How to monetize your YouTube videos – A beginner’s guide

make money on YouTube

So, you’ve taken the plunge and started sharing your videos on YouTube. Now what? 

Whether it’s a side hustle or a full-time job, making money from the content you upload on platforms like YouTube can be an incredibly rewarding experience. You have full control over the entire creative process, becoming a film producer, editor, marketer and online personality all in one go! 

But it’s far from easy. 

Successfully monetizing your content can be a challenge, especially for first-timers with limited amounts of experience navigating the inner workings of YouTube. Don’t worry, though; Lickd is here to help! Our beginner’s guide to making money on YouTube will teach you everything you need to know to get started.

This guide covers the six essential things you’ll need to do in order to start monetizing your YouTube content successfully. These are:

  1. Signing up for the YouTube Partner Program (and meeting its requirements)
  2. Creating an AdSense account
  3. Enabling YouTube monetization
  4. Following YouTube’s rules on monetization
  5. Staying within all applicable copyright laws
  6. Maximizing your money

1. Sign up for the YouTube Partner Program

Join the YouTube partner program

First things first, you’ll need to join the YouTube Partner Program (YPP). This gives you access to YouTube monetization features such as advertising revenue, channel memberships, the merchandise shelf, and more.

Unfortunately, the YouTube Partner Program is not just something you can sign up for. There are a number of criteria that you have to meet before YouTube even considers your channel for membership. These include:

  • Policies – you need to prove that you are currently following all of YouTube’s monetization policies.
  • Location – you must live somewhere that the YouTube Partner Program is available.
  • Watch time – YouTube needs to know users enjoy your content, so (as of June 2023) you’ll need 3,000 valid public watch time hours within the last 12 months to access YPP. However, in order to monetize, you’ll need 4,000 watch time hours.
  • Subscribers – (as of June 2023) you’ll need at least 500 subscribers (all attributed to the same channel) before you can join the program. In order to monetize through the YPP, you’ll need 1,000 subscribers.
  • AdSense – you’ll need to create an AdSense account and link it to your YouTube account in order to monetize your content.

What’s the deal with watch time?

Note: The YouTube Parter Program requirements were updated in June 2023, with the initial updated access requirements being rolled out across Canada, United Kingdom, South Korea, Taiwan and the United States. 

In order to meet the YPP’s criteria for acces, you need to accrue 3,000 hours of watch time on your videos. The 3,000 hours could all be on one video or spread out over several hundred separate uploads; it doesn’t matter which, as long as they signal that YouTube users have, collectively, spent that amount of time watching your content.

Watch time data is also only pulled from the most recent 12-month period. This means that if you have 3,000 hours of watch time but across several years, you sadly won’t be eligible for the YPP. Live streams count towards your watch time hour total, which can be very useful for increasing your numbers. However, if you delete a video, any of the watch time it has generated will be deleted along with it.

Remember, this watch time is only for gaining access to YPP. In order to monetize your content through the program, you’ll need 4,000 hours of watch time across the last 12-months.

How to make sure you’re meeting the YouTube Partner Program requirements

To find out how you’re doing in terms of meeting the YouTube Partner Program monetization requirements, log into YouTube Studio, scroll through the options in the left menu and click ‘Earn’. This page will show you how many watch time hours and subscribers you have banked and how many you still need to get to be eligible for monetization. This page is also where you’ll be able to apply to the YouTube Partner Program once you become eligible.

There’s a chance YouTube might reject your application if they feel that you don’t meet all their requirements. They’ll give you a general reason for your rejection, but they won’t be specific about which content caused it. If your application is rejected, the best thing to do is read through the criteria again, make the content tweaks necessary and reapply for YouTube monetization after 30 days.

It’s worth noting that your watch time could drop below 3,000 hours once you’ve been approved for the YouTube Partner Program. If this happens, don’t worry, you won’t be instantly kicked off the program. YouTube does, however, hold the right to remove any account from the partner program at its own discretion.

2. Create a Google AdSense account

One of the requirements for joining the YouTube Partner Program is that you have an AdSense account linked to your channel. AdSense is Google’s very own ad platform that’s designed to promote and sell ad space through various channels, including YouTube.

Getting your AdSense account set up is pretty straightforward, but Google provides users with instructions and information on how to do it over on its dedicated AdSense webpage.

