If you are considering starting a YouTube channel, the first thing that may come to mind is, can you still make money on YouTube?
Here’s the short answer…
Yes, you can still make money on YouTube. Many people are starting new YouTube channels every month and each and every month creators pass the 10,000 subscriber mark and earn thousands of dollars from their YouTube channels alone.
In this article, you’re going to learn why you can still make money on YouTube in 2021, how much YouTubers really make, the different ways to monetize your channel, how to actually become a money-making YouTuber, and more.
Let’s get started.
Table of Contents[Hide][Show]
- Why you should become a YouTuber
- 1. Find a niche you have interest in
- 2. Create 2-4 personas of your ideal viewer
- 3. Do keyword and video research in your niche
- 4. Create a YouTube video hit list
- 5. Find affiliate programs and research how to best monetize your channel
- 6. Create a YouTube Channel
- 7. Plan your first video
- 8. Record and edit your first video
- 9. Upload and optimize your video
- 10. Create and upload your next 10 videos
- 11. Apply to affiliate programs to promote and include them in videos
- 12. Create and upload another 20 videos
- 13. Look at what has been performing well and replicate
Why you can still make money on YouTube in 2021
YouTube is a great way to make money online and to connect with an audience.
Here are some of the best reasons why you can still make money on YouTube, even in 2021.
YouTube is still growing
As strange as that may seem considering it’s the second-largest social network and second-largest search engine in the world. YouTube is still growing and still has plenty of room to grow as more regions around the world are introduced to faster internet connections and lower barriers to entry to consuming YouTube content.
The platform is a great place to learn as well as to consume entertainment, these two factors help it stay as one of the most popular websites in the world and help it to reach new people every day.
YouTube has grown from 1.5 billion users in 2017 to over 2.3 billion users in 2021 with no sign of growth slowing down anytime soon.
Video is the best way to build trust with viewers
You can still make money on YouTube because video content is the best way to build trust with viewers. Unlike written content or imagery, video is a unique way to show authenticity to viewers which builds trust.
The only way to build more trust would be to meet people individually, which isn’t possible to scale, but YouTube makes this sort of interaction with thousands of people possible (sometimes even millions) through live streaming.
Video itself is a great way to build trust, but there is nothing more authentic than seeing a creator interact live with their audience when things aren’t completely planned out and you can see the real personality.
You don’t need to do live streaming on YouTube to make money, but it is generally an effective way to build trust and authenticity with your audience faster than you would through just your videos.
YouTube is a search engine and social network
Unlike almost all of its competitors, YouTube is not just a social network or a search engine. It’s both, and with some channels, you could even consider it a community, group, or forum.
As people come to YouTube for multiple reasons, whether that’s to consume entertaining videos, to learn something they hadn’t known about, or to search for a solution to their problem, YouTube has multiple ways of expanding and continuing to grow.
This means that you as a YouTuber have multiple opportunities to reach new audiences, be it through live streaming, search engine optimization, being suggested on YouTube, or through building a loyal following.
Basically no barriers to entry
All you need to get started on YouTube is a smartphone and an internet connection. If you have more, then great, but you can create high-quality videos that provide value to an audience simply with the smartphone in your pocket.
As there are little to no barriers to entry to get started on YouTube, new creators sharing their experiences, their knowledge, their humor, all have an opportunity to earn an income with the platform and reach people around the world.
You do not need to pay a cent to start a YouTube channel.
How much YouTubers really make
If you’re looking to start a YouTube channel, then it’s important to know how much YouTubers really earn to make an educated decision.
Most YouTubers don’t earn anything, in fact, over 84% of all YouTube channels have less than 1,000 subscribers, which is a minimum threshold to monetize your channel with YouTube ads.
There are a number of reasons why this is, but the most common is YouTubers give up too soon expecting near-immediate results. Growing a YouTube channel takes time and most that start wants to get rich or famous overnight.
For the YouTubers that do put in the work and stick it through, let’s take a look at how much they make.
How much YouTubers earn per 1000 views on average
On average, YouTubers earn around $5 per 1000 views from YouTube ads.
This number can go up or down depending on the niche you’re in, where your audience is based, the length of your videos, what type of ads you have selected for your channel, etc.
