YouTube Monetization: A Simple Guide

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You started a channel getting inspired by one of your favorite creators. Now, you want to make money on YouTube, but don’t know how to monetize your YouTube channel.

In this beginner-friendly guide, I’ll share the monetization requirements and specific steps you can take to start making money from your channel. Let’s begin with answering the pertinent questions around this subject.

Frequently Asked Questions About YouTube Monetization

Here are answers to common queries around the YouTube monetization rules.

How do you monetize your YouTube channel?

Once you’re accepted into the YouTube Partner Program, you get access to multiple monetization features. You can run ads on one or more of your YouTube videos, offer channel memberships, sell your branded merchandise, earn a split of revenue from YouTube premiere subscribers, and direct fan funding through super chats and super stickers.

What are YouTube monetization requirements?

Here are the minimum eligibility requirements to get into the YouTube Partner Program (YPP):

  • 1000 subscribers on your YouTube channel,
  • 4000 hours of public watch time in the last 12 months,
  • Follow the YouTube channel monetization policies,
  • Get an AdSense account set up and linked to your channel,
  • Live in one of the countries where the YPP is available.

Can I monetize my first YouTube video?

YouTube doesn’t pay you for views. You need to apply for the YouTube Partner Program (which has a requirement of 4000 hours of public watch time and 1000 subscribers) to access the monetization features by the company. So monetizing your first video straight after publishing it isn’t happening. But if you’ve an existing audience, consider external sponsors to pay you for shout outs and inclusions in your video.

How many views do you need to get paid on YouTube?

YouTube doesn’t pay you for getting views. But assuming an average of $5 per 1000 views, your channel needs 20,000 views to cross the payment threshold and earn your first $100 from the video platform. For getting paid though, you need to be a part of the YouTube Partner Program which helps you earn from advertisements run on your channel and other features.

Can I monetize my old videos?

If your older videos are on evergreen subjects and are still getting traction, then you can enable YouTube ads on them to monetize them. This is especially relevant to your channel if you only recently got accepted into the YouTube Partner Program. You might need to update the metadata and optimize them to get a decent viewership and some revenue from them, though.

Why do YouTubers create 10-minute videos?

Generally YouTube allows creators to run ads only at the beginning of the videos. But if they cross 10 minutes, inserting ads even in the middle of the video is possible. So longer videos let creators earn more revenue with more space for running ads.

Remember you need to engage your audience throughout the video, though. If they get turned off, you’ll instead lose subscribers and revenue.

Now that you know the eligibility requirements to get monetized on YouTube, let’s look at them one-by-one.

Fulfilling The Two Daunting Requirements Of The YouTube Partner Program (YPP)

YPP as it’s known in short, is a major milestone in a creator’s journey. You unlock generating revenue from advertisements shown on your videos. But the YPP application has a bunch of requirements — as we saw in the FAQ — for your channel to become eligible. I address two of its most daunting requirements below which were introduced around January 2018.

1000 Subscribers

Though this one sounds, it’s probably the most difficult part of a new YouTube creator’s journey starting out from scratch. They don’t have any existing audience and mostly keep sharing videos with their personal network — until it exhausts them.

But it’s important to keep growing your subscriber base for the long-term success of your channel. I’ve discussed numerous ways to get free YouTube subscribers and promote your YouTube channel. The most important aspects I feel are niching down to your 1000 true fans and conducting an event or competition in association with a larger brand.

Once you’ve 1000 subscribed and satisfied this requirement, the next one you need to address is:

4000 Hours Of Watch Time In The Last Year

This one might seem even more challenging. It calls for getting people to watch your videos for 4000 hours in the last 12 months. These videos could be published earlier on your channel as well, but in total people from across the world have to watch 4000 hours from your channel.

Mind you, you might have had people watch even more hours of your videos in the lifetime of your channel, but the last 12 months is what counts as a YPP requirement.

So how to go about accumulating this huge quantity of watch time?

Break it down into manageable and achievable numbers.

Mathematically you need to get 240,000 minutes of yearly, and 20,000 minutes of monthly viewership. If you create about five minutes videos and average a few 100 views, it might still seem a lot.

But remember even a couple of above average “viral” videos that get you ten thousand views can do the trick. Most successful channels indeed follow this pattern of having a few popular videos getting the majority of views on their channel — and in effect watch time. Indeed most popular YouTube videos also tend to come from a small share of producers.

