How Much Do YouTubers Make? The answer to this question is highly variable. Many content creators will disclose their earnings on their channel, but if you don’t subscribe to channels much or watch them live, it’s easy to miss that information. Or, you may find that many offer vague answers to the question and leave plenty of room for interpretation — or even outright lies.
Join the YouTube Partner Program
The first revenue stream you’ll likely explore is ads. Whether you want to earn money on YouTube without creating videos or as a content creator, joining the YouTube Partner Program and setting up monetization is a vital step.
You’ll have to agree to follow all of YouTube’s monetization policies and live in a country or region where the YouTube Partner Program is available. Then you can apply for monetization once you’ve hit 1,000 subscribers and 4,000 watch hours over the past year.
Here’s how to enable monetization on YouTube:
- Sign in to the YouTube account you want to monetize.
- Click the icon for your account in the top right corner.
- Click YouTube Studio.
- In the left menu, select Other Features > Monetization.
- Read and agree to the YouTuber Partner Program terms and eligibility requirements.
- Create a new Google AdSense account or connect an existing one to your channel. (You need an AdSense account to get paid.)
- Set your monetization preferences.
Once that’s done, head back to the dashboard and click the Analytics tab on the left side. From there, you’ll need to choose Revenue from the tabs at the top, then scroll down to the chart Monthly Estimated Revenue to get an idea of your predicted YouTube revenue.
What is YouTube Premium?
YouTube Premium is a paid membership program that lets fans watch and support their favorite content creators without ads. For creators, not much changes, as they will get paid for content consumed by non-members on YouTube, along with content on YouTube Premium.
Creators are paid for YouTube Premium based on how much members watch their content. Consider revenue earned from YouTube Premium subscribers as a secondary revenue stream in addition to what you’re already earning through ads.
While it’s easy to set up, earning money through advertising as a YouTube Partner is far from the most lucrative revenue stream you can create for yourself.
Why you should look beyond ads for revenue
YouTube recently received a lot of backlash due to its decision to be more transparent about advertising on the platform and what qualifies as “advertiser-friendly” content.
Essentially, many YouTube creators feared that, due to the nature of their content, they would lose out on the advertising revenue that helps support their channel.
According to YouTube, your content could get excluded from ad revenue if it includes:
- Sexually suggestive content, including partial nudity and sexual humor
- Violence, including displays of serious injury and events related to violent extremism
- Inappropriate language, including harassment, profanity, and vulgar language
- Promotion of drugs and regulated substances, including selling, use, and abuse of such items
- Controversial or sensitive subjects and events, including subjects related to war, political conflicts, natural disasters, and tragedies, even if graphic imagery is not shown
But the reality is that YouTube has been demonetizing content that it doesn’t deem advertiser-friendly since 2012 via an automated process, without warning, and without the content creator’s knowledge.
Now, the situation is better, as creators are notified when their content is flagged and can contest any time they feel a video was mistakenly excluded from YouTube’s advertising network.
Advertising might be a common means of generating passive income for creators, but the trade-off is that YouTube’s parent company, Google, gets to keep around a 45% share of ad revenue.
In short, YouTubers should explore other revenue streams to sustain their creative hobby. Below, we’ll share how to earn money from YouTube without AdSense.
Sell products or merchandise
There are plenty of products to sell that can help you make money through your YouTube channel. Selling merch—t-shirts, coffee mugs, tote bags, snapbacks, you name it—has a benefit beyond revenue.
Merchandise increases your exposure by putting your online brand and personality out into the offline world and deepens the relationship between you and your fans as they literally “buy” into what you’re doing. Creators like Roman Atwood sell a variety of merchandise in his store under the Smile More brand.
Selling branded swag is easier than it might seem at first. You can order affordable designs tailored for specific products, like t-shirts, using freelance sites such as Fiverr.
And when it comes to handling orders, you can integrate your store with services such as DSers or one of the many print-on-demand providers that take care of shipping, fulfillment, and customer support, letting you reap all of the benefits of a print-on-demand business that requires less effort on your part.
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Alternatively, you can partner with an existing merchandising network for creators, such as DFTBA (Don’t Forget to Be Awesome). However, you’ll be competing with other YouTubers and have less control over adding products, offering discounts, integrating your content, and all the advantages that come with owning your e-commerce site.
