Beyond Cute Babies: How To Make Money On YouTube

Apr 11, 2011
Originally published on April 11, 2011 6:01 pm

YouTube is best known for its viral videos of babies and cats. But there are thousands of decidedly less cute videos racking up the views. How-to videos are extremely popular and some of the creators are actually making serious money.

Want to know how to crochet a flower or solve a Rubik's Cube? How about a guide for making a paper airplane? There's even a video with detailed instructions on how to use clip-in hair extensions.

Sara White, a first grade teacher in Charleston, W.Va., is the woman behind a series of popular videos about hair extensions. White says she posted her first video about hair extensions because she couldn't find a good instructional video on YouTube. When the clicks started adding up, she started adding new videos.

She eventually joined YouTube's partner program, where the site shares ad revenue with people who post videos regularly.

"I thought, 'Well, I won't make that much money from it,'" White says. "You know, I thought I'll make a couple dollars a month. But I was like, 'Wow, this is really cool.' I don't have to get a second job now."

Making Over $100,000

This is a common experience among YouTube's 15,000 or so partners.

"A lot of YouTubers describe themselves as accidental entrepreneurs," says Annie Baxter, a YouTube spokesperson.

YouTube says there are hundreds of people who make more than $100,000 a year on their videos. Baxter says instructional videos are on the rise.

Geoff Dorn knows this market well. He's the man behind a series of videos on how to tie a tie.

In the video, you can't see Dorn's face — just a close-up of his neck, his white dress shirt and pale blue tie. With a monotone voice, he carefully describes the mechanics of the four-in-hand knot.

"That was shot in my kitchen," Dorn says. "I think I tacked a white sheet up against what was a red wall."

That incredibly dry video has been viewed six million times. He also has videos on the full Windsor, the half Windsor, the Shelby knot and the bow tie.

"It's nice to get paid for doing absolutely nothing, or doing something once," Dorn says, adding that he can pay his property taxes each year with the money he gets from Youtube.

He lives in Portland, Ore., and works in finance. And Dorn does actually wear a tie to work every day. But that's not why he decided to make videos about tying ties.

"You know, any entrepreneur gets an idea that they want to make whatever, donuts — they want to make whatever they think they're good at," Dorn says. "But what you really should do is figure out what the market is and make that."

He says he made these videos because he knew there was demand.

While Dorn's videos seem to lack personality by design, Sean Plott's videos embrace it.

Plott has a daily Web show that focuses on the computer game Starcraft II. His mission: helping a growing community of fellow players improve.

In his videos, Plott goes by his gaming handle Day[9]. He says the videos really took off when he started talking more about himself.

"It wasn't just Day[9], the analytical nerd who just sat down and only talked about how to improve and how to learn," he says. "It became this edutainment show and that helped tremendously."

So much so that when Plott finishes his master's degree at the University of Southern California later this year, he plans to make this Web show his full-time job.

Copyright 2017 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

MELISSA BLOCK, Host:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Melissa Block.

ROBERT SIEGEL, Host:

As NPR's Tamara Keith reports, how-to videos are extremely popular these days, and at least some makers of these videos are actually making money.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

TAMARA KEITH: Want to know how to crochet a flower, solve a Rubik's cube, or make a paper airplane? Or maybe you need something more basic - like how to scramble an egg.

(SOUNDBITE OF VIDEO)

U: In go the eggs.

(SOUNDBITE OF SIZZLING)

KEITH: Even how to use in clip-in hair extensions.

(SOUNDBITE OF VIDEO)

BLOCK: All right. You want to take a clip, and you're going to need comb, brush - and your hair extensions.

KEITH: That is Sara White, AKA SaraSweetie99, a first-grade teacher in Charleston, West Virginia. White says she posted her first video about hair extensions because she couldn't find a good instructional video on YouTube. When the clicks started adding up, she started adding new videos, and eventually joined the YouTube Partner Program, where YouTube shares ad revenue with people who post videos regularly.

BLOCK: I thought, well, I won't make that much money from it. You know, I thought I'll make a couple dollars a month. But I was like, wow, this is really cool. Like, I don't have to get a second job now.

KEITH: This is a common experience among YouTube's 15,000 or so partners, says the company's Annie Baxter.

BLOCK: A lot of YouTubers describe themselves as accidental entrepreneurs.

KEITH: Geoff Dorn knows that well. He's the man behind a series of videos on how to tie a tie.

(SOUNDBITE OF VIDEO)

BLOCK: The four in hand knot is one of the simpler knots to tie. Start by grabbing the wide end of the tie in your right hand; the narrow end in your left hand.

KEITH: In the video, you can't see Dorn's face - just a close-up of his neck, his white dress shirt and pale-blue tie.

(SOUNDBITE OF VIDEO)

BLOCK: Yeah, that was shot in my kitchen. I think I tacked a white sheet up against what was a red wall.

KEITH: That incredibly dry video has been viewed 6 million times. He also has videos on the full Windsor, the half Windsor, the Shelby knot and the bow tie. Dorn says he can pay his property taxes each year with the money he gets from YouTube.

BLOCK: It's nice to get paid for doing absolutely nothing - or doing something once.

KEITH: Dorn lives in Portland, Oregon, and works in finance - and does, actually, wear a tie to work every day. But that's not why he decided to make videos about tying ties.

BLOCK: You know, any entrepreneur gets an idea that they want to make - whatever, doughnuts; they want to make whatever they think they're good at. But what you really should do is figure out what the market is, and make that.

KEITH: Sean Plott's videos, on the other hand, are all about personality.

(SOUNDBITE OF VIDEO)

BLOCK: It's Tuesday. It's February 15th. It is the year of 2011. This is the Day [9], Daily number 261.

KEITH: Plott has a daily Web show that focuses on the computer game StarCraft 2. His mission: helping a growing community of fellow players get better at the game.

(SOUNDBITE OF VIDEO)

BLOCK: Today is all about mechanics. I want you all to look at your mouse and keyboard right now. And I want you to note: What distance is your mouse hand from your keyboard while you're playing. How far is it?

KEITH: In his videos, Plott goes by his gaming handle Day[9]. He says they really took off when he started talking about himself more.

BLOCK: It wasn't just Day[9] analytical nerd, who just sat down and only talked about how to improve, and how to learn. It became this edutainment show - and that helped tremendously.

KEITH: Tamara Keith, NPR News, Washington. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.