Plenty of people right now are looking for a side hustle they can do from home. If you have a bubbly personality, the ability to make people laugh or think, or a particular skill like decorating cupcakes, teaching yoga, or pruning fruit trees, starting a vlog may be a good way to earn money.
Among its advantages are being able to express your own identity and views on a platform that can reach thousands of people, helping your viewers and (perhaps) even becoming famous. It’s certainly possible to make money as a vlogger – Youtube is, after all, the world’s 2nd largest search engine – but don’t think that this is going to happen automatically the first time you upload a video. Success in this game takes persistence, talent, planning, and luck.
Many people have started blogs (the word, by the way, is a contraction of web log) as a source of passive income, only to discover later that “passive” doesn’t mean “easy”. The content you create can indeed continue to earn you money long after you’ve done the work involved in getting it published, but reaching the point where you can more or less relax and watch the cash roll in is not an easy journey.
In other words, you can earn good money with vlogging, but you have to approach it like a business. If you don’t, including by following a game plan right from the start, you will not be able to quit your day job.
Table of Contents
- 1 What Is Vlogging, Exactly?
- 2 How Do Vloggers Earn Money?
- 3 How Much Can You Earn with a Vlog?
- 4 The Different Kinds of Vlog
- 5 Product Reviews and Unboxing Videos
- 6 Pranks, Skits, and Stand-Up Comedy
- 7 Beauty, Fashion and Fitness Advice
- 8 Educational and How-To Videos
- 9 Video Games
- 10 Online Diary
- 11 Becoming a Successful, Money-Making Vlogger
- 12 How Wide Do You Want to Cast Your Net?
- 13 Choosing Your Brand Identity
- 14 Monetizing Your Vlog
- 15 Getting Started
- 16 Growing and Marketing Your Vlog: The Path to Profit
- 17 Pride Cometh Before a Fall: The Risks of Vlogging
- 18 Making Money by Vlogging: The Long and the Short
What Is Vlogging, Exactly?
Most of us, when we hang out with friends, spend time talking about what we’ve been doing, whether or not we liked the last movie we saw, what we think of different brands and products, politics and current events, and perhaps give advice on something we know a little about. Vlogging is pretty much the same thing, except (obviously) you do it on camera, and the conversation is both one-sided and carefully scripted.
Your friends are obliged to put up with you, but online browsers have a million other videos vying for their attention. This means that random ramblings will not make for a successful, money-making vlog. Instead, you have to get people’s interest by talking about things that matter to them and presenting your material in the most professional way possible.
How Do Vloggers Earn Money?
Vlogging is all about putting yourself out there; when you do so in the right way and catch the public’s eye, companies want to associate their brands with you. This is done in two main ways:
- Running advertisements at the bottom of, or in between parts of your videos (Youtube manages this using Adsense and takes a part of the profits), and
- Getting sponsorships for products that the vlogger uses, mentions, or reviews in their clips.
These sponsorships often involve getting free stuff (don’t, however, solicit the latter aggressively, or you may become a pariah instead of a celebrity). You may then keep these items or sell them on. In other cases, actual cash changes hands, but just like with ads, the amount you can expect depends on how many views and followers you have.
Your first goal should therefore be to build a popular channel – the more people see your vlog, and the more often they watch, the more money you’ll make by vlogging. Once you have a little bit of fame to trade on, you can also try to translate your Youtube success into another source of income like a profitable website, ebook, online course, or marketing deal.
How Much Can You Earn with a Vlog?
The great thing about an internet business is that the sky is the limit. With nearly 7 billion potential viewers, you need only attract the attention of a tiny percentage before you’re a major player. Unfortunately, competition for their views and subscriptions is huge, so getting anything like a strong following is far from easy. About 95% of Youtubers earn less than $12,000 per year, though in fairness not all of those are vlogging for profit.
<Caption: In most jobs, the majority of people earn more or less the average salary. With vlogging, a few content creators do very well, but most don’t receive all that much money.>
The big issue to keep in mind is therefore scalability. In general, any business that is scalable, meaning that it can earn more money without changing the way it operates or needing extra investment, is a great idea. To understand how this works in vlogging, look at the following formula from ContentCareer.com, which gives a very rough estimate of how much a reasonably successful vlogger can expect to make from ad income:
(The figure of 1.1 is an average number reflecting how much companies are willing to pay you for showing a thousand people their ad; this may be lower or, especially for luxury niche brands, higher). In other words, vlogging hardly pays at all until you have 10K subscribers and make a video every week. It only becomes really worth it, even as a side hustle, once you have a hundred thousand regular viewers.
