How To Get Paid On YouTube For Making Videos

ShadowHow To Get Paid On YouTube

Technological development has continuously pushed the creative possibilities for ordinary members of the public to document their lives through a visual medium.

From the first commercially available sketch books through the birth of photography, to Super 8 cine reel, VHS home video cameras and DV handycams, people have strived to capture the world around them and to share their creations with family, friends, work colleagues, and neighbours.

The end of the 20th Century saw the arrival of cheap and plentiful digital camera technology.

This was closely followed by the widespread use of open source video editing software and ever faster internet connection speeds.

All these individual advancements converged in 2005 to give us the global video sharing platform that is YouTube.

A Brief History of YouTube

The domain name was registered on February 14 2005 and the first video 'Me At The Zoo' was uploaded by co-founder Jarwid Karim on April 23 2005. YouTube has seen year-on-year growth since its launch and currently is valued at $70 Billion according to Bloomberg (May 2015). Google bought YouTube in 2010 and the day-to-day running is currently operated by their staff.


YouTube's First Logo c.2005

The popularity of YouTube accelerated with the introduction of the first video capable phones followed by smart phone and tablet technology in the 2010's. The ubiquity of video cameras in everyday life facilitated a natural progression from traditional Blogging (words and pictures) into Video Blogging, or Vlogging as it became known. Vlogging really grew into an art form with the introduction of personal YouTube Channels that could be branded and managed much like existing terrestrial media channels. It was now possible to find your niche, create your brand, produce your content, and engage with your rapidly growing audience. All from the comfort of you bedroom.

Fast forward to 2016 and we are now firmly in the era of the serious YouTube Content Creator - a loose definition that can technically be applied to anyone who shoots, edits, and uploads their video content to their own YouTube Channel. And while most YouTube Content Creators remain hobbyist uploaders, the more successful practitioners have gone on to become the first generation of YouTube Professionals, YouTube Celebrities, and occasionally even YouTube Millionaires.
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How Do I Get Paid on YouTube for Making Videos?

style="text-align: left;">Which brings us to the all important question and subject of this article: "How do I get paid on YouTube for making videos?". YouTube is the second most used search engine on the Internet with over 30 million viewers per day and 3 Billion searches per month. And with all those people searching for content, surely there must be some way for eager content creators to get paid for their work?
In the following article I will lay out the options available to you as a Video Content Creator. I will also look at the tried and tested methods which will give you the best possible chances of earning money from your original (and perhaps not so original) video content.

So you are a video producer and want to get paid for making videos on YouTube? Just like in the offline world there are two methods for getting paid for the creating video content:


#1 Produce original video content for your own Channel and generate income directly based on the popularity it receives (i.e. Views and/or Click Throughs).

#2 Hire out your technical skills, knowledge and experience, and/or equipment to existing YouTube Talent.

Option 1. Creating original content for your own channel/brand/service and subsequent promotion.

Pros - realize your own creative vision; potential for massive financial rewards; gateway for other professional opportunities; control over your online identity and professional destiny.

Cons - massive investment in time, energy, money, upskilling etc. with no guarantee of a return; little or no income until you find and build your audience; highly competitive marketplace; requires a strong knowledge of current digital marketing techniques and an awareness of popular viewing trends.

Option 2. Create content for other YouTube Users.

Pros - you (should) get paid for all the work you complete; further develop your digital production skills; helps you to keep current with YouTube trends, policy updates, and other announcements.

Cons - pay can be extremely low while building your reputation; possibility of difficult and demanding clients; stiff competition from existing high-end video production companies; your geographical proximity to clients can influence your work rate.

As most readers of this article will probably already be advertising their video production services online, this article will focus more on Option 1 - Getting paid for your own videos on YouTube.

Understanding the Different Income Streams on YouTube

The first practical step to making money directly through YouTube videos is to understand the various income streams that are available to a YouTube Content Creator. This will effect many aspects of your marketing strategy and should also influence how you tailor the content and running order of your videos. All income streams from YouTube can be broadly grouped into three categories.