YouTube channel monetization steps

Once you’ve created an AdSense account, you’ll then need to make sure that the content you’re creating over on YouTube complies with the AdSense eligibility criteria. Why? Well, because technically, you aren’t making money from YouTube directly. You’re being paid by Google to promote brands, so you need to make sure that you are creating content that’s appropriate for corporate sponsorship.

The final step to getting everything up and running is linking your AdSense account to your YouTube account. This can be done easily within YouTube Studio. You should only have one AdSense account, not multiple accounts for multiple different YouTube channels, as you can link as many or as few of your channels to a single AdSense account as you wish.

Connect adsense and YouTube channel

Check your Google AdSense advertisement settings

Next, you’ll want to set up the kinds of ads you’re happy to run on your content. Whilst you may just want to dive right in and start earning money as quickly as possible, exercise patience! You need to make sure that the type of ads you’re running on your content are relevant for your audience. If they aren’t, you risk jarring with their interests and values which, in turn, could lead to them clicking away from your content and losing you that valuable view count and watch time. 

In the settings, you’ll be able to set up the types of ads you’ll allow to play before a video. If you don’t do this properly you won’t be able to effectively monetize your channel, so make sure you’ve set it up to monetize both your existing content and your future videos. These settings aren’t set in stone once you choose them; you can come back and change them later.

3. Enable YouTube Monetization

monetize your YouTube channel

Once your application has been successful, you need to move on to enabling monetization on your account. To do this, open YouTube Studio and select “Enable Monetization”, then follow the simple on-screen instructions.

4. Make sure you’re following YouTube’s rules on monetization

YouTube has a number of rules you need to follow once you have been approved for monetization, and your channel will be consistently monitored to ensure that the content you create is in line with YouTube’s guidelines. It’s not just about meeting them during your application process, so make sure you have a good understanding of YouTube’s policies.

Policies you must meet include:

License your background Music

Breaching copyright laws by using background music for which you don’t have the rights is one of the most common reasons why YouTube creators end up in sticky situations. In some instances, using copyrighted music without permission can even mean your videos are taken down and your channel is blocked!

Don’t want to risk having to face the music after being handed a copyright infringement claim? Of course you don’t! You can use copyrighted music, you just need to make sure you have permission, and getting it isn’t difficult. Here’s how to avoid getting in trouble without having to stop using the hottest, most popular music in your videos.

Get licensed with Lickd

Chart music for YouTube

If you’re a creator seeking revenue generation from your channel, leveraging the popularity of trending songs for your background music can be game-changing…but only if you’re licensed to use it!

This is where Lickd comes into play. If you’re fed up with the uninspiring royalty-free music you find on many videos, it’s time to up the ante and start using songs that are at the top of the charts. With Lickd, you can quickly, easily, and cheaply add tracks by the world’s biggest artists to your videos, making your content ultra-relevant and algorithm-friendly. What’s more, Lickd’s VOUCH software works alongside YouTube’s Content ID, so you’ll be protected against copyright claims and never have to worry about demonetization or takedowns ever again.



6. Maximizing your efforts (and your money)!

While your YouTube channel is your very own creative outlet, there are a number of things you may want to consider avoiding if you want to use it as a revenue stream. Sure, your fan base may like the edgier themes in your content, but if you push things too far, you run the risk of being an instant turn-off for the brands that would pay to advertise on your video. 

If this happens, you could end up with YouTube’s infamous yellow dollar sign…but what is this, and what does it mean in terms of your options for monetizing your content? Let’s take a look.

Things to avoid if you want to monetize your content effectively

While your YouTube channel is your very own creative outlet, there are a number of things you may want to consider avoiding if you want to use it as a revenue stream. Sure, your fan base may like certain ‘edgier’ things about your content, but if you aren’t careful you could find yourself with YouTube’s ‘yellow dollar sign’.

Yellow dollar sign on YouTube

YouTube’s yellow dollar sign: What it means and how to avoid it

The yellow dollar sign is how YouTube shows potential advertisers that your content may not be appropriate for all audiences. Think of it as a movie rating; if a film includes themes or language that is unsuitable for younger viewers, it will be age-restricted. 

