How to Make Money on YouTube

Today, we consume videos like never before – 300 hours of video are uploaded to YouTube every minute, while 30 million visitors watch 5 billion videos on YouTube every single day.

These numbers make YouTube the second largest search engine after Google and the world’s biggest video sharing platform.

With this kind of reach, it’s not difficult to see how YouTube is also one of Google’s most lucrative advertising platforms.

But it’s not only Google that gets paid, YouTube creators can also earn money on YouTube for the ads that are being served on the content they publish on their channels.

If you think this is something you can do too, you’re right, and I’ll walk you through each step you must take to make money on YouTube.

So, here’s a quick glance at what you’ll need:

  • a burning passion for a topic;
  • a YouTube channel;
  • plenty of great videos;
  • a sizeable subscriber base;
  • enabling monetization on your channel;
  • becoming a YouTube Partner;
  • setting up Google AdSense.

Let’s get into what each step is about.

Creative Passion

Most people don’t get into making YouTube videos only to make money. There’s much more to it than money.

All successful creators I see on YouTube have a genuine passion for the content they create and I’m confident in saying they’re not in it just for the money.

Of course, the money that does come with a successful YouTube channel is a nice perk that cannot be ignored.

For your YouTube channel, you can choose any topic that you’re interested in from sports to technology.

If you have an eye on monetization as well, you’ll have to make others interested in these topics as well, but we’ll get to these aspects too.

So, are you a passionate individual? Do you like to get in front of the camera? Maybe add your voice to a video? You’re also getting to a sizeable subscriber base? It’s high time to monetize your passion!

To this end, I encourage you to read my guide on how to make money on YouTube below and start earning money through your YouTube channel.

Set Up Your YouTube Channel

Your Google account and YouTube account coincide, so if you already have an account on Google, you can sign in to YouTube, and click on the user icon at the top right of the screen.

Click on My Channel to create your channel. You can use a business name or brand name, by clicking on the Use a business or other name link.

Use this moment to come up with a creative and easy-to-remember brand name that’s in line with the topic of your channel.

When you’re done, click on Create Channel.

Next, edit your profile and channel description, which are sort of like an introduction to your audience, so they’ll know what your channel is about and what content to expect from you.

Here you can also add links to your website or other social media channels.

By navigating to the Advanced section of your Channel Settings, you can add keywords that work the same way as keywords work in the search engine optimization of a website.

You can also optimize your videos for search, which I discuss later on in this article.

You can further tweak your YouTube channel by adding a banner photo that reflects your brand.

Because this banner greets your audience every time they get on your channel, I dare you to make it as visually fetching as possible without losing focus of your brand.

Now that you’re ready with setting up your channel, you can head on the next step and create amazing video content.

Add Content

Before you get into making videos regularly, create a channel trailer, which is a short little introduction video that allows your visitors to get to know you a little better.

Once you have your channel trailer, you can get into the nitty-gritty of posting videos regularly.

Tips to Get Your Videos in Top Shape:

Here are some tips related to the quality, quantity and duration of your videos:

  • Make sure the videos you upload are high-quality. To this end, get a good camera for great video and sound quality;
  • To make your videos pop, delve into video editing techniques as well;
  • Nobody wants to watch bad quality videos with broken audio, bad editing and bad lighting, so keep practicing until you get it right;
  • Avoid posting exceedingly long videos, keep them short and neat. You can experiment with length and see which videos get more views;
  • Longer videos tend to do better in certain topics (e.g. tutorials), but for the most part, medium-length videos are more popular with audiences;
  • Keep a video upload schedule, which will help you get into a routine, but will also help you hold an audience. Stick to this schedule as much as you can;
  • Optimize your videos for search by giving it a relevant title, adding an interesting description, tagging your video with keywords that make it searchable, and adding an interesting thumbnail.

These are some general guidelines that are more likely to get your videos returned in YouTube search and get you more views and subscribers.

However, YouTube has its own set of rules when it comes to video monetization.

