How to be Successful on YouTube on a Budget

Successful on YouTube on a Budget

Last updated on August 3, 2020

Video marketing is a more than $135 billion industry—and is going to continue to get bigger. Every year more people are watching more videos. Video marketing is an effective tool for any business.

This is also a fast-moving industry. Every day there are new tools, tricks, and tips for gaining attention. But, one fact about video marketing is not going to change anytime soon.

Although others such as Facebook, Instagram and Twitter should not be ignored, YouTube is still the most important platform for video.


If you want to make money with video you need to learn how to succeed on YouTube. Many new video marketers get intimidated by the amount of competition on the platform.

The good news is, you can have a lot of success on YouTube without spending a lot of money.

You don’t need the best camera, an expensive green screen, or a private studio to make it big on YouTube. You can have success on YouTube on a budget if you follow and master a few basic principles.

Most Important Elements to YouTube Success

Success on YouTube is about attracting eyeballs to your content. The most successful content is rarely the videos with the highest production value.

Instead, the marketers that have the most success on YouTube focus on just three elements:

  1. Ranking Videos
  2. Subscribers and funneling viewers elsewhere
  3. Authenticity and Mindset

You can become an expert in all three of these areas without spending a lot of money.

Many successful marketers have made six-figures by mastering these elements and using their laptop webcam or the camera on their smartphone.

People are not watching YouTube for the special effects or the high production values. People are tuning into YouTube to get answers to a question or to be entertained.


That’s why learning these three elements is so critical to your success. Each element is about attracting eyeballs to your content and keeping them interested in watching your channel. 

Ranking Videos

YouTube is the world’s second largest search engine. It also happens to be owned by Google, the world’s largest search engine. If you want to be successful people have to be able to find your content. You have to be able to rank your videos.

This is where many people get scared. They think they can never make videos that are good enough to compete with the millions of videos on the site. But, ranking videos isn’t actually about quality.

It is all about SEO. A specific kind of SEO though, not what most folk would have you believe.

To rank in YouTube, you do not need:

  • An Authority Channel (though this helps in other ways)
  • Backlinks
  • Embeds
  • Social Signals such as Tweets or Facebook likes

So what do you need to do?

If you want to rank your videos and you have a limited budget, you need to focus on:

  • Channel and Video optimization (SEO)
  • Amount of Content
  • Click Through Rate (CTR)

Channel and Video SEO

You greatly improve your chances at being successful if you choose a niche and keywords with high demand and low competition Click To Tweet

Firstly, you want to make sure your content pops up when those keywords entered into the search bar.

You have to be able to optimize the metadata on your videos to help them popup in search engines.

Most important of all, you need each video you post to be keyword optimized. You don’t want to keyword stuff. That is not an effective tactic and it turns people off from watching your videos.

But, everything from individual video titles to the individual video tags need to have valuable keywords that make sense for your content and ideal audience.

If you can master YouTube SEO you will be miles ahead of most of the competition.

SEO though goes beyond just using the right keywords. 

You also want to get people to share your videos because the YouTube algorithm love videos that have external sources of traffic.

Note: Backlinks are needed to get your videos ranked on Google, but are not necessary for ranking on YouTube. 

Amount of Content

You cannot be successful on YouTube with just a handful of videos unless you have money to spend on paid advertising. This post is for those on a budget though.

Now, of course you can rank a video if it is the only video on a channel if you know what you are doing, but for overall success, you’ll want to be able to rank multiple videos. Many streams make a river.

People have short attention spans and a voracious appetite for new content. That means you have to constantly be posting new videos.

This does not mean everyday as that is simply unsustainable for most. but 2-3 times a week is a good amount to aim for.

Another reason the amount of content you have matters so much is that being a successful video marketer is a numbers game.

The more optimized content you have out there, the more chances there are for you to attract people ready and willing to watch your content and spend money.

The more videos you have the better your odds are at a few of them going viral.

If you look at the top ranked channels on YouTube you will see that they all have hundreds, if not thousands, of videos.

Top 10


Now, you aren’t really competing against these major players. But, they can give you an idea of the scale you need to be as successful as you want to be.

