7 Ways to Make Money Streaming Video Games on Twitch

All of the best ways to monetize your Twitch channel and make money

Golden dollar symbols coming out of a computer
Twitch has quickly become a reliable source of income for gamers. Donald Iain Smith / Blend Images

Twitch may have started as a basic service for streaming and viewing video game gameplay but it's quickly become a legitimate source of income for many users with several of the more-popular Twitch users earning well above the average household income each month.

There are a variety of methods with which successful Twitch streamers monetize their channels and all of them are fairly easy to implement.

Some of the best ways to make money streaming on Twitch include:

  • Twitch Subscriptions
  • Bits (Twitch's premium emoticons)
  • Donations
  • Video Ads
  • Sponsorships
  • Affiliate Links
  • Selling Merchandise

Some of the official Twitch options are limited to Twitch affiliates and partners (users who have reached a certain level of popularity and are given more account features) but there are still options for newer users who may not yet have a huge following.

Twitch Subscriptions

Subscriptions are by far the most-popular form of making money on Twitch as they allow for the creation of a recurring source of income that can snowball over time as more viewers opt-in. Twitch subscriptions are essentially scheduled monthly donations of either $4.99, $9.99, or $24.99 with the chosen amount being split between Twitch and the streamer 50/50. Note, some of the incredibly popular Twitch Partners often earn more than 50 percent as a way to encourage them to remain on the platform.

The subscription option is only available for Twitch Partners and Affiliates and this makes a lot of sense as streamers with under 50 followers (the minimum requirement to become a Twitch Affiliate) likely wouldn't get that many paid subscribers anyway. As soon as a channel is upgraded to the Partner or Affiliate status, the subscription option is enabled and the Subscribe button automatically appears on the channel's page on the Twitch website.

Some tips:

  • Set up alerts within your stream to announce new subscribers and take the time to create customize emotes for subscribers to use. Both will encourage more people to opt-in to the monthly donation.
  • The subscribe option is only available on the Twitch website so make sure to mention in your streams that subscribing is an option so those watching via the Twitch console and mobile apps know how to support you.

Those without access to Twitch subscriptions can use third-party services to collect recurring donations. Patreon is a very popular alternative which lot of streamers use.

  • A Patreon profile can be set up for free on the Patreon website and linked to from within your Twitch profile description or social media channels such as Twitter. You can also mention your Patreon username verbally during a stream.

Bits

Bits are a way to visualize support for streamers on Twitch from within a stream's chat. They are essentially animated gifs that users can post alongside a chat message but they must be purchased with real money via Amazon Payments. Twitch partners and affiliates earn one cent per bit used in their channel's chat so if someone uses 100 bits, they earn $1.

Streamers can place a limit on the minimum number of bits that can be used at once to prevent people spamming their chat with numerous individual bits.

Special alerts (sound effects and graphics) can be tied to the use of bits which can help encourage more viewers to buy and use them and viewers are also rewarded with special chat badges that display next to their names based on how many bits they have donated. Bits are only available to Twitch Partners and Affiliates.

  • Remember to verbally thank all your viewers who use bits during your streams. This will encourage them to use them more in the future.
  • Add a StreamLabs tip jar widget to your stream layout. This creates a visual representation of an empty glass that fills up with all of the bits that your viewers use. Not only does this provide a constant reminder of the bits feature but it also motivates viewers to try and fill it up with more bits.  

    Receiving Donations on Twitch

    Receiving donations is a popular way for Twitch streamers to earning extra money as they are a way for viewers to support their streams with a one-off payment that can be anything from as low as a dollar to several thousand dollars and even higher.

    Twitch doesn't offer a native way for streamers to accept donations so third-party applications and service are often implemented such as PayPal. While donations can be rewarding, there are many stories of streamers having been tricked by scammers or internet trolls who had donated a large sum of money only to claim a dispute a month or so later and have all of it refunded. Donations aren't protected by Twitch the same way bits and subscription payments are and there is no way to prevent such an occurrence from happening. Anyone can file a PayPal dispute within 180 days of a payment and Twitch streamers are encouraged not to spend any of their donations until this time period is up.

    • The easiest way to accept PayPal donations is to create a free PayPal.me link. This link can then be added to your Twitch channel profile description or shared within your Twitch chat for viewers to click on. This link can be shared on social networks such as Twitter and Facebook as well.

    Playing Video Ads During a Stream

    Most people associate video ads with Twitch channel monetization but the reality is that ads on Twitch, both pre-roll (shown before a stream starts) or mid-roll (played during a stream), are the lowest earners of all of the options available.

    On average, Twitch pays around $2 per 1,000 views for an ad and since even some of the biggest Twitch streamers average around 600 viewers when streaming, showing an advertisement doesn't really feel worth it for many, especially when they can earn much more through other methods such as subscriptions and bits. Ads are only available to Twitch Partners.

    • Ads can earn you a bit of extra cash but it's best not to rely soley on them as a primary source of monetization. Use them in conjunction with some, or all, of the other methods on this list.

    Streamer Sponsorships

    Similar to how Instagram influencers are earning money for endorsing products and services on Instagram, many Twitch streamers are also receiving payments for doing the same during their streams. Examples of streamer sponsorships include fashion labels, food and drinks, video games, computer hardware and accessories, and websites.

    Getting a sponsorship deal is something any streamer on Twitch can do regardless of Partner or Affiliate status. Agreements are sometimes arranged by the streamer reaching out to the respective company but more often than not it's the company's marketing team who makes a proposal to the streamer. The amount of money earned through sponsorship varies depending on the length of the sponsorship campaign, how intensely the promotion is applied (i.e. is the streamer required to simply wear a t-shirt or verbally encourage viewers to buy the t-shirt), and the popularity of the viewer themselves.

    • Connect with industry contacts via social media and video game or technlogy expos and conventions. Create business cards with your Twitch channel, real name, and contact information on them to hand out to company employees. The more professional you appear, the greater chance of someone thinking of you next time they want to promote a product.

      Affiliate Links

      Another good monetization option for all Twitch streamers is the implementation of affiliate links (not to be confused with the Twitch Affiliate status). This basically involves joining a company's affiliate program and adding links to their products or services on your Twitch channel page description and within the chat on a consistent basis via the use of a chatbot like Nightbot.

      A popular affiliate program to join is Amazon's due to the variety of products they offer and their trusted name which encourages users to buy from them instead of their competitors. Many Twitch streamers and viewers already have an Amazon account due to it being required to pay for bits and Twitch Prime, a premium subscription that links to Amazon Prime. Amazon rewards affiliates with a percentage of the sales they send their way. Play Asia also has an affiliate program that is popular with some streamers.

      • Setup a free Amazon Associates account.
      • Talk to your viewers during your streams and in your chat to see what sort of products they're interested in and then begin linking to them in your chat or on social media. Don't spam your followers with too many links though. The recommendations need to be organic.
      • List the hardware and software that you use in your Twitch channel profile description and link each product to its page on Amazon using your unique Amazon Associate code. Personal recommendations are one of the best ways to drive affiliate sales.

      Twitch Streamer Merchandise

      Selling merchandise may not be as big of an earner for Twitch streamers as subscriptions and donations are but for those with a large enough following, the creation and selling of their own uniquely designed products such as t-shirts and mugs can be a nice additional source of income.

      Twitch Partners are invited to sell their custom t-shirt designs in the main Twitch t-shirt store which is powered by Tee Spring but any streamer can use a variety of similar free services like Spread Shirt and Zazzle to create and sell their own products.

      • When designing your product, use a design that's unique to your channel such as a larger version of an emote or an inside joke that's developed organically in your channel's chatroom.