How do you become a vlogger? Get a camera and go for it. How do you start a vlog and make money? That answer is a little tougher. Sure, you can wander on YouTube, stare into your iPhone and start talking about your life, but that doesn’t mean anyone is going to watch. Becoming a successful vlogger like the kind who rake in millions of dollars a year with brand endorsements and advertising money takes a little vision and a whole lot of hard work. From nights tirelessly spent editing to seeking out endorsements and branded campaigns, making money on a vlog is a full-time job. Fortunately, it doesn’t have to start out this way. Vlogging can be a fun hobby that can lead you to places you never imagined.
How Much Money Does a Successful Vlogger Make?
Making fun videos for a living seems like a pretty good hobby, but do vloggers make money? If you play it right, the job can be extremely lucrative. Vloggers typically make money in a few different ways: Google AdSense (having ads on your videos), Patreon (an internet content subscription service), affiliate links, merchandise and brand campaigns. The top YouTubers are raking in multimillions with these five different income streams.
Beauty vlogger Jeffree Star made a whopping $24,294 from his most-viewed video. Of course, his $5 million net worth has more to do with his massively successful makeup line, but $24,000 is hardly chump change.
Controversial vlogging star Logan Paul fares even better with his prank-style uploads (at least before he fell from grace with his video of Japan’s “suicide forest”). He made $323,217 from his most popular video, which received over 185 million views. Overall, it is estimated that $3.5 million of his $12.5 million 2017 payday came from YouTube ads, while the rest was likely a mix of his clothing line and collaborations with brands like Walmart.
Needless to say, starting a vlog is more than just fun; you can make some serious cash. So, where do you go from here?
Find Your Niche
The most successful vloggers tend to have their own niche. Why? It helps out later on when you’re looking for branded influencer campaigns. A strong message and theme helps reel in dedicated followers. Find what speaks to you. Do you want to make beauty tutorials and try out new makeup? Do you want to travel the world? Do you simply want to film your everyday life? Pick a niche or two and run with it.
Start With a Good Camera
You may have the most interesting personality on the planet, but no one is going to watch your videos if they’re blurry and grainy or have terrible sound quality. An iPhone is certainly OK with an external mic, but the best cameras for vlogging have built-in image stabilization and allow for 1080p (full HD) or 4k (ultra HD). A camera that shoots 1080p is probably the best for a budget, though you can stretch it down to 720p if you’re extra short on cash.
The weight of a camera is also important to consider, based on the type of vlog you plan to create. If you frequently travel, you may want to opt for something lighter than if you do makeup tutorials in your bedroom and set it on a tripod.
So, what is a good camera for vlogging? You’ll probably want to snag a DLSR with image stabilization and the highest HD quality you can afford. A quick autofocus also helps create higher-quality videos with less headaches.
Consider a Killer External Microphone
Your new camera may have a decent microphone, but sound quality is exceedingly important when you’re trying to shoot a professional-looking video. External mics generally have less background and wind noise. There are a variety of options, including clip-ons or directional mics. Lavalier is a hugely popular brand of clip-ons that has both wired and wireless models. Comica is also popular, and their CVM-WM100 model can transmit audio up to 350 feet (which may be excessive if you’re vlogging from the comfort of your living room).
If you plan to do voiceovers in your vlogs, you probably want to look for a different type of microphone. USB mics plug right into your computer and make the process easy.
Edit Your Footage
You have some footage on a good camera, but how do you become a vlogger? You need to edit all of it into an uploadable video. This is one of the most time-consuming parts of the job, and you’ll need some editing software. For those just getting started, iMovie is a great option, but it’s not feasible for those who have Windows computers.
When it comes down to it, Mac users do have more options. They can use iMovie, Final Cut Pro and Adobe Premiere Pro. Windows users can only use the latter, but it remains one of the most popular editing software on the market.
Set Up a YouTube Channel and Social Media Accounts
If you’re wondering how to start a vlog on YouTube, it’s as easy as signing up. YouTube remains one of the most popular vlogging platforms, with Instagram gunning for a not-so-close second. In reality, you probably want to have both, especially considering Instagram’s huge push for long-form content.
If you plan on working with brands in the future, social media sites like Facebook, Twitter and Snapchat only add to your market value. Consider building a following on more than one platform to increase your chances at making cash.
Interact With Your Subscribers and Collaborate
The most-followed vloggers are the ones who make their subscribers feel like they're part of a real community. Think of it as building relationships, not building subscribers. Of course, once you start having thousands of fans, you probably won't have the capacity to answer all of their questions and comments, but you should certainly try to answer some while you can. It's also a good idea to be active on your platforms. Comment on other vlogs and even consider doing some collaborations with those who fit your niche. This is a mutually beneficial partnership that helps both vloggers reach brand new potential subscribers. If you remain active in your community, you'll find that follower count steadily pushing upward.
