How to Make Money on YouTube: A Guide for Beginners
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Every day, you hear about YouTube stars making millions of dollars from sharing their videos.
There’s Ryan Kaji, an eight-year-old boy who made $26 million in 2019, just by reviewing toys on his YouTube channel. Actors like Darren Criss and Rachel Bloom have also found their way from YouTube fame to movies and TV.
If you love to explain topics, interview people in person, or just enjoy being on camera, you might want to consider starting your own YouTube channel.
YouTube can be a great way to make money. It’s not fast, and it’s definitely not as easy as it seems. If you need to make money in a week, there are better options.
But if you’re a creative person with a message to share and an interest in video, you can learn how to make money on YouTube.
Topics that Make Money on YouTube
One of the first things you’ll need to decide when starting up your own YouTube channel is what type of videos you’ll be producing. You can pick whatever you’re comfortable with, but there are a few popular types of videos that have an easy entry point.
If you have expertise in a certain topic and can objectively assess products, this can be another popular way to create videos. You can do this with all kinds of products like digital cameras, eyeshadow palettes, or dog toys.
The key is to pick a certain niche and stick to that. If you review educational kids’ games one week and a book the next, you probably won’t be able to build the following necessary to make money.
Tutorials are another popular way to help others with your expertise. You can walk people through common problems like how to sew a button, curl your hair, do your taxes, or cook a roast. People are constantly turning to YouTube tutorials for the simplest to most complicated DIY projects.
Make a list of your interests, skills, and credentials to figure out what kinds of tutorials and how-tos you can create.
If you’re constantly telling interesting stories, having exciting experiences, or just have a knack for discussing mundane observations, you might consider starting a vlog. Rather than writing down your thoughts, you’ll record and share them with your audience. This can be a great way to make money from your everyday life.
How to Start a YouTube Channel and Make Money
It’s easy to start a YouTube channel, but making videos and building a loyal following is harder.
Step 1: Create your YouTube channel
Creating a YouTube channel is as simple as logging in to YouTube and selecting the “Create Channel” link under your profile picture. From there, you’ll be taken to the Channel dashboard where you’ll find tools and tutorials for creating, uploading, and sharing your videos.
You will need to provide an email address so you have two options. You can create a separate channel using your personal email address, or you can create a separate email address to use just for your channel. If you like the peace of mind of having separate accounts so that you don’t accidentally cross-post personal with business, then choose the latter.
Remember to fill in all of the details in your profile, including the About section. Upload a catchy channel header image, and make sure it looks good on mobile and in a web browser.
Step 2: Decide on a strategy
You could post videos on a random schedule with topics that don’t relate to each other, but if you’re trying to make money on YouTube, you need a specific strategy.
“Honestly, I’d say quantity and making sure you hit the fan favorites is the biggest part,” said Joseph Hogue, of the YouTube channel Let’s Talk Money. “One video a week used to be the baseline, but I feel like somebody really trying to grow their channel needs to be producing two a week now.” Hogue advises creating a schedule with a set time and day for each video that you put out. Once you set a schedule that you feel comfortable with, consider these factors as well:
- How many videos will you produce each month?
- What day and time will you post them?
- What information will you include in your video descriptions?
- Will you include details from your personal life or will it be more formal?
- What will your video thumbnails look like?
- How will you choose what video topics to produce?
To get an idea of what strategy will work for you, check out other popular channels in your niche. Don’t copy them, but use them as an inspiration for what’s working. If you see several channels repeating the same elements, that’s a clue you should consider doing it too.
Step 3: Develop a method for creating and uploading videos
To simplify and streamline the process, it’s important to develop a system or method for your videos.
Many successful YouTubers advise shooting several videos in one session and batch-processing them. That way, you can do all the work at once and then schedule them to be released in advance.
You can also develop things like step-by-step checklists to streamline the process even further. The popular tool TubeBuddy offers this feature and other helpful resources such as keyword research. Learning how to use keyboard shortcuts in your video editing program can also speed up the editing process. As you grow your channel and income, you can hire an editor or virtual assistant to help you with these tasks.
The main idea is to develop a system that works for you so you can almost run on autopilot. This frees up your energy for other things, like writing scripts, creating engaging videos, and other strategic planning.
