In my quest to find and test multiple different streams of income, YouTube is certainly one that appeals to the masses. Maybe you’ve heard this before, but the average millionaire has about 7 streams of income. You see, a lot of YouTubers make millions of dollars every year, some with amazing content and others with very poor material. For example, some channels receive millions of views with low-quality compilations of animal clips. I decided to see if something could be done to leverage this potential source of passive income.
Becoming a public figure
When I began self-educating about the project, one thing was clear: I didn’t want to become a public figure. My personal life and privacy are important. Some love the spotlight, fame & glory, but that’s not for me. You never know if something you say or do could bite you in the ass many years down the line.
How can you make YouTube videos without actually showing your face?
There are many ways you can accomplish this. Here are a few examples:
- Montages of user-submitted clips (FailArmy)
- Travel destinations (Expedia)
- Reading news articles
- Filming your pets
- Whiteboard animations
- Cartoon animations (Based Zeus)
- Product reviews
- Time lapses
- Top 10 lists
- Cooking (Tasty)
- Screen recordings/presentation slides
As you can see, there are plenty of ways you can make videos that will get views on YouTube without showing your face.
Treating it as a passive income stream
Since I wanted a PASSIVE income stream from YouTube, I didn’t want to spend 8 hours per day creating, filming, editing, etc. I wanted to try to find something that could be done in less than one hour with no outsourcing costs. This means I would edit the videos myself. This eliminates many ideas from the list above.
The easiest way that seemed to work for other YouTubers was montages of user-submitted clips. When you look at FailArmy, they have 14.6M subscribers and they don’t own a single piece of content or footage on their channel. It’s pretty absurd when you think about it. Collect clips, put them together, slap your logo and voilà!
Finding the right niche for your YouTube channel
We keep hearing over and over again about the importance of niching out your idea so you can get more SEO leverage from search engines. This is because the more specific your topic is, the better your audience engagement and retention will be. Your users will spend more time on your channel/site and that will boost your rankings for that niche topic. Every search engine is geared towards keeping a user on their platform for as long as possible and having them come back as often as possible. This means they can maximize the number of ads they show, therefore increasing their revenue.
If I want to make video montages similar to FailArmy, I better choose a tighter niche because competing against them directly is plain stupid; they’ve owned that space for years. After doing some basic keyword research, I found that there was still some room in the gym fails niche. Some channels were doing extremely well and were monetized. I decided to attack that idea!
Risk reward evaluation
Like any new project I consider, I look at the best-case scenario, the worst-case scenario, and decide if I could live with the worst case occurring. In this specific situation, the best case was becoming the FailArmy of gym fails; raking in millions of dollars in revenue per year. The worst-case would be spending 10 to 40 total hours on an experiment that would fail (pun intended). The beauty of attempting a passive income generating experiment with YouTube is that there are no costs associated with launching a channel. If you own a computer and an internet connection you’re golden and ready to start.
Strategy to minimize negative ROI
Since I knew the project could potentially fail, I wanted to limit the number of hours I invested in it (my time). I was going to assemble around 10 videos to test the waters and see if this strategy was viable. It was my minimum viable product (MVP), a very important business concept I learned years ago from reading The Lean Startup.
A new YouTube channel was born
I began assembling gym fails videos from multiple clips that were already uploaded online. These clips didn’t belong to anyone, so it was fair game to use them just like FailArmy is doing. The title, description, and tags were all optimized to maximize the chances of these videos getting picked up in the YouTube and Google search engines.
After pumping out 10 videos in a single week, I waited…and waited…and waited…WTF! It seemed like I did everything right and I’m getting no views or subscriptions. After 3 months of waiting, I decided I was going to move on to another experiment. YouTube wants channels to have 4 000 watch hours in the last 12 months and at least 1 000 subscribers before they can apply for monetization. At the rate I was growing, I would be 75 years old before I could apply for channel monetization. Bummer, 10 hours of my precious time went down the drain.
One year later, the surprise!
I pretty much forgot about the channel and was investing my time elsewhere. One year later, out of curiosity, I went to check the channel and OMG, when I saw the stats. Is this even possible !?!
If you’d like to watch it, here it is
678k views from one single video! What happened? My other videos had also picked up A LOT of views, check this out.
