Starting your own YouTube channel can offer a variety of ways to generate an income. With consistency and dedication, you may find that you can continue to grow your revenue.
Some of the more popular opportunities to earn money this way include monetizing ad views, featuring paid promotions, and joining the YouTube Partner Program. However, before you learn more about these common ways to earn money and how to get started with them, it’s important to first understand the financial potential of being a YouTuber.
How Much Money Can YouTubers Earn?
According to Forbes, the highest-earning YouTuber last year was 9-year-old Ryan Kaji, who took in an estimated $29.5 million between June 1, 2019, and June 1, 2020. His channel, which includes videos of DIY science experiments and toy reviews, reportedly had 41.7 million subscribers, and his videos received 12.2 billion views. Meanwhile, Jimmy Donaldson, known online as "MrBeast," was ranked as the second-highest earner, bringing in $24 million and garnering 47.8 million subscribers and 3 billion views, thanks to his high-quality productions of humorous stunts.
While the aforementioned YouTube superstars represent a slim minority, there are many more moderately successful channels in which you can earn income through this Google platform.
Estimate potential earnings based on video views and engagement, and see how much other YouTubers are likely making with this calculator tool.
Choosing a Niche
If you’re looking to monetize your channel, you’ll want to take into consideration that some niches are more profitable than others. Gaming, for example, has been one of the most lucrative YouTube topics. Other profitable genres include life hacks, humor or pranks, fail compilations, product unboxings (specifically kids’ toys), how-to and tutorials, kitchen tips and food reviews, lists of top things, animal videos, news, and celebrity gossip.
While targeting lucrative genres, keep in mind that many niches are oversaturated. Look for an area of focus that doesn't have a lot of competition. For example, if you choose to focus on gaming, you may want to avoid building your channel around Minecraft, Fortnite, or other games that are topic of popular channels.
How Does YouTube Pay?
YouTubers earn money in several different ways, including ad views and the YouTube Partner program. But to maximize earnings, it's important to understand all of your options before you get started.
Earn Money Through Ad Views
Ad payment depends on either CPM (cost per thousand views), where a viewer must watch at least 30 seconds of the ad or half of the ad on a particularly short video, or CPC (cost per click), where the viewer must click on the ad. Skipped ads don’t receive any payment.
Videos that include inappropriate language, violence, adult content, or controversial issues are not suitable for advertisements. Check out guidelines for advertiser-friendly content here.
You can open an AdSense account as soon as you start your channel, but you won’t get a payout until your balance reaches $100, which could take a while if you’re just beginning.
Google pays out 68% of ad sale revenue, so for every $100 that an advertiser pays to Google, the latter will pay the YouTuber $68.An advertiser typically pays between 10 cents and 30 cents per ad view, which averages to around 18 cents a view.
If you consider that about 15% of viewers will watch enough of the ad for you to receive payment, then a video with 1,000 views will likely get about 150 ad views. Using these estimates, you can expect to make about $18 for every 1,000 ad views, which amounts to approximately $3 to $5 per 1,000 video views.
The YouTube Partner Program
One of the most passive ways to make an income through your YouTube channel is to earn money through ad views.
The YouTube Partner Program (YPP) gives channels access to additional money-making opportunities once they meet the qualifying criteria.
In order to be eligible for review to join the YPP, a channel must:
- Have more than 1,000 subscribers
- Exceed 4,000 valid public watch hours over the last year (private, unlisted, or deleted videos don’t count)
- Abide by YouTube’s monetization policies
- Be based in a country or region where the YPP is available
- Have a linked AdSense account
Once a channel meets this threshold, it’s eligible to be reviewed for the YPP. Despite eligibility, the channel must also meet YouTube’s additional policies and guidelines in order to gain approval for the program.
While you don’t have to continue to meet the threshold requirements every year, if your channel falls below the threshold and is inactive for six months, it may be removed from the partner program.
Being part of the YPP means you can start making money from a variety of different features—each component has its own qualification criteria as well as subscriber and view count prerequisites. The features must also be available in your country or region.
The YPP allows users to earn money from:
- Advertising income
- Videos watched by YouTube Premium subscribers
- Channel memberships where members pay for perks
- Fans paying to have their messages featured with Super Chat and Super Stickers
- Branded item sales through the merch shelf
Other Ways to Earn Money From YouTube Content
Opportunities to earn money from YouTube extend beyond the more typical methods discussed above.
Taking advantage of paid promotions, such as product placements, sponsorships, and endorsements, also can be an effective way to generate income.
Certain niches, such as review-type channels or how-to tutorials, lend themselves particularly well to paid promotions like affiliate marketing.
Securing paid promotions can be accomplished in several different ways—you can reach out to brands with a proposal, or if you become recognized enough in your field, you may find yourself being approached by companies.
When you identify your content as including paid promotions, YouTube will display a disclosure message at the beginning of the video.
YouTubers, along with the businesses they partner with, are responsible for following any other local and legal obligations as well. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) can be a helpful resource to make sure you’re legally compliant regarding content that involves paid promotions.
Selling a Product or Service
If you sell a product or service, YouTube can be an ideal location to market your business, assert your expertise, and drive traffic to your site. Helpful video content, such as Q&As or tutorials, can lead potential customers to your business.
If you’re an expert in a topic, consider making an online course you can sell to followers. You can also bring in some cash by speaking at events and conferences.
Once your channel has high levels of engagement, you can bolster your income by selling tickets to fans for in-person events like live recordings or tour appearances. Offering branded merchandise is a way to increase your sales, as well as boost brand awareness. Popular YouTubers can also earn money by attending conventions and selling branded merch or autographs.
Channels with a dedicated fan base could have success on crowdfunding sites. GoFundMe and Kickstarter are good choices for one-time projects, while Patreon and Ko-Fi provide options for ongoing support. YouTubers typically offer their followers various rewards for different contribution levels. Funds can be donated on a recurring basis or as a one-off to support a cause.
The Bottom Line
With continued dedication and patience, you can grow your YouTube channel by finding and taking advantage of the income growth opportunities that best fit your channel’s niche, purpose, and financial goals.
Frequently Asked Questions
How Often Does YouTube Pay?
YouTube pays monthly, typically between the 10th and 14th day of the month. To receive earnings, users must meet certain criteria, including:
- Reaching local payment threshold, e.g., $100 for U.S. creators
- Being in compliance with YouTube monetization policies
- Not being suspended or otherwise having a hold applied to their account
How Does YouTube Pay Out?
YouTube issues payments to creators' AdSense accounts, provided that they have resolved any payment holds and that earnings meet the appropriate threshold. (For U.S. creators, the payment threshold is $100.)