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How to Be a YouTuber (Get Paid and Get Famous)

About two years ago I decided that I wanted to be a professional YouTuber. I really had no idea what that meant or included, I just wanted to get paid for making videos on the platform. And hey, if fame followed as a result, then great (although I can’t say that was my primary goal). Now, I consider myself a full-time YouTuber — I've realized the dream. So how did I get from there to here and what can you learn from my experience? Keep reading.

A few common Google searches are:

  • how to be a YouTuber
  • how do YouTubers get famous
  • how do YouTubers get paid

I’m going to take a shot at answering all three of those questions today. Actually, they’re all kind of the same question. If you’re truly “YouTube famous” then you’re definitely getting paid (which, obviously, means you’re a YouTuber). I think the real question people have is how do I get started? How can I get headed down the right path that could eventually lead to being rich and famous as a YouTuber?

Well here’s the thing: it’s definitely possible for you to become a famous, well-paid YouTuber but it is going to take a serious commitment. If you’re not prepared to spend at least five years pursuing your dream of becoming a successful YouTuber then stop reading this article right now and rethink what you want to do with your life. If there’s one thing I can guarantee you it’s that becoming a successful YouTuber with a self-sustaining channel is not going to be easy (nor will it happen overnight).

Still here? Awesome. I recently wrote a book called From You to YouTuber which is a detailed how-to guide for starting a profitable YouTube channel as quickly as possible. In it I detail how you can start earning a full-time income as a YouTuber even with a channel that has less than 50,000 subscribers. If you’re serious about becoming a professional YouTuber and want to get your channel started on the right foot I’d highly recommend picking up a copy.

How to Be a YouTuber

Like I mention in my book there is a major difference between being a YouTuber and being a successful YouTuber. Being a successful YouTuber entails more than just aiming a camera at your face and posting the results on YouTube. Yes, you’ll need the best YouTube camera, gear and resources but even more importantly you’ll need a solid strategy. 

Picking the right focus (i.e. a focus with real potential to be profitable) is key. If you get this right on day one then the time you invest in creating a channel won’t be wasted. On the other hand, picking the wrong focus is one of the worst mistakes you can make as an aspiring YouTuber. 

I recommend using the Five P’s outlined in my book to pick the right focus. I won’t go into all the details here, but I will say that picking a channel focus based purely on something you’re passionate about is the wrong thing to do. 

How to Get Famous on YouTube

There are different levels of fame in the world — and on YouTube. The truly famous can be recognized by a massive portion of the population. These are the superstars. In my experience, the superstars of YouTube have been churning out content for at least five years and usually closer to ten. If you want to be super famous on YouTube then you’re going to have to work hard at it and not give up. 

But there’s another level of fame on YouTube. I call it fameish. Many YouTubers are well-known within smaller, more niche circles, rather than to society as a whole. These YouTubers have a dose of fame. Though they might not currently be recognized on the street, they could pack a sports arena to capacity if all their subscribers got together in one place. 

If you want to get famous you’ll need to start by getting fameish. Every famous YouTuber once started with zero subscribers and was excited to get their first. There really aren’t any shortcuts that the average person can use to get more attention than anyone else (all the big channels use all the best techniques already, after all). It’s going to be a slow climb. 

So how do you get famous on YouTube? The real answer is you upload, and upload and upload. You keep uploading, first in relative obscurity, because you love it. You like making videos. You like the idea of connecting with a community. You like the idea of someday becoming fameish and then truly famous. You just keep uploading. 

As time goes on some of your videos will get more views than others. Some will get many more views — hundreds of thousands or even millions of views. 

And to get famous on YouTube you have to get views. Thankfully there is a formula you can follow to reliably draw in new eyeballs. I call it the HIT Squared strategy and it’s the best way that I know of for small YouTube channels to get outsized views. This is something I cover extensively in my book. 

