How to Make Money on YouTube in 2020: The Ultimate Guide
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How to Make Money on YouTube for Content Creators and Businesses in 2020

how to make money on youtube

Whether you are an aspiring content creator or a business owner looking to make a name for yourself on YouTube, your end goal is to make money. After all, that is how business works, and there’s nothing to be ashamed of! Considering that YouTube is the second-most popular social media platform globally with its more than two billion users (that’s about a quarter of the world’s population!), even laypeople should be able to see its incredible potential.

Despite the platform’s size and prominence in our everyday lives, beginners might have trouble figuring out how to make money on YouTube, especially if they’re unfamiliar with the basic principles of digital marketing. That is why we decided to help you out by writing this comprehensive guide on making money on YouTube! 

We have split the article into two primary sections — one focused on independent content creators and the other on businesses. So regardless of what type of YouTuber you are, you’re sure to pick up some useful tips on monetizing your videos!

Without further ado, let’s get into it!

How Hard Is It to Make Money on YouTube?

If you were wondering how to make money on YouTube fast, we’re sorry to disappoint you — that’s practically impossible. Making a living or building a business on YouTube is a marathon, not a sprint; it takes hard work, dedication, and persistence to build a name for yourself or your brand on this video-sharing platform. 

But don’t let that discourage you! Just because success doesn’t come overnight doesn’t mean it’s impossible to achieve. Quite the contrary — YouTube is massive for a reason, and that is because investing in video can be quite lucrative. As many as 89% of video marketers found that videos provided excellent ROI! And if you’re an independent content creator, YouTube is the place to be if you want to make a career out of it.

But there is one question that’s probably on all of your minds right now — how long does it take to make money on YouTube? The answer is — it depends. Before you can start earning revenue from YouTube, you will have to join the YouTube Partner Program by growing your channel. Creators become eligible to become YouTube partners once their channel reaches 1,000 subscribers and earns 4,000 hours of total watch time. Once you get there, you’re ready to begin monetizing!

What Is the YouTube Partner Program

youtube partner program logo

YouTube Partner Program opens up new features and resources to YouTube creators. One of the most notable ones is access to YouTube video monetization. The status of a YouTube partner will give you access to the following monetization features:

  • Ad Revenue — You will be eligible to earn revenue from video, display, and overlay ads served on your videos.
  • Channel Memberships — Your audience will be able to become your channel’s members for a small monthly fee for access to various bonus perks.
  • Merchandise Shelf — Your viewers will be able to browse and purchase the merchandise you decide to put on your watch pages.
  • Super Chat and Super Stickers — Your live stream viewers will be able to pay to have their messages highlighted in your live streams’ chats.
  • YouTube Premium Revenue — You will be eligible to receive a cut of the YouTube Premium subscription fees for all YouTube Premium users who watch your videos.

The above features are an excellent start to begin your YouTube moneymaking journey, but they come with specific requirements.

Monetization FeatureConditions
Ad RevenueBe at least 18 years old and have an active Google AdSense account.
Ensure your content adheres to YouTube’s advertiser-friendly content guidelines.
Channel MembershipsBe at least 18 years old.
Have a channel with at least 30,000 subscribers.
Merchandise ShelfBe at least 18 years old.
Have a channel with at least 10,000 subscribers.
Super Chat and Super StickersBe at least 18 years old.
Live in a country where Super Chat is available.
YouTube Premium RevenueHave your content watched by YouTube Premium subscribers.

Now let’s see how content creators can use these features to drive revenue on YouTube.

How Content Creators Can Make Money on YouTube

If you meet all the above requirements, you’re in an excellent spot. That is primarily because having various monetization options is the best way to make money on YouTube. Combining the above with a few other handy monetization methods can provide even mid-size YouTube creators with a hefty income. So here are the four most effective ways for creators to make money on YouTube:

  1. Monetizing Content With Video Ads
  2. Selling Merch
  3. Making Sponsored Videos
  4. Getting Direct Payments From Your Viewers

Let’s inspect each of these methods in more detail!

1. Monetizing Content With Video Ads

Earning ad revenue is likely the easiest but the most problematic way of making money on YouTube. As we’ve previously mentioned, you can start monetizing YouTube videos as soon as your channel reaches 1,000 subscribers and 4,000 hours of total watch time. All you’ll have to do to get started is set up a Google AdSense account! For a full guide on setting up and linking your Google AdSense account to YouTube, check out this page.

