How to Monetize a YouTube Channel

Last Updated on Mar. 8, 2024 – by David Morgan
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how to monetize a youtube channel

Have you heard of YouTube millionaires? With the massive growth of creators and audiences on YouTube, there are more and more of them every day. In the wide world of social media channels, creators are flocking to YouTube to share their content because of its massive earning potential. In 2019, the top 10 YouTubers raked in anywhere from $12-26 million each, just from people watching their videos!

So what makes YouTube such a great cash crop for creators?

While you can upload and share video content just like any other social platform, YouTube actually pays creators when people view their content! There really isn’t another platform like it. Simply create, upload, and monetize!

But don’t quit your day job just yet, making a living on YouTube isn’t quite as easy as it might sound. The steps these YouTube millionaires have taken from the beginning of their channel to even their first check was a long and bumpy road. To earn money on YouTube, it requires a lot of work, strategy, and knowhow to navigate your way to success.

In this article we’re going to answer a few common questions when it comes to making money on YouTube:
  1. What determines your success in making money on YouTube?
  2. What are the different ways a YouTube channel can make money?
  3. What tactics are you using to attract both audience members AND advertisers?

Behind every successful YouTuber is a strategy and in this article, we've compiled some great information to provide you knowledgeable insight into how the most successful YouTubers monetize their channels.

  1. What determines success on YouTube
  2. How does YouTube Monetization Work?
  3. Monetizing a YouTube channel without AdSense
  4. Alternatives to AdSense for YouTube
  5. Brand Sponsorships and Becoming an Influencer
  6. Crowdfunding and User Supported
  7. Super Chat
  8. Sell Merchandise
  9. Conclusion

1. What determines success on YouTube

It all starts with views

Before we get into the ways you can start earning money on YouTube, it’s important to understand what creates value. Video views, or the number of times someone has watched a given video, is the number one metric on YouTube for earning potential.

A video view on YouTube is what advertisers call an ‘impression’. That means there is a connection between the video and the viewer which advertisers can take advantage of, just like on TV. In the most basic sense, the more times a video is played, the more valuable a video becomes to YouTube and potential advertisers because the video is making more impressions.

Building an audience

One difference you’ll notice about popular YouTubers is that their videos consistently get a lot of views. That’s because they have built an audience. Just like when you tune into your favorite TV show every week to catch more of your favorite stories and characters, YouTubers build a relationship with their audience that keeps them coming back.

When it comes to monetizing your channel, having an audience or fan base is key to getting a consistently high view count. It’s a simple equation. The more fans you have, the more views you get each time you upload a video, and more views equal more money. Simple right?

Maximizing your reach

If you're a seasoned YouTuber, you probably know the amount of effort it can take to get even a hundred views or get 1000 subscribers to a channel. If you’ve tried, you know it can easily take months or years just to get kinds of these numbers.

But in terms of monetization, we will focus on many of the different ways you can monetize your audience to help you create a strategy that works best for you and your channel.

2. How does YouTube Monetization Work?

Monetizing a YouTube Channel with Google AdSense

If you’ve ever watched videos on YouTube, you’ve likely encountered some advertisements that play at different points in a video. These advertisements are set up by Google through their advertising platform AdSense.

Google AdSense takes connects paid advertisers with creators and places ad breaks in their videos automatically. Advertisers pay each time their ad is played and as a result, the creator is paid a flat rate per ad played in their video.

With these ads, you can expect to earn roughly $1 to $5 per 1000 views, depending on your region (we’ll get into this more later on) and they are a great and easy way to get started earning money on your channel. Since AdSense does the work of finding advertisers and placing the ads in your videos, this is the easiest way to start making money on your YouTube channel and the most common way big-time YouTubers monetize their channels.

How to Set Up Google AdSense for your YouTube Channel

Getting set up with AdSense is relatively easy, but before you can, you must first be sure you meet YouTube’s requirements. Be sure to follow the current rules because the consequences of not following these guidelines can mean the loss of your monetization so follow these guidelines carefully!

