With over 2 billion users worldwide, YouTube is an amazing platform for sharing videos and building a subscriber base. Getting paid to create content through YouTube’s revenue sharing partner program isn’t bad, either!
However, a lot of creators have been  frustrated with YouTube’s advertising algorithm in the past few years and have had to turn to other methods to make a living creating the content that their fans love. That’s where Buy Me a Coffee comes in.
First, here’s a rundown of what makes YouTube’s revenue sharing program so difficult to decipher and why some creators are turning to subscription-based crowdfunding solutions to get support from their YouTube subscribers.

Not All It’s Cracked Up To Be

credit: instagram.com/offsetimages/

YouTube’s Partner Program

YouTube’s Partner Program is the system that they use to pay content creators for their portion of the ad revenue that YouTube gets by running advertisements for brands, products and services during their videos. Originally launched in December of 2007, the program has changed a great deal since its inception and now has a rather stringent set of guidelines for any channels seeking to monetize their content.

First of all, you must live in a country where the partner program is operating. This list of countries is pretty comprehensive, but if you live in Afghanistan, you may be out of luck entirely.

YouTube monetization requirements

After YouTube determines your geographic eligibility for the program, your channel must also meet a minimum set of requirements for inclusion in the program: users must have watched over 4,000 hours of your content, you need to have at least 1,000 subscribers, you need to link an existing Google AdSense account, and your content must be inline with Youtube’s guidelines for acceptable content for monetization.

That last step can be a tough one for a lot of creators, as YouTube has been heavy handed in determining what content is and is not acceptable for monetization. For example, a few years ago, several popular vaping channels were totally demonetized for featuring content that glorified tobacco and nicotine salts usage, despite the fact that they had been in good standing only days earlier.

Not only that, if your channel deals with adult themes, you don’t own the content you’re curating, or your content is deemed otherwise unacceptable for general advertising purposes, you might be in the same boat and have a tough time getting ad dollars from YouTube for your channel..

Beyond the stringent tougher rules, YouTube’s monetization breakdown has changed dramatically in the last few years, so if you get accepted to the partner program, it is by no means a guaranteed path to fame and fortune..

Funny With The Money

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As confusing as the guidelines for channel monetization are, once a YouTube channel is accepted for monetization, it can get even hazier when figuring out how much you’ll make per video.

YouTuber Jimmy Tries World is a great example of how deflating and frustrating it can be to figure out what to expect from YouTube payouts. In a video posted last March, Jimmy breaks down the variables that go into YouTube’s algorithm for pricing ad payouts to all creators, and to make a long story short, it’s quite confusing.

Here are the important points:

  • YouTube ads are sold to companies on an auction-style marketplace where they bid for the ad space on videos that are related to their brand, product or service.
  • As a result, some genres of content (i.e. finance or “unboxing” tech videos) are worth more to advertisers than others, so they go for a higher price and thus are more lucrative for the creator.
  • The inverse of that is true, and some genres of content (i.e. watching paint dry livestreams) are not nearly as sought after by advertisers.
  • Like most advertisements on the internet, YouTube ad payouts can be broken down into CPM, or cost per thousand impressions. This means how much you get paid per thousand people who watch ads on a given video

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To wrap up this YouTube theory with a concrete example, Jimmy’s most successful video netted him $8.62 per 1,000 views. Multiplied out over the more than 700,000 views he got on that video, and the content earned him a little under $6,000 bucks.
However, Shelby Church, a tech and lifestyle content creator on YouTube had another experience entirely. One of her videos hit over 3,000,000 views and she was only paid $1,275 for those ads. There are some wild discrepancies here and this underlines the confusing nature of YouTube’s monetization algorithm.
So, yes. If you’re a bigger channel who makes content that YouTube deems worthy of ads, you can make money, but the process itself is very complicated, and YouTube is often arbitrary with sweeping demonitization of content with no explanation or transparent appeal process. After all, you’re not PewDiePie or some hotshot YouTuber with a personal representative you can call if you get a strike on your channel or the check doesn’t come through.

Can I Do It Without Ads?

How do YouTubers make money without ads?

Is there a way to make a living making video content on YouTube that isn’t monetized by YouTube? Absolutely.

There are a number of ways that you can make decent money on your content without being a part of YouTube’s partner program at all. Here’s a comprehensive list of strategies you can employ without selling your soul to Google.

Brand partnerships - This is probably the most obvious method, and, if you’re an avid media consumer, you’ve likely seen this before. Basically, you’d need to reach out to some companies and offer them space on your channel for advertising. This can manifest itself as a sponsor shout out at some point during the video, or you can offer to feature their product in your video. A lot of review channels exist on this form of revenue and it can be quite lucrative (not to mention it’s a great way to get free stuff from brands you love). Note: this approach works best if there is an organic connection between the brand and your channel.

Affiliate marketing - Getting in on an affiliate ecommerce marketing program can be another great way to make money on your YouTube content without selling ads. Amazon has a great program, but other ecommerce platforms offer some form of affiliate system. How it works is pretty simple: you sign up for the particular program, get an affiliate URL for a product or service that you want to endorse, and include it in the video description. When users click on that link and buy it, you get some percentage of the sale.

Both of these strategies can work, and can even be used in tandem as a means to boost your channel’s revenue if you get accepted to the YouTube partner program, but they require A LOT of effort to set up.

Brand partnerships are heavy on outreach, especially for smaller channels who may not be bombarded with sponsorship requests daily. You’re going to need to prospect for companies in your niche, find their contact emails, and send tons of emails. For affiliate marketing you’ll need to set up an account, find the best products to plug in your videos, and track your commissions religiously to see if you’re on the right track. All of this can get tiring quick, especially if you have other responsibilities to handle on top of your content creation.

Want more information about alternative monetization methods? Check out this article we wrote.

Need a better plan? That’s where we come in

I Get By With A Little Help From My Friends

What if the following you’re curating could send you monthly or one-off payments to support you and the great content you make? Wouldn’t that be better than affiliate marketing, endless outreach for brand partnerships, or waiting on YouTube to get their act together about reasonable ad payouts for niche creators?

We got you! Buy Me a Coffee has helped more than 100,000 creators monetize their passion projects all around the world, and we can help you reach your subscriber crowdfunding goals, too.

What’s so great about Buy Me a Coffee is that it’s an organic way for your fans to support you for the content they love, and it’s so much more transparent than selling space in your content to a 3rd party brand. All you have to do is set up your account, determine your monthly and one-off pricing structure, and decide if you’re going to offer perks for your subscribers. Then just let your fans know about Buy Me a Coffee and include a link in your socials, Discord, and YouTube descriptions.

Before you know it, you’ll have monthly and one-time support rolling in from your community, and you can focus on putting those funds to good use paying bills, upgrading your filming setup, or even splurging on a freelance animator to make one of those cool intros for your channel!

Example blurbs to pull:

With over 1.1 million subscribers on YouTube, Better Than Yesterday makes great self-help content that inspires folks all over the planet. They use Buy Me a Coffee to boost the support they get from fans, and have 805 supporters on our platform!

Robin Wong is a photographer and YouTuber with 31.1k subscribers who uses Buy Me a Coffee to touch base with his fans and build deeper connections by accepting one-time support for his camera reviews and photography tutorials.