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How to Monetize YouTube Even With a Small Channel

man with youtube on phone

Have you ever wanted to make money out of your videos? Or wondered how others earn a living from theirs? You’re not alone. With over 30 million daily active users (2 billion per month), YouTube can be profitable for content creators, influencers, and vloggers. However, making money on the platform is no longer as easy as it used to be. Nowadays, a channel needs 4,000 watch hours in the last 12 months AND at least 1,000 subscribers to earn through ads. Luckily, that’s not the only way. Here we’ll uncover five ways to monetize YouTube even with a small channel.

How to Monetize YouTube (Aside From Running Ads)

1. Do Affiliate Marketing

Similar to how you can make money blogging, you can monetize YouTube by becoming an affiliate marketer for products and services that you mention, review, or use on your videos.

When you signup for an affiliate program, the company you’re promoting gives you a unique link to the offerings you will promote. You’re the only one who uses this link. You then include this in your video and in the description box. When someone clicks and makes a purchase through that link, you receive a commission from the brand. It’s traced back to your link. So essentially, the company rewards you for bringing them business by giving you a cut of the sale. Sweet!

A lot of companies today have profitable and easy-to-run affiliate programs, especially for beginners and SMBs, so you can conveniently choose what best suits your interests and niche.

What’s really cool about affiliate marketing, too, is that it’s the gift that keeps on giving. You can even make money in your sleep. People can purchase using your link 24/7. And while yes, you want to be sure to promote it, it’s something that can passively make you money even when you’re not working for it. Bonus.

However, one word of caution. Affiliate marketing isn’t just about promoting things. It’s about recommending products and services you actually use and believe in. Don’t get greedy and simply promote any affiliate link you can get your hands on. You want your following to trust you as a reliable source of information. Only recommend things that you personally use and can vouch for.

Quality over quantity, always, and remember to stay credible.

2. Partner With Brands

If companies see potential with your channel, they can connect with you for partnerships that can go two ways:

  • They offer your products to promote and you get paid directly.
  • They sponsor your videos.

Either way, it’s a win-win.

In the first example, you’re sort of acting like an influencer. Because you’re exposing the other brand to your audience — full of their target market — they’re willing to pay you for it. And no, you don’t need a huge audience in order for this to work!

And in the second example, they sponsor your video and you give them a major shout-out and promote them to your audience within the video.

We want to offer a gentle reminder, as we did in the last point, to only partner with brands that you can truly get behind. Your viewers are going to trust you and take your word for it. You don’t want to steer them in the wrong direction.

Alternatively, if you’re the one reaching out, consider going for SMBs and startups that are looking to use video marketing to gain exposure and brand awareness. There’s a lot of them today, so do research on which ones align with your channel’s message, values, and target market. Start by looking into brands that you already use and love. For instance, if your agency or SMB uses a graphic design tool or email marketing software and you’ve had a good experience, reach out to them and see if they might be interested in a collaboration.

Keep in mind that when doing sponsored content or product placements, transparency is key. Check the “video contains paid promotion” option in the settings tab of your video draft and always follow Google’s Ad policies.

This isn’t just about staying on Google’s/YouTube’s good side, either. It’s also about being real with your viewers. If you want a successful channel for the long run, honesty and transparency matter. If you’re going to sing a partner brand’s praises, be truthful with people. Tell them that you’re collaborating with this brand, but reassure your viewers that you only promote brands you love and trust.

youtube menu

3. Sell Your Products and Services

Another effective way to monetize YouTube is by selling your offerings. Create informational videos — DIYs, tips and tricks, or how-to tutorials — to advertise your products and services and show viewers how these will be valuable to them. Make sure to use your merch in the videos or feature customers who’ve used it. Above all, include a strong CTA (call-to-action) on the end-screen and provide links to the items or your online store in the description space.  