How to Register your YouTube Channel with Google AdSense

To begin, you'll be required to become a member of the "YouTube Partner Program". To do so you must meet their basic requirements:
  • Your videos must have 4000 hours of watch time, cumulative of all of your videos.
  • Have gained 1000 subscribers within one year.

Additionally, YouTube must review your channel to make sure it meets their standard guidelines.

Here’s a list of what they’re going to be checking for:
  • Spam, deceptive practices, and scams
  • Nudity and sexual content
  • Child safety
  • Harmful or dangerous content
  • Hate speech
  • Harassment and cyberbullying
  • Use of any copyrighted material

If your channel has any of this kind of content, don’t even think of trying to monetize your channel! Not only will you not be able to monetize your channel, but you’ll also likely have your content removed or your channel banned.

Since the reviewers won’t be able to check everything in detail, here is where they’re going to focus their review:
  • The main theme of your channel
  • The most viewed videos
  • The newest videos
  • Where the biggest proportion of watch time is
  • Your video metadata (including titles, thumbnails, and descriptions)

Be sure to pay special attention to these aspects and clean up any loose ends before you submit your channel for review.

Once your channel is reviewed and approved, you'll be able to start earning money from your videos by simply enabling the monetization button in your YouTube Studio dashboard.

register google adsense

Monitoring Your AdSense Performance on YouTube

One of the other advantages to using AdSense is your ability to easily monitor all of your progress. The AdSense Dashboard will show you all of the valuable metrics about how many plays your videos are getting as well as the revenue that they are generating.

Here’s an example of one (very successful YouTuber’s) AdSense dashboard:

google adsense analysis

But getting set up for AdSense is the first step in your journey. Here's a quick recap on getting set up for ads on your YouTube channel.

Join the YouTube Partner Program:

Step 1: Meet YouTube terms and conditions on channel monetization

Step 2: Sign up with your email idea for an AdSense Account

Step 3: Select which types of ads and where you want to display

Step 4: Have some patience, because now YouTube will ask you for some time to review your channel.

Step 5: Congratulations! You’ve been approved!

That’s it! These are the necessary steps to start earning money on your YouTube videos from AdSense.

3. Monetizing a YouTube channel without AdSense

Why not use AdSense?

Considering the amount of work that is required to create a successful YouTube channel, putting all of your advertising options in the hands of AdSense can be considered a bit of a gamble. Creating your YouTube brand is a delicate process and working with the wrong advertisers can potentially limit your earning potential on YouTube.

Before exploring other ways to make money on YouTube, let's first talk about why you might not want to use AdSense and why not all YouTubers rely on it as their primary source of revenue.

1. Advertiser / Audience Fit

Matching ads with video content is done by an algorithm. Albeit a very advanced one, your audience and content might not be a good fit for certain advertisers. This leaves the potential for a “lose-lose” relationship for both your channel AND your advertisers. To generate long-term growth of your channel, it’s important to have a strong fit between your audience and how you advertise. Leaving your monetization strategy up to an algorithm can result in bad results for your advertisers and unhappy viewers. This is a big reason why many YouTubers choose to explore other methods of monetization.

2. YouTube Decides if your Content is Monetized

In some instances, your entire efforts to monetize can go out the window if your channel doesn’t pass the rigorous reviewing process by YouTube. If you've violated any of their policies or uploaded content deemed “unsuitable” by YouTube, you can forget about monetization; AdSense will never accept it right out of the gate, without always giving you a clear reason why.

3. Price Per View and YouTube’s Cut

How much do you think 1,000 views is worth? Even if you've created amazing content to share with your highly devoted audience, YouTube says you can still only earn roughly $3 to $5 per 1000 views. If your audience is in a less developed country, it can be as low as $1 per 1000 views.

This isn’t just because YouTube values those views and your hard work so little, it’s because YouTube keeps 45% of your earnings. If you’re expecting to keep all of your earning potentials, don’t make the rookie mistake of relying only on AdSense. Even if you’re raking in hundreds of thousands of views, YouTube will put a pretty tight cap on your earning potential, no matter how great you’re doing.

