Why You’re Not Making Money on YouTube

We see these big YouTube stars like Jake and Logan Paul, PewDiePie, and Casey Neistat and many of us dream of the untold riches that these online celebrities are supposedly raking in by posting sometimes fun, sometimes silly, but always profitable videos online. Considering that you can get started for less than $200 (and even less if you already have a reasonably modern smartphone), it seems like the barriers to entry to minimal and the potential is astronomical.

So, you start a YouTube channel and you get disappointed when you’ve only earned a buck or two in the last three months. What gives? In an article and interview on Vox, Gaby Dunn complains that “thousands of women try to make a living blogging and vlogging” and “most fail.” She started a channel with friend back in 2014 and, since then, they’ve attracted over 750,000 subscribers and yet they “weren’t making very much money.”

The highest earning stars of YouTube earn millions of dollars a year. Roman Atwood, for example, had a total of about 2.7 billion views from 10 million subscribers in 2006, resulting in total annual revenue of about $8 million. That works out to about $3 eCPM. “Superwoman” Lilly Singh had 1.5 billion views, 10 million subscribers, and $7.5 million in earnings. That’s just under $5 eCPM.

If we look at the Just Between Us YouTube channel run by Gaby and her friend Allison Raskin, their videos average somewhere around 110,000 to 150,000 views each from over 750,000 subscribers. If they keep up with their twice weekly schedule, as Gaby says, that works out to about 100 videos a year for a total of about 12.5 million views. Even at the very conservative estimate of $1 CPM, that’s still $12,500.

That’s not a full-time income, to be sure, but it’s hardly negligible either. If she were more effective with her monetization, fitting somewhere between Roman Atwood and Lilly Singh as our examples at $4 eCPM, that’d be closer to a more respectable $60,000. The money is there, but she forgets that straight AdSense monetization through YouTube alone is not where the real money can be found.

It’s from everywhere else.

It’s from the brand deals you negotiate for #sponsored content. It’s from the Amazon Associates links you put in the video descriptions. It’s from all the other channels and businesses associated with your YouTube channel, like your blog, your consulting business, your books, your online courses, your digital products, your merchandise and everything else. It’s about building a brand and an ecosystem that all works together.

And let’s not forget there are plenty of other revenue streams to consider if you’re only sticking within the YouTube silo.

But consider this: If John Chow relied solely on the built-in monetization through YouTube, he’d only be pulling in a few hundred dollars a month from his videos. From his perspective, that’s nice, but little more than spare change. The real money comes from the back end, primarily through affiliate sales worth hundreds or even thousands of dollars each. That’s the real money you can make from YouTube. By John’s own account, his YouTube channel is likely responsible for thousands of dollars every month.

Gaby says the reason she’s not making money on YouTube is because she’s a woman and womanly topics are devalued. I say bollocks. With 750,000 subscribers — assuming most of them are legitimate — the income potential is definitely there if she is willing to experiment, hustle and diversify. There are many YouTubers, including women discussing so called “feminized” topics, with much smaller audiences who are making more than that.

YouTube is a remarkably powerful tool, but it should not be the only tool in your arsenal.

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8 thoughts on “Why You’re Not Making Money on YouTube”

  1. Royan Shaw says:

    I wish I could come up with those sticky youtube videos that could generate for me at least an additional $2000 from adsense revenue and be able to plug an affiliate product or even my own product in those videos but there is hell getting Youtube’s so called dynamic algorithm to pick up your videos and put them in the next to watch upcoming playlist…

    There are a lot of video marketing software being marketed as being the panacea to get your videos in the ranking but it seems Youtube’s algorithm is designed to reject efforts from automated tools so hardly if any of them really do bring that desired result.
    My recommended method would be to advertise your “funny” videos locally be getting it on a local cable station or even a local mainstream channel that has regional reach…get your videos seen locally within your own culture and then the viral effect will take place from there and then …boom!! there you have it…

  2. I have a comedy channel on Youtube, i have uploaded one video on it but i hardly get views, i do not know what could possible be the cause.

  3. Some people have no mindset about youtube money making. I hope these people join this Business.

  4. Hello Michael!
    Good Day!

    I recently made my YouTube channel on Technology niche and I wish one day I could be one of them who has millions of subscribers on their channels.

  5. Susan Velez says:

    Hi Michael,

    I have a YouTube channel but only have 100 subscribers. I’ve made a few sales from Affiliate Marketing.

    I haven’t tried monetizing my channel using the YouTube monetization model because according to their standards, I don’t have enough views.

    The last time I read it, a channel needs to have 10,000 views in order to be eligible to enter their monetization. Who knows maybe when my channel does reach it, I’ll apply.

    Having multiple income streams is great. Of course, if I can continue to make money through affiliate products, I’d rather do that because it ends up being more.

    Great tips and I can’t wait till I get more subscribers. I definitely need to take the time to learn some YouTube tips from John.

    Thanks for sharing.

    Have a great day 🙂


  6. network says:

    It’s really hard to join this business and make money in these days, because of youtube new monetization requirements and all the staff they are doing. Youtube requires too much effort to get monetization enabled

  7. Hi Michael ,
    Very interesting info on youtube channels . You explained it thoroughly about the whole youtube monetization concept .

  8. DNN says:

    I definitely wouldn’t put all of my eggs in one basket when it comes to making money with YouTube video marketing or one particular affiliate program. Is thousands of affiliate programs across the web that gives affiliate opportunities 2 make money in there blogging and side hustle Niche. One shouldn’t become automatically disappointed because they didn’t earn the money hope for with YouTube. While YouTube is a wonderful medium for promoting your blog or website and instantly gaining attraction, it should also be used as a vehicle to get free traffic to your blog or website by including links to specific pages on your blog or website in the header YouTube video description. Doing so will improve your SEO compliments of YouTube without worrying about earning significant amounts of revenue from the world’s most popular video sharing site.

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