Are you looking for a new way to make money online? Do you also want to turn your love for video games into a profitable side hustle?
If getting paid to play your favorite games sounds like a dream, you should consider starting a Twitch stream. Of course, before embarking on any new online venture, you need to ask the important questions: Is it lucrative? How much do Twitch streamers make, and is it worth your time to become one?
To answer these questions, we have to start with the basics. Here is everything you need to know about what Twitch is and how streamers make money with the platform.
What is Twitch?
Twitch is an online platform dedicated to live streaming. It began as Justin.tv in 2007 as a way to let anyone broadcast content online. Gaming quickly became one of the top categories for both viewers and creators, so in 2011 the category was separated from the original platform and rebranded as Twitch. In 2014, the original Justin.tv shut down, and the Twitch portion was sold to Amazon.
Although most users are still gamers, the platform has expanded to include an array of content creators. You can find artists, fitness enthusiasts, computer builders, and a wide variety of niche entertainers live streaming their content on the platform. The possibilities are endless.
Streaming on Twitch is a popular and rapidly growing side hustle. The number of Twitch users doubled during the pandemic, with people turning to online work for both an outlet and a way to make extra money from home.
How Do You Make Money as a Twitch Streamer?
To start making money on Twitch, you first need to get your stream set up and organized, and then you need to work towards becoming a Twitch Affiliate.
To achieve this, you need to stream for at least 500 minutes on 7 unique broadcast days in the last thirty days, have at least fifty followers, and maintain an average of three concurrent viewers over the thirty-day period. This sounds easy enough, but it’s more complicated than it seems to get three or more people to watch your stream regularly. There are some tricks to it, and if you work hard at it, you can become a Twitch affiliate in less than thirty days.
How Much Do Twitch Streamers Make?
Once you achieve affiliate status, you can start earning money by playing your favorite video games. There are four main ways that affiliates make money: subscriptions, cheering, affiliate marketing, and ads.
Most Twitch Affiliates first start earning money with subscriptions, commonly called subs. Subs are a way for fans to show support and appreciation. There are three subscription levels, and streamers make different amounts of money based on what tier someone subscribed with.
Tier 1 – $4.99
Tier 2- $9.99
Tier 3 – $24.99
The revenue is split with Twitch, so streamers will only make half of each sub's subscription cost (i.e., $2.5 for every tier 1 subscription). Most fans only subscribe at the tier 1 level, so most streamers make about $2.5 per subscription. If you only get tier 1 subscribers, you would need approximately 425 subs per month to be above the Federal Poverty Level. According to Twitch Tracker, only a little over 120 streamers meet that criteria. It’s important to note that Twitch Tracker is flawed, as only streamers who have volunteered to disclose their statistics are featured. However, it’s the only source of data available.
One cool thing about subs is that all Amazon Prime users get one free subscription per month with their Amazon Prime membership. If you are a new affiliate, you can probably get some family members and friends to subscribe to you with their free Prime sub. That’s the easiest way to start making money on the platform.
Some hit it big as a Twitch streamer, such as Pokimane whose net worth is estimated to be $2-3 million!
Cheering and Bits
Cheering is another easy and popular way to earn money on Twitch. Fans can buy bits, Twitch’s virtual currency, and then “cheer” with them when their favorite streamer does something complex or entertaining. Bits are only worth a penny apiece (though it costs more than that to purchase them, as Amazon takes about 20%), and most fans cheer in 100-bit increments – though that’s not a requirement. Fans can cheer as little or as many bits as they’d like.
Twitch streamers can also monetize with bits by adding extensions to their stream that allow viewers to pay for a particular action to happen. Most of the extensions will play a specific sound or make something pop up on the screen. Each streamer controls how much each action costs and usually sets them between 50 and 100 bits.
One way that Twitch Streamers can make a paltry amount of money is through ads. Once a streamer reaches affiliate status, a pre-roll ad will automatically start playing when new viewers check out the channel. Twitch shares the ad revenue with the streamer, but unfortunately, if you don’t have many viewers, it will be so low that it’s almost negligible.