You can even go a step further by manufacturing and selling your unique products and powering your business through your YouTube channel like Luxy Hair did to sell its hair extensions with hair-related how-to video tutorials.
As a YouTuber who’s already earned an audience, you’ll have two advantages from the start that other store owners would be jealous of:
- A content engine that consistently drives traffic to your store
- Your audience’s trust, which you’ve earned by regularly serving them your own brand of content for free
Crowdfund your next creative project
When money is all that stands between an idea and its execution, crowdfunding is a good way to make it happen.
Whether you need help buying better equipment, hiring actors, or covering other production costs, you can call upon your audience and the crowdfunding community to pitch in, if your idea is compelling enough.
Many successful crowdfunded creative projects tend to offer a sneak peek or “trailer” that gets people excited, so consider shooting a video explaining your project or offering a taste of what it’ll be like, such as this popular Kickstarter for Kung Fury, a short film paying homage to ’80s action movies.
Popular crowdfunding sites with a proven track record of campaigns from YouTubers include:
- Kickstarter. One of the most well-known crowdfunding sites, great for funding cool products and creative projects. Be sure to set an attainable funding goal because you’ll only secure it if you actually meet the goal you set.
- Indiegogo. A Kickstarter alternative that offers more flexible funding options.
Let your audience support your work through “fan funding”
Similar to crowdfunding a project, you can also set up “fan funding” streams to source donations from your audience.
As a creator, you’re contributing your voice to the internet without forcing your audience to pay for admission. So, if you’re offering good content, your audience might be inclined to support you on an ongoing basis.
Many fan-funding platforms offer creators another place for people to discover their content and a way to engage their most loyal audience and reward them for their support.
Wait But Why creates more long-form written content than YouTube videos but is a great example of receiving support from the Patreon community.
If you choose the crowdfunding route, be sure to follow a couple of best practices. First, create transparency around how the money will be spent. This will get your fanbase invested in your story or mission, and they will buy into the value of your content.
Second, offer enticing rewards for better pledges. The more you can make donors feel like they’re getting something exclusive for being a loyal fan, the more likely you are to get donations and higher pledges.
Some popular fan funding options include:
- YouTube’s Super Chat. Super Chat is a feature used when doing live streams on YouTube. It lets you create a tipping jar for your viewers to donate whenever and however much they feel like contributing. You’ll need to set up your YouTube account for advertising, as outlined above.
- Channel memberships. Channel memberships let viewers support your channel through monthly payments in exchange for members-only perks. Similar to Super Chat, you must be a part of YouTube’s Partner Program to access this feature.
- Patreon. The membership platform that makes it easy for creators to get paid. Fans can subscribe to their favorite creators for as little as a dollar a month and receive exclusive rewards.
- Tipeee. This platform lets you get a combination of both one-off and recurring donations.
- Buy Me A Coffee. Buy Me A Coffee lets creators and artists accept donations and membership fees from their fans. It’s referred to as the “#1 Patreon Alternative,” with over 300,000 creators. The differences are it’s easier to accept payments with Buy Me A Coffee, there’s a flat 5% fee for all features (versus up to 12% for Patreon), and payouts are instant.
License your content to the media
If you happen to create a viral video with mass appeal—say, a funny clip featuring your dog—you can license your content in exchange for money.
TV news outlets, morning shows, online news sites, and other creators might reach out about rights to use your videos if they happen to go viral.
You can also list your videos in a marketplace, such as Trusted Media Brands, where your content will be easier for the right people to find and purchase.
When this video of a woman wearing a Chewbacca mask went viral, tons of media outlets wanted in.
Work with brands as an influencer
Brands are investing more and more in influencer marketing and sponsorships, spending their typically large advertising budgets on influencers who’ve already won the loyalty of their audiences.
This creates a massive opportunity for you as a creator if you can negotiate the right deals.
Brendan Gahan, a YouTube marketing expert, and influencer recommends establishing your baseline flat fee by looking at the number of views your videos typically get and multiplying it by $0.05 to $0.15 per view (which is around what many brands are willing to pay for views via YouTube ads).
