How to Make Money on YouTube (Without Millions of Subscribers)

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On occasion, there’s a news segment about someone who is raking in the cash from a YouTube channel. Maybe it’s about a small child who makes millions from videos of her opening and playing with new toys. Or perhaps it’s about a guy who earns millions playing video games.

Whatever it was, you probably watched the segment and silently thought to yourself…

“I could do that.”

And then you went back to your regular job.

But the thought of making money on YouTube never really went away. It stayed with you as a lingering thought that occasionally surfaced whenever your boss gave you flack over something, a customer stressed you out with unreasonable demands, or the software you use in your daily work froze for the umpteenth time this week.

We’ve all been there. Just when you’re about to pull out your hair, you remember that YouTube thing, and you wonder… “How much money do YouTubers make? Maybe I could start a YouTube channel that would allow me to earn enough to quit my job.”

It’s definitely possible to make a living from a YouTube channel. Many people do it. But it isn’t as easy as starting a channel and raking in the money.

There are several different ways to make money on YouTube, and some are better than others. It’s important to understand the YouTube business and the different methods of monetization before you post your first video.

Let’s take a look at how to make money on YouTube without having millions of subscribers.

How Much Do YouTubers Make?

Obviously, most people with YouTube channels don’t make millions of dollars. But you’re still probably wondering what’s possible on the platform.

How much do YouTubers make? It depends. The numbers vary from a few bucks to millions.

The reason why this question is so difficult to answer is because there is more than one way to make money on YouTube. Let’s take a look at several common ways that people make money with their video content.

1. Google Adsense

This is the most common way that people monetize their videos. I’m sure you’ve probably seen the ads that appear on videos while you’re watching them. These are Google Adsense ads.

These ads are known as pay-per-click (PPC) ads, and you are paid a small commission when someone clicks on one. YouTube also uses a type of ad where you are paid a small commission when someone watches a short commercial. These are known as pay-per-view (PPV) ads.

The problem with this type of advertising is that it pays very little. It’s not uncommon for many YouTube channels to earn $2 to $3 per 1,000 views. That means you’ll only earn $2k-$3k for every million views your channel gets.

Do you see the problem? It gets worse.

To qualify for these ads, your channel will need 1,000 subscribers and at least 4,000 hours of your content must be viewed over a 12-month period.

That’s a pretty tall order to fill. To meet those requirements, you may have to create several hundred videos before you even qualify. Sadly, many will get discouraged and give up before their channels even start earning with this method.

How much does YouTube pay per view?

Not much. It isn’t pennies per view – It’s a fraction of a penny per view. The amount seems to vary depending on the channel’s topic, but somewhere in the range of $0.003 – $0.004 is typical.

Because of this, trying to make a living from a YouTube channel with Adsense is very difficult to do.

2. Affiliate Advertising

Affiliate advertising is, in my opinion, a much better way to make money on YouTube than with Adsense. With affiliate advertising, you don’t need millions of followers or views to earn a good living.

What is affiliate advertising?

Affiliate advertising is when you promote other people’s products, and when viewers buy that product through a special link you provide, you get a commission of the sale. There are many different affiliate networks you can join to find products to promote.

Can you see how you can make much more money with this method?

Yes, it’s more difficult to get someone to click on your link and buy something, but you’ll make a lot more money with this method than you will with Adsense ads.

There are several ways you can promote affiliate products in your videos. You could do a video review or demonstration of a product, for example. You could also interview others who have used the product or talk about ways the product solves a problem viewers may be having.

You want to place your affiliate link in the video description, and then tell people about the link in the video.

3. Sponsored Videos

A sponsored video is when a company pays you to create a video about their product. if a company does reach out to you with a proposal for a sponsored video, be sure to negotiate the terms. Don’t just accept whatever they offer.

Also, it’s important to keep in mind that it’s okay to reject an offer. You don’t have to accept every offer that comes your way. It’s important that you actually believe in the products you will be talking about.

4. Promote Your Own Products and Courses

Online courses are really big right now, and it’s not uncommon for them to sell for $297, $397, $497, and up. Some online courses sell for $1k or more!

