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How to Make Money on YouTube Without Making Videos in 2022

Updated: Feb 16, 2022

Making money on YouTube without making videos is easier than you might think. That's because revenue from YouTube Ads is only one way to monetize your YouTube channel!

We'll be covering YouTube Ads anyway, but most of this post will focus on ways to make money on YouTube without relying on ad revenue that you make from people actually watching your videos. You'll learn how to:

  • Grow your YouTube audience

  • Build a steady stream of passive income

  • Marketing ancillary products through your YouTube channel

  • Build a Print-on-Demand business

Table of Contents



YouTube is the second most popular search engine on Earth, and some of the best videos on YouTube don't feature the face of the person who actually made the video. That's because most regular YouTube viewers are only interested in one thing... Content.

If you can deliver engaging content, then you can make money on YouTube without ever having to show your face.

Your content could come in the form of animated characters, b-roll with accompanying voiceovers, or just smoothing visuals set to pretty music. In any case, there are scores of talented video editors, voice-over artists, and 3D animators all over the world who are sitting in front of their computer's right now, waiting to go to work.

You can connect with them in minutes through freelance platforms like Fiverr.

Once you've got some solid content to showcase, you can monetize your channel in a number of different ways.

Starting and growing a YouTube channel can be an effective way to make money and serve your respective niche or community. Growing and monetizing your YouTube channel is not typically an overnight task. It will take a fair amount of time, commitment, and strategy before any money starts rolling in.

YouTube offers multiple programs for YouTubers to monetize their content directly on the platform, however, there are also many other ways that you can monetize your channel outside of YouTube. In order to effectively build your income, you may want to utilize a few of these different methods as you grow and diversify your YouTube channel.

YouTube Ad Revenue

Making money through YouTube ad revenue is one of the more well-known ways to monetize your YouTube channel. The YouTube Partner Program allows YouTubers to place advertisements in their videos. The advertisements are usually at the beginning of the video, throughout the video as midrolls, or as overlay advertisements. The YouTuber is then paid for each view or impression that the ad receives on their video. If a viewer has a YouTube Premium membership, they have the option of skipping advertisements on videos. The YouTuber will still receive a payment as a percentage of that viewer’s YouTube Premium Membership. The exact amount paid depends on how much that viewer watched the YouTuber’s content. For example, if a YouTube Premium member spends the majority of their watch time on your videos, you will get a larger cut from their membership.

Once you are a member of the Partner Program, you will get paid based on your ‘Cost Per Mile’ (or CPM). This is the cost that an advertiser pays per 1000 eligible video views. Your CPM rate will vary depending on multiple factors. This includes the type of ad, your country, the industry or niche, bidding prices for ads, and the time of the year. It is important to remember that YouTube will take a 45% cut of all ad revenue that is generated from its platform.

The specific niche or category that you are in can have a major impact on your CPM. Some niches that offer higher CPMs include Makeup and Beauty, Health, Finance, and Technology. For example, Jake is a YouTuber that specializes in reviews, and he averaged approximately $1.98 per 1000 views in 2019. In comparison to Gillian, a financial YouTuber, who averaged $6.66 per 1000 views during the same period.

Over recent years, YouTube has raised the bar for entry into the YouTube Partner Program. As of 2021, a YouTuber must meet the following prerequisites in order to apply to the Partner Program: they must be 18 years or older, have 1000+ subscribers, and have at least 4,000 hours of watch time in the past year. The YouTube Partner program is indeed a great way to earn extra money once your channel has grown large enough, however, it is best to also diversify your income and utilize other methods of monetization alongside the YouTube Partner Program.

Exclusive Memberships

YouTubers who build their own audience are then able to offer exclusive memberships that provide viewers with special perks and other benefits. While YouTube offers an exclusive membership option for eligible creators, there are also other alternatives for creating private communities and memberships.