After doing the math based on my own streams and revenue, I determined that most Twitch Affiliates earn about one cent per average viewer. New affiliates who only get between three and ten average viewers per stream will only make between three and ten cents in ad revenue per stream.
However, as your average viewership increases, your share of ad revenue will increase as well. Streamers who can draw fifty or more average viewers can make 2-3 cents per viewer, and streamers who draw huge crowds can make even more. Even so, ads are not the primary source of income for most streamers.
A final way that Twitch Streamers make money is through affiliate marketing. Once you become an affiliate, you gain exclusive access to Amazon’s Blacksmith program, which is really just the gamer’s version of the Amazon Affiliate program. The advantage to joining the Blacksmith program is that you earn higher commissions on certain items, and you don’t get kicked out after three months without a sale.
With the Amazon Blacksmith program, you can set up an extension that adds your affiliate links directly to your stream. If viewers click those links and make a purchase, the streamer will earn a small commission.
Affiliate marketing is not limited to the Amazon Blacksmith program. There are various affiliate programs designed specifically for streamers; and others that lend themselves to streaming. Streamers can drop an affiliate link in the stream chat, in a panel, or even in their discord server.
Although it’s possible to make money via affiliate marketing as a small streamer, it’s not likely to be a top income source. To earn money with this method, you need to attract viewers, and those viewers need to click your links to purchase an item. If you are only attracting a handful of viewers each stream, the odds that one will click your link and make a purchase are incredibly low.
How Much Do Streamers Make with These Methods?
Even with all of these monetization methods, the harsh reality is that most streamers won’t make a lot of money. Small streamers may get a handful of subs and a few cheers, but they won’t make enough to quit their day jobs. Although there is no solid data on how much Twitch Streamers make, the reality is that most don’t make a lot. Many streamers don’t even make enough money each month to reach the payout threshold of $100.
The streamers you hear about making millions of dollars, like Ninja and Disguised Toast, graduated from Twitch Affiliate to Twitch Partner.
What is a Twitch Partner?
A Twitch Partner is a streamer who can draw an audience. Partners have contracts with Twitch that give them exclusive access to various tools, including more emotes, priority support, and access to special promotional opportunities to help grow their channel.
To apply for the Partner Program, you need to stream for 25 hours on 12 different days and reach an average of 75 viewers during the last 30 days. Unlike an affiliate, a partnership is not guaranteed. Twitch manually reviews all applications to its Partner Program to decides whether the applicant is a good fit. Many streamers have to apply numerous times before they get accepted. Twitch doesn’t offer any further clues about what they are looking for in Partners outside of saying they want streamers who will be role models for the community.
According to Twitch Tracker, there are about 46000 Twitch Partners. That means less than 1% of all streamers have reached partner status, where streaming on Twitch becomes profitable.
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How Much Do Twitch Partners Make?
Twitch Partners make money in much the same way as affiliates, with subscriptions, ads, cheers, and affiliate marketing. However, as they have far more average viewers per stream, they tend to make a lot more money on these four methods.
There’s also one additional way that Twitch Partners make money, and that’s through sponsorships.
Sponsorship is when a brand pays an influencer to promote their product. As Twitch Partners can draw a large audience, brands like to pay them to use their items and sell them to their viewers. Some Twitch Partners have been sponsored by gaming companies, clothing companies, chair companies, and various other industries. Top streamers make the majority of their income via sponsorship deals.
Although it is possible that you can score a sponsorship opportunity before becoming a Partner, it’s not likely. Please be careful of any company that claims to offer a sponsorship but makes you pay for the product in advance. In that case, you are not a partner, you are a customer, and the business is preying on your desire for brand sponsorships to sell you their products. Please don’t let them take advantage of you.
How Do Twitch Streamers Get Paid?
Twitch affiliates get paid the month after they reach the $100 payment threshold. If you reach $100 in your account during May, the payment won't be processed until the 15th of June. It generally takes 3-5 business days to process, so you should receive the payment around the 20th of June. The payment will cover all of the money you earned in May as well.
