If you absolutely love cosplay, you may want to figure out how to make this into your full-time job. Is that even possible?
Most people who cosplay do so as a hobby, not a career. However, there are people who are able to make it as cosplayers and turn it into a full-time job. For these people, their job will include a lot of social media and sponsorships, as well as opportunities to cosplay as a mascot for industry-related events.
It is still a rarity for anyone to be able to cosplay full-time. While many people may be able to make some money on the side, it’s not a lucrative job option for most people. You are also not likely to find job listings looking for a full-time cosplayer. Instead, the career is akin to an online influencer and will require a lot of dedication to a social media presence and may or may not ever pan out.
Is cosplay a job?
Cosplay is not a 9 to 5 job where you can apply to a company and be paid a salary with benefits. You’re never going to be able to put together a cosplay resume and submit it to a listing on a job board for someone looking for a full-time (or even part-time) cosplayer. However, if you’re willing to forge your own path and book gigs, sell prints, and earn sponsorships then it is possible to turn cosplay into a job.
Being a professional cosplayer is much more similar to being an online influencer who uses social media as their main business platform. It is quite rare to be able to make a full-time income in this way, but it’s not impossible.
The vast majority of people who cosplay do not make any money from it. In fact, most people will lose money cosplaying because it is a fairly expensive hobby, where you need to buy wigs, fabric, notions, special makeup supplies, and other cosplay accessories and tools. If you want to make a job out of cosplaying, you’ll also have to take these expenses into account since cosplaying full-time usually means creating or commissioning new costumes all the time.
Is it possible to cosplay as a career?
Once upon a time, I might have said that cosplaying is not a viable career at all. However, with the rise of social media and online sponsorships available for popular influencers, being a cosplayer is more possible now than it ever was in the past. That doesn’t mean it will be easy, but if you can pull in a large online following, you might be able to make this into a career.
How much can people make from cosplaying?
The most famous cosplayers can make more than 100k per year through sponsorship opportunities, guest invitations, print and merch sales, and other income streams. However, this is the exception, not the rule.
Most people who try to make money from cosplaying will really only be able to make enough to cover the cost of their costumes and end up netting very little. For those who do manage to beat the odds and make a living from the hobby, they can typically expect anywhere from 30k to 50k. This will obviously depend on the number of events and opportunities that the cosplayer manages to get in any given year.
Creating a career out of cosplay-related activities
Rather than creating a career as a cosplayer, it’s a little easier to make money from cosplay-adjacent careers. This includes skills and products that are necessary for the cosplay industry but are not the cosplay modeling that people think of as cosplayers. Some examples include:
- Creating costumes for others. If you are good at sewing and costume construction, a career as a costume creator and designer for cosplayers can be a lot more lucrative than being a cosplayer. There are also other opportunities for this line of work, such as creating costumes for plays and theater troupes or even as a movie costume designer.
- Teaching classes on how to cosplay. While this is a little less common, you can also teach skills to other cosplayers. This can be workshops, one-on-one training, or even mastermind or skillshare-style video content to teach other people the skills you’ve mastered through cosplay.
- Being a cosplay photographer. Cosplay photography is another aspect of cosplay culture that can give you a better chance at making some money. If you’re good enough, you can charge for photoshoots and even sell prints if you have the cosplayer’s permission. Learn more about how to become a cosplay photographer.
- Creating props and accessories cosplayers will use (elf ears, hats, ninja props, EVA patterns, etc). There are a lot of supplies and accessories that cosplayers need to construct their costumes. Not everyone will be able or willing to create everything on their own. This creates opportunities for you to jump in and start a business providing cosplayers with the accessories they need, whether that be custom gems, pre-made armor, cool-looking wings, hidden pocket-bags, or whatever you can think of.
What does cosplaying as a career look like?
If you want to cosplay as a career, it’s important that you go into it with your eyes wide open. Cosplaying as a job is much more than just wearing costumes and modeling for cameras. That will probably be a very small portion of what you do on a daily basis. So if that’s what you love about cosplay, you might want to stick to it as a hobby, rather than a career.
If you want to cosplay professionally, these are some of the things that are going to take up your time:
- Social media self-marketing. A majority of your time will probably be spent figuring out how to find and keep a following on social media. This will include creating content, drafting comments and descriptions, starting an email list, and learning how to work with sponsors.
- Working with photographers. Learning modeling skills and communicating with photographers is a must for cosplayers. This includes both during and in preparation for photoshoots. Planning in advance is always best for getting the best photos back that you can share online and sell as prints (with the photographer’s permission)
- Constantly making new costumes. If you want to be a professional cosplayer, you’ll need to be making new costumes all the time to share with your fans and let them know you’re still active. You may need to plan on making 10-20 new costumes every year. This also includes staying up to date with popular characters that your audience will relate to.
- Staying in shape. Since your job as a cosplayer includes modeling and putting on the appearance of pop-culture characters, you also need to spend time keeping your physique. Now, this will obviously depend on your cosplay style and the characters you’re cosplaying, but usually, you will need to put at least some effort into staying in shape.
How do people make money cosplaying?
If cosplay is not like a typical job, how do people make money from it? Usually, there will be multiple sources of income, depending on what kinds of social media are used and how the cosplayer wants to structure their business. These are some common types of revenue that cosplayers use to turn their hobby into a full-time job:
- Social media sponsored posts. Once you get a big enough following on social media platforms (whether it be Youtube, Tiktok, Instagram, or whatever else), you can work with companies to promote their products in the form of sponsorships.
- Ad revenue. If you create your own website or youtube channel, you can also get a small amount of revenue from the ads on the platform.
- Patreon. Patreon, Kofi, and other platforms allow fans to directly pay creators that they love.
- Selling prints and merch. You can sell merchandise related to your cosplay brand or prints of your favorite cosplay photos. Remember to work out a contract with your photographers so that you know who has the right to sell the images.
- Selling old costumes. If you’re making a dozen new costumes every year, you’ll end up with a lot of old costumes that you’ll never wear again. You can create a marketplace to sell these to fans who love the costumes.
- Cosplaying for a company. Some companies, especially gaming companies, will hire cosplayers to hang around booths at conventions and other events. You could also look into party companies (for children’s parties) where you attend cosplaying as their favorite character.
- Being a convention/event guest. If you are a very popular cosplayer, you could even be invited to anime conventions as a guest or a judge.
How likely is it that you can turn your cosplay hobby into a job?
It’s time to address the elephant in the room. If you are considered conventionally attractive, you have a much higher chance of succeeding in this career than if you are not. This doesn’t mean you have to cosplay in revealing outfits or that you can never be successful if you aren’t traditionally attractive, but there will be more of an uphill battle. Even if you are attractive, it can still come down to luck and your ability to manipulate social media to your advantage.
You also need to consider the longevity of a potential career as a cosplayer. Like it or not, this industry favors the young and the beautiful. As you age, your popularity will likely wane as well. If cosplaying was the only way you earn money, this can put a strain on your finances. You’ll need to be ready to jump into a different career.