Can people really make money on YouTube? This is a question many of us have thought to ourselves — after all, we’ve heard the success stories of how much money some of the top influencers make through advertising and sponsorships.
The reality is, yes, you can make money on YouTube — and if you are creative and strategic enough, you can earn good money doing it.
How to make money on YouTube
In this guide, we’ll cover the steps that you need to take to start making money on YouTube.
- Create a channel and build your audience.
- Join the YouTube Partner Program.
- Create, create, create.
- Start testing different ways to earn money.
- Keep going (but stay healthy).
- Know yourself.
- Keep an eye on emerging trends.
- Think about who you’re trying to reach.
- Just start creating.
- Be obsessive about quality.
- Be consistent.
- Watch your metrics.
- Ask for feedback and ideas.
- Be different and test bold ideas.
Times are a-changing
Today, nearly three-quarters of young people aspire to make a living by becoming an online video producer. In a survey of 1,000 children, 34% chose this profession over becoming an athlete, doctor, teacher, or lawyer. In fact, being an internet video star is a more sought-after profession than becoming an astronaut.
If you were to ask kids what they wanted to be when they grew up two decades ago, the answers would be wildly different.
Back then, that type of career simply didn’t exist. If you wanted to work with video, you got a job as a news anchor or you worked on the set of films.
That all changed exactly 15 years ago to the day, on February 14, 2005, when three early PayPal employees founded a company that would change the world forever.
It started with one simple video of a guy at the zoo.
The company was bred with a desire from the founding friends to find, store, and share videos more easily between friends.
They called it YouTube.
What started small grew quickly, and today, over 2 billion people visit the site each month and watch over a billion hours of video every day.
YouTube — like Facebook, Wikipedia, Google, Pinterest, and other popular social media and reference sites — has become a ubiquitous part of our daily lives.
After 15 years, a lot of us are so used to having instant access to videos on YouTube that we almost take it for granted. What’s even crazier to think about is that a growing number of us have literally never lived without it (I’m looking at you, Gen Z).
It’s hard to remember what the world was like when we didn’t have access to limitless information at our fingertips at all times.
It’s hard to remember what people did when they couldn’t learn the answer to a question in seconds just by typing a few words into a browser or speaking a few words into a microphone.
It’s hard to remember what you used to have to do when you wanted to record videos, store them, watch them, and share them with friends.
It’s hard to remember a time when the only celebrities we knew and followed came from Hollywood movies, sporting events, and concerts at big sold-out arenas.
YouTube changed everything.
It’s YouTube that helped turn an unknown kid who sang and played guitar in his basement into a Grammy award-winning artist.
It’s YouTube that transformed countless aspiring fitness enthusiasts into sponsored bodybuilders, foodies into professional chefs, and side hustlers into successful six-figure entrepreneurs.
It’s YouTube that has given people and organizations the platform and tools they need to share stories, mobilize communities, and make a real impact on the world.
And it’s YouTube that is going to help you follow your dreams, achieve your goals, and take your business and life to the next level.
This guide will give you the resources, best practices, and actionable advice needed to understand how to make money on YouTube. And in addition to the guide, we've put together this video with some of the best answers from actual YouTube creators that are making real money on YouTube.
Why the world loves video
How many hours of streaming video do you watch in a week? If you’re like me, it’s probably more than you’d like to admit.
Why do we do it? Why do we pay for multiple streaming TV subscriptions, watch videos from our friends on Snapchat and Byte, and find ourselves going down deeper and deeper into YouTube rabbit holes?
Video content is compelling. It’s captivating. It’s memorable. It’s impactful.
If we all agree that a picture tells a thousand words, think about what that means for videos.
Videos can give us a lot of information in a pretty short amount of time. Videos can teach us, make us laugh, make us cry, make us think.
Videos are easy to produce, easy to watch, and easy to share. This perfect trifecta has a real influence on our daily behavior as consumers.
According to HubSpot, “78% of people watch online videos every week, and 55% view online videos every day.”
And this demand for videos is only growing, according to Cisco, which reports that, “by 2022, online videos will make up more than 82% of all consumer internet traffic — 15 times higher than it was in 2017.”