How YouTubers Get Paid

After you’ve started your YouTube channel and have figured out how to get hundreds of thousands of views (or more) on some of your videos then you’ll be in a position to start earning some good money. Again, let me emphasize that it takes time for a channel to develop to the point where it has serious monetization potential. YouTube is not a get rich quick scheme — it has to be treated like a real job to earn real money. 

That said, smaller YouTube channels (particularly those with under 50,000 subscribers) aren’t going to earn a tonne of money from ads. Depending on your subject matter you might have more luck with affiliate sales, but those can be anything but consistent. Sponsorships, on the other hand, can help smaller YouTubers earn higher dollar amounts. 

There are several great influencer marketplaces that can connect YouTubers with brands willing to pay for product coverage (several of which I list on my YouTube resources page), but direct selling sponsorships definitely shouldn’t be neglected. 

Actually I’ve had quite a bit of success selling direct sponsorships for my YouTube channel. I’ve even developed a way to convert many of the inbound requests that come my way into paying sponsorships. For more information on earning more through high-paying sponsorships be sure to check out my book. 

Summary

So now you know more about how to become a YouTube including how to get famous on YouTube and how YouTubers get paid. The answers I provided hopefully showed you that becoming a YouTube sensation is definitely possible (but doesn’t happen overnight).

If you’re interesting in becoming a YouTuber or have already started a YouTube channel but want to better understand how to get more views and make more money then be sure to check out my book From You To YouTuber. Also, don’t forget to check out my list of The Top 100 Tools and Resources for Aspiring YouTubers. Finally, if you’re looking for a YouTube consultant I’d be happy to connect with you using the link in the site's main navigation. 

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Is YouTube a Viable Career? A Guide for Parents and Teachers

According to a recent study, kids these days would rather be a YouTuber or a vlogger than an actor, athlete, doctor or lawyer. If you’re the parent of just such a kid, you probably have some questions in your mind about the viability of YouTube as a career. Questions like:

  • Can YouTubers make enough money to survive, much less thrive?
  • And what about when they’re just starting out?
  • Can anyone become a YouTuber?
  • Is there a class or textbook or degree someone needs to become a YouTube star?
  • Is it safe for kids to become online personalities?

And the list probably goes on. But fear not, noble parent: I’ve got you covered. In this article I’m going to set the record straight. 

A Viable Career?

Let’s tackle the big issue first: is YouTube (or being a YouTuber) a viable career? The short answer is yes, it can be. But of course the issue is more nuanced than that. 

Like any job, a person that takes it very seriously, who works hard and is driven to succeed has a much better shot of becoming an online sensation. Of course there is a big difference between a YouTuber and a successful YouTuber. Same goes for a YouTube channel versus a profitable YouTube channel. 

Choosing a profitable focus (not just a passionate focus), using the best YouTube-related tools and resources and setting up a minimum viable studio are all foundational to a successful YouTube start. Next, it’s important to understand how to create videos that will get hundreds of thousands of views (even when published by a smaller YouTube channel) and how to monetize those views in an effective way. 

In my book, From You to YouTuber, I write at length about how to start a profitable and successful YouTube channel (so I’m not going to get into the nitty gritty details here, but rest assured it is very doable). While I wrote this book with aspiring YouTubers in mind, I think parents and teachers who are wondering about this potential career path their kids are heading down will also find it invaluable. 

Key to winning on YouTube are planning and perseverance. It can take an investment of five to ten years of a person’s time to “hit it big” on YouTube. The lesson? Starting sooner, rather than later, is a very good idea. Some YouTube creators got started when they were living at home with their parents and were able to be full-time YouTubers by the time they graduated from college (MKBHD is the perfect example). 

What Kind of Money Do YouTubers Make?

Of course you want your kid to be well off in life and the thought of them becoming a YouTuber instead of a lawyer might have you worried. As a parent (or teacher) you’re no dope. You realize that there are some people who have become giant stars on YouTube who make lots of money (think millions of dollars). You also realize there’s everyone else. Very astute. I think the real question on your mind is whether or not there is room for new YouTubers to make enough money to survive before hitting it big so that’s what I’m going to tackle. 

