I've mentioned it a few times on the Patreon podcast, and probably mentioned it somewhere in here as well, but one of the most crucial elements of taking your YouTube channel from part-time to full-time (even if it's just a trial) is diversifying your income.
YouTube is such a volatile platform and during the last 12 months, between the changes to the YouTube Partner Program and the 'adpocalypse', we've seen that it's a death wish to depend on ad revenue alone. Today any full-time YouTuber out there is certainly looking to split up those income streams however they can. Sometimes it's merch like t-shirts. Sometimes it's crowd-funding like Patreon. Sometimes it's live ticketed events. Many times it's a combination of all three. There's one more that's popular with YouTube, and it's one I've only dipped my toes into twice: sponsorships.
The premise is simple enough. It's the next deeper level beyond regular advertising. It burns the ad into the video itself by being a part of the content, and it adds value to the ad by tying it directly to the person making the content. After all, when you see a banner ad for Coca-Cola on one of my videos it's not because I chose Coke or Coke chose me. It's just the somewhat random result of an algorithm. Not only that, but it's this silent little banner that just sits there, literally slapped on top of the video itself. It's convenient but lazy advertising, which is why the rates are so awful and it's barely effective these days.
So I've been trying to get more involved with sponsorships, but as I did I found myself sticking to a few ground rules (beyond the obvious legal ones, like disclosing the sponsorship.)
1. The brand must be relevant to the content.
This one seems like a no-brainer, yet I see so many channels ignore this. If the whole appeal of a sponsorship is that it's deeper than the impersonal and lazy advertising of a pre-roll or banner, what good it is to be sponsored by a company that has absolutely nothing to do with the content?
Now, my rule doesn't mean I can only accept sponsorships that are specifically Disney related, but there needs to be a logical connection between the content of the video and the sponsor. For instance, if I end up taking on sponsors on the upcoming vlog channel, I can see myself accepting a sponsorship from Canon. I'd probably have a video or two all about the cameras I use to vlog, and Canon is a camera company. So there's a bridge there that isn't arbitrary. I also love their cameras, which leads me to the second commandment:
2. I need to like the brand.
If I'm not willing to speak kindly about the brand even without them paying me, then I can't speak kindly about them when they are. It's as simple as that. My belief is that as someone who puts myself out there on the channel and tries to build a community around that, my word is all I have. The second I sacrifice my word for a quick buck is the second I start to lose people, and honestly at that point I would deserve to.
There's been a lot of talk lately about "ad-friendly" content and advertisers wanting to make sure their ads are being shown on proper videos. I say that advertising should work both ways. I should be able to make sure the right ads for my audience are being shown. Now I can't really do that with YouTube, but I luckily do have that control with sponsorships.
3. Content first. Ad second.
This one is simple. You all came for the content, not ads. If I do a sponsorship the bulk of the sell has to happen after the video, not before. I see some channels that are sponsored start their videos with a 30 second pitch for a brand and I can't understand why. In today's world where everyone is fighting for attention online, you'll work on an attention grabbing concept, an attention grabbing title, and an attention grabbing thumbnail all to lead up to an sponsorship plug?
All in all I feel like they're three simple rules that are reasonable and keep me honest. I also feel like they're flexible enough that they won't slow me down in that department.
Anyway before this whole declaration of sponsorship rules I fell into, I originally came here to write about my intention to try and win over some more sponsorships this year. It's on my mind because the fine folks at Ye Olde Prop Shoppe reached out to me last week and it looks like they'll be sponsoring another video this month.
It has me thinking about perhaps the most awkward part of this whole process, which is putting a price on myself. It's one of those things that gets easier the more you do it and the more your understand the industry, but at the moment it's just plan weird.
It's a partnership of sorts, and so I want to make sure the sponsor is getting the most bang for their buck which means I'm always concerned that I'm overestimating my worth. Yet at the same time I'm trying to make a living so I don't want to be underestimating it either.
I don't suggest that a solution comes out of this post. There really can't be one. Each channel is different and it's a pretty fluid business so it's one of those things I'll get used to over time. I just wanted to put it out there so that hopefully in a year I can look back and get a chuckle about how weird it made me feel because by that point I'll have 10 million subscribers and more sponsorship offers than I know what to do with.
Hey, a guy can dream right?