Can Vlogging Be a Real Business? How to Make it a Career

is vlogging a business

You probably often hear things like “vlogging on YouTube is not a real job”. But is that true? That’s what we’re going to answer in this post. 

We’ll take a look at how much money vloggers can make on YouTube, how hard it is to reach that point, and what you need to do turn vlogging into a business.

First, let’s do some myth-busting to find out what’s required to make vlogging a career.

Have People Actually Made a Career Out of Vlogging?

Yes, they have. And you probably know some of them already.

People like Jake Paul, Pewdiepie, and Zoella are incredibly famous on YouTube and they’re making millions. Everyone knows that.

Still, they’re at the tippity-top of the mountain, so they don’t serve as a good point of comparison.

The real question is: can a normal person start this year and make vlogging a career in a year?

And the answer is also yes. 

For example, Graham Stephan started a channel about investing in real estate in 2017. One year later, he was making several thousand dollars per month on YouTube. And this year he’s making over $100,000 per month.

This is amazing! However, you’ve probably also heard about other YouTubers who are super popular but are barely making ends meet after years on YouTube.

That is also true. But why does this happen?

It’s not about the number of views they get—although you do need a lot of views to become a millionaire with YouTube.  The reason why has to do with their niche and how they monetize their channel. Your target audience is everything when it comes to making money on YouTube.

A poorly-monetized YouTube channel with 1 million views in an unprofitable niche can make very little money compared to a well-monetized one with 200,000 views in a very profitable niche.

This means that you don’t need tens of millions of views to make decent money from your channel if you choose the right, profitable niche and monetize it well.

It’s not enough to just download a few helpful tools, start uploading random videos, and waiting for a profit.

How to Monetize a Channel The Right Way

As we’ve learned already, some channels are more profitable than others for a few reasons.

But one of the main problems that unprofitable vlogging channels have is that they’re not offering a service or product with their videos.

Most YouTubers who are struggling simply want to record videos about their lives and think money will fall into their pocket like a government stimulus check.

Sadly, that’s not how it works—as we’ll see later on this article.

You need to offer something valuable enough that people will want to spend their money on it.

Instead, most vloggers simply rely on ad revenue, which pays peanuts.

The real way to make money is by selling your own stuff. 

To understand why, let’s take a look at the most popular methods for earning money with your videos:

Ad Revenue

When you become a YouTube partner—currently, you need 1000 subs and 4000 hours of watch time in the last 12 months—, your videos will start displaying ads automatically:

YouTube advertising formats

Most of the time, these ads appear before the video starts, in the middle, and at the end.

You don’t control who advertises on your channel. Instead, YouTube chooses the advertisers for you.

This is usually the weakest monetization method because YouTube keeps most of the money advertisers pay (around 55%) while you take the other part.

However, the subject of your video will heavily impact how much money it makes from ads.

The reason is that advertisers who pay YouTube want to show their ads on videos that are related to their services.

If your videos are not related to any service or product, advertisers won’t be interested in your video, so you won’t have good advertisers outbidding each other to display their ads on your videos.

For example, if your video is about “My biggest fear”, there’s nothing of much value that advertisers can sell with that video.

But if instead your video is about “The best travel credit cards”, tons and tons of credit card companies are going to outbid each other to display their ads over their competitors’. This will earn you a LOT, and I mean A LOT, of money.

Basically, if your audience is interested in products and services, you will attract more advertisers trying to sell their products, and you will earn more money.

For more details, about ad revenue and how it works, read our article about CPM.

Selling Other People’s Products Through Affiliate Marketing

This is usually much more profitable than ad revenue because you won’t be sharing any revenue with YouTube.

How it works is that you’ll put a special link to a product’s purchase page in your video description—for example, an Amazon page. And if someone buys the product after clicking on your special affiliate link, you’ll get a commission for the sale:

affiliate links in youtube video description
These are affiliate links that will earn money to the creator

How much the commission will be will depend on the product itself.

It can be as low as 2% and as high as 50%. But most physical products offer 8% commission and digital products/services offer around 30%.

Some subscriptions even offer recurring revenue—like 30% of the monthly subscription fee as long as people stay subscribed.

So if you sell a very expensive product through your affiliate link, like a digital camera costing $1000, you can earn $40 if they offer a 4% commission rate.

Or if you sell a digital product like a subscription-based video editor that costs $10 per month, you’ll earn $3 every month for as long as they’re subscribed if the commission offered is a 30% recurring fee.

But for this to be possible, you have to be in a niche that is related to products. This is why there are so many product reviews on the internet. 

All of them are earning money from the product sale after people buy them.

Selling your own products (Digital or Physical)

Do you know what’s better than keeping 8% of the sale? Keeping 100%.