Step 4: Adapt and revise
Take a step back every so often and assess whether you’re meeting your goals. You can look at your analytics to see if you’re reaching your target audience, how many views you’re receiving, which topics connect or don’t, and other metrics to help you figure out your channel’s performance. If what you’re doing isn’t working, you might need to step back and make some changes.
It also helps to join a community of other YouTube creators, especially ones in your own niche. They can provide feedback on your channel, and you can ask questions about what works for others, what systems or programs they use, or help with promotional strategies. This allows you to network with other creators, and you can learn and grow your channels together.
Related: 11 Best Work from Home Jobs
Ways to Earn Money from Your YouTube Channel
There are many ways you can earn money from your YouTube channel once you have an established following.
This is the most popular way to make money on YouTube. However, you’ll need to hit two specific milestones before YouTube allows you to place ads on your videos:
- Have at least 4,000 hours of watch time on your videos in the last 12 months
- Have at least 1,000 subscribers
Given these strict requirements, many people are finding that ads are more of a supplemental rather than a primary way to make money on YouTube.
“Ad rates (CPM) are also definitely down,” said Sarah Wilson of Budget Girl. CPM refers to cost per mille, or the rate advertisers pay to show their ad to 1,000 viewers. “Overall, we are getting paid less. YouTubers aren’t allowed to disclose CPM, but I track mine and can say it’s been lower this past year than in years past.”
That’s another reason why relying on YouTube for your sole income may be dangerous. You’re always at the whim of the platform. It helps to diversify your revenue streams by starting a blog or creating your own products.
Brand partnerships and sponsorships
Ads are a great way to earn passive income, but the real way many YouTubers make money is by partnering with brands.
You need to be careful with this method. It might be lucrative, but you can’t advertise or sell products that don’t make sense for your audience. If you do, you’ll lose their trust.
“Be very picky about who you partner with,” Wilson said. “No matter how great the company is, it dilutes your brand. So, charge accordingly and be prepared to do your own research into how the company operates. Also, if they mess up with one of your viewers, be prepared to hear about it.”
Make a list of your favorite relevant companies that pay to advertise and contact their marketing departments. If you’ve already made videos about those products, you can show them as proof that you’re a real user.
With affiliate marketing, you still feature another company’s product in your videos, but instead of earning a flat fee, you’ll use a unique referral link in your video description and earn a commission for each person who purchases the product through that link.
“I try to mention [affiliates] when it fits naturally with the topic,” Hogue said.
You can even refine your affiliate marketing strategy. Here’s one Hogue is trying out.
“I’ll do a series of two or three videos in a topic with a natural fit for an affiliate,” he said. “I’ll then create a lead magnet and email series to get people hooked in, watching all the videos, and receiving the emails.”
Pick a product or service you’ve actually used and benefited from that you think your audience would love, then brainstorm some ways to create new content around that product.
Sell your own products and services
If you’ve already created courses, eBooks, or other products, mentioning them in your videos can be a great way to drive traffic to your offerings. Make sure you provide a link in the video description so users can easily find them.
Should you go this route, take care to not oversell your own products. You want it to feel like a natural recommendation to your audience.
Ask for fan support
Another way to make money on YouTube is to ask for financial fan support through a service like Patreon. This can make sense for some niches more than others. For example, fan support is a common way gamers earn an income, while it might not make as much sense for someone with a personal finance channel.
“It’s not a place I personally put my money, so I would feel wrong asking it of my viewers while also advising them to cut costs,” Wilson said. “It would be an incredible compliment to know viewers supported me so much they were willing to pay a monthly fee just to root for me, but I’d never ask it.”
Making money off Patreon is a reality for many YouTubers, but it’s something you can only ask for once you’ve put out a lot of valuable content.
Will You be the Next Million Dollar YouTuber?
Making a million dollars on YouTube is unlikely, even for the most serious person, but YouTube can be a great place to build a persona and a brand that also helps your blog, coaching business, or course.
It can also be a great way to learn new skills, challenge yourself, and make money off your hobby. If you’re persistent, eager to learn, and have a passion for video, it can be a great side hustle. If you work hard enough, it can even become your full-time profession.