Viral videos drive and entertain our society. Thanks to social media, it’s possible to share a single video with thousands—if not millions—of people within a few minutes. It’s no wonder why so many business-savvy capitalists have found a way to transform this viral phenomenon into a money-making endeavor.
Content creation is more lucrative than ever, and YouTube remains the video platform of choice for many entrepreneurs looking to cash in on the trend. With over 2 billion users and 5 billion hours watched each day, there has never been a better time to mark your territory on the platform.
But, can you really make decent money on YouTube? Yes you can, but only those who understand the ins and outs of the system are successful. After all, it’s not just about uploading funny cat videos and crossing your fingers. If you want to pocket more than a few pennies, you need to know how to grow and monetize your YouTube audience.
YouTube markets itself as a user-driven content creation platform. What does this mean exactly? Anyone can open an account and begin posting homemade videos. And with only a few exceptions, almost anything goes.
The platform materialized back in 2005, and the first YouTube video was an 18-second clip at the zoo. In the beginning, people shared content for fun—making money wasn’t even in the picture. But when Google bought the site in 2006, monetization became a top priority. After all, if the website paid their creators, it would draw in even more, potentially higher-quality videos.
However, one thing remains the same—users can join the platform for free, which can make it a great side hustle. You can watch and upload all the content you desire without paying a dime. Anyone who wants to avoid advertisements can sign up for YouTube Red, the site’s paid membership plan, but the majority of users prefer their free account.
The popularity of the platform doesn’t appear to be fizzling out anytime soon, so now is the time to jump in on the action. If you think you have what it takes to attract viewers and create loyal fans, starting a channel may be the next step in your entrepreneurial journey.
Enough with the history lesson, you came here to learn how to earn money on YouTube. New creators join the platform each day with the hopes of making it big. Some do succeed, but many disappear into the abyss after releasing a handful of videos.
What sets apart the most famous content creators from the crowd? Brand recognition, audience loyalty, and high-quality content. As an entrepreneur, you’re already familiar with that formula. You understand the importance of providing your audience with something of value. You strive to build relationships and create rabid fans. You know how to market your brand in every way, shape, and form.
In a nutshell, running a successful YouTube channel is the same as every other business out there. While the format may look different on paper, the game is the same. So, let’s begin:
Step #1: Find your niche.
There are over 31 million channels on YouTube, so, as you can imagine, it’s easy to get lost in the shuffle. If you want to earn some cash, you need a niche. Some of the most popular niches are beauty, gaming, DIY, vlogs, and product reviews. Even educational and children’s videos have their place on the platform. Make sure there is a demand for your niche—after all, if only 20 people want to watch your videos, you won’t earn a paycheck.
While this may seem obvious, you can’t earn money without a channel. It’s free to sign up, and once you activate your account, you’ll be able to start uploading content.
Even though YouTube boasts billions of view-time hours each day, you can’t assume everyone will just flock to your videos. You need to build a loyal following. Promote your videos on multiple social media outlets, or reach out to other YouTubers for a shoutout.
Once you gain subscribers, it’s imperative you continue to upload high-quality videos multiple times a week. And most importantly, always engage with your followers. You can do this by replying to their comments, recognizing active followers in your videos, or even hosting subscriber-only giveaways. The more connected your audience feels, the more engaged with your channel they’ll remain.
YouTube won’t cut you a check until they accept you into the YouTube Partner Program. The application and review process takes time, so be sure you apply as soon as you reach the minimum thresholds. Most creators qualify for ad revenue as long as they upload advertiser-friendly content.
Sure, it seems relatively simple to get started on YouTube, and if you follow these steps, you’ll begin earning money right away, correct? Well, things are never as easy as they seem, but when it comes to building a channel, you really don’t have anything to lose. You should be aware; however, not every monetized channel makes money. You must gain enough views to earn your first paycheck.
Getting in front of a camera may seem overwhelming to some people. After all, you’re on display for potentially millions of people to see. What can you do if you want to make money on YouTube, but you don’t want to appear in your videos?
If you have a decent voice, you may consider doing voiceovers for educational or how-to videos. Others choose to hire outside actors to appear in their videos instead.
Some of the top channels feature animation, including Cocomelon, a nursery rhyme channel that had the most-viewed video in 2018. Today, the channel averages 83 million viewers each day. If you have a knack for computer graphics and animation, this may be the best route to take.
