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Blog / Beginner's handbook / How to Make Money on YouTube with a Small Channel

Beginner's handbook

How to Make Money on YouTube with a Small Channel

How to Make Money on YouTube with a Small Channel
Sigruna Sarta

By Sigruna Sarta

18 min read

Is making money on YouTube a dream of yours? Have you started a channel or been thinking about it? Many of us have been there, but get overwhelmed trying to build a following and start to think it’s impossible to make money from a small channel. We’re here to tell you that’s simply not the case!

With 122 million daily active users, YouTube remains one of the most popular social media platforms. Using the right methods, you can definitely capitalize on that. In this article, we’ll go through 6 surefire ways to make money on Youtube (with 1K subscribers or less) while working from the comfort of your own home. We’ll also give you tips on how to grow your audience so you’ll have even more opportunities to bring in extra cash from your channel. Keep reading to find out how.

Psst! Looking for additional ways to make money from home? Check out this article for 35 great money-making ideas.

1. Create and sell your own products

If you follow any online content creators, chances are you’ve seen them selling merch. It’s one of the best ways to earn money on YouTube and also boost awareness for your channel. Let’s say a fan buys your merch, they’re not only supporting you and getting a cool product, but they also essentially become your channel’s walking billboard or business card. Creating and selling merch will give you more exposure for your YouTube channel. Need inspiration? Read our blog post about merch ideas!

Digital products

When you think of selling merch, the first thing that probably comes to mind is designing apparel—tees, sweatshirts, etc. While these products are often successful, it’s not the only thing you can sell. Another great option is offering digital products like ebooks, photos, templates, and apps. 

How to decide what to sell? Start by acknowledging your skills. Think about what you can offer your followers, what you can teach others, or what would be of interest to your fans.

Also, keep your channel in mind. What is your niche? If it’s fashion, you could offer a course on textiles or sustainable fashion, for example. Is it fitness? Make a downloadable workout plan. If you make videos about art, you can offer digital artwork or coloring sheets. Or, maybe photography is your calling. If that’s the case, try selling your images on Shutterstock, iStock Photo, or Etsy. There are so many possibilities. 

YouTuber Jamie Owers is a great example of someone who’s had success with digital products. He makes content about his entrepreneurial journey on YouTube and has created multiple channels over the past few years. He’s also created a course on Skillshare: “The Ultimate Guide To Creating A Successful YouTube Gaming Channel.” Currently, there are nearly 400 students who have taken his course! 

Another good example is the small YouTube channel Smart Money Mamas that’s run by Chelsea Brennan. The channel has an accompanying website where they sell printable templates like coloring sheets, budget planners, and side hustle income trackers all for $5 or less. They also offer courses, guides, and physical planners. These products are a great resource for her followers—and a great way to make extra cash.

Smart Money Mamas website printables page
Source: YouTuber Smart Money Mamas website

What can you offer your followers? Here are some digital products to try out: 

  • Ebooks
  • Photos
  • Templates 
  • Courses
  • Apps
  • Photo presets
  • Checklists 
  • Coloring sheets
  • Meal or workout plans

Physical products

While selling digital products can provide an easy additional revenue stream, if you’re eager for more ways to earn money on the side, think about selling physical products that rep your channel or relate to your content. As a small YouTube channel, the most accessible and affordable way to sell your official branded merch is by making a store through an ecommerce platform like Shopify, WooCommerce, Wix, or others. They offer a wide range of templates to choose from, it’s reasonably priced, and they usually offer different marketing opportunities. Build your logo and decide on your brand’s font and colors using platforms like Canva. Then, design your products and add them to your store.

Choosing the right product for your brand

When selling any product, you’ll first have to identify your target audience. This will help you make sure that you’re reaching customers who are interested in and excited about your products. Next is creating the right design. Maybe it’s your daily intro or motto, funny wordplay, or even a popular joke. It could also be your channel’s artwork, logo, or username. When choosing your products, you can jump on current trends or select a product that won’t go out of style—whatever you think is the best fit for your target audience. Check out these successful YouTuber merch stores to get inspiration and help you decide.

A great example of a small YouTube channel making extra money with merch is DeMilli. The creator of the channel,  Dea Mehilli, makes videos about her art journey and posts abstract art tutorials. As another revenue source, she’s opened a merch store featuring products like art prints and her original paintings. 

Three Dea Mehilli's art pints on he website
Source: DeMilli website

Another small channel, Susan Clifton, also shares Dea Mehilli’s passion for art. Susan creates weekly art tutorials and videos about art marketing. Along with making videos on YouTube, she owns an online store, where she sells not only her paintings but also prints, stationery, puzzles, and mugs with her unique artwork. 

