While anyone can enjoy uploading videos to YouTube for fun, the time might come when you want to actually earn an income from your content. If you’re thinking about spending serious time on your channel, you’ve probably wondered how to make money on YouTube.
The truth is that very few people will earn millions of dollars on YouTube. However, as a YouTuber, you have several options for monetizing your content. Let’s take a look at how to make money on YouTube by listing the most popular methods.
Like most free services, YouTube is powered by advertising (unless you pay for YouTube Premium). Before you watch most videos, and sometimes in the middle of longer ones, you’ll have to watch a short ad. Some of the money from this goes to the channel, and the rest goes to YouTube itself.
YouTube has certain guidelines for when your channel is eligible for monetization (meaning ads show on your videos). At the time of writing, YouTube requires a channel to have 4,000 watch hours in the prior 12 months, plus 1,000 subscribers, for monetization. See the YouTube Partner Program overview page for more details.
This means you won’t be able to make money from ads until you start building a fanbase. When eligible, you’ll want to visit your Creator Studio, then click the Channel tab on the left. Under Status and Features, select Enable under Monetization to get started.
From there, you’ll need to link your AdSense account, choose what types of ads you’d like on your videos, and go through a review.
Unfortunately, there’s no simple formula for how much you can make through ads. It depends on how many people watch the full ad, how many viewers use an ad-blocker, and other factors. In addition, YouTube has experienced a lot of problems in the past few years with advertisers pulling their ads from the platform. This has led to the site demonetizing videos for a variety of reasons.
Overall, this means that when you’re starting out, ad revenue is not guaranteed. To deal with YouTube’s monetization issues, many creators are looking at other methods to make money on YouTube.
2. Product Placements
Product placement is an age-old advertising technique that’s common in TV shows and movies, and works for making money off YouTube as well. It essentially boils down to using specific brands in order to promote them. For example, a movie from Sony Pictures may include someone playing a PlayStation on a Sony TV.
On your YouTube channel, you may be able to strike a product placement deal with a company that’s relevant to the kind of content you produce. Of course, you’ll likely need to build a following before a brand will want to advertise with you.
The product placement doesn’t have to be the entire focus of your video—just part of it. Mentioning or using a brand in your video in a natural way is all that’s required. The Rhett and Link video embedded above is an example of product placement done well, as the music video stands on its own aside from the Buick promotion.
This is a solid advertising tactic because people can’t skip it. Additionally, viewers often feel a connection with their favorite content creators. This lends more authenticity to your recommendations, but you have to take care that this doesn’t backfire.
If you don’t make it clear that you’ve been paid for the promotion, or don’t actually like the product you’re reviewing, it could negatively affect your viewers’ opinion of you. Thankfully, YouTube includes a checkbox that lets people know a video contains sponsored content.
3. Sponsored Videos
Sponsored videos are similar to product placement, but with a few key differences. While product placement involves integrating a brand into an existing video, a sponsored video is entirely based around a brand.
If you run a gaming channel (one of the most popular types of YouTube channels) for instance, a developer might approach you to make a video about its game. Since you likely wouldn’t have played this game otherwise, you’ll let your viewers know that the developer paid you to make the video.
Sponsorships come in less drastic forms, too. Many YouTubers include a short sponsor message at the start of their videos. This is essentially a quick advertisement for a brand that’s separate from YouTube ads. Sometimes, these include a discount code for viewers to save a bit of money if they sign up for the service.
Like product placement, sponsored videos are a good alternative for making money, but you should be careful with them. If you don’t come across as genuine, your audience might find these videos in poor taste. Thus, you should try to avoid advertising sponsored content you’ve never actually used or don’t endorse.
4. Affiliate Links
You’ve probably heard of affiliate links, as many websites use affiliates to make money. Basically, affiliate links allow you to create a unique URL to a website. When anyone follows that link and buys a product, you get a small percentage of the sale.
These are pretty easy to set up, and don’t require sponsorship deals from brands. If you talk about a certain product in your video, you can include an affiliate link to its Amazon page in the description. Or you could add an affiliate link for services like Audible, where you’ll make some money if someone decides to sign up.
Affiliate links are a good passive source of income. After all, if someone is going to buy a product anyway, it doesn’t make any difference to them if they buy it through your affiliate link. Like the other methods, it’s a good idea to clearly disclose when you include affiliate links to your audience.
5. Fan Funding/Subscriptions
Many have turned to fan funding as an alternative way to make money. This involves joining a service like Patreon or SubscribeStar that lets fans donate some money each month to support their favorite channels.
Most creators who use a service like this offer tiers of rewards in exchange for their fans’ support. You might list their names at the end of each video, host a video chat with them every month, or provide behind-the-scenes clips. It’s a great way to connect the biggest fans with their favorite channels, and provides a fairly steady form of revenue not reliant on ads.
YouTube now offers its own way to do this through the Channel Membership feature. Once your channel meets certain guidelines, you can allow viewers to sponsor you monthly through YouTube in exchange for a few perks. It’s up to you if you’d rather do this on or off YouTube.
If you livestream on your channel, you can also use the Super Chat feature. This allows viewers to donate money in exchange for highlighting their message for a time during a stream.
6. Selling Merchandise
Another monetization option is creating merchandise to sell to your fans. Websites like TeePublic let you create custom designs for T-shirts, wall art, mugs, and more. Many creators offer designs featuring popular catchphrases, jokes, or art from their videos.
Once you’ve created some cool designs, let viewers know about them in a few videos. Include a link to your merchandise page in video descriptions, and anyone who’s interested can support you and get some cool swag at the same time.
Now You Know How to Make Money on YouTube
While you have many monetization options available to you, remember that making money from YouTube is not easy. You’ll have to produce quality content for some time in order to build the viewership required for ads, sponsorships, and more.
If you’re just starting out, focus on making awesome videos and do what you can to make YouTube a better place. And hopefully, over time, your audience will come. You can then look deeper into these monetization options once your channel becomes more popular.