The prevalence, convenience, and efficiency of online video also has an influence on the marketing strategies we invest in as entrepreneurs and business owners.
HubSpot reports that “81% of businesses use video as a marketing tool — up from 63% over the last year.”
Invisia reports that “A website is 53 times more likely to reach the front page of Google if it includes video.”
Tubular Insights reports that “64% of consumers will make a purchase after watching branded videos on social platforms.”
It’s safe to say that video is not going anywhere anytime soon. In fact, it’s only going to become a bigger part of our world and our daily lives as consumers, marketers, and entrepreneurs.
So the question is, can you make a living just by creating videos for people?
YouTube breeds millionaires
The answer to that question, as you might have guessed, is a resounding “YES!”
You can make money from videos. How do people do it?
By leveraging the tools and reach that YouTube provides, you have the potential to make a lot of money off of videos.
But, that being said, it’s important to recognize and remember that simply participating in YouTube does not guarantee your success. Some people make a little money; others make a staggering amount each month.
The difference usually comes down to things like time, effort, audience, creativity, and strategy.
If it were easy, everyone would be doing it and we’d all be rich. But it’s not easy. It takes a lot of work.
Here are a few people who made it happen and became millionaires — YouTube legends — in the process.
Ryan Kaji — YouTube’s Top Earner in 2019
At only eight years old, Kaji is one of the most successful YouTube celebrities of all time. In 2019, he earned a whopping $26 million by posting videos to his channel, Ryan’s World. Ryan’s audience of 23.7 million subscribers tunes in regularly to see him unbox and play with toys, perform kid-friendly experiments and explore the world.
Dude Perfect — YouTube’s Runner-Up for Top Earner in 2019
Dude Perfect is a channel that features five friends in their thirties who perform stunts, play sports, and battle each other in a variety of unique challenges. The channel has 48.8 million subscribers and over 9 billion views across over 200 original videos. According to a CNN report, Dude Perfect earned $20 million from YouTube in 2019.
Good Mythical Morning with Rhett and Link
The duo behind the channel known as Good Mythical Morning comes in at number four on the CNN list of top YouTube earners for 2019, pulling in an impressive $17.5 million dollars. They create videos that allow them to, in their own words, “eat truly unbelievable things, explore surprising new products and trends, compete in original games with celebrity guests, implement serious experiments in hilarious ways, and more.” Good Mythical Morning has 16 million subscribers and over 6 billion views across over 2,000 videos.
It’s almost unbelievable when you stop and think about how successful each of these channels has become. But if you think it happened overnight for any of these YouTube personalities, you’d be wrong.
Getting to this place took a lot of time, energy, and planning. It wasn’t fast or easy. Consider the following: the Dude Perfect channel was created in 2009, the Good Mythical Morning channel in 2008, and the Ryan’s World channel in 2015.
Remember this: each of them was once in the same place you are now — wondering what kind of videos to start creating and sharing, feeling doubt and fear and wondering whether it’s even worth it, and eager to figure out how people actually make money on YouTube.
How to make money on YouTube — The basics
So here’s the big question: how the heck DO you actually make money on YouTube?!
It might seem like a mystery, especially if you’re thinking in terms of millions of dollars, but there’s actually a fairly clear playbook that you can follow to start earning from your videos and viewers. You won’t make a million bucks in your first year, but you’ll likely make something.
Remember, everyone has to start somewhere, and if you can prove that you’re able to make even $1 dollar from the time and energy you put in, there's likely an opportunity to make more.
Ready to jump in? Here are 5 steps to follow that will put you in a better position to make money on YouTube.
Step 1: Create a channel and build your audience
Before you even think about making money on YouTube, you need to spend time thinking about what kind of videos you want to create and share with people. Knowing the blueprint for earning money is one thing, but creating videos that people actually want to consume is an entirely different challenge.
Not sure what kind of channel or videos to create? Here are a few questions you can ask to help you decide:
- Question 1: What do you enjoy talking about or experiencing? What makes you happy?
- Question 2: What are you good at?
- Question 3: What do you want to get better at? What do you want to learn?
- Question 4: What would you be happy doing or talking about on video for ten years?
