Ranking the 34 best ways to make money with YouTube

$500 million. That’s how much YouTube darling and beauty blogger Michelle Phan is worth. (1)

For some perspective, that’s more than 3 times the net worth of Hollywood sweetheart Jennifer Lawrence. (2)

You’re probably here because you’d rather stack that paper using a mediocre webcam from the comfort of your own home than go to thousands of auditions in hopes of maybe scoring a role…and then even if it’s the lead in the Hunger Games, you still won’t make as much money as a girl who sits at home putting makeup on in front of her mediocre webcam.

That’s the internet, folks. The earning potential is infinite.

Be sure to check out the best ways to make money fast and the best online business ideas.

34. Track analytics

Trying to make money online without tracking analytics is like practicing 3 point shots and then closing your eyes every time before the basket reaches the hoop.

YouTube Insight is a great analytics tool, and websites like Social Blade will track and deliver your YouTube analytics, helping you figure out how to decipher them. (3) (4)

33. Get a mentor

If you’re trying to make it to Michelle Phan status, you should start with talking to people who have already done it. There are tons of communities out there dedicated to social media marketing and blogging, and even some that are dedicated specifically to YouTube.

YTalk is probably the biggest one, and it’s a great place to ask questions about YouTube and get tips from the pros. (5)

32. YouTube partner

The most obvious way to make money is to join YouTube’s partner program. To qualify, you need at least 10,000 lifetime views on your channel. (6)

Your content does have to be advertiser-friendly (no violent content, graphic language, overly political content, sexual jokes, etc), which might limit a lot of people.

But if your content passes their guidelines, you can make money in several ways:

  • Ads – Display, overlay, and video ads.
  • Channel memberships – You can offer special perks to your viewers in exchange for a set monthly payment.
  • Merch shelf – Sell your own branded merchandise on your YouTube account. See #12 for more information.
  • Super chats – Your viewers can pay to have their comments pinned to the top of a live stream or chat stream for a set period of time.
  • YouTube Premium Revenue – You earn a portion of the subscription fee for each YouTube premium subscriber that watches your videos.

Try to use all these for the most earnings.

31. Manage YouTube accounts

Know your way around a YouTube channel, but don’t want to start your own? You can manage other people’s YouTube accounts for pay. You’ll basically do everything you’d do if it were your own channel without having to come up with a channel idea.

In fact, you could strike out as a freelance YouTube account manager if you find managing several different YouTube accounts fun.

30. Animated videos

Childhood in 2017 mostly means zoning out in front of your mom’s cell phone while YouTube shuffles from one bizarre, poorly rendered animated video to the next. Kids YouTube has over 8 million weekly users, and kids don’t really care about quality, so it’s a good place to churn out crap content for easy money. (7)

The channel is full of these easy to make, auto-generated animated videos and songs that use SEO-packed titles. GTA V is the software that most use, and the videos made with it generate views in the millions. (8)

29. Speaking engagements

Beginning public speakers can rake in $500 for one engagement, and once you’ve got some experience and a name built up, $5,000 or even $15,000 checks are not uncommon. (9)

You can sell yourself as a public speaker even before you’ve got followers in the 6-figures. Even 5 or 10k is social proof that people like hearing what you have to say. Put together a media kit with your best videos and your analytics, then pitch it to relevant event directors.

28. Software tutorials

Use a screencast software like Screencast-o-Matic to record your computer screen, and give tutorials of the latest, most popular software programs. (10) Terry White posts Adobe Creative Cloud tutorial videos on YouTube and has almost half a million subscribers. (11)

If you’d rather not compete with the hundreds of Photoshop and InDesign tutorials, pick more niche but still widely used software. Personally, I’d go with something B2B like SalesForce.

27. Tech reviews

People like to watch products in action before buying, so if you’re a techie and you’re good at explaining complicated things simply, you should start a video reviewing new pieces of technology.

As with anything, niching down will make you the most money. Computer stuff, video game consoles, photography gadgets, smartphones, etc. Put affiliate links for the products you review and you’re set.

26. Fitness videos

Fitness videos are big on YouTube because people like seeing exercises in action. That said, the competition is fierce, so you need a convincing “fitness motivation” type of story to connect with viewers.

If your channel is a hit, you can use it as a launchpad for your own personal training business. Write some workout and/or diet programs and sell ’em to your viewers.

25. Music-related videos

With YouTube, you can make musician-level money without being a famous musician in a few ways.

One way would be to make YouTube video lessons on a musical instrument, probably the guitar. Marty Schwartz, a popular YouTube guitar instructor, makes multiple six figures a year thanks to his YouTube guitar lessons and online courses. (12)

Your other music-related niche option is song covers. There are YouTubers making tons of money by reimagining a song in a different genre (like making a heavy metal version of a pop song), doing acoustic covers, etc. If you’re skilled in a certain genre or are great at a weird instrument, you can carve out your own cover video niche.

