10 min read
Making money on YouTube doesn’t happen by amassing a large following and relying on YouTube to pay you for views. While you can earn some money that way, it won’t lead to an income big enough to quit your day job.
Influencer Marketing Hub’s YouTube earnings calculator reveals the truth about how much you can earn from subscribers and views alone: With an average of 50,000 views per day and a 7% engagement rate (a generous few points above the average), you’ll earn up to…$8,000/year.
So, how do some YouTubers rake in tens of millions of dollars every year?
They monetize their channel and brand in smarter, more lucrative ways. In this article, we’re sharing some of the best strategies for earning more on YouTube.
How do you make money on YouTube? As you’ll see, you might have to get creative and go beyond the platform itself.
In 2018, YouTube rolled out its Memberships feature for channels with more than 30,000 subscribers. Creators can offer a membership tier of their content for $4.99/month. This would include providing members with special members-only content, as well as other perks like merchandise.
For example, comedy YouTuber Mike Falzone offers his members loyalty badges, a digital copy of his book, original song tracks, an evergreen coupon code for merchandise, and a full-length video available only to members. YouTube reports that Falzone tripled his revenue just through Memberships.
Patreon is an online platform where artists and creators share their work with a paying audience of “Patrons.” Creators can choose to ask for a fixed payment every month in exchange for giving access to exclusive content or they can charge Patrons per post.
Many YouTubers have monetized their work by making an account on Patreon and releasing exclusive content or perks for their Patrons. Patreon functions almost like the YouTube Memberships feature, except you get to set your own prices and decide how you want to charge.
For instance, The East Fam, a YouTube channel featuring former Olympic gymnast Shawn Johnson, has a Patreon account where she offers tiers of Patron memberships, ranging from $2/month for ad-free videos to $100/month for personalized merchandise and a credit as a producer.
If you have a business outside of YouTube, you can use your YouTube channel to drive leads to your paid offers or products.
This strategy is most often used by digital course creators or online service providers, but it would also work for product makers. Your YouTube videos become a content marketing machine by providing helpful, free content to viewers and promoting a paid offer or product at the end of your video and in the description.
YouTubers who successfully brand themselves and gain lots of loyal fans should explore creating and selling merchandise. Similar to how music fans buy merchandise from bands they like, subscribers to your channel will purchase the merchandise because they’re fans of your work.
You can either sell merchandise directly to fans or you can sell it wholesale by placing your merchandise in retailers. The highest-earning YouTube stars are thought to get most of their revenue from merchandise sales.
This includes Ryan's World, a YouTube channel for kids with over 20 million subscribers. He has merchandise (like t-shirts) in massive retailers like Walmart. Most of the channel’s $26 million/year revenue is reported to come from these merchandise and toy sales, not directly from the videos themselves.
Affiliate marketing is when you market someone else’s product to your own audience and receive a percentage of the sales you generate.
Since you likely already have an audience on YouTube, affiliate marketing is an easy and fast way to start earning more money through your channel. YouTubers can start affiliate marketing in a few different ways:
Product reviews and tutorials are popular affiliate marketing techniques because they are honest and genuinely helpful for your followers.
For example, Bloggers Passion creates how-to videos about the web-hosting platform BlueHost. Then they share a special link for viewers to buy BlueHost for a discount (and Bloggers Passion receives a percentage of the sales).
You don’t have to earn directly from the videos you create on YouTube. Instead, you can use YouTube as a platform to showcase your expertise and skill for potential contractors.
This strategy is a form of advertising yourself. The goal is to eventually get hired for a paid opportunity, such as keynote speaking, writing, or performing.
This strategy can be highly effective. Marketing YouTuber Shayma Hyder reports that she doesn’t do any direct advertising through YouTube but does get client leads for her media company and paid speaking opportunities from people who have seen her videos.
Don’t discount indirect monetization. I don’t do any direct advertising but we get ton of leads for Zen Media and I get booked for keynotes from the videos.
— Shama Hyder (@Shama) May 4, 2020
You can ask viewers to donate or “tip” you if they enjoy your videos. This strategy is similar to the Patreon method, but it’s more informal and requires less commitment from both you and your viewers.
To ask for donations, you can use websites like Buy Me a Coffee or even just include a PayPal link in your video descriptions.
One creator, Marie Poulin, uses YouTube as part of her business systems consulting work. But to earn extra income from her videos, she also includes a link to her Buy Me A Coffee page. Viewers can send her small amounts whenever they want, ranging from $3-$15.
Now, you’ve got an arsenal of strategies for earning on YouTube. But how do you decide which strategy you should try first?
Do you want YouTube to be your primary source of income? Or do you just want to make some extra money for the videos you would create anyway?
If you need to earn a lot, you should choose the strategies with the highest proven earning potential:
For lower earnings goals, any of the other strategies will be effective:
One of the strategies requires that you have a certain number of subscribers: To use the Memberships feature you must have at least 30,000 subscribers to be eligible.
Others don’t technically require a minimum but won’t be worth your time unless you have a significant number of subscribers (e.g. at least over 30,000). This is most true for selling merchandise, as the cost of producing and shipping merchandise will be too high for a small number of sales.
But many of these strategies can be effective even at a small scale:
Some strategies require you to get outside of your YouTube channel to earn. You should decide whether you have interest and time to do more than create video content.
If you are willing to go beyond video, try exploring these strategies:
If you want to stick with video content only, these strategies will work for you:
While YouTube can be a lucrative platform for creators, the highest-earning creators have developed monetizing strategies far beyond YouTube itself.
The average earnings for those who monetize only through YouTube (via per-view payouts and advertising revenue) are modest at best, even with a large following. For example, YouTube channel Start Starting Up reports earning around $1,600/month from views and ad revenue with about 37,000 subscribers.
To monetize meaningfully, you must be strategic. Hopefully, the methods in this article have given you a great place to start.
Make sure your YouTube followers are always up-to-date with all your new products, services, and offers by having them join your email list.
When you have an email list in addition to your YouTube channel, you can engage with and sell to your following without having to produce more content. In addition, you can use your email list to drive even more views when a new video drops!