If you have a limited budget, you can still be extremely successful on YouTube, but you will have to put in the time.

Money is really a way to shortcut the time you have to spend. In the beginning, before you have begun to generate any money from your videos, you will need to put in the sweat equity to be successful.

Click Through Rate (CTR)

The main key to ranking your videos on YouTube is managing your click through rate. If people are finding and clicking on your videos more than your competition, then you will rank. Period.

The YouTube algorithm wants to match people with videos they are going to watch. Videos that have a higher CTR will get featured more prominently and will rank higher in searches.

Two things you can do to boost your click through rate are to write captivating titles and to make sure your video thumbnails pop.

Your video titles need to do more than just have the right keywords. They also need to evoke an emotional response in the person searching for information.

Think of the titles you see on the magazines in the grocery checkout aisle. Those headlines on the covers sell a lot of magazines. You can use that same technique to get people to click on your video.

A title like “7 Secrets to Rapid Weight Loss Hiding in Your Freezer” is more likely to get clicks than a title like “Rapid Weight Loss Ideas”. The keywords are the same, but the first one is sexier.

Video is powerful because it is visual. It is easier for people to absorb the information in a video than in simply reading text.

If you want to improve the click through rate on your videos, you also need to make the thumbnails interesting and appealing.

YouTube Thumbnail

The thumbnails are like small ads for your content.

Earlier we posted detailed instructions on how to get the right thumbnail for your YouTube videos. You can read it here.

You can also add meta data to your thumbnails prior to uploading.

Once you have SEO titles and thumbnails that are sexy, a healthy amount of content, and compelling thumbnails, you will see your video rankings improve dramatically.

But, this is only part of the success equation.


Subscribers are also critical to your success. One of the first rules of business is that it costs less to sell to existing customers than to attract new customers. When it comes to YouTube, subscribers are like your existing customers.

Subscribers will get alerts when you post new content and are more likely to watch your videos all the way through and to take action on your content.

Subscribers help you boost your video rankings by increasing your CTR and give you social proof that helps you attract more viewers.

It is a virtuous cycle. But, how do you grow your subscriber list in the first place?

You have to consciously make adding subscribers a goal. You can do this by:

  • Making Sure Every Video Provides Value
  • Give People a Reason to Come Back
  • Ask People to Subscribe

Auto Subscription Link

When asking people to subscribe, a special subscription link should be provided each and every time you want to promote your channel. This will allow people to auto subscribe.

How do you do this?

You need to add a modifier you add to the end of your channel URL to create a special link.

Here’s how that works:


  1. Go to your YouTube url/channel name. Here is an example:
  1. Copy and paste or type in the modifier ?sub_confirmation=1 at the end of your channel name to look like this:
  1. Now use this as a link for your audience to automatically subscribe to your YouTube channel.

You can use a link shortener if you’d prefer to make the link nicer. For WordPress users we recommend the free plugin Pretty Links.

Provide Value

Just about everyone online is afraid of commitment. Subscribing to a YouTube channel may not seem like a huge commitment, but for many people it is a big step.

They are committing to getting alerts about your content.

If you want people to make that commitment you have to be proving them with great value. Every video you post should solve a problem or at least get people one step closer to solving a problem.

Fluff content won’t get people to subscribe.

If you want people to be excited to hear from you, make sure every video over delivers on the information it provides.

Tease Upcoming Content

You need to give people a reason to come back to your channel. One way to increase subscribers is to tease the content you will be releasing soon.

You don’t need to create a movie trailer, but you should your videos by letting people know what you will be talking about next.

This will motivate them to subscribe so that they don’t miss your next useful video.

This tactic only works if your videos are actually delivering on the promises you made in the title, video description, and the last teaser.

Call to Action

The most important part of increasing your subscriber base is inviting people to subscribe. It sounds obvious, but many marketers forget to include a call to action to subscribe in their videos.

Call to action

People are busy. Most people watching your videos will be doing two or three different things while your video is on. You need to help them focus by delivering a clear call to action.

One of the most effective methods is to end the video with a recap of the value you provided, a tease of upcoming content, and a call to action to subscribe so they don’t miss valuable content from you in the near future.