Lastly, you could just make your own music. That method might be more difficult than just covering popular songs, though.

24. ASMR Videos

ASMR (Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response) is a nice-feeling tingly sensation in your scalp as a result of hearing certain sounds and seeing certain actions, usually of a calming nature. (13) On YouTube, so-called “ASMRtists” rake in tons of money by brushing the camera, tapping on objects, crinkling tinfoil, and doing “roleplay” videos (no, not like that).

This niche is poised for growth. Only recently has this phenomenon caught the attention of researchers and gone mainstream, so there’s plenty of time to get in on the ASMR ground floor.

Yes, you’ll most definitely feel weird talking to and brushing your camera, but it’s an easy way to make money on YouTube.

23. B2B videos

If it were me, I’d head straight for the businesses with my target audience. B2B is where the money is at, and having businesses as a client base opens up the door for you to sell consulting services to a built-in audience.

Make videos with business-focused software tutorials, business consulting, or accounting advice, for example. Offer value upfront, but hold a little back so you can upsell.

22. Info products

Base your channel around teaching others some skill you have to. Provide value upfront with free YouTube videos and grow your subscriber base into the thousands.

Then, just like you’d do with a blog, create an info product to sell to your audience and generate passive income. A video course is a good idea since you’re already on YouTube.

Hey, you could also make a “how to grow your YouTube channel” type course once you hit it big on YouTube.

21. Use YouTube to bring leads to your business

A lot of businesses use blogs to build a loyal customer base, but you could do the exact same with YouTube.

You could make videos providing helpful information, showing off your product or service, demonstrating your expertise in your field, having customers give testimonials about your product or service, maybe even host a live stream for a product launch or a webinar.

20. Premium content

Reel them into your channel with videos so baller they’ll pay for more. You’ve really got to be on your A game for this one because people are used to free content, but premium options are one of the most easily scalable ways to monetize an online platform.

You can sell on-demand videos on websites like Yondo, and you don’t even have to share revenue. (14)

19. Keyword research

If you’re good enough with metadata, you can figure out exactly which keywords are going to be the most lucrative and least saturated.

To get started, YouTube’s Creator Playbook explains how to create and interpret your own metadata. (15) Optimize your videos for search accordingly and watch the ad money come in while you sleep.

18. Sell subscriptions

It’s free to subscribe to a YouTube channel. But if you build a dedicated fanbase there first, you can start moving some of your content over to Viddler, a video platform in which users pay to subscribe to their favorite channels. (16)

This works best for YouTubers with consistent, regular content such as comedy sketches, web series, or talk shows.

17. Book deal

Are you really an internet celeb if you don’t have a book deal? Everyone goes this route eventually, and for good reason – although not necessarily just money.

According to publishing agency Macgregor Literary, the average first book deal pays an advance of around $5,000 to $15,000. If you have a huge following already, though, it could pay $50,000 or more. (17)

16. Beauty blogger

Michelle Phan, the bonafide queen of YouTube, makes $17.1 million per year off her beauty and skincare videos. (18)

It’s a market with low start-up costs and huge payoffs for the right personality (aka face). It’s easy to combine YouTube and Instagram for multiple income streams here. But it’s also saturated and competitive. My advice: find a niche. Yes, a niche within the niche of beauty.

15. Fan funding

Youtube has a fan funding function that basically lets you make a tip jar for your videos. Make it rain. (19)

Patreon is a great platform too. Fans can subscribe to you for a monthly fee ($1, $5, $10), and in return, they receive exclusive content. (20) But you have to already have a loyal following for this route to work.

14. Consulting

Consultants make bank. You can easily top 100 grand a year doing this. (21)

The hard part is getting to the point where people trust you enough to drop 5-figures for your advice. For that, you need to grow a solid following and offer proof that you can help them do the same. Something you can do by making YouTube videos with value-packed free content for your viewers.

13. Sponsorships

In the age of social media, when something becomes popular, there’s a 95% chance that influencer marketing is secretly the reason. At 5 to 10 cents per view, even a small-timer can bring in $500 for a video. It’s good money for minimal work.

How do you find a sponsor? There are online marketplaces for it. Check out Grapevine Logic, Famebit, and Channel Pages. (22) (23) (24)

12. Brand swag

Not great for a main stream of income, but easy side money if you get a fanbase. Start up an e-commerce shop, hire some freelancers on Fiverr to draw up some designs, find a dropshipper to print and ship your shirts. (25) Voila, let the orders roll in and never even touch the product.

YouTube actually has a partnership with Teespring that lets you create your own branded shirts on Teespring and advertise them directly on your YouTube video descriptions if you have at least 10,000 subscribers. (26) Pick your price, set up the shelf, and watch your subscribers buy your branded clothing.

11. Video gamer

Remember that kid in high school who wanted to be a professional video gamer for a living? You laughed at him then, but now, he might be getting rich on YouTube.

