If you have a YouTube account and regularly upload videos to the platform, you’ve probably wondered about monetizing your presence on the site. After all, YouTube has at least 122 million daily active users, making it one of the most heavily-trafficked places on the internet. In 2020, the top-earning YouTube stars took home tens of millions of dollars. Could you cash in on your YouTube channel too?
You may not become a millionaire by monetizing your video content but that doesn’t mean you can’t turn your channel into a lucrative side hustle. There are a number of ways to monetize YouTube, from adding ad revenue and linking to shopify, to boosting your channel memberships and building an affiliate network. We’ve put together an in-depth guide that will teach you seven of the best strategies for making money on YouTube. Keep reading to learn what those strategies are and how you can implement them right away.
Apply for the YouTube Partner Program
The YouTube Partner Program was designed for valued content creators (like you). When you become a YouTube Partner, you get access to the YouTube support team. You also get new ways to monetize your channel.
The YouTube Partner Program isn’t the only way to make money from YouTube, but it’s a very useful tool that presents a number of opportunities. If you can, it’s a good idea to apply to the program and become a partner.
Qualifying for the YouTube Partner Program
To be accepted as a YouTube Partner, you’ll need to have a sizable viewership, consisting of at least 1000 subscribers and 4000 valid watch hours. There’s no fixed number of video views required. You’ll also need to make sure that you don’t have any Community Guideline strikes against your account. YouTube wants to make sure that their partners’ content follows the site’s guidelines, so they also continually monitor all of their partners’ channels to make sure that the content is appropriate.
Once you turn in your application, you’ll go through a review process – YouTube uses both software and people to check whether your content follows their guidelines. If you’re turned down for any reason, you can reapply after a 30-day waiting period.
Setting Up an AdSense Account
When you apply to become a YouTube Partner, you’ll also be asked to set up an AdSense account for your small business. Your AdSense account is the way you will get paid, so follow the instructions carefully. If you have more than one channel, you can link them to the same AdSense account – YouTube doesn’t want you to use more than one AdSense account.
Once you set up your AdSense account, you’re ready to receive payments! There are a lot of different ways to earn money through your YouTube channel. It’s a good idea to explore as many ways of monetizing as possible, especially as you get started. Take the time to figure out what makes sense for you. Chances are, you’ll find that a combination of methods is most lucrative. Most of the time, you’ll be better off using multiple means of making money, from passive revenue to viral videos that generate major viewership, instead of just relying on one source of income.
Below, we’ll get into some of the most popular means of monetizing YouTube.
YouTube Monetization: Use YouTube Affiliate Marketing
Affiliate marketing is a great way to make money online using your YouTube channel. Now, let’s be clear – affiliate marketing alone probably isn’t enough to earn a living. But it’s definitely a good way to round out the income that you bring in through other means on YouTube.
What Is Affiliate Marketing?
Imagine you’re an expert in skincare and cosmetics, and you have a dedicated following that tunes in regularly to hear your latest tips. You may be able to make extra money by teaming up with a beauty brand and becoming an affiliate marketer.
That means every time one of your YouTube subscribers visits the brand’s website or makes a purchase following a link on your channel, you’ll get a percentage of the sale. Most of the time, that percentage is small butas you boost your number of views, it adds up.
It’s best to partner with brands you use and like. If consumers feel like you’re being inauthentic and dishonest about your use or opinion of a product or service, , they’re likely to stop coming back to your channel.
Consider reputable companies that make great products in line with your vision and values. Every company has a slightly different affiliate program, so make sure you inform yourself about how they treat their affiliates, and what kind of rewards program they offer. Only sign up if the program makes sense for you and your needs.
Create Sponsored Content on Your YouTube Channel
Sponsored content is one of the best ways to earn money using your YouTube account. You’ve likely seen high-profile influencers generating this type of content – maybe you’ve even felt intimidated and thought this was something exclusive to hugely popular YouTube stars. Fortunately, that’s not the case.
What’s the benefit of sponsored content? YouTube doesn’t take a percentage of your earnings. You’ll work directly with the business that you partner with, instead of going through YouTube.
Creating sponsored content does come with some built-in risks, though. There’s a very real danger that your followers will get suspicious if they see you as “selling out” to a brand just for the sake of money. You’ll have to be very careful about which brand you partner with and how you explain your sponsored content to your followers.