If you’re issued with a yellow dollar sign, YouTube has decided that your content is only suitable for certain age groups or demographics. This means that certain advertisers (those whose target audiences are not able to watch your content) may not want to place ads on your channel, even if it’s getting large numbers of views.

So, for some creators, being mindful about producing age-appropriate content can really maximize the monetization potential of their channels. In practice, this looks like avoiding the following things.

  • Excessive bad language – a little crass language or profanity won’t instantly get your videos or channel flagged, but if you swear too often you could find your videos marked as explicit.
  • Needlessly shocking content – while some of the videos with the most views on YouTube are deliberately shocking, from jump scares to reveals, it’s not necessarily good for advertisers. 
  • Clickbait or misleading thumbnails – If your video is all about plant care for houseplants, but you use a thumbnail image of the Kardashians, YouTube may flag your video for misleading content. No one likes clickbait, and YouTube recognises this, so will sometimes prevent such content from making money off of the views it has generated under false pretenses.
  • Controversy and false statements – while freedom of speech and the First Amendment let you say whatever you like, it doesn’t mean that people have to listen, or that YouTube has to let you make money off of your inflammatory statements. Generally, YouTube doesn’t want to limit the content on its platform, especially if it’s presented as opinion, but if you’re seen to be deliberately sparking controversy or contributing to fake news stories, they may well remove your ability to monetize your views.

Now, avoiding (or, at the very least, reducing) these from your content is only the beginning when it comes to ensuring that your channel is able to make you the most amount of money possible through monetization. There are other rules and guidelines to follow if you want to avoid being demonetized entirely.

Other tips to make money on YouTube

make money on YouTube

Getting monetized on YouTube is just one of the few ways to make money from your videos. Once you get through this first step, you should start looking for other monetization options to diversify your revenue streams. As you continue to build your following, you can further monetize your content using any or all of the methods below!

1. Get patronage from your loyal fans

One of the best ways to monetize your YouTube channel is by creating extra perks that will be available to your loyal fans for a recurring monthly fee. Consider providing these patrons with valuable content and features that won’t be available to regular subscribers.

While YouTube gives you the option to do this through channel memberships in the Partner Program, you need at least 30,000 subscribers to qualify. Don’t worry, though, if you don’t have that many subscribers, you can use third-party platforms like Patreon to get patronage from your most engaged fans.

Patreon allows you to create multiple patronage tiers with different levels of access based on how your subscribers commit. YouTuber Jack Douglass (aka jacksfilms), for instance, has seven different tiers ranging from $1 per month to $60 per month. Some of the perks include patron-only streams, exclusive Discord channels, and early access to content.

2. Get some must-have merch out there

Give your followers something more tangible to support your channel in the form of cool merch. T-shirts, mugs and hoodies are popular choices, but don’t be afraid to get creative and release a range of merchandise that’s really going to set you apart! 

You could make channel-relevant products featuring your logo and slogan, for example, or print catchphrases and inside jokes on apparel as a way of making your fans feel connected and like they’re part of a community. 

We can’t talk about YouTuber merch without mentioning a recent collaboration between two of the platform’s megastars, though. Yep, you guessed it, we’re talking about Logan Paul and KSI and their PRIME hydration drinks! These drinks have become a global sensation, with fans of both YouTube personalities queuing for hours just to be in with a chance of getting their hands on a bottle. The release of PRIME has catapulted Paul and KSI to unprecedented levels of fame…and sent their net worth off the scale, too!

PRIME hydration Logan Paul and KSI

Another great example of YouTuber merchandise comes from Rhett, Link and the rest of the team behind Good Mythical Morning. These guys have a dedicated online store, aptly named the Mythical Store, where they sell a whole range of goodies – hoodies, joggers, shot glasses, mugs, sticker packs…the lot! It’s all bang on brand with the GMM logo and iconic phrases from some of the channel’s most famous content series and regularly plugged by the duo in videos all year round.

3. Get those affiliate link clicks

Even if you don’t meet all the YouTube monetization requirements to join the Partner Program, you can still monetize your YouTube videos by joining a relevant affiliate program. This allows you to earn a commission from any sales you get from your channel.

