"It really comes down to how much effort your put into it and how many people watch it" - Robert Hansen, YouTube entrepreneur
You may have watched Keyboard Cat or David After Dentist before. They both became viral videos on YouTube, and their creators are cashing in like many of us wish we could.
Robert Hansen and Josh Steelman are two YouTube entrepreneurs in Cape Coral. Their channel, Roswell73, has gained over 15 million views in less than six years.
As part of the YouTube Partner Program, they get paid to do it while working on it just a few hours a week.
"It really comes down to how much effort you put into it, and how many people watch it," Hansen says.
A channel that's part of the Partner Program can have ads appear beside or below videos. Channels that are highly successful will often be allowed to incorporate video ads. Every time someone clicks on the video or one of the ads, the channel's owner gets part of the revenue. While it may only be a portion of a cent each time, views can add up quickly.
For Hansen, it adds up to about $300 every month.
"Three hundred bucks in my pocket for something that I would do even if I wasn't getting paid. You can't argue with that," he says.
Especially since his cost of production is so cheap. He paid $20 for a tripod, initially used a video camera he got for $200, and often uses his bedroom as a backdrop for videos. His props include aliens he got from a thrift store.
Social media experts say it's not always that easy.
"You have to have original, fresh content, and a compelling personality," says USF Associate Professor Kelli Burns. "And if you can do that, the challenge is really to get a lot of views for your video."
So how do you turn YouTube videos into cash?
First, Hansen says to focus on what you're good at.
"What I think is probably the best way to make money off of YouTube is to make videos about what you know," he says. "If you're a painter, videotape yourself painting."
Once you're done, send it around.
"Your friends are your best asset. Post it on Facebook. If it's any good, your friends will repost it. Even ask them to repost it," Hansen says.
Hansen's most successful video, The Greatest Prank Call Ever, gained views that way. A friend's repost of the video was noticed by a popular website. It now has more than nine million views.
"You have to be a publicity machine," says Professor Burns. "That means you have to create a blog or a website or be on Facebook or Twitter or even create t-shirts that you can pass around to family and friends."
And have fun with it because, as Hansen says, "You can get paid for that."