YouTube offers a membership option for YouTubers who are already in the YouTube Partner Program. With this option, your subscribers can pay a monthly subscription fee to become members of your channel. The typical benefits of becoming a member include special badges that appear next to a subscriber’s username, access to unique emojis in comments, and other exclusive content. It is also common for YouTubers to give their members early access to new videos, exclusive behind-the-scenes videos, private live streams, and more.

Offering exclusive benefits to your subscribers encourages them to pay the monthly fee to access your content and have more personalized access. This program is excellent for established creators, however, the barrier to entry is very high for creators who are still too new or too small to be accepted into the Partnership Program.

While there are many platforms that can help you create your own private community, creating your own website and community can be effectively done through Shopify. Shopify allows you to add robust applications and features to create a customized website and community. Here are some recommended Shopify apps to utilize for private memberships:

  • LoyaltyLion: Allows your viewers to subscribe to a monthly or yearly plan. You can send physical products or exclusive digital content directly to your subscribers. They can also complete tasks or make purchases to earn points. These points can be redeemed for physical products, digital goods, shoutouts, and more.

  • Shopify Email: Send customized and trackable emails to your email subscribers. These emails can include exclusive deals, content, or information.

  • POWR YouTube + Vimeo Slider: Place your YouTube content onto your website in a convenient and easy-to-use slider.

  • Social Boost Giveaways Contest: Create and manage giveaways for your supporters. Supporters can get entries by watching or liking a YouTube video, subscribing on YouTube, following you on other social media platforms, and more.

Building and managing a community on Shopify is an effective way to integrate your community into your existing website. Alternatively, you can create a new website to avoid the fees that many community platforms charge. There are multiple platforms and websites that support private communities for those creators that build their website from scratch.

Patreon is also a great platform to use for exclusive memberships and content. On Patreon, your supporters can pick a subscription tier and get rewards based on their respective tier. For example, an affordable tier could include exclusive emails and early video viewings, while a more expensive tier could include physical merchandise, personalized chats for small groups or one-on-one, private live streams, autographed gear, and more. Patreon is also a great platform to use because it is a reputable platform that offers a wide variety of features.

Patreon currently offers three plans for its creators:

The Lite Plan: Takes 5% of the money made on Patreon plus processing fees. Plus it unlocks the basic features of the platform.

The Pro Plan: Takes a 12% cut, charges processing fees, enables membership tiers, promotional tools, app integrations, and detailed statistics and reports.

The Premium Plan: Takes 12% plus processing fees, offers all the features of the Pro plan, and also allows you to create team accounts, assigns you a dedicated partner manager from Patreon, and enables you to integrate your merchandise store onto your Patreon.

Regardless of your plan, all payments and donations made through the platform are subject to a processing fee of 5% plus $0.10 for payments under $3, and 2.9% plus $0.30 for payments over $3.

Discord is another great platform to create your own private community and make build your revenue stream. Discord provides servers that consist of channels that members use to chat, have discussions, do voice communication, or watch content together. The application is free to set up and download, and there are many resources online that guide you through creating your own server.

Once your Discord server is established, you are then able to create paid channels. Your supporters can pay a monthly fee to get access to channels that contain exclusive content, private chats that you may participate in, channels with early access to content, and more. You are also able to assign roles to your subscribers, providing a certain prestige that distinguishes them from free/basic users on your server. The special role will show them in a list at the top of the server information, and you are able to customize the color of their username in Discord. Subscribers feel recognized and valued through small perks such as these, even though they are very simple to set up and maintain.

Popular social media platforms like Instagram and Facebook are also effective platforms to create private communities. Once a supporter subscribes to either Patreon or Discord, they can be granted special access to a private Instagram account or Facebook page. From there, you are able to engage your subscribers on a much more intimate and personal level. An added benefit to this is that it is also a great opportunity to garner real-time feedback, input, and ideas for future content that also makes your community feel appreciated and heard.

Sell Print on Demand Merchandise to Your Viewers

Whichever platform you choose, creating and selling merchandise is a great way to generate revenue, regardless of audience size or niche. Using a Print on Demand business (POD) allows you to sell a wide variety of merchandise without having to worry about setup costs, inventory management, and shipping logistics. Simply create the designs online, and the POD company will handle the rest.

Creating interesting designs is the first step to merchandising your product. It is important to consider what kind of designs your audience would like to purchase and wear. A popular approach is for content creators to create merchandise decorated with their logo, and/or inside jokes/references that only their viewers will understand or recognize. While this is indeed an effective approach, there will be viewers who may not necessarily want to wear products that are as explicit or noticeable in public. Therefore, you will also want to create some designs that are less specific and more universal. If you are not skilled in digital artwork, you can hire a freelancer to make your vision come to life. You can also create basic text designs on your own.

Once you have created your designs, the next step is finding the right platform to sell your products. If you are looking to build a brand around your merchandise, creating a Shopify store is your best option. By creating your own website, you will have complete control over how it looks, how it is organized, and what app integrations are used on the site to help increase traffic and sales.

In order to integrate a POD service in your store, you will need to choose a private app from the Shopify App Store. A few recommended Shopify POD apps include:

  • Printify

  • Printful

  • SPOD

These apps will integrate into your Shopify store and enable you to fill your store with physical products (even though you don’t have any actual physical inventory). Once you install an app integration, you can add your designs to a wide variety of products. This includes clothing, phone cases, hats, stickers, wall art, and more. While all POD services offer printing, some also offer custom engravings and embroidery for your designs.

The single most important factor for selling merchandise online is the presentation. When a prospective customer comes across your product, how will you ensure they will take interest and explore further instead of skipping over it? Most POD services allow you to create high-quality mockups of your products to use for your website, and it is important to download these and utilize them on your website. There are also some POD services that will allow you to create mockups that include lifestyle shots and models. If your POD service does not offer this option, you can learn how to create mockups through tutorials or by hiring a freelancer to create lifestyle mockups of models wearing your clothing.

Once a customer purchases your product, the order will be handled entirely by the POD service. A worthwhile option to provide a more professional & polished feel is to also include your own branding on the orders - an option many POD services provide.

If you don’t have an existing Shopify store to integrate POD apps, or if you don’t want to build a brand around your merchandise, you can use an existing website to sell your merchandise. Here are some recommendations for POD websites:

  • TeeSpring

  • TeePublic

  • RedBubble

These websites provide similar services to Shopify integrations, but they typically have less customization and features. A major downside to using a third-party website to sell your merchandise is that their branding is often shown on the packaging instead of yours. Many POD services may also collect emails from your customers and send them promotional content from their own brand.

YouTubers who are in the YouTube Partner Program can also apply for the YouTube Merch Shelf. The Merch Shelf has similar requirements to the Partner Program and allows your merchandise to be shown on a “shelf” under your YouTube video. Select items from your TeeSpring store will be shown under your videos, giving your merchandise a lot of exposure to your audience.

Create a Physical Product to Sell

Using a POD service is indeed convenient and easy to manage, but some YouTubers prefer to handle their merchandise on their own. While this is certainly possible, it is important to keep in mind that your merchandise operation may become increasingly time-consuming as your YouTube channel and audience continues to grow. If you do choose this option, it is essential to create a carefully developed growth strategy that will expand your merchandising in tandem with the expansion of your channel.

Creating your own products is ideal for YouTubers who create unique, one-of-a-kind pieces. For example, an artist who creates tutorials or time-lapses could sell the artwork pieces featured in their videos online. Or, if you are a YouTuber who creates a tangible product in your videos, you may also sell these items to your subscribers.

Shopify is a great platform to create and manage your own store. You can use Shopify to purchase shipping labels for your orders or you can integrate an app like Shipstation to handle your orders. While you can get professional help from freelancers and consultants, many aspects of creating your own products can be self-taught. The internet is full of tutorials, tips, and information about product photography, search engine optimization (SEO), keywords, effective titles/descriptions, product presentation, and more.