No merchandise lineup just yet? No problem! Here’s a quick how-to:

  • Brainstorm what item — whether it’s a shirt, tote bag, or cap — best represents your brand and target audience. Consider taking polls from your viewers on what product could serve them.
  • Connect with suppliers that can manufacture and deliver your items. Make sure to learn about service providers who can handle customer support, fulfillment, secure payments, and shipment.
  • Dedicate a landing page for your online shop.
  • Promote your merchandise (as we’ve outlined above).

Alternatively, if physical products are not within your arena, consider selling downloadable content such as art prints, e-books, templates, workbooks, or webinars, that could be useful for your audience.

Lastly, you can always sell your services! Are you some kind of agency, coach, consultant, or another type of entrepreneur? If you sell services (particularly if they’re online), then you should absolutely be highlighting them on your YouTube channel. These are warm leads — people who are already interested in what you have to offer. And you know this because they’re already watching your content.

Essentially, selling products and services is an opportunity to increase your online presence, establish relationships with your fans, and monetize YouTube, even with a small audience.

4. Go for Crowdfunding and Fan Funding

If you’re looking for ways to pool funds for your channel-related projects, crowdfunding and fan funding are the way to go. They’re effective ways to solicit donations online, to stay engaged and connected with your audience, and to monetize YouTube.

Crowdfunding, which can be recurring or a one-off campaign, means raising money from a lot of people who contribute a relatively minimal amount. Make sure to select your platform from YouTube’s approved crowdfunding sites, which include known channels like GoFundMe, Kickstarter, and Patreon.

One of the many cool things about crowdfunding is that it’s an amazing way to bring your community together and invite everyone to take a small part. It’s like giving them a little role, a little piece of the pie. People appreciate being included.

man sitting behind microphone

Fan funding is similar, but the donations come directly from your viewers and audience. This is usually set up through Super Chat, wherein fans can donate a certain amount to your channel when you host live streams. In return, their comment gets highlighted and pinned for a certain period. Another option is to encourage your viewers to pay for a membership to your channel in exchange for exclusive offers.

If you choose these streams, be sure to always keep in mind these three essential things:

  • Be transparent about how the donations will be spent.
  • Offer enticing incentives for viewers to financially support you – whether it’s through private tutorials, free merchandise, or special discounts.
  • Offer quality content that’s highly relevant and valuable to your audience so they’ll be more inclined to support you for the long haul.

We can’t stress this enough: It’s not just about collecting their money. It’s about consistently providing amazing value and then asking them if they’ll show their support. Always provide value first — not the other way around. It won’t work.

5. License Your Content to the Media

Do you have a video that has gone viral or just done exceptionally well? Well, licensing your most successful content or those that perform really well is an effective way to monetize YouTube.

Start by signing up and uploading your content in a video marketplace like Junkin Media. From here, it will be a lot easier for people to find and purchase your video.

Similarly, companies like TV networks, online news sites, and other creators are always on the lookout for the next big thing. If you have what appeals to their niche and audience, they could reach out to you for the right to use your videos.

This tactic to monetize YouTube might be a little more of a long-term play, but it’s worth keeping in the back of your mind. And, it’s a reminder to always place the value of your content above all else, because that’s what people care about. Therefore, that’s what you should care about. Become obsessed with providing value, and it’ll open so many exciting doors.

The Key Takeaway

If you don’t have enough subscribers or watch hours, you might automatically think that making money on YouTube is not an option for you. But don’t get discouraged! With these five steps, you can begin to monetize YouTube even if you have a small (growing) channel.

However, keep in mind that these tips will not result in making money overnight. You’ll still need to put in all the work — producing high-quality and valuable content, engaging with your viewers, and cross-promoting to your other social platforms. Remember, you’ll want to create a stable income stream through YouTube, not a one-time success. That means showing up on a regular basis and putting in the time and effort to build real relationships with your viewers and subscribers.

Our goal, though, is to show you that’s it not all about the numbers. It’s not all about your number of subscribers or the watch hours you’ve collected. These metrics matter, yes, but they’re not the end of the conversation. Not nearly. You can absolutely monetize YouTube even if you’re not yet able to run ads. Stay consistent, focus on providing value, and the money will follow.

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