12 Ways to Make Money on YouTube

By Timothy Moore · October 16, 2023 · 10 minute read

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12 Ways to Make Money on YouTube

Wondering how to get paid on YouTube? Nearly 400,000 people have made YouTube a full-time job, and 51 million channels now exist across the video platform. From ads to affiliate marketing to content licensing, average Americans have ample opportunities to make money off their YouTube videos.

Not sure how to make money off YouTube though? This guide contains 12 ways to generate revenue from your video content — plus helpful tips for getting started.

The Popularity of Content Creation

The internet has enabled anyone and everyone to become content creators. Brands now rely on content creators and influencers to advertise products across industries, and sites like YouTube, TikTok, and Instagram have enabled people with something to say to earn income just for posting photos, videos, and reviews.

YouTube’s continued popularity (it’s the second most visited website in the world) and TikTok’s recent explosion underscore that content creation plays an important role in our culture. And if you know how to make good content on YouTube in particular, you could make a lot of money.

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12 Ways to Get Paid on YouTube

YouTube offers creators an opportunity to make good money, but how exactly? It actually takes a lot of hard work, fresh ideas, and regular posting, but if you’ve got a knack for it, it could be an easy way to make money through social media.

Here are 12 YouTube monetization ideas to get you started:

1. Joining the YouTube Partner Program

The most common way to make money off YouTube is by joining the YouTube Partner Program. Doing so allows you to run ads on your videos — before, during, and after — as you see fit.

At one time, YouTubers could count on $1 per 1,000 views, give or take, but it’s a little more complicated today. There’s really no guarantee how much money you’ll make by running ads on your videos, though the average YouTuber now sees $3 to $5 per 1,000 video views.

According to social media management company Sprout Social, your revenue can vary depending on:

•   Your target demographic (there are some strict regulations about ads on videos intended for children)

•   How relevant the ad content is to your video

•   What kind of content you produce.

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How Does the YouTube Partner Program Work?

Not every content creator can slap ads onto the front of their videos. To run ads, you have to qualify for the YouTube Partner Program. Requirements include:

•   1,000 subscribers

•   4,000+ valid public watch hours in the last year

•   A linked Google AdSense account.

Your video content must also abide by all Community Guidelines, and you must live in a country where the program is available.

And here’s the kicker: You’ve got to stay active. YouTube can turn off monetization for channels that haven’t put out new content in the last six months.

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2. Sending Viewers to Your Blog

If you have a blog with ads, you can encourage your viewers to check it out during your video and include a link to it in your video description. YouTube video descriptions can be up to 5,000 characters (roughly 800 words), though shorter descriptions tend to perform better.

By steering viewers to your ad-optimized blog site, you can earn additional ad revenue with every pageview. Common examples where this make sense include:

•   Recipe videos paired with your recipe website

•   Travel product review videos paired with your travel blog

•   Car maintenance instructional videos paired with your how-to blog content.

Though blogs can be a good revenue source, don’t forget to factor in the cost to run a blog.

3. Sending Viewers to Your Commerce Site

There are other similar ideas for how to get paid on YouTube. For instance, you can use your YouTube video description to link viewers to your commerce site. If your channel is popular enough to warrant branded merch, this could be a good way to generate additional revenue. Alternatively, if you run your own shop selling goods like artwork, candles, or apparel, you may want to create product videos on YouTube that send viewers to your site.

If you don’t have your own merch site but instead sell items on Amazon, Etsy, or eBay, you can also send viewers there.

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4. Using Lead Magnets

Lead magnets are another idea for how to get paid on YouTube, though it’s a more indirect way of making money.

Your YouTube video description might send viewers to a free resource that you’ve created, like an ebook, template, or online course. When the viewer signs up for or downloads their freebie, you can collect their contact information for a newsletter and future sale alerts, which can in turn grow your business and earnings.

5. Starting a Channel Membership

YouTube has another great built-in feature for popular content creators: channel memberships. This enables creators to charge a monthly membership fee. In return for the fee, your viewers will expect certain perks like badges.

Channel membership usually only makes sense if you post content everyday, especially YouTube livestreams. You must be a part of the YouTube Partner Program to offer channel memberships.

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6. Encouraging the Use of Super Chat and Super Stickers

Content creators who are part of the YouTube Partner Program can also encourage viewers to utilize Super Chat and Super Stickers during live streams. How does this help to get paid off YouTube videos? To access these features, viewers pay a small fee to pin their comments and stickers to the top of a live chat feed.

7. Encouraging YouTube Premium

While you won’t get money directly for encouraging a subscriber to sign up for YouTube Premium, you will get a cut of a viewer’s monthly membership fee when they watch your videos. If your subscribers are loyal and watch your videos regularly, encouraging them to become YouTube Premium members could put more money in your pocket.

Note: YouTube Premium members don’t see ads. If your viewers are increasingly Premium members, your ad revenue may go down.

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8. Crowdfunding

Here’s another way that many YouTube creators make money: by crowdfunding. What is crowdfunding? It’s a process by which many people contribute small amounts of money, often to help an entrepreneur reach a particular business goal. Patreon is a popular choice for YouTubers, though there are plenty of crowdfunding sites to use. If you have loyal viewers who are willing to donate toward a specific goal or project, crowdfunding could be lucrative for you.

