Social Media

How to Make Money on YouTube

Chris Cerny

Every day, 5 billion YouTube videos are watched around the globe. According to Braden Becker, an SEO specialist with HubSpot, the average YouTube session now lasts about 40 minutes. This number is up 50% from the previous year, and will likely continue to climb. Although many people believe that YouTube is just a place to waste time, the fact of the matter is, YouTube is a lucrative place to make money and monetize your account – if you know where to get started.

First, you have to ask the question: “Who’s making profitable content?”

In fact, anyone from musicians to teenagers to gamers can earn money with a basic YouTube account and a little savvy. Once you find your audience and your niche, there are many ways to monetize your YouTube account, such as:

  • As an Advertiser
  • Through the YouTube Partner Program
  • YouTube Premium
  • Selling Merchandise
  • & Sponsored Content

These are just a few of the ways you can make your first buck on the site. However, to really earn, you’ll have to put in a fair amount of time and effort.

Let’s cover each of the ways to monetize your YouTube account more in-depth.

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Make Money on YouTube as an Advertiser

As an advertiser, you’re going to be populating your YouTube channel with video ads made by you. These are different from TV ads as YouTube is more specific and targeted to audiences, rather than broadcasted across a swath of channels. Essentially, you pay the site to host your ads on other, highly watched channels.

To make money on YouTube as an advertiser, you are playing the long game. This isn’t a get-rich-quick scheme – but it is a way to stick a good-sized chunk of change in your pocket. In fact, there are multiple studies that show these advertisements do work (with a little bit of effort).

There are three types of ads on the site:

  1. TrueView Ads
  2. Preroll
  3. Bumpers

TrueView Ads

TrueView ads are for those advertisers who have a great story to tell and a connection to your product. They are an opportunity to create longer, high-quality, creative spots that appear adjacent to the YouTube videos your target audience watches. They come in two main forms:

  • In-Stream
  • Discovery

In-Stream videos play right before the users selected video “in the stream” of the video. Users can skip after the ad plays for 5 seconds. Discovery ads appear on the right sidebar of videos, just below the “Up Next” video, as a suggested video.

Making money on YouTube from these ads is a little harder since they are generally generating revenue from long-term brand awareness. Both are pay-per-view, which means you pay Google a fixed rate for every view the ad gets. Their return on investment (ROI) can be measured on Google AdWords.


Preroll ads play in the stream right before a user’s selected video, similar to In-Stream ads. However, unlike an In-Stream ad, you can’t skip a Preroll ad. These videos run for a maximum of 30 seconds, though YouTube confirmed it will limit them to 15 to 20 seconds. Making an ad with an enticing call to action is one way to make a lot of money on YouTube through preroll ads.

There is another option of Preroll ads through YouTube’s remarketing options. This enables you to send new videos back to users who are already engaged with your channel. It also helps you learn more about your audience’s background and interests.


Bumpers are the shortest ads you can buy at a mere six seconds long. However, they are the best for brand awareness since they play in the breaks between long videos or a YouTube playlist people put on in the background. Although they may be short, YouTube found 90% of them were remembered later. The key is to make them catchy, enticing, and a little punchy.

Once you’ve created a YouTube channel and uploaded your video content, you can create an AdWords account. This makes it easier to control since the ads are charged on a cost-per-minute (CPM) basis. This means you pay a set amount for every 1,000 times your ad runs on YouTube.

Cash in on the YouTube Partner Program

One of the key questions to ask as a creator is, “How do I monetize my YouTube videos?” Making videos and buying ad time is one thing; monetizing your videos themselves is another.

The YouTube Partner Program is one of the best ways to monetize your videos and earn money directly from the site. There are some requirements to get into the YouTube Partner Program, though. As a creator, you must have:

  1. A YouTube channel (free with a Google Plus account)
  2. At least 4,000 watch hours and 1,000 subscribers in the previous 12 months
  3. Set up an AdSense account to track your money made from YouTube

How Do I Enable Monetization on YouTube?

There are a few steps you need to take to enable monetization once you qualify for the Partner Program:

  1. Sign into the YouTube account you want to monetize
  2. Click the icon for your account in the top right corner
  3. Click YouTube Studio
  4. In the left menu, select Other Features > Monetization
  5. Read and agree to the YouTube Partner terms
  6. Create or connect an AdSense account to your channel
  7. Set your monetization preferences

When you’re done with that, click the Analytics tab on the left side of the dashboard. From there, you’ll need to choose Revenue at the top, then scroll down to the Monthly Estimated Revenue chart. On this chart, you can get an idea of your predicted revenue.

