Shooting Video: An Online Video Business?


Idea: Shoot online video as a career

Subject: Poisonous snakes, scorpions, centipedes, spiders, lizards, frogs, insects, & other Thailand wildlife

Monetization & Distribution Point: YouTube

Number of Videos: 200 per year

Desired Income: $20,000 USD per year

Viability Scale (1-10): 8 – Very viable

This post will examine the feasibility of creating an online video business on YouTube that supports you in place of a 9-5 job. Remember, this site is not built upon hype. This is a realistic opportunity to have a fun online business that provides income for you day or night.

This is something I’ve been considering over the last couple days. Can I survive solely by shooting fun video and putting it online?

I mean, if that’s all I wanted to do, could I swing it? Is it possible to make enough money to live on shooting video of snakes and other wildlife?

I decided – it IS possible.

I chose snakes as a main focus just because I’m fascinated with all the poisonous (and non-) snakes that are here and I get a real kick out of finding them and shooting video of me interacting with them. In the course of looking for snakes I’ve also found scorpions, lizards, spiders, monitors, turtles, and many odd insects. Now Steve Irwin, I’m not. Yet. I could learn though – couldn’t I?

You probably don’t have 40+ species of poisonous snakes in your country… unless you’re reading this from Australia or SouthEast Asia. That’s not the point. There are many topics you could choose from or create skits of your own that become widely viewed. The point is that a video only business IS possible. Let’s figure out how to do it.

For now, my favorite way to monetize my videos is through YouTube’s  Partner program. The entry-level requirements to apply are low-bar. Here’s a copy-paste from the official YouTube Partner Requirements page:

To become a YouTube Partner, you must meet these minimum requirements:

  • You create original videos suitable for online streaming.
  • You own or have express permission to use and monetize all audio and video content that you upload — no exceptions.
  • You regularly upload videos that are viewed by thousands of YouTube users.

It probably helps to have a high rating among viewers. It probably helps that your topics are something that could be monetized in their program. When I joined I had something like 450,000 views of about 50 videos. That was good enough and I was accepted into the program. Now I have over 20 million views of my videos at our YouTube account.

When I upload a video at YouTube I can select whether or not I want the video to be part of the ad program. If I choose to include it in the program, YouTube will run advertisements at various places in my video. If the ads are well targeted then viewers will click on them which launches the advertiser’s website and I get paid a few cents. Literally it’s a few cents per click. Remember your parents saying to save your pennies?

Now – if you wanted to JUST shoot video like this, monetize it with YouTube’s program – and survive, you’d need to shoot a lot of video and it better be really interesting too. Poisonous snake videos are interesting… some of them I’ve seen on YT have received a few million views.

I’ve found that about 1,000 views equals somewhere between $.80 and $1.20 in clicks I get paid for. Let’s call it $1 dollar per thousand views.

Some high school level figuring should tell you that you need to get a LOT of views of your videos. You need to pick a topic that is huge and that brings a lot of people to your video. How can you find out which topics are successful? Check YouTube for their most popular videos.

Do a search for “snakes” and then sort by most viewed. You’ll see millions of views on the top videos. What kinds of subjects do best? For instance in the snakes area – it’s snakes eating or fighting things that seem to get the high views.

Kids with snakes also does well but when our new baby is born I don’t think I’m taking her to the cobra show just a few minutes from the house to film some videos with the king cobras. You may choose differently.

If you want to make $20,000 per year from YouTube videos you’ll have to have somewhere around 20 million views of your videos in a year.

Is that impossible? That’s up to you. If you shoot just one video it might be close to impossible. Shoot two videos and you’ll need 10 million views of each. If you find the right topic – and there are many popular topics, you can do it.

Let’s take a look at my snake video example…

I figure if I’m doing this full time I can do a little traveling around Thailand and shoot King Cobras, Malaysian Kraits, Vipers, large pythons and other snakes – and probably shoot about 200 videos in a year. I’d need to average 100,000 views per video to make $20,000. When I look at it like that it’s getting closer to attainable.

Now, figure this… If I get only 2 blockbuster snake videos for the entire year that do over 2 million views then that’s $4,000 from those two videos alone. I think that’s a reasonable estimation and, reasonably attainable. If I get bit by a cobra for instance and get that on film that would be quite a few million views I’d guess. Worth it? No. But, a possibility nonetheless.

The next year I’ll plan to shoot another 200 videos. That will be 400 videos and then I’d only need to be averaging 50,000 views per video. The next year I’ll have 600 videos and need even less views per video (33,333). It’s looking a lot more possible now – isn’t it?

In 3 years I could stop shooting video, change focus if I want, and shoot another subject altogether. Or, I could take a year off – I’d still get paid.

If this YouTube program goes away there will be others to take it’s place. Video is the next wave online and if you jump in early you can really get a foothold. 200-600 videos about a specific, interesting, niche topic would give you a great foothold and provide income over a few years – perhaps a decade.

Creating the ultimate business online is not as impossible as you might think upon first inspection. Already in about a year and a half I’ve had 953,000 views of my Thailand videos. (Update – 23 Million views!) I have 105 videos (500+) up and I shot all kinds of subjects. I wasn’t shooting any of them with the idea of making money from them, but after I joined the YT premier program I’ve been able to make some cash from some of them without really thinking about it. Now that I’m thinking about it – I think there’s a real possibility for good money to be made.

There are a few subjects in Thailand that really do well. At one of our other sites we have shot Thai food recipe videos. Those have over 320,000 3 Million views on YouTube.  In fact, if we ever have another tsunami – I’ll be set for the rest of my life. I sincerely hope that doesn’t happen, but, I’m prepared to shoot hours of video if we do get another one.

Whether you live in Iowa or Japan you can probably find some YouTube video topics that are outrageously successful. Comedy does VERY well because it’s so viral – friends will share those videos more than snake videos. Do you or anyone you know have a funny skit you could do and get 1,000,000 YouTube views? That’s good for $1000 in the YouTube partner program (this year) and next year some more.

If you’re at all interested in a video-only business and you can see yourself shooting video and trying to get people online to view your crazy, funny, daring, dangerous, or sexy videos on YT – then I suggest you give it a try. There are people making their living off YouTube videos and making $100,000 per year and more.

All it takes is 1 good subject area. Can you come up with one?

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