How to Earn Money in Sim Racing
Is it not the dream to make money from the thing you love doing? Yet, it’s not so straightforward as that. The Japanese principle of Ikigai brings some clarity. Doing what you love is one of four factors in living a life of purpose.
You need to also do what the world needs, what you can get paid for and what you are good at. The holy grail might be to win a competition like the F1 Esports Series, a championship with a $750,000 prize pool in 2021. The world loves watching competitions as entertainment. And if you’re both talented and dedicated, you’ll be good enough to get paid very, very well.
What is the path to that upper echelon of Esports? And if that is not your destination, what are the other options you have to get paid for doing what you love?
As you carve out your journey, you’ll be faced with several decisions. Do you want to go full time or are you alright with things being part-time? Should you drive in iRacing or F1? Whatever your choices may be, there is one fundamental to remember: Do what you enjoy most.
That’s what will drive you to drive your car, time and time again. Whichever path you choose, dedication is critical. To be a top Esports driver takes 1000s of hours. To grow a Youtube channel takes years of constant uploads. If you do what you love, your dedication shall not fade. Follow the fun(damentals)!
The above fundamentals advice is especially relevant when you are going Pro. Your hobby will become the skill you get paid for. You must be prepared to train, smartly and efficiently. You need to be ready to negotiate with various organizations, some with an eye for exploitation.
Tobin Leigh provides a quick but comprehensive guide to the pro career
Usually, the way it works is that if you show pace and consistency at a high level in any competitions, certain organizations will be looking to pick you up. They will pay you a salary with certain bonuses if you win, but they receive the prize money before redistributing it.
If you do make the top leagues, there is good money to be made. Here are the top prize pools for the top sim racing games:
Since this is such a nascent industry, there are no hard or fast rules for salaries and earnings, even if you drive hard and fast. Some pay you nothing, but you get their brand to strengthen yours... Some pay $5,000 if you get drafted into a league. Others may pay you $3,000 per month.
The most important thing here is to know what you are worth. Remember this crucial figure: 59% of Esports money comes from sponsorships! So, if you are intent on being a Pro, remember that the audience you draw in is just as valuable as your driving skills. Even if you aren’t the best driver, if you can develop a following, that’s money baby.
Since we are on the topic, what about content creation? If you’re going Pro, this serves as negotiation leverage, but if you’re not, this remains a viable option to make money with Sim Racing. So what does it look like?
Creating videos and live streaming are the ways to go, ideally both. That’s what will build your following and with a following, there are various ways to earn money. The foremost are affiliate links. Fanatec has a strong affiliate program, where you can earn €80 for example, if someone buys a wheelbase with your link. (I can’t remember correctly, I think the program is called OnlyFanatecs…?)
Jimmy Broadbent has done exceptionally well in the Sim Racing content creation space. See his video where he races against Norris and Verstappen!
Another stream of income is monthly subscriptions. On Youtube and Twitch subscribers would pay you around $5/month, of which you earn around 60-70%. Patreon is another platform where you can get subscribers, but there the norm is to justify someone joining with exclusive content of some kind.
Streamers tend to also get donations, while videos can earn you money through ads. The hard truth here is that it is tough to make enough money to go full-time. For example, one small Youtuber revealed that on his small channel of 1000 subs, he earns $46 from 13k views per month.
Perhaps your content creation can fund your Sim Racing hobby… Hey! That’s a pretty good deal, but to go full-time you’ll need to dedicate a couple of years to grow your following.
There is yet another option to make money. There are loads of leagues for all the games, each with its own prize pool. There are platforms, like The SimGrid and World Sim Series, that list leagues and events for you to choose from. For example, The SimGrid has listed over 450 events across multiple games.
These platforms show loads of relevant information to make it easy to find the right fit. For example, on The SimGrid you can find the game you want to race in: by game, by the registration fee, by spots left and more. See the track you’ll race on and the cars you can choose from. Each event will have its own etiquette and rules. Make $500 here, lose $20 there. If you are going Pro, this is a great way to place yourself in competitive scenarios and to learn from better players.
If you don’t think you’re good enough to make money from sim racing, why not start your own league? It’s a different skill set, perhaps better suited to you. You’ll need to be good at project managing, you’ll need to solicit sponsorship and you need that political nous to wrangle all the interested parties together, in peace and harmony. (If you’re interested in that, why not also look at Esports management?)
Mix and Match and Master
Here’s an interesting story. You spend 15 years trying to be an IRL racing driver, all the while your soul mate stares at you longingly: It’s your PC. You’ve spent thousands of hours with this true love, but your head was elsewhere. Finally, one day, you come to your senses and declare your undying commitment.
It’s a match made in heaven! You find a team to drive for. And now that your head has followed your heart, you start a Youtube channel to supplement your income. But then, Covid hits…
What do you do? Despair? Nay, a bond that deep provides you with endless inspiration! You start a coaching academy. Why stop there? You start a website that lists leagues for players to create and join. You’ve mixed your income streams, you matched with your love and you master your path.
That’s the story of David Perel (more or less, excuse the dramatization). He’s the founder of SimGrid, mentioned earlier. Out of his passion and dedication for Sim Racing, he’s built an intriguing career. You can too.
It’s An Endurance Race
Use the concept of Ikigai to find your niche in the Sim Racing world. The world wants entertainment and will pay for it, that’s the source of the money. You love Sim Racing, so all that’s left is to find what you’re best at in that world.
Do you take the perfect lines in every corner? Go pro.
Do you speak the perfect lines when you are on camera? Make content.
Do you draw the (perfect) line when managing people? Start a league.
Or, do all three.