How to make money on YouTube

6 min read
Baruch Labunski

It all started in 2005, with an 18-second video containing an astute observation about the natural world: Elephants “have really, really, really long…um…trunks, and that’s, that’s cool.” The video (below), was the very first ever posted on YouTube, the brainchild of three guys who worked for PayPal in California. Their video platform has grown a bit since its humble beginnings. Today, millions of people crave insight into how to make money on YouTube.

According to Business Insider, for the 2019 fiscal year, YouTube brought in $15 billion in ad sales. So the stakes are high, and there are lots of viewers for lots of ads.

And it’s not just YouTube’s parent company that’s bringing in large sums of money.

Between June 2018 and June 2019, the top 10 earners on YouTube raked in $162 million.

And that leaves many prospective entrepreneurs wondering how they can get a piece of a large and lucrative pie.

How to earn money from YouTube videos

As you might guess, making money on YouTube is a many-layered topic. Here are five simple ways you can start bringing in cash from your active YouTube channel:

1. Make money from ads

The simplest way to earn money from your YouTube channel is to join the YouTube Partner Program and start earning money from advertising. Once your channel has 1,000 subscribers and 4,000 watch hours per year, you can enable monetization for your channel.

How to Make Money on YouTube Woman in Front of Camera
You must have 1,000 subscribers and 4,000 watch hours per year to use AdSense.

What this means is that your subscribers will see ads when they view your videos, and you’ll get paid for each ad view.

Influencer MarketingHub has a handy tool that lets you calculate how much money your channel can make.

This estimate is based on daily video views and viewer engagement (more on this important factor later). Based on an average of $.18 per view, the tool lets you calculate estimated daily, monthly and yearly earnings.

Step 1: Get a Google AdSense account

You’ll need a Google AdSense account to earn advertising for your channel, and it’s quick and easy to set up that account. The hard work — determining which ads are most likely to be of interest to your viewers — is all done for you by Google.

Anyone with a YouTube channel that meets the minimum requirements to have an AdSense account (1,000 subscribers and 4,000 watch hours) can earn money. But, in truth, most channels earn very little in advertising revenue.

According to Inc., even if your channel racks up 1.4 million views per month — that’s the top three percent of all YouTube channels — the average earnings will only total about $17,000 per year.

So what does that mean? It means you can’t rely on advertising alone if you intend to earn substantial income from YouTube. You need other ways to cash in on your channel.

2. Affiliate marketing

Basically, affiliate marketing on YouTube means that your videos direct viewers’ attention to other websites.

You get paid for your viewers who click on links or make purchases of certain products.

Different niches have different opportunities for affiliate marketing. For example, Travelpayouts lets people in the travel niche earn money toward flights and hotel stays.

As you’re settling into a niche for your YouTube channel, look for relevant affiliate marketing opportunities.

Related: Start earning with affiliate marketing in 5 steps

3. Licensing your content

Why do people work so hard to create viral YouTube content?

Because there’s a lot of money to be made if the media picks it up.

Google provides simple instructions about how to license your videos, along with which content can be licensed and monetized.

Should you create a video that goes viral, you can charge media outlets who want to show them. Content marketplaces like Jukin Media aggregate licensed content and make it easier for the media to get its hands on relevant videos.

4. Sell stuff

How to Make Money on YouTube Box of T-shirts

YouTube is more than just entertainment. It can also generate sales from viewers.

The options are unlimited, whether you:

  • Print T-shirts with your brand and logo
  • Develop a unique kitchen tool
  • Write an eBook with gaming strategies

If you’re regularly attracting viewers to your channel and building your brand, you have a captive audience. Promote your channel and your products!

5. Crowdfunding/fan funding

Musicians looking for the funds to record an album, developers who need money to launch a new game and inventors who have a brilliant idea for a life-changing product … these are just a few of the people who use YouTube to generate money from viewers.

If you have a project you need funds to complete, ask your fans for help!

Related: From crowdfunding to loans — how to find startup funding

Words of advice

We’ve covered the most common ways to cash in on your YouTube channel. But here’s the honest truth:

Most people aren’t very successful at earning a living via YouTube.

You can’t simply post videos and expect the bucks to roll in. You need strategies for maximizing your revenue, too. Here are two:

Know your audience

The most successful YouTube channels have specific niches, and some niches are more profitable than others. The key to making money in your niche — whatever it is — is understanding who your audience is and delivering what they want.

Whether your channel demonstrates video game strategies or cooking techniques, you need to learn everything you can about your viewers, like:

  • Gender
  • Age
  • Geographic location

Use this knowledge to customize your content and increase engagement.

Related: Crafting the perfect customer satisfaction survey

Increase viewer engagement

How to Make Money on YouTube Man on Tablet

Viewer engagement is measured in a number of ways, often in terms of actions taken. For example:

  • How much of your content do viewers actually watch?
  • Do they comment on your videos? Do they share them?
  • Do viewers click on product links?
  • Do they watch the entire ad at the beginning of your content?

Improving viewer engagement is critical for maximizing your YouTube earning potential.

To learn more about viewer engagement, why not go to the source: YouTube’s Creator Academy. The Academy walks you through ways to measure and improve your viewer engagement.

How to make money on YouTube explained

According to Business of Apps, roughly 500 hours of video are uploaded to YouTube every minute.

That’s a lot of footage, and it presents a huge opportunity.

By partnering with YouTube to permit ads, capitalizing on affiliate marketing, licensing content, selling products, and crowdfunding, you create opportunities to earn money from your YouTube channel.

And by improving your viewer engagement and learning to cater to your audience, you can increase that revenue by delivering better, more useful and more entertaining content.

And that’s how to earn money from YouTube videos!