11 Ways to Make Money on YouTube in 2023 (Without Ads!)

Some links in this post are affiliate links, which means I will earn a commission (at no additional cost to you) if you make a purchase. See the disclosure for more information.

Out of the reported 51 million YouTube channels, it’s estimated that only 4% of channels (2 million) have successfully breached the boundaries to become part of the exclusive YouTube Partner Program (YPP).

Overview of the YouTube Partner Program

The YPP is a YouTube initiative that allows content creators to monetize their content through different features, including display advertisements.

To be eligible for the program and start earning with display advertisements, your channel needs:

  • 1,000 subscribers.
  • 4,000 valid public watch hours in the last 12 months (or 10 million valid public Shorts views in the last 90 days).

You also need a (free) Google AdSense account to receive your payments.

The downsides of the YouTube partner program

Relying solely on the YPP for revenue has various downsides.

  • High barrier to entry: For most new YouTubers, the 1,000 subscribers criteria is a big ask.
  • Unpredictability: Ad revenue can fluctuate greatly month by month due to viewer demographics, changes in advertising budgets, and seasonality.
  • Vulnerability to policy changes: Creators are susceptible to YouTube’s policy and algorithm changes, which can lead to unexpected demonetization and income loss.
  • Pressure to prioritize views over content quality: Ad revenue is often tied to the number of views; there’s a temptation to focus on creating viral content, potentially compromising content quality.

Ways to Make Money on YouTube (Without Ad Revenue!)

If joining the YPP seems like a far-off milestone, or if you prefer to steer clear of ad-based monetization, I’ve got you covered.

Affiliate marketing

Affiliate marketing

Affiliate marketing is one of the most popular ways to make money on YouTube. This involves partnering with companies and promoting their products or services in exchange for a commission on any sales generated through your unique referral link.

Step 1: Choose relevant products and join affiliate programs

Start by identifying products or services that align with your YouTube channel’s niche and audience interests.

Once you’ve done that, join suitable affiliate programs (here’s a list of >200 affiliate programs to get you started), which can be company-specific or part of broader affiliate networks like Amazon Associates.

Upon joining, you’ll receive unique affiliate links that track your referrals and ensure you earn your commissions.

Step 2: Create (and disclose!) affiliate content

Create engaging, high-quality YouTube content featuring your chosen affiliate products. This could be in the form of product reviews, tutorials, or how-to videos.

Remember to always be transparent with your audience by disclosing your affiliate partnerships in your videos and video descriptions.

Step 3: Add affiliate links, monitor, and optimize

Add unique affiliate links to your video descriptions and encourage viewers to use them.

The image below shows an example of a YouTube video description containing a decent disclosure notice and that all-important affiliate link.

YouTube description affiliate marketing example

Regularly monitor your affiliate marketing performance using the affiliate dashboard provided by the program you’ve joined. Based on these insights, optimize your content and affiliate promotions to resonate with your audience.

Sponsored content

Sponsored content

Another lucrative option for monetizing your YouTube channel is through sponsored content. This involves partnering with brands to create videos promoting their products or services in exchange for a fee.

Sponsored content can take many forms, such as product reviews, unboxing videos, or tutorials featuring the brand’s offerings.

Step 1: Attract sponsors

To make your channel attractive to potential sponsors, consistently create high-quality content and grow your audience. Maintain a professional image and focus your content on a niche that aligns with brands looking to reach a particular target audience.

Step 2: Negotiate sponsorship deals

Once you have interested brands, it’s time to negotiate.

Understand your value by researching what similar channels charge for sponsorships. Be clear about what the brand can expect from the deal, such as the content type and posting schedule.

Step 3: Create sponsored content

Finally, create sponsored content that resonates with your authentic voice and resonates with your audience.

Always disclose when the content is sponsored, both verbally in the video and the written video description.

Sell merchandise

Sell merchandise

Selling branded merchandise is an excellent way for content creators to monetize their YouTube channels. This provides an additional income stream and helps strengthen the connection between you – the creator – and your audience.

Step 1: Understand your audience and create the merch

Begin by understanding the demographics and interests of your audience, then create merchandise that aligns with these insights. This could range from apparel to niche-specific items.

Always ensure the quality of your merchandise is high, as these products represent your brand.

Step 2: Set up an online store

Next, you’ll need a platform to sell your items.

Services like Teespring and Printful offer streamlined solutions, handling tasks from printing to shipping.

Ensure your online store is visually appealing, user-friendly, and provides clear product information.

Step 3: Promote, promote, promote!

Finally, use various strategies to promote your merchandise to your audience, including creating promotional videos showcasing your items and leveraging your other social media platforms for the promotion.

