When you’re ready to make money online (or even offline), it makes sense to look at all your possible sources of income.
One exciting way to boost your income is to start making money on YouTube. People love videos and share them across all kinds of social media platforms. Just think about the last time you scrolled Facebook and how many videos there are now! If you can learn to monetize YouTube for your own business ventures, you’ll really have something going for you.
The neat thing about YouTube is that it’s video-based, which for many people can be a really fun way to make money. YouTube is free, it’s fairly accessible even if you don’t have fancy equipment, and it has millions of users. Plenty of people get off to a good start using only their smartphone as a video recording device. Uploading your videos is fairly simple — it requires a free account, and that’s it. You’ll need to have your account set up for monetizing — but the process is simple. You can learn more here about how to make that happen.
How Can I Monetize YouTube?
YouTube is a really interesting way to make money, and when it’s done right, it can be very lucrative. If nothing else, it’s definitely worth a closer look to see if it’d be a good fit for you. Let’s check it out!
1. First Things First: AdSense
YouTube is going to be putting ads on your videos no matter what, so you might as well capitalize on them by getting your AdSense set up once you hit 1,000 subscribers and 4,000 watch hours within 12 months on your Channel. (You can get your channel prepared while you wait to reach those metrics.) This is done within your YouTube account. You may also want to read up on what sorts of videos will qualify for Adsense revenue.
To get your channel up to speed – or watch hours – quickly, I have some tips below.
2. Fill Your Funnels
If you already have an established online business with email opt-ins and/or products for sale, YouTube can be a great way to fill your sales funnel.
Use your videos to provide helpful, useful content to your readers and viewers, and in the video point to your opt-in (or create a special new opt-in just for your viewers). Once someone enters their email address, you can send a series of emails building your relationship with them and eventually offering your products or services for sale.
I have found YouTube a great way to build my email list. The incoming traffic currently converts at a much higher rate than my other social media channels. And, if you have a blog, create videos around some of your monetized posts and link to them within your video description.
3. Affiliate Marketing
The best way to succeed with affiliate marketing is to share genuinely about how your product changed your life. YouTube is a GREAT place to start sharing — you can show how you use the product, why you love it, answer common questions, and more. (Just be sure you follow any and all of your company’s compliance guidelines!)
Video allows for some additional ways to connect that aren’t always portrayed well in text. You can do “unboxing” videos, tutorials, product reviews, and “hauls.” Include your affiliate link within the video description and/or within the video. Don’t forget to disclose!
4. Monetize YouTube with Brand Sponsors
In the same way brands are working with bloggers for sponsorship opportunities, they’re looking for great YouTubers with high-quality content to share their products far and wide. Begin pitching companies you love with content marketing and sponsorship opportunities and see what ends up working for you! Just remember to follow good sponsorship guidelines — only work with brands you trust to promote products you believe in and are relevant to your viewers. You will also need to properly disclose this relationship. Google has paid product placement guidelines which were updated in January of 2021.
5. Monetize Your Channel with Community Sponsors
For a while now, YouTube has made available a “Sponsor” button on some gaming channels. They just started beta testing the option with non-gaming channels as well.
For $4.99 per month, your biggest fans can sponsor your channel. This will give them a little badge that displays by their name in your comments. You can also offer them special perks like sponsor-only content. Creators receive 70% of the revenue after local sales tax is deducted. All paid promotions, including sponsors, need to follow YouTube’s Ad Policies and Community Guidelines.
To see if you have this option available, head over to Channel > Status and Features > Sponsorships
6. Become an Amazon Influencer
Amazon recently introduced its Influencer program which allows social media influencers on YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter to earn money through their Amazon recommendations. Once approved, you will have the ability to create a page on Amazon filled with products you recommend, like this one. You can then just share the personalized link on your social media channels. When someone clicks through and buys, you will earn a commission on approved product categories. Bonus: Influencers can also link to their page within emails! Something not offered to regular Amazon Associates.
This program is not open to everyone, but the eligibility requirements are minimal. If you apply with your Twitter or YouTube account, you should get an immediate acceptance or decline. Facebook and Instagram are vetted by hand.
7. Benefit from YouTube Premium Subscribers
YouTube Premium is a subscription service that users can buy that eliminates ads from their videos. As a YouTube Creator, you can start receiving a commission based on how much time premium subscribers are spending on your videos. You will be able to see your YouTube Premium watch time in your analytics.
To increase your earnings, make sure your videos are interesting and useful, with great SEO, to capture as many eyeballs as possible and keep them coming back for more. You won’t be approved to receive income until you meet the standard monetization requirements (1,000 subscribers and 4,000 watch hours in the prior 12-month period).
8. Sell Merch
If your channel really takes off and develops a life of its own — or if the brand you’re building does — you can create and sell specially branded merchandise in your videos. T-shirts, mugs, canvas bags digital products, and things like that can be great merch options, and there are several different drop-shippers available so you won’t even necessarily have to mess with the inventory. This can be especially good if your brand is a lot of fun. This is another opportunity to use that Amazon Influencer link. Your merch can be on display by creating a merch shelf in the background of your videos.
