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How to make money on YouTube in 2023

Monetise your YouTube channel with advertising, merch and memberships in 2023

It comes up in conversation between friends all the time: how do people make money on YouTube?

Some creators earn a bit of extra cash from their videos, while others turn their YouTube channels into full-time jobs. If you have been wondering how to earn money for your videos, here it is: a definitive guide to making money from your YouTube channel.

Who are we?

Here at Steady, we support creators to earn a reliable income for their work with memberships. Working with thousands of creators, from podcasters to journalists, artists, influencers and video creators, we know the ins-and-outs of funding creative projects, and what it takes to make a sustainable living from them.

What you’ll learn in this article:

  • How YouTube calculates advertising payments – and why more views won’t necessarily give you more cash

  • How to optimise your YouTube channel for monetisation – from optimal video lengths to keywords and fan engagement

  • The difference between advertising, brand partnerships and affiliate marketing on YouTube, and how you can harness each of them to earn an income

  • How to make money on YouTube with crowdfunding, selling merch and, our specialty, memberships

But first, the question on everyone’s minds, according to Google:

How many YouTube views do you need to start making money?

It’s easy to imagine that the more views your video gets, the more money you earn from it. But that’s not necessarily the case. A high number of video views doesn’t always correspond to more earnings.

Here are a couple of reasons why:

  • If you’re making money from ads on YouTube (more on that under point #1 below), you only make money if the viewer clicks an ad in your video, or watches the video in full.

YouTube pays about $18 per 1,000 ad views (different from video views). So if you have millions of views on your video, but not many people stick around to watch the ads, or they use adblockers, you aren’t going to earn much at all.

Aviation vlogger MojoGrip (Opens in a new window) breaks down his ad earnings on YouTube below. He recently earned about £5,000 for a video with 1.1 million views. But he also says he can’t predict when a video will go viral, which can be tough if you’re relying on consistent virality in order to get paid. (Opens in a new window)
  • If you want to go fan-funded, and have your viewers support you directly, you will need to build a genuine relationship with your fans before they are willing to pay to support you. Being followers by thousands of bots or disinterested followers won’t count for much when it comes time to ask for their support. More on how that works under point #2 below.

Case study: 500+ true fans supporting a nerdy niche on YouTube

YouTuber Julian publishes at least one new video per day on his channel, The Bright Side of Mathematics (Opens in a new window). (Opens in a new window)

Some of his videos have racked up hundreds of thousands of views, despite his relatively niche topic. Having found a captive audience, Julian launched a membership program on Steady (Opens in a new window)where his biggest fans support him with a few pounds each month, in exchange for some bonus content like quizzes or shout-outs on his videos.

Julian’s YouTube videos remain free, thanks to the monthly financial support from his 500+ members. Soon he will reach his next funding goal which will cover his work for four days each week, so he can focus more deeply on his videos.

How to make money on YouTube: 8 top tips from creators

Before we get into monetising your YouTube channel, you’ll need to make sure your account is optimised for monetisation.

Steps to prepare your YouTube account for monetisation

  • Make sure you post consistently. Building a posting habit will encourage your fans to depend on you, and look out for your latest content. This helps you build a committed audience. If regular posting is something you struggle with, consider making a content schedule. Set a goal, like posting 1 video per week, to help you stay on track.

  • Take regular time to engage with your fans. This might include replying to their comments, or offering to answer their questions in future videos and giving personal shout-outs – all of this helps foster stronger connections with your community.

  • Use 2-3 keywords in your video descriptions. YouTube is owned by Google and Google loves keywords. (You’ll notice many of them in this article!) What it really loves are keywords inserted naturally into your video descriptions. These help new viewers find your work. Make the most of your video description space by providing a clear and enticing description of what they can expect from the video.

For example, if you host a video channel about tango dancing, your caption might begin e.g. “Tango dancing legends. Meet 5 of the world’s most famous tango dancers” followed by the dancers’ names, so that anyone searching for videos of a) tango dancing or b) those specific dancers, will be directed towards your video.

You can make sure you’re using the best keywords for your content with the support of a service like Keyword Tool (Opens in a new window). It helps you find search terms within your content niche that people are searching for on Google. Then you can create a video with exactly that content, and voila! Lots of new viewers spending time on your video.

👀 Extra for experts: A comprehensive guide to maximising your YouTube video descriptions (Opens in a new window)

  • Use tags to help YouTube categorise your videos. An extension like Tube Buddy can help you identify the best tags for your video – here’s how that works (Opens in a new window).

  • Add subtitles to your videos, as the text within them can be useful for search engine optimisation as well.

