As personal-finance apps like Robinhood and Acorns surge, some influencers are making big sums of money promoting them through affiliate links.
Personal finance has historically been a lucrative area for YouTube creators because of its high ad rates. But affiliate marketing — where creators earn money by driving sales or sign-ups — has increasingly become the revenue source of choice for some finance-focused influencers.
"I would go so far as to label myself an affiliate marketer before I would label myself a YouTuber at this point," said personal-finance creator Ryan Scribner, who has 706,000 YouTube subscribers. "Because that's how dominant this is for my business. Last year, and the year prior, affiliate revenue was about 50% of my earnings."
Scribner earns money when his viewers click a special trackable link below his videos and sign up for the specific stock brokerage he is promoting. In February, Scribner's YouTube channel earned over $17,000 from affiliate marketing. (Insider verified these earnings with documentation provided by Scribner.)
Many influencers like Scribner already talk about fintech companies for free, and their viewers are expecting financial advice and tips on how to start investing. That makes affiliate-marketing promotion a natural fit.
Scribner isn't alone in making a large chunk of his revenue from affiliate links.
Erika Kullberg, who is an attorney and YouTuber with 94,000 subscribers, told Insider that depending on the month, between 25 and 50% of her YouTube channel's income comes from affiliate marketing. Some months, she earns over $3,00 from a single program. (Insider verified these earnings with documentation provided by Kullberg.)
"Many months, I've made more from finance affiliate programs than from YouTube ad revenue," she said. "It was also a way for me to earn income through my YouTube channel before I was even monetized."
Finance affiliate marketing differs from some other verticals like tech, fashion, beauty, and lifestyle programs. Those programs generally offer a percentage-based commission that is typically between 1% and 20%, according to industry professionals. Finance affiliate programs, in contrast, usually offer a fixed rate per sign-up, and these creators are paid by either receiving a free stock or a cash payment.
So how does it work exactly?
Instead of earning a commission per sale, stock brokerages pay influencers once someone signs up for an account with the company through the influencer's custom trackable affiliate link and deposits money (typically around $100) into their new account.
Many finance affiliate programs are run directly through the company, and some creators told Insider that they got started by reaching out to companies over email. Influencers can also get started by signing up for an affiliate marketing network, like Impact or CJ Affiliate. These networks are connected with big brands and companies, offering rates, varying tools, and tracking information to help a creator get started.
YouTube creator Griffin Milks, who has 78,000 subscribers, told Insider that the qualifications to sign up for an affiliate program are often minimal. That makes it easier for nano and micro influencers (those with relatively small follower counts) to join and start making money from their audience. For instance, he was able to start earning affiliate revenue at about 10,000 YouTube subscribers, and this stream of income now accounts for around 30% of his monthly revenue.
And how much do these programs pay?
Industry insiders broke down the base commission rates some trading platforms have offered (these rates were all confirmed by multiple sources):
- Webull: base rate is $30 per funded account
- M1 Finance: base rate is $100 per funded account of $1,000
- Questrade: base rate is $70
- Public: base rate is $20 per funded account
- Robinhood: base rate is $50
- Acorns: base rate is $5
M1 Finance confirmed its rates with Insider. Public and Questrade declined to comment. Webull, Robinhood, and Acorns did not respond to requests for comment.
These rates can also sometimes be negotiable. Two creators told Insider that some programs are willing to negotiate a commission rate above $100, and three creators said they earned between $60 to $65 per sign up through Webull after negotiating.
Creator tips for negotiating a higher rate
When it comes to negotiating rates, some creators said they send a simple email showcasing their channel stats and asked for a high rate. Others recommended requesting a Zoom meeting with the company's marketing team.
"Most people email them and say, 'Hey, I'm driving a lot of traffic for you, can I get a better deal?' And some of the programs have multiple tiers," Scribner said.
Insiders said another tip is to track how many conversions your content is driving to their site, and use that data to your advantage when pitching a higher rate.
To increase clicks, creators recommended testing the placement of the links, and adding the link to new places, like a pinned comment below your YouTube video.