These figures may seem discouraging, but here’s what makes giving vlogging a try worth it: it’s a lot easier to get an extra 10K subscribers once you have those hundred thousand, and going from 1,000,000 to 1,010,000 can happen in an eyeblink. This is the kind of non-linearity that economical and financial theorist Nassim Taleb talks about in his book Antifragile: a situation that has limited downside (you may end up wasting a couple of hours of your life) but nearly unlimited upside (your channel becoming well-known and lucrative).
However, before you start daydreaming about being one of those Youtube stars who rake in millions each year apparently just by having fun, remember that it takes a while for the cash faucet to turn on, and you have no guarantee that it ever will. Even if you do everything right, luck plays a big part in whether or not you’ll ever make money vlogging.
The Different Kinds of Vlog
Even with that type of uncertainty, you can definitely improve your chances of winning by picking a game you know you’ll be good at. Other factors also come into play when deciding on what kind of channel you want to start: your budget for purchasing equipment, traveling and other expenses, your previous experience and credentials, and how much time you can spend on your new vlogging hobby.
Bear in mind that many channels straddle two or more of the following categories. A few videos on caring for roses, for instance, may funnel viewers to others that discuss different types of pruning shears and a few that are meant to entertain – as long as all of these revolve around a central theme that will draw subscribers to your channel, you have a good chance of becoming popular.
Product Reviews and Unboxing Videos
It’s not always possible to try something out before you buy it, so many people turn to trusted online reviews before making a decision. They’d like to know more than the basic specs of any gadget or doohickey: what is it like to use? Does it come pre-assembled, or do you have to spend an hour putting the parts together? What alternatives are there, and what are the pros and cons of each?
One of the most successful Youtubers out there is a nine-year-old kid from Texas who, at least initially, did nothing more than give his opinions on toys. If, like him, you can provide unbiased, knowledgable, and informative information on anything from computer hardware to cooking utensils, you may be able to create a channel that advertisers will compete to be on and eventually get sent free products in exchange for reviews.
Pranks, Skits, and Stand-Up Comedy
These are some of the most popular types of video and, since people like to share these clips, have the potential to go viral and gain a lot of subscribers quickly. Not everyone is born to be Rowan Atkinson, though.
Being funny requires a specific kind of personality, a total lack of self-consciousness as well as a surprising amount of technique. However care-free many of these videos appear, there is often a huge amount of preparation behind them.
Beauty, Fashion and Fitness Advice
Many people want to look more glamorous; companies in this sector drool at the thought of the marketing opportunities vlogging represents. At the moment, it seems that there are way too many channels of this type, hosted by people who are already beautiful, well-dressed and thin.
Even if this doesn’t describe you, don’t reject this idea immediately. There are still many viewers out there who would like some advice and encouragement on doing makeup for ethnic skin types or exercises suitable for heavier people, to give just two examples.
Educational and How-To Videos
Whether you want to fix a washing machine, improve your golf score, or understand a movie plot, Youtube is typically the first source you consult. It is possible to learn all of these things by reading, but watching and hearing an expert explain things verbally is much more convenient and effective.
You may be surprised at how little it can take to become a Youtube expert. Since you’ll probably be catering to total beginners in a variety of subjects, even teaching a skill like ironing or long division will net you a couple of views.
Over 160 million people in America alone play video games, making this a huge market. Gaming vloggers may review new releases, explain the intricacies of gameplay in tutorials, or live stream themselves playing through a platform like Twitch. There are surprisingly many channels of this type, many with a large and loyal fan base – you’ll be facing some very stiff competition.
While it seems like the whole world already shares the happenings of their daily lives on Facebook, some vloggers take this a step further and document the places they go, what their family gets up to, and so forth. Of course, nobody wants to be bored, so channels like these are usually run by people who travel frequently, follow some unusual lifestyle, believe they have something to teach the world about parenting, etc.
Becoming a Successful, Money-Making Vlogger
It’s true that a journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step, but it definitely helps if that step is in the right direction. Owning a channel that earns you an income of seven figures a year may still be far off, but a little advance planning will bring this goal a lot closer to reality.
How Wide Do You Want to Cast Your Net?
No doubt, you already have a couple of ideas on what kind of vlog you want to create. If you plan on making money doing so, you have to be passionate about your subject matter, but don’t just do what you love: some vlogs, however good on their own merits, will simply never be all that profitable.