Flamingo Jigsaw Puzzle
Source: Susan Clifton’s Grey Matter Products

Print-on-demand for physical merch

As opposed to digital products, selling physical merch on YouTube might seem like a hassle if you’re doing it on your own. Finding the right product, making sure your design comes out how you envisioned it, ordering stock, and having to prepare, pack, and ship every order yourself—it’s daunting.

On-demand printing and fulfillment can be a real asset. By choosing a print-on-demand (POD) provider like Printful, you won’t have to invest any money upfront in inventory, or worry about products not selling. Printful offers a wide variety of merch options for you to promote your channel with, and we’ll fulfill your orders as they come in. Once an order is made, we print, pack, and ship it with your branding. That way, you can focus on marketing your products and building your channel.

When working with a POD provider, it’s important to keep a few things in mind:

  • Make sure to compare quality and prices for the different products offered
  • Consider the different colors and gradients of your design, and how it might come out in real life 
  • Choose the right placement for your design—you don’t want it to sit unflatteringly
  • To ensure better print quality, double-check if your print file ticks all boxes 
  • Avoid images that are inappropriate, negative, or copyrighted
  • Make sure to order a sample to see the size and quality of your design 

Interested in what products are trendy in 2024? Here are some products that are popular right now:

  • Hoodies 
  • Sportswear 
  • T-shirts 
  • Eco-friendly products 
  • Hats 
  • Stationery 
  • Wall art 
  • Phone cases 
  • Drinkware 
  • Bags 

Read also: 15 Successful YouTuber Merch Stores to Get Inspiration

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2. Coach or consult on the side 

Another way to make money if your YouTube channel is still growing is to offer coaching or consulting services. You probably started your channel with the idea to share your knowledge, experiences, or unique insights on a particular subject. Why not turn that goal into a personalized offer for your followers? With one-to-one sessions, you can help others get the inside scoop on whatever your specialty is—and you’ll be earning money at the same time.

Coaching or consulting also lets you plan your days however you like and gives you the flexibility to still have time to continue making videos for your YouTube channel. As more people learn about your services, it might also give your profile a boost and help you grow your channel.

Brandon Timothy's Etsy coaching and consulting website
Source: YouTuber Brandon Timothy’s website

For example, Brandon Timothy is a medium-sized YouTuber who shares helpful tips on everything you need to know about running an Etsy shop. He quit his 9–5 job to pursue his passion, becoming an entrepreneur, making YouTube videos, and sharing his knowledge by coaching, and consulting others. 

How can you get started coaching or consulting? Here are some steps you can take to launch your coaching or consulting services:

  1. Make sure you have the right training and/or certificates (if you need them) 
  2. Create a structured plan for how to approach sessions 
  3. Set your prices for the different services you offer
  4. Create a website to explain more about you, your experience, and your services, and offer ways to get in contact 
  5. Use your YouTube channel to promote your services, but don’t forget about advertising on local forums and social media as well

3. Rely on fan funding

Fan funding is a way to earn money directly from your YouTube followers.  It’s how fans support, and say thanks to their favorite YouTubers for producing awesome content, and is a common way for smaller YouTubers to make money.  

There are many fan-funding platforms out there. To begin with, you should do some research and find out about what each option offers. Some of them offer monthly memberships. Meaning, your fans pay monthly fees to receive exclusive content from you (that isn’t accessible for free). Others ask for a specific amount of money per post, and still others let your fans simply donate money as a way of saying thanks. 

For instance, Sarah Gray runs the medium-sized YouTube channel Bloom & Gray – Flower Farm. She creates videos about her business, adventures, and experiences, as well as showcases ideas on flower bouquet arrangements and gives tutorials. In addition to her small business and YouTube channel, she has a page where you can “buy her a coffee” (i.e. support her content creation by donating £5 or more). It’s a clever way to offer fans a means of supporting your channel.

Although Sarah’s idea works well with her aesthetic,  it’s important to note that people are oftentimes more interested in giving money to get something in return. Consider posting extra content for your top fans on a fan-funding site. 

Explore these fan-funding platforms to learn more: 

4. Collaborate with brands on your YouTube channel

You really don’t need a ton of followers to work with brands. In fact, a survey conducted in 2019 found that brands would rather collaborate with nano influencers (content creators that have less than 5K followers) than celebrities. Whether you could be a great match or not comes down to the brand and your niche. 

So, why would brands be interested in working with small YouTube channels? Honestly, it’s not about the numbers but about viewers trusting your opinion—and therefore trusting the brand you’re collaborating with. With smaller YouTube influencers, brands get more genuine sponsored content and can target a more specific audience. Smaller content creators also have better engagement and it’s more budget-friendly than collaborating with big YouTube stars. 

