi, earned $17 million in 2020, in large part from the 8.2 billion views and 27.4 million subscribers he’s racked up on YouTube. That kind of success is more the exception than the rule, but don’t let that discourage you.
Sean Cannell, co-author of “YouTube Secrets” and founder of the Think Media channel, advises new YouTubers to lean on affiliate marketing as the best way to earn right off the bat. In a video post from 2021, he says it’s possible to pull in $500 a week with the right niche and strategy.
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: