How to Make Money as a DM – Getting Paid for Running Online Board Games

Dave Megarry leading a session of his classic board game Dungeon!

Whether it’s Warhammer 40K or D&D, people are always looking for experienced veterans to show them how to play, guide them on their journey, and referee their games so that playing is both fun and fair. It’s a growing market that is ripe for investing your time into, if you have the discipline to stick to it and make your hobby your job. In my case it was with D&D and I was able to make a few extra hundred dollars a year doing something that I already loved doing – running D&D 5th Edition games. I’ll show you how I did it so that you can do it too!

  1. Get a player base going. The more players who play in your games and know how great of a game master you are, the more they will want to play with you. Soon this competition to get into one of your games will become lucrative.
  2. Start marketing yourself. How your market yourself is up to you – there’s lots of ways to do it. I did it through Patreon for example. Having a good middle man to handle transactions is a good idea.
  3. Don’t just outright ask for money up front unless you have some serious street cred. Unless you are a member of Critical Role or some other well known playing group – the chances of you getting buyers to throw money at you is going to be hard at first. I suggest starting with a tip jar and asking for support after you run a successful session. Even if you only get a dollar, it’s a start!
  4. Once the tip jar becomes a success and you start getting a few bucks per game, you can start offering early sign-ups for a price. I set mine up so that I posted the ad within 24 hours of the game where anyone could sign up, but if one was a supporter of mine they could sign up in advance much earlier and not have to worry about too much competition for the remaining spots. This natural middle step towards the next level is a fragile process and you should use caution here – every game is critical to your reputation at this point.
  5. Play frequently. Run multiple games every week. It’s tough work but that’s what it takes to get to the professional paid level. If you only run one or two games a month it’ll take forever to gain recognition – not to mention the fact you are missing out on more money by not running enough games.
  6. Don’t Call Off – Nothing is worse than a game master who suddenly can’t play. The more reliable you are, the better your reputation will be and people will be willing to pay for your “never fail” games. This makes them more apt to show up as well, since they paid for a seat (but also more angry when you call off).
  7. Promote yourself. Advertising is clutch. At first it will be done manually by you through places like Discord for a server and social media for a marketing platform. Then it’s just a matter of putting in the grunt work – long hours of creating quality content that you can share online in apps like YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, Reddit, and Instagram just to name a few.
  8. Hit the forums – create a detailed ad showcasing your skill and requirements and post it on every related forum that you can find. Bookmark them and check on them daily.
  9. After you get some capital going you should invest it in more promotion. Buying ad space will put your face out there and help cut back on the manual work you have been doing. Eventually you will get to a point where your games fill up very quickly and everyone attending has paid to reserve a seat. This is the perfect time for you to kick it up a notch and start charging upfront for your games.
  10. Record your games and post them for new perspective players to see how you play and if they like your style. This increases the speed of your revolving door of interested clients.
  11. Once you start charging for your games make sure you handle things professionally with clear contracts between you and your clients, including refund policies, and you should probably have a website and dedicated email set up at this point for questions and concerns people might have. A buzzing Discord server that is well moderated also greatly helps with this process.
  12. Take it seriously. Your brand is your business and it is only as strong as the weakest link, and that is you. You need to give it 100% focus and treat it like a well oiled machine. If you take care of it, it’ll run smooth for a good long time. If you don’t maintain it – it’ll blow up in your face.
  13. Be a good game master – learn to adapt to keep players happy. Your job is to be dynamic and do whatever it takes to ensure all of your players are having as good of a time as possible. This can be challenging. If you are a stubborn person who likes things your way, paid DMing might not be right for you.
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