How to Start a Vlog and Make Money
Google AdSense is one of the ways vloggers can directly profit from their videos. In the past, creators used to get more from Google’s ads, but it still remains a significant piece of the pie. YouTubers get between $1 and $5 for every thousand impressions on an ad played in a video, but YouTubers can place multiple ads in a single piece of content. This means a video with a million views and a single ad can pull in between $1,000 and $5,000. The service also has different tiers with different benefits, meaning you could make more per view if you’re one of the service’s most popular creators.
The truth is, you won’t make money on YouTube overnight. You need to monetize your videos on the platform in order to get that sweet AdSense dough. Unfortunately, the YouTube partnership program has strict guidelines. It used to be that almost any creator who completed the application process could put ads on his videos. They changed the program to include only creators with 10,000 or more lifetime views, then tightened the reins even further in 2018. Today, a channel needs 1,000 subscribers and 4,000 hours of views a year in order to monetize. This means your video uploads must remain consistent, but eventually, you will be able to cross the threshold with some hard work.
Patreon Offers a Steady Income Stream
If you're wondering how to start a vlog and make money, YouTube is a notoriously unreliable revenue stream. Unlike the famed video-uploading service, Patreon can actually pay off immediately. YouTube’s shrinking AdSense revenue and tendency to demonetize news-related videos that focus on somber (but important) content, like school shootings and natural disasters, have caused some of the platform’s largest creators to jump ship. Major YouTube vloggers like Phillip DeFranco, whose news show has garnered over 6 million subscribers, rely on Patreon for consistency.
Patreon allows creators to transform their fan base into genuine, paid subscribers. These subscribers are offered a variety of benefits for a monthly subscription akin to Netflix or Hulu. For example, a subscriber spending $5 a month may be granted early access to videos that will later be posted to YouTube. A patreon spending $100 a month may get exclusive merchandise, photos, blog posts and videos. You can set different tiers based on how much you’d like to make.
Try Your Hand at Affiliate Marketing
You may notice that your favorite vloggers tend to offer discount codes or endorse certain products. While they may be genuinely promoting things they love, they’re probably also making money. Affiliate marketing has been around since the ‘90s, but today, it’s a whole lot trendier than trying to trick Google into listing a sham, link-filled website. The foolproof revenue-sharing model helps brands market their products without an upfront investment but allows the vloggers who help them spread the word to cash in as well.
The way it works is that a brand will give you a certain discount code or product link. If one of your fans clicks the link and buys the product or uses the code, you’ll get a commission. Most affiliate products offer a commission of 5 to 20 percent. That's not a huge chunk if you're hawking your favorite $5 lipstick, but it does add up if you're an Amazon affiliate pushing kitchenware and computers.
Land a Brand Collaboration
Ever hear a vlogger say, “This video is sponsored by so and so?” That means they’ve landed a brand sponsorship – the holy grail of how vloggers make money. Brand sponsorships and collaborations are one of the most effective ways that vloggers make cash, if not the single most effective way. These sponsorships carry a huge price tag if you’ve got the followers to back it up.
If you want to get started working with brands, you have to really work on your follower count. Some brands give out free swag and PR packages to microvloggers, but you won’t really start making money until you’ve got thousands of followers. The more followers you have, the bigger the brand you can pitch.
To land a brand collaboration, first compile a media kit including your engagement, demographic, and number of subscribers. Then, pitch your favorite brands. If you’re not sure where to start, seek out an influencer marketing platform that can help you connect to brands or use an app like FameBit or Tribe.
Be Consistent and Set Reasonable Goals
Never underestimate a posting schedule. The most successful vloggers are consistent across the board, from their message and brand endorsements to the number of times they post a month. A posting schedule is perhaps the most important piece of the puzzle. YouTube has a notoriously poor system for alerting fans that you’ve posted new content. In fact, they may not even see it on their subscribers page despite the fact that they’ve subscribed. A posting schedule eliminates this confusion because they’ll fall into the habit of checking your page. The more inconsistently you post, the less likely fans will seek out your page outside of their own feed.
It’s also important to set reasonable goals. Start small, like “make a video about X.” Then, start to set subscriber goals, and move forward from there. All in all, if you’re wondering how to start a vlog in 2018, it boils down to one thing: hard work. Stay consistent, stay active online and stick to your message. The followers will come as long as the content is great.
- Seventeen: Here's How Much Money Your Favorite YouTubers Actually Make
- BBC: Evan Edinger: The Five Ways YouTubers Make Money
- VloggingPro: The Ultimate Guide to Buying The Best Vlogging Camera
- VloggingPro: Ultimate Guide: The Best Vlogging Microphone
- VloggingPro: Best Vlog Editing Software
- TechCrunch: YouTube Tightens The Rules Around Creator Monetization And Partnerships
- VloggingPro: How to Start a Vlog and Start Vlogging on YouTube
- YouTube Creators: Benefit Levels
- Neil Patel: Affiliate Marketing Made Simple: A Step-by-Step Guide
- The New York Times: Getting YouTube Stars to Sell Your Product
Mariel Loveland is a small business owner, content strategist and writer from New Jersey. Throughout her career, she's worked with numerous startups creating content to help small business owners bridge the gap between technology and sales. Her work has been featured in publications like Business Insider and Vice.