Sim racing has its own branch of professional competitions that allow drivers to earn real money. This not only allows for drivers to get rewarded for their skills, but it can also lead to sim racers making the leap to real racing too. But you may be wondering just how much professional sim racers make.
Professional sim racers can make anywhere from a few thousand dollars per year to $100,000+, but their salary depends on a variety of factors such as:
- The game they play
- Their skill level
- How they perform
- Whether they stream their racing or not
- If they have any sponsorship deals
All of these factors combine to give a scaled salary for the racer, and we will look at them in more detail below. There are other factors to consider, and it is important to consider all of them to gauge how much sim racers can realistically earn. But first, what makes a sim racer a professional?
What Is A Professional Sim Racer?
A professional sim racer is someone who gets paid to play sim racing games. There are no exams to sit and no tests to pass, and to qualify as a professional sim racer, you just have to make some money through your sim racing.
This can come via a range of different income streams, as we will discuss below, but it should also be noted that there is no lower or upper limit to the amount of money you need to earn to be classed as a professional sim racer. Some will get paid a small income, some might make a side income alongside another job, while others may make much more than the average salary as well.
How To Make Money From Sim Racing
1. Be The Best
In order to make money through sim racing alone you really do have to perform at the top of your game in order to win. There is a lot of money to be won, as there have been many competitions in recent years with prize pools in the several hundreds of thousands of dollars. For example, in 2019 the iRacing prize pool for the year was $300,000.
The 2022 F1 Esports tournament had a prize pool of $750,000, and although this is obviously being divided up between the top players, it is still a lot of money. However, just because there is money in the esport of sim racing, it doesn’t mean that it is easy to make a living just by winning races. This is where the other methods of earning money come in.
Sponsorships are a big income stream for many professional sim racers, and these come in the form of team sponsorships as well as product sponsorships as well. Just like in real racing there are myriad sponsors of sim racing, such as drinks companies and various other consumer products that are not associated with racing itself. These sponsors may pay hundreds or even thousands of dollars per race.
The next big way that professional sim racers make money is through streaming. This is when they broadcast their racing on a suitable platform, such as Twitch or YouTube. They may amass subscribers on these platforms that regularly watch their races, and these views translate into money via the platform’s royalty or ads system, or through other methods such as sponsorships or donations.
Sponsors may see the streamer as a viable way to advertise their products, and so they may pay them to show off their brand during their streams. Or, you might find that the racer accepts donations from fans, which they may incentivize by shouting them out or displaying a message during the stream. Some even allow donors to get exclusive access to various other pieces of content.
5. Advertising Revenue
Donations prove to be a very popular method of earning on these platforms, but of course general advertising revenue is a viable income stream as well. YouTube adverts have been around for years, and they translate into money for the sim racer depending on how many people watch their videos, among several other factors like watch time and if they click on the ad itself.
6. Joining A Team
Finally, you may also be able to earn money from sim racing by joining a racing team and getting paid directly by them. This is a lot less common than the other methods described, but if you are at the very top level of sim racing it is possible to join a real racing team as a way to make money.
What Games Do Professional Sim Racers Play?
Like most genres within the esports category, there are plenty of different options. There are 60+ racing games that have hosted tournaments offering prize money in the last decade or so.
These games range from mobile games that are no longer even supported by modern devices to modern games such as Gran Turismo 7 and the F1 series. Most racing games are not suitable for big competitions with big prize pools, and so there are a small number of games that are at the top of the pay scale.
These games include titles such as iRacing and the F1 series as I’ve already mentioned. iRacing is perhaps the most commonly referred to when it comes to professional sim racing, due to the fact that it is widely regarded as the most realistic racing game that is still accessible by a large number of racers.
Usually The More Realistic Games
The realism aspect is key, as the games that are more arcade style simply do not provide the kind of challenge that attracts the best talent and the big money sponsors. Although not as realistic as iRacing and obviously being limited to one series, F1 Esports attracts lots of attention thanks to the real motorsport being so popular all around the world.
KEY POINTS• There are various different ways to earn money as a sim racer
• Most hinge on you being both talented and marketable
• There are lots of different sim racing games that host big-money tournaments
How Do You Become A Professional Sim Racer?
Becoming a professional sim racer is not quite as simple as with other jobs, as there is no application process and no job board to search through for vacancies. The only real requirement is that you enjoy sim racing and are good at it, although having a background in real racing also helps.
Entering competitions is the primary way that a lot of the top sim racers become professional, but there is a lot of qualifying to go through and you really do need to be very good to make money with this method alone. As we have discussed, there is a lot of money to be made in the alternative income streams, such as streaming and sponsorships.
Create A Platform For Yourself
In order to make money through these methods you will need to be picked up by a sponsor or have a platform on which to stream or deploy ads, or to accept donations. This usually means you will also need to have an audience, and so a lot of professional sim racers use their YouTube or Twitch following to start earning money from their sim racing.
