Getting paid to live stream takes time, energy, and content that makes people want to watch you. The people who are getting rich by streaming are an incredibly small minority. On Twitch, for example, the top 1,000 channels get 53% of all viewing time. Twitch has more than two million channels, but if you’re ready to put in the work — a lot of it — you can make money by streaming too.
This list highlights nine methods to generate income from live streaming — from the most common and easiest to implement to the more complex and unorthodox.
1. Donations or tips from fans
If you want a sign that your live hobby/side gig/career streaming is moving in the right direction, wait until you receive your first donation or tip. It feels so gratifying when you realize that someone, somewhere, is appreciating what you do enough to send you a couple of dollars.
Most live streaming platforms and websites allow you to make money by letting viewers send you donations or tips. They usually have integrated services or even their own virtual “goods” or “currencies” viewers can use for the transaction.
Here’s a breakdown of the donation/tip systems on the major platforms:
- YouTube’s main tipping service is Super Chat. Viewers can use tips to pin messages in your channel’s chat window, making them more noticeable. YouTube also lets users buy chat animations called Super Stickers, and you get a cut of each purchase.
- Twitch allows viewers to “cheer” using Bits, the platform’s virtual currency. If you’re a Twitch affiliate or partner, you get around $0.01 for every Bit viewers use when cheering. The viewers get to write a message that appears together with a special kind of emote Twitch calls a Cheemote.
- Facebook’s tipping service revolves around Stars, a type of virtual good viewers can buy and send to you, giving you $0.01 per Star. You need to be a part of Facebook’s Level Up program to enable Stars. Facebook also supports fundraising charitable donations for U.S.–based 501(c)(3) organizations.
When you receive a tip, remember to give a shoutout to the person who gave it. If the tip comes with a message or a question during a live AMA (Ask Me Anything), it’s a good idea to prioritize it over other questions.
2. Regular payments from viewers on streaming platforms
Getting an occasional tip from your viewers is great, but regular payments are better. These payments will usually net you a couple of dollars each, but if you can get enough of them, they add up. You’ll need to meet certain requirements to enable this kind of support, as platforms reserve it for members of their content creator programs.
Here’s an overview of recurring payment features on the major platforms:
- YouTube has a channel membership program that allows users to subscribe to its channels with monthly payments. To open your YouTube channel (where you group your videos) to this opportunity, you need to be in the YouTube Partner Program and meet additional eligibility requirements.
- Twitch has a paid subscription program that lets you earn from paid subscriptions if you’re an Affiliate or Partner. Your viewers get one subscription for free through Twitch Prime, or they can pay for them using PayPal, Amazon Pay, or credit cards.
- Facebook Gaming extended its Fan Subscriptions feature to Level Up gaming content creators. You must achieve a certain number of returning weekly viewers, and the feature is only available in certain regions.
If the platform allows it, you should make content that’s exclusive to your subscribers. It’s a nice way to show your most loyal viewers that you appreciate their support. Also, remember to give a shoutout to people when they subscribe and a mention on their subscription anniversaries.
3. Tips and regular payments via third-party platforms
Not everyone is interested in joining partnership programs on streaming platforms. You may also want to keep separate revenue streams to make it easier to move from one platform to another or operate on several platforms at the same time.
For whatever reason, you may need to use a third-party platform to process payments from donations and subscriptions. Some of the most popular options include:
- StreamElements for one-time donations and tips. This platform integrates easily with Twitch, YouTube, Facebook Gaming, and Trovo and it offers different payment options.
- Patreon for regular donations/subscriptions. With the ability to let patrons set monthly pledges, Patreon is the closest you can get to a subscription system without going through a streaming platform’s program.
- GoFundMe or Kickstarter for project-based funding. If you have a project to complete and you’re looking for funding, set up pages on these websites and use your live streams to promote it.
For most of these services, you should consider creating special rewards and content for the people who support you. Decide carefully which content goes behind the paywall and which stays free, though. You can’t keep all your best stuff locked behind a subscription; some of it has to stay free to attract new viewers.
4. Revenue from ads
Advertising revenue powers half the internet, including Google services and Facebook. Why not you too? If you join the right streaming platform or social network, you can start earning some decent ad money.
When you start broadcasting live videos on a specific platform, like YouTube or Facebook, you may be able to take advantage of their advertising programs. Here’s a breakdown of the different types of in-stream ads that are usually available:
- Pre-roll ads: These ads play as soon as a viewer clicks on your stream. They have to view the ad before they can start watching your content.
- Mid-roll ads: Mid-roll ads play in the middle of your live stream. Your stream continues in a smaller window while the ad takes up most of the screen.
- Display and overlay ads: These types of ads usually pop up as banners or small cards on top of your stream.
If you want to generate revenue with ads, join these platforms:
- YouTube offers pre-roll and mid-roll ads, as well as display and overlay ads.
- Facebook offers mid-roll ads if you meet the viewership number criteria.
- Twitch offers in-stream ads, as well as display and native ad opportunities.
