How to Develop a YouTube Monetization Strategy for Your Channel

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A huge part of becoming a professional YouTuber is figuring out how to actually make money on the platform — to develop a YouTube monetization strategy for your channel. 

Now, more so than ever, it’s possible to make YouTube your full-time job. In one year, the number of channels earning over $10,000 rose by 50%, and the number of those earning over $100,000 rose by 40%. Furthermore, 43% of full-time creators say they earn over $50,000 annually.

However, earning that sort of income takes some planning. In this article we discuss everything you need to to make a successful monetization strategy.

youtube monetization strategy

1 - Check out YouTube Monetization Options

First off, do some digging to see which avenues of monetizing your channel are open to you, and which ones you want to aim for. 

On the platform itself, you can earn money from YouTube’s AdSense program. You can also get paid for views by YouTube Premium subscribers. 

However, revenues from these sources can vary considerably. As a result, most successful creators see them as only one stream of passive income, but it’s rarely their main cash cow.  

Additional monetization options include working with brands through affiliate programs or sponsorship deals.

affiliate disclosure under YouTube video
Brand deals and affiliate programs can be lucrative - and must be declared.

Another popular option is to generate an income from your fans directly through subscription and tipping systems. 

In the last few years, YouTube has added its own features — memberships, Super Chat, Super Stickers, and most recently Super Thanks — to help creators monetize their content. 

Otherwise, you can opt for established secondary platforms like Patreon, Ko-fi, Buy Me A Coffee, or Tipeee.

YouTube video showing patreon link for fan monetization
This violin instructor uses Patreon, a popular third-party subscription service.

Finally, you can create your own products based on your YouTube channel and sell them. This can range from online courses and e-books to merchandise and non-fungible tokens

For this purpose, YouTube itself has Merch shelf, and platforms like Patreon and Ko-fi provide easy-to-use shop options.

YouTube monetization strategy example: selling courses
This yoga channel offers courses - and their own app.

However, all of these monetization strategies require that you have a decent-size following on the platform. For example, to use Merch shelf, you need at least 10,000 subscribers. 

That being said, it’s also important to know that your follower count doesn’t directly translate to the size of your income — it also depends on what demographic you’re targeting.

youtube monetization strategy

2 - Do Some In-Depth Market and Competitor Research

Before you decide how to make money off the platform, you have to find yourself a monetizable target audience. This, in turn, is very useful in deciding the kind of niche and content strategy you pick. 

This means market research.

One crucial factor is whether your supporters have a large disposable income. Given the same number of subscribers, you’ll likely have a lower income running a yoga channel aimed at stressed-out college kids, than if you tailor your videos to the needs of busy professionals in their late 20s and 30s. 

young woman working hard on report
Select your audience carefully.
Photo by Anthony Da Cruz on Unsplash

Of course, if you already have an audience, you need to figure out which monetization strategies would work for it. 

Is it large but not very engaged? Opt for ads.

Is your audience smaller, but with a bit of disposable income and very engaged? Consider fan funding. 

Are you lucky enough to have an affluent audience? That’s an excellent negotiation position for brand deals.

man in bathrobe in expensive suite looks out over sea
Given enough disposable income, even a tiny audience can pay off.
Photo by Ishan @seefromthesky on Unsplash

If you’re feeling overwhelmed by this, you can start out by doing some competitor research. Ask yourself:

  • What channels on YouTube are similar to yours? 
  • What monetization strategies do they use?
  • Who is their audience?
  • And: How could you improve on their approach?
youtube monetization strategy

3 - Acquire, Grow, and Engage Your Chosen Audience

Once you’ve pinpointed your ideal audience, it’s time to start doing what you do best as an aspiring YouTuber. Produce engaging content that’ll wow your viewers and have them coming back for more. 

Part of doing this is picking the right niche to target — and coming up with a long-term content strategy that will help you build sustained engagement. 

person nurturing growing sprouts
Your audience needs great content and lots of your engagement to grow.
Photo by Sandie Clarke on Unsplash

In addition, make sure to optimize your content for YouTube’s search engine to make sure that the platform’s algorithm finds it and puts it among the top search results. 

Another avenue to building engagement is to interact extensively with your viewers. Run livestreams, answer comments, ask questions, and request input. Viewer engagement is key to showing up in YouTube’s recommendations.

Once you have been doing this for a while, you’ll observe how quickly your channel is gaining viewers and subscribers. On the basis of these growth stats, and what you know about your audience, you can plan your in-depth YouTube monetization strategy.

youtube monetization strategy

4 - Join the YouTube Partner Program

A natural first step is to join the YouTube Partner Program, which will allow you to monetize on-platform. Additionally, being in the program is something that potential sponsors look for. 

To join, you need to be over 18, and have more than 4,000 public watch hours in the last 12 months, and over 1,000 subscribers. You can track these on this Studio dashboard.

Play Video

YouTuber Ryan Walsh’s walkthrough of joining the YouTube Partner Program.

In addition, you have to follow all the YouTube channel monetization policies and have no active Community Guidelines strikes on your channel.

As of 2021, the program is still geographically limited, so you need to live in a region where the YouTube Partner Program is available.

Finally, you need to set up a linked AdSense account.

Once you’ve ticked all these boxes, you can start cashing in on the ads YouTube runs on your video. Because even if you aren’t part of the partner program, ads will appear on your content — it’s just that YouTube won’t share that revenue with you.

youtube monetization strategy

5 - Look Beyond AdSense and Plan Ahead

Once you’ve established your channel at this level, you can do some long-term planning and start looking to join affiliate programs, search for sponsorship deals, and think about creating merchandise. 

At this point, you’ll know your audience pretty well, which gives you a great vantage point to assess what monetization strategies will work best with them. 

In addition, there are some invaluable resources for YouTubers looking for opportunities at this stage in their careers. 

Marketplaces like Grapevine and YouTube’s BrandConnect program (formerly FameBit) make it easier to pinpoint brands to work with.  

two women shaking hands
It's a deal! A good monetization strategy pays off.

On Shoutcart, YouTube creators can post and share their gigs. 

And most recently, F*** You, Pay Me (FYPM) — a Glassdoor-like app for creators — launched to help people avoid low-paying or exploitative brands.


It’s possible to make a decent income — millions, even — from YouTube. But not overnight. Instead, it takes some in-depth planning, strategizing, and time. 

By thinking ahead to the sort of income streams you’re aiming at, and building your YouTube monetization strategy accordingly, you can create the right content and build the right audience from the start.

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