Once you’ve done the above, you’re all set to monetize! It seems easy enough, doesn’t it? So why did we call this method problematic? Let’s find out!

Problems With YouTube Monetization

youtube demonetization icon

Many deem that YouTube’s monetization is unreliable for several reasons:

  • Vague Community Guidelines — YouTube’s community guidelines that all creators have to abide by are strict but ambiguous. That makes it challenging for creators to follow them to the T since YouTube provides no examples of what actions are considered violations, leading to many creators unknowingly breaking the rules and getting demonetized.
  • Unequal Enforcement of Monetization Rules — YouTube has a history of unequal enforcement of their already vague community guidelines regarding monetization. The platform usually favors large creators and is more lenient toward them, while smaller channels are often left on the back burner.
  • Unfounded Demonetization — YouTube’s monetization bot that inspects creators’ content and determines whether it’s eligible to be monetized is flawed. That leads to numerous cases of creators’ videos getting unjustly demonetized.
  • Abusable Copyright Claim System — YouTube’s copyright flagging system is easily abusable since anyone can file a copyright claim with no evidence that they own the content. Once somebody files a copyright claim, creators can dispute it, but that process is often drawn-out and unreliable. What makes this system so damaging for creators is that they will lose all ad revenue to the claimant even while the appeal process is ongoing. That can lead to significant revenue loss from false copyright flaggers and a lot of unnecessary stress for creators.

Unfortunately, there is no surefire way to solve these issues without YouTube taking action itself. But despite this monetization method being so unreliable on YouTube, there are ways to minimize the odds of wrongfully getting demonetized on the platform. Read our article on surviving YouTube demonetization if you wish to learn more.

2. Selling Merch

Another excellent way to make money on YouTube is by selling merch! This strategy works best for channels with larger viewer bases since they will have more potential buyers. However, it can be as equally effective even for smaller communities if they are more tight-knit.

But what can you sell? The answer is simple — almost anything you can think of! Usually, though, creators sell things like clothing (T-shirts, caps, etc.), mugs, action figures, posters, etc. And the best part about this monetization method is that you can use YouTube’s Merchandise Shelf to easily promote your goods. 

If you happen to have a talent for entrepreneurship, you might even want to consider launching your own brand! Yes, you’ve heard that right. No, the idea’s not crazy. Some content creators have already been successful at it. An excellent example would be Cloakbrand, a clothing brand launched by some of the platform’s biggest YouTubers, Markiplier and Jacksepticeye

No, you don’t need to have millions of subscribers to make a successful brand launch on YouTube. As long as you have at least some existing audience and make a quality product that people need, you too can gradually grow your brand and earn revenue from it on YouTube!

3. Making Sponsored Videos

Affiliate marketing has been a lucrative way of monetizing one’s influence for years now, and it’s no different today! Once you get your YouTube channel on its feet and start growing it, it’s time to consider getting some sponsorships.

How this monetization method works is straightforward — you recommend a product to your audience in your video and leave an affiliate link to it in the description below, like this: 

youtube affiliate link example

You then proceed to get a commission from every sale the promoted brand makes through your link. 

Viewers can easily recognize a sponsored video by a small text box in its bottom-left corner.

youtube paid promotion sign example

But how do you find brands to sponsor you? There are several different ways:

  • You can reach out to brands directly and ask for sponsorships — This method is most effective if you find a brand that offers a product you know your audience would be interested in.
  • Brands can reach out to you and offer a sponsorship deal — This method is easiest to pull off for large creators. That is because brands are unlikely to reach out to smaller creators with sponsorship offers of their own volition.
  • You can use various affiliate marketing platforms — These platforms were designed to help creators and brands find each other to form sponsorship deals. Two of the platforms we’d recommend trying out are Famebit and Grapevine.

Integrating Paid Promotions Into Your Content

After you’ve found a sponsorship deal, all that’s left is to include the product promotion into your content! Integrating these promos so that they seem natural and helpful to your viewers is the key to driving the most conversions. But how do you master that? Our advice would be to learn from the pros! And there is no person better at that on the whole of YouTube than Aaron Marino (Alpha M). Just look at how the promotion part seamlessly flows with the content in the example below.

