Another article about how becoming a YouTube star can allow you to quit your day job (the Globe and Mail). Take it from a guy who knows this market fairly well… it’s possible but not easy.
A few of my friends have quit relatively low-paying jobs to focus 100% on YouTube, but if you’re like me (house, four kids, mortgage, debt) then YouTube isn’t quite enough. I’m also squeamish about having too much of my income depend on a volatile marketplace, and I fear being dependent on one website. Fortunately my income has continued to grow, and I thank God, YouTube and the advertisers for that.
There are three income sources associated with being a “YouTube star”: direct income from shared advertising placed around your videos, lucrative sponsorships from companies wanting access to your audience in more meaningful ways (profitable but sporadic), and finally other “perks” (like free loot or whatever merchandising you can spin off… I’ve not had much luck there).
Now some tips:
- While it’s true that more and more prominent YouTube “stars” are making $100K plus, most of these have been at it for years. To hit those numbers you need literally 5-10 million views a month. That requires a large number of very popular videos and a high frequency. It most likely will take months or even years to build to that point, so you’ll need to have intrinsic motivation or you’ll quit before you see the meaningful pay.
- When I started in 2005/2006 the competition was less fierce, and most of us shared tips. Today there’s a larger audience, but much more competition both from other amateurs and, increasingly, professional producers. That doesn’t mean we aren’t seeing “breakout” amateurs, it’s just less frequent than several years ago. And even the weblebrities of the past occasionally fall off the charts (for a variety of reasons).
- There are two types of “high earners” on YouTube: the person with a one-hit wonder single video (like David After Dentist) that drives such incredible recurring views that it alone can be a significant income source… even with low ad dollars per view, the sheer number of continuous views creates an annuity stream for the creator. The second “high earner” are those who post in a regular pattern: twice weekly or even daily. They literally make YouTube a full-time job, and spend hours interacting with their viewers. Don’t think MGM, ShayCarl, Sxephil, WheezyWaiter or Michael Buckley are sitting on the couch eating bon-bons all day. These guys pull longer days than full-time employees, and it’s not all as fun as their videos might suggest.
- Unless you’re luck enough to be in the former segment and “strike gold,” it requires patience and persistence. You’ll face times where it feels frustrating and pointless, and you’ll need a non-financial drive to press on. That’s why passion for the medium (beyond money) is a better predictor of long-term success. It helps if your personality is almost dependent on having an audience… a certain “need” for attention and online interaction… and one that can override other needs/desires (like sleep). You’ll need to decide if you’re vain enough to pursue beyond obstacles, but also resilient since some fans will come and go.
- Since the market is competitive, if I was starting new in 2011, I’d focus less on appealing to a wide audience and more to meeting a less competitive unmet need. Focus on a specific segment or interest type (cooking, exercise, travel, etc.) may not get your videos “viral” but makes you a better match to sponsors that can be more lucrative than YouTube ads alone.
- YouTube is increasingly becoming “BYOA” (bring your own audience) so consider how your online presence on other mediums (blogs, Twitter, Facebook) can drive views. And post predictably/routinely so you’re part of an audiences habit. The moment I stopped posting almost daily I took a nose dive in views for recent videos.
Check out my free “How to Get Popular on YouTube Without Any Talent,” or my book (Beyond Viral) for more tips. Indeed YouTube has changed the lives of many people, and a handful of them are blessed to abandon their “day jobs” to pursue YouTube. But when that happens, YouTube becomes their day job… it’s often just as demanding as a regular job. But for the right personality, it’s far more enjoyable.
Are you seeing any patterns I’ve missed? What else is common among the high earners? Keep in mind that being the “most subscribed” does not mean you’re getting the most views (and the latter impacts today’s income far more than the former).