How I Make a Full-Time Income on YouTube

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When it comes to the qualities people look for in their dream job, it is often things like a flexible schedule and location freedom.

Let’s be honest, who really wants to go to the office every morning anyway?

I got sucked into the corporate 9 to 5 lifestyle after college. I had a job working for the local power utility as a planner, meaning I would do the blueprints and estimates for overhead utility construction.

By everyone else’s standards, this was the dream job. I was in a union, I was making over $60,000 a year at 20 and I was eligible for a pension when I retired. However, by my standards, this was a terrible job. I was stuck with a 45-minute commute, I got 2 weeks of vacation per year and I was essentially a paper pusher.

Driving home from work one day, I made a list in my head of the qualities I was looking for when it came to my dream job. I ended up coming up with just three.

Here’s what they were:

  1. Time Freedom – Ability to work when I wanted to.
  2. Location Independence – Be able to work from anywhere in the world.
  3. Passion-Oriented – Do something that I love.

Little did I know at the time, my YouTube channel would eventually fulfill all of those needs.

I spent a little over two years working this job before I “retired” from the 9 to 5 grind. Even though I spend many hours a day working, I call it a retirement because I am doing work that I truly love and enjoy. To me, retirement is being in control of your time and doing the type of work you enjoy. I officially left this job in June of 2017, just eight months after starting my YouTube channel.

Fast forward two and a half years, and I am still going strong with this channel. I also branched out by launching the Investing Simple blog a little over a year ago. I just recently surpassed 500,000 subscribers on YouTube and I am consistently getting 1,000,000 views most months at a minimum. Between the ad revenue from this channel and the other income streams, I am able to make a great living.

“Wow, that’s great Ryan! But why should I care?” – You

Here’s the thing… I am nothing special. I was simply an average guy working a 9 to 5 job just three short years ago. The reason why you should care is that it’s just as possible for you to do the same thing that I did. The growth of my channel has little to do with luck, and a lot to do with a simple yet effective strategy that I am going to share with you.

So, here’s exactly how I was able to grow my channel and make it my full-time income source.

1. Niches

Have you ever met someone who seems to be good at everything? Maybe they can do carpentry work, grill a mean steak and even change their own oil. Well, here’s the problem with this type of person… This is what you call the “jack of all trades and the master of none.”

Now don’t get me wrong here. This type of person is extremely helpful, and if you meet one you should befriend them! The issue is that this type of person very rarely accumulates a serious amount of wealth.

In this world, people pay for expertise. There is a reason why a lawyer can charge $500 an hour while a landscaper is lucky to charge 10% of that. Sure, the landscaper can cut grass, lay pavers and even recommend the best plants for shade. But what is he/she an expert at?

For the most part, people who are successful with building an audience online are deeply rooted in one niche. They establish expertise surrounding one topic, and then they become the authority or “go-to” source on that subject.

Take Vital Dollar for example. Marc and his team are experts at a few topics, such as saving money, making money, managing your money and so on. Since they have produced so much valuable content on these subjects, they have become a well-known and credible source.

What if tomorrow, Vital Dollar posted an article on how to fix a broken lawn mower pull cord? As a reader, you would be totally confused. All of a sudden, they jumped from the topic of money to lawn care. There’s a reason you won’t see this happen.

Those who make this unfortunate yet common mistake of jumping from topic to topic end up destroying their credibility, if they had any in the first place. It is just like the “jack of all trades” mentioned earlier. People want to learn from the experts.

So, the first lesson here is that you need to be crystal clear on what your niche is and then stay in your lane. It is okay to dabble at first and test the water. Maybe you have a few different hobbies and interests, so you create videos about each one. However once you start gaining traction with your channel, you need to hone in on one niche. Become the expert, not the dabbler.

It’s simple; find your niche, create content in your niche and stay in your niche.

2. Ad Revenue

Here’s the thing about ad revenue… It is the low hanging fruit of the YouTube business. It’s the most simple and straightforward way to make money on the platform. You basically create content, place ads before and during that content and then earn money when people watch your videos and see the ads.

Sound’s great, right? Well, not so fast.

The problem is, views on YouTube are very inconsistent. Just this year alone, my monthly views fluctuated between a low of 676,000 in June to a high of 3,374,000 in January. The amount of money you make in ad revenue is directly tied to how many views you get. The more people watching your videos, the more ads get played.

Stats from Ryan's YouTube channel

This drastic fluctuation in view count happens with nearly every channel out there. Maybe you have a video go viral, or search traffic for your niche peaks during a certain month or season.

As much as people complain about their jobs, one huge advantage the traditional 9 to 5 has is consistent income. Unless you are in a commission-based environment, you typically know exactly how much money you are going to make this month and in the next month.

What if your boss told you that one month you were going to make $1,000 then the next month it would be $5,000 and then $2,500 the following month?

Most people would be an emotional wreck if they had their income change every month! They would jump for joy the month they made $5,000 and then barely sleep during the month they made $1,000. This is exactly what happens when you rely on ad revenue as the sole income source for your channel.