If you have a course that sells for $497, for example, you only need to sell a little over 200 a year to earn a six-figure income. If your course sells for $297, you only need to sell 337 a year to earn six-figures.

Can you see why selling online courses is so great?

Creating online courses is surprisingly easy, and you can host your course on platforms like Thinkific or Teachable. Another great thing about selling online courses is that just about everything is automated. When someone buys a course, that person automatically receives an email with access to the course, which can be accessed 24/7.

To sell your courses in YouTube videos, you do need to tell people about them. For example, if you developed a course on how to train dogs, you could create a channel on dog training where you give people tips in your videos. At the end of each video you create, you could promote your course by telling people about it and the link in the video description that takes them to a sales page.

The great thing about selling your own products or courses is that you don’t need millions of views or subscribers to earn a great living from your channel. In addition to creating a YouTube channel on your topic, you could also create a blog to go with it. Many bloggers earn great livings just from the content on their websites.

Alex Nerney and Lauren McManus, for example, are two bloggers who earn full-time livings from their blog. They started a health and wellness website, Avocadu, a few years ago that now earns over $20k a month. They teach others how to create money-making blogs in their Create and Go series of courses.

How to Start a YouTube Channel

Now that we’ve established that it’s definitely possible to make money on YouTube without a zillion views, you may be wondering about how you can get in on the action. Maybe you would like to start a channel to supplement your income – or perhaps you would like to someday quit your job to be a full-time YouTuber.

To achieve success as a YouTube content creator, there are several things you need to do to make sure you are positioned for success. Creating a successful YouTube channel isn’t as simple as uploading a bunch of videos about anything and everything and hoping for the best. You need a strategy.

Here are the steps to build your channel:

1. Select a Topic

Take some time to check out several successful YouTube channels. One thing you’ll probably notice about them is that each channel is focused on a specific topic. They aren’t collections of random videos.

Just a few examples of popular YouTube topics include:

  • Weight Loss
  • Fitness
  • Hobbies
  • Technology
  • Video Games
  • Tutorials
  • Product Reviews
  • Cooking
  • Unboxing
  • Lifehacks
  • Top X lists
  • How To
  • Beauty and Makeup
  • Homesteading
  • Travel Vlogging
  • Comedy
  • Fashion Tips
  • Sports
  • DIY Crafts
  • Cute Babies
  • Pets & Animals
  • Education
  • Yoga
  • Gardening
  • Magic Tricks
  • Book Reviews

This represents just a small sample of the topics you could pursue. The idea is to pick a topic to focus on for all of the videos on your channel.

2. Name Your Channel

You’ll need to come up with a name for your channel, and it’s important that the name you choose is unique and distinctive so you don’t infringe on other people’s channel names.

After you’ve selected a topic, take some time to go through the different channels that cover your topic to see what others have named their channels.

This is very important: DO NOT COPY ANYONE!

The purpose of seeing what others have named their channels is to generate ideas, nothing more.

Once you’ve come up with a potential name, search for it to see if another channel is using that name. If you see a channel with that name or something similar, you’ll have to come up with something else.

You also want to do an internet search to see if the name is being used by another company. When you put the name in a search engine, put it in quotes to improve your search results.

Finally, it’s also important to check and see if the name you are considering is trademarked for anything. You can conduct a trademark search on Trademarkia. If a name you are considering is trademarked or if the name is similar to another company’s name, you’ll have to go back to the drawing board.

3. Write a Description for Your Channel

Your YouTube channel description is how you introduce your channel to your audience. It’s how you say “hello” on the platform.

Just a brief paragraph or two is all you need. There’s no need to write the sequel to War and Peace here. If it’s too long, no one will read it.

4. Add Keywords to Your Channel

Keywords are how people find you on YouTube. A keyword is simply a search word or phrase that people use to find videos to watch. An example of a keyword is:

“How to train my dog”

YouTube content creators add keywords to each video they upload, but it’s also possible to add keywords to your channel.

