ABC News has cracked the code on online video riches, and now they're sharing it with the world in a piece called Top YouTube Earners Share Their Strategies. It's a great read (seriously) and contains insight gleaned from their interviews with several of the top successful earners on YouTube. But for those of you too busy to read through the summary of their findings, let me just get straight to the point of their article: it's hard.
There's a pervasive belief in American culture (and other cultures, I guess) that getting rich should be easy… that if we can just step absentmindedly onto the right financial landmine—or buy the right lottery ticket—we, too, can strike it rich. Sadly, it's a belief that often keeps us from doing the one thing proven to lead to financial success, which is hard work.
It can make your head spin to learn about some of the numbers involved here for the top-earning content creators on YouTube. You see a silly video, and then you read about how the creator makes hundreds of thousands of dollars per year making similar silly videos, and shortly after that is when jealousy and depression set in. It's easy to end up asking yourself, They made millions of dollars for that?
Well, the truth is almost always less glamorous than the sensationalized version of events, and that's true in the case of online video riches as well.
Successful Stars Making Money With YouTube
For their article, ABC News talked to some pretty heavy hitters:
- Greg Benson, of Mediocre Films – responsible for the "Retarded Policeman" series, among other viral hits. He has 120 million video views. While YouTube partners are not allowed to discuss their contracts with the video portal, ABC puts his earnings at $116,000 per year just from advertising he places on his videos—that's not counting any of the other possible revenue streams his content has developed.
- Jodie Rivera, AKA Venetian Princess, responsible for a series of parodies of female pop stars. Her channel has 270 million video views. The ABC article does not mention how much she makes, outside of this quote: "Yes, the salary from the advertising revenue is amazing."
- Ryan Higa, AKA Nigahiga, responsible for the How To Be A Ninja and How To Be A Gangster series. His channel has over 578 million video views (holy crap!) and is the most-subscribed channel on YouTube. They estimate his earnings at about $151,000 a year—again, just from advertising on his videos.
Each of these individuals has gone from a relative unknown to Internet superstar in the last few years, just by making entertaining videos and cultivating an audience—none of them are professional filmmakers when they started, though a couple of them hope to be soon.
So if you're going to poll people for advice on finding success with your YouTube channel, these three are among the best you could choose. And while they're advice might seem, at first, to be pretty basic, it's dead-on in its accuracy.
Making Money On YouTube - Successful Strategies and Advice
Here now are my takeaway lessons from the tips given in the article:
Surprisingly, making money on YouTube isn't easy (end sarcasm). In fact, it's pretty tough. While it's easy to imagine these people making a silly video one afternoon and spending the rest of the week goofing off and playing golf, the reality is that they all work more hours in a week than I do. Says Benson: "The work is fun, but it is surprisingly hard work to continuously set up shoots and manage pre- and post-production on multiple projects each week."
Talk to an entrepreneur about how many hours they worked per week during their business' first few years and you'll have a decent idea of how much effort is required to gain and sustain this kind of YouTube following.
Don't Try To Succeed
Instead of making videos you think will succeed, just stick to making videos you're passionate about. As the article points out, there are 24 hours of video uploaded to YouTube every minute, and standing out from that crowd can be difficult. The veterans interviewed suggest sticking to videos that bring you joy and considering any success in views and money as icing on the cake. Besides, they'd argue, you're more likely to stand out and get noticed by being true to yourself than you are in trying to manufacture video success.
Find Your Niche
Find what you're good at, and stick with it. If you're a rapper, then stick to rap videos; trying your hand at stop-motion animation just because it's a popular style isn't the best idea because it pushes you outside your comfort zone.
Almost all three of the profiled video creators mention something about holding on to your audience. The online video crowd has a short attention span. If you don't give them more of what they like, they'll find somewhere else to go for it—this is part of what makes online video production a full-time job. Rest too long, and you'll lose your viewers to a competitor.
Online video audiences also get bored pretty quickly. While the Internet's capacity for ongoing memes is staggering and sometimes infuriating, viewers will get tired of your content if you're just recycling the same shtick over and over again. Expand yourself from time to time… take your thing to the next level by reinventing it. Keeping the audience on their toes is an excellent way to keep them coming back.
Take Advantage of Tools
Every single user profiled is using the advertising platform YouTube offers its partners. They're also using call-outs, captions, analytics tools like Insight, and more. YouTube wants you to succeed—because that's how they succeed—and they've given even non-partners a set of built-in tools that sadly are all-too-often ignored by users.
There is no yellow brick road to online video success. You can't just whistle a happy tune, grab a munchkin's hand, and take a quick skip down YouTube Money avenue. We may want it to work that way, but it simply doesn't. Succeeding with YouTube takes talent, time, effort, and passion. Taking a shortcut on any one of those areas is an excellent way to ensure that you never reach your intended destination.