Stream no. 1 - Get Paid on Youtube Through Featured Advertisements on Your Videos

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Generating income from Advertisements and Sponsorship which run either before, during, or between your videos as tabs, side bars or banners. (YouTube Partner & Google Adwords)

a) Become a YouTube Partner

- Google Adsense (by Auction)

- YouTube-specific Ads (by Reserve)

b) Signing up your own Sponsors.


The concept of generating income from advertisements that your viewers must sit through in order to see your content is as old as the medium of moving pictures itself. It is also the easiest option in terms of setting up. The initial goal of your video uploads should be to drive enough traffic on your account so that you are offered a YouTube Partnership. This proves to YouTube and Google that you are actually a real person capable of uploading content that people want to watch. You can then sign up to either YouTube and Google Adsense.

This is the most legitimate way to get paid on YouTube but also the least lucrative - only the really big YouTube stars make serious money solely through his income stream and of course you still have to be invited to become a YouTube Partner. This only occurs when your videos have proven to be bonafide content (see YouTube rules for acceptable content) and have reached a certain number of views.

Stream no. 2 - Sell Your Own Services or Products Directly to Viewers


Teen Sensation and YouTube star Zoe Sugg promoting her first novel

Generating income by selling your own organic premium video content or branded merchandise.

1. Promote your own Merchandise based on your brand.

2. Go Freemium - post some free content while keeping the more in-depth or exclusive content behind a pay wall. This can be pay per view but more commonly is by subscription.

This is an excellent way to convert existing viewers and subscribers directly into customers and depends largely on the nature of the content you provide and the brand that you intend to establish. If you are particularly good at something in the offline world and can offer tutorials, tips, or unique content then this is definitely a viable route increasing your income stream.

Or perhaps you are the creator or aggregator of high quality original content such as short films, comedy sketches, news items, or punditry. If you build up a strong online identity you could convert your YouTube persona into a bankable commodity that features your image on t-shirts, mugs, pin badges etc. You can also offer behind the scenes exclusive content such as personal interviews, in-depth solutions (i.e. for gaming strategies), or other bespoke content.

Stream no. 3 - Affiliate Marketing


Generating income through Affiliate Marketing websites.

Affiliate Marketing has gained somewhat of a dubious reputation over the years. And if it is done in a certain 'Black Hat' manner it could see your YouTube account shut down for the violation of current Spam policies.

These Black Hat techniques involve creating (or stealing and rebranding existing) high traffic videos based on search engine results and back linking to websites that backlink again to Affiliate Marketing websites. A word of warning, YouTube forbids uploading videos on its platform with the sole purpose of driving viewers off YouTube and onto another website.

But if you manage an affiliate marketing campaign correctly and choose to endorse products that genuinely match with the theme of your channel, then it is certainly a viable revenue stream and a possible option for competent YouTube Video Producers.

Reputable Affiliate partners include:

  1. Amazon Affiliate Programme
  2. eBay Partner Network
  3. iTunes
  5. Max Bounty

Crossing The Streams

Of course it is also possible to combine two or more of these options but keep in mind what you are trying to achieve with your videos. In all cases you will want your video content to be heavily branded with your business name and/or logo and produced to a reasonably high standard, especially if you intend to offer your services in the future as a third party video content creator.

How Much Money Can I Expect To Make On YouTube?

Income from YouTube is primarily based upon the number of viewers who watch your videos. But it also depends on factors such as which countries your viewers are in, what their age and gender is, what your content is about, and if you have any additional income generating streams in place as mentioned above.

Another factor to consider is whether or not to enter into an agreement with a MCN (multi-channel network). MCN's are entities that affiliate multiple YouTube channels and offer advice and services including programming, cross-promotion, funding, audience development, monetization, sales, partner management, and digital rights management. They are not affiliated or endorsed by YouTube or Google and thorough research should be done before considering whether or not to enter into a legally binding contract that may be costly to leave down in the future. Like most business decisions it will require a cost versus benefit analysis and sound guidance from a trusted source.

The metric used to measure your earnings on YouTube is Cost Per Mille (CPM). This analysises how much you earn for every thousand (1K) views. Let's have a look at how that might break down:

$5.00 CPM (a likely figure offered by MCN's but depends on the factors previously mentioned)
so $5.00 - $2.15 (YouTube takes 45% across the top) = $2.75 to Channel
45% of videos are monetized (not all videos will have Ads on them)
$2.75 x .45 = $1.24 to Channel Creator (excluding MCN deduction of 20-30%)

Two large variables in this equation are the initial CPM and the percentage of videos that are monetized by YouTube.