Creating your own store and products will give you the most control and customization over what your product looks like, the appearance of your packaging, and how the operation is handled. If you are considering growing it into a large business, it may be worth the initial financial investment and continued maintenance to start your own merchandise operation.

Sell Digital Products in Your Niche

If physical products are not your forte, or you have a particular niche in the digital space, then selling digital products to your audience is a great way to make money through YouTube.

For example, Travis is a small audio engineering YouTuber in Utah and creates tutorials on how to create and mix audio. His niche audience consists of audio engineers, musicians, rappers, and those interested in learning to edit beats and vocals in various audio editing programs.

Travis creates in-depth guides that walk the viewer through a step-by-step process of mixing and editing audio in certain ways. The viewer can follow this tutorial for free, or they can also go to Travis’ website and purchase a preset that Travis has created. Once purchased, they can download the preset and apply it to their program to automate the process. These presets range anywhere from $10 - $30 each, and even though Travis does not make the majority of his revenue directly through YouTube’s Partner Program, he is still able to make considerable revenue by providing unique and convenient digital products to his community.

To successfully build a YouTube community, you will need to target your content to a specific niche or industry. This will attract members of that niche who enjoy your content and would most likely subscribe to see similar content in the future. Once you have identified your niche and start building your channel, identify what kinds of digital products your audience would like to download.

Some examples of digital downloads include wallpapers, photo editing presets, courses, how-to guides, graphic designs, video intros, lower thirds, fonts, and more. Many website engineers and hosts (including Shopify) make it easy for store owners to create, sell, and manage their digital merchandise.

If you would like to use your YouTube channel to promote your digital downloads, it is imperative that you include a clear and noticeable link to your website in the description, and mention it to your viewers in the video. For example, Travis makes a point to mention his website in all of his audio engineering videos, and he directs the viewer to go to his website and purchase his presets.

Sponsored Content

Have you ever watched a YouTube video where the creator stopped the video to thank a brand for sponsoring the video? Sponsored content has become much more popular over recent years as brands have recognized the benefits of partnering with creators and influencers to market their products or services.

In a sponsored video, you and a brand will come to an agreement on how you will promote their brand and how you will be paid. Brands may pay a YouTuber a fixed price for the ad, pay them based on a defined metric, or a combination of both these options. Many sponsorships include a trackable link that the YouTuber shares with his or her followers. The brand is then able to track the traffic and sales to the link and may give the YouTuber commission based on a certain metric.

Sponsored videos are an excellent way to earn money for your videos and should always add value to your audience. For example, if you are making a video about a game review and have an audience that is predominantly male gamers, it would not be lucrative to advertise female beauty products. Not only will the sponsor be unhappy with the poor results, but your audience may also lose interest if they think you are trying to sell them unnecessary items. Many supporters are understanding of sponsored videos, but you will need to ensure that you are working with brands that appeal to your audience.

If you run a large YouTube channel, sponsors may reach out to work with you. The question becomes, how do you find sponsorships if you are a small or medium-sized channel? Here are some recommendations on platforms to use:

  • Framebit

  • Channel Pages

  • Grapevine

Both YouTubers and brands can join these platforms to find the best matches for collaborations. When you join a site like Framebit as a YouTuber, brands will be able to find your channel when they search for niches and channels that resonate well with their product. They will then be able to view your analytics and contact information to see if you are indeed a good fit for them.

Not only are platforms like Framebit convenient to use, but they also provide payment security. Brands can pay YouTubers directly through the platform, minimizing the risk of being scammed or cheated. Many of these platforms also have collaboration features where YouTubers can find other YouTubers to collaborate with.

Amazon Affiliate Marketing in Video Descriptions

Have you ever seen Amazon links in a YouTubers subscription? These are most likely affiliate links! Affiliate links are a great way to make passive income from your YouTube content, and the description of your video is the perfect spot to advertise affiliate links. Even if you do not necessarily think affiliate marketing will apply to you or your channel, you should still apply for an Amazon Affiliate account.