YouTube Video Monetization Criteria:

YouTube sets out minimum requirements that all creators who want to monetize their videos must abide by:

  • Video content must be advertising-friendly;
  • The content is your creation, or you have rights to use it commercially;
  • You can document or prove your commercial rights to content that you publish;
  • Your content complies with YouTube Community Guidelines, Partner Program policies and the Terms of Service.

All these criteria are pretty straightforward, except for the ‘advertising-friendly’ content requirement.

I’ve read through YouTube’s take on advertising-friendly content and here’s what you should know:

  • YouTube uses algorithms and policy enforcement processes to understand what your content is about, this means there’s no easy way around circumventing their criteria;
  • YouTube focuses a lot on topic, so any content that’s sexual, drug-related, incendiary, violent, inappropriate or hateful is NOT advertising-friendly;
  • Only videos with accurate metadata and thumbnail are viewed as advertising-friendly;
  • Videos that you want to monetize should NOT contain embedded third-party sponsorships and ads.

YouTube gives you the option to turn off ads for content that doesn’t conform to these rules. This option allows you to opt-out of the monetization of ads that violate these policies and continue to remain in the Partner Program.

Violations of these policies whether serious or repeated can result in ads being disabled for your channel or suspension from the Partner Program.

YouTube may mark some of your content as ‘Not suitable for most advertisers’, this can mean one of two things:

  • either your content is not suitable for all advertisers in which case the video will serve fewer ads,
  • or the video is not eligible for advertising on account of it not being deemed advertising-friendly.

Videos marked as ‘Not suitable for most advertisers’ are accompanied by a yellow dollar sign.

Now, it can happen that YouTube makes an error in marking your video unsuitable for advertising. Don’t delete and re-upload your video as it won’t help.

If an error like this happens, you can appeal the decision, which prompts a review by an expert to determine if your content is or not advertising-friendly.

Optimizing for Search:

As promised, here are a few more notes on YouTube search optimization:

  • Do some video keyword research – use YouTube’s search suggest features, check the keywords used by popular channels in your niche and get inspired;
  • To avoid getting your video buried in search results, aim for low-competition keywords;
  • Keep an eye on Google as well, because Google search results also feature videos especially those with keywords like ‘How to…’, ‘Reviews’, ‘Tutorials’, ‘Funny videos of…’, or workout related terms;
  • Create high-retention videos that keep your audience watching, these videos tend to do better in YouTube search results.

Don’t neglect YouTube search optimization, since it will go a long way in getting your content to people who are searching for it.

Build an Audience

If your content is interesting and valuable, people will subscribe to your channel after watching your videos.

An engaged and loyal audience is crucial to generating revenue from YouTube ads. Even YouTube’s Creator Academy makes this a point under the title ‘Audience before Income’.

Likes, comments, and subscriptions right after people finish watching your videos send a strong signal to YouTube that your content is good.

At the end of your videos, ask people to subscribe to your channel, share your video if they liked it, and invite them to like or comment your videos.

Comments are a straightforward way to engage with your audience, to see what they like/dislike, and get their input on your content.

Growing your number of subscribers is key to monetizing your videos. Without an audience and without views, you won’t be able to make money off your YouTube videos.

To get people to subscribe, you must either:

  • Make them laugh by generating funny and creative content;
  • Teach them something through informative content or your expertise;
  • Get them into something they didn’t even know they could be good at (e.g. cooking);
  • Teach them a new skill (e.g. a new programming language);
  • Help them reach a decision about a product or service (e.g. by creating reviews).

There are no sure and fast rules to getting more subscribers – focus on putting out great content and optimize your videos.

Some other tips that can help you grow your subscriber base include:

  • Create a rapport with your audience by replying to comments or making videos based on their requests (e.g. reviews of a certain product or movie, answers their questions, etc.);
  • Distribute your videos on other platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Reddit, or others.

Getting the word out about your channel on as many platforms as possible will start a ripple effect and as your channel gets exposed to a wider and wider audience, chances are your subscriber base will continue to grow.