Most YouTubers have other sources of income from their videos, however, with the most common being affiliate links. On average, YouTubers that optimize their videos well for affiliate marketing can earn at least an additional $5 per 1000 views. Again though, this can go up or down depending on the video niche, audience, types of affiliate products, etc.
In general, YouTubers earn on average $10 per 1000 views from their various methods of monetization.
But I’m sure you want to see some examples. This article covers how many views it takes to make money on YouTube and how much YouTubers really made.
Or, you can check out a shorter version in the table below.
YouTuber salaries for channels with different sized channels
|Vanessa Lau||450k Subscribers||$2,818,439.02|
|Roberto Blake||512k Subscribers||$200,000.00|
|Shop Nation||100k Subscribers||$115,960|
|Catherine Manning||300k Subscribers||$222,967.77|
Different ways to make money on YouTube
There are a number of different ways to make money on YouTube, and you’re generally only restricted to your imagination, but these are some of the best ways to make money on YouTube.
Ads on your YouTube channel are the most common way to monetize your channel and also the easiest.
All you need to do is grow your channel to a point where you can apply for the YouTube Partner Program. Here you need at least 1,000 subscribers and 4,000 hours of watch time in the past 12 months in order to apply.
This is fairly easy to achieve if you have the determination and patience to see it through.
YouTube Ads are the easiest way to monetize your channel as once you’ve been accepted and linked to your Google Adsense account, all you need to do is turn ads on and YouTube will take care of the rest.
You can then tweak settings manually for your videos to maximize your revenue, but even if you do not, you will still start earning an income from your YouTube channel.
With YouTube Ads, generally the more views you receive the more you will earn, but some videos can generate more revenue than others based on the specific videos, how long people watch, what type of ads are played, who watches the video, etc.
If you have a largely American audience and your videos are longer than 8 minutes, you’ll generally earn more per view than someone with an audience based in Asia that has videos 5 minutes in length.
This is because US audiences are the most valuable to advertisers, so they pay more for ads to those demographics, and videos longer than 8 minutes can have mid-roll ads that play during the video, which can increase your revenue per view (more ads, more engaging, etc.).
Sponsors are a great way to monetize your videos as you know exactly how much you are getting for a video unless you agree on a payment structure that is tied to the number of views your video receives.
Some of the pros of a fixed fee for a video are that you get that amount even if the video doesn’t perform as well as you had hoped, and you can plan with that money in your account. This is very useful if you are doing YouTube full-time.
The pros of agreeing on a fee based on how a video performs is that you can earn a lot more for that video if it does well and performs better than most videos you have on your channel. You can also build a positive relationship with a sponsor more easily if that video performs well.
Regardless of which method you prefer or your sponsors prefer, sponsorships (or brand deals) are a great way to make money on YouTube while introducing your audience to products or services you use and enjoy.
If you cover a specific topic on your channel, you can look for brands within that niche, ones you probably use and approach them with an offer.
Even if you have a small channel, as a micro-influencer that brand may still want to partner with you because your viewers will probably be more engaged with your content than larger channels and you won’t cost as much. Basically, they can get more bang for their buck, so you shouldn’t shy away from sponsorships just because your channel only has 3,000 subscribers.
The second easiest way to make money with your YouTube channel is through affiliate marketing. This is where you recommend products you use and trust to your viewers through links in a video card, the description, or a pinned comment.
The most common affiliate program used is Amazon as there is such a wide variety of products available and most people are aware and already trust buying a product through Amazon (which increases your conversion rates). You can also earn commissions on other products people buy, even if they don’t buy the product you recommended in your video.
There are millions of other affiliate programs, many of your favorite brands probably have one, the easiest way to find one is to look for “affiliates” in the footer of a website, or just type in the brand name along with “affiliate program” into Google.
This method of monetizing your channel is great because you can start doing it immediately by linking to products you use in your video description. Even if you have 0 subscribers.
And it’s completely free, although some programs may require you to have a small following, or viewers already.
An important thing to know about Amazon’s associate’s program (their affiliate program) is that you need to make at least 3 sales from your links within the first 6 months after signing up.
If you don’t, then you will have to sign up again and change all of your links, so rather first start creating videos and getting some views to your channel before you sign up to make sure you can get those sales within that time frame.
