Breaking Out on YouTube Just Became a Lot Harder

Vlogging seems like the ultimate side-hustle. When YouTube stars get gigantic endorsement deals and Beatles-like receptions at events, you may wonder what's keeping you from trying it. It might not surprise you that success is much, much harder than it seems, but with new rules from YouTube about monetizing your channel, it just got a lot more difficult to make bank.

A string of horrific press, including one popular vlogger who monetized both a video showing the body of a person who'd died by suicide and the subsequent apology, culminated with YouTube announcing new monetization guidelines in January. In order to be eligible for the YouTube Partner Program, a channel now requires "4,000 hours of watchtime within the past 12 months and 1,000 subscribers." The criteria kicked in on Feb. 20, and generally the company was pretty sorry-not-sorry: "Though these changes will affect a significant number of channels, 99 percent of those affected were making less than $100 per year in the last year, with 90 percent earning less than $2.50 in the last month."

Pretty stark numbers, especially given that even vloggers who reach the top 3 percent of popular channels still might earn below the poverty line. Social media megastardom is a hard road to travel no matter what — just ask the would-be Instagram influencer who sank thousands of dollars into debt trying to keep up appearances. If you wanted to add online video to your side hustle, make sure your business plan accounts for these new guidelines. It's not impossible to break into profitability with YouTube monetization, but you've definitely got your work cut out for you.