Consider offering occasional discounts or special promotions to encourage purchases.



Crowdfunding platforms allow content creators to receive financial support directly from their audience. These platforms enable creators to offer exclusive content, perks, and rewards to supporters who contribute monthly or per creation.

Step 1: Select a suitable platform

Firstly, choose a platform that suits your needs and your audience. Platforms like Patreon and Ko-fi are popular choices, offering unique features such as subscription tiers or one-time donations.

Step 2: Create reward tiers and perks

Incentivize your viewers to contribute by offering rewards or perks at different donation levels. These rewards may include exclusive content, early video access, merchandise discounts, and personal shoutouts.

Step 3: Promote your initiative

Promote your initiative to your audience after setting up your crowdfunding or donation page.

You can create dedicated videos explaining your campaign, add links to your page in video descriptions, promote the campaign on other social media platforms, and provide updates while recognizing your supporters.

Sell online courses and e-books

Online courses and e-books

As a content creator, you’ve likely developed expertise in a particular subject matter or skill. Capitalize on this by creating and selling online courses or e-books that offer in-depth knowledge or instruction to your audience.

Step 1: Choose a topic and create your digital product

First, pinpoint your unique skills or knowledge that your audience would value. Then, create an online course or write an e-book around this subject.

To create and host your course, use a reliable platform like Thinkific, Teachable, or LearnWorlds.

If you’re publishing an e-book, look into Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing.

Step 2: Promote your course/e-book on your YouTube channel

With your course or e-book ready, it’s time to integrate it into your YouTube content.

Produce videos on topics related to your course or e-book, include calls-to-action in your videos directing viewers to your product, and always provide a link to your course or e-book in the video description.

Step 3: Extend your promotion beyond YouTube

Maximize your course’s or e-book’s visibility by promoting it on various platforms outside of YouTube. This could include your email newsletters, social media channels, and personal website or blog.



If you possess expertise in a specific field, offering consulting or coaching services can be a lucrative way to monetize your YouTube presence. This allows you to share your knowledge and skills while generating income on a per-session or project.

Step 1: Set up your consulting/coaching service

Identify the skills and knowledge you possess that would benefit others.

Set up a platform where you can offer these consulting or coaching services. This could be a dedicated page on your website or a professional platform like Clarity.fm or Coach.me.

Step 2: Advertise your services on your YouTube channel

Integrate your consulting or coaching services into your YouTube content.

Create videos demonstrating your expertise, include calls-to-action in your videos, prompting viewers to avail of your services, and always link to your service page in the video description.

Step 3: Promote your services across multiple platforms

Boost the visibility of your services by promoting them across your various platforms, including your social media profiles, email newsletters, and personal website or blog.

License your content

Content licensing

If you create high-quality, original content, licensing it to other media outlets, brands, or creators can be a lucrative income stream. Licensing your content grants others the right to use your work in exchange for a fee while you maintain ownership of your intellectual property.

Step 1: Do your research

Before diving into content licensing, it’s essential to understand what it involves. When you license your content, you’re selling the right to use your video to another party while retaining ownership.

Read YouTube’s terms of service to understand how content licensing works on the platform.

Remember that, as the creator, you have copyright over your content, and it’s crucial to protect this when entering into licensing agreements.

Step 2: Create content that has licensing potential

The next step is to create content that has the potential to be licensed. This could be anything from captivating footage of rare natural phenomena to a unique music video performance.

The key is to create high-quality, engaging content that others may find valuable in their projects.

Licensing partners love a viral video!

Step 3: Find a licensing partner

Once you have suitable content, you must find a partner interested in licensing it. Various platforms facilitate this process, like Jukin Media or ViralHog. These companies act as intermediaries, finding businesses or individuals interested in using your content and handling the licensing process for a fee or percentage of the profits.

Alternatively, if someone approaches you directly interested in using your video, draft a licensing agreement specifying the terms of use, duration, geographic regions, and payment details.

Collaborate with other YouTubers

Collaborate with other YouTubers

Collaborating with other content creators can be a mutually beneficial way to grow your audience and increase revenue potential. By working together on projects, both parties can tap into each other’s audiences and cross-promote their content, increasing exposure and potential revenue opportunities.

Step 1: Find suitable partners

Identify YouTubers who create content that aligns with your niche and whose audience would likely be interested in your content. They should also uphold the same values and quality standards that you do.

Step 2: Develop collaborative content and a monetization plan

Reach out to potential partners with a proposal for collaborative content.

Discuss what type of content you could create and how you can profit from the collaboration. This could involve sponsored videos, cross-promotion of merchandise, or a joint product or service.

Step 3: Promote your content across all platforms

Once your collaborative content is live, promote it across all your platforms, including YouTube, social media, email newsletters, and your website.

