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How to make money on YouTube [2020]

This post may contain affiliate links for products discussed. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases. What this means is that by clicking one of these links, we may sometimes receive an affiliate fee.

Last Updated on September 26, 2020 by Lou Wheeler

YouTube is the largest online video community in the world, which gives you some major potential as a content creator. It gives creators the ability to reach thousands, if not millions of people worldwide. If you want to learn how to make money on YouTube, you’ve come to the right place!

There are a variety of ways to make money on YouTube, including subscriptions, memberships, advertisements, and merchandise sales. Most successful YouTubers utilize a mix of these strategies to create income. You can use just one, but you likely will make more money using more than one strategy.

You can do tons of things on YouTube to make money without being a partner. However, you must be a member of the YouTube Partner program in order to do any of those things in a really big way. For that reason, it makes sense to start here, discuss its features, and learn how to become eligible.

What is the YouTube Partner Program?

The YouTube Partner Program (YPP) is a comprehensive set of guidelines and parameters that your channel and content must meet in order to be monetized on the platform and is most likely the first method you’ll look into when learning how to make money in YouTube.

It includes specific criteria regarding video watch time, content, and subscribers. When a channel meets these requirements, the creator can apply for the YPP and begin generating income from their videos.

One of the really cool things about the YPP is that YouTube will find advertisers for you once you enable advertising on your channel. This means that if your channel meets the requirements and follows the guidelines, YouTube will find advertisers for you! Every time someone clicks on or watches an advertisement, the advertiser pays YouTube and YouTube pays its creators.

Minimum Eligibility Requirements

In order to become a YouTube partner, you’ll need to meet a few basic requirements. They are as follows:

  1. First and foremost, you need to follow ALL of the YPP Monetization Policies
    • YouTube is a huge community of creators and advertisers. It is critically important that all partners follow the YPP policies in order to keep the community safe and maintain the trust of our advertisers.
  2. It might seem like a no-brainer, but you must live in a country where the YPP is available.
  3. You need to have at least 4,000 hours of watch time over the past 12 months.
    • These need to be valid public watch hours, which do not include ad campaigns, private videos, unlisted videos, deleted videos, or videos played from the “stories and short videos” shelf.
  4. You must have more than 1,000 subscribers to your channel.
  5. You need to have a linked AdSense account.

Once you have met all of these basic requirements, you are eligible to apply for the YPP. Becoming a part of this program requires a formal application, followed by a waiting period of anywhere from one week to over a month. During this time, your channel will undergo a thorough review of eligibility requirements, content, and suitability for the YPP. This assessment is conducted by YouTube’s reviewer team.

It doesn’t matter what genre or niche you’re in, as long as you meet the requirements you can be accepted. Whether you’re a vlogger, live streamer, reviewer, or anything in between you can definitely monetize your uploads.

And don’t let your gear get in the way of your creativity. Whether or not you have a full camera for YouTube and live streaming or you’re just using your iPhone for video, this won’t impact your acceptance. Just make the best YouTube video you can with the gear you have.

How to Apply for the YouTube Partner Program

Once you reach these thresholds, you can go into your creator studio to apply for YPP status. If you’re not sure if you meet the thresholds, you can go to your channel analytics page to see where you stand. When you’re ready to apply, just follow the process outlined below.

  1. Login to your YouTube Account
  2. Click on “YouTube Studio” in the upper right-hand corner of the screen
  3. Click on the “Monetization” link on the left side of the screen
  4. Click the “apply” button
  5. Fill out your application and click “submit”

As mentioned previously, it can take more than a month to get through the review process and become eligible to monetize your content. In the meantime, it’s important that you continue creating and posting content on a regular basis. Don’t try to save new content until after the monetization review because it will affect the stats on your channel.

What are the YouTube Partner Program Monetization Policies?

These are basically the guidelines you are expected to follow as a content creator on YouTube. They are designed to keep the community safe and allow everyone to continue making money. The “help” section of YouTube is an excellent resource for all of the details regarding these policies.