To get brands to collaborate with you, you should: 

  1. Post frequently and consistently
  2. Mention brands in your posts or videos 
  3. Specify your target audience and your niche 
  4. Use hashtags to improve your searchability 
  5. Create an email template to send to brands that matches your message and values

Brands will either reach out to you or you can try connecting with them. To make this process easier and not spend time sending out tons of emails, you can explore brand sponsorship platforms. Note that some of these platforms might require a specific amount of YouTube subscribers or viewers. For example, to join YouTube BrandConnect you need to be a part of the YouTube Partner Program (more on the requirements to apply later). 

After you secure your deal comes the fun part—creating content. Here are a few ideas on how to showcase a brand’s products or services: 

  • Unboxing haul 
  • List of top 10 most-used products 
  • Tutorial on how to use something
  • Questions and answers 
  • Surprise someone
  • Day in the life video 
  • Taking on a challenge

Need some real life inspiration? Lisa Lovee is a small influencer who’s passionate about fashion and beauty—and knows about successful brand collabs. On her channel, she shares her experiences with her first sponsorship deals and how to get them as a small YouTuber. Lisa got her first brand collaboration offers at around the 1K subscribers mark, and has only grown from there. Check out her channel to learn more about her sponsorship journey

YouTuber Lisa Lovee filming a sponsorship video

Getting sponsorship deals isn’t as impossible as it might seem for a small YouTube channel. Find products that you and your audience will love and be persistent—you’ll get your first collaboration in no time! 

Now that you know about brand collabs, let’s talk about another great way to make money if you have a small YouTube channel—earning cash with affiliate links. The concept is simple: an affiliate (in this case, you, the video creator) gets a unique tracking link from a brand for a particular product or service. Whenever someone uses your unique link to make a purchase from the brand, you get commission. 

Learn More: 10 Tips for Affiliate Marketers to Make More Money

Nowadays, this is a common way to advertise products. Think about your favorite YouTube, Instagram, or TikTok influencers: don’t they often share products they like? Many times they’ll talk about the clothes they’re wearing or a new device they’ve been trying out. Afterwards, they’ll include a “swipe up” link or put it in the description box. If a customer clicks on it and makes a purchase, the influencer gets a certain amount of commission from the sale. Affiliate links sound great, right? 

For this to work, you’ll need to focus on your niche, partnering with brands that make sense for your channel and offering products that your YouTube audience would actually be interested in. You’ll also have to mention the product in your content or make a video (or several) about it, and insert the link in the description box. Choosing the right product or company to work with could potentially help you gain subscribers and viewers—and you’ll be earning money on the side. 

Let’s take a look at an example. Tatiana Marie is a small YouTube channel owner, who makes videos on mindset and business tips for how to be your own boss. One year ago, she joined the Printful affiliate program and made a video trying on and reviewing Printful’s hoodies

Not only has it become one of her most-watched videos, but it’s also been successful in terms of making money from the affiliate link. For every new purchase, she earned a 10% commission. Since then, Tatiana has made another video about Printful and continues to earn money from it.

Being an affiliate for Printful has been a no-brainer for me. They’re my trusted source for all things POD, so recommending their products is something I already do. Making money from it is just a bonus. Because YouTube is so evergreen, I’m able to make money as an affiliate from the same video months down the line! It’s really a win-win situation.

To become an affiliate you can research affiliate programs or reach out to brands. The qualifications, terms, and conditions vary depending on the specific brand. 

The Printful affiliate program consists of bloggers, YouTubers, influencers, and ecommerce entrepreneurs, and it doesn’t matter how many subscribers you have or the amount of video views you get. You can earn 10% commission for 9 months straight. Printful affiliates have made $1.9M+ in commissions!

How to become a Printful affiliate partner:

  1. Sign up for the Printful Affiliate program 
  2. Fill out Printful’s affiliate application form 
  3. Get your approval and unique link 
  4. Share and promote the link to your audience 
  5. Make money for every referred customer

6. Join the YouTube Partner Program

Arrow pointing to the YouTube monetization enable button
Source: Scalefluence

Another lucrative option for growing channels is to become a member of the YouTube Partner Program. Although it’s not suitable for those just starting out, this is a great way to earn money for channels that are gaining momentum. It’ll give you the possibility to run YouTube ads, which will enable you to earn ad revenue. In addition, it gives you access to several YouTube resources like Creator Support teams, Copyright Match Tool, and monetization features which will help you reach a larger audience.

To become a YouTube partner you need to: 

  1. Have more than 1K subscribers and more than 4K watch hours in the last 12 months 
  2. Be following all YouTube channel monetization policies (this includes YouTube guidelines, Copyright agreements, Terms of service, and Google Adsense YouTube policies) 
  3. Live in a country where the YouTube Partner Program is available 
  4. Have no Community Guidelines strikes on your YouTube channel
  5. Have a linked Adsense account

Once you’ve made sure your YouTube channel meets all the requirements, you can apply for the  YouTube Partner Program. Most of the time it takes 1 month for your application to be reviewed and to receive a response.