Of course there is always the possibility of one of your videos going viral and chalking up a large number of videos in a short space of time. But there is still no definite formula for 'making a video go viral' in spite of many claims to the contrary by self-proclaimed (and self-promoting) knowledge experts.

It is for these reasons that more prudent YouTube Creators with long-term ambitions opt for the slow and steady approach. They build up a small but loyal fanbase while increasing their number of Channel Subscribers. They do this by producing quality content that keeps viewers tuning back in. They complement this initial revenue with additional income streams. Should one of their videos happen to go viral they are well positioned to maximise the returns from the brief exposure it will give them. And they keep an up to date business dossier on their channel should a brand approach them interested in sponsorship.

Examples of Content Creators

The Viral Sensation

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Gagnam Style currently has over 2.5 Billion views which is believed to have generated over $2 million for its creator PSY through YouTube Ads alone. But when combined with the other income streams such as iTunes sales, video parody royalties, merchandise, endorsements, and live shows, his personal wealth from the video is estimated at $10 million. And all from one video about a horse dance? (source: Forbes)

This example alone highlights how multiple income streams derived from YouTube video content can multiply the earning potential from YouTube alone.

The Rising Comedian and YouTube Star

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Sean Burke shot to YouTube fame with his viral video of himself doing impressions of the Cast of Family Guy in 2012. Since then he has continued to develop his YouTube channel and currently has 38K Subscribers. His latest video attract 66,000 viewers thanks to an additional digital media promotional campaign.

While Sean is no doubt earning revenue from his YouTube videos, he uses his YouTube fame primarily as a promotional tool to highlight his career as an aspiring Actor, Comedian, and Sketch Writer.

The Premium Content Creator

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Greg Smith is the CEO and Co-Founder of his own company Thinkific which specialises in online course creation. Rather than post videos on YouTube and wait for traffic he chooses the premium account option with his content being entirely pay per view. He describes his breakdown of earning through YouTube like this:

Greg's YouTube Channel stats:
- 12 videos
- 150,000 views approx.
- 2100 subscribers

- on YouTube = $0*
- from online courses sold through YouTube - $10k+ per month

*Greg's courses on YouTube are subscription only.


Getting Started On YouTube

To start getting paid for making videos on YouTube you will need to follow these steps:

  1. Google Account set-up
  2. YouTube Account set-up
  3. Prepare Equipment
  4. Video Content Creation
  5. YouTube Search Results Page Optimization (SERP)

If you are already familiar with the inner-workings of YouTube then feel free to scroll down to the next section.

If you have not already done so then now is the time to set up your own personal YouTube account. But first you must have your own personal Gmail account. What, you don't do Gmail? Still afraid Google will start tracking all aspects of your privacy? Given their global reach it's probably too late to worry about that now and unfortunately you will need to compromise somewhat on your high moral stance. Or else post your amazing work on another platform. It's quite simple: no Gmail, no YouTube.

Google Account Set-Up


Youtube Account Setup


The process is self-explanatory. When you have completed the required forms you should arrive at your new Creator Studio Dashboard home screen like this.


YouTube Creator Studio Dashboard


What Equipment You Will Need

YouTube videos can literally be recorded on pretty much any digital video camera and uploaded directly to the site via any internet browser. Many YouTube tutorials consist of little more than webcams and screen recording software with some voice over recorded through a laptop mic.

But it is still always a wise decision to make your videos look as pleasing to the eye (and ear) for the viewer. Regardless of your recording setup you will need the following:

  1. Camera to record the video
  2. Sound Recorder to record the audio (can be camera audio)
  3. Editing software
  4. Internet browser or YouTube app to upload the video file*

*YouTube's powerful software convertors can handle most file types but YouTube does offer guidelines for its preferred formats (mp4/H.264/AAC).

Take a look on how to upload a video to YouTube

The Basic Setup


A basic setup could be a webcam or phone camera using onboard audio to record video and sound. Native editing software like Windows Movie Maker or iMovie or YouTube's inbuilt editor software.