Just like with blogging, you need to make specific disclosures in your YouTube videos when you’re promoting sponsored or affiliate-compensated content. Not doing so puts you in violation of the FTC, the YouTube platform rules, or both. You can read up more on YouTube’s disclosure requirements here so you can stay on track.
How Can I Meet the YouTube Monetization Requirements Faster?
To capture the audience of millions that YouTube makes available to you, you’ll need to work on two things: great content and SEO. If you can do a video on a topic your ideal audience will find interesting, you’re off to a great start. But where you’ll really succeed is in mastering SEO for YouTube — using the right keywords in your video’s tags, keywords, and description. This requires a little bit of research on your part, but it’s absolutely worth the time. Because Google owns YouTube, good SEO will land you high in the results not only within YouTube but also on Google. You don’t want to pass that up!
Other important things to remember are to encourage your viewers to share your videos on social media platforms (having the videos captioned might make this even more attractive for them – get $10 off your first Rev.com order here) and to encourage viewers to subscribe to your channel. Subscribing is great for you because it means you have a built-in audience waiting for you (channel subscriptions are one of YouTube’s vanity metrics), and it’s great for subscribers who like you because they’ll start getting notified every time you post a new video.
If you have a blog, you can repurpose all your videos by posting them on YouTube, embedding them in blog posts and/or sharing them in your newsletter, posting them on your other social media accounts, or even capturing some Pinterest traffic by uploading great pins for your videos.
9 Things I Have Learned As A YouTube Beginner
Apparently, I was thinking ahead enough to start a YouTube channel shortly after I became a blogger – YouTube says I joined in March 2010. I was just never smart enough to do anything with it. Sure. I would upload a screenshot tutorial or webinar I did with an online friend once or twice per year, but I never got serious. Or consistent.
For the past three or four years as a blogger, all you hear is that video is the new black. And the stats back that up.
- Over one-third of all internet users use YouTube.
- People watch 16 hours of video content each week.
- YouTube is the preferred digital video platform for 90% of people in the US.
- More than 1 billion hours of video are consumed on YouTube every day.
- 87% of online marketers use video content.
- The most popular video types made by marketers in 2021 include explainer videos (72%), presentation videos (49%), testimonial videos (48% ), and sales videos and video ads (42% each.)
These numbers are things that should perk up your ears. In a world that is more and more saturated with text content and where it is increasingly hard to reach followers on social platforms, I’m ready for a challenge if the results pay off. Maybe you are, too.
After returning home from two conferences in the fall of 2017 that included a lot of video marketing sessions, I decided it was time to get serious. As an introvert, this wasn’t easy. Heck. As someone who doesn’t put on makeup or do my hair most days, this wasn’t easy. But, I did it.
One year into my YouTube experiment though, I thought I would share with you a few things I have learned that will hopefully make your journey as a YouTube beginner a little easier.
1. If you don’t have a strategy, you don’t have much hope.
My goal as a YouTuber was to reach new people and get them back to my blog. This is where the magic happens. It’s where people sign up for my newsletter list so I can connect with them and market to them over and over again.
Obviously, this end goal requires a few more steps than just shooting a video about whatever I feel like talking about today. I need to research what’s popular on YouTube and will, hopefully, get a lot of views. (TubeBuddy has helped tremendously with video content.) Then, I need to make sure I’m reminding people to visit my website. Then, I need to make sure I’m sending them to the right places to prompt the result I am hoping for – sign up for my email list.
Having a great template will save you a lot of time and retakes. At the beginning of your video, introduce yourself. At the end of the video, include a good call to action. What do you want them to do next?
I also keep a checklist of things to do when creating each video:
- Research keywords and competition (TubeBuddy)
- Choose my call-to-action
- Write my script and video description
- Encourage my viewers to subscribe to increase channel memberships
- Record my video (Filmora)
- Take a still photo for my YouTube thumbnail image
- Edit video & create thumbnail
- Upload to YouTube as unlisted.
- Send the link for an unlisted video to Rev.com for captioning.
- Upload caption & schedule for publishing publicly
2. You can’t assume your blog readers are interested in video. (But, that’s good!)
Here’s a shocker. The vast majority of people that read this blog and subscribe to my newsletter have no interest in watching my videos. I thought I would be able to just slide on through to my first 1,000 channel subscribers by telling my email subscribers about my new gig. No dice! Even though I was sending out links to my new videos each week, only around 3% of people who open my email were watching the videos. Yikes.
But, that’s a good thing! My goal was to reach new people – people wanting to consume information differently. And that, I’m accomplishing. Today, I’m getting several hundred blog visitors from YouTube. And that traffic is converting into newsletter subscribers at a rate of 7% right now. That’s WAY higher than I see on Pinterest, Facebook, or Twitter.
3. Your videos live and die by SEO.
YouTube is owned by Google. It should come as no surprise that search engine optimization is going to be important. And, that as well, is good. The majority of people coming to YouTube are searching for content. It’s a discovery platform. Only a small percentage of the time are they looking only to watch those they already follow as can be the case on Twitter and Facebook.