Let’s use fishing as an analogy: you have only so much string you can use to weave a net. Making your net wider therefore means the holes have to be bigger: the larger the potential audience you try to attract, the lower your percentage of that audience will be.
In other words, you can make money vlogging by becoming a big fish in a small pond, or a small fish in a very large lake. You need either a tiny slice of a large cake or most of a tiny cookie. Stand out from the crowd, or do something that’s already being done, but well enough that at least some people will choose to watch your vlog instead of dozens of similar ones. The importance of this principle can hardly be overemphasized.
300 hours of new video is uploaded to Youtube every minute. Competition from rival vloggers is fierce, but don’t let this discourage you: you can still recruit a worthwhile number of subscribers either by intensively targeting a neglected niche, however small, or going in a more general direction while making sure your content is unique and powerful enough to pique the interest of at least a fraction of a percent of possible viewers. Don’t, however, fall in between these two chairs. Trying to penetrate a well-established arena without an engaging, unique message and high-quality videos is vlogging a dead horse, so to speak.
Choosing Your Brand Identity
Ideally, in most cases, you’ll have several videos already planned out for the future while you’re filming the next one. This, too, determines how wide or narrow your chosen niche will be. The more closely related your entire collection is, the more likely people who watch more than one clip will like your channel and subscribe.
This also affects your alignment with advertisers. If you create a channel about DIY, for instance, many advertisers will be interested, but these will also have numerous other vlogs to choose from. If you restrict yourself to woodworking, you become a more suitable medium for selling tools and other products specific to that hobby. If you go one step further and devote all your videos to topics related to antique furniture restoration, you’ll have fewer potential advertisers and viewers – but those who are interested will be that much more inclined to follow you. If you then go and upload a video on wine tasting on the same channel, people will simply be confused and you may lose subscribers – you certainly won’t gain any with the latter video.
It helps a great deal if you develop some kind of “hook” that will stick in viewers’ minds and cause them to recognize your work when they see it – think of Bill Nye the Science Guy’s bowtie, or the catchphrase of your favorite sitcom character. You don’t need to do anything quite that cheesy, but consider at least creating, or paying someone to animate, a short intro you’ll use in all your clips.
Monetizing Your Vlog
Now that you’ve (hopefully) thought of an idea for a topic you can vlog about that:
- can earn some money by appealing to advertisers,
- at least some other people are interested in (check the view numbers on related clips to get an idea of how many there are), and
- you can create tons of content on, thereby creating a channel worth following,
You’re well on your way to getting started. If you’ve met the above criteria, you should worry about how you can enhance your viewer numbers rather than attracting the attention of advertisers – if one happens, the other will follow. You should, however, consider some other ways of making money from your vlog.
Once you get enough subscribers, you may be offered sponsorships or free products to use in your videos. The chances of them contacting you out of the blue aren’t great, though, so you will want to register on an influencer marketing platform like Influencer Marketing Hub. If your channel is all about making sweaters for kittens, for instance, an advertiser looking to promote pet or knitting products may just stumble on your channel and give a welcome boost to your earnings.
Depending on what kind of content you host, you can also look into affiliate marketing. Basically, all you need to do is mention a product on your channel and show people the way to the website that sells them – you don’t have to sing its praises or turn your video into an ad, just incorporate products you already use into your script.
Some vloggers solicit donations via a Patreon account; this may work for you if you produce such high-quality, creative content that people will pay you not to stop. A more difficult but ultimately more rewarding option is to use your vlog as a springboard to operating your own business, perhaps charging a fee for personalized advice and consultations, selling products you make yourself (like indie bands promoting their albums), or offering premium videos on a website other than Youtube.
One reason so many people now maintain vlogs is that there’s almost nothing to it; no special skills, software, or equipment are required. You can, of course, take video using your phone: a simple tripod lets you film yourself with confidence, a special gadget allows you to shoot reasonably stable footage even while moving, and a ring light illuminates your face perfectly in case you want to create yet another makeup tutorial. On the other hand, as every photographer knows, the quality of a camera is about a lot more than the number of megapixels it boasts. If you’re at all serious about vlogging, you’ll want to spend a few hundred dollars on a decent camera. A reasonably capable USB microphone is practically mandatory – poor sound quality will cause viewers to look for a video with better production values right away.
Speaking of this, you’ll also have to learn how to do makeup for television, even if you’re a guy: viewers respond more positively to someone who looks healthy, and this doesn’t happen by accident. Even more importantly, you’ll have to figure out how to use video editing software. This often makes all the difference between a clip that looks amateurish and slapped together, and one that viewers will trust and sponsors will look at twice. Free packages are fine to start with, but you’ll soon discover that the extra bells and whistles the paid versions offer are actually quite useful. Depending on what kind of content you intend to produce, you’ll also need screen recorder software, which lets your viewers see what you’re doing on the computer and can also help you create whiteboard explainer videos.