If you offer a service that’s closely related to your channel niche, you can do very well by mentioning your related services in your video and link to a page where people can contact or book you.
This can be a great way to earn more when your channel is still small, but you will be trading your time for money, which is one of the negatives for services against some of the other monetization methods mentioned here.
If you’re one more of the creative side, creating merchandise (T-shirts, cups, etc.) and selling it through your YouTube channel can also be a great way to monetize your channel.
A cool thing about selling merchandise is that you can basically create the designs and then forget about it when you use on-demand services like Spring, Printful, Spreadshop, Teemill, etc.
These services generally don’t charge you to list your merchandise or set up a shop, but instead, they take a cut of the sale. For this, they manufacture the products, send them to the customer and host your online merchandise store. You generally keep around 50% of the sale price, but these prices can also be set. The more product you sell can often also land you a large cut.
If you’re not the most creative, you can still find graphic designers on Fiverr, UpWork, 99Designs, etc. that will be able to create some great designs that you can then sell on your merchandise.
Selling your YouTube channel
Another way you can make money on YouTube that is hardly ever spoken about is to actually sell your YouTube channel. This is quite drastic and in order to get the most money for your YouTube channel, you do generally need to be generating some income from it in the first place. But if you can get your channel to a point where it makes some money, even if it is only $50, you can sell it for approximately 36x what it generates in revenue per month. So that $50/month channel could bring you $1,800 if you decide to sell it and move onto other things!
Now there are a ton of different things that affect a YouTube channel’s valuation and how you can get the most out of selling your channel. If you’re interested in learning more, I’ve covered everything you need to know in this article.
And these are just a few ways for you to monetize your YouTube channel, for more ways that cover the different ways to make money on YouTube, check out this article.
How you can actually make money on YouTube
In order to actually make money on YouTube, there are some things you need to do in order to really escalate your income.
There are no quick tricks or hacks to make money on YouTube, all you need to do is implement these 5 things.
1. Create videos for a specific audience
Creating videos for a specific audience is about getting a better idea of who it is that is watching your videos. This makes it easier for you to create videos that speak specifically to their needs. When you create videos for a specific audience, you are also making yourself more valuable to brands and sponsors who may want to work with you if your audience fits their target market.
In marketing, this is called creating personas. To create a persona for your YouTube channel you should think about who it is that is watching your videos.
If you have an established channel, you can look at your analytics and demographics and use that to get started. If you are starting a new YouTube channel, who are the people interested in your specific niche, and what set of people within that niche do you want to talk to?
For example, if I was starting a YouTube channel on cooking, my interests would probably lead me into making short recipes that can be made in under 30 minutes. Possibly flamboyant. The specific audience I would be speaking to are the people interested in that type of content, most likely, single parents. But that is not yet a persona, we need to be specific so that we can speak directly to their needs. So for my example, One persona could be Mary, a 25-35-year-old mother of 2, in the United States, earning around $3k per month as an assistant manager at an eco-friendly clothing store. We can build this out even more, but this is fine for now.
What I can gather from this example is that;
- Mary does not have much time in the evening, so 30 min or less should be good.
- She has a limited budget, so maybe I’ll stay away from lobster recipes.
- She has kids, so kid-friendly meals would be ideal.
- She is probably health-conscious considering the workplace, which should be reflected in the food.
- She’s based in the USA, so I should refer to specific brands, stores, etc. that she can visit, but we can also build ideas out based on events and occasions that may be happening in the country.
Now you can build this out as far as you need to, but I recommend making at least 2 personas for your channel, preferably 3 or 4, and then giving them at least 5 attributes so you can really understand what it is that they need and want.
Start by looking for the general makeup of the sub-niche you’re targeting, personas should always be backed by some real data.
2. Show products you review in action
To maximize your affiliate commissions, showing generally always beats telling. If people can see you using products in your videos, they will be far more inclined to click your link and check them out.
You can also test products from different angles than what everyone else is doing, if it is a popular product. This can help set you apart as viewers will get something different compared to just a repeat of what a much larger YouTuber said.
Use products and show them in use, when people can see the results for themselves they will be far more inclined to buy the product if the result you showed matches their expectations.