Unique Ways to Make Money as a Streamer
Although most Twitch streamers make money via the methods addressed above, they aren’t the only ways to make money. There are a variety of ways to make money online using your Twitch stream as a marketing tool.
Donations are the easiest way for non-affiliated streamers to start making money. All you need is a free Streamlabs account and a PayPal account. Streamlabs has a menu that allows you to configure your PayPal information securely. Once you have that setup, you need to add a link to it in one of your Twitch panels. Viewers can then click on the link and send money to you directly via Paypal.
Keep in mind that although the set up is easy, getting people to donate to you is not. As a small streamer, it won't be easy to convince a few viewers to donate. However, difficult doesn’t mean impossible, and if you are creative, you can find ways to entice viewers to donate.
Some streamers make money by monetizing their discord servers. Many who go this route offer access to the general discord for free and lock specific channels so that only those who pay can view them. These locked channels may offer exclusive access to content in a popular streamer’s discord or additional partnership and collaboration opportunities in a stream growth discord. Others don’t offer any free access and make users pay for a general invite. They may even offer tiers so that higher-paying members can access more content.
Others may monetize their discord servers with affiliate marketing and merchandising. Instead of having people pay to join, they draw their Twitch viewers and then use the server as a sales funnel for their products.
It’s not easy to monetize a Discord server. It can be challenging to grow the server to a point where people would want to pay to access it. However, for those who don’t want to rely solely on Twitch for income, it can be worth the effort.
A lot of gamers create branded merchandise and use Twitch to promote these items. Gamers may create merchandise with their catchphrases, emotes, or logos on them. Although some create the products themselves, most utilize print-on-demand platforms to handle sales and delivery. A site like Teepublic is perfect for making an online store to display and sell your gaming merchandise.
Other streamers use Twitch as a way to advertise their freelance services. Graphic designers, crafters, and artists of all types broadcast their creative process to promote their online business. Users who are interested in the work can then pay for commissions on platforms such as Fiverr.
It’s weird to say that Twitch streamers monetize via YouTube, as the two platforms are technically competitors. However, many streamers use both. Although it’s against Twitch’s terms of service to live stream to both platforms simultaneously, you can upload content to YouTube that you streamed on Twitch after 24 hours. Many streamers use Twitch for a live platform, then edit and upload the videos to their YouTube channel. This allows them to monetize both platforms and lets them reach a larger audience.
How Much Do Twitch Streamers Make?
Showcasing all these methods of making money online with Twitch was meant to answer the big question: How much do Twitch streamers make? And clearly, the answer is that it varies wildly. There are so many money-making opportunities on the platform that it’s impossible to say how much streamers make average.
However, one constant and important thing to remember about streaming on Twitch is that you will not make money quickly. It is not a get-rich-quick scheme. Many gamers decide that they want to turn their hobbies into a side business and think they will earn a lot of money immediately if they plug and play. That’s not the case. If your primary goal is to earn extra cash in your spare time, streaming probably isn’t the best option.
Instead, it would help if you looked into side gigs like pet-sitting, driving for Lyft, completing chores with TaskRabbit, or freelancing with Upwork. These side hustles are great ways to make extra money quickly.
Streaming is not an easy way to make money. It can be extremely profitable, but you need to put in a lot of upfront work to start earning any money. However, if you are a passionate gamer and serious about building a community, it’s a gratifying undertaking.
This article originally appeared on Your Money Geek and has been published with permission!
Josh writes about ways to make money, pay off debt, and improve yourself. After paying off $300,000 in student loans with his wife in less than five years, Josh started Money Life Wax and has been featured on Forbes, Business Insider, Huffington Post, and more! In addition to being a life-long entrepreneur, Josh and his wife enjoy spending time with their chocolate lab named Morgan, working out, being outside, traveling, and helping others with their finances! I got serious with money when I used Personal Capital to track my finances.