A good place to start will be checking out if any of your favorite brands or retailers have an affiliate program in place. The Amazon Associates program is a popular one amongst creators, mainly because of the sheer variety of products available, so it’s likely you’ll find a number of items you could promote on your YouTube channel. Ideally, you should only promote products or services that you truly like so the promotion feels more natural.

Most affiliate programs will give you a unique link to include in your video description. But don’t just expect your viewers to click on it without a bit of prompting. Include a small section in your video about the product you’re promoting and encourage them to click on the link.

The YouTube channel Lawrence Systems / PC Pickup, for instance, includes prompts in its outros, asking viewers to check out their affiliate links if they want to support the channel.

4. Strike a deal with the right brand

How to get sponsored on YouTube

Brand partnerships are another excellent way to monetize your YouTube channel and the loyal community you’ve built. With the rise of influencer marketing, brands are always on the lookout for influential content creators to help them promote their products.

If a brand decides to sponsor you, you’ll likely be asked to create a video featuring their product or service in some way. This could be a review video, an unboxing video, or even a simple product feature depending on what the brand needs. And in return, they’ll pay you a predetermined fee. You could even get recurring sponsorships if things work out well.

An example of this in action is LEGO enthusiast Ryan from MandRproductions. He started out creating videos about LEGO products he had bought and tried out, and now LEGO sends him new products to review and he can even give away free LEGO prizes to his fans.

Want to learn more about how to secure sponsorship deals? Read our guide to get all the expert tips on brand partnerships!

5. Sell your videos

It’s not that rare for video creators to license their own videos out to other brands to earn money. Think of it a bit like music licensing; artists create a hugely popular song that everyone wants to listen to, and others have to pay them in order to use it or feature it in their own content.

If you sell the right to use your video, brands and advertisers can use it in their own content and your channel can benefit from extra publicity. This is a great chance to make a little more cash from your popular videos.

6. Create multiple YouTube channels

Creating a number of different channels is a great way to try and make extra money. Doing this is tricky, though, as running multiple YouTube channels can be time-consuming and labor-intensive. For the best chances of success, make sure all new channels are serving a specific audience and you manage your time effectively.

If done right, you could end up with 3, 5 or even 10 different channels, all with their own followings and all optimized to generate money! Don’t try and grow your YouTube presence to this sort of level immediately, though; it’ll be much more effective to concentrate on one channel at a time and getting it established before moving on to the next.

So, you’ve monetized your YouTube channel, now what?

Monetization is just one aspect of being a content creator on YouTube (or on any social channel, for that matter). It can turn your hobby on the side into a fully-fledged career, but must be pursued in conjunction with a number of other creative best practices if it’s to be successful. Ultimately, the quality of your content must be your top priority if any monetization efforts are going to pay dividends. Whether it’s through YouTube itself, affiliate marketing services or brand partnerships, no one is going to want to associate their name with your channel if your content isn’t good enough to attract a genuine following of loyal viewers.

Good content starts with authenticity, sure, but post-production is often where the magic happens. Ready to take your content to the next level? Discover how you can reach ever-wider audiences and boost the visibility of your videos with Lickd’s library of licensed music. It’s time you get to use copyrighted music, without worrying about demonetization from claims! Don’t settle for shit stock music, use the hottest tracks and trending tunes your viewers love.

Hungry for more? Check out our other YouTube blogs and how-to guides!

How to legally use copyrighted music on YouTube

We know everything there is to know about music copyright law. Lickd is here to help you legally add your favorite artists and music to your YouTube videos.

YouTube music policy – a beginner’s guide

We’re experts in music policy across all platforms, and are here to run you through everything you need to know about YouTube’s music policy.

How to create multiple YouTube channels

Getting one channel off the ground is hard enough, but getting multiple channels going and performing is even tougher. We’re here to help.

Best songs for YouTube videos

Whether you’re after music intros for your podcast or trending tracks for your videos, Lickd can guide you through the music sourcing process and help you make the right choices.

Best places to get YouTube video music

We’ve rounded up a quick summary of what you need to look out for when choosing music as well as a roundup of your YouTube Video Music options.

How to add an intro to a YouTube video

Adding an intro to your YouTube videos is an easy way to communicate your brand and give viewers a glimpse of your channel.

How to Create a Good YouTube Thumbnail

Your video thumbnail is your first impression and will either lead viewers to watch your video or mindlessly scroll past it.

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