What most entrepreneurs don’t know is how to make money on YouTube without making videos. No, your eyes didn’t play tricks on you. It’s possible to start a successful channel without ever picking up a camera!
You are free to repost any videos in YouTube’s Creative Commons library. Instead of producing a video, you can search for a trending video through the platform. As long as the video falls under the Creative Commons license, you can repost it to your own channel and earn any ad revenue. Of course, you’ll still need to follow the steps to build your audience and optimize your content to be successful.
YouTube measures the success of your channel based on the number of views you receive. Technically speaking, you could have zero subscribers and still make decent money if random strangers make all your videos go viral. Of course, the odds of that happening are slim to none. Most viral sensations are one-hit wonders.
For instance, if you have 100,000 followers and only 1,000 of them watch your videos, you’ll have a subpar engagement rating in YouTube’s mind. They won’t recommend your content to others, and you’ll rank low in the platform’s search results.
But if nearly half of the same 100,000 subscribers watch everything you upload, you’ll be more desirable to YouTube’s algorithm. New viewers will see your content pop up in their feed, and you’ll gain more subscribers without really trying.
YouTube pays you based on how many views your videos receive. Yes, you need a minimum number of subscribers (1,000 to be exact) if you want to qualify for the Partner Program. But your videos need to generate at least 4,000 watch-time hours over a 12-month period to remain active in the program.
Furthermore, you cannot sign up for video monetization until you reach 10,000 lifetime views on your channel. Because of this stipulation, many smaller channels never earn a cent. On the other hand, if someone uploads a single viral video, they can start making money right away.
Most videos don’t go viral, however. As a YouTuber, you must continue to upload content each month—several times a week is ideal. As you build your audience, you’ll generate views. And if you keep providing high-quality content, your most engaged subscribers will tell others about your channel.
There is much more involved if you want others to find your videos. Make sure you take advantage of the platform and optimize every new video as much as possible. You can:
Once you pass the initial 10,000 view threshold, don’t assume you can throw in the towel. As with any endeavor, the more you market and scale, the higher your potential income. The most lucrative channels follow these steps for every video they upload, and their bank accounts have the receipts to prove it.
Wow! You got 1,000 views on your most recent video. First of all, congrats! Reaching that many views early on is reason to pop the cork on your favorite bubbly. But don’t expect a big, fat check in the mail anytime soon. You need to understand the rules about how to earn money on YouTube views.
This number varies for several reasons, including how often YouTube shows the ad or how long the viewer watches. Most users can click out of an ad after a few seconds, which reduces the Adsense revenue for the channel.
Even though the amount per 1,000 views seems minimal, many YouTubers earn a comfortable living from Adsense revenue alone. Some also earn an extraordinary income from their steady stream of views. However, if you want to make 6- or 7-figures, you’ll need to look into other monetizing avenues for your channel.
When you monetize your YouTube account, you automatically qualify for Google AdSense revenue. Every time a viewer watches an ad, Adsense deposits a small amount into your account. Google pays YouTubers every month for all unpaid earnings from the previous month.
To qualify for payment, you must meet the payment threshold. This amount varies per region, but in the U.S., you must earn at least $100 before you receive payment. For some YouTubers, this threshold means they may wait months or even years before receiving their first check from Adsense.
Now that you’ve reached the threshold, you want to get paid! Creators must first provide tax information and verify their address. Once you do, you can set up a payment form with Google. Most people choose to have their money direct deposited into their bank account, but you can also opt for an old-fashioned check.
Those making the most money from YouTube don’t rely only on their Adsense accounts. Ads pay pennies on the dollar, and that won’t make you rich overnight. Instead of waiting to hit payout thresholds, the top channels monetize their audience in other ways.
Monetizing your channel to the fullest means thinking outside the box. Ad revenue takes forever to earn, and many channels fold before reaching the payment threshold. But as the most successful YouTubers will tell you, sometimes you have to create your own money-making opportunities.
YouTuber-branded merchandise, or merch (as the cool kids call it), is a huge industry. Loyal fans willingly spend their hard-earned money to support their favorite channels—just ask Shane Dawson. Shane’s most recent merchandise launch through Killer Merch sold out within minutes. And who purchased everything? His dedicated base of over 23 million subscribers.
Once you build your audience, others may begin to take notice. Sponsored videos and ad placements are another way the most prominent channels thrive. Companies contract content creators to help promote their products or services. And while channels with millions of subscribers receive the highest payments, many companies also work with micro-influencers—especially those catering towards a particular, more specialized niche.