Once you have some answers to your questions, your next job is to find out if any of the topics, categories, or niches are underserved on YouTube.
In other words, where are the gaps that you could be filling with your own original video content? We’ll learn more about finding your niche a little later in this article.
When you think you have a good idea, create your YouTube channel.
From there, the best thing you can do is start planning and creating videos that will connect with people and help you build your audience.
YouTube actually has a great guide that offers a handful of tips and videos on how to get viewers once you start creating videos. They recommend focusing on five areas: Targeting, Discoverability, Accessibility, Collaboration and Shareability. You can learn more about each of these areas and hear from experts by visiting this section of the YouTube Creator Academy.
Step 2: Join the YouTube Partner Program
To monetize your channel and start earning money from your videos, you’ll need to apply to join the YouTube Partner Program, or YPP for short. Joining the YPP will give you access to a handful of features that you can use to start monetizing your video content, including ads.
According to YouTube, in order to be eligible to apply to join the YPP, you must have at least 1,000 subscribers and 4,000 valid public watch hours on your channel.
This is why joining the YouTube Partner Program shows up as step 2 on this list — it can’t happen right away. In order to be considered, you have to first spend time creating and publishing content AND building your following (see step 1).
To apply, you’ll also need to set up an Adsense account. You can learn more about Adsense here.
When you meet the minimum requirements of 1,000 subscribers and 4,000 public watch hours, spend some time reviewing the application checklist that YouTube provides to potential partners. It will help you understand how your channel and content will be evaluated and what to expect when you apply.
Step 3: Create, create, create
Whether you’re in the YouTube Partner Program or not, you should always be focused on creating original content for your audience to watch and engage with. The whole point of YouTube isn’t to make money — it’s to provide value to a community of people. Money is just the byproduct of good video content that people like watching.
Brian Dean takes this approach with Backlinko, a channel that over 280K people subscribe to for actionable SEO and marketing tips. Says Brian:
"The main goal is really just to get our content in front of people. So it's partly to get a new audience, but also to send really compelling content to our existing audience. And that's just how cool YouTube is that you can actually do both with a single video and a single channel."
"And in fact, in our videos, we don't even really have a call to action to sign up for an e-book. A lot of people do this thing called a bridge where at the end of a video it's like, hey, if you like this, come to our site, you can get an e-book or for a webinar or whatever. And there's nothing wrong with that. But I just like to focus on the content.”
Brian is one of those people that pumps out A TON of great content all the time.
If you want to get to his level of consistency and quality, the easiest way is by creating and following an editorial calendar each week.
I like to use Asana when I build editorial calendars, but there are a lot of tools out there to choose from. Pick the one that you think will work best for you over time.
The purpose of an editorial calendar is to force you to plan ahead. Engaging content on YouTube is creative, but it’s also strategic. This doesn’t need to be anything crazy, but you do have to have a clear strategy and a consistent schedule that you can commit to if you ever want to start earning money.
There are always exceptions to that rule — but it can make it much easier if you aren’t trying to come up with content on the fly.
Step 4: Start testing different ways to earn money
There are a number of different ways to earn money on YouTube.
If you get accepted into the YouTube Partner Program, you may get access to the following monetization features:
When you turn on video monetization, you’re allowing ads to show up on or near your videos. There are a variety of different types of ads that could appear with your video, including display ads, overlay ads, skippable video ads, non-skippable video ads, bumper ads, and sponsored cards. Your videos must meet YouTube’s advertiser-friendly content guidelines to be eligible for ads.
Channel memberships allow you to give members-only perks to viewers who subscribe to your channel for a monthly recurring payment. You can go here to learn more about how channel memberships work.
Some partners will get access to a feature called “the merch shelf,” which allows you to showcase your channel merchandise right on YouTube. The merch shelf will also allow you to link directly to a store where viewers can purchase merchandise from you through a supported merch partner.
You can go here to learn more about how to sell merchandise on your channel.
Super Chat and Super Stickers
These features give your viewers the opportunity to engage and interact with you more prominently during a live chat. Viewers can purchase a Super Chat to highlight their message within the chat, or they can purchase a Super Sticker to pop a static or animated image into the live chat feed.
