When people hear I’m a fulltime streamer, they often ask questions like:
How do you grow your Twitch channel?
How do you grow your following?
How do you become successful on Twitch?
Is streaming hard?
How does Twitch work?
Originally, I intended this article to answer these questions. I wanted it to be ONLY about streaming, but when I penned the outline, I realized these concepts apply to all artistic ventures (maybe even to any endeavor in life).
I’ve been a live streamer on Twitch for about 6 years now, and the most important ingredients in my success are these: Business Savvy, Connections, Charisma, Passion, and Story Power, in no particular order.
You need to bring that unique element. Anyone can sit and play a video game, and some viewers find it fascinating, but to be successful, a streamer must go beyond that to create a fundamental attraction. Not every streamer has a unique draw factor, and they typically do not last. Some things garner attention at a primitive level, for example big boobs and showing skin, but that ends up gathering a narrow audience and leaves the entertainer confined creatively. In contrast, a welcoming personality, combined with other factors, can lead to a more lasting success. Of course, charisma can be completely sidelined if you are a godlike prodigy at certain games—it’s fun to watch someone slay a game, even if they have no personality at all.
The famous saying “It’s not what you know; it’s WHO you know” applies to streaming. If you’re in with the big groups and you network with them by playing games or crossing paths on social media, you will most likely find success. Over my years in this business, I’ve seen streamers shoot to fame because of a group they associate with or a person they date. The top echelons of successful people can be quite cliquey, and they often limit their associations to those with new or existing hype. People don’t like to admit this, though. Lol. Many streamers have skipped the mountain of work and hopped into a VIP helicopter to the top just because they knew someone up there. A friend sent down their helicopter to lift them from the bottom.
You need passion for your work. If you are not passionate about streaming and what you do every day, it shows, and viewers won’t believe in your Story. They disengage and move onto another person to see them succeed. People love to tune in and see passion and they love to feel they are cared about as well. They need to know that the streamer (and Story) they are investing time into is worthwhile.
- Business Savvy
To succeed in this realm, you have to be an entrepreneur and continually adapt to your surroundings. It’s a moving target and the road is bumpy in spots. If you ever want to see the good times, you endure the hard times and don’t give up. Most streamers are not entrepreneurs. I believe it’s a natural gift, but you can obtain it if you desire it and work hard. Being an entrepreneur means your mind is set to work more than 40 hours a week; you take risks and sacrifice time and personal aspects of your life for the POSSIBILITY that you MIGHT make it. A few years ago, there was a big controversy around this subject because a successful streamer shared their story: how they slept on the floor in a makeshift bed for months sacrificing everything to make it as a full-time streamer. They described the toll it took mentally and physically, but it was a sacrifice they were happy to make. Other streamers and people not in the realm shot back with comments like:
“No one should have to sacrifice to find success.”
“You don’t need to put your mental health at risk to be successful.”
“THIS IS THE WRONG MESSAGE TO SEND TO PEOPLE WHO WANT TO BE A STREAMER!”
I felt like I was losing brain cells reading these responses. Not every successful person sleeps on a floor for months, but when you dive into deep conversation with winning entrepreneurs, you find that at one point they did make sacrifices that took mental tolls. In 2015 and 2016, at the beginning of my stream, I took big risks and made extreme sacrifices. My mind was tired and exhausted daily, but I grinded away, and I am forever grateful that my past-self endured so I could be here now! I continue the grind today, but I wouldn’t have come this far if I hadn’t initially. I believe this type of mentality is the contrast between clock-in/clock-out and entrepreneurship.
- Story Power
Everyone gets their Stories in different ways. A few years ago, we looked forward to summertime, when the carnival or circus came to town, or we attended a weekend sporting event, or found another way to engage in Story. Technology has transformed all that. Instead of forming soccer teams at the local sports field, we hop into a videogame and become actors in a Story of our own making. Twitch offers a readymade platform for viewers to engage in Story. If you follow my channel, you know I always go beyond just videogames. I extend the template with unique characters, custom games, music, writing, artwork, and other story elements.
I like to compare success in streaming to climbing a mountain. Everyone starts at the bottom in a crappy little car, cruising up dirt roads through the trees. They envision a multi-million dollar mansion at the top, with a pool and private helicopter pad. This place is hard to get to—no one really knows the route. They grind away, exploring dirt road after dirt road, sometimes cranking it into four-wheel drive, flinging mud everywhere while sliding back down the mountain. When things get tough, they get out and push their car (their stream and assets). Some people have super gubger cars that dump into the ditch and are lost forever, never to return. Others try to hitch their car onto another car and go along for the ride…only to have the lead car crank it and speed off, leaving them behind.
After years of streaming, I’ve seen glimpses of the top, a utopia that fades in and out like a mirage. It seems close but never quite obtainable for some reason. After motoring around in the forest, having many breakdowns on the mountain, changing flat tires, and having to upgrade my car into a tank (of sorts), I’ve found a version of my own personal oasis. I’m impenetrable to anything that attacks me now: enemies or Trolls lurking in shadowy bushes. I mow over anything that tries to stop me. I no longer seek that top; instead I’ve built my own version of paradise.