Once you are approved for an Amazon Affiliate account, you will be able to get trackable links for products on Amazon. When someone clicks on your link, the cookies (digital trackers) will be active for up to one day. This means that if someone clicks on your link and makes an unrelated purchase a few hours later, Amazon will still give you a percentage of the sale because your cookies were still active when the purchase was made.

But what can you link to in your descriptions that are effective, yet still professional? If anything used in your video can be found on Amazon, you can include an affiliate link in the description. For example, if you use a ring light in your makeup tutorials, you could include a link to the ring light in the description. Viewers who want to follow your tutorial may want to purchase the light or other items that you use. You can also list the equipment that was used to create your YouTube video. If someone is curious about what camera or microphone you use, they can simply check the description to see the specs.

While Amazon may be a somewhat obvious affiliate brand, you may also want to look for brands within your respective niche. Many brands have their own affiliate programs that allow you to give your viewers a unique discount code. If a viewer uses your discount code at check-out, you can receive a percentage of the sale or a flat fee from the platform. It is, therefore, worthwhile to determine what product your audience would be most interested in, research the brands that offer it, and see if they have an existing affiliate program. If the brand does not already have an affiliate program, you can reach out to them and pitch a partnership/collaboration.

Live Streaming

YouTube videos are not the only form of video content that can be monetized. Livestreams can also be monetized in a variety of ways. If you have a YouTube channel, you can host streaming events in addition to your main YouTube content. While YouTube does allow live streaming for certain channels, you can also use platforms outside of YouTube to stream. Popular streaming platforms that allow you to monetize your content include:

  • Twitch

  • Facebook Gaming

  • Trovo

  • Wowza

Viewers of your steam can make donations and type custom messages to appear on the stream, either through text or text-to-voice. While a few small donations may not seem like a lot, they quickly add up over the duration of the stream and can be especially lucrative if your viewers donate larger amounts. Many viewers will pay higher amounts to see the streamers’ reaction, or to ensure they read the message aloud and respond back directly.

Like other platforms, a viewer can subscribe to their favorite streamer and receive access to exclusive emojis and graphics to use in the chat. Their messages will also be prioritized in particularly busy chats. For example, Twitch allows users to subscribe to streamers for $5 per month. Twitch takes 50% of the subscription fee, leaving the streamer with $2.50 per month, per subscriber. While this may not seem like a lot of money, it adds up to $30 per year for each subscriber. As your stream grows and the number of paying subscribers increases, this seemingly small amount per subscriber will eventually become extremely lucrative. Since Twitch is owned by Amazon, Amazon Prime members also receive one free Twitch subscription per month. If you have a Twitch stream, consider telling your viewers about this option.


While monetizing your YouTube channel through ads can be an effective way to generate revenue from your videos, there are many other lucrative options for your content outside of YouTube. Incorporating some of these options into your YouTube journey will help you to diversify and ultimately increase your revenue.

Diversifying is especially important in the event that YouTube removes you from the Partner Program, changes its terms, or goes through a controversy. In 2016, the largest YouTuber on the platform, Felix Kjellberg (Pewdiepie) was accused by the Wallstreet Journal of using antisemitic language and imagery in his YouTube video. This caused a backlash for advertisers who had been featured on Pewdiepie’s channel, and many advertisers pulled their ads from YouTube in an effort to distance themselves from the bad publicity. This resulted in the first “adpocalypse” on YouTube where many creators were not able to monetize their content because there were not enough ads for everyone.

While your channel and content may not violate any guidelines, there is always the possibility that advertisers will pull their ads from the platform because of the actions of other creators. Even though you may not be involved in future controversies, YouTube and advertiser politics may negatively impact your channel. You may not have any control over YouTube politics and policy changes, but you can take control of the other strategies to diversify your YouTube income.