You’re an up and coming YouTuber, whether you’re just doing it for fun, or because you have a glorious vision of internet fame and fortune. You’ve been making content on the regular, keeping your channel as active as possible, and then it finally happens; you receive an email from a network offering you a partnership on YouTube!
This is a dilemma that many people have found themselves in over the past 6 years or so, and what used to be pretty straight forward has gotten fairly complicated in the last two years. There’s a rapidly increasing number of legitimate and not-so-legitimate networks trying to snatch up content creators and their potential views as quickly as possible. How do you know which offer is valid, and which one isn’t? Which is the better network to go with? What’s a good CPM (cost per mille, or simply put, the money you earn for every 1,000 views)? How long should you sign for? These are all great questions, and if you’re not asking them, you should be!
Let’s start from the top. The first question you should be asking yourself, and finding the answer to, is whether or not the company that sent you a partnership offer is legitimate or not. Unfortunately, there are bad people out there that love to do nothing but try to scam you in a myriad of ways, and YouTube is no different. A simple Google search will reveal if the company offering you a partnership is a legitimate business or not. Some examples of networks that are authentic and have been around for awhile are: PixelEnemy, Fullscreen, Maker Studios, TGN, Omnia, Polaris, and even Machinima.
Now, you’ve confirmed that you do indeed have a real offer in hand, and you’re looking over the partnership contract. The first part any normal person is going to check is how much money you’re being offered, and how long the contract is for, so we’ll start here. First, and most importantly, the terms they send you in the partnership offer ARE negotiable, but only to an extent. You don’t need them to continue to do what you’ve already been doing, creating and uploading content, but they do need you in order to make more money. That said, unless you’re pulling in at least a couple hundred thousand views a month, you’re not going to be able to negotiate for something extremely lucrative, but that doesn’t mean you have to settle for something that grossly favors the network either. If the CPM split and contract length are not to your liking, now is the time to determine what it is you’d like to have, within reason in regards to just how successful your channel is at this point. I can tell you that, from personal experience, an 80/20 CPM split (with the 80% of profits going to you, the content creator) is a pretty good deal for just about anyone, so keep that number in mind.
Contract length gets its own special paragraph, because I believe it is the single most important part of any contract you’ll sign. I highly recommend that you never sign a contract that locks you in for more than one year. The reason for this is simple: if you end up not being happy with the network you sign with, you’ll want to be able to get out of the contract as soon as possible. Another important thing to note is that the contract itself should have a provision regarding its cancellation. The contract should say something to the effect of, “The contract can be terminated at any point (or after the contract term has been fulfilled if you sign a one year deal) after written submission for termination is received by either party.” Basically, you want to make sure that, regardless of how long you sign for, it is actually written in the contract that you can get out at any time after you submit a notice of cancellation. There is usually a 30-60 day wait period for this to take effect after the notice is submitted.
You don’t need them to continue to do what you’ve already been doing, creating and uploading content, but they do need you in order to make more money.
So at this point, still speaking hypothetically, you have three contract offers in your hand from three different networks, and the terms are all to your liking. Which network do you choose? Remember the old saying that where there’s smoke, there’s fire, so if you find a lot of information about bad experiences with a network, then I would recommend avoiding them. Speaking from personal experience, I can without a doubt say that Machinima is not a good company, and I would not recommend them to anyone. The major fault with Machinima is that they have far too many channels partnered, and not enough people working in the company to be able to adequately handle them all. This isn’t about getting on a soap box, but rather a word of warning to those that may be approached by Machinima. There are many very successful YouTube content creators that started out with Machinima and left, all for the same reasons.
At this point, you should have narrowed it all down to a contract offer with terms to your liking, and the network that you’d prefer to use. The last thing to do is read through the entirety of the contract, and make sure there’s nothing crazy hiding in the remainder of the document that you don’t agree with. That’s all there is to it! From the outside looking in, for those with no experience in these matters, it can certainly seem like a daunting task to figure out the best option for you. It all boils down to doing your research on networks, getting terms that are acceptable to you, and making sure you have an easy out in case things don’t go as planned.
There are a lot of good and bad companies out there all fighting for the same advertising dollars, and they’re all fighting to get as many channels under their brand as possible to maximize their profits. To reiterate an earlier point, remember that you don’t need them. They need you. It’s a very important point to bear in mind from start to finish. I’m not implying that I expect people to be cut throat and angle for the top dollar, I say it so that you know you don’t have to accept an offer that leaves you with the short stick. Be diligent in your research on any network that offers a contract, ask as many questions as you need to until you’re happy with the terms, and you should end up with a contract that works well for both parties!
If there is anything else I did not cover, or if anyone has additional questions regarding this process, please feel free to visit our forums, or leave a comment, and ask away!