Visual representations of data from the PEW Research Center which indicate that most popular YouTube videos also tend to come from a small share of producers.

You’ve to arrive at your “hero” videos which lift your overall YouTube brand. For that, experiment with your video subjects and styles that appeal to your “niche” audience.

Try creating sticky and engaging videos — those where viewers are hooked from the beginning to the end. This need not require extraordinary talent but proven frameworks, like Jenga Storytelling where the stakes increase as the video duration increases.

Mr. Beast often uses this in his videos performing seemingly mundane tasks like counting to 1M.

And hey, watch time from live streams also count towards your watch time. So consider going live and interacting with your subscribers. And don’t unlist, private, or delete your old videos because their watch time would then not be taken into account.

Also don’t try to cheat the system by watching your own videos on repeat and buying subscribers or views — the YouTube algorithm is pretty smart at detecting fraud.

Keep Checking Your Progress In Your Monetization Journey

To check where you currently stand in your path towards becoming a YouTube Partner, login to YouTube Studio. Then scroll down from the left sidebar to the “Monetization” tab.

You’ll get a couple of semi-circular progress bars showing your numbers:

If you’re just starting out and want to stay focused on cracking this goal, then I recommend putting it front-and-center. vidIQ, a free Chrome extension, can help you with that. It has a real-time stats bar that appears at the top of your YouTube screen. Here’s an example beside the YouTube search bar at the top:

The YouTube search bar with your channel stats displayed next to it, via the vidlQ extension.

Among other stats for your channel, it shows yellow colored watch time data for the last 12 months. Once you reach 4000 hours, this turns green indicating you’ve met the monetization criterion.

The vidlQ shows yellow colored watch time data for the last 12 months. Once you reach 4000 hours, this turns green indicating you’ve met the monetization criterion.

Dropping Below The Monetization Threshold (In The Future…)

If you fail to accumulate the requisite watch time at some time in the future, then YouTube, at its discretion, can remove you from YPP. This is especially possible if your channel isn’t active and hasn’t uploaded a video, or even made a community post for about six months.

Here’s an example message a creator shared on Reddit, where YouTube informed them of invalidating their contract in 30 days if they don’t meet the expected thresholds:

A message by a creator shared on Reddit, where YouTube informed them of invalidating their contract in 30 days if they don’t meet the expected thresholds

Complying With YouTube Channel Monetization Policies

While you get creative liberty to express yourself, hate speech, harmful and repetitive content, and generally inappropriate videos are not acceptable. YouTube has detailed its channel monetization policies I recommend you to carefully read. The company checks if your channel complies with them when you apply for YPP and even later enforces them.

So how does the company check you for compliance?

Here’s a primer of what the company’s reviewers might check on your channel (though other parts of your channel could also get checked to ensure you meet all the policies):

  • “Main theme
  • Most viewed videos
  • Newest videos
  • Biggest proportion of watch time
  • Video metadata (including titles, thumbnails, and descriptions).”

If you plan to monetize your videos with ads, then they need to be advertiser-friendly. You can’t use inappropriate language, show violence, thread carefully around controversial topics, and lots more. Basically stay away from anything that might make brands want to dissociate with your videos.

You can check out the advertiser-friendly content guidelines to ensure you’re on the good side of Google AdSense.

Using Copyrighted Material Can Get You Demonetized

If your channel is creating reaction videos, integrating video clips for reviewing them, or repurposing content created by someone else, stay cautious.

For one, YouTube has a reused content monetization policy. If you’re not “adding significant original commentary or educational value” to someone else’s content you’re violating it.

So what’s acceptable when you’re creating videos of content you don’t create?
To quote the company, when “you put a funny or thoughtful spin” and transform the content. And if the viewers find it valuable and “can tell that there’s a meaningful difference between the original video and your video.”

Do understand though that you may still run into copyright trouble. While the fair use law in the US allows you to reuse even copyrighted material without permission from the owner, the usage is determined on a case-by-case basis.

Written permission from the owner of the content may sometimes help. But it’s best to not get under YouTube’s purview — due to the size of the platform, their team could take months to get back to you after a copyright claim has been registered against you.

If you’re not creating original content, then consider either the public domain, or model one of the below content types because YouTube lets you monetize them:

  • “Using clips for a critical review
  • A scene from a movie where you’ve rewritten the dialog and changed the voiceover
  • Replays of a sports tournament where you explain the special moves a competitor did to succeed (or fail)
  • Reaction videos where you comment on the original video
  • Edited footage from other creators where you add a storyline or commentary.”