Millions of people will sit on YouTube and watch you play Minecraft for hours. Proof: Skydoesminecraft nets $1.7 million a year through YouTube, and he’s not even the biggest out there. (27) Stampy Longhead makes around $6 million/year. (28) PewDiePie has somehow managed to make $15 million in a year and still regularly pulls nearly a mil a month on average. (29)

Not every video has to be of you gaming if you’re really into the expanded universe of a video game. There are tons of Star Wars and Halo YouTubers, for example, who get hundreds of thousands of views on videos simply discussing the lore and background story stuff in the Star Wars and/or Halo universes.

10. Comedy skits

This is another popular genre, and it’s fun. BarelyPolitical, a variety show on YouTube filmed out of an office building, makes about $1.4 million/year. The hit TV show Broad City actually started as a YouTube web series that eventually landed a Comedy Central deal.

Although after you factor in costs, like paying all cast members, (they have around 12), set, costumes, etc, the total payoff seems lower. (30)

9. Affiliate marketing

Affiliate marketing is another one of those monetization methods that’s probably not going to get you rich but is an incredibly easy side hustle. Click Bank pays out commissions of anywhere from 1-75%, and Amazon’s popular affiliate program pays out 10% commission. (31) (32)

You can find even higher commissions as an affiliate for certain courses or info products.

Place your affiliate links in your video descriptions, pin a top comment with your most lucrative video-relevant affiliate links, and put them on your channel page too.

8. Toys

Remember what I mentioned about Kids YouTube being a literal gold mine?

From toy collectors to people playing with toys, a lot of the most wealthy YouTubers have accounts that revolve around toys.

Combine the fact that 8 million users get on Kids YouTube per week with lucrative toy company contracts, and you’ve got people like Blucollection netting $12.7 million/year. (33)

7. Brand partnerships

Think sponsored content, but instead of getting paid big money for one video, you’re getting paid big money every time you make a video. Just to name drop.

Jenna Marbles, YouTube’s darling, nets $4.6 million/year. A lot of that is for her massive subscriber list, but it’s also because of brand partnerships with Xfinity and Sirius-XM radio.

6. Cooking

The guys from EpicMealTime make around $3.1 Million per year. (34) To eat fast food.

The trick with food and cooking channels, though, is you’ve got to make it unique. EpicMealTime invented fast food lasagna – about as unique as it gets. And they have a clear target audience: stoner bros.

Narrow into a niche that isn’t overdone and you could be looking at all kinds of sponsorships, book deals, and even TV deals.

5. Start a blog

Pairing vlogging and blogging is a natural progression. These are two income streams with huge flexibility and earning potential. Monetize them both, funnel traffic between them, and you can double your money.

4. Crowdfund a project

Got an idea you’re sure would net you good money but don’t have the start-up cash? YouTube is a great crowdfunding platform.

Create a relevant channel and build out a decent following. For example, you want to build an app in the online dating space… start an online dating advice channel. Once you’ve got a following, shoot a baller viral video that explains your crowdfunding campaign and links to a Kickstarter page. This video can double as the intro video on your Kickstarter too. (35)

3. Travel web series

“Get paid to travel the world!” You’re probably sick of seeing this plastered all over the web, right?

Travel is a seriously saturated market. But, it’s also filled with mediocre content and people who quit in the first year.

If you can push through and build a name for yourself in the travel space, it has some of the best perks of any niche. All-inclusives in the Caribbean, first class tours of the south of France… all free AND you get paid to do it, as long as you vlog it. With locations that stunning, it shouldn’t be hard to make a solid video.

2. License your content

If you’re creating viral videos, chances are media outlets, TV news, and online conglomerates are going to want a piece of that viral action. You can actually license out your video to them for a fee on websites like Jukin Media. (36)

How do you go viral? There’s no guaranteed formula, but there is a formula. It needs to be short and attention-grabbing. It has to do something completely original. It should be either hilarious, shocking, or insanely useful. Finally, videos don’t catch fire in a vacuum. Promote.

1. Lead generation for local businesses

Getting rich and famous off YouTube sounds easy enough…laptop + webcam + charismatic personality. But for every YouTube celeb you can name, there are thousands upon thousands of equally charismatic and talented YouTubers who never made it past 1,000 views.

I’d rather not leave my success up to chance or a fickle fanbase. I push this one a lot, but that’s because offering SEO and lead generation services to local businesses is the most consistent way to make good, scalable income online.

In a nutshell: you learn SEO (yes, there is a formula), you pick a niche and a location (selling limo service in Springfield, Illinois is a lot easier than competing with millions and millions of YouTube creators), you capture leads. Once you turn around and go to an actual limo service business with those leads, you’ll see what I mean about consistent and scalable cash. Companies will pay an arm and a leg for a fresh stack of leads.

I’ll Paypal you $500 if you show me a better business to start than our method.

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