Promoting your brand with YouTube is one thing. Turning your YouTube channel into an actual revenue stream is another. But while your business may need to take different paths to achieve each one, learning how to make money on YouTube isn’t as difficult as you may think—and you don’t need to be in the top tier of YouTube creators to be a success.
Here’s what you need to know to start earning cash as a video creator on the platform.
Table of Contents
- What Niches Are Most Profitable on YouTube?
- How To Make Money on YouTube: 5 Things You Need To Know
- 2 Brands With Successful YouTube Channels
Pretty much any brand can effectively use YouTube as a marketing channel, but it is true that certain genres of videos are better suited for YouTube monetization. According to Google, the most-watched categories on YouTube are:
- Entertainment and pop culture
- “How to”
When you look at the top-earning YouTube stars of 2019, like Markiplier and Jeffree Star, you can see that video game, beauty, and toy channels also perform well.
This doesn’t mean you have to be in the entertainment industry to make it big on YouTube—you definitely don’t. But if you want to maximize your earning potential, it’s smart to start thinking about unique ways to create hours of video content that falls under these categories, while still aligning with your brand.
Whether you’re enlisting influencers to perform in a music video about your event like Gainsight or showing people how to use your products like Kroger, the possibilities are endless if you’re willing to get creative.
A great video content strategy is just one part of learning how to make money on YouTube. In order to get cash flowing into your business, you also need to know how YouTubers make money from the social media platform in the first place, so you can fully round out your approach to the marketing channel. Here’s what you need to know.
1. Creators must apply to earn ad revenue
Monetization isn’t something you can simply opt into on YouTube. The platform rewards channels that are performing well—which means you definitely need more than one enthusiastic parent to watch your YouTube videos. Just to access the YouTube Partner Program (YPP) application, which gets you access to ad revenue if approved, content creators must meet these minimum eligibility requirements:
- Have at least 1,000 subscribers
- Reach 4,000 public video watch hours in the past 12 months
- Live in a YPP-eligible country
- Have a Google AdSense account
You can check your eligibility status from the “Monetization” tab of your YouTube Studio.
Before you start the application process, you’ll also want to double check that you meet YouTube policies for monetized channels, which include community guidelines and AdSense program policies. For example, your channel can’t publish repeat content and videos with copyrighted music can’t earn.
2. YouTube earnings aren’t just based on views
Once the account review process is over and your YouTube account is approved for the YouTube Partner Program, you’ll have the power to enable (or disable) ads for any video on your channel. When you do choose to monetize a video with YouTube ads, your exact earnings will primarily depend on how many ad impressions you get—but this isn’t the only factor.
Some advertisers may pay more for their ad placements, so you may end up earning more for some ads than others. In addition, YouTube takes 45% of ad revenue, so you won’t be making hundreds off a handful of views. Forbes actually estimates that successful YouTubers like PewDiePie, Dude Perfect, Jake Paul, Logan Paul, and Ryan’s World (formerly Ryan Toysreview) are making $5 for every thousand views, though this rate can be lower for small business owners on the platform.
3. Your subscribers can directly fund you
Not getting tons of video views? The good news is, you don’t have to solely rely on ad revenue to make money on YouTube any longer. As long as you have some loyal subscribers, you can be making cash in a few different ways.
Here’s how to monetize YouTube videos when you’re still boosting your view count:
- Get on a live stream: When you go live on YouTube, you can enable Super Chat and Super Stickers. When a user purchases one of these items, their comments stand out within their chat and you can acknowledge and thank them live.
- Enabling channel memberships: Once you reach 5,000 subscribers, you can invite users to become paying members of your channel. You can offer them perks like special emojis, badges, extra content, and more.
- Adding to your merch shelf: While you can’t directly sell your company’s products or services on YouTube, you can sell brand merch like T-shirts and mugs from approved retailers like Teespring (and have merch appear under videos) once you reach 10,000 subscribers.
