There's an extraordinary amount of hype around the topic of making money from YouTube. And, by making money, we mean enough to earn a living wage so that you can realize your dreams of working in video production full time. Of course, there are thousands of YouTubers that are making enough to focus on their career full time, but the overwhelming majority of YouTuber users will see very little revenue return. It takes hundreds of thousands of views to see any kind of worthwhile weekly ad revenue income and millions of views to make becoming a full time partner sustainable.

YouTube is expected to attract $5 Billion in advertising revenue this year so how do creators get a piece of the pie? After all, it's their content that's bringing the advertisers to the site in the first place. We take a look at some of the ways you can make money on YouTube how the site is facing a backlash from those who think the business model is broken.

Let's start at the beginning with what it takes to become a partner so you can actually monetize your video content.

What Exactly is a YouTube Partner These Days Anyway?

Nowadays, anyone with access to the internet can upload a video to YouTube.  However, if you want to make money off that content, you'll need to become a YouTube Partner.  So, how do you become a revenue generating YouTube partner? Well, it's pretty easy these days actually.

Once upon a time you could only become a YouTube partner if you applied directly and were approved, or if you received a personal invite from Google.  Today however, anyone whose account is in good standing can become a YouTube partner through expressly allowing YouTube to place advertising in, on, and around your video content. Google makes money from the views of these ads and partners can then earn a percentage via a Google Adsense account. Exactly how much money a partner can make varies enormously and depends on a range of different factors.

YouTube states that there are more than a million channels in the Partner Program (up from 30,000 in 2011), with YouTube estimated to take a 45/55 share of the ad revenue. Official figures aren't available but partners only really make a fraction of a cent per view.

To start the process of becoming a partner, go to your 'Account Monetization' page in 'Channel settings'  click on the “Enable My Account” button. Once you've been accepted, (which is a really quick process) you're on your way to monetizing your videos.

How to Make A Living From YouTubes Partner Earnings youtube partner monetization 750x221

Be prepared for issues with approval if you are seen to be in violation of any copyright agreements or are publishing material that's deemed abusive, racist or sexually explicit. Google will take down this type of content and your account's good standing may be affected if you continually break the rules.

What Do YouTube Partners Earn From Advertising Revenues?

YouTube takes around a 45% slice of advertising revenue, although the CPM (cost per thousand) that advertisers are charged varies. Most partners earn anywhere between $0.30 to $2.50 CPM, but there are many exceptions to the rule, with some of the bigger YouTube players earning closer to a $10 CPM. Be aware that your location and the type of content that you publish will have a bearing on how much you can potentially earn.

Socialblade is also good if you want to poke around in other's channel statistics and take a look at their very estimated earnings. A recent Reddit thread attracted contributions from all over the world with tales of CPM margins ranging from $0.10 to $6.

Before you get too excited though, remember that creators only get paid if their views are monetized. Many mobile views, those blocked by Adsense, and those where advertising has been switched off for some reason, do not count. 50,000 views doesn't mean that 50,000 of those views were monetized.

The top 1000 channels bring in around $23,000 per month from advertising - but then again, they also average around 900,000 monthly video views, and because they're popular channels, they are likely commanding more generous CPM rates.

How to Make A Living From YouTubes Partner Earnings youtube money Example of Potential Earnings (@1M views per month):
$2,500/mo = $2.50 CPM x (1 Million views/1000)

Partner Earnings From Sponsorship/Merchandise Deals

There are a number of popular YouTube creators who have secured lucrative sponsorship deals with brands because these YouTubers have large, relevant, and engaged audiences. And, sometimes, they are just in the right place at the right time, I'm looking at you Grumpy Cat.

How to Make A Living From YouTubes Partner Earnings grumpycat

Sponsorship agreements are settled outside of YouTube and can take on many forms depending on the deal agreed.

Beyond sponsorships, some YouTubers are so popular that they're able to sell their own merchandise to their viewers. YouTuber Michelle Phan not only signed a high profile deal with cosmetics giant Lancome but also launched her own line of make up products which more than supplement any income she gets from YouTube.  Creators, such as Phil deFranco, run their own line of merchandise products and many YouTubers are finding opportunities outside of the site in TV and movie appearances.

