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How to Make Money on Steam

Do you like playing games? 

I don’t mean the psychological kind, no I’m talking about PC games, mobile games, and console games. You know, the fun kind of games. 

Now, what if I told you that you could earn money playing games?

Impossible right?

Wrong. 

There are actually several websites, apps, and other resources that you can use to earn money playing games. 

One such website is Steam. Steam lets you earn Steam Cash, which can be redeemed for games and game items, as well as offering you opportunities to earn actual cash. 

In this article I’ll detail the 10 different ways that you can make money on Steam.

computer game

What is Steam? 

Simply put, Steam is an online distribution system for PC games. But it is so much more than that. 

At their core, Steam hosts thousands of games (PC games, Android games, Mac games, etc.) in the cloud. Players can set up an account for free, then preview and purchase any of the games offered in their country. 

And then play these games to their heart’s content.

The platform also includes an extensive online community. Each game has a loyal following, and users can gather to discuss gameplay, news, and trade items. This community is where the monetization aspect begins to come in. 

Players can exchange or pay for all sorts of items, including trading cards, skins, mods, crates, and more. 

Steam is also a unique resource for game developers. Anyone can distribute a game on Steam. From large companies to solopreneurs. 

Game developers can also use the community to source freelance coders and designers as needed for their projects. 

This allows game creators as well as freelance developers and designers to earn money via Steam or a Steam-related project. 

It is important to note that some monetization options will only earn you Steam Cash while others will earn you real money. 

How to Make Steam Cash 

Steam Cash is the funds that are stored in your Steam Wallet. 

Funds can be added to your wallet in two ways: by transferring money from your bank account, or by selling items through the marketplace. 

However once the funds are in your Steam Wallet, they cannot be transferred out. 

You can spend your Steam Cash on games, game items, crates, and more. And these funds never expire, so there is no need to go on a spending spree unless you really want to. There is a $2000 cap which is the max amount that you can have in your wallet. 

While it is unfortunate that you can’t turn your Steam Cash into real cash, you could end up funding your gameplay for free by using the platform to earn more Steam Cash. 

Sell Your Trading Cards

Many of the games in Steam’s library will award virtual trading cards. These are awarded randomly as you play the game. So, for instance, you might get a card just for playing a game for 15 minutes. 

Each card has unique artwork and goes towards a collection. Completing the collection will often earn you a badge. 

Just like all collectible cards, some of these trading cards will be more valuable than others. While the exact rarity of cards varies from game to game, generally speaking, foil cards will be the most valuable. 

Values for these virtual trading cards can range from a few pennies each to several dollars. If you consider that for each game you play, you earn roughly 2-3 cards; if you play multiple games, your collection can quickly grow. 

All trading cards are sold through the Steam Trading Cards group. 

Selling the Items You Receive 

There are two main ways to receive items; randomly through gameplay or as part of a special prerelease. 

Some games drop items instead of virtual trading cards. You’ll need to pay close attention to which games drop items versus cards. 

Just like the virtual cards, the rarity of items will vary. You’re likely to get a common item to drop, but you could get lucky and get a rare item to drop. Some items might only be worth a few pennies, while others could be worth $50 or more.

During pre-releases and early releases, some games will offer exclusive content that you can only get during the pre-release period. This exclusive content can come in the form of skins, crates, and items. 

Once the pre-release period is over, the item’s value will start increasing. This pre-release content which was initially free with the purchase of the game, could end up selling for over $1000 a few months or years after the release. 

However, it is important to note that not all items are salable. For example, some games might not support the Market, while in other cases, specific items for a game will not be permissible to sell. 

Also be aware that Steam takes a cut from all items sold on the Community Market. 

Flipping Items on the Community Market

The Steam Market features all sorts of items for sale, including crates, keys, stickers, skins, music, and more. And like any market, prices fluctuate. The season, scarcity, and more can all influence the price. 

Ideally, you want to sell items when they are at their peak and buy items when they are at their lowest price. 

Enter investment strategy. 

Many of the items for sale on the Market are 100% resellable. Though a few will come with a cool-down period. 

If you are familiar with the games and rarity of the items, you can easily earn a few bucks flipping items on the market. 

Steam even offers a Buy Order option which lets you set a price point (lower than the current price) that you would like to purchase the item at, and when a seller lists the item for that price (or lower), the purchase will be automatically completed. 

You can have buy orders for multiple items open at the same time. 

There are only 3 restrictions Steam has when it comes to buying and selling items. 

  1. You cannot price an item higher than $1800.
  2. You cannot list an item if the sale will take your wallet balance over $2000. 
  3. You can only place buy orders for up to 10X your current wallet balance.

If you adhere to these rules, you’ll be able to build up a decent chunk of change flipping items. Just be sure to account for Steam’s cut of the sale price when you are listing items. 

Trade/Exchange Items

An alternative to buying and selling items is trading them. 

Instead of trading funds for an item, you can exchange the item for another item or items. 

To do this, you’ll need to be friends on Steam with the person you are looking to trade with. You can then negotiate what you believe a fair exchange is and send them an official offer. 

