5 Solid Ways to Make Money on Your YouTube Videos
From AdSense to memberships to brand sponsorship, let’s look at five ways you can successfully monetize your YouTube videos.
To create content that you enjoy, and in the style that represents your personality, and to also make enough money to live — this is the dream, isn’t it? Fortunately, with YouTube, it’s also a possible reality.
I’ve been producing videos on YouTube for over a decade (you can find me here), and as the channel hasn’t been my primary focus (although perhaps it should be), the revenue I generate isn’t enough to pay for all aspects of my life.
Nonetheless, throughout the year, the money my channel makes assists with equipment acquisition, small treats, and covers the cost of several subscription services and bills. Not bad.
With that, let’s take a look at a few of your options for generating revenue from YouTube.
AdSense is the fundamental first step toward generating income from YouTube. It’s a Google-owned ad program that allows advertisers to place ads before, during, or after a YouTube video. In return, the content creator receives 68% of the ad rate paid by the advertiser. However, there are several factors to acknowledge when using AdSense.
The first is the payout. While it’s estimated that 1,000 views may equate to $3-$5, this is not guaranteed. The ad is only recognized as a successful delivery if the viewer clicks the ad or watches it for more than thirty seconds. So, while your video might have 1000 views, if 999 viewers skipped the ad, well, you get the idea.
Other factors, like fluctuating ad rates, can impact payout as well, causing income to vary from month to month. This is especially notable at the start of a new year because advertisers don’t spend as much in the wake of the Christmas season.
Secondly, there are measures to meet before you can even apply for the AdSense partnership:
• Have more than 4,000 public watch hours in the last twelve months.
• Have more than 1,000 subscribers.
• Have a linked AdSense account.
• Ensure your content adheres to the monetization policies.
That final bullet-point is a crucial aspect. To avoid being demonetized, strive to keep your content family-friendly. This isn’t to say that discussing difficult topics is off the table, but try to avoid offensive language and controversial issues. You can find the full list of advertiser-friendly content guidelines here.
Is there anything you can do to get more clicks? Yes — get more views! That’s all there is to it. But remember, never ask your subscribers to click the adverts on your video. This is the quickest way to have your account demonetized.
2. Membership and Super Chat
In the early 2010s, Patreon exploded onto the scene as a viable subscription-based platform for creators to receive monthly support from their audience. In exchange for that support, the audience is compensated with tiered rewards. For example, a viewer who gives $1 might earn early access to new videos, while $50 grants a monthly insider chat with the creator.
At the same time, Twitch also started to grow in popularity with live-streaming and is now one of the powerhouses of video content. Like Patreon, Twitch has a membership platform that lets viewers back their favorite creators each month. Additionally, they have an option for the creator to turn on “subscriber-only chat” or for watchers to donate mid-stream in order to appear higher in the chat log.
Not so long after, YouTube introduced two monetized systems similar to Patreon’s reward tiers and Twitch’s buy-in-chat model — channel memberships and Super Chat.
Channel memberships allow subscribers to pay a monthly fee that gives them access to members-only badges, emojis, and perks. Similar to Patreon, you can create a single membership level or offer multiple tiers (as long the increase in membership price is reflected in the rewards).
It’s essential to make sure any rewards you offer do not impede your content creation time. You want to make the rewards part of your current eco-system — such as access to private videos or early access to content.
Super Chat works very similar to Twitch. Google states:
Super Chats & Super Stickers show as colored chat messages in your chat feed. When a viewer makes a purchase, their profile picture can stay on top of the chat feed for a period of time that depends on their purchase amount. The more a viewer spends, the longer Super Chats or Super Stickers can stay at the top of the chat feed.
Of course, Super Chat is a feature for live streaming only, so the feature doesn’t hold much weight for content creators who upload pre-edited videos.
3. Amazon and Store Affiliate Schemes
Amazon and various other platforms offer affiliate programs that, in my experience, are sometimes more rewarding than AdSense, depending on the month.