I’ll start with my own example. I went from someone who knew nothing about being a YouTube creator to a full-time YouTuber in just under two years. I learned how to earn money from ads, affiliate sales and, most importantly, from sponsorships. I think it’s quite possible (I won’t say probable because that really depends on the individual) for YouTubers who have followed the advice in my book to earn somewhere around the national median income in the U.S. within 24 months of starting their channel.

If you’re looking for a benchmark I’d say it will take between three to five years of full-time, hard work for the average YouTube creator to start making enough money to really become self-supporting (and to not just be scraping by). Depending on the channel's focus and the creator's initiative that number could be slightly more or less. 

Of course there are all kinds of caveats. How frequently is a person uploading? How good is a person’s basic business knowledge? Is the channel focus inherently profitable? You get the point. I’ve seen plenty of YouTubers complaining in forums that they’ve been on YouTube for seven or more years and haven’t gotten any traction. More often than not I believe those channel picked poor (inherently unprofitable) channel focuses.

One nice thing about being an online influencer (including a YouTuber) is that earning power tends to increase over time. Unlike a traditional job path where earnings might hit a ceiling at some point in a career, YouTubers tend to earn more and more as their audience grows! 

Is It Safe for Kids to be YouTubers?

I think the best way to answer this is to say that it’s probably safe for kids to be YouTubers just like it’s probably safe for you to drive a car to the grocery store. Is it possible that there could be an accident or that someone could try to do something physically harmful? Yes. Are the chances very, very low? I think so. 

The thing to be most worried about with kids being YouTubers is probably negative comments. Negative (and oftentimes downright nasty) comments are par for the course these days (despite YouTube’s efforts to try to clean things up from time to time). Even as an adult in my 30’s the comments I received when I started my YouTube channel threw me. It’s taken me time to build up some immunity to the dumb things people say online. 

Still, basic online safety rules should apply. Addresses and locations should never be given out, passwords should be tough to guess and rotated frequently, abusive comments should be reported and blocked (which is a built-in YouTube feature), etc. Basically, caution and common sense should prevail. 

What Should Kids Study to Become YouTubers?

A teacher recently asked me what she should tell her kids who all wanted to become YouTubers. I think se was really looking for an answer along the lines of what school or courses could be recommended for aspiring YouTube creators. The thing is, you don’t really need a particular education in order to become a YouTuber. You could, for instance, go to film school or take some business classes, but it’s hardly a requirement. Actually, there are several great online courses, free blogs and loads of tutorials that can help someone become a full-time YouTuber. I’ve included an entire section dedicated to learning how to become a successful YouTuber on the resources section of this site. 

So there are definitely YouTubers who skipped college and became successful human beings. Austin Evans is a good example. But then again there are other YouTubers who have used their college knowledge in order to get views on the platform. For instance, some YouTubers “give away” their degrees online one video at a time. 

The truth here is that there is no “right” way to become a YouTuber. You can go to college or not. You can acquire certain technical skills before you start a channel or pick them up as you go. If there’s one thing that’s certain it’s that every YouTuber arrives at success by taking their own path. 

Summary

If your kid wants to become a YouTuber you can rest easy knowing that it can be a real, stable career option. Just like any job, it takes a lot of hard work to be successful on the platform — but it is definitely doable. Yes, there are YouTube superstars who earn millions of dollars, but there are also smaller creators who earn enough money to become self-sustainable. 

Is being a YouTube creator for everyone? No. But there’s no harm in letting your kid give it a try to see if it’s really for them. At best, they will enjoy it enough to make a real job out of it. At worst, they’ll figure out they might want to try something else. In any case, you should know that being truly successful on YouTube takes a commitment measured in years. 

Whether you're a parent or a teacher, if you want to learn more about helping the kids in your life become serious and successful about a YouTube career, I'd recommend picking up a copy of my book here.

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