  • Use YouTube’s analytics tool (Opens in a new window) to see which of your videos are performing best, and tailor future content to what you fans want to see more of.

  • Collaborate with other channels to find new fans who have similar interests.

  • Make longer videos. If you decide to monetise your YouTube channel with ads, then making videos that are 10+ minutes long will enable you to host more than one ad in your videos. This means more advertising earnings potential in a single video, which could help you earn some more cash.

Once you have fine-tuned your channel, it’s time to look at your options for how to make money on YouTube.

8 ways to make money from YouTube

Here we cover 8 ways to monetise your YouTube channel, including:

  • Hosting ads on your YouTube videos

  • Nailing brand partnerships and sponsored content

  • Using Super Chat and Super Stickers for live videos

  • Offering memberships for a dependable monthly income

1. Join the YouTube Partner Program and make money from ads on Youtube

The YouTube Partner Program (Opens in a new window) enables video creators to earn money by hosting advertisements on their videos.

You are only eligible for the program once your YouTube channel reaches 1,000 subscribers and either:

  • 4,000 video views in the last 12 months, or

  • 10 million public Shorts views in the last 90 days

Here’s how to sign up:

How to enable ads on YouTube

As much as advertising is touted as a lucrative way to earn money on YouTube, there are some drawbacks.

Downsides to using ads on YouTube

  • You first need to produce a lot of content—likely months of work—for free. It’s not easy to reach the follower and viewer eligibility criteria for YouTube’s Partner Program.  It will likely require months of unpaid work before YouTube will even consider paying you.

  • Google takes 45% of ad revenue earned on your videos (Opens in a new window). That’s a very high commission compared to some of the other revenue streams we will explore below.

  • You have no control over the ads. They might not be relevant to your audience, and put them off spending more time on your channel.

  • Google’s algorithms are constantly changing, making ads a very unpredictable source of income.. Your content might be prioritised one day and panned the next.

  • Google deprioritises content it doesn’t deem advertiser-friendly, e.g. sexual content and violence, but also controversial or political topics like war. This is the case even when you don’t show any graphic visuals. If you discuss potentially controversial topics on your channel, advertising might not be so effective for you.

  • Remember: you only make money from YouTube ads if the viewer clicks on the ad or watches it in full.

Thankfully, there are many other ways you can make money on YouTube. Many creators rely on a number of these models in combination with each other. Let’s explore the most popular options.

2. Make fan-funded YouTube videos with memberships

Memberships enable fans to pay to support the projects they love. They do this by contributing regular amounts every month, so that creators like you are able to build up a reliable income. This means you can plan for the future, invest in better gear or more team members, and earn the money you deserve for your hard work.

Direct fan funding is increasingly popular with all kinds of creators. Podcasters and bloggers, and even major news outlets like The Guardian and the New York Times, are turning to their communities to help fund their work directly while bringing them closer to their work.

The good news is that social media users are increasingly aware of the cost – financial, time, personal – of producing great content online and more willing to pay to support great work. Plenty of YouTubers are having success with this funding model, too.

Case Study: Fitness videos = steady income

One of the most successful YouTubers using Steady is German home fitness specialist Gabi Fastner.

Gabi posts 1-2 new workout videos on her YouTube channel each day for free, to anyone who wants to use them. And then she runs her membership programme, offering paying members 3-5 exclusive videos each week, along with fitness charts, in exchange for their support.

The financial stability from her paying members has allowed Gabi to become a fitness YouTuber full-time. (Opens in a new window)

Membership options for YouTube

YouTube has a Channel Memberships (Opens in a new window) feature that allows you to run your own membership programme, offering paying members a way to support you directly in exchange for bonus content like exclusive videos. You can set your own membership prices, starting at 99 pence per month.

However, YouTube takes a 30% cut of your membership fees. This is considerably higher than its competitors for membership income, which include Patreon and us (Steady).

🤓 Compare fees and features of membership platforms including Patreon, Substack and Steady (Opens in a new window)

Here at Steady, we charge a 10% fee on your membership income, plus transaction fees and taxes. But we only charge you once you start earning, giving you a low-risk way to get started with memberships. More on our pricing (Opens in a new window).

In exchange for this fee, we take care of your taxes and accounting, website backend and offer a free newsletter service, all aimed at enabling you to get on with doing what you love.

Setting up a membership program on Steady takes just 5 minutes. Then you can get back to making your great content.

👀See how much you can earn with memberships (Opens in a new window)

3. Partner with brands and become a YouTube influencer

If you like the idea of making money through advertising on your channel, but would prefer to promote brands and products more tailored to your community, then becoming a YouTube influencer might be up your alley.