What Famous YouTubers Earn

youtubes top earners

Take a look at what some of the most popular channels on YouTube have earned from AdSense alone. But that’s not all. Compared to what they’re actually earning, this is small potatoes. Smart YouTuber’s have many other ways to generate revenue from their channels.

Let's take a look.

4. Alternatives to AdSense for YouTube

Affiliate Marketing

Affiliate marketing is one of the most common methods for earning money all over the web. Savvy internet business folks have been using this method for many years and for good reason – its easy for advertisers to track and the earning potential for the affiliate is potentially unlimited. It's also considered one of the best options for creators to make money on their YouTube channel.

It works like this: A content creator acts as an “affiliate” to a product or brand looking to promote a product. The creator will then promote a product in the content that they create. By using unique discount codes or trackable links, the brand can tell who referred the sale and reward them. For each sale they refer, they’re typically paid a percentage or a flat-rate fee.

To do affiliate marketing on YouTube, creators typically seek out or are contacted by brands that are a good fit for the content they’re creating. After arranging a deal and getting their link, they can promote the products to get paid. They’ll typically talk about the product in their video and then direct their audience to their unique affiliate link or discount code in their video description so they can easily refer viewers to the product.

Refer a sale, get paid! Simple right?

Should I use Affiliate Marketing on my YouTube Channel?

Like AdSense, affiliate marketing for YouTube also comes with some limitations and basic considerations. The first rule of thumb is to know your audience. It’s one thing to have an audience but it’s a whole other level to have them trust your advice on what to buy. If your audience doesn’t trust you to help them make purchase decisions, you likely not make much money with affiliates.

Second, pick the right products to promote! This goes along with your audience as well as the type of content you produce. Find products and brands that fit with what you’re talking about. The better the fit, the more likely your viewers will be to follow your affiliate link!

Here're are a few examples of YouTubers using Affiliate Marketing:

youtube channel example

This YouTube channel, 'Dusty Porter', provides high-quality content about tech-life. This creator discusses categories like software, hardware, gadgets, and other technology-related topics, and it’s safe to say that the audience might be looking for advice on what gadgets or technology to buy. This is a perfect connection between content and affiliate products!

As you can see below, Dusty includes his affiliate link in the description. All he has to do is refer viewers there to purchase the products he talks about in his video.

youtube video description

Even if only a few viewers purchase these products, Dusty can still earn a lot! The best thing about Affiliate marketing, that even if you only have a few subscribers, you can still earn considerably more than AdSense, because your earning potential relies more on the quality of your audience than its size.

In a nutshell, if your channel revolves around a specific category, it is a great idea to use affiliate links with your videos. But before proceeding, three things are important: your audience needs to trust you, you’ve got to pick the right products to promote, and you’ve have to encourage your audience to buy these products. If you can do all of these things, the sky’s the limit!

5. Brand Sponsorships and Becoming an Influencer

Similar to affiliate marketing, some YouTubers are paid by companies just to have their brand or product be a part of the content. The key difference between sponsorship and affiliate is that with a sponsorship, you don’t have to sell the product, just use it! With a sponsorship, the company pays a flat fee, sometimes monthly or per video instead of by each sale the creator refers.

A great example of how this works is with professional athletes and shoe companies. Lebron James is sponsored by Nike gets paid just to wear their shoes. As you can guess, this works out great for Nike because people will buy the shoes they see Lebron wearing. It also works great for Lebron because he doesn’t have to sell the shoe, his association with the shoes is valuable enough alone for him to earn big just for wearing them.

YouTubers are just like Lebron in that they are influencers. While they might not have the same amount of broad influence as Lebron, but some YouTubers are hugely influential within the micro-niches that they create.

Because of the unique nature of YouTube as a content platform and social network, creators and their audiences share strong bonds. Even if they only have a small following, YouTubers’ audiences can be a valuable group of people for brands and their digital marketing.

