Diversifying Your Income as a Youtuber
Although today Youtube is the global hub of online video publishing, there’s no guarantee it will last forever - or even that your account won’t be banned. The premise of a large social media site collapsing isn’t unfounded, either — take MySpace and Bebo. Better still, consider Vine. Some of the most successful Youtubers today — such as David Dobrik — began posting on Youtube to protect their online presence, whilst they focused on Vine.
When Should You Start?
The best time to start building an additional revenue streams is now. Lots of people make the mistake of waiting until they need an additional revenue stream before developing their idea. Anyone who has started a business knows how long it can take to become profitable, and the chances are, if you are in need of an additional revenue stream your primary income source is in strong decline, or has collapsed. This means you can’t utilise the strongest weapon in your arsenal: your influence.
Ultimately, you have nothing to lose by doing so, either. Although your time might already be in high demand, as you’re presumably already earning a living off of your Youtube income there’s no immediate rush to complete the project. Therefore, although you should set yourself solid deadlines, you’re not required to work at a rapid pace. Simply set yourself checkpoints based on the time that you can commit each week.
Diversifying and Protecting Your Income — Examples
There are an unlimited number of ways that you can earn a secondary income, but you should focus on the predicted return on investment and avenues that you’re passionate about.
Releasing Content Early on Your Own Website
The concept is simple: rather than releasing videos straight onto Youtube, post them to your website a day or two early. This idea has been put into practice by Youtubers looking to increase revenue through Patreon subscriptions for years. Although the immediate financial rewards of operating early releases through Patreon are attractive, Youtube remains a foundation of this system and therefore the approach has no effect on longevity.
Youtube is great for building an audience — but you’re not letting go of that by simply embedding your video elsewhere.
If you’re willing to forgo the immediate income, then you can begin to reinforce your online presence by creating a website and releasing videos early yourself — without any financial barriers. By running a simple website — Wordpress is ideal — you can create a new article for each post, which contains an embed of the video, alongside a transcript to assist with growing your audience through SEO (check out Tim Cameron-Kitchen’s great introduction to SEO [Amazon Link]).
By releasing a video on your own site you can dictate where that video is hosted. If your relationship with Youtube soured you could choose another platform such as Vimeo, and viewers who regularly looked for early content would notice little difference. However, whilst Youtube remains the dominant video hosting platform there are few reasons not to use it. To get started using Youtube on your website upload a video as “unlisted”, and embed it into your webpage. Once you’re ready to release your video on Youtube, simply change the visibility to ‘public’. This way you can still accumulate Youtube views while making the video exclusive to your website.
Although this is a great way of retaining an audience, it doesn’t provide much diversification. Of course, you’re improving your presence outside of Youtube by operating a website, however, the focus is still on video creation and the offering will only be taken up by your most loyal fans.
Utilise Your Voice and Influence …in Print
As a successful content producer, you’re clearly skilled at conveying your much-valued opinion of some topic. These are prized, and highly coveted by magazine and newspaper editors — especially if they believe it will attract younger readers.
By becoming a regular contributor to a newspaper of magazine you can gain an additional method of outreach, as well as another source of revenue. Again, you should reach out to editors whilst you remain relevant in your domain. Although you’re unlikely to be paid as well as if you were spending that time creating content on Youtube, you’re increasing your financial stability for the long term.
Create and Sell Lucrative Products
The safest way to build resilient income streams is to distance yourself from the brand’s identity, yet utilise your online presence for marketing. You should also target products your viewers are interested in, as you’re already familiar with that market and have a potential customer base in your viewers.
Rather than creating a hoodie or rucksack with your channel’s catchphrase scribbled across the back, make a deeper assessment of your viewer’s interests. For example, if you’re a vlogger with an audience aged from late teens to early thirties, and your videos primarily focus on clothing discussions, and what are essentially errand runs then it’s reasonable to believe your subscribers would be interested in a fashion or coffee brand. However, neither resulting business should scream you when a consumer sees or hears about them.
Your public facing role within the business should be as an advocator of the product. Of course, you should tell your viewers that you have an interest in the business, but you should pose it as something greater than your channel. This is not a product aimed just at your Youtube audience, but at the wider, competitive market.
By doing so you’re adding resilience in a couple of ways. First, if your Youtube channel collapses, you’ve still got a business which is detached from you, and therefore likely the reasons for your channel’s collapse — or even Youtube’s. Secondly, you’ve got experience outside of Youtube. In the unlikely situation that both your Youtube business and your secondary source of income failed you’d be able to draw on the skills you’d developed and deployed when running your company to fill up your CV, and highlight a diverse set of skills. Unfortunately, only having experience as a Youtube content producer is unattractive (rightly or wrongly) in many employers eyes.
By creating an online fashion brand, for example, you could list (amongst many others): marketing, graphic design, management, problem solving, e-commerce, and manufacturing experience.
You should leverage the exposure that your Youtube platform offers now, and use it as a spring board to sell great products whilst detaching yourself from the brand as much as possible. By doing so, not only will your existing fan base become loyal customers, but your products will also be attractive to people who have never heard of you or your social media presence.
Build up Your Mailing List
Often overlooked among social media creators is the role that a mailing list can play. Although outlets such as Twitter offer a way to interact with fans using typed sentences, it’s incomparable to the intimacy that a weekly e-mail can provide. Much like early release videos, unless you’re writing commercial news or investing advice, only your most ardent fans will sign up. But even with a comparatively small audience this could still mean thousands of people.
A mailing list offers you the opportunity to remain in contact with your audience outside of Youtube, and to discuss content that wouldn’t necessarily fit with your channel’s brand. Although I don’t advise charging for access, you can use your weekly e-mail to market a product or video. You may not see much value in this, but if you have 3000 mailing list subscribers, and each month your newsletter converts just 500 of those to spend $10 each, that represents revenue of $60,000 a year.
A mailing list could also be tied in with other offerings. For example, you could require sign up to gain early access to videos (it’s free, afterall).
Producing Online Courses
Online courses have soared in popularity; it seems as though every other creator is pushing a course. Although online courses can have great immediate financial impact, looked at exclusively from a long-term vantage most do not represent solutions to income diversification or resilience — simply because of how closely they are tied to your Youtube presence.
Unless you believe that your course would be successful if your current audience disappeared, you shouldn’t consider creating an online course as a means of truly diversifying your income streams.
Although Youtube is great way to gain exposure and generate an income in the short term, over a longer period of time it is unsustainable and rife with uncertainty. Whilst your Youtube career is strong, you should develop additional sources of income in order to improve your financial resilience.
The examples covered in this piece are far from exhaustive. Ultimately, the objective is to build a business which utilises your online authority and influence to cultivate it’s own, unlinked, authority — whether that be through improving your site’s SEO, or gaining valuable contacts in your industry.