Creating high-quality video has become surprisingly easy, especially as you can now do this with a decent web camera or phone. It’s no surprise then that the potential to make money with your videos has taken off as well.
There are many examples of cases where somebody’s 15 minutes of fame has gone viral, netting them a ton of money from a short video. But, this type of opportunity typically comes down to chance.
So, what can you do to intentionally make money with your videos? There are a few different techniques out there, with YouTube taking first place (naturally). In this post, we’re taking a look at some of these ways of making money and seeing just how realistic they are for the average person.
After all, you don’t want to invest time and possibly money into something that has a slim chance of success.
Making Money With Videos On YouTube
One of the most common, and certainly most popular, ways to make money with videos is via YouTube. Typically, this is achieved by having a popular channel, where you get a large number of viewers.
One classic example is the YouTuber PewDiePie, who is well-known for being a YouTube success story. His channel currently has close to 3,000 individual videos, dating back 5 years, and more than 47 million subscribers.
If you can create popular videos, YouTube works well as a way to make money because the process is mostly built into YouTube. All you really have to do is enable your video for monetization and set up ads for your videos, via Google AdSense.
For creators, this can work exceptionally well, as it means you don’t have to adjust the content of your videos in any way to make money from them. But, because you are making money from ads, you do need to have fairly decent traffic to even stand a chance. Ads don't pay great per ad, but in bulk, pennies add up.
In some cases, you’ll also see YouTubers taking advantage of affiliate marketing. This is a concept that I often talk about here as well, and affiliate marketing involves using links to promote products. You earn commissions off sales made from those links.
For YouTubers, the technique can be a good way of making extra money. It can also be more profitable than ads, especially on videos that don’t get as many views.
In some cases, video creators just place the link in the description but in other cases, you’ll find that they may talk about it in their video as well. For example, the creator above regularly uses a few minutes per video to talk about a given product or service, like Loot Crate.
In theory, affiliate marketing works well with YouTube, especially as you have a great platform to convince people to make purchases. However, being successful with it is a bit of a balancing act. For example, people frequently get annoyed by promotions actually in the video, especially in cases where videos are fairly short anyway.
So, if you want to make money this way, you have to be careful about the marketing that you use and pay close attention to what works for your audience.
The Challenges Of Making Money On YouTube
YouTube tends to attract people who want to make money, partially because the platform seems so easy. To a degree, that’s true.
After all, you just have to create and upload videos. In some cases, the videos from popular YouTubers aren’t even that sophisticated and may be nothing more than a narrated play-through of a game, a narrated list or simply someone sitting in a chair talking.
But, creating a successful YouTube channel (or even just one popular video) is an entirely different story. For one thing, it’s hard to know what will become popular and what won’t.
For every popular channel on YouTube, there are countless examples of creators that are getting nowhere and whose videos simply aren’t getting viewed. In many cases, those videos aren’t even that different than the ones that do get popular.
Realistically, the nature of popularity is tricky to predict, especially when it comes to videos. For example, sometimes one video will go viral, attracting millions of views within a short space of time. Yet, a very similar video may end up getting less than 100 views.
So, there is a degree of chance to being successful as a YouTuber.
But, some skill is also involved. Take PewDiePie as an example, the guy typically posts more than a dozen videos every month and he has to stay interesting and relevant in all of those. This means continuing to be creative and also tapping into the interests of your audience.
Consistency counts for a lot, but not everything. I know of another YouTube channel where a guy interviews his mom on a variety of subjects. He posts videos almost every day, and rarely gets more than 200 views, although one or two did go viral and get several hundred thousand.
Needless to say, that isn’t easy to do. Some channels may achieve it by tapping into a given gimmick, like the Honest Trailers series that Screen Junkies produces. But, even with a gimmick, you still have to continue to be creative and unique. Plus, you have to find something that nobody has done before and that’s getting progressively harder to do.
Beyond all of this, there is also a second challenge, which is starting to be much more significant. This is the idea of YouTube censorship.
To a degree, censorship of social media has been around for a while. For example, sites like Facebook don’t allow nudity or some other types of content. But, there’s been a fairly recent change with YouTube that has creators up in arms.
The change means that videos have to be ‘advertiser friendly’ in order to receive compensation for their videos. The problem is that videos can be considered inappropriate for some interesting reasons, including the use of inappropriate language, sexual humor and even the coverage of ‘controversial or sensitive subjects’.
As many YouTube artists do regularly swear, are often controversial and may be sexually suggestive at times, it’s not surprising that a number of popular YouTubers are being affected by the change. People are finding that their various videos are getting rejected for compensation, despite the fact that they would be popular among viewers.
This is still an extremely hot topic, so it’s hard to know how it will balance out in the long-term. It is possible that YouTubers are overreacting or that YouTube will choose to tone down the terms and conditions so that fewer video creators are affected.
But, either way, the issue highlights how dependent YouTubers are on the platform to make money. So, even if you do actually manage to make a popular channel on YouTube, your ability to earn a living is always going to depend on the rules that YouTube puts in place and their model for earning income.
That’s even true if you’re making some affiliate marketing income from your videos, as you still have to get them posted on YouTube to begin with.
For some people, this latest issue could potentially spell the end of their online career. At the very least, it’s going to mean that they have to go back to the drawing board and figure out how to effectively make money in the long-term.
