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GAMING

How to Make Money on Twitch (Without Becoming an Affiliate)

By now, most Twitch streamers know that becoming a Twitch affiliate or a Twitch partner is a way to make money streaming video games. Once you're at that level, you can get money from ad revenue, paid subscribers and Twitch Bits—their version of tips. 

But you don't have to join an official Twitch program to get paid on Twitch. In this guide, we'll highlight how to make money on Twitch without becoming a Twitch affiliate or partner.

How do you start making money on Twitch?

You can start making money on Twitch pretty early in your streaming career. If you become a Twitch affiliate or partner, the revenue streams include:

  • Twitch subscriptions
  • Twitch Bits
  • Ad revenue

It takes time and investment to become a Twitch affiliate and access these revenue streams available to you. But many Twitch streamers want to make money outside of the Twitch affiliate and Twitch partner programs. 

The revenue available to Twitch affiliates doesn’t just go to the streamer. Whatever money you make from ads and subscriptions is shared with Twitch. And the Twitch Bits? Depending on the encoder you use, you might have to share your Bits (aka, your tips from viewers) with your software encoder provider. 

Thankfully, there are ways for Twitch streamers to make money that they don’t have to share with Twitch. A few of those methods includes:

  • Affiliate links
  • Merch
  • Tournaments
  • Paid streams
  • Patreon
  • Sponsorships and sponsored content

Is it hard to make money on Twitch?

While it’s easy to start making money from Twitch, making even a few hundred dollars a year requires a big commitment and creativity.

While it’s considered relatively easy to start making some revenue from Twitch, making even a few hundred dollars a year on Twitch takes a lot of work and a little luck.

Compared to a platform like YouTube (which requires 1,000 subscribers and 4,000 watch hours over the previous 365 days), the requirements for monetization as a Twitch affiliate are easier to reach. However, not every Twitch streamer will be able to meet the requirements for becoming a Twitch affiliate, and not all streamers even want to be a Twitch affiliate. 

There are other methods of making money on Twitch. Some of those methods are more passive, while others require active promotion. But making more than the equivalent of loose change from playing video games requires an investment of your time and energy. 

Affiliate links

Affiliate links have become an increasingly popular way for influencers to make a little passive income. You’ve probably seen sites like BuzzFeed post about products with the note, “this article contains affiliate links.” But what does that mean for streamers?

What are affiliate links?

When people buy games or physical products from your affiliate links, you get a percentage of that sale.

Affiliate links are product or website links that have an extra code that tracks where sales come from. If you join an affiliate program, you’ll be able to create links to specific products that you can share on your site or in your stream description. 

When a viewer clicks on those links to buy a product—like a gaming chair you link to on Amazon—you’ll get a percentage of the sale. It’s a way for websites to thank influencers for sending customers their way.

How to find affiliate programs for Twitch

There are a few different ways to find affiliate programs for your Twitch streams. The first one is by signing up for general affiliate marketplaces. An affiliate marketplace is a website that publishers (or, in your case, streamers) can sign up and access dozens of potential affiliate programs. 

These marketplaces require you to apply, and not every application is accepted. Check out the requirements before you apply. A few examples of affiliate marketplaces include:

The second method is to see what affiliate links other Twitch streamers have in their video descriptions. Sometimes sites will have their own affiliate programs, like Loot Crate, while others are a little more like marketplaces, but with a gaming-specific niche. Here are a few affiliate programs we found by digging through Twitch feeds: 

How to get affiliate link clicks and purchases

The best way to get people to click on your affiliate links is simple—you ask them to! Add “shout out affiliate links” to your personal Twitch streaming checklist. Let viewers know that by clicking on those links to shop for things they were already interested in, they can support you without it costing them anything extra. 

Merch

C’mon, everyone loves cool merch. If you have some basic design skills, you can start promoting and selling your own swag in minutes. 

How to get merch made

There are two main ways to print merch: either by placing a bulk order or dropshipping.

