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

make money on YouTube

Our beginner’s guide will teach you everything you need to know to start making money from your YouTube videos.

This guide covers the seven rules you need to follow to start monetizing your YouTube videos, these are:

Learn the YouTube Partner Program requirements

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 to. There are a number of criteria that you have to meet before YouTube even considers your channel for membership. These include:

  • Policy – 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 your content is enjoyed, so you’ll need 4,000 valid public watch time hours within the last 12 months
  • Subscribers – You’ll need at least 1,000 subscribers before you can join the program.
  • AdSense – you’ll need to create an AdSense account and link it to your YouTube account.

Watch time needs a little explaining. It’s not as simple as you watching 4,000 hours of content on YouTube yourself, the watch time needs to be on your own content. Sure, this could be on one video, or it could be spread out over all of them, but it has to be on your own content by other users. It also has to be across the most recent 12 month period, so if you only have 4,000 hours of watch time across several years, you sadly won’t be eligible. 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’s generated will be deleted along with it.

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 ‘Monetization’. 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.

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 4,000 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.

Create an AdSense account

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

First of all, you’ll need to sign up for an AdSense account.

That’s a pretty easy step, but then you need to make sure your content meets the AdSense criteria. Technically, you aren’t making money from YouTube directly, you’re being paid by Google to promote brands, so make sure you are creating content that’s appropriate for corporate sponsorship or else good enough that the tone doesn’t matter too much.

You then just need to link your AdSense account to your YouTube account, which can be done easily within YouTube Studio. You should only have one AdSense account. Once it’s created you can link as many of your channels as you want to your single AdSense account.


Check your Google AdSense advertisement settings

Now you’ll want to set up the kinds of ads you’re happy to run on your content. We appreciate that you may just want to earn money quickly, but you need to make sure the ads you’re running aren’t jarring for your audience and that there’s some benefit for the advertiser. You want to make sure it’s something your audience may actually click through for.

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.

Enable YouTube Monetization

monetize your YouTube channel

Once your application has been successful, you need to move on to enabling monetization on your account.

Open YouTube Studio and select “Enable Monetization” then follow the simple on-screen instructions.

Follow the YouTube 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 inline with YouTube’s guidelines. It’s not just about meeting them during your application process, so make sure you have a good understanding of what YouTube’s policies are.

Policies you must meet include:

Stay within copyright laws – Licence your background Music

Chart music for YouTube

As mentioned above, YouTube has strong policies in place to tackle copyright breaches. When you want to add music to your YouTube videos, avoiding copyright issues is important. If you break copyright rules, not only do you risk being rejected by the  partner program, but your content could be taken down entirely. For creators seeking revenue generation from their channel, having background music that you’re licenced to use is essential.

This is where Lickd comes into play, especially if you’re fed up with the bog-standard royalty-free music you find on many videos. Make the best content possible for your fans and viewers with properly licensed music from your favorite artists. With Lickd you can quickly, easily and cheaply add chart-topping artists’ tracks to your videos. Lickd’s VOUCH software works alongside YouTube’s Content ID so you’ll never have to worry about a copyright claim again.

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

What does the yellow dollar sign mean on YouTube?

In short, it’s how YouTube shows potential advertisers that your content may not be appropriate for all audiences. Think of it as a movie rating. YouTube has decided that your content is only suitable for certain age groups or demographics, and that means that only certain advertisers may want to work with your content, even if it’s getting large numbers of views.

Avoid things like:

  • 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. Many brands don’t want to be associated with this kind of controversial content.
  • Misleading thumbnail previews – 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.
  • 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 stoking controversy they may well remove your ability to monetize your views.

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 these options:

  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. So if you don’t have that many subscribers, you can also use 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 and Discord channels, early content access, etc.
  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 notebooks are popular choices but don’t be afraid to get creative. You could make any relevant products featuring your channel logo and slogan. Printing your channel-specific catchphrases and inside jokes on your merch is another way to make your fans feel connected.
    YouTuber, Cuestar, for instance, created some merch with the phrase “roller bros,” which he always uses to greet his viewers. Fans can get t-shirts, hoodies, mugs, bags, phone covers, and stickers with the catchphrase.
    Before you get into this, check with your subscribers to see what sort of merch they’d like most. You don’t want to go printing thousands of t-shirts just to sell a hundred of them.
    If it’s relevant to your niche, you could even go a step further and launch your own line of products. Take, for example, Jeffree Star, who built his fame through makeup tutorial videos on YouTube and has since gone on to launch an entire makeup brand in his name.
    Recently, Jeffree collaborated with another famous YouTuber, Shane Dawson to create the Shane X Jeffree Conspiracy Collection. The reveal video alone received over 19 million views on Shane’s channel.
  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 refer from your channel.
    See if any of your favourite brands or retailers have an affiliate program in place. The Amazon Associates program is a good place to start, mainly because of the sheer variety of products, 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.
    And whatever you do, make sure you’re genuine in your efforts to drive clicks. 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
    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 have 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.
    If your favorite brands haven’t reached out yet, there’s no harm in making the first move. To get their attention, look for the relevant contact information on their website or on social media and be prepared with your channel stats and reasons why a brand partnership would be beneficial.
    To inspire you, LEGO enthusiast Ryan from MandRproductions started out creating videos about LEGO products he had bought and tried out. Now LEGO sends him new products to review and he can even give away free LEGO prizes to his fans.
    If you’re not comfortable reaching out to brands yourself, you can sign up to communities like Grapevine and TRIBE to get connected with brands that are looking to partner with YouTubers like you.
  5. Sell the rights to your videos
    It’s not that rare for video creators to license their own videos out to other brands to earn money. If you make a video that gets huge numbers of views, it can generate money as its own entity. If you sell the rights to 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 hard to get right. For the best chances of success, make sure all new channels are serving a specific audience and you manage your time effectively.

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