Samery Moras is a 27-year-old six-time Taekwondo US National Champion.
Along with her fourth degree black belt, she also has two YouTube channels, with a combined total of nearly 100,000 subscribers and over 6.5 million views. There, in low budget videos she shoots at her gym and elsewhere, she keeps her fans up to date on her life and shares training tips and workouts.
While Moras earns money from YouTube via the ads running on her channels, she also has an online store with phone cases, sweatshirts and tank tops emblazoned with her motivational phrase “Fear Less.” She sells e-courses about Taekwondo through a service called Thinkific and runs a martial arts school with her sisters, too.
“Never rely on YouTube ad revenue if you want to make a living off of YouTube,” Moras told CNN Business. “The algorithm can change, your channel could get hacked, a million things could happen. You need different ways of monetizing because, that way, if anything happens or changes, then your life [and income] doesn’t drastically change.”
Moras is not alone. While many YouTube stars with big audiences can make a living just from the ads running on their videos and other YouTube offerings, in recent years online content creators have been increasingly looking to other ways to make money and build a brand around their personality outside of YouTube.
That includes creating their own fashion lines, working with companies on sponsored content, going on tour to meet fans, launching a podcast and using virtual “tip jars” from startup Patreon, where their followers can give them money in exchange for perks, like early access to videos and merchandise.
Many creators are worried that an unexpected shift in YouTube’s rules can suddenly cut into their revenue from the platform. In the past, creators have been impacted after YouTube changed rules around monetization following advertiser boycotts over ads appearing on extremist content. (To even qualify for the money-making YouTube Partner Program, they must have over 1,000 subscribers, among other requirements.)
“I think everyone should diversify their revenue streams because we’re not in control of YouTube’s policy,” said Evelyn Ngugi, a content creator known on social media as Evelyn from the Internets, who also earns money from sponsored posts on her Instagram account, her merchandise line and paid speaking gigs at events and universities.
“For example, you could be a family vlogger and all of a sudden YouTube is considering taking down all videos of children, and you have no control over that, and that was your actual niche,” Ngugi said.
Earlier this year, YouTube disabled comments on millions of videos of minors after accusations that pedophiles were exploiting the platform, leading to concerns about the future of family-focused channels that feature kids on the platform. YouTube is also considering other changes to how it handles children’s content.
Branching out can also help social media stars plan for the future. Ryan Detert, CEO of Influential, a platform that connects influencers and brands for deals, said many social media stars have goals beyond internet fame.
“Many of them are some of the best entrepreneurs of our time. They found a way to attract an audience and turn it into a monetize-able business,” he said.
YouTube depends on creators to help it make money and attract viewers, and it’s always looking for ways to keep them on the site and earning revenue.
In addition to ads, creators can make money off of YouTube memberships, merchandise and Super Chats. Super Chats let viewers pay varying amounts to have a message stand out on a live video. Fans can also pay $5 a month to become members of a channel, and get perks like member-only live streams or a shout out from the creator.
More than 90,000 channels have received Super Chats so far, with some streams making over $400 per minute, according to a new YouTube blog post. Creators take home 70% of revenue from Super Chats and memberships, while YouTube keeps 30%.
In an interview with CNN Business, YouTube Chief Product Officer Neal Mohan said the company wants to give creators more ways to generate revenue beyond ads.
That’s why on Thursday at VidCon, the annual conference for online video creators in Anaheim, California, YouTube announced a few additional options for creators to earn money. For example, fans can now purchase “Super Stickers” during live streams and video premieres, which are basically animated gifs that pop up on a live chat. There will also now be “levels” to channel memberships, each of which offers different perks.
“[Super Chat] is a way for the creator to generate more revenue,” Mohan said. “But it’s also a way for fans and creators to connect more closely. That’s a theme that runs through all of these new products that we’re announcing.”
Nick Amyoony, whose YouTube channel is called Nick Eh 30, livestreams himself playing the popular video game Fortnite every day for four hours in the morning and four hours in the evening, which has helped him rack up over 4.5 million subscribers. Amyoony estimates that about half of his revenue from YouTube comes from ads, while the rest comes from Super Chats and memberships.
“When you think of traditional celebrities, they are kind of unreachable,” he said. “With Super Chat when you’re streaming, if you have a question, if you want tips or advice, you can get, right away, contact with your favorite streamer.”
Amyoony declined to provide specifics on his overall YouTube earnings, but said fans typically pay between $2 to $20 on Super Chat, while “super fans” will sometimes give up to $500.
Companies including Facebook are taking notice and offering their own ways for social media influencers to make money. Earlier this week, Facebook announced it’s testing a way for fans to send a few cents to their favorite video creators during live and on-demand videos to show their support.
Alisha McDonal, known as Alisha Marie on her social media channels, has been on YouTube for over 10 years, but has branched out to other mediums. She posts sponsored content on her Instagram account, in addition to her apparel line and podcast.
“It’s crazy knowing that if [YouTube] was gone tomorrow, at least I have a few different things I’m doing,” McDonal said.