Encourage your partner to do the same for maximum exposure and profitability.

Sell stock video and audio

Sell stock videos and audio

If you possess video production or audio recording skills, selling stock footage or audio clips can be a profitable way to monetize your YouTube channel.

Step 1: Create high-quality stock videos and audio

The first step is to produce stock videos and audio tracks. Your content should be high quality, diverse, and appealing to a broad audience. This could include anything from drone footage of breathtaking landscapes to soothing instrumental soundtracks.

When producing stock footage, ensure it’s high resolution (ideally 4K).

For audio tracks, ensure they’re crisp and clear, and try to cater to various genres and moods. Make sure your content is original and doesn’t infringe on any copyrights.

Step 2: Sell your content on stock websites

Once you’ve created your stock content, the next step is to list them on popular stock websites.

Some notable platforms include:

These platforms handle your content’s marketing, distribution, and licensing, allowing you to focus on creating more content.

It’s crucial to understand each platform’s payment structure (some pay per download, others offer revenue sharing) and select the ones that align best with your content and financial goals.

Step 3: Promote your content on YouTube

Your YouTube channel is an excellent platform to showcase and promote your stock content.

Create videos that incorporate your stock videos and audio, and make sure to mention in the video and the description that the footage or soundtrack is available for purchase. Link to your stock portfolio in the video description.

Podcasting and sponsorships

Podcasting and sponsors

Podcasting has experienced significant growth in recent years and can be a valuable extension of your YouTube channel. You can attract a new audience by repurposing or expanding your existing content while opening the door to podcast-specific sponsorships and advertising opportunities.

Step 1: Create your podcast

Identify a topic you’re passionate about that aligns with your brand and interests.

Once you’ve chosen a subject, focus on producing high-quality audio content that’s engaging and offers value to listeners.

Then, choose a reliable podcast hosting platform, such as Buzzsprout or Podbean, to publish your podcast episodes. These platforms will distribute your podcast to major listening apps like Apple, Spotify, and Google.

Step 2: Promote (and even host) your podcast on YouTube

In addition to traditional podcast platforms, you can upload your podcast episodes directly to your YouTube channel. This approach allows you to reach your existing subscriber base and potentially attract new listeners.

You can either upload full episodes or create teaser clips to pique the interest of your audience. Don’t forget to include links in your video description to guide viewers to the full podcast episodes.

Step 3: Attract sponsorships

Once your podcast establishes a steady listener base, it’s time to attract sponsorships.

Businesses often sponsor podcasts to advertise their products or services to an engaged audience. Contact companies directly or use podcast advertising networks like AdvertiseCast to secure sponsorships.

Once you’ve secured a sponsor, you can integrate their advertisements into your podcast episodes, both on traditional podcast platforms and on YouTube.

Host paid webinars or workshops

Host paid webinars or workshops

Hosting paid webinars or workshops can be a lucrative way to share your expertise and engage directly with your audience. These live events can cover topics related to your niche or provide specialized training and exclusive access to your knowledge.

Step 1: Plan your activity

The first step is to identify a topic valuable to your audience and within your expertise. This could be anything from a detailed tutorial on a process related to your niche, a comprehensive discussion on a particular subject, or a hands-on workshop teaching specific skills.

Plan the structure of the webinar or workshop, including key talking points, visual aids, and interactive elements like Q&A sessions or live demonstrations.

Step 2: Set up your event (including pricing)

Choose a reliable webinar platform such as WebinarJam, EverWebinar, or Livestorm.

Set a date and time for your event, taking into account your audience’s demographics and time zones.

Decide on a reasonable price for the event. This will depend on several factors, such as the length and depth of the event, your level of expertise, and the perceived value to attendees.

Step 3: Promote!

Utilize your YouTube channel to advertise your webinar or workshop.

Create videos explaining what attendees will learn and the benefits of participating. Include all the necessary information in the video and the description, like the date, time, and how to register.

Consider creating teaser content or offering a free mini-webinar to showcase the value of your full webinar or workshop. This can help potential attendees see the worth of paying for the event.

Wrapping up

There are many ways to make money on YouTube without joining the YouTube Partner Program to get that elusive ad revenue.

The easiest route for beginners – and my favorite – is affiliate marketing. All you need to do is create content and pop your affiliate links into your video description.

Once you’ve got a bit of a following, you can branch out into accepting donations and even selling your digital products.

Further reading

Ready to start earning money as a YouTuber? Check out my complete step-by-step guide on creating your own YouTube channel.

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Steven Bradburn

A former scientist turned side-hustling blogger who enjoys writing about online marketing. Be sure to drop me a comment to say hi!

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