Ask today’s children what they want to be when they grow up and you’ll get traditional answers like nurse or firefighter. But in almost every classroom, there will be at least one child who says, “I want to be a YouTuber.”
Becoming a YouTuber is no longer a pipe dream. Influencers like PewDiePie and MrBeast have paved the way for earning a living by posting videos online.
Why? Because becoming a YouTuber offers a multitude of benefits that traditional jobs don’t—like creative freedom, the ability to work from home, and being your own boss.
It’s not easy, by any means. The truth is that the goal of becoming a professional YouTuber is a bit like the goal of becoming a professional athlete or musician: some people can manage to make a living from it, but the vast majority don’t.
If you’re ready to try your luck, you’re in the right place. This article covers the best advice on how to become a successful YouTuber and get paid for your videos.
A YouTuber is someone who gets paid to post videos on their own YouTube channel. This channel is usually their name, like Shane Dawson—one of the earliest YouTubers to rise to fame—or a brand persona, like MrBeast—an ultra-famous YouTuber with more than 180 million subscribers, a chocolate bar brand, and a chain of burger restaurants.
YouTubers need a particular set of skills to succeed and make YouTube their full-time career. This includes video editing, storytelling, resilience to criticism, and good communication—important for not just interacting with your subscribers, but for contacting brands and securing sponsorships.
How much money does a YouTuber make?
The average YouTuber makes $1,154 per week, which equates to just over $4,500 per month.
However, there’s not a fixed rate for income on YouTube. How much YouTubers get paid depends on several things, including how many views and subscribers they have and which monetization strategies they’re using for their channel.
YouTubers can make money through different channels. The most popular include advertising through the YouTube Partner Program, affiliate sales, and selling branded merchandise.
Becoming a YouTuber is equivalent to starting your own business. Before you can monetize your channel, you need a solid understanding of the type of person you’re trying to reach—including the products or services they buy and the brands they purchase from.
Questions to answer include:
Who are the most popular YouTubers in your niche?
What products or services do your target audience tend to buy through YouTube?
What brands exist to serve the same target market?
You can find most of this information through publicly available data on sites like Statista or the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Or, look at popular YouTubers already working in your niche and browse through their videos to find the products they recommend (you’ll see branded collaborations are labeled “ad” or “sponsored”).
“Having such a wide range of topics on your channel can confuse YouTube's algorithm and make it difficult for YouTube to push your video to the right audience. Since having a more niche specific focus on my channel, my views have increased dramatically.” —Eric Slemboski, creator of Streamers Playbook
Don’t underestimate surveying your own audience, especially if you have an engaged audience on another platform like Instagram or TikTok. These people already know, like, and trust you—the foundations of any purchasing decision.
2. Create a YouTube channel
This might sound obvious, but in order to become a YouTuber, you’ll need to open a YouTube account. Don’t worry, it’s free. To create yours:
Sign into YouTube using a Google account
Click your profile icon and select Create a channel
Upload a profile photo and create a channel name
Once your channel is created, verify it to get access to special features like live streaming, custom thumbnails, and the ability to upload longer YouTube videos. To do this, go to settings and find the “Feature eligibility” tab. Verify your phone number under the “Intermediate features” section.
Finally, customize your new channel so that first-time visitors know what to expect. Pay attention to:
Your YouTube banner. Also known as channel art, this is the banner people see when landing on your YouTube channel. Find free templates on sites like Canva and choose a style that’s consistent with your theme or brand.
Your channel trailer. This short video introduces new subscribers to your YouTube channel. If you don’t already have a backlog of videos to repurpose and tease in your channel trailer, record a short introduction about yourself. Tell subscribers what to expect from your channel, how often you post, and why they should subscribe.
3. Plan your content schedule
Once your YouTube channel is up and running, you’ll need some content to share with your first subscribers.
Try to resist the temptation to post YouTube videos whenever you have the time. A standard, methodical approach—such as one new video each week, or each month—not only sets subscriber expectations, but gives you breathing room to create new content consistently without overwhelming yourself.
Take it from YouTuber Louise Henry who says: “The major thing I wish I had done differently in the early days would be to take it more seriously from day one.
“In the beginning, I wasn’t consistent with my videos. At the time, I didn't fully understand the potential of YouTube, and I didn't really believe that I could be successful, so I didn’t invest 100% of my energy. I'd take occasional breaks from sharing videos and lost a lot of valuable momentum.”
Start by committing to a regular content schedule. One new video per week is a good starting point. But the more you can post, the more chances you have at attracting new subscribers.
