Many people dream of becoming YouTube stars — presuming that because a few elite achievers have made small fortunes on the platform, then perhaps anyone can.
The top earners make it look easy — like Daniel Middleton, who pulled in $16.5 million in 2017; Evan Fong, who made $15.5 million that year; Dude Perfect, who made $14 million; and Markiplier, who earned $12.5 million.
Unfortunately, these figures are the exception rather than the norm: The vast majority of YouTubers barely make anything, if they are able to monetize their channels at all.
A recent study found that 96.5 percent of those trying to become YouTubers don’t earn enough from advertising to cross the poverty line.
If you break into the top 3 percent of YouTube’s most-watched channels, you might make $16,800 in ad revenue — that’s only $4,460 over the poverty line for a single person or $400 over the line for a couple.
Meanwhile, it keeps getting harder to cross that line because the top channels’ share of overall viewership is increasing.
As if that wasn’t challenging enough, YouTube has also made it harder to earn money from a video channel through a policy at the beginning of the year: New channels can’t collect advertising revenue from YouTube until they have 10,000 subscribers and a minimum of 4,000 watch hours over the previous 12-month period.
This has lead new video creators to supplement their efforts on YouTube with other income streams. Without a doubt, it’s a lot of hard work — something that others underestimate.
Sponsorships and Pledges
While some YouTubers have been supplementing their income through selling their own sponsorships, other video creators have been raising money on Patreon, which is a crowdfunding platform for content. And while the platform isn’t limited to video creators, many YouTubers embrace the platform to create revenue.
Unlike the largely ad-driven model behind YouTube, Patreon essentially lets you sell subscriptions in the form of pledges. Subscribers pledge financial support on a monthly or per project basis.
Effectively, Patreon users are collecting donations from fans. Many video creators who started on YouTube have gone on to earn more money through their Patreon profiles than they ever did on YouTube.
Patreon Versus YouTube
Plus, Patreon appears to be more transparent than YouTube. Creators can see how much is pledged — and also look at rankings of what others are earning.<
Exactly how much a YouTuber makes through Patreon varies dramatically. Generally, you’ll need a strong following before anyone is willing to pledge any money.
Quality content is king in this case, so it requires putting your best foot forward. Plus, there needs to be an incentive for people to pledge — not just a rehashing of videos already posted on YouTube. It should have exclusive content available only to the subscribers or other rewards that are relevant to the channel.
A Patreon channel doesn’t have to be tied to YouTube at all. Or, the same Patreon account can also support ventures on other platforms, like Twitch, or even personal websites.
Interestingly, many YouTubers, even those with millions of subscribers, are taking breaks from the platform in droves.
Why would they risk a potential source of income by stepping away? For their mental health, to put it simply.
Ruben “El Rubius” Gunderson, who runs a channel with 30 million subscribers, recently said he was stepping away from YouTube, at least for a while. And he isn’t alone.
Numerous popular YouTubers have posted videos discussing decisions to step away from the site, largely pointing to the stress of keeping up the pace and pressure to keep creating while trying to stay relevant.
Many talk about burnout, while others mention the risk of a full breakdown. The pace required to keep up is hard for many to grasp, and many YouTubers stop enjoying the process as the stress piles up.
Can You Make Money as a YouTuber?
Yes, it’s still possible to make money as a YouTuber — but it requires a lot more effort than most people realize. The vast majority of creators won’t make enough to live on if they earn anything at all.
By adding other options, like linking to a Patreon account — or selling sponsorships directly — the chances to make money increase.
Posting videos on a daily basis can also help — that’s what popular creators like PewDiePie do.
Additionally, you need to be willing and able to promote yourself tirelessly. In addition to filming, editing, and posting videos, most YouTubers are active on other social media sites, using them to promote their videos and engage with fans.
The amount of time required to keep all of these balls in the air can be staggering, so don’t underestimate the workload.
Many Factors Determine Success
Additionally, whether someone will be successful on YouTube depends on a variety of factors — including the strength of a person’s network of contacts (after all, this is social media).
While the quality of the video content plays a large role in determining success, so does the person’s chosen niche.
Certain topics are fairly saturated and may be dominated by big-name YouTubers. Breaking into these niches could be a challenge, particularly if you aren’t bringing anything unique to the table.
However, if you are engaging, have a unique perspective, and are willing to do a lot of work in the hopes that one day you’ll make some money, it might pay off at some point. But, with all the competitive pressures, it’s by no means a sure thing as a money maker.
If you want to make the risk worth it, you need to pick a niche that you are truly passionate about. Not only will your enthusiasm make you more engaging, but it also makes it feel like less of a chore.
Readers, what kind of online videos do you most enjoy watching? What about creating them?
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