You can make this work, definitely – it’s just a question of handling it with care. Here’s how sponsored content works.
Choosing the Right Brand Partner
Choose your partner carefully. The same rules outlined for choosing affiliate partners apply here as well, only even more so. That means choosing a brand that meshes with your personal value system and style. You want to reassure your customers that you aren’t just creating sponsored content for the money. You want them to see that this is a brand you truly love and value, which is why you’re willing to create content for them.
If you create sponsored company for a brand that you don’t believe in, you will disappoint your followers. They won’t trust your recommendations any more, which means that you’ll lose a lot of your value and your future ability to earn money on YouTube or other platforms.
Building a Partnership with a Brand
It’s a good idea to make a list of all the brands you already know and love. You probably already use a number of products and services that you’d love to recommend to your followers. Why not get in touch with those brands and suggest a partnership? Make sure you let the brand know what niche you’re in, and the demographics of your audience. You’ll need to demonstrate that your followers are likely to be interested in the goods and services the brand offers.
Once you secure interest from a brand, it’s time to iron out the details of your partnership. How much will you get paid? What kind of content will you create for them?
If you’re tempted to charge a low fee for your work, think this over first. Brands partner with YouTubers on sponsored content because it typically generates a lot more sales than a standard ad. This is because consumers trust social media influencers and take their recommendations seriously.
Since sponsored content generates more sales, companies should pay a fair price for that content.
Be Above-Board with Your Followers
It’s impossible to overstate this fact: your influence on YouTube is a result of the consumer’s willingness to trust you. If you lose their trust, you lose followers. And that means you’ll have no way to monetize your channel through ad revenue or other means.
You’ll lose their trust if you put up content that you don’t believe in, or content that runs counter to your values. You’ll also lose their trust if you don’t disclose that you’re getting paid for something when you are.
So, tell them openly when you’re putting up sponsored content. Be very clear and up-front, and while you’re at it, remind them that you love the brands you work for.
Comply with Disclosure Laws
If you’re in the United States, you’re legally required to let the public know when you partner with brands. The FTC rules are clear: if you earn anything for promoting a brand, even if you’re just earning a free product, you have to disclose that.
If you create sponsored content and you don’t disclose that fact, then the FTC can start a legal case against you. In fact, you can also get in trouble if you declare the content in an unclear way. So read the guidelines carefully (we linked to them just above), and be as transparent as possible!
Use Product Placement and Video Sponsorship
Product placement and video sponsorship are both wonderful ways to earn some extra money through your YouTube channel. Both approaches build on the strong relationship you’ve established with your followers. They’re great ways to use the trust you’ve earned in order to steer your customers towards great brands – all while making some extra money to support yourself.
How does product placement work? It’s as simple as integrating one of your favorite products into your existing YouTube vlogs, tutorials, or other content.
Let’s imagine that you’re a fitness expert and you’ve been putting up a lot of content about the proper post-workout snack. Maybe you have a favorite protein bar or smoothie that you’ve recently started consuming after your workouts.
Instead of creating content around that protein bar or that smoothie, you can just introduce the product into your content organically. So, just unwrap the protein bar on-screen and start eating it. Or take out the smoothie and drink it.
If your followers are paying attention, they’ll wonder what the product is, and they’ll start chatting with each other about it. This may even be a better way to generate buzz than creating sponsored content, since it gets people excited and makes them feel like detectives.
Remember what happened when Taylor Swift got on TikTok and suddenly everyone wanted to buy the dress she was wearing? Stores sold out of the dress – that’s how popular it was. That’s a good example of what product placement can achieve. That doesn’t mean that you have to have Taylor Swift-level celebrity, and it doesn’t mean that you should aim as high as she did. But it’s good to know exactly what kind of power product placement can have.
Don’t Forget to Be Transparent
YouTube doesn’t care if you include product placements as part of your channel. But the site does require that you be transparent about it. The rules say,
“You may include paid product placements, endorsements, sponsorships, or other content that requires disclosure to viewers in your videos. If you choose to include any of the above, you have to let us know by selecting the paid promotion box in your video details.”
All of your content still has to follow YouTube’s ad policies and community guidelines, of course.
Sell Products or Online Courses to Your Subscribers
Just because you’re a content creator doesn’t mean that you can’t also sell products or educational opportunities to your subscribers.
