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.
Your audience might unlock your YouTube channel’s earning potential, as is often the case with Instagram influencers or bloggers, but it’s the creation of multiple revenue streams, through side hustles or businesses, that helps you make money.
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How to make money on YouTube
Join the YouTube Partner Program
Sell products or merchandise
Crowdfund your next creative project
Let your audience support you through “fan funding”
License your content to the media
Work with brands as an influencer
Become an affiliate marketer
Let’s take a deeper look at each of these income streams.
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 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 actually 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.
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.
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 own ecommerce site.
You can even go a step further by manufacturing and selling your own 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
3. 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 own audience and the crowdfunding community to pitch in, if your idea is compelling enough.
Many successful crowdfunded creative projects tend to offer a sneak peak 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.
King fury crowdfunding campaign
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.