Unsure what kinds of videos to post? Find inspiration and start the content creation process by doing the following:
Browse YouTube search trends to see what your target audience is actively searching for in order to spark video ideas
Lurk social media to find out what people in your niche are wondering about, talking about, or asking about
Browse competitor channels to see what videos are doing well, and think of ways you can put your own spin on them
Brainstorm a list of questions you had or mistakes you made when you were starting out, and use them as a springboard for video ideas
Project management tools like Trello and Asana can help keep you on track. Alternatively, everyday calendar tools you’re likely already using can provide a bird’s eye view on your YouTube content schedule, allowing you to fill gaps and plan ahead without adding another software into the mix.
4. Invest in equipment and software
New YouTubers sometimes fall into the trap of investing thousands of dollars into a custom home studio before they’ve earned a dollar from their channel. We don’t recommend this.
The reality is: modern smartphones are equipped with high-quality cameras and microphones you can use to become a YouTuber, especially if you’re a vlogger that records their daily life. A fancy DSLR camera complete with all the bells and whistles is an investment you can make when you’re certain that YouTube will become a paid career.
Create a YouTube studio that has basic equipment and software you need to create high-quality videos. At its most fundamental level, that includes:
A camera—whether that’s an iPhone or a DSLR
A tripod or mount to keep both your camera and microphone still
A lighting source—be that a large window or ring light
The standard for video content is high. With so many options to choose from (and 4K quality now being seen as the norm), the editing stage is one of the most important elements of the entire YouTube video production process.
It’s unlikely that the first video you film will be your best. Video production is like any other skill. The more you practice, the easier and more professional your videos look.
That said, professional video editing software like Descript can speed up the learning process. Rather than working from a complicated timeline, Descript lets you edit video from a transcript—delete the text, and it’ll delete that section from the video. The app also has stock video and music, tons of templates, and AI-powered tools like Studio Sound and Green Screen, making it super easy to create high-quality videos at home—even without a professional studio to record in.
6. SEO and video description
YouTube isn’t a social media platform; it’s a search engine. When people search for something on YouTube, the site has its own algorithm to decide which videos are most relevant to the user’s query.
YouTube search engine optimization (SEO) is a strategy that increases the odds of your content appearing in YouTube's 3 billion yearly searches. Prove to the algorithm that your video content is the best result for your target audience’s query by:
Renaming your video files with a descriptive keyword
Adding the keyword in your video title and description
Using hashtags related to your video
Assigning a video category
Layla at Process Driven is one YouTuber who puts this SEO strategy into practice. For this video on creating a standard operating procedure, Layla includes the keywords “SOP example,” “how to create a standard operating procedure,” and “create SOP” in the video’s title and description.
7. Optimize video titles and thumbnails
Click-through rates prove to YouTube that your video is relevant to the query—so much so that users have chosen your content over the other 10 videos displayed in the results page. Remember: the more views you get, the more chance you have at acquiring new subscribers, monetizing your channel, and becoming a successful YouTuber.
There are two major factors people consider when deciding whether to click a YouTube video:
The video title. Include the main keyword someone would search to find your video. Optimize for click-throughs by creating a sense of intrigue or curiosity in video titles. Göran Winblad, for example, uses the title “This Is Why They All Hate Running” for a video on how to enjoy the sport.
The YouTube thumbnail. The icon for your video is one of the largest elements in YouTube search results. Use yours to grab the attention of a viewer. Using the same example: Göran Winblad shows an image of someone running with the words “beginner mistake” overlaid on top.
8. Engage with your audience
The YouTube algorithm favors video content that previous users enjoyed watching. A high watch time or viewer retention shows your video fits that criteria.
Similarly, engaging with subscribers can strengthen the relationship you have with them. They’ll feel connected with you and have a reason to come back to your channel—feeling like a virtual friend rather than someone they simply watch for entertainment.
Simple strategies to engage your audience include:
Hosting giveaways or competitions
Asking a question in your video and prompting people to answer in the comments
Creating playlists that automatically play the next video immediately after one finishes
“Interacting with your audience in the comments is something that I find is really helpful for growing my audience,” says Danielle Hu, founder of The Wanderlover. “Interaction and engagement help me to get closer to my online community. It shows that I will do my best to answer questions, which increases the chances of gaining more followers as I like to engage with people.”
Regardless of what you’re asking viewers to do, add a call-to-action at the end of your video (either through spoken word or YouTube end cards). These tell people to stay engaged with your YouTube channel when they’d otherwise click off and watch another content creator.
9. Promote your YouTube videos
YouTube’s algorithm is a great way to start building an audience. But it can take time to see the results—SEO is a compounding strategy that can take months to bear fruit.
Bump up your subscriber count by engaging with people outside of the YouTube platform. If you’ve already got a large Instagram following, for example, use Descript to create mini snippets of your full-length video. Use these as teasers; if someone wants to watch the entire video, they’ll have to view it on YouTube. (The video’s end card then encourages them to subscribe.)
