How People Earn Money on YouTube without a Gazillion Subscribers


There are three types of people in the world... 

  1. Those who are curious about how YouTubers make money, but never really cared enough to do the research
  2. Those who think they know exactly how, but are probably not deeply informed
  3. YouTubers who actually make money on YouTube

Ok, I don’t mean that literally. But generally speaking, you probably fit into one of those categories, right? I mean, if you already knew how to make money on YouTube, instead of reading this article, you’d probably be busy making YouTube videos.

Anyway, there are several different ways people make money on YouTube. I am going to give you the most common, for now.

Google AdSense

You know those sometimes annoying ads at the beginning of YouTube videos? The ones where you stare at the countdown waiting for the button to say Skip Ad? That’s Google AdSense.

Advertisers bid on these spots, the YouTuber does not ‘choose’ these ads. The advertisers based on ad type and placement; more for unskippable and longer ads, less for banner ads and other less desirable ad types.

You might notice that you only see these types of ads on videos from the more popular YouTube channels. This is because you can’t just create a YouTube account and monetize. YouTubers need to meet a certain criteria before qualifying to get monetized on YouTube.

  1. YouTube channel must have at least 1,000 subscribers *fairly easy to achieve
  2. YouTuber must certify that their content isn’t offensive or sensitive (ex: politics).
  3. YouTube channel must have over 4,000 hours of viewed content within a year
    1. This is equal to almost 11 hours watched per day, 365 days a year -or-
    2. 20-30 minutes watched each hour, 24/7 

It may seem like a lot, but if the requirements weren’t there, big brands wouldn’t pay to have ads on these channels. Advertisers want to make sure their ad is being seen!

This may end up being a small part of a YouTubers income, but it is still the ‘dream’ for many with passive income goals because they are paid just for the ad just being placed in their video, not based on anyone’s interaction with the ad. Therefore, it doesn’t matter if we skip the ad, the YouTuber is still being paid.

I am sure BigData also allows for tracking which channels do get the most conversions and interaction from viewers, which in turn would mean higher bidding for ad placements on those channels.

One important thing to note is that it doesn’t matter what your content is (as long as it’s not offensive, expressing strong political views). If your cute baby / cat videos go viral, you could meet the above criteria very quickly.

For those who just get lucky with a viral video that they just so happened to share, my advice to you is…monetize and KEEP MAKING VIDEOS!

Direct Sponsorship / Brand Immersion

Direct sponsorship or brand immersion is when companies pay the YouTuber [directly] to advertise the brand in various ways. It could be for wearing clothing with the brands logo and giving them a mention, baking an ad into the video with a hovering link, or doing a product review. Basically, whatever the YouTuber works out with the brand.

The requirements for direct sponsoring are specific to each brand/company, so I can’t give you specifics on that.

I will tell you that this type of monetization is usually paid based on interaction and results. The sponsor might only pay for ad views that last longer than 10 seconds, or per-click, or per new social media follower (just examples). This can become a nightmare for YouTubers because its YOU who needs to keep track of all this. Compiling reports and calculating expected income is time consuming.

Affiliate Marketing

Affiliate marketing is where you share links to products/services that are tagged with a unique ID.  You earn when someone clicks the link and makes a purchase. We won’t go into too much detail here because affiliate marketing deserves its own spotlight. Here are a couple things to make note of:

  • To market other company’s products/services, you must be approved directly by that company. Requirements vary widely from very little up to Google AdSense level thresholds.
  • Commissions usually range from 5 to 50%.
  • When applying as an affiliate (sometimes referred to as a partner) always be clear on how it works to avoid confusion later.
    • Some pay based on the last affiliate link the customer clicked. If a customer clicks on your link and doesn’t make a purchase, but later purchases through another link [could be intentional, or just how it played out], the other affiliate would earn that commission.
    • Some will allow your cookie to stay attached for 30 days. This means that if a customer clicked your link first, you will earn a commission if they make a purchase within 30 days of that initial click. In this case, it doesn’t matter if they clicked another affiliate link later; that will still be your commission.

If you don’t have your own niche to share, you could actually start by doing product review videos and adding affiliate links for the products you are reviewing. Product review is a niche!

Moving right along…

Subscriber Support

YouTube subscribers now have the ability to directly support YouTubers. Subscribers can sign up for memberships in exchange for various benefits. Channels might offer exclusive content, live hangouts, early access, or…whatever the YouTuber decides to offer.

TIP: Some Youtubers might share videos of them doing artwork, making a product, or playing an instrument and then sell that product -or- offer lessons. A common theme these days is makeup and hair tutorials. Those people are probably implementing one or all of these methods. But you could do the same with painting, knitting, cooking, animal grooming...the possibilities are endless!

Important Note

We could go on and on about a myriad of creative ways to make money on YouTube. Some YouTubers have created their own mini-reality shows, crowdfunding trailers, and so much more. But one thing you MUST know is that earning on YouTube is about having a strong viewer base, NOT about subscibers.

You can have a gazillion subscribers, but if they are not viewing your content, you are not going to earn.

So now you know the most common ways to make money on YouTube and how thy work.

The next time someone tries to tell you that YouTubers earn money by simply having a huge subscriber list, show them this article.

Please Like / Share. And ALWAYS feel free to leave questions in the comments and or tell me what you want to read about. 😊

If you haven’t already, have a look around our website to learn more about monetizing your passion at


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