At the end of the day, YouTube can work fairly well as a way to make money, provided you don’t get on the bad side of YouTube. There is a huge number of viewers on there (over 1 billion users), and it's like it's own search engine just for videos.
No matter what your plan for video is, YouTube is a must for growing your audience, but I wouldn't rely solely on it as a source of income. In typical Google fashion, the rules are dubious, and they can be changed or executed at any time, leaving you with nowhere to go to complain.
Other Ways To Make Money With Videos
There can be no doubt that YouTube is the most well-known way to make money with your videos but it isn’t the only way.
One interesting alternative is to sell videos as a product or as a service. For example, people often want special events filmed and may be willing to pay you to do so or may buy what you record after the fact. Likewise, some videos become valuable because you happen to catch an interesting event.
In theory, this can be a good way to make money but it’s also a challenging field to break into. Likewise, you may need specialized equipment, especially if you need to catch high-quality video and audio of a live event. Filming a wedding on your iPhone probably isn't a good idea.
In most cases, you couldn’t make this type of video from home, so doing so would require a decent amount of legwork. You may also have to research to figure out what types of videos people are looking for and what your competition is. This is still a viable field for some people but it’s probably not what most are looking for.
A digital way of doing this would be to sell services on sites like Fiverr.
In this case, the site has an entire section for video and animation, where you can sell your services with video creation. There are many options in this field, including making video testimonials and creating animated videos for specific products.
There is also fairly high demand for this type of service. Website owners often want to use videos to promote their products or their site and they may not have the skills to do so themselves.
So, this can be a good place to turn if you have something appealing to offer customers. But, be warned, this is a pretty competitive market.
Typically, on sites like Fiverr, members with a history of positive reviews tend to have a major advantage and they will often show up first in searches. This makes it tough to get noticed early on, especially if your videos aren’t especially unique.
Udemy & Lynda
Also consider that you can sell video courses through online training centers. If you have something you're good at and can teach, these platforms can be leveraged to sell your training to an audience. With Lynda, your course is part of a general package that all users get access to. With Udemy, it's sold course by course.
Both sites may require you do some advertising through search engines or paid ads to get traffic to your course, but they will have the added advantage of being on the general marketplace.
Streaming On Twitch
The rise of Twitch streaming has been exponential. So much of YouTube has grown to be LetsPlay videos and other types of video game streaming, it's natural that a unique platform for watching gamers emerged.
Twitch isn't exclusively for gamers, and there are some examples of cooking, DIY, or even discussion channels too!
The majority of the content is about video games though, so if you are a gamer, I'd say check out starting a Twitch channel before you do the YouTube thing. You can earn from Twitch either by streaming with ads or promoting games via their affiliate program.
The focus of Twitch is the live-streaming aspect though, so you won't have a chance to record, edit, then upload videos. At least it'll cut back on time needed to edit the video, which can take longer than the recording part!
Using Videos On Your Own Website
One other way to make money with your videos is on your own website. This may not sound as glamorous as being a YouTube celebrity but you have much more control with your own website. That control also means that you can create a site that is very different than any of your competitors.
Additionally, having a website lets you use videos as a tool, rather than relying on them exclusively for your income. Doing so can work exceptionally well. After all, there are some topics that work best in a video form and others that work best written.
For example, if you are reviewing a product, written information can often be more appealing than a video. A written review gives people the chance to compare between products and to easily find the information they’re looking for. For example, if you want to know if Blue Apron is good, would you rather watch a 10 minute video, or skim a 1000 word article in 60 seconds? The latter is easier.
With a website, you get the best of both worlds.
So, you can write content that complements your videos and you can create videos that work well with your content. You can even still host videos on YouTube as well. Doing this means that some of the traffic from your YouTube channel may end up on your blog and vice versa. Double up!
If you want to be more exclusive you could use a video hosting service like Vimeo or Wistia. These could be use to embed informational videos to supplement your content, or put behind a paywall, and made into a private course.
More than anything, the power of a website comes from its flexibility. Essentially, you have the ability to do just about anything with a site and cover pretty much any topic. This lets people build a website about things they are passionate about, while also making the site a useful source of information for other people.
For example, there are popular websites like Authority Nutrition that focus on teaching people how to make good choices about nutrition and how to improve their health overall.
This particular site relies mainly on written content, rather than videos. But, it’s easy to see how videos could also be included to draw interest and add value to particular posts. Using a video to show a recipe or tutorial on how to make something can be much more effective than just written content with pictures.
There are multiple different ways to make money with a website and I’ve covered these in other posts. However, the most practical way is through affiliate marketing.
Now, when you use affiliate marketing on a YouTube channel, it often ends up being annoying and intrusive. But, on a website, affiliate marketing is a natural fit. For example, it’s easy to include affiliate links within content and, in many cases, people even expect affiliate links.
For example, if you had a website on the best books released each year, it would make complete sense to have affiliate links for each of the books you feature. In fact, your site would be rather pointless if you didn’t have links to the books, so why not make them affiliate links and earn money from them too?
A website also gives you more control over your success. With a YouTube channel, you have to rely heavily on content going viral and on word of mouth. In contrast, with a website, you can use SEO techniques to target an audience that is going to be interested in your content. You can do some SEO to your YouTube videos, but techniques are very limited in comparison to written content.
The final thing that I want to say about making money via a website is that this is an easy field to get into. You truly don’t need any specialized knowledge and you certainly don’t need a particular background. To be honest, all you need is to be patient and be willing to learn.