Live streams can be surprisingly profitable if you put the time and effort into them. That’s what Nick Nimmin, a YouTube educator with over 500K subscribers has learned over the years. His channel is an incredible resource for anyone that's serious about digging into YouTube and looking for tips, tricks, app, etc. Nick states:
“When it comes to profitable content, almost every video my channel makes some kind of money. However, the things that generate the most money on my YouTube channel are my live streams."
"And the reason for that is because we have people's attention from anywhere from three to six hours, almost every single week. And during that time we have a bunch of different questions that we're answering about YouTube and over and over and over again.”
Nick explained that because they spend so much time interacting with viewers and proving that they are experts, it builds trust and creates additional revenue-generating opportunities for their business outside of YouTube.
YouTube Premium revenue
YouTube Premium revenue gives you a portion of the fee a premium subscriber pays if they watch your content.
What if you can't join the YouTube Partner Program?
If you don’t have the ability to join the YouTube Partner Program yet, you can earn money through the following routes:
You can use sites like Patreon to give subscribers and fans additional perks and exclusive content in exchange for funding your channel or efforts. You can learn more about crowdfunding from YouTube experts on this YouTube Creator Academy page.
Creating influencer content for brands
You can get hired by companies and brands as an influencer and create original content for them. This is usually easier once you have a loyal following and a clear niche or community you’re serving with your videos.
It’s a tip that Shayla Christine, from the YouTube channel Living On A One Way, recommends. She says:
“To monetize in the beginning, you want to work on brand partnerships more than you want to try and get money from your views.”
Shayla explained that if you’re really committed to a particular niche or community (like travel), you’re probably already talking about certain products and brands anyway — so you might as well reach out to them and find out if they’d be interested in partnering with you.
Bradley Hoos also gave me some great advice when it comes to finding the right partners to work with when you’re looking to make some money as a creator. Bradley is the Chief Growth Officer of The Outloud Group, a leading agency in the influencer marketing industry.
“YouTube creators should start to explore partnership agencies or managers once they start consistently getting 30K views on YouTube,” said Bradley. “At this stage, when dollar amounts are still relatively low, creators still have time to do their research and test out partners without meaningful downside financial risk.”
“I always encourage creators to ask other creators for their take on who is trustworthy and adds value,” he added. “As an influencer agency that represents talent, the greatest compliment we receive is when creators recommend us to other creators — and we do our best to ensure that we live up to the high standards creators have shared.”
Licensing original content
You can use services like Jukin Media to allow companies and media organizations to license your videos.
Promoting your products or services
You can use your videos to educate viewers about the products you sell on your ecommerce store or the services your business provides. It might seem like an indirect way to make money, but a lot of YouTube influencers find success with this strategy.
They record a great video that features their business or promotes their products and then they add a link right in the description of the video that sends viewers right to a product page or sign up screen.
Jim Fricker II and May Larios, hosts of Spanish and Go, a wildly popular and creative YouTube channel with over 80K subscribers, agree. Here’s what they had to say when I spoke with them:
“Our biggest tip for someone trying to make money on YouTube is to diversify your income sources. If you get enough views, you can make decent money simply from monetizing your videos through Google Adsense, but the real money is in finding and creating resources to help your audience in other ways.”
“You can partner with a company and make sponsored videos, develop your own online courses, use affiliate marketing, design and offer merchandise for sale, and even create in-person events like we do with our Spanish immersion retreats in Mexico,” they added.
But as you go about creating content, just make sure you stay on top of the ever-changing guidelines from YouTube. That's the warning I got when I asked Kevin Kohler, the creator of TheBackyardScientist with nearly 5 million subscribers, about any trouble he's run into with generating an income from YouTube. "The biggest issue that I've had is trying to monetize content on YouTube, is the changing content guidelines. YouTube is always changing its advertiser friendly guidelines. So it's best to stay on top of that and know what kind of content you can and can't make. And if a video does get demonetized or deemed unsuitable for all advertisers, not only do you lose out on ad revenue, but also potential viewers, because the algorithm is less likely to recommend a video that's been deemed unsuitable for advertisers."