I was experiencing the most serious case of “WTF” I’ve ever had in business. My only explanation was that the SEO work had paid off and people were engaging with the videos. The other good news is that I blasted through the 1000 subscriber mark and was able to request YouTube to have my channel evaluated for monetization. If they accepted my channel to be monetized, I could start making money with YouTube through their ad placement in the videos.
Press the monetization button and let the money roll in
Not exactly. Once you apply to get your channel monetized, it takes quite a bit of time before they actually look at it and give you an answer. In my case, I waited for 17 days. During that time, I created and uploaded 2 more videos to the channel thinking that could improve my chances of approval since there was fresh content that was recently added.
Unfortunately, the channel was not approved. It’s pretty ridiculous because “repurposing someone else’s content without adding significant original commentary or educational value” is exactly what FailArmy and many other channels do. I believe YouTube has made it much more difficult to monetize channels in 2020 if you’re not showcasing your own original content. They gave me the option to re-apply in one month if I made some significant changes to the existing videos. Here is their policy:
What is allowed to monetizeThe spirit of this policy is to make sure we’re monetizing original content that adds value to viewers. If you put a funny or thoughtful spin on content you didn’t originally create, you’ve transformed the content in some way. It’s generally OK to have this type of content on your channel, but individual videos may be subject to other policies like copyright. In other words, we allow reused content if viewers can tell that there’s a meaningful difference between the original video and your video.
Examples of what’s allowed to monetize (including but not limited to):– Using clips for a critical review
– A scene from a movie where you’ve rewritten the dialog and changed the voiceover
– Replays of a sports tournament where you explain the special moves a competitor did to succeed (or fail)
– Reaction videos where you comment on the original video
– Edited footage from other creators where you add a storyline or commentary
Content that violates this guidelineTaking someone else’s content, making minimal changes, and calling it your own original work would be a violation of this guideline. This policy applies even if you have permission from the original creator. Reused content is separate from YouTube’s Copyright enforcement, which means it’s not based on copyright, permission, or fair use. This guideline means sometimes, you may not get claims against your content, but your channel may still violate our reused content guidelines.
More examples of what’s not allowed to monetize (this list is not exhaustive):– Clips of moments from your favorite show edited together with little or no narrative
– Short videos you compiled from other social media websites
– Collections of songs from different artists (even if you have their permission)
– Content uploaded many times by other creators
– Promotion of other people’s content (even if you have permission)
It seems like the items I highlighted in red are the ones the channel is getting dinged for. These policies may have been added years after the other popular channels were created (like FailArmy). It’s the only reason that could explain why older channels are monetized with this type of content. YouTube has made the eligibility criteria tighter for new content creators, making it much more difficult to enter their platform as a content creator.
Here are my total YouTube metrics as of today, April 7, 2020:
How much money would I be making if I were approved for monetization?
These are yesterday’s views and click-through-rate for the channel:
- Views: 11 792
- CTR: 4.8%
If I never uploaded anything else to the channel and these numbers were consistent throughout the year, this is how much I would make in passive income according to this YouTube earnings calculator:
Is it worth my time to try and revamp the channel and re-apply for monetization?
This is a really tough question to answer. Revamping the channel doesn’t guarantee approval. It would take up a lot of my time for the actual financial return. Making new videos with loads of original content would require more time to create as well. It would no longer fit in the passive income category. Also, the views curve is trending downwards. I’m still thinking about the following options:
- Adding voiceover to the current vids and re-applying for monetization
- Putting an affiliate link in the description of the existing videos
- Selling the channel
- Growing the channel to 100k subscribers and enjoying the YouTube silver creator award
- Patreon supporters
- Deleting the existing videos and starting a fresh new channel with original content (it would already have the metrics to be eligible for monetization)
There it is folks, this turned out to be an extremely interesting passive income experiment! If YouTube’s policy hadn’t changed, I would be growing this channel as we speak and earning at least $2 000 in 2020 from this new revenue stream. I’m not a quitter, I’ll try a few tweaks and let you guys know what the outcome is.
Please let me know if you have any questions in the comments section below. I encourage all of you to start your YouTube channel. This experiment proved that if you can create content on YouTube that does not violate their policies, and you’re patient (very patient), you will be able to monetize your channel and make money from it.
Disclosure: This post may contain affiliate links for products I use and love. If you take action (i.e. subscribe, make a purchase) after clicking one of these links, I’ll earn some coffee money ☕ which I promise to drink while creating more helpful content like this. This does not incur any additional cost to you.