You can use the Community Market to better understand what each item being exchanged is valued at. This helps prevent you from taking an unnecessary loss, i.e., you trade an item worth $20 for an item worth only $12. 

The other person then can accept the trade offer or reject it.

Trading can be a useful way to receive value from items you can’t sell on the market. For instance, an extra copy of a game called Steam gifts can only be traded, not sold. 

If you are buying items from the Market to trade to a friend, you should be aware that many items will have a 2 week cool-down period after purchase before they can be traded. 

Find Free Codes

The easiest and cheapest way to begin building your Steam Wallet balance is to earn free Steam Wallet codes from other third-party sites. 

Several sites that offer you cashback through shopping or taking surveys offer Steam as a redemption option. GrabPoints and PointsPrizes are just two sites that offer Steam Wallet codes as a redemption option. 

Even sites that don’t offer Steam as a redemption option, often offer generic gift cards (i.e., Visa) or Payal as redemption options. And Steam accepts many forms of payment, including credit cards, debit cards, gift cards, and PayPal.

Using these cashback apps and websites doesn’t cost you anything, allowing you to fund your gaming with only a few surveys or a grocery shopping trip. 

How to Make Actual Cash 

The easiest money-making opportunities on Steam only apply to Steam Wallet funds. But that doesn’t mean you can’t earn real cash from Steam as well. 

There are actually several ways you can earn actual money from Steam. Some of these options involve directly selling something through Steam, while others are geared towards advertising your services/skills through the Steam community. 

Below are 5 ways that you can earn real money through Steam.

Create & Distribute a Video Game

The purpose of the Steam platform is to distribute games. So the most straightforward way to make money on Steam is to create and distribute your own video game, which is easier said than done. 

The upside is that anyone can distribute a game on Steam. You don’t have to be a major gaming company like Square Enix or Playstation Studios. Independents can publish games on Steam as well. 

The downside is that distributing on Steam is not free. Steam will take a 30% cut on all sales in addition to requiring a $100 fee for each game you distribute. This $100 fee is only refundable once that game has earned more than $1000 in revenue. 

So if you sell 50 copies of a $10 game, you’ll only pocket $250 instead of the full $500 in revenue. 

Create & Sell Mods

If you have developer skills but don’t want to create a whole game yourself, you can still make money by creating mods for existing games. 

The rules for creating and selling mods on Steam will vary from game to game. 

Some games will only allow you to create simple free mods, while others might let you create more advanced mods like new characters and storylines and sell them directly to other players through the Steam Workshop. 

Some game creators let individuals create mods, but only for submission to the game creator. If the game creator, and the Steam community, like the mod, it can be incorporated into the game. 

The game creator then sells your mod to the Steam Community and gives you a cut of each sale. 

Some developers have even been able to create a full-time income from creating mods and offering them through Steam. 

Sell Your Freelancer Coding Skills to Game Developers

If you are a freelance developer who doesn’t have the time or skillset to develop an entire game yourself, you can always join an existing project. 

Some game developers source freelancers from the Steam community when they need a few extra hands to push the project over the finish line. 

Initial negotiation or exchange of information may happen on Steam, but the final agreement and payment will take place somewhere other than Steam. 

While you aren’t getting paid through Steam, it means that you can negotiate your rate and won’t have to suffer Steam taking their cut. 

If you are looking to land clients on Steam, you can create mods or directly advertise your freelance skills

Sell Your Freelancer Graphics Skills to Players

It’s not just freelance developers who can find work on Steam; those with skills in graphic design can also land clients through Steam. 

Work opportunities can come from game developers who need someone with graphic design skills or community members who want to commission unique artwork from you to feature on their profile pages. 

If you are hoping to catch the eye of those needing graphic design services on Steam, your best bet would be to feature your custom artwork on your profile page. You can also show off your skills through community posts and by creating mods. 

Live Stream Game Play

If you already have a decent following on Twitch or Youtube, a great way to make money via Steam is to live stream your gaming sessions. 

Only the size of your audience and the popularity of your video will limit your income earning potential. 

If you don’t yet have a following on a streaming platform, your videos might not earn anything at first. But if you stick to it, and your audience grows, then you might start seeing some money coming in. 

The Steam platform does offer its own live stream tool, but you cannot monetize a live stream through this broadcasting tool. 

Still, you could use this free tool as a resource to grow your audience and help you determine if live streaming is an income-generating model you even want to pursue. 

Final Thoughts 

Who would have ever thought you could make money playing video games?

If my younger self had known that this would be an opportunity one day, then I might have stuck to my MMORPG playing ways. As is, it appears I gave up a few years too soon. 

While there isn’t much of a future for me making money in the gaming world, there are plenty of opportunities out there. Steam is just one of these. 

Admittedly, most of the options for monetizing on Steam are going to be best suited towards paying for your gameplay. But if you have some coding, design, or marketing skills, you could use Steam to at least generate a nice side income. 

And if you are really committed, and a little bit lucky, you might even be able to generate a full time income through Steam. 

You can make money on Steam, just remember to have fun while you’re doing it.