Whenever I make a large purchase, I tend to look for information about various options. Once I think one item is the best option, I look at videos of the item in action to either confirm my assumptions or to prove them wrong, in which case I will look for something else (or check out a different recommendation if the creator has a better suggestion).
Most people do this, or something similar to this, and if you can get your video to appear in their search just before the buying phase, with a link to the product, or a recommendation of something genuinely better, you can make a lot more with affiliate marketing and specific products.
Btw, you don’t have to actually make reviews to do this. It can work just as well by doing tutorials, testing gear, sharing the resources you use in your videos (I.e. the mixer you use for cooking, etc.).
3. Stay consistent
If you are serious about making money on YouTube, you should be consistent with your videos. This does not only mean uploaded regularly, it also means you should be consistent on the type and focus of your videos.
Consistency builds an audience.
When you’re consistent, your channel can grow exponentially as the majority of your subscribers and viewers will be interested in each video you upload, improving CTR. By having a good CTR and audience retention (because you create good content) your channel will also be suggested to people who would be very interested in your content.
Being consistent, especially when starting out, will also help YouTube’s algorithm know what your content is about and who it should show it to.
4. Create more content
This one may seem obvious, but it is something that so many people overlook.
By creating more content you are:
- Creating more opportunities for viewers to find you.
- Increasing the number of videos on your channel, meaning you have more videos that can generate an income for you on YouTube.
- You’re learning and improving.
- You’re establishing yourself as an authority in your niche.
- Increasing the likelihood of your channel growing exponentially.
Generally speaking, if you have less than 100 videos on your channel, then you haven’t created enough content yet and should keep at it and keep improving.
5. Be passionate about your topic
Enthusiasm is contagious, and when you’re passionate about the topics you cover in your videos, your audience can feel it.
Being passionate also means you are more interested in the things you cover in your videos compared to the average person and so you don’t lose interest by going into more detail (maybe on the research part, in a video, going into too much detail could deter viewers, but this is very much dependant on the creator, topic, and the audience).
Your enthusiasm for the topic also carries you through the hard times and the late nights when you’re trying to get a video out. Which is something you only really appreciate when you start a project without it really being something you are interested in right now.
Why you should become a YouTuber
- Can establish you as an expert/authority quickly
- Videos can generate income for months and years to come
- Build an active community
- Work from anywhere in the world
- Help solve people’s problems
- You can earn a great income
- You can work with your favorite brands and creators
How to become a money-making YouTuber in 2021
1. Find a niche you have interest in
The first step to becoming a money-making YouTuber is to decide on what you want to make your YouTube channel about. What interests you and what can you talk about passionately to either inform or entertain your future audience.
Remember, you don’t have to be an expert, even if you learn as you go, many will be interested in learning alongside you.
2. Create 2-4 personas of your ideal viewer
Once you’ve decided on a topic for your channel, it’s time to continue planning. The next stage is to map out who your audience is. Here you should make 2-4 personas of your ideal viewer.
Be as specific as possible, while basing your information on actual data.
You can find data to create personas by looking for the interests of people in specific regions using Facebook Ads (you don’t need to run any ads, just get to the demographics and you can see how many people in a region are interested in certain things).
You can also use Facebook groups, forums, census information, etc. If you have an existing channel, you can always look at your channel demographics and also the demographics on specific videos that have performed above average for your channel.
3. Do keyword and video research in your niche
Once you know who your audience is, you can create videos to solve their problems, provide helpful tips, or just entertain.
In the keyword and video research phase, you want to look for specific phrases, topics, and terms that do well within your niche. Right now you’re not worrying too much about competition, but you’re mining all of the available opportunities to then follow up later.
Check out this article for a list of free tools that you can use to find great keywords and keyword ideas.
4. Create a YouTube video hit list
Step 4 to becoming a money-making YouTuber involves taking the keyword and video research you’ve already done and narrowing it down (or expanding upon) to formulate a list of videos called your hit list.
First, you want to focus on finding video ideas that a). People are looking for, and b). You can rank for. This is so that you can optimize the video for search intent, i.e. what people are looking for.
As a new YouTuber, you have little to no chance to rank for a competitive term like “Chicken curry recipe”, but you can rank for something that is long-tail. This just means it’s more specific, so it may be too small for large channels, but it’s big enough to help build your channel’s momentum and you could also rank for related terms if it does well.
