- The beauty of this cash-minting lifestyle is that it is not a one-off payment. If a content creator does a good job, the same video will keep earning him or her more money every other month as more people view.
- This is made possible through a partnership where content creators make money by allowing Google, YouTube’s parent company, to sell adverts that will be on their videos.
- What keeps the money coming is consistency, unique, quality and interesting content that will keep people coming to a creator’s page and the audience watching the ads while at it.
It’s Monday early in the morning. Dressed in gumboots and warm clothing to keep the July cold at bay, Suzan Wahome is ready to go for grocery shopping at a local market in Nairobi.
Accompanying her is her husband of nine-and-a-half years. His work, besides using his strength to carry the soon-to-be loaded sacks and bags of groceries purchased, is to shoot a video of Suzan. Using his phone, he’ll film Suzan going through the rigours of grocery shopping – choosing the freshest produce and getting it at the most affordable price.
Welcome to a day in the life of YouTube content creator, Suzan Wahome. The film made today will be soon uploaded to her YouTube channel called Suzy’s Homestead.
“I wanted to be a wife and mother when I grew up. Everything else was to complement this. Being a YouTuber was not even a dream then. But look at how life has turned out,” she tells me between sips of coffee.
A wife and mother of four, she’s among the many content creators who are making a living by producing content on YouTube.
Mrs Wahome started her channel last year during the Covid-19 pandemic. Her reasons were two. She wanted to help working mothers learn how to manage and organise their homes and home budgets and to get out of debt. What she didn’t expect was to grow so fast.
Currently, Suzy’s Homestead has over 80 videos and 25,000+ subscribers who are tuned in every week eager to learn new ways of saving money, cleaning, organising homes and bringing up children.
“The highest amount of money I’ve made was Sh50,000. It came in March 2021,” Mrs Wahome tells me. She’s wearing jeans, a colourful top and her signature red lipstick.
Still on the platform is Agatha Nkirote. Aged 28, she started her channel, Agatha Nkirote, to share her tips and tricks on getting more for less. Her first video debuted on June, 2020. “My videos focus on kitchenware, home décor and furniture,” she says.
In her videos, she also shares snippets of her life in business with the over 25,000 people subscribed to her channel.
After unsuccessfully trying to land a job, and confident that she had a story to tell, she turned to the platform to fend for herself.
Her days are spent in shopping malls, with fellow YouTuber Scovia Mwikali of Infoods Special, and nights editing what she has filmed ready for uploading for her audience, who are aged between 24 and 35.
“It’s been quite a journey but so far so good,” the mother of one says. So far, the largest deposit made to her account has been Sh55,000.
The beauty of this cash-minting lifestyles is that it is not a one-off payment. If a content creator does a good job, the same video will keep earning him or her more money every other month as more people view.
This is made possible through a partnership where content creators make money by allowing Google, YouTube’s parent company, to sell adverts that will be on their videos.
Making own luck
In return, the creators receive a percentage of the advertising fee paid. With over two billion monthly active users, YouTube is an attractive advertising channel that companies are taking advantage of – which means that there are lots of ways for YouTube content creators to profit from this vast network.
Mr Emmanuel Kisiangani had always wanted to host a real estate TV show. But instead of waiting for the opportunity to come his way, he decided to make his own luck on YouTube. He hosts a channel called Houses With Emmanuel Kisiangani.
“I showcase houses, especially in Kitengela, Kajiado where I live. Most people do not have the time to cover the length and breadth of the town to look at houses and that’s where I come in. I’m your eyes and feet when it comes to looking for houses,” Mr Kisiangani, a former radio host says.
“When you decide to come yourself at least you have an idea of what you’re looking at. That saves you time. That’s the value I give.”
He began his channel in February 2020.
“I am approaching 7,000 subscribers. When I started, a video would get between 30–50 views in a day. In a month it would ‘shoot’ up to 300. With the growth, I can get a thousand hits in day and counting and the largest amount I’ve made is $400 (Sh43,000),” he says.
To start earning, YouTube has conditions that one must fulfill including getting at least 1,000 subscribers and 4,000 watch hours. When a YouTuber reaches the minimum threshold, they’re invited to monetise their channel by registering for a Google Adsense account. Once registered, a PIN is sent via their mailing address. The channel owner then inputs it and begins earning their bread and butter from ads.
Marathon, not a sprint
Ads are placed before, during and after on the videos. The YouTubers plea to the public consuming their content is simple: “Please don’t skip the ads. Watch them to the very end.”
However, more views don’t necessarily mean more money.
“Ironically the video I have that has the most views made the least amount of money. The one that earned me $400 in less than a month was the least watched video at the time,” Mr Kisiangani shares. His first payment came after being monetised for five months.
“It’s a marathon not a sprint,” adds Mrs Wahome. It took her six months to get the 1,000 subscribers and 4,000 watch hours. If all viewers watch all the ads, then they get more money. But if they skip the ads, they earn less.
Besides the watch hours, the money earned is also determined by the niche the YouTuber decides to focus on because not all ads pay the same. Therefore, YouTubers have to invest in the niches that pay most to earn more.
There are a variety of niches. From tech videos, gaming, tutorials, lifestyles, food and fashion among others. Each has a different cost per 1,000 impressions. The cost per 1,000 impressions, or CPM, is the money an advertiser pays on YouTube for each 1,000 impressions their adverts obtain on a video. This amount fluctuates based on how much an advertiser spends. Financially related content tends to pay more at between $3-8 than lifestyle content that brings in $2-5.
“This is also a factor that one should consider before setting up a channel. If you opt for a travel channel, you have to spend a considerably large amount of money to travel before you even reap the benefits of your hard work. If competition is stiff and the CPM is low, you will end up running a loss-making business,” Ms Nkirote reveals.
Other ways through which one can earn money is through affiliate marketing and sponsorship. This is when third-party publishers, YouTubers in this regard, are paid to create traffic or leads for a company's products and services.
Sponsors engage the YouTuber to showcase their products on their channel. Another indirect way is through their own businesses. That is, YouTubers who have their own businesses push them via their channel and people buy from them.
Mr Kisiangani has earned money from sponsorship. The highest earning video came as a result of a sponsorship, where a landlord contacted him to showcase his house. For his work, he earned Sh15,000. Ms Nkirote and Mrs Wahome have earned more from people who buy products from their own businesses, Inside Homes and Suzy’s Boutique respectively.
And as more people flood to the site, a new problem arises. Staying visible on the platform as more people upload their content. What keeps the money coming is consistency, unique, quality and interesting content that will keep people coming to a creator’s page and the audience watching the ads while at it.
For these YouTubers, all the money earned is invested back into the YouTube business in equipment like camera, tripods, lights and a microphone. This is the basic start-up kit for an up and coming YouTuber.
The money is also used to fund their work. For example, Mr Kisiangani uses it to pay for fuel as he moves around looking for houses to showcase.
“It’s easier for those who are already celebrities to earn more money faster but for those who are ordinary people, who decide to put up content, it’s a different ballgame and it requires a lot of patience,” Ms Nkirote says.
In developed countries, YouTube stars are flourishing. The Forbes reported that the top 10 highest-paid YouTubers earned an estimated $211 million (Sh22.9 billion) from June 2019 to June 2020, up 30 percent over the previous year, 2019. Leading the pack was nine-year old Ryan Kaji of Ryan’s World with earnings of approximately $29.5 million (Sh3.2 billion).