Some of the fundamental principles included in these guidelines are:

In addition to these guidelines, your videos must meet the advertiser-friendly content guidelines if you want to monetize your videos by allowing ads to run. Most advertisers want their brands associated with specific types of content and channels. In order to protect the integrity of the advertisers and their brands, YouTube created the advertiser-friendly content guidelines.

Community Guidelines are set forth in order to protect the community and its viewers. These guidelines address things in various categories including sensitive content, dangerous content, deceptive practices, and regulated goods.

Sensitive content includes things like child safety, explicit content, and suicide/self-injury. The dangerous content section addresses violent crime, hate speech, bullying, etc. Deceptive practices include things like fake engagements and impersonation, while regulated goods include weapons and drugs.

The Terms of Service section outlines the various legalities associated with being a user of or creator on the platform. It defines legal entities such as what the service is, what it provides, and who is eligible to use it. The terms of service also go into significant detail regarding limitations and restrictions associated with using YouTube.

Copyright is also addressed in the YouTube help section of the platform. In a nutshell, it states that creators are only allowed to post their own original content. It also goes into detail about using music or graphics that someone else owns the rights to use.

As a creator, you are not at liberty to use intellectual property that someone else created without written consent from the creator. This is especially true of music that might be playing in your videos. If you do not have a license agreement to use the music in your videos, you shouldn’t be using it.

Google AdSense is a free account that allows google to choose which ads to run on your content and when. It matches ads to your content based on what the advertiser offers as a product or service and what sort of content they want to be associated with. It also considers the type of visitors you have who regularly come to your channel.

You must open an AdSense account and link it to your channel in order to monetize your YouTube content. The help section on YouTube offers some great insight into AdSense and how it works. Click the link above to go directly to the AdSense page on YouTube.

Ways to Make Money on YouTube as a YouTube Partner

Now that you know how to become a YPP member, you can start to explore all the money-making options that are available to you. Although advertising seems like the easiest and most logical way to earn money, it’s certainly not the only way! Here are some of the ways that YouTube content creators make money on their channels.

Advertising Revenue

Once you meet all the criteria and become a part of the YPP, you can turn on the advertising function on your channel. This allows Google to runs its advertisers’ ads on your page. You will be paid per view, click, and engagement with the advertisement. The best part about this option is that it really doesn’t require any thought on your part.

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As long as you continue to create and post content, the advertisers will come. As a general rule, the less controversial, the better your chances of having advertisements run on your channel. As mentioned before, try to keep your content within the advertiser-friendly content guidelines to avoid getting blacklisted from advertisers’ budgets.

Ad revenue isn’t the highest-paying form of revenue available to your YouTube channel, but it’s usually the first step to making money on YouTube and typically is a prelude to getting brand deals. You’ll need to either get a huge amount of views to subsist on ads alone or be in a high CPM niche for higher per-view payments.

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Channel Memberships

If you have more than 30,000 subscribers (gaming channels need 1,000 subscribers), you can start to charge a membership fee for people to access content on your channel. This is an excellent option for revenue generation because you don’t really have to do anything different than you are already doing, other than offering the memberships. You need to continue creating content that is valuable to your subscribers in order to charge a membership fee.

The Join button for the channel Internet Today. Go subscribe so they can finally hit 200K subs and Ricky can finally get a haircut.

When members subscribe and pay a membership fee, they typically expect members-only benefits such as live chats, badges, emojis, and videos. Your members-only perks must adhere to the YouTube channel memberships guidelines and policies or you will not be eligible to charge membership fees. There are some restrictions on this content, so be sure to read the policies carefully before attempting to charge for memberships.

Super Chat

Super Chat is another creative way to make money on YouTube that allows your subscribers and members direct access to communicate with you. With Super Chat, subscribers can pay extra cash for their comments to remain pinned to the top of the chat on a live video for a specific amount of time. This gives them a better opportunity to be seen by you (the content creator) and potentially have direct interaction.