Take the time to learn how to do keyword research on YouTube and optimize your videos. (TubeBuddy!) It will pay off in spades for years to come. Today, only around 3% of my video views are from external sources. The other 97% is from YouTube searches, browsing, recommended videos, playlists, and other onsite activities.
4. So. Much. Spam. (and Trolls)
I deal with so much spam already. It was disappointing to find out this would be another place to babysit. But, such is life. And don’t get me started on the trolls. A lot of people obviously have nothing better to do with their time than be nasty to strangers for no reason. But, that’s their karma. I hope it makes them feel better.
5. Cross-promote & connect everything.
As I mentioned previously, my goal is new traffic to my blog. But these people don’t know you. They probably don’t even know you have a website. A lot of YouTubers don’t. Make sure they can find you later. YouTube has a little place to link your website. And make sure you are reminding them to find you.
6. So much better than Facebook Live.
One of the reasons I avoided video for so long was because I get so nervous. I have a fear of public speaking. I’m terrified of live streaming.
But, once I learned how to edit my videos… fear is gone! I can stumble over my words 97 times. The phone can start ringing mid-video. The cat can jump in front of the camera. None of this matters. I can just wait for the screw-up to subside, continue my video and cut out the blooper later. No harm, no foul.
7. The big bucks are possible.
As someone who has always made money from text content, I didn’t think there was much potential for big revenue on YouTube. I was wrong. I hit the monetization requirements in June 2018 and have enjoyed a nice steady side income since then.
Your YouTube revenue is tied to AdSense. If you are familiar with that monetization avenue, you know your income will be largely dependent on views and the keywords you use.
8. Tools rule.
I did not know where the heck to begin when it came to YouTube. I like to think I know where to turn for all things blogging, but here I was lost. Luckily, I was able to find a lot of things to help me out without spending a lot of dough.
Thankfully, I tried a few free trials before settling on editing software. The first ones I attempted were so overwhelming. I almost gave up. I’m not too tech-savvy! Then, I came across Filmora by Wondershare. So simple! I love it. And the business edition was only $119.99 lifetime. They also have an awesome Effects Store where you can pick up professional-looking intros/outros, transitions, audio editing, and more.
I’m big on optimization and analytics. How are you going to get where you are going if you don’t know where you are at? Luckily, YouTube provides a lot in the way of analytics just as you would expect. Over here, you need to pay attention to things like watch time, completion rate, and audience retention. Thankfully, they make that easy.
When it comes to search optimization, however, I didn’t know what was going on. How do you do keyword research? How do you know what other people are optimizing their videos for? What are the best practices? Then I found TubeBuddy.
TubeBuddy provides all of that and more. They have best practices checklists. You can upload videos to Facebook while you are uploading to YouTube. They offer a lot in the way of keyword research. They will show you opportunities to optimize existing videos and more. It has been a lifesaver. TubeBuddy also integrates with 3PlayMedia for video captioning and Star members and above get a discount. A free account is available though I have the Star Plan which comes with bulk editing, canned responses, ranking reports, and more.
Rev.com is where I have all my video captioning done. It’s only $1 per minute and the turnaround time is crazy-fast.
9. Batch Processing for the WIN!
Publishing one video at a time when you are looking to build out your channel initial is so overwhelming. It may take you forever. Instead, I was an early adopter of batch processing. Lifesaver!
Every time I sit down to film a video, I usually have three or four ready to go. I do all of the keyword research at once. Then, I write the outlines. Then, I write the descriptions, titles, and tags. Then, I film them all back-to-back. Next, I edit them all back-to-back. Then, I create all of the graphics for not only the thumbnails but also for sharing on social media. Finally, I upload and schedule them all at once and schedule them to publish over the course of a month. So much easier.
Batch processing helps with another very important thing over at YouTube – consistency. Just as Google likes frequently updated websites when determining its search results, it also prefers frequently updated channels when deciding on its YouTube search results. Being able to do a few weeks or a month of videos in one sitting can ensure you are making that happen.
Do I Need Expensive Equipment to Get Started?
I started with what I had – just my laptop. The first video I published someone left me a nasty comment telling me it sounded like crap. (Nice welcome. Eh?) Since it was right around Black Friday when I got rolling, I took the opportunity to buy a few pieces of inexpensive video equipment to start me out. I still wasn’t sure I would stick with this long-term, so I didn’t get much.
My office is very much a sunroom with windows on three sides. As long as I wait until the afternoon, I typically don’t have to worry much about lighting. When it is an issue, I use that little Lume Cube. It’s crazy-bright. I hope to upgrade to a Diva Light soon.
Even a year later, this is still all I have. My videos may not be the most professional, but it’s good content. I have over 22,000 subscribers right now that obviously don’t care too much.
I’m still very much a YouTube beginner, but I feel like I’m making the process in a big way. And, it’s paying off quickly. That always makes me happy.
Originally published. April 2017. Updated September 2022.