Step 5: Keep going (but stay healthy)
The final step in the journey to making money on YouTube is to just keep going. It’s a long game, after all. It’s going to feel pointless at the beginning when you’re still building your audience, developing your style, and figuring out how to make videos efficiently, but keep at it and don’t give up.
That being said, don’t keep going if it’s risking or negatively impacting your physical or mental wellness. Taking care of yourself should always be your first priority — not making videos. If you need to take a break from your work, by all means, take one.
The importance of discovering your niche
The most successful people on YouTube aren’t the ones who create content for everyone — instead, they create content for a very specific kind of person. They identify a niche, or small subset of the population, that acts as the center of their universe when it comes to developing ideas and producing new content.
Think of a niche like a community of friends that shares the same one hobby, skill, or passion — like nerding out on mathematics.
Finding and deciding what your niche is will help you build community with your content, and when you build community, your videos and your channel are both more popular.
The result of that? More potential earnings from ads, viewers, and loyal fans.
Here are two examples of people who have carved out a very specific niche on YouTube:
First We Feast
First We Feast is the channel that created the Hot Ones video series. In this series, host Sean Evans interviews guests — popular actors, musicians, and famous figures about their lives and work. You might be thinking, “that seems pretty broad...not much of a niche.”
That’s where the hot wings come in.
On this show, Evans not only interviews famous people — he asks them to join him in eating a progressively hotter wing for each question he asks them. The result, as you know if you’ve seen his videos before, is pretty entertaining.
This year, Evans will premiere his 11th season of Hot Ones. His First We Feast channel has over 8 million subscribers and his video content has been seen over a billion times since he launched the channel in 2014.
Simone Giertz makes bad robots. She creates funny videos on YouTube that show her building robots and mechanical creations that don’t always hit the mark.
One of her most famous examples is an alarm clock that literally slaps you in the face when it goes off in the morning.
Despite the deadpan brand of humor she infuses into her content, Giertz has used YouTube to successfully position herself as a bright scientist/engineer and an incredibly creative and inspiring artist.
It’s another example of someone taking a broad topic or interest (robotics and engineering) and zeroing in on a specific niche (making bad, barely-functioning robots that delight and entertain viewers).
She calls herself the Queen of Shitty Robots, and now everyone else does too. Her channel has over 2 million subscribers and her videos have over 100 million views.
Today, her fame and dedication has allowed her to move beyond just building bad robots. Most notably, she recently produced a video that documented the process she went through to turn her Tesla into a pickup truck (she called it Truckla).
She’s also created videos on meditation, art, and the extremely personal and scary experience of finding out she had a brain tumor (and getting surgery and radiation to remove it).
How to find your niche
You might already know exactly what kind of videos you want to create and what kind of person you want your videos to connect and resonate with. If you aren’t quite there yet, here are a few steps you can follow to find your niche:
Step 1: Know yourself
As marketers and entrepreneurs, it can be tempting to focus only on the data and the trends, but I’m going to urge you to think a little selfishly when trying to land on your niche.
You should ask yourself what kind of videos you want to create, how you can help people, and what kind of legacy you want to leave. What are you passionate about? What do you love talking and learning about? What do you like to spend your time doing?
These are all questions that can direct you toward the right niche and community on YouTube.
Remember: the majority of top earners on YouTube have been doing this for a long time — some even a decade or more.
Adam Likenauger, the genius behind ILoveBasketballTV, a channel that over 1.92M people subscribe to, echoed this thought when I asked him for his advice.
“YouTube is hard,” he said. “It's difficult. If it was so easy. We'd all be walking around with these massive gold play buttons for having a million subscribers. There is a reason so few people accomplished that level of success. And to me, it has more to do with the long struggle and road ahead.”
“Staying consistent and staying passionate vs. anything else when it comes to YouTube. If you want to succeed with YouTube, I'll tell you honestly. Start with the passion.”
YouTube is a long game, and your niche should be something that you’re confident can grow and evolve with you over time.
Step 2: Keep an eye on emerging trends
If you’ve taken time to complete step 1, you can and should try to identify and keep an eye on emerging trends that could influence the niche you operate within.
You can follow trends by seeing what’s being viewed and shared most on YouTube, spending time digging into Google Trends, or just by subscribing to and following channels that inspire or interest you.