As you can see, that is precisely what we meant when we talked about integrating your promotion. Of course, you won’t be able to do that if you take up all sponsorship deals that come your way; although it might seem tempting at the start, you definitely shouldn’t! Ensure that the product you are promoting is compatible with your audience demographics. That means you shouldn’t take up a sponsorship deal for a mobile videogame if your YouTube channel is about cooking!

4. Getting Direct Payments From Your Viewers

Last but not least effective way of making money on YouTube is from your viewers directly. You can do that through multiple methods:

Leveraging YouTube Premium Memberships

youtube premium logo

YouTube Premium is YouTube’s paid subscription service that allows users to enjoy watching YouTube video ad-free. Whenever premium YouTube users watch your content, you get a cut from their YouTube Premium subscription fee. This method is an excellent way to earn passive income from your regular viewers if your target audience has many YouTube Premium users.

Encouraging Your Viewers to Become Channel Members

A few years ago, YouTube rolled out a brand-new monetization feature called channel memberships. By clicking the “Join” button below a video, viewers can choose to support a content creator by becoming channel members for a small subscription fee.

youtube join button example

Encouraging your audience to support you directly by becoming channel members is an excellent way to drive extra revenue from the platform.

Getting Tips From Super Chats

Super Chat is a handy feature exclusive to live streams that allows users to highlight their messages in the streamer’s chat room for a small fee. That gives their messages more exposure, making them more likely to get noticed by the streamer while earning the content creator revenue. If you plan to try live streaming on YouTube, this feature is an excellent one to have!

Fan Funding

One of the evergreen ways of earning money on YouTube is by asking your fans to support you on one of the various crowdfunding platforms. The two most famous ones are Patreon and SubscribeStar. This method is an excellent way to leverage and reward your most loyal viewers, as these platforms allow you to lock various benefits and bonus content behind a paywall. That way, you can earn income independent of YouTube’s platform while showing appreciation for your biggest supporters.

As you can see, there are plenty of ways for content creators to earn money on YouTube, but you will get the best results by combining all of the above. That is because no single method is completely reliable, so having YouTube monetization alternatives is always the safest approach.

How Businesses Can Make Money on YouTube

When it comes to making money on YouTube, businesses are not in the same boat as content creators. Nothing is stopping you from applying all the same monetization methods, that’s true. But the thing is, there are some vital differences between businesses and content creators and how they can use the platform optimally. Here are the most notable ones:

  • Target Audiences — Businesses have narrower target audiences than typical content creators, making it harder to zero in on them on such a large platform. Some professionals might not even find their target audience on YouTube, making the platform nearly useless to them.
  • Security and Privacy — Security and privacy are the foundations of any successful company. Unfortunately, YouTube leaves much to be desired in that regard. All content on the platform is public by default, and even the existing privacy features are unreliable. These downsides are not something most professionals would be content with.
  • Technical Support — If anything goes wrong, businesses need quick and responsive support because every second of downtime can mean a revenue loss. Unfortunately, due to YouTube’s size and its overburdened support team, it cannot provide that.
  • Reliability and Stability — Businesses that rely on monetizing video content as a primary revenue source need reliability and stability, which YouTube doesn’t provide with its fickle and error-prone monetization policy.

With the above in mind, it should be clear that YouTube is not the best place for businesses to make money, but it’s far from a bad one! After all, 88% of marketers are using YouTube in 2020, so it must be providing excellent ROI, right?

That is correct. But the key to driving revenue from YouTube as a business lies in adapting your approach. YouTube is still a potent tool for making money indirectly! What do we mean by that? It’s simple — the best ways to use YouTube as a business are:

As a Lead Generation Tool

YouTube’s massive reach as a video-sharing platform can be an invaluable tool for generating leads with videos. That is why making a YouTube marketing strategy and investing in it can help funnel quality leads to your sales team. Don’t believe us? Check out these YouTube marketing case studies and see it for yourself!

To Boost Your Brand Awareness

Videos are the most popular content marketing format on the web, making them a powerful tool for building brand awareness. There are a few reasons for that:

  • They are engaging and interactive.
  • They allow your brand to showcase its personality.
  • Videos are the most shareable content type on social media.

