If you have a loyal subscriber base on YouTube but have struggled to earn money through advertising revenue, it may feel like you have no other options.
That’s simply not true.
There are other ways to make money on YouTube, and in this article, we interviewed 8 YouTubers who are making a living from their channel beyond just ad revenue.
The techniques we saw involved using video sponsorships, courses, 1-on-1 instruction, products, guides, and more.
But overall, the pattern we saw with these (and other YouTubers making money outside of advertising) was this: They found out what their most loyal subscribers want, dream, crave and need, and they offered them premium content in exchange for paid subscriptions or one time fees.
This gave the creators even more engagement and loyalty from their subscribers, and helped them earn income and make a living beyond just with advertising — in other words, it was a win-win.
This may sound simple, but the behind-the-scenes details of how to actually implement these money-making strategies are important.
Here are 7 strategies to make money without ads on YouTube:
To monetize her channel, Briana allows paid subscribers (that pay $100/month) to choose a video game that she will cover in one of her videos. While the subscription price isn’t cheap, since many of her video game walkthroughs are a few hours long, it can still be a good value for some of her viewers. Briana notes that this option is her most popular paid subscription.
Swift Lessons is a YouTube channel run by Rob Swift to help people learn to play guitar. The channel has over 400 videos posted and has 400,000 plus subscribers.
In order to monetize his channel, Rob uses Patreon to create a membership based business model, where patrons gain access to exclusive content and weekly offers.
For example, Rob offers patrons exclusive videos, guitar chord sheets, and guitar tabs for just $1/month.
At $5/month, he gives patrons a beginner guitar manual, a PDF of beginner-friendly guitar chords, interactive practice schedules, and 20% off group classes and seminars that Rob teaches. Rob's tiers range from $1/month up to $15/month.
In order to attract people to sign up, Rob uses the following strategy:
- First, he offers a weekly freebie (as a limited-time offer that only paid subscribers can access)
- He then promotes that offer regularly through the week
- From there, he boosts the post on Facebook to target people that match a similar demographic to his current YouTube subscriber base
- In the post, he links to a relevant paid subscribers only post
Rob uses Patreon to manage and sell his monthly paid subscription packages. On his Patreon page, he currently has over 4,000 patrons committed to $1 to up $15/month.
Take action on this idea: If you’re looking to monetize your Youtube channel, think to yourself, what sort of premium content could you give away that your fans would want to subscribe to?
Earn reliable income to fuel your creative independence. Get started on Patreon today.
Flight Chops is run by Stephen Thorne. He started the channel to share his journey of learning to fly for others to enjoy and learn from.
His YouTube channel has just over 120 videos posted with a subscriber count of 136,000.
None of Stephen’s videos are monetized through YouTube advertising. Stephen did this because he did not want any popups blocking the video frame or any random video pre-roll ads playing before his videos.
Therefore, outside of just making an income for himself, Stephen needed to find a way to help fund the increasingly more expensive videos (due to production costs such as hiring a film crew).
One way he's done that is through Patreon (he currently has over 1,000 patrons). But has also found a revenue stream in partnering with related brands. For example, Stephen once partnered with iCloth Avionics (makers of a special cloth for cleaning screens and windshields) to giveaway $1000 in flight training to one of the channel’s viewers.
For iCloth Avionics, the partnership makes sense because the Flight Chops audience would be interested in a cloth that would help them clean a plane windshield before taking flight. For Stephen, it allows his channel to make money through sponsorship.
Take action on this idea: Create a list of brands that are related to the content you offer on your channel and reach out to them directly. The more subscribers you have, the easier this will become. So focus on building up a following first. This can be a numbers game but you will likely find a few companies interested in sponsoring your channel (or a particular upcoming video).
MJ Sailing is a channel run by Matt and Jessica Johnson where they document their sailing and boating travels. The couple has documented their journeys sailing in the Caribbean and across the Atlantic Ocean.
In order to help fund their excursions, Matt and Jessica started a Patreon, where patrons are able to gain early access to their sailing and travel videos. Also, since it can be tough to respond to every comment made on their videos, Matt and Jessica guarantee paid subscribers a response any time they post a comment.
This can be immensely helpful for sailing enthusiasts who are looking to learn and ask questions from those that sail often like Matt and Jessica.
The couple offers membership starting at $2 per video up to $50 per video.
Michael Cthulhu makes swords, axes, and giant hammers that he films, documents, and uploads to YouTube in 30+ minute tutorials. His YouTube channel has over a million subscribers .
In order to monetize his channel, Michael used Patreon to offer patrons the chance to be featured in the credits at the end of his videos.
Michael also offers unique videos as a reward for becoming his patron. For example for his $25 patrons, Michael will create a video with a short, personalized message.
Take action on this idea: Think about how you can make your subscribers feel special and recognize their contributions. Michael does it with credits at the end of the video but you might simply shoutout people on Twitter or make a “Credits” page on your website that lists people that contribute to your channel.
Wreckless Eating is a YouTube channel that does food reviews and challenges. The channel has over 5,000 videos posted with a viewership of 600,000 subscribers.
One unique thing that Wreckless Eating has done to monetize their channel is that, to their patrons who pay $5 or more a month, they offer access to their unedited shows. In addition, they also give patrons priority when asking and answering questions.
Take action on this idea: If you run a lengthy show on your YouTube channel (such as an edited “TV style” show, a long interview, etc.), consider offering unedited access or bloopers to paid subscribers.
Cindy Guentert-Baldo is a lettering artist that shares lettering tutorials on her YouTube channel. The channel has over 300 videos posted with 52,000 subscribers.
With Patreon, Cindy monetized her channel by offering her $5 patrons a monthly, hand-drawn, digital download.
Cindy also offers a weekly hangout for her patrons that pay $15/month. This gives those patrons a chance to chat and ask any questions they may have.
Take action on this idea: If you’re an artist, think about a piece of work that you could offer to your patrons. For Cindy, it was a digital download of her lettering work. If you’re a graphic designer, it might be a digital download of your artwork. If you’re a music artist, you can give away a free download of your latest album or an exclusive, unheard track.