Regardless of which method you use, you will need to put in a lot of hard work, and success is definitely not something that happens overnight. You need to treat it as a long-term project, as you will either need to work hard to become one of the best racers around or put in the time and effort to both be good at sim racing and to build an audience for yourself.
How Many Hours Does A Professional Sim Racer Work?
Being a professional sim racer is not like most jobs. There is no 9-5 routine, and in fact there is often no routine at all. You will probably follow a virtual racing circuit, made up of different tournaments and other events throughout the year. You will most likely work to your own hours (unless you’re part of a team, in which case you may be required to train at specific times etc).
This means you need to put in the time to practice and get better at the racing aspect, or put in the effort to find sponsors, build an audience, or find other methods through which to make money (or a mixture of all of these). If you don’t enter many competitions, you may find yourself streaming most days of the week and trying to make money that way instead.
This means that you will have to work a lot no matter which method you choose, as if you don’t, you simply will not make as much money. If you are treating it as a side income, this is a fine approach to take. However, if you want to go full-time with professional sim racing there is a lot more to it than simply racing a few laps of a track a couple of times a year.
What Are The Disadvantages Of Becoming A Professional Sim Racer?
Putting all of the time in to become a good sim racer and to build your audience is not where the time cost ends. You will need to sacrifice a lot to make sure you can take part in events, or simply to make sure you can stream often enough to pay the bills. It will be hard to find work-life balance.
Lack Of Job Security
Another disadvantage of becoming a professional sim racer is the lack of job security. You will get paid in proportion to the amount of work that you put in (usually) and this will work against you if you don’t want to put in the effort! However, it can also be a good thing, as if you put in the hard work and effort, you can be rewarded very handsomely.
Aside from these issues, you may also find yourself faced with some health-related issues as well. Sim racing can be very physically demanding, especially on the arms, feet and wrists. Repetitive strain injuries are not uncommon, and so you have to make sure that you take enough breaks and don’t push yourself too much. A big injury could halt your progress and earnings altogether.
You Need To Stay Healthy
Aside from injuries, it is also very easy to slip into bad habits. You can struggle to find the time to cook healthy meals if you spend all of your time racing and streaming, and so you have to make sure that you find time to eat healthily and to get enough exercise. With so much sitting involved in sim racing, it is key that you still move around enough.
How Old Do You Have To Be To Be A Professional Sim Racer?
Earning money as a professional sim racer does come with some age restrictions. These are usually related to labor laws, so this will vary by region. Competitions will also set their own age-related rules, and some sponsors may require you to be of a certain age before they will start paying you.
You may be able to pick up some prize money as a minor, but most professional sim racers, especially those racing for teams, will likely be 18+.
Is Professional Sim Racing A Long-Term Career?
If you perform at a reasonably high level, your profession sim racing career can follow a similar path to that of real racers. As new, younger players come onto the scene with faster reflexes, they will start to take over from the older drivers who may have more experience but struggle to keep up.
So, it is important to plan your exit strategy. It is extremely unlikely that you will be able to continue sim racing up until the traditional retirement age, and in fact your career will most likely come to an end sooner than with most other jobs. This is why it is key to think about life after sim racing, and fortunately there are plenty of related avenues down which you can take your life.
If you don’t already, you can start streaming to continue earning with your sim racing. Alternatively, you could offer your expertise as a service through tuition or coaching, helping to grow the next generation of sim racers in the process. You can make some decent money by selling your video game skills, and so it could be something to consider.
Sim Racing To Real Racing
Or, you could find that you transition away from sim racing and towards real racing. This is not uncommon with real racing teams understanding the value of sim racing. Jann Mardenborough is a good example of how you can go from being a sim racer to a real racer, as he went through the GT Academy and raced on the track for Nissan for several years, and now the Gran Turismo movie is coming out about his life!
Should You Become A Professional Sim Racer?
If you are a fairly competent sim racer, then it could be a viable way for you to earn some money. It is not a great idea if you are looking for quick cash though, as it will probably take months or even years before you will be able to think about relying on it as an income source.
The amount of work involved simply makes it a difficult goal to strive for, but one that is not impossible. With the rise of esports in general, it is only going to get easier to make even more money as a professional sim racer. Aside from that, as we have said above, it could be a good way to get into real racing. If that is something you would like to do, then professional sim racing could be a good choice.
KEY POINTS• Professional sim racing is not easy to get into
• It requires a lot of hard work and dedication, and it doesn’t always offer much security
• It can serve as a viable path into real-life motorsport
Professional sim racers are those who make money from playing sim racing games. There are many different income streams within the broader sim racing genre, and these can include things like sponsorships and earnings from streaming. These can both pay a lot, and so can simply winning tournaments and competitions consistently.
If you are a good sim racer already and have a good work ethic and are willing to put the time in, there is no reason that you could not be the next big star of the professional sim racing world! There is potential to earn good money doing so, and you could also find yourself racing on the real track someday if you get really good at it!
I created and have been writing on this site since 2019, collaborating with drivers, coaches, engineers and manufacturers to provide you with the most reliable information about motorsport. Find out more about me here.