Advertising in live streaming is a hot topic and a regular cause of controversy. Try to exercise as much control as you can over the advertisements displayed during your streams or on your channel. Also, remember that viewers can use ad-blocking software to prevent some ads from showing. Therefore, using ads as the sole method to monetize your live streaming may not be the best idea.
5. Brand deals and sponsorships
Brand deals and sponsorships are another way you can earn money while streaming by engaging with businesses in a mutually beneficial arrangement. If you have a large following on streaming platforms, brands will reach out to you with offers. If they don’t, you can reach out to them.
When dealing with brands, it pays to be professional and detail-oriented. You make money when brands agree to pay you. You’ll want to negotiate every part of the deal, to be 100% sure you’re on the same page regarding your commitment.
Some of the ways you can make money include:
- Sponsorships, where whole streams are sponsored by a brand.
- Banners and other types of advertisements you can display during your streams or on your channel or profile page.
- Sponsored content, like when a game developer pays you to play their game.
Your audience is what will get a brand’s attention. You should have a decent number of viewers and a clear understanding of who they are, their interests, and the types of problems they need solved. Be mindful of cutting deals that make you look like a sellout. Your audiences might not like that, and if you lose your audience, you lose the sponsors.
6. Affiliate programs
With a membership in an affiliate program, you can earn a commission every time a shopper clicks on your affiliate link and makes a purchase. Sometimes you don’t even have to post a link, because all you need is a promo or coupon code viewers can use when they shop at the place you’re promoting. The link or code is provided to you once you join the affiliate program.
Typically, you place the affiliate link or the code in your stream description. You could also mention the coupon code once or twice during the stream.
Keep in mind that, unless the streaming platform has a deal with the affiliate program, the platform isn’t profiting from your affiliate sales. So keep your content to the point and make the products or services you recommend relevant to your topic. Don’t stream for the sake of making sales — your method for making money by streaming should come second to creating good content.
If you're unsure where to start, give the Restream Referral Program a try. You can earn up to a 30% recurring commission on every subscription that comes from your link.
7. Create and sell your own merch
Merchandise is an important revenue stream for many people who broadcast live video content. Streaming platforms have recognized this and give users plenty of advice, offering them some truly useful tools to help boost merch sales.
Even with these tools, however, you’ll still have plenty to figure out on your own if you decide to sell merch. What kind of products do you want to sell? T-shirts, mugs, and plush toys are all good choices. You can also sell digital products, such as music or e-books.
You’ll need to think about the design, production, inventory, and shipping of your merch as well. There are a few ways you can do this, including:
- Building your own online store. Handle production, store inventory, and shipping all on your own.
- Overseeing the design but letting one of the platform-approved merch companies produce, store, and ship the merch for a cut of the profits.
- Partnering with stores that let you take advantage of special opportunities on select platforms, such as the YouTube Merch shelf.
Each of these solutions offers different profit margins and requires different levels of involvement. Whatever you choose, you can tie your merchandise business to your live streaming.
8. Develop pay-per-view content
Producing live content and selling tickets for it has become hugely popular. It’s no longer just gaming content that gets live viewers. People with all kinds of interests and hobbies are turning to live streams to learn and exchange opinions with like-minded individuals. If you can create content that’s appealing to these viewers, you can make money by selling tickets for your live stream.
First, you need to create content that people will want to pay to watch. It should have some level of exclusivity or a way to stand out from content that is already available for free. You also have to use a platform that lets you sell tickets to live streams. Services like Streamtick let you sell admission to live broadcasts on YouTube, Facebook, or Twitter as well. With killer content and a ticketing service, you have everything you need to develop pay-per-view content.
9. Coach/teach/offer lessons
Share your knowledge through live seminars, workshops, or classes. If that sounds too academic for your taste, consider becoming someone’s mentor, coach, or teacher. As long as you have the skills or knowledge other people want to learn, you can earn money from sharing your expertise, and live streaming can help.
A common format is spending one-on-one time with someone who is paying for lessons or coaching sessions, helping them achieve their goals. For example, you can offer a couple of one-on-one lessons every month to the people who pledge your highest tier of support on Patreon. You can also do one-off transactions.
Many streaming platforms are evolving in a way that benefits this revenue model. An increasing number are allowing co-streaming, for example, which is perfect for coaching someone on playing a video game. As platforms improve their overall quality, the dreaded lag time is disappearing, making it easier to communicate via chats. Plus, some platforms allow call-ins. With the right combination of platform and service, you can start critiquing people’s in-game builds, showing them new skills and even preparing them for jobs.
Ever since the beginning of the internet, people have looked for opportunities to do interesting new things online and earn some money in the process. If you want to use live streaming to generate income, you can pick one of the methods from this list — or all of them. It's up to you. With a little help from a multistreaming tool like Restream, you can even earn money on several streaming platforms all at once. Keep in mind that you have to create content people want to see. Once you build that audience, you need to make sure you keep it. When it comes to live streaming and making money, your audience is your biggest asset.