Can You Really Make Money on YouTube?Yes. You can.

Okay! Lesson over…

Okay, But Seriously…

YouTube made its debut over a dozen years ago, and ever since people have tried making it big as the next YouTube “celebrity”.  And considering how wealthy many personalities have become off of the platform, it’s no wonder why.

In fact, it begs the question why more people don’t just quit their desk job and just make videos all day?

Reality Check

The simple answer to the above question is this: Because making a living on YouTube is really hard. In fact, there are over 500,000,000 channels on YouTube. Roughly half of one BILLION. Of these channels, the vast majority of them are run by people who either:

  • Update / upload sporadically. Also included, people who signed up once and uploaded a cat video to share with someone.
  • Aren’t really trying to make a living off their videos.

It is estimated that for half a billion channels on YouTube, less than 5,000 of them actually earn a decent, full-time income from their YouTube channel.

This of course doesn’t take into account the fact that even for those who aren’t earning a 6-figure income and living the high life, there are a lot more who are making at least some semblance of an income from the platform. Here’s how.


The way money is earned directly off of YouTube is similar to how traditional TV and advertising works. Content creators earn a portion of ad revenue that is played before, during, or after their video. As the video makes its way in front of more users, the ads receive a bigger audience. More audience = more ads = more money.

However, the cut is a small one, generally producing a few thousand dollars of revenue per millions of views. Of course, YouTube takes a cut from ad revenue. Of course, you may have costs associated with running your channel such as video editing or marketing.

And let’s not forget about taxes either.

In short, content creators have to go big, or go home. YouTube is a powerful channel, but the number of people who actually “get rich” from monetized videos alone is incredibly low.

But Wait, There’s More!

YouTube is a great tool for helping to establish your personal brand. As you begin to grow a fan base, there are other ways to turn your videos into money that don’t require waiting for YouTube to write you a check.


If your channel is popular enough, you can explore sponsorship arrangements that allow you to circumvent YouTube’s advertising (or in conjunction with it) and monetize your channel that way. Working directly with ad agencies or companies you can promote products “on air” in exchange for compensation.

You’ll see this occur with some of the larger YouTube content creators out there. That alone should be a good indication that YouTube isn’t the only one paying the bills.

Re-Purposed Content

Joe Rogan hosts one of the most popular channels on YouTube and receives millions of views each week. He also uses the audio from his video interviews and releases it in a podcast form which further expands his reach and allows him to engage with his audience in two different, but equally powerful ways.

Joe Rogan likely makes a lot of money off of his YouTube channel, but that doesn’t stop him from spending the first 10 minutes of each show reading off his list of sponsors. These sponsors are in addition to whatever revenue he makes from the ads run during his videos.

If you are able to use the same content across multiple platforms, you’ll become more attractive to advertisers sine you’re reaching more people. More viewers/listeners = more money.


Have a large following? A cool logo? A fancy catchphrase? The important thing is building an audience. Once that occurs you can explore merchandising. T-shirts, hats, coffee mugs, etc. This likely won’t be a huge source of income either. However, if your audience is large enough, why not?

Become an Influencer for Hire

Here’s a dirty secret: there are a ton of channels on YouTube that exist solely to sell. All of those folks who have channels where they “review” products are likely being paid to do so. Sometimes their reviews are in exchange for free products rather than money, but there’s still a transaction.

Influencer marketing is a huge business right now. Basically, if you have a social channel with a large number of followers you can get paid to promote products. On YouTube this often comes in the form of a video review, though it may differ for other channels such as Twitter or Instagram.

There are dozens of websites to help you get started and sell your promotional chops. Famebit and Octoly are two well-known influencer marketing platforms to check out.

Final Thoughts

Can you make money on YouTube? Yes, but temper your expectations. Most content creators don’t earn a lot, if they earn at all. There’s a lot of hard work in store for the potential YouTube sensation, and it doesn’t happen overnight. However, once you build up a following there are more opportunities available to earn money both directly from YouTube and through other avenues.

In short, don’t quit your day job. Even those content creators who do earn a sizable income from YouTube are also earning through other means. It may be best to view YouTube more as a means to getting your brand and voice out there than a profit-making strategy. However, it CAN be done.

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