YouTube is a completely different place than it was only a few years ago. Back in the heyday of YouTube, even the smallest YouTuber could make a little bit of side cash. Now, it’s harder than ever to make money directly from YouTube.


Because YouTube decided to fight for justice. Well…sorta. For a while, YouTube has struggled with fake accounts, troll accounts, and upset advertisers. The only way to clean up the riff-raff was to raise the bar for entry.

Previously, the only requirement for a channel to remain an active partner was 10k lifetime views. That’s it. Now, you must have a total watch time of 4k hours in 12 months and a minimum of 1k subscribers.

In essence, to make money directly from YouTube ads, you have to work a little longer and gain a decent audience. But in the interim, there are a few things you can do to make money with YouTube without relying on YouTube’s Partner Program.

Start Selling Merch

If you’ve built an audience and they’re loyal, they’re gonna want to show it off. But what are the things that people sell on their YouTube channels that actually make money?

Not all popular YouTubers sell merchandise. Only 9% of channels with 10,000 subscribers sell merchandise. But the more popular the YouTuber, the more likely they are to sell merch. A full 78% of YouTubers who have five million subscribers or more sell merchandise.

What’s this mean? It means that you should do what the popular YouTubers are doing. It’s the surest way to gain an audience.

Clothing is the most popular merchandise sold out there. It makes sense because the easiest merchandise to show off is clothing. Most people won’t see your VSauce mug, but they’ll definitely see your Run Steep hat.

Other popular items include bags, backpacks, posters (almost as popular as clothing), and mugs (least popular).

Few YouTubers have their own shop. And most of them have a Redbubble shop.

Fan Funding

Say you’re a bitcoin mining maven and you give valuable information that makes your fans thousand to millions of dollars. You’re giving this information for “free.” Why not ask your fans to give back?

If you’re unfamiliar with the idea, go check out Twitch. The streaming platform is free for anyone to get on and watch just like YouTube. But the site has given users the power to “cheer” on their favorite streamers.

Cheers are essentially tips. Twitch gets a portion of the money and the streamer gets a cut as well. You’ll quickly notice as you wander through various streamer’s profiles that people are more than willing to give back to their favorite streamers.

YouTube does the same thing. It’s called Fan Funding and it’s essentially a tipping jar you can add to your videos. Just make sure you point it out if you’re going to place it on your profile or video. A simple call to action will suffice.

Other tipping sites exist. Patreon is another popular platform for creators and artists. Fans can subscribe to their YouTuber and receive perks for doing so. Just know that you will have to follow through on delivering the perks you promise.

People won’t give you money if you fail to give them what you promised. They’ll think you’re a liar.

Content Licensing

Ok, I’ll admit that this one is far-fetched. But, if you are able to make it big and go viral (doesn’t always help your channel much), you can do some content licensing.

What is content licensing? It’s essentially when other entities such as news outlets and talk shows and other YouTube channels want to use your video because it’s so totally awesome (or because you did something stupid on YouTube).

But even if your content doesn’t go viral, you can list it on a marketplace. Places like Jukin Media will take your video if they think it’s quality material and sell it to places like NBC and CNN to cut up and use in their own media campaigns. You get royalties on this.

But if you see other people taking your content and using it without your permission, don’t be afraid to speak up. Facebook is notorious for letting their users steal YouTube creator’s videos and using them to get likes and views.

Crowdfunding to Create Something Even Bigger

This one takes a bit of a following. You should probably at least have 1000 subscribers or a larger following on Instagram before you attempt this one. Crowdfunding works only if you have something awesome to offer.

If you’re an author and you’ve written other books, you could crowdfund your next book through YouTube. If you’re video game designer like my friend Matt Bromley, you could fund your next board game.

Crowdfunding is a tough route to go, however. You must know you can follow through on your commitments. If you aren’t sure you could finish the project you’re purporting to crowdfund, don’t even start. You’ll ruin your reputation and possibly sink your YouTube channel.

Affiliate Marketing on YouTube

There are thousands upon thousands of affiliate programs out there waiting to let you become their cheap advertising method. We’ve talked about affiliate marketing on Shoemoney before, but let’s do a little refresher.

Affiliate marketing is essentially how brands can sell things outside of ads. You put links in your content that point to specific products or services, users click on the links, buy the product, and you get a portion of the money. Depending on the brand, you might get more or less of the sales profits.

You can place links in your YouTube videos and in your video descriptions. You can also link a blog to your YouTube channel and place links and ads there.

The Online Game is Constantly Shifting

It’s getting harder to make money online. You must be creative and find various new avenues of making money. Soon the blockchain revolution will change everything. But until then keep being creative.

If you liked this advice, check out more online entrepreneur wisdom with Shoemoney’s Shoeintology.


By Ben Mattice

Benjamin Mattice is a freelance writer/editor, horror and sci-fi writer, SEO and affiliate marketing newbie, dog wrestler, cat wrangler, capoeirista, and long distance runner. He lives in the Palouse with his wife, three dogs, two cats, and two rats. Yes, that would probably be considered a mini-zoo.