Viral Visionaries

Viral Visionaries: how can influencers make money outside of ad revenue?

Viral Visionaries: how can influencers make money outside of ad revenue?

Year on year, YouTuber ad revenue drops and it's led many creators to seek external financial streams.

Influencers are now turning to brand deals and using support sites such as Patreon to fund their creative careers in the midst of dwindling advertising revenue. 

We asked our panel of industry experts about other methods of monetisation. This week's answers come from re6l founder and PewDiePie manager Kat Peterson, Mobcrush's Phil Ranta, Spartan Elite and influencer manager CEO Brian Dodge and data and marketing specialists Matchmade. 

Monetising influence

Kat Peterson Reelstyle

Having just had one of my influencers leave YouTube (CutiePieMarzia) I am very confident about a non "standard" ad revenue related plan for her and everyone we work with.

The reality of ad sense is it's hitting the same walls and suffering the same way CPMs did on blogs, less than ten years ago. There is of course outside the box revenue that comes from product placements in content, live engagements etc but perhaps the most unique form today is through digital and physical merchandise.

Most of the influencers re6l represents are super creative and this goes beyond the content they create via YouTube and Twitch. Every single influencer loves the idea of creating products to help their fans support them, as simple as Ts and hoodies to really custom fashion brands such as Tsuki, a brand that PewDiePie and Marzia created together to stand outside of their regular brands.

Phil Ranta Head of Creators Mobcrush

There is a myriad ways to monetise outside of ad revenue. Crowdfunding platforms like Patreon or Kickstarter, merch, live events, live streaming donations, brand deals, affiliate links, or starting their own brand like Michelle Phan did with Ipsy.

Creators interested in monetising outside of ad revenue need to develop their audience accordingly.
Phil Ranta

But surprisingly few creators can compel a significant amount of their audience to transact. This requires building depth of fandom, and most creators are optimizing for clicks (see: clickbait). I've worked on merch campaigns with major creators who did an in-video call to action to purchase that received hundreds of thousands of views that led to literally zero transactions.

For creators that are interested in monetising outside of ad revenue, they need to develop their audience accordingly: create content that's more of a two-way conversation like live video, which is literally a two-way conversation at scale, request and incentivise feedback within your content, and test their audience to see which monetization methods work. Limited-run programs like flash sales or Kickstarter campaigns are great tests.

Brian Dodge CEO Spartan Elite

Oh man, this is a long answer. I won’t dig into every possible way but hosting events, sponsored deals, voices in games, IPusage,, commercials, live streaming. I've got 100 other-ways but honestly its more of a conversation with each individual YouTuber. No two will want to do all the same things for money.

One important thing to note is we have made many of our talent 2-3 times the money they were making by working with them to follow the YouTube algorithm rather than just making content how they always have. Changing minor things up can change your income greatly.

Heini Vesander CMO Matchmade

In addition to ads, influencers have many additional avenues for making money, like pointed out in previous replies. Here's some we listed out together with Jordan "Soma" Tayer, our GM for North America.

  • Sponsored content with advertisers: many companies are seeing the value and great results from influencer marketing campaigns. Working with brands is a great way to grow your business as an influencer. Managers and agencies should help influencers find good deals for companies and product that suit the channel and audience. Platforms (yes like Matchmade) are also a great way to easily find available campaigns.
  • "Sponsors" on YouTube or "Subscribers" on Twitch: they are called two different things but it's essentially the same thing. Viewers pay five bucks or more per month and the streamer/content creator gets a large cut, with the platform taking a slice.
  • Tips on Paypal / Streamlabs: influencers make significant income through tips via Paypal and other platforms. (We urge influencers to always file their income for tax purposes.)
  • Merchandise: influencers can set up their own e-commerce site and sell clothing, hats, coffee mugs, etc.
  • Patreon/Outside Services: Patreon makes content creators solid cash, as they can do bonus streams, movie nights, custom content, and so on.
  • Consulting: many influencers do paid speaking gigs at companies, and consult in product development.
  • Apps: content creators can work on their own apps, maybe it's s mobile game or some sort of subscription-based community thing (this is rare but starting to happen more and more).
  • Writing a book and become a speaker. By breaking into mainstream media, the influencer can likely find additional ways to monetize.


Danielle Partis is editor of and former editor of She was named Journalist of the Year at the MCV Women in Games Awards 2019, as well as in the MCV 30 under 30 2020. Prior to Steel Media, she wrote about music and games at Team Rock.