With Amazon’s affiliate program, you direct viewers to the site to buy items you have recommended or talked about. If a viewer buys the item, you receive a commission. However, this is entirely dependent on the type of content you create.
For example, if your YouTube channel is about visiting remote regions of Wales to discuss Roman artifacts, you likely won’t have much to monetize, save for books about Roman history. If your YouTube channel is oriented toward cameras, like mine partly is, you’re going to be able to link numerous items that you talk about or discuss.
You want to make sure your outgoing links are neatly presented, and the featured items are presented in order of appearance. As it’s not a sponsored segment, you don’t need to give a call to action to Amazon as a company. Instead, politely let your viewers know that items are in the description (or comment feed). If they want to pick up your recommendation, your neatly presented link will do the rest of the work.
4. Brand Sponsorship
The pinnacle of earning money from YouTube has to be a brand partnership. It’s truly a rewarding experience that makes it feel like all those uploads and moments of self-doubt have paid off.
However, unlike AdSense, Amazon affiliates, and merchandise, it’s not as if you can sign up for this process. Brands approach you. Sure, you can reach out to companies to say that you have a YouTube channel that specializes in similar content, but those words often fall on deaf ears.
So, what can you do to catch a brand’s attention? Well, ultimately, it comes down to one thing — your numbers. And that’s because a sponsorship, partnership, or whatever you want to call it is primarily one thing — an advertisement.
Therefore, brands look to partner with creator who have a sizable voice. However, don’t be disconcerted if you have a small subscriber base. Ultimately, those with hundreds of thousands, or even millions, of subscribers are going to cost more to work with, and sometimes that falls outside of a brand’s advertising budget. I pulled in my first paid partnership with 20,000 subscribers.
There’s also a sub-section of brand sponsorship, and that’s brand referral/affiliation schemes. Out of all the viable options for monetizing a YouTube channel, this is the one I’m not particularly enthusiastic about.
Just like with Amazon or store affiliate links, you send your viewers to a brand’s website or product. After the purchase, you receive a base commission. From my experience, it’s usually $5-$10.
But here’s the issue with this form of advertisement — while this may work for videos that garner millions of views, if your videos are only attracting 10,000-100,000, the prospect of converting those views into purchases remains relatively small. So, when all is said and done, the brand gets exposed to 100,000 of your subscribers — but only a fraction of those subscribers make a purchase that leads to commission for you.
Perhaps a staple reaction to catching your favorite band in concert is swinging by the merch table to pick up a shirt. It’s a great way to commemorate the night — it’s also one of the best things you can do to support your favorite artist.
Did you know that musicians, especially indie musicians, tend to earn more money from ticket sales and merchandise than they do from their records? (You can read why here).
It’s no different when it comes to YouTubers promoting their merchandise. How often do you come across a video where a creator has just released a new hoodie? The return on selling a few T-shirts may be far greater than the AdSense return on a video with 50,000 views.
Of course, not everyone is versed in the practice of online sales and shipping. Thankfully, YouTube has a partnership with Tee-Spring that allows creators (with at least 10,000 subscribers) to upload and sell designs through the Tee-Spring platform. Other than the initial design process, you just have to promote the new merchandise through your videos. With enough hustle and a great design, it’s virtually guaranteed that you’ll make enough money to support every aspect of your life.
Okay, that’s not true. But you might be able to buy a new lens in a few months. Not bad, right?
What do all these elements have in common? Views and subscribers. While it’s undoubtedly possible to generate income on YouTube — many have made a fortune doing so — it’s very much a long-term game. Each video you publish is like a new seed — some will bloom into beautiful flowers, others will never sprout. The key is to never stop creating.
Stay focused on your YouTube dreams with these helpful resources:
- What I’ve Learned From Starting a YouTube Channel in 2020
- The Ins and Outs of Streaming on YouTube Live
- How to Upload to YouTube Directly from DaVinci Resolve 16
- Royalty Free Music for YouTube: What You Need to Know
Cover image via Unitone Vector.