How Do YouTubers Make Money? A Complete Guide

16 March 2017, 16:00 | Updated: 17 July 2017, 12:25

We the Unicorns

By Benedict Townsend

This is everything you've ever wanted to know.

The most common question I hear, when people find out that I work for a YouTube-centric website, is "do YouTubers make money?" This is then always immediately followed by "how do YouTubers make money?" It's a series of questions that can get very tiring to hear - especially for YouTubers themselves.

In fact, during the filming of our video series Perspectives , we've been asking YouTubers face-to-face about the things they're tired of hearing and money is almost always involved in the answer.

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At the end of the day though, as obsessed as the public and the media can be with YouTubers' earnings, we recognise that there is also just a genuine lack of understanding about the way this new form of media and business functions. So, to put the confusion and endless questions to rest, here are the most common ways in which YouTube creators earn their pay.


1. YouTube Advertising

YouTubers and YouTube themselves can make money through the adverts that appear on YouTube. These can take the form of ads that appear to the side of videos, on the video themselves as a small bar at the bottom, pre-roll ads (ads that play before your video) and unskippable pre-roll ads (pre-roll ads that you have to watch the entirety of before the video starts). If a video is long enough, it can also have ads that play within the video itself (mid-roll ads).


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Every time someone sees or clicks on one of these adverts, a little bit of money goes to both YouTube itself and the YouTuber. Clicking on the ads gives you more money than simply seeing it, but YouTube can tell if the same people are clicking on an ad repeatedly so no, you can't just click on your ads loads of times to make money (which I'm asked about constantly).


2. Sponsored Videos

YouTubers can also make money by doing individual brand deals with companies, much like TV shows do. The YouTuber will create a piece (or series) of bespoke content that involves or advertises a product and/or service. There are rules in place that state that YouTubers should clearly state when a video is sponsored - as you can see in the title of this Dodie Clark video:

These brand deals can be quite lucrative for YouTubers, and as long as they are both upfront with their audience about the video's nature and are able to make the video entertaining, viewers tend not to have a problem with them.


3. Merchandising

This has long been one of the biggest sources of YouTuber income. Much like musical acts, YouTubers tend to foster very loyal fanbases who clamour for merchandise which they can use to demonstrate their love for their fave. These days there is a seemingly endless supply of merchandise available from all kinds of creators.

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Of course not all merchandise is official - and if you truly want to support your fave you should check that the merchandise you are purchasing is actually made or endorsed by them and not someone else.


4. Expanding their portfolio

Aside from conventional merchandising, YouTubers can also earn a living by expanding their brand into other avenues. For example, many major YouTubers are now dabbling with being authors, creating video games or can be seen performing live. YouTubers have also made headway starring in movies and TV shows and have even starred in TV shows of their own, although they don't always tend to do so well.

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5. Brand deals

Brand deals are sort of the top shelf when it comes to the way YouTubers can make money, in the sense that they require the YouTuber to have a big enough public profile to carry a brand on their shoulders. An example would be Zoe Sugg's collaboration with WH Smith's to launch her 'Book Club'. The success of the club was based solely on the power of 'Zoella' as a brand and so this is a financial avenue that can take a lot of time and effort to 'unlock' (so the speak).

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So that's just some of the ways that online creators can make money out of their craft. We hope that you have found this to be an informative and educational reading experience and that maybe the situation is a little bit clearer for you.