9. Using Affiliate Links in the Description

Links in video descriptions don’t just have to go to your own site. You can also add affiliate links to relevant products. For example, if your video talks about the 10 best ways to save money on a vacation, you can include affiliate links to any products or services in the description. For every viewer who clicks the link and purchases the item, you’ll earn a commission.

10. Getting Brand Sponsorships

YouTubers may also work directly with brand sponsors. For example, a recipe video for a dessert may be sponsored by a specific brand of cake mix. The YouTuber will mention the cake mix directly in the video and may even offer a code to get a discount on the product, and the brand will pay the YouTuber for the exposure.

It’s a good idea to thoroughly vet a sponsor to ensure their brand aligns with your values — and makes sense alongside your video content. Always be transparent with viewers by letting them know in the video and the description that this is a paid sponsorship.

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11. Publishing Product Reviews

Similarly, YouTubers may review a specific product in a video. In these instances, the brand may specify talking points for the reviewer to discuss. These kinds of videos are common in the beauty, health, and fitness industries. Proceed carefully, though; they may be off-putting to viewers who view the content as inauthentic.

12. Licensing Content to the Media

If one of your videos goes viral, news outlets may want to report on it and show it to their audiences. Legally, they cannot do this without paying you. Thus, media companies often approach YouTube content creators to license their content.

Just make sure your contact info is clear on your channel so that members of the media know how to find you. You could profit from this as another way to earn money off YouTube.

Tips for Starting Your Own YouTube Channel

Ready to start making money on YouTube? Here are a few tips for starting a YouTube channel:

•   Follow YouTube’s guidelines and best practices for setting up an account. YouTube will walk you through all the major steps so you don’t miss anything. You can also search the web for tips on optimizing your channel as well.

•   Think about your target audience. Creating content for the sake of creating content may be fun for you. However, if you want to make money, you should focus on content that your target audience actually wants.

•   Invest in the right equipment. Depending on the level of quality you’re aiming for, you may need to invest in high-quality light equipment, an external microphone, a video camera, and video editing software.

•   Know how to optimize your videos. There’s a science to YouTube. Research everything from writing strong video titles and descriptions to popular video trends to creating click-worthy thumbnails to optimizing videos for search.

•   Don’t quit your day job just yet. YouTube has 51 million channels, but less than 1% of those have 100,000 or more subscribers. Subscribers will be key to your success. If you can, build up your channel and subscribers while relying on income from another avenue — until you’re confident you can make the leap.

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The Takeaway

YouTube is a source of entertainment for viewers, but it also can create real revenue opportunities to content creators. There are plenty of ways to make money on YouTube, but it requires hard work, dedication, fresh ideas, and a bit of luck.

3 Money Tips

1.    If you’re saving for a short-term goal — whether it’s a vacation, a wedding, or the down payment on a house — consider opening a high-yield savings account. The higher APY that you’ll earn will help your money grow faster, but the funds stay liquid, so they are easy to access when you reach your goal.

2.    If you’re creating a budget, try the 50/30/20 budget rule. Allocate 50% of your after-tax income to the “needs” of life, like living expenses and debt. Spend 30% on wants, and then save the remaining 20% towards saving for your long-term goals.

3.    If you’re faced with debt and wondering which kind to pay off first, it can be smart to prioritize high-interest debt first. For many people, this means their credit card debt; rates have recently been climbing into the double-digit range, so try to eliminate that ASAP.

Better banking is here with SoFi, NerdWallet’s 2024 winner for Best Checking Account Overall.* Enjoy up to 4.60% APY on SoFi Checking and Savings.


How many people make money on YouTube?

In October 2021, YouTube released a report stating that 394,000 people in the U.S. alone were working (at least) a traditional 40-hour work week to generate video content for YouTube. But even more people could be making passive income off a few videos on YouTube, even if they have other full-time jobs.

How many people are on YouTube?

YouTube has more than 51 million channels with more than 2 billion monthly active users consuming content. In fact, YouTube is the second largest search engine in the world behind Google; the video search engine generates more search queries than Yahoo, Bing, Ask, and AOL combined.

On average, how much do YouTubers make per year?

With AdSense, YouTube content creators can expect to make between $0.01 and $0.03 per ad view; the average content creator earns $18 for every 1,000 ad views and $3 to $5 per 1,000 video views. Calculating an annual salary largely depends on how many views a content creator can amass.

For YouTubers with at least one million subscribers, the average salary is $60,000. But only 29,000 YouTube channels actually have more than one million subscribers.

How can you make money on YouTube without making videos?

Though it’s technically possible to make money on YouTube without making videos, it may be a much more challenging path to financial success. However, you might be able to generate revenue on a YouTube channel by reposting reels or TikToks as YouTube Shorts, uploading your Twitch streams or Instagram Lives to the YouTube platform, or even transforming an existing webinar or slideshow presentation to a video format on YouTube.

In all of these cases, you’re still technically creating video content — but you’re using content optimized for another platform and recycled for YouTube, so you may be less successful.

Photo credit: iStock/mapodile

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