If your YouTube channel reaches the big league, you may even receive brand deals from major corporations. For example, beauty guru Nikkie Tutorials landed a $50,000 deal with Too Faced cosmetics to create an eyeshadow palette.
Do you own another company? Consider advertising to your YouTube audience. Some of the most well-known YouTubers also have books, seminars, or products available for sale. If you took the time to grow a vast subscriber base, you could easily promote your other endeavors to them. Best of all, marketing to your YouTube following is 100-percent free.
You may think making money on YouTube is more than child’s play, but for some of the highest-paid internet stars, playing with toys is their claim to fame. When Forbes published their list of the top-grossing YouTubers in 2019, the most avid viewers weren’t surprised to find kids and teens on the list. After all, nearly 81% of parents let their young children watch YouTube, according to a study by Pew Research Center.
You may want to sit down before you learn the answer.
The top earner in 2019 was Ryan Kaji, who earned an estimated $26 million for the year. What’s the catch? He’s only eight. Ryan first began his channel at the ripe age of three, and he soon gained a cult following (23.4 subscribers million and growing). Both kids and parents find his content entertaining and wholesome. In the beginning, Ryan unboxed and played with toys on camera. Now that he’s more mature—almost double digits—he has expanded his videos to include science experiments and DIY activities.
While Ryan amassed much of his wealth from YouTube views and ads, he now partners with other corporations. He’s signed deals with both Nickelodeon and Hulu, and the child superstar even has his own line of toys and clothing. With any luck, he’ll be ready to retire before he’s a teenager.
Anastasia Radzinskaya may only be five, but she earned over $18 million from her popular YouTube channels in 2019. She regularly posts content to six different channels, including “Like Nastya,” “Like Nastya Vlog,” and “Like Nastya Show.” Keeping the names similar makes it easy for her fans to find and follow all her videos. Today, her channels have a combined total of over 107 million subscribers.
When Anastasia’s parents began her first channel, becoming a millionaire wasn’t in the picture. They simply wanted to document her life. Anastasia has cerebral palsy, and doctors gave her a discouraging prognosis. Instead of throwing in the towel, her parents decided to document her life, sharing her progress with her growing audience. Her videos include everyday vlogs, playing with toys, and interacting with her family.
It’s not only children making it big on YouTube. Some of the highest-paid video stars are full-fledged adults.
What happens when five friends in their 30s decide to begin a YouTube channel? Simple—they earn over $20 million. Dude Perfect has over 49 million subscribers and over 10 billion views. Not too shabby for some “dudes” who play sports, attempt flashy stunts, and try to break Guinness World Records. Their free-style, no-holds-barred channel earned them the number two spot on the Forbes list this past year.
Who says you can’t make a living doing comedy? Rhett McLaughlin and Link Neal earned $17.5 million from their collective YouTube channels. These lifelong friends post blind taste tests, celebrity interviews, and other random vlogs. Each video this funny duo uploads receives millions of views, so it’s no wonder they placed number four on the Forbes list.
The richest YouTuber isn’t the most popular; some people flat-out despise him. Regardless, both his polarizing personality and business savviness have made Jeffree Star one of the wealthiest content creators and entrepreneurs on the site.
Not only does Jeffree Star publish content to his vastly popular YouTube channel (he has over 17.5 million subscribers), but he also runs his own successful makeup company. While his heavily tattooed frame and colorful wigs may not scream businessman, Jeffree has an estimated net worth of over $75 million.
Yes, Jeffree credits a portion of his wealth from his YouTube channel, but most of his success comes from Jeffree Star Cosmetics and countless sponsorships. Jeffree is the king—or queen—of monetizing his audience. He uses his well-oiled channel to promote his cosmetic line, and his loyal fans support him at every opportunity.
YouTube has quickly become the video-sharing service of choice for people across the world. Devoted viewers drop everything to watch new content from their favorite creators. Others forego television entirely in favor of online videos.
You can make decent money if you know how to grow your audience and upload the content they crave. Once you grasp how to make money on YouTube 2020, it’s even possible to hit the jackpot and earn over 7-figures a year. The sky's the limit.
Those with the most padded bank accounts don’t solely rely on the platform to pay their bills. They are ingenious entrepreneurs who know how to go all-in on serving a specific audience. In our community, we devoted a whole month to building and monetizing audiences. You can check out The One Percent to learn more.