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The Top YouTube Earners And How You Can Become One

by John Moore on July 30, 2013

top earners on YouTubeDid you ever think that taking a video of your kid after a dental procedure and posting it on YouTube could earn you big bucks? That’s exactly what happened to David DeVore after he posted a video he took of his son after a dentist visit and posted it on YouTube. That video of the kid woozy from anesthesia after a trip to the dentist’s office earned his family $100,000 from YouTube ads and other merchandising deals. If only every trip to the dentist could be so rewarding.

That single video put DeVore in an exclusive class of top YouTube earners — those earning six figures on their videos. The list of people making this much bank is growing fast — in the thousands, according to some reports. In 2010 TubeMogul, a video ad-buying platform, conducted a broad study to determine the top 10 YouTube earners. At that time, comedian Shane Dawson ranked first, making $315,000 and scoring more than 430 million views. Others on the list included Philip DeFranco ($181,000), and Greg Benson’s Mediocre Films ($116,000).

More recently, TubeMogul estimated that Jenna Marbles — whose snarky videos include “How to Trick People Into Thinking You’re Good Looking” and “People I Hate at the Airport” — earned nearly $350,000 in 2012. Her channel has taken in more than 1 billion views since 2010.

Participants in the YouTube Partner Program (more about that later) are not allowed to disclose the money they make, but it’s safe to say that Tyler Oakley is currently one of the top earners on YouTube. A self-described “professional fangirl,” Oakley’s channel has raked in nearly 60 million views since 2007.

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HOW TO BECOME ONE OF THE TOP EARNERS ON YOUTUBE

So how can you become a top earner on YouTube? Preparation and a lot of luck.

The first thing you have to do is enable monetization on your YouTube account. That’s a fancy way of saying you’ll allow ads to appear on your videos from which you will collect money. Enabling monetization enrolls you in the YouTube Partner Program. Once you have videos uploaded on Youtube you can enable monetization on your account by logging in to YouTube and go to account features. Under the Feature section, you’ll find the Monetization option. Click the Enable button and agree to Google’s terms of service to continue.

Next, decide what type of ads you’d like to have displayed with your videos. The default choices for most videos are overlay ads (small banners that occupy the lower portion of the video) and TrueView in-stream (video ads that play before, during, or after your video; viewers can skip these ads after five seconds). You’ll also have to set up a Google AdSense account, since this is where Google will transfer any revenue you earn from your videos.

Speaking of which, AdSense requires you to meet a $100 threshold before you get paid. If you don’t meet the target by the end of the month, your earnings roll over month by month until you meet the threshold. Don’t be surprised if it takes several months before you reach that $100 threshold.

There’s also no magic formula that X number of views equals X amount of money, although some sources estimate the average revenue to be $1 per 1,000 views. But be aware that even tens of thousands of views a month will likely bring far less than $100. Those videos that earn the big bucks get hundreds of millions of views. So if you want to be a top YouTube earner, or at least get a supplemental income from your videos, you’ll have to get cracking on building an audience.

WAYS TO BE A TOP YOUTUBE EARNER

So how do you get millions upon millions of views so you can quit your day job? As you can tell from the top earners on YouTube mentioned above, there’s no one secret formula. That $100,000 dentist video is an anomaly. Top YouTube earners typically own channels and constantly feed content to it — typically about once a week.

That means you’ll need to think about what you want your channel to be. Will you focus on a particular topic? Are you going to be the subject of all the videos? Can you make the commitment to create and upload content on a regular basis?

Don’t depend on YouTube alone to make it easy for people to find your videos. Connect your channel with social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and Google Plus to make sure you reach as many potential viewers as possible.

HOW MUSICIANS CAN MAKE MONEY ON YOUTUBE

A point of contention with user-generated content is the use of copyrighted material in videos, usually music. This is particularly troubling for independent musicians who don’t have the backing of big record labels to provide them with steady income.

A new solution called Audiam combs YouTube for videos that feature unlicensed music, using audio-matching software and YouTube’s own ContentID system. Musicians can create an Audiam account, then upload songs for the system to find on YouTube. If there aren’t any ads attached to the video, Audiam authorizes YouTube to place both text and video ads on that content.

Audiam is not just a way to collect from others using your music, it’s also an alternative to YouTube’s Partner Program for musicians who’d like to make money on their own music videos. The company says that unlike AdSense, it has no threshold requirements. According to Audiam, after YouTube takes its share of the ad revenue, artists collect the rest (it does take a 25-percent “administrative fee” when it earns musicians money from finding their music on other people’s videos).

Do you think you have what it takes to be a top YouTube earner? How would you do it? Let us know in the comments section.

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