How to Make Money on YouTube (Without a Million Subscribers)

YouTube stars are today’s self-made celebrities—people who have earned an audience by creating content geared toward teaching, entertaining, reviewing, and being awesome on the internet. Most of these small-screen celebs do what they do just to do it, to scratch an itch for creating things and being in front of an audience. Making money might not be your reason for starting a YouTube channel, but the opportunities to earn are a pleasant surprise once you realize how many of them there are.

  • Who makes the most money on YouTube?

  • Who’s going to watch your YouTube Channel?

  • How to make money on YouTube

  • How to “sell” without annoying your audience

  • Are you ready to monetize your YouTube channel?

Who makes the most money on YouTube?

According to Forbes, these 10 channels were the top earners on YouTube from June 2017 to June 2018:

  • Ryan's World, $22 million (22.4 million subscribers)

  • Jake Paul, $21.5 million (19.7 million subscribers)

  • Dude Perfect, $20 million (47.1 million subscribers)

  • DanTDM, $18.5 million (22.3 million subscribers)

  • Jeffree Star, $18 million (16.5 million subscribers)

  • Markiplier, $17.5 million (24.5 million subscribers)

  • VanossGaming, $17 million (24.9 million subscribers)

  • Jacksepticeye, $16 million (23 million subscribers

  • PewDiePie, $15.5 million (102 million subscribers)

  • Logan Paul, $14.5 million (19.9 million subscribers).

This list might leave you with a lot of questions about how these YouTube stars earned their fortunes. Let’s explore some of those questions.

Do you get paid for uploading videos on YouTube?

Content creators aren’t paid by YouTube for the videos they upload. Neither are videos monetized by default. For you to start making money on YouTube, you have to enable monetization in your YouTube account settings. From there, you have options to join the YouTube Partners Program or have your videos listed on YouTube Premium.

How do you make money from YouTube?

There are a few takeaways from Forbes’ list, putting aside the millions of dollars made and subscribers gained.

First, YouTube channels can be monetized even if they don’t have millions of subscribers. Your earning potential isn’t determined solely by the number of subscribers and views you have, but also by the level of engagement you generate, the niche you cater to, and the revenue channels you explore. That’s not to say subscriber count doesn’t matter—check out our tips to get more subscribers on YouTube.

Second, this list of top 10 earners might give you the impression that the millions of dollars made comes directly from YouTube. In fact, each of these channels has its own line of merchandise. These channels found and built their audiences first, before launching their own merchandise. If making money on YouTube is in your marketing plan, the first step is the same for everybody: have a clear understanding of your target audience.

Who’s going to watch your YouTube channel?

Building your own audience puts you in a great position to monetize content in a variety of ways. But you’ll only be able to take full advantage of the opportunities you have if you understand the makeup of your audience.

For many YouTubers looking to monetize, the more niche your channel, the better position you’ll be in to work with brands looking to target specific audiences (more on that later).

You'll want to pay close attention to:

  • The gender of your audience, to see if its skews toward one particular group.

  • The age range most of your audience falls into.

  • The geographic location—countries or cities—where your videos are being watched.

  • Your audience’s overall engagement, or “watch time.”

With this demographic information at hand, you’ll have a better understanding of your own audience and be able to work better with brands. All demographic insight can be pulled from your YouTube analytics, but to compare your own channel against others try a tool like Social Blade. With that out of the way, we can start talking about the different ways your YouTube channel can make money.

Like learning how to make money on Instagram or via blogging, your audience might unlock your YouTube channel’s earning potential. But when you create multiple revenue streams, through side side hustles or businesses, it's easier to monetize.

Luckily, there are several ways to accomplish this—let's take a deeper look at each of these streams.

How to make money on YouTube

  • Become a YouTube Partner and earn money from ads.

  • Sell products or merchandise.

  • Crowdfund your next creative project.

  • Let your audience support your work through “fan funding.”

  • License your content to the media.

  • Work with brands as an influencer or affiliate.

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