Bulk orders

When you place a bulk order for merch, it means you buy a specified amount of merch at a wholesale cost and pay for it in advance. The printer then sends you all of your shirts and hats. You’re in charge of:

  • Listing your merch on a webstore
  • Promoting your merch
  • Keeping inventory of your merch
  • Setting up payment gateways
  • Shipping to buyers

It’s a lot of work, but merch bulk orders tend to cost less up front. That means you can make more money off of a $20 shirt than someone using dropshipping would.

Dropshipping

When you sell merch via a dropshipper, you’re paying a little more up front for your merch, but you don’t have to do as much work to maintain your merch sales. With a dropshipper, you design your merch the way you want, and the dropshipper:

  • Builds a webstore that you can integrate into your own website
  • Takes the money from your customer and deposits the profits into your account
  • Prints the merch on demand so there’s no inventory (and nothing ever sells out)
  • Ships the merch to your buyers

As a result, you won’t find yourself with crates of t-shirts in your garage that you’re just waiting to sell. You can also offer more products because you don’t have minimum orders. You’ll make a little less per item sold, or you can raise the cost to cover the difference. 

What kind of merch should you sell?

You should sell whatever kind of merch your viewers want to buy! Most streamers start with shirts and hats, but the options for custom printing are almost limitless. But seriously, ask your viewers during your streams what kind of merch they’d like to see you offer. Here are a few ideas to get you started: 

  • Hoodies
  • Tank tops
  • Sunglasses
  • Stickers
  • Koozies
  • Phone cases

How to sell your merch

Selling your merch is a three-step process:

Step 1: Ask people what they want. Get your fans involved before you decide to bulk order socks that no one actually asked for.

Step 2: Design your merch. If you’re not a skilled graphic designer, you can turn to friends or sites like Fiverr to create great-looking designs that people will be excited to wear. 

Step 3: Promote your merch. Just like you shout-out your affiliate links, promote your merch in your streams. And don’t stop at your own streams—ask other streamers if they’d be willing to wear your merch on camera as part of a trade for their merch. 

Tournaments

Tournaments can have major prize payouts and can attract sponsors and other revenue opportunities.

Esport gaming tournaments aren’t niche events anymore. They’ve been included in the X Games since 2015 and have become a big business. But you don’t have to be ranked to join a tournament. There are still open-entry regional and worldwide tournament opportunities for gamers, which can result in major payouts. 

What are video game tournaments? 

Video game tournaments are organized game competitions where single players or teams duke it out for prize money. A few of the biggest tournaments in recent years have been dedicated to players of World of Warcraft, Smash Bros., Dota, League of Legends, and Counter-Strike. Some of these tournaments even air on Twitch.

How do I find video game tournaments near me?

There are hundreds of video game tournaments in different regions of the world each year. With such an enormous pool, it can feel daunting to look for tournaments. But if you start with your game and platform of choice, you can find communities on Reddit and Discord that can lead you in the right direction. You might even be able to join or start a team with the skills you’re able to show off on your Twitch channel. 

How do you make money at video game tournaments?

The best way to make money in a video game tournament is to win. Some tournaments have entry fees, so it can feel a little risky, but the prize money can be significant. Win or lose, you might be able to drum up some interest in sponsors or get invited to participate in a paid stream if you do well and fans respond well to you and your style.

Sponsorships and sponsored content

As live streaming gets more popular, more brands want to associate themselves with popular streamers and influencers. The biggest streamers can get thousands of dollars for sponsorships, product endorsements and in-person appearances. 

What does it mean to have a Twitch sponsorship?

When you have a sponsor on Twitch, it means you can get either money or products for your endorsements. Outright sponsorships are more common with more popular streamers, but even those who are just starting out can reach out to the brands they like and ask for a paid or product sponsorship. 

How to get sponsored on Twitch

When your channel gets big enough, the sponsors will start to notice and reach out to you. Until then, it’s up to you to reach out to brands and ask them about sponsorships. 