For every micro-niche on YouTube, there are brands looking selling products to that demographic of people. Companies are always on the hunt for influencers that connect with their ideal customer and if you have a loyal audience, even if it’s a small one, you could get sponsored by a company to make your videos.

Here's a great example of a channel that is sponsored: youtube video affiliate

Here is a micro-niche YouTube channel named 'HardwareCanucks.' that focuses on computer hardware, more specifically in Canada. But the most notable thing is that, in this specific video, they're promoting Toshiba OCZ, and it's mentioned that this video is sponsored. That’s a pretty big brand for such a niche channel!

No matter how many people watch this video or buy the product, ‘HardwareCanucks’ has still been paid by Toshiba. This is the magic of sponsorships!

6. Crowdfunding and User Supported

Yes, crowdfunding is a thing for YouTubers to monetize their channel, too! However, this method is a better option for those whose channel might revolve around controversial issues.

Because of their controversial nature and YouTube’s content guidelines, YouTube can often demonetize these channels; regardless of having a huge fan base or not. That's why these types of channels turn to crowdfunding platforms like Patreon – a platform in which you ask users to support you directly.

But it isn't the only reason to use Patreon; if your channel is more driven towards being community-based and you know that you provide direct value to your audience, asking your audience to contribute directly might be a great option.

Some ways creators leverage crowdfunding is by giving access to exclusive content, personal access to the creator, custom content, merch… and so much more. Using crowdfunding is a great way to explore different ways to connect directly with your audience and make a good revenue, too!

Look at the YouTube channel of Jerry Banfield, who generates immense amounts of revenue with the Patreon crowdfunding tool.

livestreaming with youtube

Just by creating the right relationship with his audience through his content, he’s able to make money directly from his viewers!

7. Super Chat

If you’re a live streamer on YouTube, using Super Chat is a great way to generate money on your live broadcasts. With Super Chat when you stream, fans can donate money if they're impressed by your work, and in return, they get to leave a comment that's highlighted at the top of the chat for up to 5 hours.

crowdfunding with youtube

Believe it or not, viewers will pay money to get shoutouts in Super chat, just like in this gaming channel. While this route is pretty specific to live streamers and doesn’t generate the most revenue out of our list of way to monetize your YouTube channel, it’s great way to connect with your audience during live streams and make a few extra bucks in the process!

8. Sell Merchandise

If your channel has a devoted following, creating merch for your fans to buy is a great way to generate money for your channel, especially as your channel becomes more popular. Just like movies and TV shows, people love to show their affiliation with brands by buying their merchandise. Whether your channel is about gaming, tutorials, art, or even comedy videos, if you’ve got a good brand, there are endless ways to merchandise your channel.

sell merchandise with youtube

Take for example this art channel, "Moriah Elizabeth". This channel has a huge fanbase, and the owner of this channel takes advantage of its popularity by selling some quirky t-shirts and hoodies that they have designed.

One great approach to merchandising is to make sure that the products you’re selling is related to what you do. Since you know what kind of content your fans like, you’ll probably know what kind of cool products you can customize for them, too! For example, if you have a cooking show, why not make custom oven mitts with your brand on it? If you can’t make something cooking-related, you can make t-shirts that have your slogan and logo on it.

One thing to keep in mind here is that you'll also have to create a website for buyers to purchase from, manage products, shipments, and more on top of promoting your product. This route requires a whole other level of hustle!

9. Conclusion

Now that you've gotten some ideas on how to start earning money from YouTube, it’s time to get excited about your own YouTube Channel monetization journey. The potential for earning on YouTube is vast. As the fastest growing platform for creators and advertisers, there’s money to be made for creators of all sizes and niches! Whether you’ve got great tips on gardening or gaming, cooking or building, or just have something you’d like to talk about, you can start making money on your YouTube channel! Start making your content and growing your channel and with the right monetization strategy, you’ll be earning in no time!

If you liked reading this article, you may like reading our ultimate guide to becoming a YouTuber. Check out our blog section to view even more great articles

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