I see so many people who are growing their streams and are thinking about going Full-Time that only think about the fun and positive side of streaming for a living. Today I want to have a real conversation about some of the harsh realities of going from streaming just as a hobby, to making it your primary source of income.
“You have the easiest job in the world, all you do is sit on your butt and play video games all day!” If I had a dollar every time someone in my chat, a friend/family member unfamiliar with streaming, or fellow streamer told me this phase, I wouldn’t have to stream Full-Time anymore. The reality is becoming a Full-Time streamer is a huge responsibility and a ton of work. During 2015, there were over 2 million unique broadcasters a month and over 13 thousand partners. At any given moment, there are thousands upon thousands of people that you are in essence competing with when it comes to grabbing a piece of the pie. If it’s as easy as popping in a video game and playing it, every streamer would have an incredibly stable audience.
The truth is streaming is more than just about playing a video game. You have to bring an engaging spirit to your stream each and every day. You have to have the patience to deal with people that constantly come into your stream without losing your cool. You have to bring your “A” game each and every day. One small blow up on a bad day can hurt your stream for weeks. Most full-time streamers are streaming at least 40-60 hours a week, on top of countless hours spent doing research on games, growth, networking, and interacting with their viewers outside of the stream. These many hours of streaming and prepping for your stream can take a toll on you if you’re not careful about balance.
There are going to be days where you don’t feel like streaming. If you’re streaming Full-Time, sometimes you might have to stream something you don’t want to. There will be days when you feel like your stream is regressing and not growing, and you have to suck it up and keep up the grind. I’ve been a firm believer of stream only when you’re down to stream, but the reality is if you’re constantly taking days off, you’ll fall behind.
The Risk Is Huge
I’d wager the average age of most Full-Time streams is in the mid 20’s. For most people, these are their prime years. When I decided to go Full-Time, I told myself that I couldn’t look back and wonder what If I didn’t do it and missed an opportunity of a lifetime. But I also made sure to have a backup plan. I had a college degree, little debt obligations, and no family to feed. Even with those advantages, I was still gambling with my life. It would be hard to explain to an employer why my employment history was missing two/three years if I ever needed to get a job if streaming didn’t work out. I see a lot streamers talk about how they are dropping out of college because they are passionate about streaming. I respect that. I understand that people want to do something they are passionate about, but passion doesn’t equal success. Realize that if you’re deciding to make that decision, you’re putting your future on hold. I felt it was worth the risk, but everyone has to ask themselves that question.
Every once in a while I sober myself on how hard it is to full-time stream by perusing through the front page of Twitch at different parts of the day. I look at the page and see countless streamers who have over 100,000 followers, but can barely average 100 viewers now. At some point in their streams they peaked and had great success, but somehow lost the audience they once had. The reality is streaming is incredibly competitive. I’m all about community and helping other streams out. I definitely try my best to view other streamers as friends and not competition, but the harsh reality is we are all looking to grow our streams, and some people aren’t going to adapt and will ultimately fall behind. You might be having success now, but you have no idea what the industry is going to look like 2, 5, 10 years from now.
Twitch is also not your typical job. They don’t take taxes out of your check, they don’t put money away in a 401k, and they certainly don’t provide healthcare. If you’re a full-time streamer, you’re responsible for these life expenses. If you get really sick and can’t stream for a few weeks, there is no sick leave paycheck waiting for you when you get back. Not only have you lost out on potential income, but you’ve now fallen behind in potential opportunities for growth. The first year I started full-time streaming; I got Mono and Strep throat at the same time and was out of streaming regularly for weeks. I was fortunate to be able to climb out of that hole, but not all are so fortunate.
There Are Personal Sacrifices
When I made the decision to stream full time, I put a lot of personal things on hold. I knew that those first years would be a huge time investment, and I knew that a lot of real life friendships would have to be cut back. I’ve met some of best friends on Twitch in that time, but I also lost a lot of valuable time with those outside of it. A lot of friends complained that I was never around anymore, and many never understood how I could make a living on Twitch.
While many of my friends were busy getting normal jobs, having girlfriends, getting married, or even having kids, I was spending a lot of my free time investing into my stream. Making streaming a full-time job is to some degree is like owning your own business. If it’s going to be successful, you’re going to have to work harder than most people. That means less time for personal fun and hanging out with friends. I will say that because of the hard work I put in those first couple of years, I now have a flexible schedule and plenty of time for friends, but getting to that point wasn’t easy and took a long, long time.
Light at the end of the Tunnel
Streaming for fun and streaming for a job are two completely different worlds. If you’re considering making the jump from hobby to job, do not rush the decision. Have a support group of people that will be 100% honest with you and not tell you just what you want to hear. I made the decision to get feedback from my parents, close friends, as well as leaders in my life that knew me the best. It wasn’t just a decision that I woke up one day and made.
It’s a ton of hard work, and some days legitimately suck, but I wouldn’t trade this experience for anything. Streaming has created some of the most rewarding moments in my life, and almost every day I’ve woken up with a smile on my face thinking about what I was doing to do for my next stream. The countless messages that I’ve gotten from viewers who mentioned how my stream brought a ray of joy and light in an otherwise dark time of their life make each tough day 100% worth it. If you’re choosing to go Full-Time, those moments will keep you going when you’re having your own struggle.
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