How to Make A Living From YouTubes Partner Earnings youtube money Potential Earnings:
$100 to $1,000,000+

If you're interested in brands partnering with creators on youtube, be sure to check out Tubular Creator Profiles for the world's largest, free database of creators and brands.

Partner Earnings From Paid Channel Subscriptions

In May 2013, after months of speculation, YouTube finally announced a paid channel subscription service which allowed creators and publishers to charge for their video content. 53 channels were launched with monthly fees ranging from $0.99 to $6.99. The new feature, with a 55/45 split in revenue in favor of YouTube was widely regarded as a toe in the water to see whether consumers would be willing to pay for content in the same way they paid for VOD services like Netflix. The new pay per view content model, comes with a 14 day trail and discounts on yearly rates.

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Just earlier today - YouTube announced that they are now allowing any monetized partner, with more than 10,000 subscribers, to enable paid subscriptions on their channel.

How to Make A Living From YouTubes Partner Earnings youtube money Example of Potential Earnings (@10K Subs paying $1.99):
$1.99 (45% split = $0.90) x 10,000 subscribers = $108,000/year

Increased Earnings with MCNs (Multi-Channel Networks)?

Over the past two years, we've witnessed the rapid rise of YouTube MCN (Multi-Channel Networks) formed in various ways to help support creators and to create more attractive packaged offerings for monetization. MCN's are independent companies (not endorsed by YouTube/Google) who aggregate multiple YouTube channels, and offer assistance to creators in various forms that can include among other things, programming, collaboration, promotion, copyright management, and increased earnings.  MCNs are able to offer increased earnings due to the fact that they are often able to command higher advertising rates through direct ad sales, sponsorships, and packaging.

For the average doing-this-outside-the-day-job partner, your earnings from joining an MCN are not going to rock your world. BUT, for a percentage of your ad earnings, MCNs can offer the kind of invaluable support that can help you build up your channel, your subscribers and ultimately, your earnings.

Every Multi-Channel Network have their own rates including fixed CPMs where they pay you a flat rate per 1000 monetized views, or via a contract which gives you a percentage of whatever your channel generates (this can be anywhere upwards of 60%). Machinima offer their content partners a $2 CPM rate which might seem thin, but then they do offer support and legal advice when it comes to copyright issues, a bit problem with gaming videos.

If you're interested in learning more, read our post on the pros and cons of joining a YouTube MCN.

Monetization Issues: Is The YouTube Business Model Broken?

There have been grumblings from some YouTube creators that the revenue model is unfair. Technological challenges had proved an issue for the new pay per view channels and some MCNs are complaining that the rate of return from ad revenue is unsustainable.

Jason Calacanis stirred up quite the heated debate earlier this year with his post titled, "I ain't gonna work on YouTube's farm no more."  In it, Jason rants against YouTube's model and calls the 45% share a "YouTube Tax.".

"In a way, YouTube is the Sebastian Shaw of the ecosystem, absorbing all your power and talent and using it for their prime directive: maintain the 45% tax through control of talent, advertisers and user behavior. "

He even created a YouTube 'Bill of Rights' that aims to try and repair the "damage" he sees between YouTube, MCNs, and other content partners.

For smaller scale creators, leaving YouTube is, at the moment, an unthinkable concept. It is, after all, where the audience is. And speaking of audience, 41% of it now comes via mobile, so there are still some huge advertising headaches to sort out where that is concerned.

At our Video Marketing Summit, Jim Louderback led a lively discussion with Greg Jarboe and Paul Colligan, on the current state of YouTube.

Oh, and there's a handy little calculator tool that lets you estimate YouTube Partner ad earnings based off of a set number of video views, using the average CPM range mentioned above ($0.30-$2.50CPM).


It is possible to make a living from YouTube, but as with any creative endeavor, the harder you work, the more optimized your videos are, the greater you are at marketing and collaboration (and the hundreds of other little skills and synchronicities that go into make a project work for you), the more likely you'll be able to generate an income.  Creating regular, consistent content (weekly, or even better, daily), sharing it out via others sites and social networks, encouraging engagement, being active on the site, caring what you do is  what it's going to take to make you successful.

So, is it worth monetizing your content if you know that you will struggle to reach the views needed, or you find the MCN experience is not for you? Absolutely.

When you become a YouTube Partner through monetization, you're then eligible to use some great YouTube features that are unavailable to non-monetized users, like custom thumbnails, associated website annotations, in-video programming, live streaming, and more. Additionally, if you strike lucky and upload a video that gets a lot of attention there's no way to claw back those potential earnings. Becoming a partner ensures that future views are accounted for, and even if they bring in only a few dollars a year, that's still money that you have earned.

  • Eve Martel

    You should do an updated version of this post!

  • Shut Up and Go

    We're two nearly full-time YouTubers and we must say, for the first two years of growing our channel, we made less than $100 each month, but when your channel starts exploding, THAT is when you see where the potential is. Sponsors start reaching out, as well as MCNs offering competitive CPMs, and brands who want you to take over their social media for a day. It's all pretty exciting once it starts taking off, and it's a great job if you're passionate about online video.

    But yeah, YouTube taking 45% right off the bat is pretty much a buzzkill.

  • BarryDunne

    Can anyone help me please. I am with Freedom! Network and I run a gaming channel and have over 1000 subscribers. It doesn't seem to giving me much money. A few cents here and there. Can anyone help me please. I'm just curious to see what other options are out there. I'm I better off just sticking with YouTube or am I good with a YouTube partner Network like Freedom?

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  • Balázs

    You're right, while the above indicated $2500 per 1 million view is usually not real, you can make surprisingly many views from your old videos which are still counting. For example I've uploaded 2 years ago a video, now it has 18 million views and today the majority of my earnings comes from that old video. For example last month I had 400 thousand views from it = $700. This amount also depends on how many minutes they watched your video, mine 400k had 1,5 million min. watched.)
    Also important note: what youtube partnership offers (f.g 65%) is not the best. With an MCN (Multi-Channel Network) you can get 80% from your earnings. It can cause big differences in payment on the long run.
    Another thing: you can have any video with whatever huge amount of views, it will NOT make cash if the video contains third party content. F.g Sony Music Entertainment claims the song which is playing in the background of your video.

    • grieva

      You dont know what you talking about moron, youtube give you 55% revenue share and the MCN Takes 5-40% of your first share - so its double cut

  • Guest

    Yeah... I would rather use youtube as a hobby. The way I am going at with my youtube channel. I might make 0$

  • Lisasc

    Could some of you pay my Youtube channel a visit please. My Youtube channel is lisa sc or thegoodsharer. Is it ok if I ask this on here? It's much appreciated. thank you!

  • Lisasc

    I wonder how many Youtube videos I would need to make per day to earn money. I sure wish I could become a Youtube partner success story. I really need to earn money so I can buy stuff I badly need and to have a better life - to escape poverty.

  • NewYoutuber

    Will all views and clicks be accounted for if I monetized videos but do not have an Adsense account? Thanks.

  • ahwee321

    uploaded a video during 2011, got my first paycheck from google at 2013 becuase didn't know about monetization, currently making around $50++ monthly for that video. appreciate it because it is passive income hehehe

  • Second Degree Medicine

    Fantastic article. Thank you. I have been running my channel properly for about 2-3 months now and I know we are not allowed to share how much we earn. It's all so secret! But so far I can say I have earned enough to probably buy some grocery shopping. Interpret that as you will.

    Can't expect much I realise because I've only been going on for a little while but would be nice to earn a little bit to put towards my university fees.

    Good to see others on here who are also trying to earn a bit of extra cash, it was never going to be a full time job for me as I'm training to be a doctor but a bit of extra cash would be nice!

    Good luck everyone.

  • Elisha

    In my analytics, youtube tells me my CPM is $8.65. Does youtube take a 45% cut of THAT or is it my cut already calculated? I.e. Am I making $8.65 CPM or $4.75 CPM? Does socialblade estimate pre youtube cut or post?

    • wesleymfreudenburg

      Jacqueline implied I'm taken by surprise that a mom can earn $8130 in 1 month
      on the computer . see post C­a­s­h­f­i­g­.­C­O­M­

    • med al

      hi elisha did you find out the right answer please share so we benefit from it

      • Elisha

        YouTube does take the 45% cut from the CPM.

        But Socialblade's estimate is the money YOU take home, NOT the money you have to share with YouTube. I've found Socialblade's estimates pretty accurate, with my income falling somewhere between double the bottom number and half the top, but for a couple of days I actually made close to the top number they estimated.

        • med al

          that is great, thak you for these accurate insights.i appreciate it :)

  • Mark Rybarczyk

    Great article! I agree with Jason Calacanis' statement that YouTube is a great place to build a brand but a horrible place to build a business. With cpm's constantly being reduced it makes it extremely difficult for the overwhelming majority of creators to make a living on YT.
    This also provides great opportunity for 'off' YT strategies for creators with loyal subscriber bases. As one of the Co-Founders of we provide a super simple pay-per-view implementation for creators to simply upload, set a price and share with their subscribers, fans & followers on their social networks.

    • Suzanne Andrews

      Thanks for posting this. I took a look and we're going to join.

  • Stephen Austin

    I started making video on YouTube 5 years ago as Old Man Steve.I'm 75 years old and love wnat I do.I don't have many subscribers and I've made $100.00 since I started YouTube. I think YouTube is for young people and the stuff I do my not be for a young audience but I do what I do. I have over 300 video's. I've given my self until I'm 80 years old to be come a big hit,after that I'm done. I joined a MCN and will see if they can help me get more view's.I think more older folks watch video's on YouTube then most people think

    • Don Jaye

      old or new person doesn't matter. As long as you can bring something good to the table. Also try reinventing yourself over and over.

    • Matheus Lopes

      My case is worse, I've been working with Blogging without showing my face, for a few years, so you can guess that people can't see if I'm young or new. Been able to make a good income, but not a living, as blogging requires a lot of planning and marketing, content optimization, hiring people to write and all, also, you depend a lot on Search Engine Optimization. But I'm sure if I had put 100% of myself on the business, I'd be making a live out of it. The point here is that, on the web, the more helpful is your content, the better. At one had you have to deliver the most useful stuff, on the other hand you must mess with people's emotions, make them feel special. For the part of taking time, you can faster the process by making use of Social Media. People are all around Facebook, if you have something really good to offer, just show it to them in your timeline, and of course, make sure you have Facebook friends related to your business model. Right now I'm starting a project about making comedy videos, I'm pretty sure It won't take much for me to make a living out of it, since I frequently post funny and playful stuff on my Facebook profile, people usually like everything I post, so I already have an audience prepared. What happens after? Some people will share my videos with their friends and voila! I've done that before with some other amateur like videos, and it worked.
      Let yourself shine, young grandpa!

    • True-Animal-Lover

      What is your channel?

  • James H

    This helped me a lot for an essay I had to write for school! Thanks!

  • Maninder Pal Sngh

    Very informative. Helps with clearing some confusions about YouTube.

  • Allen Harrington

    Half of the people I tell about how I make money on Youtube say that making money on youtube is a make money quick scheme LOL

    • TwentyPoundGorilla

      I promise you... it's a slow-walk make-money-slow lowest-paying-job-ever scheme. I spend more than 80 hours a month in editing and double that time answering question on my channel. We're talking hundreds of deeply technical questions... and all combined for about $500 a month. I'm used to making $125 an hour. I'm making less than minimum wage in ALL of my spare time. I'm in the top 40,000 channels. 40,000 subs, 10 million views. That's real talk. Slow. You walk or crawl every last dollar into the bank. They make you work your ice off for it.

  • sindiparmar

    Awesome post Carla. I know all commentors have written this but i want to tell you same thing that your post is AWESOME. The point that YouTube is now providing enough money to the original creators is well explained. Thanks

  • Jeff Yentzer

    I'm starting to make some decent money on Youtube in the last few months. I'm going to ramp up my efforts and see where it leads.

  • Josh Rimer

    Love this article Carla... I'm still amazed at how many people say to me with genuine surprise "You can make money on YouTube?"

  • Michael Vera

    Very awesome article as always : ) Thanks you guys for linking to your Multi-Channel Network article. I bookmarked both pages. (this article and that one)

    Freddie Wong also has an awesome breakdown article detailing youtube networks.


    • Carla Marshall

      I forget about that article - many thanks for reminding me

  • TechZoom

    Excellent article. Thank you so much. :)

    Greatly helps a rookie at YT production.

  • Dave Holland

    Hey Carla - great article - there are so many people I need to send this too who keep asking me this question.