If you’ve ever lost an afternoon to watching videos on YouTube, you know how easy it is to find videos on just about anything you can imagine. This wildly successful video platform has revolutionized the way people consume media, and has provided people who have no previous media connections the opportunity to make money by creating and uploading their own content.
Sure, you’ve probably heard of YouTube megastars who have vast numbers of subscribers and are making millions of dollars each year through their channels. But did you know that there are also people out there who aren’t well-known, but are still making a solid living via YouTube? (See also: 5 Social Media Stars Who Earn Way More Than You)
Though it’s unlikely you’ll make it into the upper echelons of YouTube superstardom, it’s good to have an idea of just how lucrative this platform can be. In 2016, YouTube’s top 10 earners all made over $5 million. The top earner, controversial Swedish online gamer and prankster, PewDiePie, single-handedly raked in over $15 million. Here’s how you, too, can earn money by creating YouTube videos.
1. Choose a niche
This is possibly the single most important step to making money from YouTube videos because it’s going to determine your audience. It will have a huge bearing on your earnings as it’s your audience who will ultimately attract paying advertisers. It’s essential that you pick a niche that’s narrow enough for you to be able to make an impact in. A small niche is easier to target and monetize, and they’re more likely to be engaged. Yet, you want a niche that’s popular enough that lots of people search for it.
The best place to start when you’re trying to find your niche is with your own interests and pastimes. If you’re not passionate about the subject you choose, then you’ll soon lose interest and it will come across to your audience in your videos. Choosing something that you’re knowledgeable about and have a real interest in will make creating videos far easier and more enjoyable for you.
Popular niches that some of the most successful YouTubers are active in include gaming, comedy, beauty and fashion, pets and animals, and music. Keep in mind that it’s possible to pick a niche within a niche — so, rather than starting a general fitness channel, you could make videos on weight loss through running for beginners. It’s still about running, but your audience is far more targeted within that subject. The more well-defined your niche, the better. (See also: 5 Surprising Ways Social Media Stars Make Money)
2. Create great content
Initially, setting up your channel is a simple process of providing your personal details and deciding your channel name. From here, it’s time to get the camera out and start making great content, because the ultimate aim is to get the most views possible. You’ve probably heard the phrase “content is king,” and nowhere is that more relevant than on YouTube. The only way to get lots of eyes on your videos is to make them informative, engaging, and on subjects that people will find interesting.
3. Grow your audience
Once you have created a few videos, you should start trying to grow your audience. Though this will happen organically if your videos are on searchable subjects, there are some easy ways to give it a kick-start. Try doing a shoutout on social media to tap into your existing contacts there, asking them to check out your channel. Also, ask people to subscribe to your channel in your videos. The more subscribers you have, the more likely they are to return and watch more.
Another great way to grow your channel is to be consistent and post your videos at regular intervals. This will teach your audience to know when to expect your latest video, and potentially even encourage them to look forward to and follow it like a regular TV show. Check out more ideas for growing your audience on YouTube’s Creator Academy.
4. Monetize your channel
There are two main forms of advertising that will allow you to make money directly from YouTube’s platform. These are display ads along the bottom of the video, and the video ads that play at the beginning of a video and can be skipped by clicking “Skip Video” after a few seconds. To be able to have your videos display these, you’ll need to apply to the YouTube Partner Program. For your application to be reviewed, your channel needs to have already had 10,000 public channel views, so it may be a while before you can actually apply. And if you don’t get approved, you can reapply after 30 days.
To access your payments once they start coming in, you’ll need to have an AdSense account. AdSense is Google’s advertising program across its whole network of content sites. If you already have an AdSense account, you can use that. The AdSense account is where all of your payments will be processed, so it’s an absolute necessity.
Next, you need to set your monetization preferences by selecting the type of ads you want shown, and on which videos they should appear. To maximize your earnings, it’s best to set them to be shown on all videos that have already been uploaded, plus future videos you upload. Alternatively, you can choose videos individually on which to display ads.
The amount that people make through YouTube varies greatly. It all depends on your audience and value of ads shown on your videos. Luckily, Social Blade has a useful tool to help you estimate what you may be able to earn from your own channel. (See also: 5 Ways to Make Passive Income Online)
5. Expand your reach
Ads are not the only way of making money on YouTube. There are also indirect ways to make money from your videos. Once you have an established audience and a high number of views for your content, lots of other doors may open up. Brands love to work with popular YouTube creators to help show off their products in sponsored campaigns, and if you’ve chosen your niche well, you don’t necessarily need millions of subscribers. Companies are eager to speak directly to their target audience. (See also: How to Turn Your Instagram Account Into a Paying Gig)
In addition, lots of creators use merchandise as a way to earn extra cash by selling anything from T-shirts to posters. YouTube makes it possible for you to link directly to external sites in your videos, so viewers can easily purchase the products you promote.