When you go live on YouTube and offer Super Chat as an option, the viewers will see a cash sign. They can click on the cash sign, enter their credit card info, and have their comments pinned to the top of the chat for as long as five hours. To protect creators from harassment, YouTube has a feature where you can block offensive or harassing words and ban viewers who harass you or make you uncomfortable.

This is an excellent feature for creators who have a lot of subscribers and go live on a regular basis. Super Chats are a bit of an underrated tool when looking at how to make money with YouTube, but given the right community, it can be very powerful. If you have a personality that makes it easy for you to interact with the public, this might be a perfect option for you.

Merchandise shelf

While you don’t need to be accepted into the YPP in order to place links to merch sites in your description (and we go further into this a bit later on in this guide), there is a specific merch sales display method that is available to YPP members, and this is the Merchandise Shelf.

The merchandise shelf shown on Philip DeFranco’s channel.

YouTube offers this to members with at least 10,000 subscribers as a way of directly advertising the channel’s merch to its viewers visually. The merch shelf shows up just below the video title but before the description. You’ll see examples of this on channels that really focus on their merch sales, and is a good way of making viewers very familiar with your available items.

How does YouTube send you money after you’ve earned it?

A totally accurate and exact representation of a YouTuber getting paid, definitely not a stock photo.

The main method of payouts from YouTube is through the Adsense platform. As you’ve already linked your Adsense account to your YouTube account and the traditional monetization method is advertisements, it makes sense that it comes through Adsense, and it would be good to be familiar with the YouTube/Adsense payment eligibility and guidelines.

If you have received funds from Super Chats and memberships these will be transferred to your Adsense account once those transactions are finalized. As a result, you may receive these a bit later than Adsense payments.

Do You Have to be a YouTube Partner to Make Money on YouTube?

No, you don’t have to be a partner in order to monetize your content in other ways. But it does make the process much easier, which is why we recommend it as an important step when learning how to make money on YouTube.

As a YouTube partner, you have access to a lot more features than just advertising. This gives you the ability to charge memberships for access to your channel and use other paid features like Super Chat. These types of features are not available to non-YPP creators, so you might as well aim for YPP status!

How to make money on YouTube without monetization

While you won’t be able to apply for the YPP right after creating your YouTube channel, there are other ways to monetize your uploads right out of the gate.

Yes, the goal is usually to get that YouTube monetization enabled and start getting Adsense money, it’s not the only way to earn money, nor is it the most lucrative in most instances.

There are absolutely more profitable monetization methods and you should most definitely look into as many of them as reasonably possible.

Creating Sponsored Content

Highly successful YouTube creators are literally sitting on a goldmine when it comes to striking a deal with a major brand. If you have thousands of followers and lots of exposure on YouTube, chances are pretty high that brands will want to partner with you. But you have to do the work on your own.

Unlike Google video ads that run on your channel without you really doing anything other than creating content, brand partnerships are a completely different animal. Depending on your niche, you may have specific brands in mind that you’ve always wanted to be affiliated with. If you have a ton of subscribers who are the same target audience as your choice brand, you can probably strike a deal pretty easily.

Here’s how:

  1. First, you want to put together your sales pitch. Yes, we said sales pitch. You need to be able to clearly articulate what your brand is and why the partner should want to become affiliated with you.
  2. Practice, practice, practice your pitch until you can do it in your sleep. It should roll off your tongue like you were born with it.
  3. Consider putting together a pitch deck of slides, a video, or a digital sales kit that you can use to sell your brand and your channel.
  4. Know how much your videos are worth! YouTube videos are one of the most expensive types of influencer marketing that companies can buy. Since videos are more expensive and time-consuming to create than a simple Facebook or Instagram story, make sure to charge accordingly.
  5. Be transparent with your audience when you produce a sponsored video. Google has a very specific set of ad policies and YouTube has an excellent visible disclosure that you can display to let your viewers know it’s an advertisement. This is critical for keeping the confidence of your viewers.