If you don’t believe in the value of brand awareness, it’s time for a wake-up call; it is an essential part of growing any business. And there is no better platform for giving your videos and brand exposure than YouTube!

As a Channel for Communicating With Your Consumers

YouTube (and video in general) provides an excellent opportunity for your brand to maintain close relationships with your customers. Whether you want to give your audience an inside look into your company culture or wish to showcase customer testimonials to help your future leads on their customer journey, YouTube is the best place for it!

To Drive Traffic to Your Website

Having a successful YouTube channel can do much more than give your brand exposure — it can drive a lot of traffic to your website. By including a compelling CTA in your video, you can funnel your YouTube viewers to your website and perhaps even drive a few conversions in the process! 

As a Platform to Advertise On

Yes, you’ve heard that right. You don’t need to build and grow a YouTube channel to earn from the platform — you can join the scores of advertisers already on the platform and profit from serving video ads on other people’s content. It’s never too late to try out digital video advertising!

As you can see, there are various ways you can earn money from YouTube indirectly, so you shouldn’t disregard it. Even if you decide not to rely on YouTube monetization to drive revenue, YouTube is an excellent promotion channel and can help you get your brand’s product in front of millions of eyes.

But what if you are a publisher looking for a private, secure, and reliable video monetization solution other than YouTube? If that’s what you need, a premium video platform is a perfect choice for you.

Why You Should Leverage Premium Online Video Platforms to Monetize Your Brand’s Videos

premium video platforms

If you thought that YouTube was your only option, you were wrong — there are plenty of alternatives! The digital world is full of online video platforms that provide businesses and professionals worldwide with premium video hosting, content management, and monetization services. These platforms are made with large publishers and corporations in mind and trump YouTube in many regards. Here are just some of the features you can expect to get by choosing a premium OVP for your business:

Full Control Over Your Monetization

Unlike YouTube’s unreliable and basic monetization scheme, most OVPs like Brid.TV offer video monetization features that will make YouTube look like a toddler. Some of these include support of the latest VAST & VPAID ad tags, ad pods, header bidding, and much more. 

Aside from the latest features the online video advertising industry has to offer, premium OVPs will provide full control over what ads show up on your videos. Oh, and you will never have to live in fear of getting demonetized ever again! 

Premium Security & Privacy 

Do you remember when we talked about the importance of high-end security and privacy options for businesses? Premium online video platforms offer just that! 

By settling for a premium video platform instead of YouTube, you will gain access to private video hosting, server-side security, password protection, and much more. If you wish to maintain full control over your content and reduce the risk of security breaches and data leaks, private platforms are how you do it.

Video Content Management System

YouTube’s content management system is functional but lacking. Premium OVPs don’t have that problem, though! All reputable names on the market come with an intuitive and feature-rich video CMS designed to help publishers manage massive video libraries. You will be able to sort videos by categories, add tags and descriptions, seamlessly embed them on your website, and much more.

Platform API & Third-Party Integrations 

Everyone who’s ever been into business management or marketing knows just how vital third-party integrations are. Most companies use a plethora of third-party software to streamline the most time-consuming parts of their everyday routines. That is why receiving full access to a platform’s API gives you nearly unlimited integration opportunities. All you will need is someone with some coding knowledge, and you’ll be able to integrate your favorite tools and apps with your brand-new video player!

Branding & Customization

You must have noticed that YouTube’s player leaves no room for customizability or branding. Quite the opposite — it carries the YouTube logo at all times!

All experienced business owners know how crucial maintaining brand presence is, so having the option to customize your video player and brand is essential. Luckily, white-label video platforms let you do just that. If you settle for one, you will be able to change anything from your player’s skin to UI layout and even the play button!

As you can see, there are many tangible benefits of picking a premium online video platform to YouTube for businesses. If that ends up being the path you want to take, remember one thing — choosing the right one for your business needs is crucial. We know that can be daunting, especially if you don’t know what to look for, so we’ll offer you one last piece of advice — do thorough market research!

Luckily, we can help you with that. We’ve recently conducted in-depth market research on some of the best online video platforms out there. We’ve compiled all our findings in a comprehensive blog post where we’ve made a side-by-side comparison of all of their features. If you’re interested in seeing what the cream of the crop of the OVP market has to offer, follow the link below to our free industry report.