Video Essentials

How to Make a Living on YouTube

There’s money to be made on YouTube, but getting it takes passion, honesty, and the support of a major video network.

The question of how to make a living on YouTube was tackled during the Streaming Media West 2011 conference in Los Angeles by a panel that had plenty of experience in the area. Speaking as YouTube pioneers, they offered tips and advice to those starting out.

Panelist Olga Kay said she’d been showing videos on YouTube for five years, but had only been making money off it for the last three. Talk to your audience directly, she offered. Let your viewers know that there’s a real person behind your work. The chance for the audience to connect with the video maker and give input is what separates online videos from feature films.

Video makers who work with brands and advertisers need to incorporate branding in a way that doesn’t make their videos look like commercials, Kay said.

Cross-promotion is crucial for those just starting out, said Brendan Gahan, director of social media for marketing agency Mekanism. Cross-promotion means working with video-makers with similar audiences in order to reach potential new followers. It’s a great way to grow an audience, he said, and it reaches people you wouldn’t get from a banner ad.

Video maker Benny Fine, one-half of online video-making team the Fine Brothers, suggested that creators not go on YouTube looking for instant success. Finding an audience takes a long time, he said.

When a creator’s videos start to get some success and he or she is offered a contract by a video site or network, Fine warned against rushing in. Get a lawyer, even if it’s a family friend, to look over the paperwork. Understand how long you’re locked in.

“You’ve got to be passionate,” enthused Rob Jones, vice president of gaming programming for Machinima. “If you’re going to make a cooking show, make it the best f***ing cooking show possible.”

Real passion will come through and will speak to the audience, he said.

Machinima has become one of the top partner networks within YouTube, and Jones spent time describing the company’s farm system, where it takes young video talent and helps them raise their game by looking more professional. Don’t think of YouTube is a distribution platform, he warned. It’s really a social media platform and engaging the viewer is crucial. The likes and dislikes a video gets show the viewers’ level of engagement, he said, and advertisers are starting to see that. Videos autoplayed through screen saver networks don’t have those comments, despite their big numbers, because viewers aren’t engaged.

“You can’t just post and pray, hope it’s going to be a viral success,” Jones said. Instead, succeeding on YouTube is actually the result of careful planning.


Comments are disallowed for this post.

  1. This was nothing but fluff. no real info. no real advice.

    thanks for wasting my time.

    Posted by a film maker | November 12, 2011, 9:26 pm
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