Don’t underestimate the power of word of mouth advertising that a well nurtured relationship with your audience can bring you!

Enable Monetization

To start earning money through YouTube, you must enable monetization on your channel.

When you enable monetization, you acknowledge that you’re not infringing copyright laws and you allow YouTube to serve ads in your videos.

To enable monetization:

  • Sign in YouTube account;
  • Click on the account icon;
  • Click on Creator Studio;
  • Select Channel in the left menu, then choose Status and features;
  • In the Monetization section click on Enable;
  • Accept YouTube Terms and Conditions.

Now that you’ve enabled monetization, you can head on the following steps to actually start earning money after the ads that are beings served on your channel.

Become a YouTube Partner

The YouTube Partner Program is available for all YouTube creators that meet the following criteria:

  • At least 1,000 subscribers;
  • At least 4,000 watch hours in the 12 months prior to joining.

When your channel meets these criteria, your application will be reviewed against the YouTube policy.

If your application is accepted, you can head onto the next step.

Join the Google AdSense Network

To opt into Google’s advertising network, you must create a Google AdSense account.

Go to the Google AdSense page and sign up to start earning money.

You’ll need to provide certain information like a bank account or PayPal account, postal address and phone number associated with your bank account, and other information, so Google can verify your identity.

To create your own account, you must be 18 years of age, otherwise you’ll need the consent of an adult to create your account.

Applying to YouTube’s Partner Program is one way to monetize your YouTube channel, but it’s not the only way.

There are other ways to monetize videos on YouTube, especially if you don’t meet the subscriber numbers required by YouTube or your videos are not ad-friendly.

Other Ways to Monetize YouTube Videos

If you’re looking for alternative ways to make money off your videos on YouTube, you can try the following methods as well:

Sell Branded Products

As your popularity grows, you can think about selling merchandise or information products.

Let’s say you’re a fitness coach who does YouTube videos on workout techniques, workout programs, healthy eating and other general fitness advice.

You could create a line of workout gears or workout accessories that you can sell under your own brand. You can set up an online store on platforms like Spotify and pitch your products to your audience.

On the other hand, you can drive traffic to other brands through affiliate marketing or lead generation.

If your YouTube channel is about reviewing products or services or creating tutorials for certain online tools, you can sign up for affiliate programs and get a commission from sales.

Alternatively, you can sell your own information products like eBooks, online courses, etc.

Feature Sponsored Content

If your channel is popular, some brands in your niche may notice you and try to work out a sponsorship deal with you, or you can reach out to brands that are willing to work with YouTube creators.

Let’s suppose your YouTube channel is about cosmetic products or fashion. You can work with cosmetics manufacturers or clothing brands to feature their products in your videos.

Turn to Fan Funding

Getting funded for your videos on fan funding platform like Patreon or Tipee.

On Patreon, fans can make recurring payments to creators they want to support and receive exclusive rewards in return. You can support your favorite YouTube channel from as low as $1 per month.

Tipee allows both recurring donations and one-off donations.

YouTube used to have a Fan Funding feature, which essentially worked as a tipping jar, allowing fans to donate as much or as little they could to support channels they liked. Unfortunately, YouTube killed off fan funding in early 2017.

License Your Content to the Media

You can use this monetization technique if you create videos that go viral. News outlets, tv shows may reach out to you asking to feature your videos in exchange for money.

This can also work if you’re a freelance journalist and you make footage of certain events.

If you decide to opt for other monetization techniques besides the YouTube Partner Program, make sure you don’t infringe on policies set out for third-party sponsorships.

If you want to mix up, that is, take advantage of multiple monetization opportunities, simply turn off monetization for videos that don’t comply with YouTube’s criteria.


If creating content on YouTube is your passion, there’s no reason not to monetize it, especially that there are many monetization avenues you can explore.

This way you can support yourself and continue doing what you like best!

Hopefully, my detailed guide has managed to answer most of your question about the ways you can make money on YouTube, and potentially turn your passion into a paid profession.

Updated on: August 9, 2018