Or, if you’re a podcaster, share your episodes on platforms like Apple Podcasts and Spotify. Before each episode, tell listeners they can get a better experience by watching the corresponding video on your YouTube channel.
10. Monitor YouTube analytics
Successful YouTubers know exactly what makes their audience tick. If you’re starting from scratch with no existing audience to ask, the simplest way to do this is by consulting your YouTube data.
YouTube Analytics is the platform’s built-in data tool designed to show you how people engage with your videos. When evaluating your analytics, pay especially close attention to the following metrics:
Top videos: The most-viewed video on your channel during a reporting period.
Impressions click-through rate (CTR): The percentage of people who saw your video’s thumbnail and chose to click it.
Average view duration: How long people watched your video before leaving.
Traffic sources: Where people discover your videos (such as keyword searches, playlists, or suggested videos).
Top YouTube search terms: The phrases people are using most often to find your videos.
Keep tabs on your YouTube analytics to spot trends before they hit the public eye.
Let’s put that into practice and say you’re a beauty YouTuber. Views on your “how to create a smokey eye” video declined over the month, but views on your “no makeup makeup” video skyrocket by 400%. This is a clear signal your audience prefers natural makeup looks.
By prioritizing that type of content over the next month, you’ll create videos you know engage your audience—rather than risking that relationship with guesswork.
“In the early days, I wish I had paid more attention to what my viewers liked and wanted. Instead, I kept making videos without really understanding what worked best. Now, I know how important it is to listen to my audience and create content that they are asking for.” —Dilpreet Johal, creator of SDET Unicorns
11. Monetize and grow your channel
You’ve got your content career off to a flying start. But to make it a sustainable career path, a successful YouTube channel needs to generate some revenue.
Brand sponsorships. YouTube is the second most popular influencer marketing channel because YouTube creators have a strong relationship with their audience. Collaborate with brands that serve the same target market as you and earn money by mentioning their products in your videos—be that through a mini tutorial or a shopping haul.
Affiliate marketing. Similar to brand collaborations, affiliate marketing works when you promote a brand’s products on your channel. The only difference is you don’t get an upfront sum. Affiliates earn a percentage of each sale you influence (usually between 5% and 30% commission).
Sell products or services. Some YouTubers earn money by selling services like writing, design, or marketing on the side. You could also sell physical products like merchandise, or digital products like eBooks or online courses.
“From my YouTube channel, I earn between $100 and $200 each month with 10k subscribers,” says Dilpreet Johal, creator of SDET Unicorns. “However, the real success came when I started building courses related to the software testing field. This has been bringing in a steady income of over $2,000 per month.”
Video ads. The YouTube Partner Program allows YouTubers to get paid when they show ads throughout their videos. You’ll need at least 1,000 subscribers and 4,000 watch hours in the last 12 months (or 10 million valid public Shorts views in the past 90 days) to qualify for the Partner Program. Once accepted, you can expect to earn around $18 in ad revenue per 1,000 video views.
Tips or pledges. This isn’t most Youtubers’ main source of income, but tips can supplement what you’re making from other sources. Platforms like Patreon and Buy Me A Coffee entice subscribers to leave a tip in exchange for exclusive, quality content—such as a behind-the-scenes tour of your studio or subscriber-only live streams.
Influencer Marketing Hub has a fantastic resource that allows YouTubers to estimate their revenue. Just enter your daily video views and average engagement rate and the tool will show your estimated daily, monthly, or yearly earnings.
The best editing app to skyrocket your YouTube channel
The quality of your videos can make or break your success as a YouTuber. With Descript, you don’t have to risk it.
Overlay images, text, and background music without leaving the dashboard
Thousands of creators are already using Descript to make a successful YouTube career. Take a product tourand see why.
How to become a YouTuber FAQs
How much money do you make on YouTube with 1,000 subscribers?
You need at least 1,000 subscribers to join the YouTube Partner Program. Once you join, studies show that YouTubers earn between $1.61 and $29.30 per 1,000 views they get on the platform.
Is being a YouTuber worth it?
Despite the time it can take to build an audience, being a YouTuber is a rewarding career choice. You can connect with people all over the world, have creative control over your videos, and earn money by partnering with brands you love.
With today’s release of Descript, we took a break from big changes (see: Studio Sound), and knocked out a number of quality-of-life improvements. We hope there’s at least a few things on this list that will make Descript nicer for you.
It pays to be deliberate about media consumption — and to tailor your media diet. We talked to a couple of accomplished podcasters about how they manage it; their insights are just as relevant for video creators and anybody who’s serious about creating good content.