In addition to these monetization options, you also automatically get extra money when YouTube Premium users watch your content—a small cut of their $11.99 subscription.
Fan funding can be a super effective alternative to earning with video ads when you’re a part of YouTube’s Partner Program. But even if you’re not part of the video monetization program yet, you can always earn money for your company with calls to action to visit your Patreon—on which you may provide exclusive content like vlogs and unboxings—or, if you’re raising money for a launch, your crowdfunding campaign.
4. Affiliate marketing can help you earn without ads
Again, don’t worry if you’re still working your way toward YPP eligibility—your brand can earn revenue as you improve your YouTube analytics. Plenty of companies have affiliate programs that allow you to earn commission when consumers shop through your unique link (which you can place in your video description), and all you need to do is drive viewers there with your video content.
If you’re consistently getting a large number of views, and especially if your number of subscribers is growing, some brands may even be willing to sponsor your videos in exchange for an on-screen product review.
Affiliate marketing and sponsorships are mainly opportunities for rising influencers, and less likely to be for small business owners who are aiming to sell their own products or services. However, even if you’re in the latter category, you can still consider partnering with other brands for extra cash. For example, if you sell makeup, you can offer to feature another company’s makeup remover product for a set amount of money, then show how your products can work together in your video.
5. Consistency is key to gaining subscribers
As you can probably see, your subscriber count is basically the currency of YouTube. A large subscriber base means greater access to earning opportunities to earn cash. So how do you get more YouTube subscribers for your channel? Boosting your consistency is a great place to start.
Your consistency needs to go beyond posting new videos at the same time each week—though that’s definitely helpful, too. Each of your videos should generally have the same look and feel to build subscriber loyalty. Adobe Spark‘s video storytelling features can help you achieve this. Using the Spark video editor, you pull together clips and slides—all with music and your brand colors and fonts—to make professional, eye-catching video in the matter of minutes.
Spark’s free YouTube channel art templates and YouTube thumbnail templates can further keep the vibe of your channel as cohesive as possible. Tap the channel art below to start customizing for your brand!
A dose of inspiration can be all you need to start building a subscriber and advertiser-friendly YouTube channel. To give you the best look at how to make money on YouTube as a business owner, we’ll highlight two brands that have successfully turned YouTube into a revenue stream. Each of these channels create types of videos that you don’t necessarily need a full production team to create, too.
The second most-subscribed brand channel on YouTube, Vat19 is an incredible case study on how to turn the platform into both a marketing opportunity and an earning opportunity. The gifts and novelties e-commerce store built its fan base of over 7.5 million by creating entertaining videos that feature its products.
Vat19’s videos don’t feel like commercials. They feature funny challenges like “Finish This Gumball to Win $250” or intriguing product lists like “13 Products You Should Hide From Your Parents” and are always led by enthusiastic hosts. Take a look at this game-style video for inspiration on how you creatively feature your products:
Vat19 is also a great example of a brand that uses consistent thumbnails, with bold colors and on-brand font, to make its YouTube presence as recognizable as possible.
LegalEagle is one of the best examples of a brand that you wouldn’t expect to align with YouTube’s top niches—but it did and you can, too! LegalEagle is a brand that offers law school prep courses, but the reason it’s so successful (regularly driving half a million to 2 million views) is because the channel isn’t about the boring prep work at all.
The founder of LegalEagle is best known for reacting to movies and current events from a legal perspective, showing off his knowledge as an industry leader, all while showing off his personality and relating to the greater world. Check out his reaction to Legally Blonde to see how he does it:
LegalEagle videos are often even sponsored by other brands, showing how it is possible to earn through affiliate marketing, even if you’re technically pushing your own brand.
More recently, LegalEagle also expanded to a LegalEagle Law School channel that’s aimed more directly at prospective students (and, therefore, leads).
Need some more inspiration to take your channel to the next level? Upgrade your earning potential with our four tips for YouTube channel success.