How YouTube Creators Make Money: A Guide to Cashing in on Success

How YouTube Creators Make Money: A Guide to Cashing in on Success

Written by Carla Marshall Carla Marshall 5.7K Reads

No matter what your interest or passion is, there’s an audience for your content on YouTube. Not only is that audience waiting to be engaged and entertained, but there are also considerable opportunities to earn substantial revenue from your YouTube channel.

Those opportunities come from YouTube’s built-in monetization capabilities and also from your audience of viewers via merchandise sales and affiliate program links. Oh, and don’t forget that brand deals are also on the table.

The growth of YouTube shows no real-world signs of slowing down. And if your content has something unique and informative to offer, there are several income streams you can take advantage of. No matter how competitive your genre is.

Right now, there are plenty of creators who are monetizing their content on YouTube and making a real living from it.

Throw COVID-19 and global economic uncertainty into the mix, and that’s a very enticing and sought-after option for those who want to take control of their own careers.

So, let’s focus on five ways you can monetize your YouTube content. But don’t forget, at the end of the day the amount of strategic and creative effort you pour into YouTube determines how much money you’ll make on the platform.

1. Apply to the YouTube Partner Program & Earn AdSense Revenue

Most YouTubers look forward to the potentially life-changing moment when they’re accepted into the YouTube Partner Program. It’s one of the first monetization checkpoints in the creator journey, and once you unlock it, you can start making money via ads that are run against your content.

To unlock this YouTube feature, you need to satisfy four strict requirements:

  • A minimum of 1,000 subscribers on your YouTube channel.
  • Generating at least 4,000 Watch Time hours on your channel in the last 12 months.
  • Complying with YouTube’s policies and guidelines.
  • Setting up an AdSense account.

Once you meet the above criteria, and YouTube accepts your application after auditing your channel, you can enable the ability to run ads. You’ll earn money every time someone watches an ad on your video or clicks on an advertisement within your video.

As you post more videos, gain more subscribers, and increase your YouTube Watch Time, your advertising revenue from the platform should increase. Just keep in mind that YouTube uses advertising to fund their side of the business too. For all the ad dollars you generate, YouTube will take a 45% cut.

Having said that, the real high-earners are still raking in vast amounts per video, based on estimated CPMs, views, and subscriber numbers. According to the 2020 YouTube League, the following channels may be pulling in this kind of AdSense revenue for each video they publish:

  1. Vlad and Nikita – $312,312
  2. Dude Perfect – $301,262
  3. Like Nastya Vlog – $258,493
  4. TheOdd1sOut – $168,022
  5. Lele Pons – $157,746
  6. Liza Koshy – $133,035
  7. Kids Diana Show – $126,938
  8. Collins Key – $120,937
  9. Toys And Little Gaby – $89,319
  10. James Charles – $79,847

Of course, every one of these channels is pretty well established and is dominating its own genre on the platform, which is why the creators are benefitting from such extraordinary numbers.

But every channel accepted into the YouTube Partner Program has the chance to earn something from ads, even if that amount doesn’t reach the dizzying heights of Dude Perfect’s income. The platform pays out around $7.5 billion a year to influencers and media companies who monetize their content, and you could take home a piece of that pie too.

While AdSense remains the main revenue source for most YouTube channels, it certainly isn’t the only one. April 2020 saw around 80,000 channels earning income from alternative sources, an increase of 20% up in March 2020. YouTube’s chief product officer Neal Mohan confirmed earlier this year that:

Between January and May 2020, the number of contributors who no longer rely on advertising for the majority of their earnings grew by 40%. It’s important for our creators to have a diversified portfolio.

2. Receive Viewer ‘Tips’ from YouTube Super Chats

If you like interacting with your viewers in real-time, you’re going to love Super Chats. These monetary rewards are gifts from your audience that can only be sent during YouTube live streams or video premieres.

Here’s how it works:

Via YouTube live chat, viewers can pay you between $1 and $500 to get their comment pinned at the top of the chat. The amount of time a comment stays pinned depends on how much money the viewer spends.

For example, a $100 Super Chat stays pinned in the live chat for one hour; a $300 Super Chat stays pinned for three hours. Super Chats appear as vibrant colors red, green, blue, or another hue – and include the donator’s name, their comment, and how much money they spent.

Sounds good, right?

It’s nice to know that whenever you host a live stream, you have a chance to earn extra money while bonding with viewers.