While ad revenue can definitely amount to a pretty good chunk of change, most YouTubers end up earning the bulk of their revenue from sponsored video deals. When you break down the income per view, sponsored videos definitely earn more than ads.

How to Make Money Using Affiliate Links

This is basically a way for creators to send their viewers directly to a custom Amazon page that lets them purchase the products you are promoting in your video. In return, you get a cut of the profits from the sales.

Affiliate links and courses shown on Potato Jet’s channel

The amount you earn per sale varies within product categories, and while Amazon commissions have recently been slashed, the revenue can really stack up with a lot of views and traffic.

You don’t have to be a YouTube Partner to do this, which makes it a great way to get started if you’re not yet eligible for the partner program and is one of the first things we’d advise doing when learning how to make money on YouTube. Let’s talk about how it works.

Amazon Influencer Program (Amazon Associates)

The most popular way to do this is called the Amazon Influencer Program, which is a subcategory of the Amazon Associates affiliate program.

You will receive a commission or referral fee on anything they purchase from Amazon if you sent the traffic to the Amazon page. For example, if they click on the link in your video, it takes them to Amazon, they purchase the product you recommended, but also 5 other items, you get a commission on all of them.

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Some insider tips for success in this arena include:

  1. List your best selling products at the top of your custom Amazon Influencer page
  2. List other items on your page that Amazon recommends going with the larger products. You can figure this out by going to the product you are promoting and scrolling down to the bottom where Amazon suggests other products. List these on your custom page, as well. It will encourage your viewers to buy them, which increases your commission.
  3. Select products that are eligible for Amazon Prime shipping. People are way more likely to buy a product that will include free shipping. (Hint: You can even earn money from Amazon Associates bounties for becoming Amazon Prime members as well!)
  4. List the products that you use to produce your videos in the description of your video. Mention them in your video, as well. This will send people directly to your description where the links are to take them to your Amazon custom page.
  5. If you do DIY content on YouTube, this is one of the best strategies you can use. People want to learn how to build or make whatever you’re making, so they will purchase the products on your custom page.
  6. Product review videos are one of the top types of videos when it comes to viewer conversion. If they Google a specific product, land on your video, and trust your review of the product, they are highly likely to click on your link and purchase it.

Technically, you don’t need to join the Influencer Program to be an Amazon Associate, but you do need to have some sort of actual online presence (website with traffic, YouTube, etc) and you’ll need to drive at least three qualified sales within 90 days from your Amazon Associate links.

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If your YouTube channel has even a small number of regular views this shouldn’t be much of an obstacle, and the Amazon Associate program is an excellent way to earn money with your channel–even with lower watch hours.

Other Affiliate Link Options

Obviously, Amazon is not the only affiliate you can link to in order to make commissions from other companies. And believe it or not, the commission revenue when working directly with a brand is often much higher than Amazon commission fees.

If you are creating content that includes mentioning other products that you absolutely love, find out if those companies have affiliate programs. Most physical products can be found on Amazon, which is described above, but if it’s something that is not on Amazon, find out directly from the company if they participate in affiliate links.

In a nutshell, if you reach out to those companies and form an affiliate partnership with them, you will be given a unique affiliate link that you can include across all of your platforms. Let’s face it, chances are that you not only have a YouTube channel, but also an Instagram account, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and more. If you include your affiliate links on relevant posts on these platforms, you have a better chance of making more money through commissions and referral fees.

You can also do the exact opposite of this and actually ask your followers or viewers to promote your product or service in exchange for a commission. 

Perhaps you create and sell online courses. If your students complete your course and absolutely love you for everything you’ve taught them, set up an affiliate program, and ask them to promote you. This will help you build your business through grass-roots marketing, drive more traffic to your channels and website, and give another entrepreneur the opportunity to benefit from your success.