According to data from WebFX, the potential prices for influencer marketing on YouTube are:
- $200 per video for a YouTuber with 10,000 subscribers
- $2,000 per video for a YouTuber with 100,000 subscribers
- $20,000 per video for a YouTuber with 1,000,000 subscribers
Depending on your leverage—your audience demographics, content quality, and how unique and profitable your niche is—you might be able to negotiate a better deal if the brand is a good fit.
The key when partnering on brand-sponsored content is to be transparent about it, not endorse anything you don’t like or believe in, and be upfront with your audience about why you’re doing it.
Here are just a handful of the many influencer marketplaces you can add your channel to and get discovered by brands both big and small:
- Crowdtap. Complete small content creation “tasks” in exchange for money and other rewards. There’s no restriction on how many followers you need to join.
- Upfluence. A full-scale influencer platform with a database over 3 million influencers. Clients can search through Upfluence to find creators by keyword and contact them to form a partnership.
Some influencer marketplaces offer you free products, while others are known for having big brands who are willing to pay more. Capitalize on the opportunities that best suit your needs, but list yourself in as many places as you can to ensure maximum visibility for your channel.
Become an affiliate marketer
Affiliate marketing refers to earning a commission by promoting a product or service made by another brand. You can become an affiliate marketer for brands and include product placements, endorsements, or other types of content. However, you must disclose the partnerships to viewers in your videos.
This works especially well if you review products as part of your YouTube channel. Since there’s no risk involved on the brand’s end (they only pay when they make sales), there’s usually a low bar to getting started.
Popular affiliate programs include ClickBank (1% to 75% commission, depending on what the vendor sets) and Amazon’s Affiliate network ( up to 10% per sale). You can also reach out to brands in your niche that are running their affiliate programs, which isn’t uncommon in the eCommerce space.
The first step to making money on YouTube is to join the YouTube Partner program. The partnership gives content creators access to special tools, such as the ability to monetize their videos via Google Adsense. To qualify, content creators must have at least 1,000 subscribers and 4,000 hours of accumulated watch time over the prior 12-month period.
YouTube monetizes videos via pre-roll, display, and other advertising formats. Advertisers pay based on clicks and impressions. YouTube gives the content creator 55% of this revenue and takes 45% for itself.2 Content creators must adhere to advertising guidelines. Content that contains foul language, adult content, violence, and other subjects will not have ads placed against them. This can include discussion of sensitive news events.
One lucrative form of advertising is brand sponsorship, also known in the digital marketing world as “influencer marketing.” A company will pay a content creator to promote a brand or product within a video. For example, early in her YouTube career, Michelle Phan drew the attention of cosmetics brand Lancôme with her popular make-up tutorials.
As of 2019, there were more than 700 agencies that help match brands with social media influencers on platforms such as YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, and Twitter.4 Famebit, which is associated with YouTube, was acquired by Google and has been rebranded as YouTube BrandConnect.
Another popular way to monetize a channel is through channel memberships. Fans and followers make recurring monthly payments in exchange for bonus content such as badges, emojis, special videos, live chats, and other content. YouTube partners who have reached 1,000 subscribers can enable this monetization feature on their accounts. Third-party services such as Patreon also help video creators to monetize their fan base via monthly memberships. Top video creators earn as much as $40,000 per month from fan support.5
YouTube partners also can sell up to 12 items of merchandise to their audience by enabling this feature in their accounts. Jeffree Starr has made millions selling lipstick, highlighters, and eye shadow palettes to his fans.6
YouTube Best Practices
To increase their chance of attracting a large follower base, creators should follow established YouTube best practices. One of the most fundamental best practices is to create rich, engaging content. Viewers come to YouTube looking to either be entertained or for a solution to a problem they face. By creating great content, it’s more likely the video gets viewed and shared.
The more engagement a video receives, the more valuable it is to YouTube, increasing the chances it will rank higher within the search results.
Another way to increase viewership is for content creators to optimize their videos for YouTube search. This includes using the Google keyword planner to find words that a large number of people search for and to include those keywords within the description and tags of the YouTube video page. Promoting the YouTube video through the use of social media and paid media advertising is another popular way to generate additional traffic to the video.
There are a few standing questions about the payment structure YouTube employs for content creators, but this article answers all of them. Hopefully, you found the information in this article helpful and look forward to furthering your Youtube channel just a little bit more.