Google AdSense

To get approved as a partner, you need to connect your channel to AdSense, which is fairly easy as long as you follow Google’s guide. Advertisers use AdSense to bid for space on videos relevant to their audiences. You get paid based on the number of “impressions” your videos get.

Once your ads are active, YouTube will take a cut of your revenue – a full 45%, to be exact, leaving 55% in your hands. However, not every ad is played in full, so YouTube has a set of guidelines for determining how they bill their advertisers (which in turn affects how you get paid).

To bill an advertiser, YouTube requires that a viewer must click an ad or watch the ad in full (15, 30, or 45 seconds) for you to get paid. You’ll start getting payments once your AdSense balance reaches $100.

As a YouTube Partner, there are other ways than just ads to earn money. There are membership perks and other features as well, such as Super Chat, which allows subs to have their messages highlighted during a live stream (if they pay). YouTube Premium is another viable option as well.

Make Money with YouTube Premium and Memberships

Another way to monetize your YouTube videos is through the website’s paid membership program, YouTube Premium. This allows fans to watch and support their favorite content creators without ads. Creators are paid for YouTube Premium based on how many (and often) members watch their content.

Within YouTube Premium, there’s also channel memberships to help you make money. Like everything on YouTube, there are a couple of requirements you need to fill:

  • You need to be at least 18 years old
  • and have more than 30,000 subscribers

Your viewers can then become members of your channel. They can get custom features and member-only exclusives in return. You’ll need a strategy to convince people to become members, though.

Make Money Selling Channel-Based Merchandise

There are other ways to make money on YouTube that are indirectly related to your account. For instance, you can sell your own merchandise, which allows you to increase your exposure by putting your online brand in the offline world.

Selling branded swag is easier than it might seem at first since there are many places where you can order affordable designs. Whether you want to identify as a content creator first and entrepreneur second, or vice versa, there is a method out there for you.

Whichever way you choose, merchandise is a great way to make money on YouTube. Consider these steps to get started:

  1. Imagine and design your product
  2. Source and/or build your product
  3. Create your shop and landing page
  4. Enable your YouTube Partner shelf
  5. Promote your product in your videos

Don’t forget to add your store’s link to your video descriptions. This is where you will find most of your traffic comes from.

Note: Don’t forget to say thank you! (Because it’s polite. Also, it’s an excuse to remind people how great and popular your product is.)

Making Money from Sponsored YouTube Content

Sponsored content – in other words, acting as an influencer – is another way to monetize your YouTube account. Using YouTube’s #sponcon is a great way to rake in the dough without YouTube grabbing almost half of your profits before they hit your pockets. (And here you thought Instagram was the only place to find influencers nowadays.) There are a couple of ways to enter the influencer life.

Affiliate Links

The main form of sponsored content used by creators is through affiliate links. As an affiliate, there is no eligibility requirement; for once, this is all in your own hands. They are great for channels that offer:

  • Reviews
  • How-to’s
  • Frequently recommend products

To start, join affiliate networks through Click Bank or Amazon’s Affiliate Program. The programs do take a percentage of your commission, but the success is still tied to the success of the YouTube channel. They are different than the Partner Program since you earn revenue from the company you are an affiliate, rather than from YouTube and its advertisers.

Find a Brand

To start making sponsored content, find a brand that wants to work with you. Companies interested in your channel’s audience may:

  • Sponsor your videos
  • or offer you product placement deals in exchange for a shoutout

You need to be able to offer a large and/or engaged audience and content relevant to the company’s audience. This could lead to the negotiation of a deal.

Make a Deal

Making a deal as an ambassador or affiliate is a lot easier than as a YouTube Partner. As an affiliate, you talk directly to the companies and negotiate a deal. The companies also pay you directly instead of earning through YouTube.

There are affiliate marketing sites that can help you out. You also need to make sure you like the products and the company before you sign up. Otherwise, you can’t make good content and be a good ambassador for the company (which hurts your bottom line in turn).

Be Transparent

If you do have an endorsement, you must notify YouTube before posting your video. There are also other guidelines in both the U.S. and U.K. YouTube also has a visible disclosure feature to let your viewers know. That being said, YouTube is one of the highest-paid platforms for brand partnerships.

A Final Word on Making Money on YouTube

Is it worth it to try to make money on YouTube? The short answer is yes, if you are passionate about videos and have the patience to work at your craft. But don’t rely on your account for your full income at first; use it as a side hustle and build up your brand. As long as your videos are being watched, YouTube income is passive after the video is posted. As your video library and views grow, so will your income.

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Chris Cerny
Chris Cerny is currently a student and intern based out of New Jersey. He has written many articles for Financial Professional. He has been investing his money in the stock market for the last 3 years.