Before I begin to break this case study down, here are a few quick disclaimers:
1. As click-baity as this title is…this is NOT a clickbait article. My plan is to be as transparent as possible to show you how much (or little) creating content on Youtube is worth if you put in the effort and how to optimize a potential revenue opportunity.
2. There‘s nothing to buy here. No punch line or call to action at the end. I’m not selling a product. I have (modest) multiple sources of income from businesses I’ve built, including my work as an active writer, director and producer at my video production company; brand and commercial work for clients; my Youtube channel and more. Feel free to borrow a page from my playbook if you think it has value.
3. This is NOT a flex on my net worth. I’m a regular person, living a fairly regular lifestyle in the competitive business landscape of the overpriced Southern California suburbs. I don’t have a pair of matching Lamborghini’s in my garage…no initials embroidered on my shirts or other clothing…no girls in bikini’s dancing around a pool and I’m not taking exotic vacations in a private jet.
Also, why publish this now? The world is in flux and upheaval…Unemployment rates are at an all-time high, in fact double digits worse, compared to the Great Recession. The short answer is because this all feels eerily familiar to a decade+2 years ago when I felt so hopeless and afraid in a time or turmoil for my fragile new venture as an independent start up. However, despite the odds against me (and many others who found success), in my experience the greatest opportunities can be found (if we have the courage to seek them out) rising from the ashes of failure and during the hardest times.
I can trace most of my (limited) success to generosity, humility and tenacity — with an emphasis on the latter. If you haven’t heard yet: There’s no Prince Charming in this story. There are no rescue boats. No one is coming to save you. It’s up to you to save yourself. Maybe harnessing your particular expertise and IP into a side hustle via Youtube might become a valuable thing. At least that’s the way I see it.
I left a big job at a major Hollywood studio in 2007 to pursue my dream of building my own company. Arguably, I started from scratch at the worst possible time in history…although 2020 might go undefeated in the history books. I’ve had my share of “sand kicked in my face…”given my blood, sweat and tears for the last decade and now I’m thriving. But the rent is still due everyday. I love what I do and I’m grateful I get to do it.
4. I‘m not a Youtube “guru” and the thought of having a self-proclaimed title makes me want to throw up. I’m a student of the platform with some level of expertise who is also working in the space with brand clients. I’m probably a lot like you — or similar to other people who are married with 4 children and trying to make ends meet and grow my own business to a place where I have more financial freedom.
Now that we have that out of the way, let‘s get into it.
I’m not the first person to document this kind of case study. I can think of a few other Youtubers who have made videos like this: David Dobrik, Mr. Beast and Graham Stephan come to mind. But I’m very different from these guys in many ways and my channel is between .01-10% of the size. I thought it would be interesting and possibly valuable, especially to those thinking about getting started, to give a behind-the-scenes look of someone who has a “business” channel with only a little over 100k+ subs instead of millions or tens of millions like the aforementioned.
Whether you’re serious about starting something new, growing your existing Youtube channel or just curious about what’s possible, I’m going to share the secrets of what I’ve learned over the last few years. Keep in mind, similar to just about any kind of professional advice, your mileage may vary. That said, these tips have been personally tried and tested as well as documented by YouTube corporate and other experts.
So what’s your guess…How much do you think Youtube paid me for a video with 1M+ views? But wait! Before you throw out a number, subtract 40% to account for the revenue split with Youtube. Google has to get paid too! Now, what’s your best guess on the paycheck I got for a video that went viral?
Side Note: As annoyingly superficial as the term “influencer” is, one of the perks or leverage of vanity metrics (like a viral video) is that you might be able to use this social proof to work more with brands and the media. For those with real influence, this can be another big opportunity to monetize, but I‘ll save this topic for separate article.
The moment you’ve been waiting for…then some explanation and details below:
You are looking at (graphic below) the back end Dashboard view of my Youtube channel analytics page. The estimated revenue is the net take-home amount I was paid (receiving 60% of the money) after an approximate 60/40 revenue split with Youtube.
Yep, you’re reading this correctly. By the time you see this article I’ve probably been paid over $20,000 (net), with an average CPM of $18.61. In other words, this video generated about $32,307 in gross ad revenue. I’ve received $19,453.75 to date and Youtube got $12,853. And this video continues to garner views and earn money while I sleep. In perpetuity. I’m very happy with the results but they didn’t happen overnight. In fact, this video was basically dead for 12 months until I resurrected it with a few key adjustments on the back end.
Some Key Learnings and Tips:
- High(er) CPMs are where it‘s at. Assuming you’ve met the basic threshold of 1,000 subscribers and 4,000 cumulative watch hours, you can apply for the Youtube Partner Program and begin monetizing your videos. Once you flip the switch, you’ll start seeing a full host of analytics including Reach (with CTR for click thru rate), Engagement and Watch time (a very important metric showing how much time is spent watching each video), Audience (who’s watching…on what device… and from where) and more.
In the Revenue tab you’ll see CPM (cost per mille) or “Cost Per Thousand” that is a metric commonly used in advertising. It’s basically the cost an advertiser pays for 1,000 ads to run on Youtube. Youtube also recently introduced a metric call RPM (Revenue Per Thousand) which is a more accurate measure of the true net metric after the revenue share.
“RPM is a simple metric that compares your total revenue against your views. It‘s calculated by multiplying all your revenue reported in YouTube Analytics (including ads, YouTube Premium, Channel Memberships and Super Chat and Super Stickers) by 1,000, and then dividing it by total views in the same time period.”
Take a closer look at the timeline. When I first uploaded this video episode with author Mel Robbins in May of 2018, I knew it was great but it actually statically flopped. Nobody watched it and I was really disappointed. To make matters worse, I was also sweating the underperformance because I asked my sponsor partner, AKA Hotel Residences for a favor to let me film in their Beverly Hills penthouse suite in exchange for a shout out in the video description.
No views was really bad news so I asked AKA to be patient with me and keep the faith. I scrutinized the analytics to try and find the reason for failure but I didn’t find anything unusual or telling. All I could do was to start a series of experiments…