If you can come up with your own products, you can have a very real business making serious money.

But since physical products are a bit of a pain logistically, most vloggers and YouTubers opt for digital products/services. Some examples:

  • Ebooks
  • Consulting
  • Templates
  • Exclusive content (Patreon, OnlyFans)
  • Online courses

The most popular choice for a real vlogging business is an online course because they’re so easy to make and you just put a lot of upfront work and then sell them for years.

For example, if you’re teaching a skill on YouTube like playing guitar, you can sell your own online program for beginners, intermediate and advanced players.

This is something Paul Davids and many others do:

online course sales page example from paul davids

Just make it more in-depth and organized than your free videos, and people will gladly pay for it.

You can sell it for $200, which is a lot cheaper than most in-person classes cost. That’s why people love buying online courses nowadays.

Simply record the lessons just like you record your YouTube videos and use a platform like Teachable to host your course, charge your students, and block the content for people who haven’t paid.

If you want to turn vlogging into a real business, choose a target audience that is interested in learning stuff… which brings me to the next point:

What Makes a Niche Profitable?

To turn vlogging into a career, it’s all about the target audience, how much money they can spend, and how willing they’re to spend it.

You probably already know that the best way to make money in real life is to offer a service or product in exchange for money. If you have an audience that doesn’t buy anything, your videos won’t make a lot, and you also can’t sell anything yourself.

For example, if your niche is just “you”, you’ll need a LOT of views to make money from YouTube. When you just show things about your life—like stuff you want to do, your struggles, and your daily activities—, it becomes really hard to turn vlogging into a real career.

Why? People who watch these types of videos have lots of free time and are looking for simple entertainment. 

And who has a lot of free time? Young people—high school and some college students. And how much money do young people have? Nothing. Nada. They’re broke.

This means that your ads won’t make a lot of money because your audience doesn’t demand any product or service—the more products your audience wants to consume, the more money advertisers will pay you to display their ads.

For example, take a look at Korean YouTuber itsjinakim. 

She has 449K subscribers on YouTube. She also has videos that have reached over 3 million views. 

Yet, she’s barely making a little over $1000 per month on YouTube. She talks about this in her video titled “being broke at 30”.

She can’t really sell a product or service because her audience is not looking to spend any money. They just want to be entertained by her life in Korea.

If you want to make vlogging a career, you must find a niche that allows you to connect products and services to your video content.

Let’s take a look at some examples of profitable markets on YouTube:

Some Examples of Profitable Markets to Target

In the following markets, there are tons of niches that have the potential to make a lot of money:

  • Makeup: Women spend a LOT of money on makeup, so you have tons of things to sell in this niche using affiliate marketing. The top makeup YouTubers even have their own makeup brands.
  • Fitness: People would sell their children to have abs—but they wouldn’t stop eating carbs, that’s for sure. In this industry, you can sell training programs recorded by yourself, other people’s protein bars, equipment, etc. There’s a lot of stuff to sell here and it’s one of the most profitable—and competitive—niches.
  • Money and investment advice: To make money, people need to invest their money, which requires, well, spending money.
  • Relationship advice: Especially for people who are already working and are approaching the marriage age. Nothing hurts more than not being able to find a stable relationship when you’re around 30 years old. People pay a lot of money for relationship advice (sometimes even $10,000 per program).
  • Anything targeting retirees: A good example: how to become better at golf. Wealthy retirees have hundreds of thousands of dollars to spend in their investment accounts. And believe me, they will try to spend it before the grim reaper comes.

You can find more examples and how to find your own profitable niche in this article about channels with high CPM.

Conclusion: Can Your Vlogging Channel Be a Business and Turn Into a Real Career?

If you want to turn your channel into a real business and a possible career, you should go for something that is easy to monetize with products or services.

You need to target people who are looking to buy products and services and sell them to them—or help others sell them.

Your vlogging channel will simply be your marketing platform for selling this stuff.

As you build a connection with your viewers by helping them with your videos for free, you’ll earn their trust and they’ll want to take things to the next level by buying what you have to offer.

You don’t have to come up with your own products. You can use affiliate marketing to sell other people’s products so you don’t have to worry about creating a good product and dealing with customer service.

But if you come up with your own digital products, which are easy to create, you can have a real vlogging business that can make more money than any “real” career.

Just remember that, like any other career, vlogging has its own rules you should follow to do it legally.

Vlogging and YouTube channels in general are a business model that is more alive than ever. Every year more people visit YouTube and the market keeps growing.

So if you want to start a vlogging channel and do it full-time, go for it! 

Just bear in mind that it will take months of work where you won’t see any money. But that’s how it’s meant to be. You need to build your audience first. Vlogging is a long-term business, not a shortcut to riches.