Life as a full time Twitch broadcaster

Lately I’ve been getting a lot of questions about my experience as a full time Twitch broadcaster and instead of making a video on the subject I felt like writing. I’m going to do my best to be honest with you on my experience thus far and some suggestions for those who are interested in streaming on Twitch.

How did I get into streaming?

First off I didn’t start streaming to make it my career. A few years ago when I was making some videos for TGNWarcraft on YouTube a few of the creators suggested that I try out broadcasting some of my recording sessions on JustinTv. At that point I was just starting to grow on YouTube and figured it would be nice to reach out to my audience live. It didn’t take long for me to get hooked and once JustinTV’s gaming section was turned into Twitch, I quickly got accepted into the legacy partnership program allowing me to earn money from ad revenue.

I stopped streaming because I didn’t have the internet speeds to keep up with the other broadcasters and I was working full-time on an internet startup.

In June 2014 I got a new consulting gig that had me working late into the night. I realized I had time to start a morning broadcast before work. One of the reasons why I wanted to stream in the morning was in 2014 broadcasters like Sacriel42 and Lirik streamed DayZ in the evenings but there wasn’t anyone in the morning at their level. I could get a chance to actually get spotted in the channel list and grow a new Twitch channel without being pushed to the bottom by bigger streamers. DayZ was also in it’s prime in 2014 as one of the most popular streaming games on the website.

Building the schedule and staying disciplined

Every morning at 8:30 am Monday — Sunday I started my stream and played some DayZ. I made some really basic overlays on photoshop to display an onscreen chat, recent follower and recent donor. I didn’t have a sub button.

Before Twitch I worked a remote job so I was already well disciplined for online work. For some it can be harder but for me I really loved my broadcast. To be honest it was the best part of my day usually. I worked so much back then that the only time I had was spent working or streaming. I was living away from home too so I didn’t have family or friends around. At the same time I’d take some of the best highlights from the stream and upload it to YouTube on my channel to get a thousand views or so. Slowly I was able to grow my stream to around 100 concurrent viewers and earned my Twitch subscription feature in September 2014.

The most important thing about growing a Twitch stream is consistency and schedule. Find a time that works for you, at least 3 days a week and stick with it.

The Grind

After I got my partnership I started what many other broadcasters call “the grind”. Day in and day out you’re here, on Twitch, streaming to potentially thousands of new viewers hoping to get them to stick around long enough to get some entertainment value from what you’re doing. If people like your show they may even add it to there daily routine.

So for the next 10 months I streamed 7 days a week, 8:30am–12:00pm. I had a bumpy road. For most of those months I was only reaching 50–75 viewers. After I got my partnership I actually had LESS people stopping by my channel not more. The growth that I had in the early days of my stream died out a bit. More streamers started in the morning too, and It was harder to become noticed.

It was easier for me at the time though because I still wasn’t streaming full time but I was able to see the potential. I figured if I tried I could make it work. And in June 2015 I decided to leave my sales job and start streaming and making YouTube videos full time. It was one of the most difficult decisions of my life.

Building the community

I did a quick assessment of the situation. I was only reaching 80 concurrent viewers and my YouTube videos would get, at best, 1,000 views per upload. In the beginning I was only making about $300.00 a month YouTube and Twitch combined. I saved up a lot of money over the years so I wasn’t going broke anytime soon, but I was bleeding income fast. I figured that I would have a full year to stream full time and if things didn’t grow I would have to find something else to do for a career.

Instead of a 3 hour stream I bumped it up to 5 hours plus doing longer streams every few weeks and night streams as much as I could. I started uploading more to my YouTube channel and started plugging my stream times more. I started doing longer 24 hour streams every few months to up the hype around follow goals and sub goals. I changed my overlays and emotes frequently to try to keep up with the trends. I also added a webcam and removed the on screen chat. I tried to engage more with my audience and added more perks to encourage people to subscribe to the channel and I introduced subscriber Saturdays where I would play DayZ with all the subs to encourage people to join. I rented a Teamspeak 3 server to give the community a place to come together and chat. And I slowly started to collaborate with more streamers. Something I still need to be better at.

Although with all these changes, I was only sitting at around 50–60 active subscribers ($125 /month) and reaching around 60–100 concurrent viewers depending on the day. Some months I’d go up to 150–200, but then back down to 60. It was challenging. There was many times I wanted to give up. I didn’t think it was growing or working. For the amount of time I was putting in I wasn’t seeing the results fast enough and time was running out. My clock and motivation was to not go broke. As soon as I do it’s done and I’ll have to move on.

From June-December 2015 I continued the grind day in and day out. By the end of the year I was still averaging around 100 concurrent viewers but I had 98 active subscribers. It was certainly growth but still not enough to live off of.

Then things changed

Soon things started to get better. I started to average 150 viewers a broadcast. More people were tipping the stream on a regular basis, more people started to subscribe and that motivated me to continue. My hard work felt like it was finally paying off.

From January-September 2016 I gained 10,000 new followers to the stream, 305 total active subscribers and averaging 318 viewers a stream.

I also realized that I wasn’t doing enough. I am currently working on getting better at Facebook and Twitter and in June 2016, I started uploading videos every single day to help promote the stream and I haven’t missed a single day yet.

However, even with 305 subscribers ($760) and my YouTube channel ($500) I am still making far under minimum wage given the amount of time committed and believe it or not, I don’t receive that many tips. A good month I’ll make $300.00 in tips. All of this is before taxes.

As you can see, full time broadcasting on Twitch isn’t the most glamorous lifestyle and people make far less then is advertised. If I didn’t LOVE what I do and understand the potential of Twitch I wouldn’t continue. Given the growth of my channel over the past nine months I am finally seeing that this opportunity is finally going some where and I’ll be continuing this long and crazy ride until the end.

My suggestion for aspiring full-time broadcaster is to start streaming with the intention of growing a community first. If it works and you’re actually getting people to watch your stream then you should think about expanding and increasing your times. Unless you have some major money saved in the bank, or living without many expenses, I wouldn’t stream full time until you receive your Twitch partnership and even still, until you have a decent amount of backers who want to keep the stream alive.

Good luck!