The Mid-Range Setup

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For the more experienced Video Producer a DSLR setup is probably a good way to go to balance quality with cost. You would want to include an external audio recorder in this setup and possibly some lighting equipment. A backdrop or a green screen can also be included if it fits the aesthetic of your Channel.

The High-End Setup

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This is when your production environment more closely resembles a conventional TV production with production values (and budget) to match. This invariably involves a crew of professionals to give the final videos a better aesthetic.

It is quite common for more successful YouTube Channels to develop through all three stages as their online careers take off. The early videos are usually made by one person alone in their bedroom or garage and three years later are taking place in something that resembles a home television studio.

YouTube's Creator Academy or Vimeo's Video School can both provide you with endless tutorials on how to improve your video making skills and all aspects of the video production process. They are also very entertaining and a great way to pass the time in a constructive manner.

Creating Content

5 Steps to Creating Original Video Content For Your Own YouTube Channel

  1. Pick your niche or target market (obvious but worth mentioning)
  2. Research existing videos similar to your intended niche area to generate ideas.
  3. Plan the look and feel of your Channel content to fit with your chosen subject matter and intended audience.
  4. Make your videos searchable and shareable.
  5. Gain Subscribers and build up a rapport with them.

style="text-align: center;">The YouTube Creator Academy is an excellent source of tips for Content Creators
There is an old saying in Television land: "Content is King". And this maxim certainly holds through with digital distribution platforms as much as it still does for more traditional media formats. People are just as reluctant to waste their precious free time trawling through rubbish on YouTube as they are on television.

Youtube Search Results Page Optimization (SERP)

No matter what ideas you may or may not have for your YouTube content, it is always a good idea to inform yourself on the most up to date trends before committing countless hours generating high quality content that your intended audience will never see. And once you have researched and created this content it is equally important to know how to push them to the top of the YouTube search rankings.

Steps to Improving Search Optimization

  1. Choose Strong Keywords and include them in the Title, Description, and Tags
  2. Only include 10-12 Tags in the Tags section
  3. Customize the Video Thumbnail and rename the image to logically match chosen Keywords

Youtube Ranking Search Results Page

YouTube uses ranking factors much the same way that Google or Bing does to decide which videos make it to the top of the search results page (SERP):

  1. Number of views of the Video.
  2. How long users watch the Video.
  3. How many positive ratings and comments does the video have.
  4. Number of Channel Subscribers.
  5. How often the video appears in a user's playlist or added to favorites.
  6. How many times it is embedded on external websites.

How To Do Keyword Research

Step 1. Type in your target word/phrase into YouTube's own search bar to find popular search ideas:


Step 2. You Can also use a service such as Übersuggest which will give a more detailed result:


Step 3. Go To Your Google Adwords Account > Tools > Keyword Planner Tool and enter your selected keywords:


Type in your Keyword/s and click the Get Ideas button in the bottom right:


Click over to the Keyword Ideas Tab and you can see the monthly search volumes for the words you have entered:


A good tip is to use the 'Add to Plan' button so you can copy and paste or download the list of keywords when you are finished.

4. Use the Google Trends to determine which Keywords are rising in popularity. This can help influence the choice of Tags for your video.


5. For existing search words that are already in high usage it is probably a good idea to research the best 'Long Tail Possibilities' available. This is when you Tag a phrase or a sentence rather than a single word to help improve the SERP Results. This is a highly specialised area of Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) that you can research further if you are serious about climbing up the search results.



YouTube shows no sign of waning in popularity anytime soon. And while it has become a crowded market place to compete in, it is still entirely possible to carve out a niche and generate enough viewers to get paid on YouTube for making videos.

Of course it also pays to educate yourself as to how best to achieve this and to plan out your strategy before making a huge and potentially fruitless investment in time and energy.

So if you already like making videos, learning new digital skills, and researching market trends in an area that already interests you, then Commercial YouTube Video Production could very well be a new career path for you. And if you get stuck at any stage, you can always just look it up on YouTube.


About the Author

Alan MarkeyFilmmaker, Photographer, and all things in between. www.alanmarkey.comView all posts by Alan Markey →

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