Authenticity and Mindset

If you search for inspirational quotes about success you will find most of them focus on success being a journey or a process.

The truth is, if you are willing to put in the work and gradually improve over time, you can succeed at anything—YouTube is no different.

You need the right mindset to be successful. You also need to be authentic. There might be thousands of people in your niche, but there is only one you. Click To Tweet

Once you learn to tap into the power of your own story you will find YouTube to be more emotionally and financially rewarding.

Forget Being Perfect

Your first videos are going to suck. That’s okay. If you wait to get started on YouTube until you make the perfect video you will never get started.

If all you have is the camera on your phone, that’s enough to get started. With very video you shoot and post, you will gain more skills and more confidence.

In a year from now you will be a little embarrassed by your first videos. But, that will be because you have iterated and improved. If you can get a little better with every video, you will be unstoppable.

Remember, success on YouTube is, in part, a numbers game. Get started now and don’t stop posting and improving.

Connect Emotionally with Your Audience

Successful businesses in every industry and niche have one thing in common. They connect emotionally with their customers. This is true for cars and microchips.

You want to build trust and to show your audience you understand their fears and their problems.

If you have can connect emotionally with your audience, you can write your own check. People will be happy to do whatever you ask them to do.

But, if you seem fake, boring, or disinterested in them they will ignore you and move onto to something else.

Understand Your Why

You can succeed on YouTube with a limited budget. But, it is going to take work and focus. Not every day is going to be great. You need something that keeps you going when things are slow.

You need to have a powerful “why” behind you. Why are you on YouTube. You need something beyond just a desire to make money. That’s not powerful enough.

Video motivation

Maybe you want more time to spend with your family. Maybe you want an income stream that gives you the freedom to travel the world. Maybe you are passionate about helping as certain segment of people.

Whatever it is, you need to make sure you have good grasp on why you are doing what you are doing.

When things get tough, your why will give you the energy and motivation to keep pushing forward until you break through and achieve the success you were meant to have.

Video Creation

By following what we have spoken about so far, you have every chance your videos will be found. Especially if you pay attention to your titles and thumbnails. 

You will also come across as authentic.

But of course, you still need to have a way of creating your videos.

There are a ton of choices out there but if you are on a budget, what can you do?

Popular solutions like Camtasia, while recommended, aren’t exactly cheap.

And the mass of softwares released to a hungry market in the Make money online arena are almost never supported nor stand the test of time.

Luckily you do not need a ton of equipment.

Video equipment

But most of you reading this will have access to a smartphone. And many computers will have a built in webcam.

These two options will allow you to create a variety of videos:

  • Talking head
  • Screen recordings
  • Live events (doable from your smart phone with the YouTube App)

If your budget allows, you can splash out on a selfie stick or small tripod for stability should you want to up your game a little.

For lighting, use the best source available. The sun!

Either record outside or in a room with good sunlight.

For now, if money is tight, you’ll need to use the built in mic that you have. But once you have some spare coin, we do recommend investing in a sturdy mic such as the Blue Yeti.

How to make money from your videos on a budget?

The ultimate aim of all of this is to make some money.  Doing this will allow you to re-invest into tools and softwares to take your video marketing to another level and perhaps invest into paid advertising.

At first, the obvious choice is to go the Adsense route. Now, it can be difficult to make anything worthwhile unless you have a massive following, it is free to get started and you do not need any external tools.

The trouble with this method, is that it takes a long time and a lot of traffic to see any worthwhile results.

Adsense is great niches like Nursery Rhymes or areas related to children but for most it is not worth the effort.

So what else can you do?

Alternative List Building?

A great way to approach this if you are on a budget is to take advantage of other social media such as Facebook. And don’t worry, we are not going to be doing stuff on our personal profile.

Facebook groups (not pages) are a great way to build a list of sorts. Not the traditional list which will involve forking out on an autoresponder and landing page tools, but a list of people who you can funnel into a Facebook group.

Costs nothing by the way.

facebook groups

You can link out to your group and mention it in verbal calls to action. The more folk you can get to join your group the better. And, you’ll find that many folk are more active on Facebook than YouTube so you end up killing two birds with one stone.

