In a nutshell

  • To make money with a YouTube channel, you’ll need a content strategy, an audience development strategy and a monetization strategy.
  • Defining a niche and making engaging content is the first step in growing an audience.
  • The best monetization strategy is one that’s tailored to your channel.

Some YouTubers post videos as a hobby; others post to earn a profit. If you’re in the latter group, this article is for you. Here’s the tl:dr on how to run a profitable YouTube channel: To start, you’ll need to define a niche and create engaging content within that niche. This gives you a foundation for building your audience. Then, once you have a decent-sized audience, you can start earning money from your channel. Just remember: You’ll need to stay agile and be ready to adapt to keep the profits rolling in long-term.

But to really figure out how to make money with a YouTube channel, we’ll need to dive deeper into each element. Let’s go.

Define your niche

Your niche is a key part of your channel’s identity. Try to make it obvious what your content is about, especially when you’re just starting out. Get really specific. If viewers see a pattern — and they like it, of course — they’ll be more likely to subscribe or binge your other videos.

To figure out your niche, start broad. Maybe you like to DIY. Cool. Now choose one specific type of DIY project — say, interior design. That narrows things down quite a bit. Can you niche down any further? Caroline Winkler, for example, found a loyal audience for her low-budget, renter-friendly DIY room transformations. Niching down brought in a specific group of viewers, and many of them related to Caroline’s unabashed sense of humor. These days, she can post a diverse array of videos thanks to the strong foundation she built within her niche.

Create engaging content

You and a potential viewer may have a shared passion for making extremely detailed miniatures out of literal garbage, but if your content is boring, they aren’t going to watch. It’s vital that your content engages and resonates with your audience. Don’t be afraid to show off your personality. A good dose of humor doesn’t hurt, either. Just look at Studson Studio for an example.

Studson makes extremely detailed miniatures inspired by his favorite video games, TV shows and movies. However, rather than head to the craft store, Studson heads to the recycle bin for the majority of his model-making materials. In one of his most popular videos, Studson created a replica of Howl’s Moving Castle out of junk.

Studson Studio has a clearly defined niche, but more than that, Studson makes engaging content. His dry wit and flat affect balance the whimsical nature of his builds and keep the viewer engaged from beginning to end.

Grow your audience

Once you’ve defined your niche and feel confident in your content, you can turn your focus to building your audience. Whether you earn revenue through AdSense, brand sponsorships or Patreon, growing your audience is essential to making money with a YouTube channel. There are lots of different strategies that can accelerate channel growth. Here are three of the most common.

Cross-platform posting

Cross-platform posting can help bring your audience from one social platform — say, Instagram — to another — in this case, YouTube. This is an especially good strategy if you already have a following outside of YouTube. However, even if you don’t, promoting your content on other platforms can still help bring in new viewers. It can also help viewers feel more connected to you, leading them to tune into your videos more often.

One cautionary note, however: Don’t overwhelm yourself trying to keep up with every single social media platform. Choose a few of the most relevant or familiar platforms and focus your efforts there.

YouTube is basically a giant, searchable catalog of videos. Depending on your content and your style of video, a good portion of your audience will likely find your channel via search results. If that’s the case for your content, you’ll need to be aware of the current best practices when it comes to search engine optimization, or SEO. Genres like history, science and how-to are especially impacted by search rankings, but videos in any genre can benefit from an SEO boost. To learn how to optimize your video titles, tags and descriptions for search, read our article on the Best YouTube SEO practices.

Collaborate and network

While SEO is a highly effective strategy for some, other channels find more success through collaboration and networking. Working on content with other creators is a great way to extend your reach and get your content into more recommended feeds. The best part is that such collaboration helps attract new viewers for everyone involved.

Collaboration doesn’t have to be elaborate. For example, Laura Crone often provides voice-over cameos in videos by creators like Jacob Geller and Big Joel, and vice versa. This small connection helps build a shared audience for this group of creators.

Monetization strategies

And now for the actual profit. All of this content creation and audience building has been leading up to this: monetization. Like everything else about being a creator, there are several different paths to make money with a YouTube channel. For most creators, YouTube’s Partner Program provides the first opportunity for monetization. To join the Partner Program, your channel needs to have at least 1,000 subscribers and 4,000 watch hours or 10 million Shorts views. Once you join, your channel can start running ads and earning revenue through Google AdSense.

AdSense revenue can be unpredictable; however, so many creators supplement ad revenue with other sources of income. These can include sponsored content deals with brands or viewer-supported sources like Patreon and channel memberships. Whatever way you choose to monetize your channel, be sure to create a strategy tailored to your goals and your content. A cooking channel will have a different strategy than a beauty channel. And remember: Once you have revenue coming in, the best way to maximize profits is to keep expenses low.

Be ready to adapt

Even after you figure out your content strategy, build an audience and monetize your channel, things can change. That’s why our final piece of advice is to stay agile and be ready to adapt. Trends and algorithms shift constantly. And that’s not to mention your personal growth as a creator. All this to say, don’t be afraid to change it up when the moment feels right. That could mean trying out a whole new video format or just tweaking your thumbnail template. Either way, when you leave room for your channel to evolve, you ensure its long-term success.

So what’s the next step? If you’re serious about making money on YouTube, you’ll need to make a business plan. Here’s how.