As we all know, getting started streaming can be a daunting task. So today, we’re diving into the basics, such as how to launch a channel in 30 days and build a loyal community of viewers. But what comes next is equally as important: how to turn your stream into your career. To do this, your channel needs to grow and create revenue, and you’ll need to start a business. This can be tricky to navigate, so read on below for the basics and our advice on how and when to grow your audience, and of course, how to decide if streaming full-time is the right option for you.
Launching Your Channel
To start, you should have a good idea as to your purpose. That is, why are you streaming? For fun? As a new career? What will you stream? Are you hoping to entertain or inform?
There is a rollercoaster to success, not a straight line. It’s a lot of hard work, meaning overnight success just doesn’t happen. There’s a lot of work behind the scenes, i.e. content creation. Being a public personality has pros and cons, too. Make sure you understand that.
Next, make sure you have the equipment to stream. But start simple. Now, it’s easier than ever to go live – especially from your phone! And if you’ve got a console, you can go live straight from your PlayStation or XBox. You don’t need a PC or expensive, high-end peripherals when you’re just starting out. These things can be upgraded later, when you have the funds for them.
Your microphone and sound quality, however, should be prioritized from the beginning. If you are hard to listen to or understand, especially with a lot of background noise, people won’t want to watch! Again, you don’t need the best microphone out there – just one that works and produces a clear, quality sound.
Settings – from bitrates to audio – should also be optimized as soon as possible, though this will take a lot of adjusting and responding to feedback from viewers. Be patient! You’ll get better at optimization with time and experience. It may never be perfect, but it will improve.
Overall, the key takeaway for launching your channel is to make what you already have work for you.
A lot of people are very intimidated going live for the first time. Maybe you think you won’t get viewers, or are worried about your schedule. But the best way to overcome these fears is to just click “go live.”
You might not have anyone tune in for your first time, and that’s okay! Any streamer will tell you that they’re way better now than when they first started. So take every opportunity to learn. Find out what works and doesn’t work for you, i.e. how much to talk, what to talk about, when to interact with chat, etc. Try coming to every stream with a list of topics to cover and spark chat interactions.
After 30 days, hopefully you’ve settled into streaming. The next thing you’ll want to think about is creating and sticking to a schedule. This will set expectations for your audience, so they know where and when to find you again. As a result, you’ll get more returning viewers and also attract new ones.
But don’t just set a schedule for streaming – schedule time for developing your content, whether that means brainstorming or creating a YouTube video or other social media posts. You should be constantly thinking of ways to improve your content and implement those ideas.
Building a Loyal Community of Viewers
Different viewers will stay for different reasons – your time slot, skillset, the game, the information you’re providing, your personality, the community itself, etc. Accordingly, you should be developing all these potential reasons, to attract a wide range of viewers.
Gaining that initial audience may seem like one of the most difficult parts of streaming. But remember, everybody starts at 0. In reality, going from 100 to 1,000 viewers may be just as hard as going from 10 to 50 viewers – there are just different skillsets you’ll use at different points of this growth process.
For many, the way to start is by engaging friends and family, and making content your gaming peers would also like. Leverage your existing communities and you may find a larger audience than you expected. The more you participate in and contribute to a community, the more attention you will receive. This goes for communities within games, in forums, or on your streaming platform of choice. So get out there and start making connections!
Yet, to continue building a larger community, you’ll also need to solidify your current one. Remember, you are responsible for leading your stream’s community – meaning what you do and don’t allow, the direction that you’re taking the stream, etc. Engaging in a routine, i.e. scheduled streams, is a huge part of this.
Keeping people “in the loop” of what is going on with your stream or in your personal life also fosters community. Maintaining a steady output of content and posting on social media enables even people who couldn’t tune in to watch you live keep track of your stream, catch up, and plan for the next one. Lean into recurring jokes or memes within your community, to create common, entertaining interests and also to make your stream more unique.