The key to a successful Facebook group is showing up everyday. It can be tough at first when the only person liking your posts is you. But keep at it.

Facebook groups are free and simple to set up and you can now charge folk to join

Note: Not all niches are on Facebook. If your YouTube channel is about herpes, do not expect a big crowd on Facebook. In that case, the traditional email list would be the best way to go.

All that said, if you are on a budget and want to venture into video marketing, all is not lost. It’ll just take a bit more patience and dedication. 

Affiliate marketing

A final option is to link out to related affiliate offers in the description of your videos. To make the most of this opportunity you should:

  • Ensure the link is in the first two lines of the description
  • Works (test it)
  • Is not too long. Use a shortener service (helps to track clicks as well)
  • Ensure all your videos have an affiliate disclaimer. Set this up in the upload defaults as highlighted below:

upload defaults


So, in short you can be a success on YouTube on a budget if you follow our steps. It may just take you a bit longer than those who have some cash to spend to get the ball rolling.

PS…If you found value in this post, then we would appreciate it if you shared it on Facebook.


Comments on How to be Successful on YouTube on a Budget

  1. Stefan F says:

    Another high quality post in VMI! This one can help those operating on a budget bridge the gap between almost zero and some play money for the next steps. Very insightful and valuable. 5 stars!

    1. Adam Payne says:

      Thanks Stefan. I appreciate the kind words.

  2. Tim says:

    Great article Adam.

    Many peole have no idea how YouTube ranks videos.
    They upload their stuff and sadly, no-one ever sees it.

    And because Google and YT don’t publicise the rules of the game, they don’t know why their stuff is on page 143.

    However with a few changes, their work could be appreciated.

    They just need to join VMI.

    1. Adam Payne says:

      Cheers Tim. I agree that most do simply not know how to rank videos.

  3. Chris James says:

    I never knew about the modifier link to add to the YouTube video description, and always put off the disclaimer on my affiliate YouTube channel…
    Thanks for the awesome blog post Adam, sharing now!

    1. Adam Payne says:

      Hi Chris. Yep, it’s a simple little trick but every bit helps 🙂

  4. Sean H says:

    Most informative…presented in a format that emphasizes the most important elements categorically…very well done (will save this one for future references)

    1. Adam Payne says:

      Thank you Sean. Glad you liked the post.

  5. Mike says:

    Hey Adam,
    I am into ecom, I presently don’t use videos as a vehicle of marketing on the commerce platforms I sell on since I rely only on the more than sufficient organic traffic those platforms provide. So what I am doing here reading your articles and why didn’t I unsubscribe from your email list? Simple: I thoroughly enjoy reading them, knowing quite well that honest, selflessly given high quality, original, information is always good to have. And if for nothing, it is a great refreshing read.
    Thank You.
    Mike from Montreal.

    1. Adam Payne says:

      Cheers Mike,

      Thanks for the kind words and glad you enjoy the content.



  6. Great article adam, i found your channel on youtube and i must say your videos are very informative. Will Bookmark your website.

    1. Adam Payne says:

      Thanks Hopeton. Glad you like the videos and article 🙂

  7. Grant Richardson says:

    I am not exactly sure how i connected with you Adam but your content and recommendations is always 1st class You have mastered the art of building trust delivering value

    1. Adam Payne says:

      That means a lot to hear Grant. Thank you.

  8. Pat C says:

    Adam, this is fanTASTic! I am so grateful for all the work you have put into this and into all of VMI

    1. Adam Payne says:

      Thank you so much Pat.

  9. Garry Baker says:

    Thanks for breaking this down into simple easy to follow bits and bytes…

    It really is amazing after reading this how I look back at videos that I have watched, liked and channels I subscribe to are not about the best quality of the video production…

    But as you say about how I connect with the person and when I feel they are being real with me, and of course have the answer to the question I am looking to answer (and a bit entertaining never hurts…).

    Great site!

    1. Adam Payne says:

      Cheers Garry. I think so many folk worry about Hollywood style productions and many of the ‘go to’ YouTube folk have insane setups it puts new folk off.

      People just want to relate and get their probs answered or as you say, have a bit of fun.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *