There are two things about live streaming in 2021 everyone should understand. The first is that live streaming is not only about playing video games and inviting other people to watch you as you do it, even though there’s plenty of that happening around. The second, and maybe even more important, is that for many people live streaming is more than just a hobby – it’s a bona fide revenue stream. So much so that some people can call it a day job.
But don’t quit yours yet. It’s true that it’s incredibly easy to start live streaming. It’s also true that some people know how to make money streaming, and there’s no reason why you might not learn how to do it, too. You might even be able to learn a thing or two from businesses that are using it – that’s how widespread live streaming has become.
Getting to the point where you pretty much get paid to live stream takes time, energy, and that certain something that will make people want to watch you. The people who are getting rich streaming are an incredibly small minority. On Twitch, for example, the top 5,000 channels get 75% of all viewing time. Twitch has more than two million channels. But if you’re ready to put in the work into making money by live streaming, get ready.
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Here are some of the most common, hassle-free ways to do it, followed by the ones that require more involvement or are just unorthodox.
1. Getting donations or tips from fans
If you’re looking for proof that your live video streaming hobby/side gig/career is moving in a good direction, the first donation or a tip is a good one. You’ll get a very special feeling when it dawns on you that someone, somewhere, is appreciating what you’re doing enough to send you a couple of bucks.
Most live-streaming platforms and websites allow you to make money streaming 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 what some of the major platforms use:
- 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 good. If you’re a Twitch affiliate or a partner, you get around a cent for every Bit viewers use when cheering. The viewers get to write a message that appears together with a special kind of emote, a Cheemote.
- Facebook’s tipping service revolves around Stars, a type of virtual good viewers can buy and send to you, giving you a cent per Star. You need to be a part of Facebook’s Level Up program to enable Stars. Facebook also supports fundraising charitable donations for a U.S.-based 501(c)(3).
- Mixer has a system where viewers accrue Sparks by watching streams and spend them on Skills – animation and gifs. Getting enough Skills will get you a payout. Viewers can also buy Embers and trade them for more impressive Skills, which get you bigger payouts.
- DLive lets viewers make blockchain-based Lino points by interacting with people’s streams. They can send these points to you as a gift.
When receiving tips, remember to give a shout out to the person giving it. If the tip comes with a message or a question during a live AMA, it would be a good idea to prioritize it over regular questions for answers.
2. Regular viewer payments on the streaming platform
What’s better than getting an occasional tip from your viewers? Getting a regular payment, of course. These regular payments usually net you a couple of bucks each, but if you can get enough of them, they sure can add up.
You usually need to meet certain requirements for enabling this kind of support, as platforms keep it for members of their content creator programs. The platforms that don’t have it yet will probably role out this feature in the future, as it’s proving to be a popular way to make money streaming.
Here’s how some of the platforms are handling this:
- YouTube has a channel membership program that allows users to join channels with monthly payments. To open your channel 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 has a subscription program in the works.
- Mixer has a Partner Payments program with subscriptions, letting users set up payments with cards or PayPal.
If the platform you use allows it, you should make content that’s available just to your subscribers. This is a nice way to give your most loyal viewers a little bit more for their support. Also, remember to give a shout out to the people who subscribed, and maybe even give them a mention on their subscription anniversary.
3. Tips and regular payments via third-party platforms
You might not want all your streaming revenue to go through the streaming platform. It’s not like everyone has to be super interested in joining the partnership programs, for example. You might also be afraid of what happens if you lose your status and your standing with the platform. Maybe you just want to keep things separate 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 find yourself in a need of a third-party platform you can use to process donations and subscriptions. There’s plenty you can choose from. Some of the most popular options include:
- Streamlabs for one-time donations. It integrates easily with Twitch, YouTube, Mixer, Facebook, Twitter, and Picarto, and it offers six different payment options.
- Patreon for regular donations/subscriptions. With its ability to let patrons set monthly pledges, Patreon is about the closest thing you can get to the subscription system platforms are increasingly adopting.
- GoFundMe or Kickstarter for project-based funding. If you have a project you’d like to complete and you’re looking for funding, set up pages on these websites and use your live streams to promote your project.
For some of these services, if not most, you’ll need to think about creating special rewards and content for people who support you. Be careful when deciding what goes behind the paywall and what stays part of your core – and free – content, though. You can’t keep all your best stuff behind the wall. Some of it has to stay free to attract new viewers.
4. Revenue from ads
Why not use ads to fund your live streaming? Advertising bucks are already used to power half the internet, including Google services and Facebook. If you join the right streaming platform or social network, you can start earning the advertising money, too.
You will literally need to join the right streaming platform, though, because not all of them offer ads. In fact, some are decidedly anti-ads, such as DLive. Others, such as Mixer, for example, have not yet included a third-party advertising service.
If ads are what you want to make money from, these are the platforms to join:
- YouTube offers pre-roll and mid-roll ads, as well as display and overlay ads.
- Facebook Live 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. You might want 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. It’s not the best idea to have ads as the sole monetization option for your live streaming.
5. Brand deals and sponsorships
Less controversial than regular ads, brand deals and sponsorships are another way you can engage with businesses in a mutually beneficial arrangement. If you have a large following on streaming platforms and you’ve made a name for yourself, brands will reach out to you with offers. If they don’t, you’ll have to do the reaching out.
Either way, when dealing with brands, it pays to be professional and detail-oriented. You’ll want to negotiate the minutiae of the deal, to be 100% sure you’re on the same page regarding your commitment.
Some of the ways you make money streaming through deals with brands include:
- Sponsorships, where your 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 on the platform.
- Sponsored content, like when a game developer pays you to play their game.
Your audience is what will get the brands’ attention. You should be able to pull decent audiences and have a clear understanding of who they are, what are their interests, what types of problems they need solving. The deal you strike is how you make money streaming. Just be careful not to do deals that will make you appear as a sellout. Your audiences might not like that, and if you lose them, you lose the sponsors.
6. Affiliate sales
A membership in an affiliate program will allow you to get a commission every time a shopper clicks on your affiliate link and makes a purchase. You don’t even have to post a link, as sometimes everything you need is a promo or coupon code they can use when they shop at the place you’re promoting.
The way this usually works is that you place the link or the code somewhere in your stream description. You might even mention the coupon code once or twice during the stream. The link or the code are provided to you once you join the affiliate program.
The important thing to remember is that, unless it has a deal with the partnership program, the platform isn’t profiting from your affiliate sales. So, make sure to keep your content to the point, and the products or services you recommend relevant to the content. Don’t make content only for the sake of making sales - how you make money streaming should be second to creating good content.
7. Create and sell your own merch
Merch is an important revenue stream for many people who live-stream video content. The streaming platforms have recognized it, giving users plenty of advice and offering them some truly great tools to help boost merch sales.
Even with these tools, you’ll still have plenty of things to figure out on your own, if this is your choice of how to make money streaming. The kind of products you want to sell, for example. T-shirts, mugs, and even plush toys are a good choice. You can also sell digital products and goods, such as music or eBooks.
You’ll also have to think about the design, production, inventory, and shipping. There are a couple of ways you can do this, for example:
- Build your own online store, handle production, store inventory, and ship products, all on your own.
- Get in charge of the design but let one of the platform-approved companies take care of the rest for a cut.
- Partner with stores that let you take advantage of special opportunities on select platforms, such as YouTube merch shelf.
Each of these solutions will offer you different profit margins and will require different levels of involvement. You can handle everything and take on both the expenses and the profits. You can outsource some of it for a cut of the profits. Either way, you can tie your merchandize business with your live stream.
8. Develop pay-per-view content
Developing live content and selling tickets for it is becoming more interesting by the day. The popularity of streaming is on the rise, and even the platforms that were traditionally shy with content adoption are taking up live streaming. With that, new opportunities for content production are opening.
It’s not just gaming content people want to watch live online. There are people with all kinds of interests and hobbies that are turning to live streams to learn and exchange opinions with like minded individuals. If you can create content that’s appealing to them, that’s how you make money streaming: start selling tickets for your live stream.
First, you need to be able to create content people will want to pay to watch. That usually means some level of exclusivity or at least something that will make it different from anything that’s already available for free. You need a platform that lets you sell tickets to streams, or a service like StreamTick that lets you do it on YouTube, Facebook, or Twitter. With that, you have everything you need to put your content behind a paywall.
9. Coach/teach/offer lessons
If you think that sharing your knowledge through seminars, workshops, or classes you hold sounds too academic for your taste, how about you become someone’s mentor, a coach, or a teacher? As long as you have the skills or the knowledge that other people might find useful, you can earn money off them, and live streaming can help.
The idea is that you spend one-on-one time with someone who is paying for it, ideally helping them achieve some goals. For example, you can offer a couple of one-on-one lessons every month for the people who pledge your highest tier of support on Patreon. You can also do it for one-off transactions.
The great thing is the way platforms are evolving is actually helping you. An increasing number of platforms are allowing co-streaming, for example, which can be perfect for coaching someone in playing a game. Platforms are also significantly decreasing the dreaded lag, 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, or even preparing them for jobs, in no time.
Ever since it became available to the public, the internet was full of opportunities to do interesting new things and earn some money in the process. Just as blogging was all the rage a while back, live streaming is currently one of the most interesting frontiers you can try yourself in. You can pick one of the money-making 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 try them out on several streaming platforms all at once. But remember – you’ll need to be able to create content people will look forward to seeing. 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.