Turning Your Passion into a Business
Less than 1% of streamers make minimum wage. Almost 4 million people are streaming today, and a lot of those are just hobbyists. In order to make streaming a successful business, you will need to implement a plan to actually make money.
There are several different ways in which you can make money: subscriptions, advertising, sponsorships, donations, becoming an affiliate, and offering products/services. The breakdown of these sources of revenue will be different for every streamer. But as recurring revenue, subscriptions will likely be your most important and dependable.
As a streamer, you are a business! When you’re first starting out, you might not be thinking this way, but as you get further along, you’ll want to think about this. If you’re making over $660 in revenue streaming, you should consider incorporating (see our post on 1099 forms for more). This will look different depending on what country or state you’re in, but in the US you would most likely be a sole proprietor or LLC.
Accordingly, you should be thinking about what you can expense, or deduct from your taxes. You could be expensing the game you play on stream, or the new microphone you buy, or a keyboard, or headset, etc. – anything that is used in your business of streaming. Even your Pipeline membership can be tax deductible!
Lastly, you should understand your profits and losses. How much are you spending on streaming? Is it a hobby or a business? Are you making a profit? Most businesses make losses in their first year, and that’s okay. But you should have a plan or budget on how avoid losses where possible. Be sure to track this throughout the year, so you are rushed into making mistakes when tax season comes around! Remember that if you get a 1099 form, you will have to pay taxes on that income.
When and How to Grow
Growth is about so much more than viewer count. After all, you will have spikes and dips in viewership, as even regular viewers may have periods where they’re busy and not able to watch. Rather, growth is also about improving yourself.
You need to have a solid enough base to be able to tell new viewers what you’re about. This base also serves as a place from which you will branch out, but can still come back to for inspiration. A great way to do this is developing an elevator pitch.
Similarly, your content should have a structure. What is it that you’re known for? And what can you be known for? If you’re stuck, think about your interests and passions. Use interests from your personal life and integrate them into your stream and start conversations. You can do this outside your stream as well by creating, for example, Twitter videos or clips of skits. This will draw new people from other platforms into your community and into your stream – which is why leveraging other platforms is super important to spurring growth.
Your base of knowledge and experience is always expanding. The process of solidifying your content base is therefore continuous. You will refine it along the way and get better at doing so as time goes on. You will also expand your elevator pitch as necessary, to reflect potential changes in your content or interests.
In order to grow, however, your content will have to be to a certain extent what the community wants and enjoys the most. So keep track of what’s working and what’s not. Do people watch you to see a certain game? To gain knowledge in a certain area of the game?
When to Go Full Time
For many, going full-time as a streamer is the pipe dream. This will be a very daunting decision, as you’re likely leaving behind a good job with steady income.
However, waiting too long to make the jump to full time can also be harmful in that you’ll lose momentum and your growth rate may start to stall or even fall.
But again, the even bigger risk is taking the leap too early. What happens if your career doesn’t take off as fast as you thought it would? What if your streaming business is no longer sustainable? One month of good numbers won’t always mean the following months will be just as good or improve at the same rate. So before you make this decision, look back at the past several months or even the entire year.
To minimize these risks, you need to have a plan. A good rule of thumb is to have 6 months of savings before you leave your current job, and have a fallback plan or job. If you’re still in school, use your longer semester breaks to dive in and test streaming full-time. Here are some other key things to consider:
- What is your current streaming income?
- How much does each source (i.e. subscriptions, donations, ads, etc.) contribute?
- How do you expect these numbers to change if you go full time?
- What is your current non-streaming income?
- What are the sources (i.e. current job)?
- How much could you continue to earn if you went full time?
Overall, the process and its speed will vary for everyone. Still, the main challenges that all streamers have are growth, finding resources to fix or learn something (i.e. hardware or software issues), and just getting started. Solving these issues is why we built Pipeline. Join our community for more tips and tricks, and see our previous posts on Getting Started Streaming and Organizing Your Business and Finances.