If I get asked one question more than any other on my YouTube channel or in person, it’s “how do you make money on YouTube?” The answer is fairly simple, but it’s also not the most comfortable thing to talk about, even amongst friends. We were all raised not to talk about money, and there’s a fine line between a genuine curiosity about this crazy Youtube thing and a not so polite inquiry about how much money I make. I do completely understand the curiosity, because, let’s face it, being a YouTuber is a totally bizarre and very recent opportunity. If I was a teacher or a insurance salesperson or a doctor, I wouldn’t get these questions, but I do recognize that there is a desire to comprehend more about this very 21st century occupation. I made a video about it on my YouTube channel HERE, and it was the hardest video I’ve ever made. I’m sure I didn’t do the topic enough justice, but I have a feeling there will be at least one more follow-up video to address the questions that are sure to come. This blog post isn’t that much easier to write, but I want to share what I know and what I’ve learned these past six years with you. As you read this post or watch the video, please take it in the spirit in which it was intended-to educate, to satisfy some curiosity, and to help those that are genuinely interested in making a living making YouTube videos. Yes, I love what I do, and yes, it started out as a hobby, but it has morphed into something so much more than I could have ever dreamed-an ability to still be at home full-time but contribute financially to my family’s expenses, to contribute toward our children’s college fund, and to continue to absolutely love what I do.
So how DO I make money making YouTube videos? Well, there are three main income streams available to me. I may oversimplify some of the concepts (mostly because I still don’t understand the math behind some of them), but there are great resources all over the Internet that can expand on what I will cover here.
Income Stream #1: YouTube Views
When I started earning money making YouTube videos, this was the only income stream available to me. In the first months of making YouTube videos, I didn’t make any money at all. But once I became a YouTube Partner, I was able to get a share of the advertising income earned from showing my videos. You’ve all seen a YouTube video, where there is either a commercial shown before or after a video, or there is an actual ad that pops up on the bottom of the screen during a video. Those are ads, and those brands have paid for the advertising space. Once I became a YouTube partner, I received a teeny tiny infinitesimal share of that advertising income. There is a very complicated algorithm that YouTube uses to figure out what that share is, but for the purposes of simplicity let’s just say that it’s primarily based on the amount of views I get per video. So at the end of each month, as long as I’ve met the minimum threshold of earning $100 in what they call AdSense, I get a payment directly into my checking account from Google.
Income Stream #2: Sponsored Videos
Now we get into the controversial/polarizing part of YouTube. Many people have very strong views on sponsored videos. Again, for the sake of this post, let’s just stick to how things work. Fairly soon after I started making videos, I would get emails from different brands and retailers offering to pay me to make a video about their product. For a long time, I refused to do those videos, mostly because I had never heard of the brand or product and didn’t see how my channel or my subscribers would benefit from hearing about them. Eventually, once my channel grew, I started hearing from larger, reputable brands. At that point, I decided that I would do sponsored videos on my YouTube channel, as long as it satisfied certain personal requirements. The most important of those requirements was that I actually had to like the product, followed closely by whether it was for a product/brand I already used and loved, or for a well-known company that I was always curious about AND that I felt my subscribers would enjoy learning about as well. The reason you will never see sponsored videos that are negative is because that’s just unethical. How can you take money from someone and then bash their product all over the Internet? Make sure you make it clear from the beginning in writing that you reserve the right to cancel the project if you don’t like the product.
I also made the personal decision to follow all FTC guidelines and disclose very clearly to my viewers that the video was sponsored, and even though I have received some negative feedback about this, transparency is important to me. I just wish other YouTubers felt the same…but I digress. Sometimes brands would come right out and offer me a certain payment in their offer, other brands would ask me to tell them how much I wanted to be paid for the video. That has always been difficult for me–I don’t want to sound greedy but I don’t want to get underpaid either. I recently learned about a great website called www.socialbluebook.com. It will ask you to input your channel size, social media numbers, etc, and then give you recommended values for sponsored videos, blog posts, and social media posts.
I also get a lot of questions from other bloggers and YouTubers about how I got to work with certain brands. I have personally never approached a brand to do a video, but I know that some do. In my case, they either just randomly found me and reached out to me, or they found me through an Influencer Marketing Company that has my contact information. I’ve worked with quite a few Influencer Marketing Companies (Grapevine, Reelio, Tapfluence, CrowdTap) and it all comes down to your gut feeling. It’s important that the companies I work with share a similar work ethic and moral compass with me, especially when it comes to transparency and honesty with my viewers. If I’m not feeling right, I back out. Just remember that this is a business and that contracts are involved, so read very carefully what you sign your name to before you decide to enter into an agreement. Most of these companies pay through PayPal, so if you haven’t already set up a PayPal account, I highly recommend doing so if this is something you’re interested in doing at some point.
Income Stream #3: Affiliate Links
For me, using affiliate links was a natural progression of my channel’s growth. Early on in my YouTube life, I started listing everything I mentioned in the video and everything I wore, because as a viewer that’s what I preferred when watching other people’s videos. I used to watch videos with a pen and notepad and write down everything they used or mentioned. It was a bit tedious and I had little scraps of paper all over my house! Then I would get subscribers asking me where they could find product XYZ, and more often then not, I would Google it for them and let them know. Almost 4 years ago, I was invited to join a company that generates links to all the products I use, to stores I already shop at, and if viewers click on those links AND actually use them to purchase something, then I get a small commission from those sales. It was a great fit for my YouTube channel because I was already listing the products in the description box, and now I could easily add links right next to the items so my viewers didn’t have to search for where to get them.
There are quite a few companies out there that you can apply to and become part of their affiliate program. I am with the company rewardStyle and I am also with Shop Style, although I rarely use their links. I have heard of another company called Magic Links but I don’t have any personal knowledge of them or their business practices so I don’t have anything to say about them. I’m sure there are others out there, but those are the ones I’m familiar with. You can also apply to be part of an affiliate program directly with a retailer. I know Amazon, Sigma Beauty, Coastal Scents, even iTunes, has affiliate programs. There are literally hundreds if not thousands of opportunities with different retailers and brands. Again, as with companies that broker sponsored videos, most of the affiliate marketing companies or programs pay out through PayPal on a monthly or bi-weekly basis, as long as your earnings have met the minimum $100 threshold.
So there you have it…the three main ways that I’m able to make an income making YouTube videos. I hope that this has been helpful to those who wanted to know more about the business side of YouTube, and I can’t wait to read your comments and questions. If there’s enough interest on a particular topic, I’m happy to make a follow-up video (and blog post) to address the questions. As always, I appreciate all of you more than you can possibly know, and I know that none of this would be possible without YOU!!