Make a list of the brands you like and would consider featuring in your stream. See if they have a page on their website for gamer relations or sponsorships and reach out to them. 

Here are some types of brands you might consider trying to get sponsorships for:

  • USB microphones
  • Webcams
  • Streaming software
  • Gaming chairs
  • Headphones
  • Peripherals
  • Games

When you reach out to brands, have some statistics about your streams ready. More than any other metric, brands are probably most interested in how many viewers and subscribers you have. They’ll also want to know how often you reach your fans. If nothing else, be ready to tell potential sponsors how many views your streams get each month on average.

Where to find Twitch sponsorships

There are a few ways to find Twitch sponsorships. The first one is to find the brands that are already doing sponsorships with other streamers. Take a look at channels that are similar in size and scope to yours, and see who’s sponsoring them. Reach out to see if they can connect you to their contact, or reach out to the brand on your own. 

Another way to find Twitch sponsorship is through influencer marketing programs. One example is Powerspike,which connects brands and streamers so that brands can promote their product and so that streamers can get paid. 

Paid live streams

Paid live streams go hand-in-hand with sponsorships. If you’re doing well enough to get a few sponsorships—even in-kind product sponsorships—you might be able to land some paid live streams.

What are paid live streams?

A paid live stream is when a game developer pays you to live stream yourself playing their game. You get paid for playing a new game, and the game developer gets to show off their product to your fans.

How do paid live streams work?

There are two ways to get paid for a paid live stream: a flat fee or a cost-per-viewer. A flat fee is a no-nonsense, this-is-what-you-get fee. You’d be paid the same amount whether 10 or 10,000 viewers show up. 

For a cost-per-viewer stream, you’d be paid for each viewer who watches you play. The rate per viewer will vary depending on the streamer’s clout, but seems to range from 1¢ and $1 per viewer.

Patreon

As we’ve mentioned before, you need to be a Twitch affiliate or partner to offer subscriptions for your Twitch streams. Even then, Twitch takes a whopping 50% of that subscription revenue! While Patreon isn’t exactly the same as Twitch subscriptions, it’s a way to get consistent monthly support from your biggest fans without giving away half of your hard work. 

What's Patreon?

Patreon is a website that connects creators and fans. Fans can support their favorite content creators, musicians and more with a recurring monthly donation. Patreon does take a small fee, but its 5-12% fee (which varies by plan you select) pales in comparison to Twitch’s 50% fee.

How do you make money through Patreon?

You make money through Patreon by asking your fans to support you on Patreon. Through Patreon, you can create different levels of support that have different “perks” attached to them. Perks can be anything from access to private streams to exclusive merch. 

How do you get Patreon supporters?

Like with merch and affiliate links, the best way to get Patreon supporters is to mention it during your streams and on your social pages. Set fun but realistic perks for the different levels of support based on fan feedback. Here are some examples of support tiers and what those perks could look like: 

  • A shout out during the stream at the $5 level
  • Access to a special Discord server at the $10 level
  • A care package of exclusive merch once a year at the $25 level
  • An invitation to play with you at the $50 level

You can also set overall goals on Patreon that would benefit all of your Patreon supporters, who are called Patrons. Ask your Patrons what they’d like to see you do to celebrate different milestones like hitting $100 a month. Examples of goals could include: 

  • A Zoom chat with all patrons over a certain level
  • A live Q&A
  • A contest where you give away a copy of your favorite game

If you want to be professional, look and sound professional

Investing in your stream quality could help you attract viewers and sponsors.

If you ever plan on making money from Twitch streaming, you need to make sure you have the right tools. If your twitch stream is buggy or features bad audio and video, you’ll be fighting an uphill battle to get subscribers who are willing to buy your merch or find sponsors and paid stream opportunities. 

In order to become a professional Twitch streamer—or at least a Twitch streamer who gets paid—your channel needs to look and sound like a professional channel. Don’t know where to start? Check out our blog on how to improve the sound of your Twitch streams and take a look at the best microphones for Twitch.