Say you host a gardening channel on YouTube. You could approach gardening brands and offer to chat about how great their products are on your videos. It can be easy to get started by promoting smaller, more niche brands looking for affordable ways to reach new consumers.

The amount you can charge for these in-video promotions can range wildly, depending on how many followers you have and how well-known the brand is.

You could also consider employing the help of an influencer agency to help match you with relevant brands. Moburst, Ubiquitous and Obviously are three of the biggest players – here’s a list of the most popular YouTube influencer marketing agencies (Opens in a new window).

Remember: you must always disclose when you have been paid to promote a product on YouTube.

4. Review products on YouTube and earn commission with affiliate marketing

Affiliate marketing is when a brand gives you a unique link to their product, and pays you a commission when they make a sale through your link.

This funding model works especially well for reviewers. For example, you might review movies on your YouTube channel. With affiliate marketing, a film distributor could give you a unique link to purchase tickets for their latest film. You paste the link in the description of a video where you review the film, and when users click on it and purchase tickets, you receive a commission. (Opens in a new window)

Brands with smaller marketing budgets are often quite happy to set up affiliate links with creators as they are low-risk: they only have to pay you if they make a sale.

However, from your side, you might prefer to keep your reviews independent. Sometimes giving a bad review of a product or service that’s marketing with you can leave you in a compromising position.

5. Get “tipped” on live YouTube videos with Super Chat and Super Stickers

YouTube has two features that allow fans to “tip” you during a live feed: Super Chat and Super Stickers (Opens in a new window). Fans pay to have their name or comment highlighted during your live video, or add a special sticker to help them stand out, allowing them to show off as a super-fan while sending you some small change for your work. (Opens in a new window)

Note: these features are only available to creators who have joined the YouTube Partner Program. You must have been accepted by YouTube and met its eligibility criteria before you can start offering Super Chat and Super Stickers. This means you must have at least 1,000 channel subscribers and have either gained 4,000 video views in the last 12 months or 10 million Shorts views in the last 90 days.

6. Sell YouTube channel merch from your own online store

Many successful YouTubers run a side hustle selling merch like t-shirts, hats and tote bags in an online store.

You might have a catch-phrase or in-joke you know your fans would proudly wear out in public. You can quickly set up an online store on Squarespace, Shopify or Big Cartel and put a link in your channel and video descriptions so your fans can go buy themselves a treat, while supporting your work at the same time.

Dude Perfect (Opens in a new window) is a YouTube sports and comedy channel hosted by 5 friends who love playing games and doing tricks. As well as drawing hundreds of millions of views to their videos, they also run an incredibly popular merch store where their fans can purchase the gear they see the guys wearing in their videos.

7. Crowdfund a YouTube series or project

Crowdfunding can be a compelling way to drum up support for a specific project, like a new video series.

Crowdfunding sites like Kickstarter allow you to run a funding campaign, collecting financial support from your fans for a limited time period (e.g. 7 days) that creates a sense of urgency around your project.

On Kickstarter, a project will only be funded if the entire goal amount is collected. So you’ll need to work hard to run a successful campaign that gets all your fans on board.

Kickstarting a hit cartoon series on YouTube (Opens in a new window)

In 2017, the makers of hit YouTube cartoon Bee and PuppyCat ran a Kickstarter campaign to fund a whole series, after being inundated with requests for more content from fans.

They ended up receiving more than £700,000 in support from viewers eager to watch more of their work, exceeding their goal and enabling them to produce their next series.

While crowdfunding works very well in order to gather some capital to start something new, it doesn’t offer the dependability of long-term support. That’s the key difference between crowdfunding and memberships.

8. Licence your video content to news media

You’ve probably seen this happen: a YouTube video goes viral and then a bunch of news media jump in the comments, asking permission to share the video on their TV show.

What you might not know: you can charge them a fee to licence your content.

If this ever happens to you, don’t be too quick to say yes. Instead, have them send you an email so you can discuss a fair rate for your content.

You might also like to enlist the support of a licensing agency, such as Jukin Media (Opens in a new window) or The Content Bible (Opens in a new window), especially if you are frequently approached with licensing requests.

That’s what’s happened for this viral video, where a mother is wake surfing while holding her toddler. If any media wish to show the video on their own channel, they must first purchase a licence from Jukin Media, ensuring the video maker earns money for their clip. (Opens in a new window)

It’s time to make money on YouTube

So there you have it: the best ways to make money on YouTube. If you’re ready for more details on fan-funding and memberships for your YouTube channel, look no further:

🤓 How do memberships work for YouTubers? (Opens in a new window)

Ready to give memberships a go?

Topic Growth & Monetisation