In a nutshell

  • The first step to success for any YouTube channel is finding a niche that aligns with your passion and interests.
  • In addition to making money through the YouTube Partner Program, cooking content creators can also extend their reach by building a companion website, selling branded merchandise and incorporating affiliate marketing.
  • To attract and retain an audience, content creators need to produce quality content and publish it regularly as well as consider technical aspects like camera work and audio quality.

The first step to success for any YouTube channel is finding an elusive niche. Start with your passion — what do you care deeply about? If it’s cooking, then you might be able to parlay that passion into a money-making enterprise via a YouTube cooking channel.

You’ll need to narrow your cooking channel’s focus to attract and retain a loyal audience. Are you vegan with an interest in preparing delicious vegan recipes for people living alone? Or maybe you’ve polished your air frying techniques and love cooking healthy air fryer foods for your family.

Google Trends offers a free, robust tool designed to show trends in web searches. A recent query on the topic of cooking produced a likely persistent result: “eating well for less.” Maybe a channel that specializes in meals for two for under $20 could be a big hit.

The global YouTube audience makes a narrow focus for a cooking channel possible. You might not know ten people who care about preparing chocolate recipes without sugar, but worldwide the potential audience is substantial.

Money makers

The most obvious way to make money is through YouTube’s Partner Program — with revenue based on views. However, since the rules could change and alter your income, it’s a good idea to have other revenue streams.

A great way to extend your reach is to build a companion website that shares the same branding as your YouTube cooking channel. Websites offer an excellent venue to embed ads, sell merchandise, and build a sense of community among your audience. Let’s look at an example of using Google’s AdSense, which offers a revenue stream predicated on the number of ad clicks performed by visitors.

In 1998, I (speaking as the author of this article) started a recipe website called Nana’s Recipes. To avoid visual clutter on the vintage-designed site, a decision was made to avoid ads on the front page. Other pages contain what AdSense calls “anchor ads” that stick to the bottom of the screen and are easily clicked on or dismissed by users.

Google offers other ad options, including vignette ads that present full-screen displays between page loads. A handy ad preview feature gives site owners a look at how the ads will display with their content, thus avoiding ad overload and off-putting visitors.

Having a branded presence on social media further spreads your reach. For example, Facebook offers great data on follower demographics. Of the 11,000+ followers of Nana’s Recipes, about 88 percent are women, and 69 percent of those women are over 45 years old. This data is especially useful when choosing ad content that’s compatible with your content and visitors. Video game ads targeted at teen boys are probably not the best choice for Nana’s Recipes.

Other income options

Another revenue stream open to YouTube content creators is affiliate marketing. Amazon and Target are two companies that offer income opportunities to website owners. A button embedded on your site puts visitors a click away from purchasing products — with a percentage of the purchase price funneled to you.

You can also sell what you’re using in your cooking YouTube videos, such as cookware, utensils and ingredients. You might even have visitors thanking you for making it easy to replicate your recipe.

Another income option is to sell your own branded merchandise. VistaPrint and 4imprint are two examples of companies that will put your branded identity on merchandise related to cooking. Selling branded aprons might just be a big hit with your audience.

Audience building

Compelling content brings an audience to a YouTube channel, but engaging personalities bring them back. An adorable 80-year-old Italian grandmother, and her sidekick 10-year-old grandson, might have just the right chemistry to attract a loyal audience.

Or maybe a loving dog owner might find an audience by showing how to prepare wholesome, homemade meals and treats for their canine friends — all the while engaging the audience with the sweet relationship between owner and dog.

What about a “farm to fork” series where two long-time friends travel to various farms to harvest the food they will ultimately prepare? Each short episode chronicles their adventures at every stop. Viewers will want to return week after week to watch the serialized story unfold.

Technical considerations

To attract and retain an audience of loyal viewers — and keep the money flowing — you’ll need to produce quality content and publish it regularly. Viewers probably aren’t expecting Hollywood quality, but if your cooking video is blurry or the audio muffled, the audience will head out.

Delivering cooking instruction on video often entails an overhead camera. A video switcher can be used to toggle between the overhead camera and a camera pointed at the chef. However, you can also pull off a cooking video using one camera with careful planning and editing.

One final thought, since you are trying to reach a global audience, consider offering international alternatives to U.S. measurements. You can spread your love of cooking worldwide through YouTube and make some cash along the way.