Once you have all these ducks in a row, it’s time to write your first post. Wait, what? I don’t need a script, I know what I’m talking about, I’ll just edit out the mistakes…
The last thing any viewer or potential advertiser wants to see is a vlogger who constantly says “uhm, okay” or “oh I forgot to tell you earlier”. We don’t even notice these glitches in normal speech, but just try recording a conversation between you and some friends: it sounds natural in the moment, but like a bunch of gibbering baboons when you play it back. There’s no rule stopping you from ad-libbing a line, but Youtube clips that appear spontaneous are often anything but. Think of the script as a framework you can hang your spur-of-the-moment creativity on. Using your laptop as a teleprompter doesn’t mean not being spontaneous, but it can easily prevent you from seeming unprepared.
Finally, you should try and get as much detailed, honest feedback as you can. The comments on Youtube alone tell you very little as far as production values are concerned. Make sure the people you ask for their opinion understand that sugar-coating the truth helps neither you or them. If you’re talking too fast or you have a pimple on your nose, you need to know before uploading your first video.
Growing and Marketing Your Vlog: The Path to Profit
We’ve already covered a number of guidelines, and all of them are important. When it comes to making money off your vlog, however, the first rule is this: if you don’t publish new videos regularly, you’re almost certain to lose followers. You will still get the odd view from people who find your clips in the search results, but the best way to boost your revenue is to build and maintain your subscriber base.
Apart from setting and adhering to a publishing schedule – you may want to record a few spare clips in case you don’t have time later on – you’ll also have to promote your vlog, even if this means spending a little money.
To start with, you’ll want to get an account in your blog’s name on other platforms like Pinterest, Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. Not everybody who’ll be interested in your content browses Youtube regularly, so reel them in using social media. You can also use these to interact directly with fans, the general public, and even vloggers in the same space – if you can contribute something meaningful to the conversation, people are that much more likely to check out your videos. Youtube at its best really is a community, so make all the friends you can.
Another way to promote your vlog is to approach websites covering the same topics. Many of these would love to have more video content, but don’t have the time, skill or inclination to create their own. Allowing them to “embed” custom videos on their web pages automatically sets you up for a wider audience.
Pride Cometh Before a Fall: The Risks of Vlogging
Youtube as well as other platforms have guidelines about what can and cannot be uploaded to their servers. Regardless of whether you regard this as censorship or protecting common decency, you ignore these at your peril: you may be demonetized or even have your videos removed entirely.
The most important of these rules is probably to respect others’ copyright. Google, which owns Youtube, has a reputation for being principled about this and will gladly take down any video that uses images or music illegitimately, even without meaning to. So be professional about this: it’s not difficult to find royalty-free media and perhaps promote a couple of artists you like.
Though most vloggers needn’t worry too much about this, it’s also best to steer clear of any content that could be controversial, including hate speech, radical political opinions, and sexually explicit material. Even if your video isn’t banned from the platform, advertisers have no interest in being associated with that kind of stuff and your video may be removed from Youtube’s account monetization program.
Whether this happens depends on an inscrutable computer algorithm and, in many cases, getting demonetized seems totally arbitrary and unfair. The best way to insulate yourself from this risk is to rely less on Youtube ad revenue: set up your own website, maybe host your videos yourself, learn how affiliate marketing can work for you, or think about selling your own products (branded T-shirts, for instance).
Making Money by Vlogging: The Long and the Short
Get-rich-quick schemes, like instant diets, are never what they’re cracked up to be. There is simply no legal, guaranteed way to start earning thousands of dollars per month without investing any money or effort.
What you can do, however, is combine your creativity and the global reach of the internet to create a marketing machine that may, one day, become a pretty decent source of income. If this is your goal, you’ll need to do more than just going through the motions: in terms of both production values and content, you’ll be facing significant and increasing competition
In other words, the best advice is probably to start a small vlog as a kind of hobby without expecting too much, but also be ready to take advantage if your channel happens to take off. Everybody has both good and bad luck: the people we call “lucky” are usually those who were prepared to seize the day.
Are any vloggers reading this? If so, we’d love for you to share your insights and experiences: what issues did you face? What do you do to attract new subscribers? Where do you get ideas for new videos? And, finally: are you earning good money by vlogging?