How to Make Money on YouTube

YouTube, the platform that allows anyone to upload their own videos to its website, hasn’t always been about money. But ever since it started paying a select number of its creators for their content, thousands have turned video-making into a career.

Though even the best YouTube creators don’t always make a lot of money doing what they do, it’s still possible to turn a hobby or interest into a source of income. There are plenty of ways to make it work — you just have to find the one that’s right for you.

Here’s how YouTube’s top entertainers and businesses make a living and ensure long-term financial success — and how you can follow suit.

Make videos you can monetize


YouTube | PressureUA/iStock/Getty Images

Those who qualify can link their YouTube channel to an AdSense account, which generates income based on ads placed before, during, or after your videos. If you plan on monetizing your content, make sure it meets the platform’s “advertiser-friendly content” guidelines.

But before you can generate advertiser-based content, you must reach a certain threshold of lifetime channel views and channel subscribers. As of July 2018, YouTube creators must have accumulated at least 10,000 channel views in the past year, and need to have 1,000 people or more subscribed to their content.

Work with sponsors and join affiliate programs

Many video creators turn to more traditional income streams to boost their bank accounts. The same way companies often pay businesses to promote their products and services, more and more are working with creators and other social media influencers to market to their audiences directly.

Affiliate programs work in a similar way. Often, members of an affiliate program are paid based on how many audience members they refer to a specific product or service. You might earn a 15% commission on all sales made through a link you provide in a video, for example.

How much money you make from these types of deals, and their qualifications, depend on a company’s specific guidelines.

Host live Q&A sessions

Depending on the style or subject matter of your content, you might benefit from hosting question-and-answer based live-streamed shows. YouTube allows those watching a live stream to use its Super Chat function, which could mean a small income boost for you.

Viewers who tune in to your stream can pay to have their questions boosted in YouTube’s chat function to increase the odds you’ll see and answer them. These donations go straight to your account.

You must have live-streaming enabled on your account to make use of this feature.

Qualify for YouTube’s Channel Membership initiative

Professional digital video camera.

Professional digital video camera. | maxcam2008/iStock/Getty Images

At VidCon 2018 — the annual conference for online video creators and their audiences — YouTube announced a new possible income stream for creators: Channel Memberships.

Similar to other creator-focused video platforms like Twitch, audience members can become a “member” of a channel to access exclusive content, badges, and other perks. This feature was previously called a sponsorship.

According to YouTube’s membership guidelines, a creator remains ineligible to enable channel memberships unless or until they have a minimum of 100,000 subscribers, are 18 years or older, and have been approved as a YouTube Partner.

Sell merchandise

Along with channel-specific memberships, YouTube also announced a built-in merchandise marketing feature. Many creators have already benefited from selling T-shirts, mugs, pins, and other products relevant to their video content.

If you don’t use this feature, there are other sites built for creators and entrepreneurs that make it easier to sell your own merchandise. If you host a separate website enabled with Shopify and provide a link in your videos, you can sell products directly to your audience.

Plan to stick with it for the long haul

You don’t have to have millions of subscribers to earn a decent income from making YouTube videos. But there are multiple minimum requirements you often have to meet to qualify for certain monetization features. With so many aspiring creators trying to break into the same business, it can take months — even years — to earn a sizable income from online video.

So don’t get discouraged if it feels like your videos aren’t taking off as fast as you think they should. Over time, your subscriber base can grow — and so can your bank account. In life, it’s those who keep working toward their goals, no matter how slowly, that end up making it big.

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