YouTube stars are today’s self-made celebrities—people who have earned an audience by creating video content geared toward teaching, entertaining, reviewing, and being awesome on the web.
Making money on YouTube might not be your reason for starting a channel, but the opportunities to earn are a pleasant surprise once you realize how many of them there are. Luckily, there are some creative ways to make money on YouTube.
How to make money on YouTube
1. 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 many 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 received a lot of backlash around its transparency regarding advertising on the platform and what qualifies as “advertiser-friendly” content.
At the time, many YouTube creators feared they would lose out on the advertising revenue they would lose out on advertising revenue due to the nature of their content.
Your content may get excluded from ad revenue if Youtube deems 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
This is nothing new. YouTube has been demonetizing content it doesn’t deem advertiser friendly since 2012 via an automated process. It is done without warning and without the content creator’s knowledge.
Now, 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.
2. 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.
4. Let your audience support you 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 literally 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.
5. 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.