In fact, it’s very likely that your subscribers would appreciate the chance to learn from you via an online course. And it’s equally likely that they’d love to buy your merchandise and show it off to their friends.
Creating and selling products isn’t easy, and it’s going to require a bit of time and energy. However, like any other investment, it has the potential to pay off in spades.
Coming Up with the Right Product
It’s important to design a product that your audience will relate to, and also a product that they will associate with you.
That means that you should avoid generic products like coffee cups and t-shirts, at least when you’re first starting to market yourself. Later on, if you become very popular, you can probably branch out into those products. But it’s a good idea to begin with a more unique approach to merchandise.
What kinds of products do you talk about on your channel? What kind of lifestyle do you represent? Think of merchandise that ties in to your interests and your values. If you’re into hiking and the great outdoors, you might want to create a special water bottle. If you’re into shoes, then maybe you can offer a special shoe-care kit. The possibilities are endless.
It’s a good idea to check in with your audience to see what kinds of products they’re interested in – after all, they’re the ones who will hopefully be buying these products! Including them in the creative process will increase their sense of involvement and give them an automatic interest in the product. It will also generate buzz for the new product.
It’s also a good idea to start small, by creating a limited batch of just one or two products. Don’t go overboard and try to sell ten new items to your audience. Creating a limited supply will boost interest and will also protect you from major financial loss in case the product doesn’t sell as well as you expect it to.
Make sure that you also have a trusted partner who can make whatever product you decide to sell. Ideally, you’ll want a partner who can make the product and ship it out for you, so that you don’t have to act as the middleman between the customers and the warehouse.
Selling Your Product
Ideally, you should sell your product from as many venues as possible. You can set up your own online store, and you can also sell the product from your website. Of course, you can use your YouTube channel to help drive traffic to your store and your website.
You can also sell your products directly from YouTube by using the YouTube merch shelf. YouTube allows you to sell up to 12 items at a time from the merch shelf, as long as you follow the rules the site has about commerce.
Selling an Online Course
Are you an expert in your field? Do you have a lot to tell consumers about a particular topic? Are you a natural teacher who loves to share their passion with others?
If you answered yes to any of these questions, then you might be a great candidate for creating an online course. You can use an online course to teach consumers about just about any topic, from wine making to crocheting. And if it’s a topic that your audience is interested in, you should be able to sell plenty of seats in your online class.
How can you make this work? Be very specific about what you’re selling, because you don’t want to mislead your audience. If you’re planning a course about crocheting, for example, be up-front about what level the class is intended for. Tell your audience exactly what they’ll get out of the course. Will they learn to make a sweater? Knit socks? Will materials be included?
A lot of social media influencers also sell online courses that can help people learn new work skills. Freelance writers sell online courses teaching others how to make money writing, for example. Can you turn your skillset into a teaching opportunity? Think about your career, past and present, and assess whether you have something to offer the public that they might want to learn. You could even start an online course on ways to monetize YouTube!
Whatever you decide to teach, you’ll probably need to show your audience some kind of proof that you’re an expert in the subject. If you’re teaching a course on how to become an actor, for example, you’ll probably need to prove that you have had success as an actor yourself. And if you’re teaching a course on building strong relationships, or improving your parenting skills, then you’ll probably have to share some information about your own relationship with your family and loved ones.
No matter what you decide to sell, online courses and merchandise are both great ways to build up income while sharing your skills and products with your followers.
Turn to Fan Funding and Crowdfunding
No matter how successful you are at generating income through ads, sponsored content, and merchandise sales, it’s always a good idea to have another income stream. Fan funding and crowdfunding are great ways to make extra money through YouTube. Depending on how aggressively you pursue it, you could make a significant income this way.
Crowdfunding means appealing to your audience to make donations – usually over a dedicated platform – to support you so that you can continue to produce the content that they love. Fan funding is basically the same thing, except that the term is usually used for musicians.
The concept dates back hundreds of years to the Renaissance, when wealthy merchants or nobles would give their favorite artists and musicians a regular salary just to make sure that they could afford to keep making art. These wealthy people were known as patrons of the arts. Patreon, one of today’s leading crowdfunding platforms, is named after that tradition.
