Particularly given its ubiquity and cultural dominance, YouTube is an odd beast. It brings in huge amounts of attention and engagement, yet loses Google money overall — it turns top content creators into wealthy and influential celebrities, but 96.5% of channels don’t pass the poverty line with their earnings alone. It’s a platform of vast disparity.
What does that mean for someone interested in turning their talents to the YouTube world? Very simply, that you can’t leave any stones unturned if you intend to make your YouTube channel a money-making operation. You need to take advantage of every route to monetization instead of relying on the increasingly-difficult prospect of profiting from YouTube ads.
To help you with this, and give you some insight into how YouTube creators are thriving, let’s look at 6 wildly popular and successful YouTube channels that are finding smart ways to add additional streams of revenue and broaden their incomes.
Make money on YouTube like these very successful YouTubers, even if you’re new on YouTube:
Linus Tech Tips
Linus Tech Tips is currently one of the most lauded channels for computer buffs, having been created by tech enthusiast Linus Sebastian in 2013: it features previews, reviews, and comparisons of the latest PC hardware, interesting tech projects, industry commentary, and (occasionally) sponsored content. One of the many things that Linus Tech Tips does very well is integrating brand promotions into content.
The average video will work in a plug for a product or service near the beginning and again near the end, but the content won’t be generic — it will be positioned somewhat gracefully within the context of the video. It will also be executed in a way that meets both the needs of the client and the voice of the channel. The net result is that everyone benefits: Linus Tech Tips, the brands, and the viewers.
Wreckless Eating isn’t a channel of interest for anyone with a weak stomach. It features (as the name suggests) a lot of ill-advised food consumption: reviewing new products, taking on challenges, and generally being casual about dietary health. Because YouTube has become quite sensitive about the channels it considers suitable for ad monetization, Wreckless Eating had to look for other ways to make money.
To do this, they chose to build on their engaged fanbase through providing paid subscriptions through the Patreon crowdfunding platform that confer benefits such as having access to unedited shows and even being able to suggest specific food challenges. Consequently, YouTube’s native monetization isn’t so important to them — their profit comes directly from their core fanbase.
Marques Brownlee is another compelling figure in the YouTube tech world, bringing in millions of views for his technology reviews and features (encompassing everything from consumer electronics to general robotics and industry events). He’s done an excellent job of building his personal brand and making himself someone brands want to work with.
He’s also particularly good at using affiliate links. Affiliate links work simply enough: the affiliate (in this case, Marques Brownlee) gets custom product links that register where the clicks are coming from, and whenever one of their links leads to a conversion, they get a small kickback. Since the shopper doesn’t pay anything extra, they needn’t have any reservations about using affiliate links to support someone whose content they enjoy.
Casey Neistat is a filmmaker who achieved fame through daily YouTube vlogging, but it isn’t his everyday vlogging that makes him money — at least, not in these dark days of YouTube profitability. It’s his ability to parlay his platform into profitable relationships with huge brands such as Nike, Samsung, Mercedes Benz, and Vogue.
Owning his own studio, he races around the world on wild adventures, working with brands whenever suits his fancy. He doesn’t need ad revenue. YouTube is now nothing more than a platform for creative expression and an opportunity to keep his name in the public consciousness — in other respects, he’s essentially a celebrity filmmaking freelancer.
Jeffree Star has almost 14 million YouTube subscribers, but he didn’t get his start on YouTube. He was an early adopter of social media, once being the most followed person on MySpace, and uses every available channel to promote his makeup expertise and product line, as well as his career as a musician.
Going above and beyond what most YouTube creators offer when it comes to e-commerce, Star has a fully-fledged online store selling his Jeffree Star Cosmetics line. Unlike many storefronts set up to take advantage of buzz with a few dropshipped products, the Jeffree Star Cosmetics website is an enterprise-level operation (featuring a large range of custom products, and running on an enterprise-tier CMS in Shopify Plus, making it scalable).
In 2018, no YouTube channel made more money through the platform than Ryan ToysReview. The titular Ryan is a child who unboxes, plays with and reviews toys. The concept is simple, but with a new video being released each day, and a huge market out there for children’s toys, it’s incredibly profitable. It’s also 100% advertiser-friendly, which is quite a feat today.
Notably, though, Ryan’s parents have taken advantage of this popularity to diversify the operation. The channel has collaborated on a mobile app, had a line of branded toys made available at Walmart, Target, and Amazon, and even produced a TV series. If advertising were ever to become an issue, there’d still be plenty of money to be made.
Planning to get started on your YouTube career? Learn from these YouTube channels when planning out your income stream, because the default advertising platform is of questionable value, especially if you’re a new YouTuber. You need to leap on every opportunity to profit!