If you get accepted but haven’t been posting for more than 6 months, the YouTube Partner Program might turn your monetization off. So, make sure to stay active, engage with your YouTube community, keep putting out content, and continue to grow your channel.

Building an audience on YouTube 

The best way to make more money on YouTube is to boost traffic to your channel and increase your subscribers. That’ll elevate your profile and help you earn more from the ideas we’ve discussed here. How can you do that? Keep reading. 

Promote your channel on other social media platforms 

Ellie Bennett's sponsored Instagram post
Source: YouTuber Ellie Bennett’s Instagram

Most mainstream YouTubers also have Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat, Facebook, and TikTok. The easiest way to get more subscribers is to promote your YouTube channel on your other social media accounts. Sharing content across various social media platforms will lead people back to your YouTube channel and increase views. Plus, you never know, your videos could go viral and you may just be the next Charli D’Amelio!

Try including a small teaser about a recently uploaded video on your other social media platforms that’ll intrigue followers to check out your YouTube channel. The more traffic your channel gets, the easier it will be to monetize your videos with YouTube Ads. And keep posting relevant content daily—consistency is key, at least when it comes to social media. 

According to Hootsuite, you should post: 

  • 1–2 times a day on Facebook 
  • 1–5 times a day on Twitter 
  • 1–5 times a day on LinkedIn 
  • 3–7 times a week on Instagram

However, social media platforms are ever-changing and there is no perfect formula. Experiment, have fun, and be consistent (without bombarding your followers with too many posts). 

Optimize your YouTube videos with SEO

Have you ever wondered why some videos on YouTube or pages on Google rank higher than others? The reason behind this is your content optimization. With the right SEO (search engine optimization) strategy, you’ll be able to get more views and subscribers on your YouTube channel, which means a better chance of making money. 

To get started with SEO, you first have to pay attention to your YouTube video titles and the keywords you include. Keywords are words or phrases that describe your content so that when people search for those terms in Google, they’ll find your page. How can you choose the right keywords to get your content noticed? Here are some useful resources:

Once you have the right keywords pinned down, focus on your video description. You should include the focus keyword (or the main keyword you’ve chosen) in the first few sentences of your video description. Why? The first part of the video description can be seen when the user is scrolling through YouTube to find what they are looking for. The description should also be helpful so viewers know what your content includes.

Last but not least, use hashtags. On YouTube, hashtags can be added both in the title and description of your video. Just like on any other social media platform, hashtags on YouTube are there to help users find videos related to the topic they’re searching for. However, you shouldn’t over-tag your YouTube videos because they could get removed from your channel. 

Launch a Podcast 

Starting a podcast can be a great complement to your YouTube content, and can help you grow your following. It might not earn you money straight away, but it can definitely boost exposure and bring traffic to your channel. Although some podcasts have been around for a while now, it’s been increasing in popularity over the past few years. 

Creating a specialized podcast geared towards your area of expertise will help you get noticed in your niche and further build your reputation. And although it may seem like you need to buy expensive gadgets to have a good quality podcast, that really isn’t the case.  All you need is a good pair of headphones, a microphone, and a laptop. 

You can offer your content on platforms like Spotify or Apple Podcasts, or upload it directly to your YouTube channel (some people prefer watching podcasts). But remember, having your podcast on multiple platforms will help you to bring more traffic.

To give you an idea of how it could work, take a look at Cuts, an apparel company run by Steven Borrelli. Cuts has a YouTube channel that offers interviews with public figures, vlogs, product descriptions, and business education. 

The channel also features the company’s “The Sport of Business” podcast, which is available on Spotify and the Cuts website as well. Having a podcast across different platforms gives you a greater chance of fans discovering your YouTube channel, and bringing in more views.

Think about starting a podcast to add to your YouTube content, and help build a bigger following in the process.

Optimizing your content, promoting your channel, and branching out to other types of content like podcasts will help you achieve your goals faster. Your channel will get more traffic and hopefully subscribers, which will open doors to more possibilities of making money on YouTube. Check out our other tips that’ll help you with your channel’s optimization and your YouTube marketing strategy overall

Choose the one that works best for you 

Hopefully by now it’s pretty clear that you can earn money even if you’re just starting out on YouTube. Just remember to focus on your niche, be consistent in uploading videos, and don’t give up if it’s not going as planned. 

Read Next:

Try out at least one of these methods and let me know how it goes in the comments below!  


By Sigruna Sarta on May 31, 2022

Sigruna Sarta

Sigruna is a Content Marketing Intern. She’s currently working on getting her Bachelor's degree in Creative Industries. Besides her studies, she’s passionate about digital marketing, traveling, interior design, and photography.

Sigruna is a Content Marketing Intern. She’s currently working on getting her Bachelor's degree in Creative Industries. Besides her studies, she’s passionate about digital marketing, traveling, interior design, and photography.