Today, it’s usually not just one person paying an artist to create their art. Instead, lots of people give the artist a relatively small sum of money on a regular basis. That small amount of money, often as little as $5 from each person, adds up. The top earners on Patreon earn tens of thousands of dollars annually and have sizeable followings.
Patreon isn’t the only crowdfunding site out there, of course. You can use sites like GoFundMe to ask for donations for a short-term goal, and you can use Kickstarter to promote a new product or service.
Promoting Your Crowdfunding Site
Your fans may adore you, but they probably won’t sign up to fund you unless you remember to promote your crowdfunding site.
If you’re using Patreon, or any other crowdfunding platform, remember to tell your public about it often. Mention it at the start and finish of all your videos. Include links to your Patreon page. When someone joins your crowdfunding site, thank them, either publicly or privately or both. Remember that these people are giving you money just because they enjoy what you do! That’s something to be thankful for.
Some content creators offer special bonuses to anyone who joins their Patreon page. That’s a good way to encourage people to sign up, and also to let them know how appreciative you are. There are all kinds of bonuses to offer. You might want to give away free merchandise, or a seat in your online course. Or you could create some special content just for your Patreon subscribers.
Work on Your YouTube SEO
No matter how great your content is, it’s not going to generate any income for you unless people can find it easily on a search engine.
That’s where SEO comes in. SEO, or Search Engine Optimization, means making sure that your content has the right structure and components so that it can be easily found when people run a search on Google, YouTube, Bing, or any other search engine. If you’re putting up videos about using natural products for hair care, for example, you want to make sure that people find your YouTube channel when they google something like “coconut oil and hair care.”
How can you make that happen? Make sure that your videos have clear, specific titles. Include a keyword in every title so that it pops up when someone runs a search for that topic. Create well-written, concise written introductions for your YouTube channel and for each video.
It’s also a good idea to encourage your followers to comment below all of your videos. The more comments you have, the more text search engines will find when they trawl the internet looking for words that meet their search criteria.
When it comes to creating content, make sure that your videos stay on theme. If your site is all about natural hair care, then stick to that subject. Don’t get distracted and start posting lots of content about your favorite holiday cookies, for example. Of course, you can always stretch your site to include new topics as well, but they should be organically related to your main subject. Otherwise, your site will lack focus and it will be harder for search engines to identify you and match you with search terms.
FAQ on How to Make Money on YouTube
You’ll find the answers to many frequently answered questions about monetizing YouTube right here.
How Do You Make Money on YouTube? How Much Money Do People Make on YouTube?
Lots of people make money on YouTube – in fact, just about anyone has the potential to make at least some money on the site. However, it’s relatively rare for people to make a good living solely from income generated through YouTube.
If you want to start earning money on YouTube, keep your expectations low. You may be able to make a few hundred dollars a month at first. With patience, you can probably build up to earning more. However, relatively few people see huge earnings from the site.
How Many Views Do You Need to Make Money on YouTube?
In order to become a YouTube Partner and start monetizing your channel, you need to have at least 4,000 valid watch hours. You’ll also need to demonstrate that you have regular viewers and that you are compliant with YouTube’s community guidelines.
How many subscribers do I need to get paid on YouTube?
You need to have at least 1,000 subscribers in order to qualify for the YouTube Partnership program.
How Much Money Do You Make per View on YouTube?
Advertisers pay different rates – the rate will depend on factors like the content creator’s following and the advertiser’s own policies. In general, the rate is somewhere between $0.10 and $0.30 per view.
Hopefully, you now have a good sense of the many different ways you can earn money on YouTube.
The bottom line is that as a content creator, you need to stay true to your values and remain authentic. Consumers value authenticity, and they value consistency – those are the qualities that build trust and allow you to influence them.
You’ll be better-positioned to sell ads, market products, and sell your own merchandise if you have a solid following of people who trust you. The more genuine you are, the more your followers will listen to your recommendations and buy your products.
Let’s be clear – not everyone with a YouTube account is going to become a millionaire. But if you have solid, unique content, and you’re willing to put in some time marketing yourself, then you have a very good chance at making some money on YouTube. By selling ads, becoming an affiliate partner, and creating sponsored content for brands that you believe in, you can generate an income for yourself.
You can also raise money by selling merchandise and online courses and by participating in crowdfunding platforms when your followers can support you in your work.