The most profitable YouTubers make several million dollars per year. Making that much might not be realistic for most, but aYouTuber with over a million subscribers earns $60,000 annually. That’s not bad, either!
But being a successful YouTuber isn’t easy—it requires time and effort.
The most effective creators plan their content strategically. They’re not waiting for sponsorship opportunities to ad roll in—instead, they’re developing content with monetization in mind.
What does that look like in practice? Let’s say you’re planning on posting a video cooking an old family recipe. If you’re part of YouTube’s ad revenue-sharing program, simply posting the video will make you some spare change. But if you integrate sponsored ingredients, offer affiliate links for your kitchen tools, show off some of your cooking-related merch, and take a minute at the end to tease additional content in your Patreon, you’ll make much more. Your viewers get the content they love, and you get cash. It’s a win-win.
Feeling inspired? Apply a combination of these strategies to maximize your profit on YouTube:
1. Take advantage of the YouTube Partner Program and ads
Any YouTuber who joins the YouTube Partner Program (YPP) can earn income directly from YouTube, including from ads. Ads are a great passive revenue stream: You’re already creating content, and that’s all you need to do to receive ad income.
When you’re in the YPP, you receive a portion of the revenue generated by ads viewed during your videos. The earnings from each view are minimal—think a fraction of a cent—but those cents add up with thousands or millions of views. Before you can join YPP, though, you’ll need to have at least 1,000 subscribers, log at least 4,000 hours of watch time, and get your channel approved by YouTube.
The YPP is the easiest way to make money on YouTube, but not the most profitable. For YouTubers with engaged audiences, Forbes estimates that YPP will generate around $5 per 1,000 views.
2. Offer memberships for your fans
Memberships are a great way to harness an engaged and enthusiastic fanbase, while giving your biggest fans more of the content they love.
YouTube’s site-wide membership program, YouTube Premium, automatically shares subscription revenue with any creators whose videos are viewed by premium members. You don’t have to do anything to get paid via YouTube Premium.
3. Set up an online store
Selling your own merch and other extras is a great way to maximize profit once you’ve established your channel and fanbase. “The best way to quickly make money from your YouTube channel isn’t to make money off your videos; it’s to direct people to your website,” said YouTuber Luisa Zhou.
So, what should you sell in your shop? Stickers, shirts, makeup, puppets, online courses: You name it, you can sell it. With sites like Amazon and Bonfire offering services where they’ll craft and ship your designs for you, making simple merch is easier than ever. Don’t be afraid to get creative. Popular taglines or viral moments can make for great products, serving as inside jokes among your fanbase. And stay consistent to your brand. For example, tech creator Marques Brownlee’s YouTube store boasts consistent designs and color schemes that recognizably match his branding.
One key tip: If you join YPP, YouTube allows you to connect your shop to your channel. It can show up on your profile and videos, and you can even tag products within videos and live streams. This is a great way to drive viewers to browse what you’re selling.
4. Offer affiliate links and discount codes
Including affiliate links and codes in your videos leverages relationships with brands to drive revenue. When viewers click these links and codes, the featured brand pays a commission based on how many sales your content creates.
Affiliate marketing’s biggest advantage is its flexibility. You can promote affiliate products however you want—in videos, in descriptions, or on your channel homepage. For instance, barista creator MorganDrinksCoffee lists an affiliate link in her video description. Since the product she’s promoting (coffee, of course) has clear appeal to anyone viewing her channel, there’s no reason not to take advantage of the opportunity.
You could offer an affiliate code for anything that appears in your video, from the makeup you’re applying, to the drill you’re using, to the bookshelf in your background.
But remember: because affiliate links only compensate creators per purchase, plan to mention them strategically in as many places as make sense.
And consider creating several affiliate links for individual brands and products. Lifestyle creator Lauren Elizabeth listed 18 affiliate links in one of her video descriptions: All of these products are mentioned in the video, and each one is a potential revenue source.
5. Partner with brands on sponsored posts
A well-matched partnership with a brand enables creators to authentically incorporate sponsored products into their content. Rather than just posting an affiliate link or discount code, brand partnerships are collaborative creative efforts that require higher-quality content.
Brands typically seek out creators, approaching them with opportunities to create sponsored content and be compensated for it. Effective branded content—like this PlayStation unboxing video from tech creator iJustine—conveys enthusiasm for the product, demonstrates why you’re excited about it, and fits with the tone and personality of your channel overall. To avoid annoying or disappointing your viewers, your standards for your brand partnerships should match your standards for your content across the board. Only work with brands whose products, values, and messaging feel like a good fit for you and your audience.
Brands can make great collaborative partners for creators on YouTube, but you should also take steps to protect yourself and your channel. You don’t have to take every brand partnership offer that comes along, and don’t be afraid to negotiate the terms of your contract, including pay and content, just as you would at any other job. On YouTube, you’re your own boss. You should also be your own best advocate.
When it comes to making money on YouTube, more is actually more: The more strategies you integrate into your content, the easier it will be to be profitable. In fact, YouTube is developing even more ways for creators to monetize their videos.
Take advantage of every opportunity that makes sense for your channel. Anyone willing to put in the time and effort to develop a successful channel can tap into its potential as a money maker.