Don’t fall into the trap of thinking you’ll get away with copyright violation and content duplication because you saw some other creator do so. The video hosting company doesn’t mind punishing their top creators if they flaunt their rules and try to harm the community.

If your channel has a record of copyright strikes or other violations against its policies, it will work against your YPP application as well.

Getting Yourself A Google AdSense Account

Once you’re good to go with your application, you’ll need to get a Google AdSense account that you’ll connect with your channel. This is where the search giant sends you the payments. You’ll need to be 18 years or older, or have a legal guardian who’s older than that age to handle these payments via AdSense.

Once you set up an AdSense account, you can use it to accept payments from multiple channels. Note that only one AdSense account per user is allowed.

Link Account To Your Channel

Once you’ve an AdSense account, get it linked to your channel by authenticating your YouTube account. You can also change your linked AdSense account by following the instructions here.

Sending Your YPP Application

It’s time to revalue your YPP application eligibility:

  • Met the watch time threshold of 4000 hours in 12 months and 1000 subscriber count?
  • Signed the terms of the YouTube partner program and comply with their monetization policies?
  • Connected an AdSense account?
  • Live in one of these countries (where YPP is available)?

Once you can respond to these questions with an affirmative, it’s time to say: Hurrah!

Your channel will be put in the monetization review queue. Human reviewers (or policy specialists) will get through to your channel and make a decision in about a month’s time. Sometimes there might be multiple reviewers who disagree on your channel’s suitability for YPP, hence leading to delays.

The process can lead up to a timeline of three months, six months, or even a year. Some creators share they don’t hear back from YouTube at all.

I know that could be disheartening, but there’s no way YouTube says they will speed up your application — even if you try getting in touch with them.

What YouTube has to say about the review process.

At this point, you can just play the waiting game. But if you get into the YPP program, congratulations. Now, it’s time to:

Explore The New Monetization Features

While it might feel nice to get accepted into YPP, know that there’s work to do if you want to monetize beyond the most basic income stream of ads. Advanced monetization features such as channel memberships and selling your merchandise have bigger thresholds. To gain access to them, here’s a preview of their eligibility criterion:

You can also consider reading these queries and their answers about monetization for new creators.

Payment Thresholds

You’re paid by YouTube only after you earn at least $100 and it can take even more time for these funds to arrive in your bank account. Also, this money is taxable under the provision of local authorities in your geography, so consult an expert for the same.

Got Rejected From YPP? Here Are Some Things You Can Try…

It could feel bad and confusing why YouTube rejected your application to become a partner, especially because they share vague reasoning for the same. You’re not notified about the specific video(s) from your channel which is problematic and against their policies. But you can apply again for the program in 30 days.

Here’s an example message I found on the YouTube subreddit where the creator got rejected for duplication and they were unsure what they did wrong.

So what do you do from here?

Well, assume “anything that can go wrong will go wrong.” If you’re creating lyrics videos over copyrighted content, like the creator below, then you’ve to get rid of such content.

A screenshot of a question and a response regarding whether YPP applications will be rejected if videos have copyright content.

Visit the rejected monetization FAQs and ensure you’re not missing out on any policies which some of your videos might be violating. Then delete or at least edit out parts of videos you deem as unsuitable.

Final Thoughts

The YPP is a major checkpoint in a YouTube creator’s journey where good things start to happen. It signals sustained interest in the kind of videos you’re creating and sure calls for a party when you reach that. But the road to becoming a successful YouTuber only starts taking shape with YouTube monetization.

From here, you should aim to continue creating the kind of videos that are working for your channel — better yet double down on them. And use the funds arriving from getting accepted in monetization to further your channel’s growth. That’s how you can gain even more momentum and increase the growth rate of your channel.

Even if you get rejected for the YPP, it’s not a permanent failure. Revisit the YouTube requirements for monetization and continue producing some more of those delicious videos that you do!

What’s your experience with YouTube monetization? Have any other tips on monetizing YouTube videos? Share them with me in the comments below.

Chintan Zalani

Written by

Chintan Zalani

Hey, I'm Chintan, a creator and the founder of Elite Content Marketer. I make a living writing from cafes, traveling to mountains, and hopping across cities. Join me on this site to learn how you can make a living as a sustainable creator.