Here’s the best analogy; ad revenue should be the gravy, not the main course.

If you are just doing a channel as a hobby, these fluctuations in views and ad revenue don’t matter as much. However, when this is your full-time income source, you need more consistency. And that comes from… diversification! You need different avenues or streams that allow you to make money.

For my channel, I make money from ad revenue, affiliate marketing, sponsored videos and digital products. I also launched my finance blog so I have platform diversification as well. You need to have multiple things bringing in money for you. The reason is that if you have a particularly bad month ad revenue wise, these other income streams will help to offset that.

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3. Side Hustle

I started my channel as a side hustle back when I was working my 9-to-5 job. I had extra time in the evenings and on the weekends, so I decided to give it a shot as a hobby. I have always been passionate about money and investing, likely because it runs in my family. My father is a financial advisor and I have multiple accountants in my family.

My motivation behind starting this channel was to help fill the knowledge gap between high school and the real world. There are so many important financial topics that are just not covered in school, such as what is a 401k?

I never had the goal of making money with my channel, I simply wanted to provide valuable information and help others. Money was just a byproduct.

After a month or so of running this channel, I started making some money. It was slow at first, just a few cents a day. I can remember the first month that I earned money with the channel, I made $2.57. The next month was just over $7. The third month was enough to fill my gas tank at around $30. Then, six months in, I had a month where I earned over $1,000 from ads. That was the first time that I actually considered doing this full-time.

Ryan Scribner Revenue

Here was my thought process; if I can make $1,000 a month doing this part-time, what could I make doing this full-time?

In June, the month I “retired,” I made just under $2,000 from the channel. I was still living at home and my expenses were very low. I had saved up over $10,000 working at my job and I decided to take the leap.

If you are considering leaving your job to do something like YouTube, I think this is the exact strategy you should follow. Rarely is it ever a good idea to blindly quit your job to go start a business or follow your dream. Most jobs only take up 40 hours a week, meaning there is time where you can work on whatever you are building as a side hustle. Once you see the results and have proof of concept, you can consider whether or not you want to do it full-time.

I see so many people make the mistake of diving in headfirst into a new business or venture with the goal of making money. I’ve never seen it end well. Remember, your goal at first should be to have fun and provide value. A few months down the road, the money is simply a byproduct. It should never be the focus or the goal.

4. Content Strategy

The biggest thing that has contributed to my success on YouTube is my content strategy. I remember when it hit me.

I was having lunch with my cousin who was an avid supporter of my channel early on. I had just crossed 100 subscribers (which took me 7 weeks) and I was making 3 to 5 videos a week. I found myself getting frustrated with the pace things were moving. I asked my cousin for advice, and he pulled up my channel and looked at it.

He said something along the lines of this.

“Ryan, you have a lot of videos. But is anyone actually searching for this stuff? Like this one on what is a credit card. Do you think anyone is really looking for that?”

That’s when it hit me. My previous content strategy was making videos that I thought people were interested in. I would read every finance book I could get my hands on and jot down my ideas as I went. I never once considered whether or not people were looking for these videos.

From that point forward, I began doing market research before creating content. I wanted to make sure there was proven demand for the video before I spent a few hours putting it together. For me, this was as simple as putting it into the search bar. If I was going to make a video about credit score, I would simply type “credit score” into YouTube and see what other people were making videos about.

This ultimately led to one of my most successful videos early on, which was how to establish credit at 18. Three years later, this video has over 75,000 views.

Ryan Scribner video

If you are creating content online, you should be following this strategy of seeing what people are actually interested in. This is just like when a company launches a new product. They don’t randomly create something, they do market research and aim to identify pent up demand for the product.

It is as simple as doing a Google search or a search on YouTube in your niche. If you wanted to make content about scuba diving, you should see what the most popular videos and articles are currently about scuba diving. Then, you simply make your own version of the content! You don’t copy them, because that is plagiarism and that is illegal.

There’s a reason why just about every finance blog has an article on side hustle ideas or how to make money online. It’s proven content that has demand, so it is worthwhile to spend a few hours creating the content.

Final Thoughts

Building this YouTube channel and blog has been one of the best decisions of my life. If you have ever thought about creating your own channel, blog, podcast or whatever it may be, my advice is to do it. Even if you don’t know exactly what you are doing at first, you will learn as you go.

→ Related reading: How to Start a Blog

The four strategies mentioned here are exactly what has allowed me to amass over half a million subscribers and counting. There is no secret sauce or special skill requirement. The recipe for success is getting started, consistently taking action and focusing on the right thing. So, what are you waiting for?

If you want a flexible way to make money that allows you to work from anywhere and work on something that you love, maybe you should consider starting a YouTube channel. This article is Ryan Scribner\'s story about how he started a personal finance YouTube channel as a side hustle and was able to quit his job in less than one year. Ryan now has more than half a million subscribers and spends his days having fun and getting paid. #sidehustle #makemoney #makemoneyonline