Merchandise Sales

Whether you started with a channel and now want to branch out to products, or vice-versa, this is a great option. Many entrepreneurs start with a product that they sell online and then develop a YouTube marketing strategy to boost sales. This is an excellent strategy and definitely one that can help you meet your sales goals!

Other entrepreneurs start with a YouTube channel, build their audience, begin monetizing, and then decide to add merchandise sales to supplement their income. This is also a viable way to make extra money and YouTube and can be even easier because you already have the audience!

If you are the latter and you already have a channel and are now working through product design, be sure to keep the following items in mind:

  • Your merchandise should be unique to you and your brand. It should be designed in such a way that allows your followers to connect with you.
  • Consider shipping and returns in your plan. Do you want to handle everything on your own? Or would you prefer that the manufacturer drop-ship things to your customers and handle all shipping and returns? Do some research on this, including fees, and make the choice that is best for you.
  • You should consider developing a landing page for your product. If people see it or hear about it on your channel, you want a place for them to click to then go purchase the product. YouTube has a list of approved merch sites that you can reference for this.
  • Find out whether or not you’re eligible for the YouTube shelf feature. If so, you should definitely enable it.
  • Don’t try to open with an entire department store! Choose one or two items that will represent you and your brand. Develop and launch those to see how it goes video by video. Then expand from there.

Merch sales also provide a unique opportunity to further diversify your audience reach. You can collect your customer’s email address as part of the purchase process and be able to grow a mailing list to help you announce other merch or other useful outreaches.

Crowdfunding

Crowdfunding is a less-common but still viable way to bring in cash through your YouTube channel. It is used to solicit donations for various campaigns and charities. However, it is also used for YouTubers to get their followers to help them fund things such as a new mic, camera, computer, or channel project.

There are a variety of platforms for creators to use that YouTube approved. Of course, you can use others, but you can’t link to them directly from your videos unless they are on the approved list. This is reason enough to use the ones on the approved list.

License Your Content to the Media

Last but not least, let’s say you’re a total rock star and one of your videos goes viral. Because, of course, it will! In this case, the media will be chomping at the bit to get access to your content to run on their various outlets.

The most important step in this process is to make sure the media can find you. This can be as simple as setting up an email account that is easy for them to find and including this email address in your YouTube channel description.

You might also want to have a pre-written contract template that can be customized for each media outlet and includes the terms of the agreement, how much they are required to pay you, etc.

If you want to be more proactive, you can join a video rights marketplace that lets you upload your video content to a library that the media uses when they are looking for filler stories. Often times, journalists and producers are stretched for time and looking for additional content to run in their next segment. They will check out these video rights marketplaces for content that creators have uploaded for that specific purpose.

Be sure to read all of the terms and conditions prior to uploading your videos. You need to be knowledgeable about your rights and theirs as it pertains to the content that you created.

Final thoughts

By now, you should have a pretty good sense of how to make money on YouTube. This is in no way an exhaustive list of every monetization technique or platform out there, but it’s definitely a great place to start. The truth is that YouTube is an extremely powerful tool for creators to share their thoughts and ideas and potentially make a living doing so.

Being a YouTube creator can be extremely fulfilling, but not necessarily profitable unless you know how to make it that way–and put in the required time and effort. We recommend taking time to explore each of the options mentioned here and deciding what’s going to work for you. Not all content creators or YouTube channels are created equal and different strategies will work for different people.

Do you have a favorite way of using Youtube or have questions getting started monetizing your channel? We’d love to hear your thoughts below!

Lou Wheelerhttps://www.creatorbeat.com
Musician, photographer, and tech nerd in Sacramento, CA. Currently learning audio engineering and video production while spending way too much time on YouTube.

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[…] In fact, the Google-owned website has over a billion users all uploading their own video content and, in a lot of cases, profiting from it once you know how to make money on YouTube. […]

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