To find the area of your channel where you can add keywords, select “Channel” and then “Advanced.” You should then see a section that says “Channel keywords.” This is where you want to enter keywords that are relevant to your topic.

If your channel is about home improvement, for example, a few keywords you could add are:

  • Home Improvement
  • DIY
  • Remodeling
  • Construction
  • Renovation
  • Kitchen Remodel

5. Create a Banner for Your Channel

The banner on your YouTube channel tells people what your videos are about. It’s a way to brand your channel.

You can create a simple banner for free on Canva. You may also be able to find someone to create a custom banner for you on Fiverr.

6. Upload a Profile Picture

Depending on what your channel is about, you can upload a headshot (if you are the star of your channel) or a logo. Like custom banners, logo designers can be found on Fiverr.

7. Get Legal

Before you even create your first video, you want to make sure that your new business venture is legal. Yes, this is a business you’re creating.

You’ll need to obtain a business license. It’s also possible that your town or county may have additional licensing requirements. Be sure to check with your county, town, and state to make sure you are following all business regulations.

You will also want to consult with a CPA or attorney (or both) to make sure you have the best business structure for your situation. You may be able to operate as a sole proprietor at first and then later upgrade to either an LLC or a corporation for tax and liability purposes. A professional will be able to guide you in this decision.

8. Get the Right Equipment

The equipment you’ll need to record videos will depend on the type of channel you’ll be creating. Thankfully, you don’t need to spend a lot of money on high-end equipment to create a professional-looking channel. Digital recording technology has come a long way, and you can make some amazing videos with relatively inexpensive equipment.

First, you’ll need a high-quality microphone. The Blue Yeti is one of the most popular microphones for bloggers, course creators, and YouTube video creators. The quality is excellent, and with its USB cable, it plugs right into your computer for easy recording.

You will also need a high-quality video camera and possibly a tripod. YouTube cameras are very inexpensive, and many different models are available for various budgets.

It’s important to point out that it’s possible to make videos of your computer screen, no camera required. You can do this with a microphone and screen capture software. Screen-Cast-O-Matic is a very popular option that is very affordable.

9. Upload Videos

At this point, you want to start uploading videos to your new channel. If you don’t have any experience making video content, your first videos are probably not going to be amazing. Don’t sweat it – your videos will improve as you gain experience.

As your YouTube channel grows, you will probably want to customize it. You can create a trailer for your channel, for example, and link to your social media accounts. You can also check out various YouTube channels to see how their content is organized and for ideas on how you can improve.

It’s important to be consistent in uploading videos. If you go for several weeks or months without uploading anything, viewers may assume you’ve abandoned the channel and unsubscribe.

10. Have Realistic Expectations

Rome wasn’t built in a day, and you won’t become a YouTube star overnight, either. Building and growing a YouTube channel is going to take some time. Patience is required.

In the beginning, your videos probably won’t get too many views. It’s important not to become discouraged when you post video after video and they only get a dozen or so views each.

As more people discover your channel and subscribe, your views will increase. Growing a YouTube channel is a marathon, not a sprint. It could take months or even several years to achieve significant growth.

How to Make Money on YouTube – Final Thoughts

It’s definitely possible to make money on YouTube without millions of views or subscribers, but you need the right strategy to make it work. Promoting products through affiliate offers or creating and selling your own products are the best ways to make it happen.

Many believe that YouTube is a tough nut to crack, and in some ways it is. But it’s not impossible. If you are determined to stick with it long term, you may be able to build a YouTube channel that enables you to earn a full-time income.

Instead of looking at it as a path to quick riches (which it’s not), it’s best to view it more like a business you are building. All new businesses have to start somewhere, and growth often happens slowly. But with dedication, you may be able to build your own little media empire.

Cyrus Vanover

Cyrus Vanover, MBA, is a financial copywriter who has written for companies of all sizes. He is also the author of the personal finance book, "Earn A Debt-Free College Degree." His goal is to help families save money, make more money, and achieve financial independence. Based in the mountains of Virginia, he enjoys hiking the local trails, listening to 80s music, and reading books on military history in his spare time. Read more.

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