The YouTube Creator Academy also has a great resource on how to find your niche. You can go here to read the articles and watch the videos.
Step 3: Think about who you’re trying to reach
When you’re working on landing on the right niche, it’s also worth thinking about your future viewers — the people you want to see, share and engage with your videos. You should ask yourself: what does this group of people care about? What are their interests? What content could help or entertain them? What channels and websites do they visit and subscribe to now? How old are they? Where do they live? What do they do for work? Do they have families? Are they single?
Answering these questions will help you start to build viewer profiles that you can use when creating video content that actually connects with and entertains people.
It’s not easy — if it was, everyone would be doing it. When I talked to Rob Terkla about this, he agreed. Rob runs LunkersTV, a YouTube channel that has over 1.5M subscribers. Here’s what Rob had to say:
“It's extremely hard,” said Rob. “Probably one of the hardest, hardest things to do to make money on YouTube is to gain an audience and capture their interest for at least seven to eight minutes. That's the only way you're going to make money.”
Rob has spent a lot of time trying to create videos that pique the interests of his viewers. He must be doing something right because collectively, his videos have over 232,000,000 views!
Step 4: Just start creating
At some point, you have to stop analyzing and planning and start doing. The sooner you can get started, the faster you will evolve and improve.
You can have a general idea about the niche or community you’re trying to serve with your video content, but eventually, those ideas need to be tested.
When I asked Jim Meskimen, a famous impressionist and actor with over 30K subscribers and 12M+ video views, for his take, he gave this advice:
“Be productive. In other words, don't expect to make just one video or 12 videos or even 100 videos. You've got to really knuckle down and be productive. It's gonna take more than you think.”
Don’t wait too long to start creating and sharing videos with your audience. They are your best source for understanding whether you’re on the right track in terms of the focus of your videos and the overall theme of your channel.
Creating video content people will love
When you’ve created your channel and landed on your niche, your main job going forward is to create video content that people love. You want to produce videos that drive people to subscribe to your channel, engage with your videos, share it with friends, and return to see your new content each time you hit publish.
Here are a handful of tips on how to create video content that people will love to watch and share:
Be obsessive about quality
To make a compelling video, you have to be obsessive about audio and visual quality. Competition for attention on YouTube is fierce — you only win by creating a presentation that draws people within the first few seconds and keeps them watching until the end.
To ensure that you’re able to produce high-quality content that meets the ever-increasing expectations of viewers, invest in professional recording equipment and software, or hire someone that can help you produce your videos.
You don’t need to spend a fortune — but it’s typically important that your videos are better than what your mom posts to Facebook. Equipment does make a difference, but understanding how to use even the most basic equipment is what really counts.
Learning about the rule of thirds, transitions, and other technical things that make a shot either look good or look odd will be 10x more effective than simply buying the most expensive camera around.
The biggest mistake most people make when getting started on YouTube is that they ignore the importance of consistency. They publish one great video, drive a ton of engagement and land a bunch of subscribers, then go dark in publishing and lose all the momentum they built with the first video.
To build a loyal following on YouTube, you have to commit to a consistent publishing schedule. You have to keep giving fans and subscribers (and the algorithm) more of what they want. That’s again where the editorial calendar comes into play.
Producing more videos will not only help you build your audience, but it will also help you create better videos over time.
Watch your metrics
Don’t just create videos you think will do well—look into your analytics on past videos to understand what topics and ideas really resonated with people.
You can access a lot of data from your YouTube videos, but here is a list of the most important metrics to keep track of, according to HubSpot:
- Watch time
- Average percentage viewed
- Average view duration
- Audience retention
- Engagement (likes, dislikes, comments)
- Impressions click-through rate
- Card click-through rate
- Playlist engagement
- Unique viewers
- Views per unique viewers
- Who’s watching your videos (demographics)
- Subscriber growth
- Traffic sources
To learn more about each of these metrics, explore the guide from HubSpot.
Ask for feedback and ideas
Get feedback from your subscribers whenever you share a new video on your channel. You can do this by verbally making the ask at the end of your video (“leave a comment below and let me know what you think!”) or by including a graphic with a call-to-action (“send me an email about what else you’d like to see on this channel!).