Here’s a look at the Super Chat dashboard in YouTube Analytics:

3. YouTube Premium: The Money Maker You Don’t Need to Manage

YouTube Premium is a sneaky income booster. You’d think the revenue from this service only applied to top YouTubers – people like Pewdiepie, NikkieTutorials, and DanTDM, but luckily, that isn’t the case.

YouTube Premium is a platform for viewers who want a better YouTube experience. For a monthly fee of $11.99, subscribers get access to YouTube Music Premium, YouTube Originals, ad-free viewing, video and music downloads, and a feature that lets content play in the background on mobile.

But how does this translate to revenue for creators? It’s really simple.

All the videos on YouTube’s main platform are available on Premium, so when a premium viewer watches your content, YouTube will potentially share some of its subscription revenue with you.

The amount of money you get depends on how much Watch Time your videos receive; the higher the Watch Time, the more money you’ll make.

That’s why Premium is a passive, hands-off moneymaker. As long as you’re uploading content to YouTube, you have a shot at earning Premium revenue.

4. Set Subscription Prices with YouTube Channel Memberships

Channel Memberships are paid, multi-level subscription packages that offer exclusive content to viewers. You can think of it as YouTube’s version of Patreon, except viewers won’t have to leave YouTube to access premium content from their favorite creators.

With YouTube Channel Memberships, you can make money by offering a range of perks – custom badges and emojis, videos, live streams, community posts, live chats, and more – then setting a monthly price for your services.

The monthly fees are organized by tier levels, with basic tiers costing less money (a few dollars, for example) and higher, service-driven tiers costing much more. Right now, YouTube is allowing creators to choose how much they want to charge members, as long as that’s between $0.99 and $100 per month.

Channel Memberships are one of the best ways to take control of your YouTube revenue. Because you set the prices and decide which content fans get, your earnings could be massive. Even with YouTube taking a 30% cut of all earnings, the 70% that belongs to you could be a substantial amount as you build your audience.

5. Boost Your Income with a YouTube Merchandise Shelf

It may come as a shock to many just how much money there is to be made by selling your own merchandise on YouTube. In 2019 alone, the top 20 creators selling branded merch generated a combined $29.9 million.

If your channel is taking off on the platform and you’re building a stable community of active, engaged viewers then creating, and selling branded merchandise might be the next logical step in your income-generating strategy.

Starting right now, you can make more money on YouTube by displaying a carousel of branded products below your videos. To do this, your channel (which must be non-music related) needs to have more than 10,000 subscribers. If you have a music channel, it needs to be an Official Artist Channel to display merchandise.

Turnkey companies like Teespring, DFTBA, Crowdmade, and Killer Merch allow creators to submit designs and set up shop by enabling a ‘merch shelf’ below eligible videos. This allows the creator to offer products (e.g., T-shirts, hats, stickers, hoodies, backpacks) to the public.

You can add up to 12 products on a merchandise shelf, so there are plenty of opportunities to entice viewers. As your channel and brand grow, you have the chance to take that merch a step further by creating your own apparel line, like Jacksepticeye, and setting up a shop under an independent URL.

Bonus: Extra Ways to Make Money on YouTube

As wonderful as they are, the methods above are just a fraction of YouTube monetization opportunities. There are additional ways to make money on and off the platform, including:

Affiliate marketing: Pasting affiliate links to products you endorse in video descriptions. When someone uses your link to make a purchase, you get a percentage of the profit.

Brand sponsorships: Getting paid to create videos advertising certain products/services.

Selling courses: Sharing your general expertise with viewers while encouraging them to learn more via off-platform courses.

Generate Significant Income on YouTube

Hopefully, this post inspires you to either start or continue your YouTube journey. Don’t forget that YouTube is rolling out new monetization features on a fairly regular basis, some of which are only available to those channels that meet specific criteria, like Watch Time or subscribers.

Creating and managing a YouTube channel is a long, challenging process, but the journey can be very worth it if you hit on an idea for content that resonates with viewers – as well as with YouTube itself.

If you put the work in to create and execute a successful audience development strategy, YouTube and its monetization features can help you to earn back the return on investment, and much more.

There’s nothing quite like sharing your passion with the world, working for yourself, and planting the first seeds of financial freedom.

Ready to turn your passion

into your job with YouTube?

The opinions expressed in this article are the sponsor's own.

Ready to turn your passion into your job with YouTube?