Building on the previous example of chicken curry, a long-tail keyword if you’re in that niche could be “How to make a chicken curry from scratch”.
To find long-tail keywords and to help with your video optimization, you can install the free TubeBuddy browser extension. It provides you with useful information that can help you find video ideas to rank for and optimize your videos effectively, as well as tons of other useful features (here’s my review).
Once you have a good number of search intent video ideas, you can look for videos that focus on what I like to call “suggestion intent”. Whereas the search intent videos are intended to rank and appear in search results, suggestion intent videos are intended to spread through the suggested features on YouTube.
These are the two pillars to channel growth, search brings in a steady flow of viewers, while suggestion-based content doubles down on the current audience to grow exponentially.
Suggestion intent videos are designed to catch people’s attention, and normally aren’t terms people would search for. Things like “X things you didn’t know about Y”, “6 Mistakes YOU are making with XYZ”, “Why X is WRONG about Y”, “The easiest way to make X in/at/with Y”, etc.
These are just some examples, but when someone reads something like that, within their niche, they are inclined to click to see if they’re making those mistakes, what they don’t know about Y, Why is X wrong about Y, etc.
These need to be within your niche, and you have to actually deliver on your promise. That doesn’t mean you need to reinvent the wheel though.
For example, “6 mistakes you’re making with your drone” could be 6 simple things. Like charging incorrectly, transporting them incorrectly, not having the right paperwork, or using the wrong memory cards, flying at the wrong time, etc. Most of your viewers won’t be professional drone pilots, they will be people just getting into it and looking to improve, so at least one of those tips would be something they wouldn’t know.
5. Find affiliate programs and research how to best monetize your channel
The next step is still doing research. Here you are looking for a few affiliate programs that you can promote in your video descriptions and potentially in videos. But you don’t have to limit yourself to affiliate programs, you can also look at other ways to monetize your channel.
The easiest way to do this is to look at how similar channels in your niche are monetizing their channels. This can also be an easy way to find affiliate programs within your topic of interest. And as a fallback, you can always use Amazon’s associate program.
It’s best to apply to Amazon’s affiliate program once you’ve gotten at least 10 videos on your channel. Once you apply, you have 6 months to generate at least 3 sales through your links. If you add these before you even start uploading, you’re just reducing your time limit unnecessarily.
An exception to this would be if you see a video starting to generate 200+ views and its very buyer intent. Then you can join the program and you should be able to generate those sales in the time frame.
6. Create a YouTube Channel
Finally, it’s time to actually start creating content on YouTube. The first step in doing that is to create your YouTube channel. I’ve put together a step-by-step guide on how to set up your YouTube channel that you can read here.
Once it’s set up we can move onto the next step to becoming a money-making YouTuber.
7. Plan your first video
Once you’ve set up your channel it’s time to get to work on creating your first video. Take an idea from your hit list to get started. Ideally something with search intent. Your first 30 or so videos ideally would be a mix of 3:1 “search intent” to “suggestion intent” content.
Depending on the type of videos you want to make, planning can be anything from creating a set, location hunting, etc. to just planning a script or making some bullet points of what you want to cover in a video.
You should definitely use some form of video outline before you film, this will help you stay on topic and make sure that you cover everything when you press the record button. It can be a pain to have to record again because you forgot or left something out.
8. Record and edit your first video
Once you have everything planned, it’s time to record your first video. Don’t worry about making it perfect, no one has a perfect first video and it’s a part of learning and I think it shares some authenticity with your viewers about your journey.
Once you’ve recorded/filmed your video, you can use a free tool to cut and edit it, or you can use video editing software like Premiere Pro or Final Cut.
My best tip for video editing when you’re getting started is that less is often more. You may want to throw every single transition and effect you want into every scene, but simple cuts after often the best.
Again though, this is something you learn through doing and you will get better and faster as you create more content.
9. Upload and optimize your video
Once your video has been edited and exported, it’s time to upload it to your YouTube channel.
When optimizing your video, here are a few things you want to make sure you have included:
- Long-tail keyword in the title.
- Long-tail keyword in the description in a natural sentence, with at least 150-300 words about what the video is about.