Asking for regular feedback shows your subscribers that you’re not just broadcasting content for them to consume, but that you are willing to engage with them and listen to their ideas, which can help you build loyalty and keep viewers coming back for more each month.
Be different and test bold ideas
More than 500 hours of video are uploaded to YouTube every minute. To cut through the noise, you have to be willing to go out of your way to make videos that surprise and delight people.
That means thinking more creatively and taking more risks.
It means seeing what everyone else is doing with video and intentionally choosing to do something wildly different.
It means not being afraid to produce and publish something that falls completely flat with your subscribers.
“It's difficult to get traction for certain videos,” says Nathan Chan, who manages the Foundr Magazine YouTube channel. “You just don't know what will work. So it's important for us as we cover many topics, with many sales funnels, and many courses to ensure that we do a series of videos i.e. 8-10 on a certain topic with the hope that one will take off!”
Going viral typically doesn’t happen when you do what everyone else does.
It happens when you create something truly unique that stirs emotion in people and compels them to share with others.
Creating original content also makes it a lot easier to earn money on YouTube. That’s one of the many lessons musician and songwriter Molly Kate Kestner shared with me.
“YouTube rewards consistent uploads,” said Molly. “And if your content is original, then you can actually monetize off of it. That's probably one of the biggest challenges that I've ever faced with monetization is I realized, oh, if I'm uploading covers of songs, I can’t actually make money from this because it's not original. So it's been beautiful because it's inspired me to upload more and more original music and content.”
By taking action on this lesson, Molly was able to publish a video of an original song that earned over 1.5 million views in less than 2 weeks (it currently sits at 16+ million), a performance on Good Morning America, and a recording contract.
Need some inspiration? Here are the top 100 YouTube videos of all time.
A crash course in recording equipment
If you want to create great YouTube videos that have the potential to make you money, you need to invest in the right recording equipment.
While this section could easily have an entire post written around it, here’s a quick list of budget-friendly starter equipment you should have at your disposal.
But remember, you don’t NEED the gear. The content itself, the emotions you invoke, the personality — that’s what people are subscribing to, not your “L-series lens.”
Canon EOS Rebel T7i DSLR Camera Deluxe Video Creator Kit
This video creator kit from Canon will provide you with all the starter tools you need to start shooting high-quality video and audio. It includes a camera, three lenses, a shotgun microphone, a tripod, chargers, batteries, memory cards, and a backpack case. This will be your most expensive investment as far as equipment goes, but you can buy it online for around $800-900 dollars.
Photo Video Studio 10Ft Adjustable Background Stand
This backdrop kit will help you create a professional background for your videos. It includes an adjustable crossbar, light stands, spring clamps, sandbags, and a bag to store and carry everything. You can buy it online for around $40.
LED Video Light Kit with 2M Light Stand
This lighting kit will make it easy to create the right ambiance for your videos. It includes stands, filters, lights, and batteries. You can buy it online for about $80-90 dollars.
If you’re not quite ready to make an investment into any professional-grade equipment, don’t let it prevent you from getting started. iPhones and Android phones have great cameras and lots of apps you can use to create great low-budget videos for your YouTube channel.
If you decide to go this route to start, spend time reviewing these helpful tips on how to record a professional-grade video using your iPhone from Wistia.
Making money on YouTube is hard, but it is possible. There are countless examples of people who were just like you that were able to put in enough time, energy, creativity, and consistency to make it happen.
They had different journeys and challenges along the way, but they all began with the same first step: they started creating videos and never looked back.
Kallen, the YouTube creator behind Slapped Ham, a YouTube channel with over a million subscribers, echoed this call to action when I asked him for his thoughts.
He said, “my best piece of advice for people looking to make money on YouTube is to just start! So many people get frozen by the creative process and think what they have to put out, it has to be perfect. It absolutely doesn't have to be. So jump in, get involved, have fun and find your voice first.”
So there you have it! If you want to earn money on YouTube one day, make your commitment to get started this year — don’t wait for the perfect ideas or the ideal time. Start now.
This article was co-authored with the content marketing genius, Rob Wormley.