Can You Make a Living from YouTube?

It is very possible to make a living from YouTube, but accomplishing this takes a lot more than hard work and hustle. It takes luck, networking, and a solid understanding of the realities of depending on advertising to earn a paycheck.

Over the past five years, I have worked for and with online content creators that make money from their efforts on YouTube. Some of them depended on it as their primary income source while others considered any payment they received from Google for ads run against their content to be a bonus.

In this article, I will go over some of the factors that play in to being able to make a living off of YouTube and why more content creators are turning to services like Patreon to make ends meet.

Hard Work and Hustle

You can’t expect the 1st, 2nd, 50th, or 500th video you make to go viral. For many of the most successful YouTube channels currently running, it was a random event that put their content in front of a large enough audience to generate traction.

In order for these random events to occur, you have to push out a lot of content. You can’t expect every video you put out there to be a hit. Sometimes, it isn’t the hits that make your channel worth subscribing to, but the consistency of your product.

Audience generation is a snowball effect, and a slow one at that. The more content out there for people to discover and find interest in, the better your chances of grabbing additional subscribers and creating an organic following of true fans.

An Internet show about wine called hosted by a little-known wine merchant named Gary Vaynerchuk had a very small following during the first 15 months of its run. It was through consistent content creation, extensive audience outreach on social networks like Twitter, and other marketing strategies that the show began building an audience that reached numbers that had a very real impact on the success of its parent company, Wine Library.


Boogie2988, a popular YouTube personally with nearly 2 million subscribers, hit his stride after a random plug from Ray William Johnson’s popular YouTube show, =3. This push came in 2010 after Boogie had already been creating content on YouTube for several years.

Another random success brought on in part from a push by =3 was the TheAngryGrandpaShow which features videos shot by the son of a very angry grandfather being victimized by pranks. Over time, the show evolved and the prankster became the prankee on numerous occasions, adding to the channel’s longevity. It was that initial random push by a bigger channel that brought the show the traction it needed to take off.


Networking is a big part of building a business out of your YouTube channel. Being financially successful on YouTube is difficult, but doing it without making connections with other voices in the community can be nearly impossible.

A good networker can make those connections that makes things like cross-promotion and audience sharing possible.

Events like VloggerFair and VidCon make it easy for YouTube content creators to meet and mingle with each other. A lot of the most successful YouTubers attend events regularly.

iJustine, a personality that got her start doing lifecasting on an infant Justin.TV has built her audience into the millions through years of good networking techniques and hustle. She utilizes social networks like Twitter and Facebook extensively to not only build her brand, but to keep her audience interested in the content she produces.

As a result, she enjoys success in a variety of platforms and has been able to appear on television shows, host major e-sports tournaments, and even award shows.

Avoid Considering YouTube Your Primary Source of Income

Ad revenue isn’t a sure bet. This is one of the big truths that every potential content producer should take into account before changing their financial situation. YouTube’s ad revenue has all but dried up for some of the most successful YouTube channels out there, and making a living wage is a very difficult achievement for even the most active content creators.

A popular channel one month has no guarantee of popularity the next month. If you don’t have an alternate means of income, you will likely fall victim to the same declining revenue streams that have forced many popular channels to close shop and seek their fortunes elsewhere.

For several of these producers, secondary income sources such as Amazon affiliate links and Patreon have helped make ends meet where declining ad revenue makes full-time content production difficult.

Chris Pirillo has been producing content on the LockerGnome channel on YouTube for years. While the channel has never been his primary or single source of income, the money brought in by ads helped him maintain a staff that included writers and video editors to help him create content on multiple different platforms.

Recently, he turned to Patreon to enable fans of his channels to contribute to assist with growing operating costs. His Patreon page offers supporters exclusive content and perks that make add value.

Can you make a living from YouTube? Yes, but it’s far easier if you don’t rely on YouTube as your primary source of income.

YouTube is a great platform for audience engagement and interaction, but your financial support is likely to be better sourced from other means.

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Ryan Matthew Pierson