- Keyword is said early on in the video (if it contains dialogue).
- Check the subtitles with your keyword are correct.
- Custom eye-catching thumbnail.
- Similar videos/playlists are linked in the description.
- Subscribe to the channel CTA in your description.
- CTA is in the comments, pinned to the top.
- All 500 characters of the meta tags contain relevant keywords (long-tail and similar).
- Added to 1-2 playlists
- Uploaded when your audience is most active (For your first video, just upload it around 6PM local time for whatever audience you are targeting).
These are a few suggestions for optimizing your video, you can find a more detailed guide here.
10. Create and upload your next 10 videos
Now that you’ve uploaded your first video, it’s time to keep creating content. You should have a hit list with a ton of video ideas, so this stage is just you pumping out some great content that solves some sort of problem for your potential viewer.
With regards to search intent and suggestion intent videos, around 8 of these videos should be made intentionally for search intent with the remaining 2 focused on appearing in the suggested areas on YouTube.
11. Apply to affiliate programs to promote and include them in videos
Once you have some videos uploaded to your channel, it’s time to start applying to the affiliate programs that you researched and found in step 6. You may not get accepted into all of them immediately, but for the ones that you are accepted into, you can start included links within your video descriptions.
I recommend having a maximum 1:1 ratio of external links and internal links in your descriptions. That means that if you have 3 affiliate links, you should have at least 3 links in your description that are to other YouTube videos, playlists, etc.
Additionally, you do not need to make these affiliate links shorter, as YouTube will automatically cut them off in the description (the full link is still there, it’s just not fully visible, making your descriptions more readable).
12. Create and upload another 20 videos
To continue your channel growth, it’s important to keep uploading more videos. Once you have around 30 videos on your channel. Which ideally would take around 3-6 months to upload, you can take a look at your analytics and should be able to draw some meaningful data.
This is why it’s important to upload at least 30 videos (or even more if you can without your quality suffering too much). If you only have 14 videos, one or two could do well but the data you can draw from it can’t help you establish any meaningful conclusions on what you should do to replicate that success.
This brings us to the last step.
13. Look at what has been performing well and replicate
Now that you have a decent dataset of videos, you can see what type of videos people are interested in, you can narrow down your persona’s even more, and you can replicate content that has done well, or expand upon a specific subtopic in your niche that is outperforming other areas.
Double down on what is working in order to grow your channel faster, the same can be said for your methods of monetization. If you have one particular affiliate program that is doing well, display it more prominently in your descriptions, create more content that is suitable for it, and so on.
Keep going. Reaching your goals can be just one video away.
Frequently Asked Questions About Making Money On YouTube
How many views do you need on YouTube to make money?
Most channels earn between $4 and $15 per 1000 views and YouTube requires you to earn at least $100 before they pay you. That means that if you have a channel that makes $10 per 1000 views, it would require 10,000 views for you to get paid by YouTube once you’re in the YouTube Partner Program.
If you are monetizing your channel via other methods of monetization, you can make money from your first view, but the more views you receive, the higher your chance of converting and making money.
For more info on how many YouTube views you need to make money, check out this post.
Do Old YouTube Videos still make money?
Yes, old YouTube videos can still make money. If you are in the YouTube partner program and have ads running on the video, it can generate an income for you for months and years into the future.
If you aren’t in the partner program but are monetizing the video via another method, like affiliate marketing, the older YouTube video can still continue to make you money into the future.
Can you make a living on YouTube?
Yes, you can. It’s not easy and it will take months, if not years before you can generate enough income on YouTube, but you can make a living as a YouTuber.
If your monthly salary is $3,000, all you need is an average RPM of $10 and to get 300,000 views per month to replace your regular salary. That is not including affiliate products and other ways of monetizing your channel.
As you can see, it is very possible to make a living on YouTube.
Is it easy to make money on YouTube?
It is not easy to make money on YouTube. It takes determination, patience, a willingness to learn, creativity, and planning in order to succeed and make money on YouTube.
You also need to have thick skin or not care about what others comment as there will always be people that leave negative comments because of their own dissatisfaction with whatever they’re doing.
It’s not easy to make money on YouTube, but if you believe in yourself and have the determination to see it through, then you can do it.