It’s a question that most cosplayers ask themselves: how can I make money as a cosplayer? Cosplay is an expensive hobby so it’s only natural that people want to find a way to monetize their craft. For some people, earning extra cash is just a way to break even, while others are looking for a way to build their cosplay base as a potential career move. And if you know me— I’m all about finding a way to turn your creative passions into a full-time gig.
There are actually a bunch of different ways that you can make money as a cosplayer. Most cosplayers are quick to point you in the more obvious directions, like setting up a Patreon or cosplay commissions. However, I wanted to look outside the box to see just how many avenues there really are for cosplayers to earn a buck or two.
So here are my 10 ways to make money as a cosplayer.
10. Ko-Fi or Patreon
Ko-Fi and Patreon are both crowdfunding platforms that give creatives a place to collect one-time or continuous donations to fund their passions. However, these platforms are vastly different, so it’s important to note each of their unique advantages.
Ko-Fi is a donation platform that usually doesn’t result in a reward of any kind. Cosplayers use this to set up one-time goals and ask their social media fans to contribute through their special Ko-Fi platform. For example, if you need an extra $50 to buy a cosplay suit, then Ko-Fi might be a better option for a no-strings-attached contribution from your fans.
Ko-Fi doesn’t take a fee, but since the money is distributed through Paypal, their typical fees still apply. Paypal charges a 2.9% fee from the total amount and a $0.30 fee per transaction.
Patreon is a platform that requires creators to offer “prizes” to their patrons. With Patreon, you are essentially offering some kind of product or service that your patrons are buying. This can be tutorials, prints, eBooks, or behind-the-scenes material.
9. Cosplay Commissions
Commissions seem to be the go-to method for prop makers and seamstresses to procure some form of cosplay-related income. This can be done through websites such as Etsy, or you can set up your own commission guidelines on your own website. Termina Cosplay has a fantastic example of how to do this.
8. Youtube or Twitch
YouTube and Twitch are both video-related platforms that can have high returns. However, they are also both extremely difficult to break into. On YouTube, you have to have 1,000 subscribers just to start monetizing your videos and even then, the payoff isn’t much without a high subscriber count. Videos that are over 10 minutes usually produce the best return on investment (ROI) because multiple ads can be placed in one video.
I personally don’t know too much about Twitch, though I plan on reviewing this platform soon so that I can give a more in-depth analysis. In the meantime, you can learn more about Twitch here.
7. eBooks or Patterns
Cosplay eBooks are usually text-based tutorials with pictures and possibly patterns. It’s (arguably) much simpler than creating a YouTube tutorial, though it requires knowledge of eBook formatting. You will also have to set up an eCommerce section on your website or you can sell your eBooks on Amazon. Amazon sellers have to pay $40 a month and they take $0.30 for every sale (here’s more information about Amazon selling). You can also use eBooks as a Patreon reward so that you are only losing the 2.9% fee that Patreon takes.
Patterns can also be sold without the eBook tutorial. These, along with eBooks, always come in PDF form. Cosplayers usually use platforms like Etsy in order to list their patterns if they don’t already have a website.
6. Sell Your Own Merch
Merch (merchandise for those not hip with today’s lingo) can come in a variety of forms. Typical merch for cosplayers are usually mugs, stickers, or even their own artwork. I honestly think that custom t-shirts could be profitable if you have a unique enough design. I have actually been struggling to come up with a new logo for Cosplay and Coffee (TM) so that I can sell my own merch soon, but I can’t make up my mind on a design.
Think carefully about the design you want and team up with a professional online retailer to talk about how distribution and shipping factors into your costs before making a decision to sell your own cosplay merchandise.
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5. Convention Appearances
Cosplayers are still having a hard time convincing conventions that their presence is worthy of pay. Some conventions will offer travel and hotel expenses as a way to “pay” their cosplay guests, but I think that cosplayers should be getting paid for their efforts. Celebrities are paid hundreds of thousands of dollars to appear at conventions, and I’m willing to bet they receive a cut of their autograph and photo op sessions.
Cosplayers, on the other hand, are expected to run panels and after-parties, but their only compensation comes from the merch they bring to their table. And even then, cosplayers are only lucky to break even. I think more cosplayers should be adamant about being paid to go to conventions or else this is never going to change. You shouldn’t have to be Jessica Nigri or Yaya Han in order to get paid as a cosplay guest.
4. Make Money Cosplaying with Prints
Prints are probably the most popular way to make money as a cosplayer. Most people offer these as rewards (usually $10 or more) on their Patreon or they sell them on Etsy. If you offer prints as a reward on your Patreon, make sure that your debt-to-income ratio makes sense. Sending out physical rewards such as prints can get costly, so you may want to set a limit to how many you send out. Ginny Di has a full breakdown which can help you determine if you are loosing money on Patreon rewards.
3. Make Money Selling Old Cosplays
Poshmark and Etsy are both quick and efficient platforms to sell your old cosplays, wigs, or props. A lot of cosplayers will utilize Facebook groups to sell old cosplays, but this method isn’t as secure. If you do choose to use Facebook to sell your old cosplays, make sure to receive half of the payment upfront. I would even go as far as to advise you to ask for the full payment upfront. Your buyer may end up not liking the cosplay or changing their mind and then just decide not to pay you the rest. And really, there’s nothing you can do about it.
2. Website Ads and Affiliate Links
Setting up a website and affiliate links requires basic HTML knowledge and it’s pretty time-consuming. The first year I had Google Ads on my website, I made maybe $10, so it’s not a huge source of income. But it can be if you’re dedicated and supply website content on a weekly basis. If your website has enough traffic, you can even sell ad space for relevant products or services.
You can also set up affiliate links in order to make money as a cosplayer. Amazon now has an influencer program so you don’t even have to have a website in order to participate. Learn more about Amazon’s influencer program here.
1. Influencer Platforms
Influencer platforms like Famebit and Activate connect influencers with brands that recognize the importance of this type of advertising. This strategy isn’t a popular way to earn money as a cosplayer, but let me tell you— the opportunity is there. I think that as more cosplay influencers sign up for this type of sponsorship, the more companies will become accustomed to utilizing our unique audience.
Some of these influencer platforms require you to have a certain following on your platforms. For example, Fambit only accepts YouTube and Tumblr influencers with an audience of 5,000 or more. However, you can sign up with Activate with next to no prerequisites.