What would your day look like if you became a full-time streamer?
You’d probably have a slow start to the day, maybe create a few posts for your social media channels, eat some lunch, and hop on the stream somewhere around mid-evening. After a few hours of broadcasting, you could log off and even get an early night.
It’s easy to see why millions of people have tried their hand at streaming.
Professional streaming certainly beats the rat race, and you get to do what you love in front of a community of passionate fans.
But streaming is competitive. In January alone, 8.28 million people decided to go live, yet only 5.51 million people tuned in to watch them. That means capturing a piece of the streaming pie for yourself is difficult — it’s also expensive.
At first, your stream might not cost you a dime. However, over time you’ll notice glaring areas for improvement, and will want to add new mics, update your hardware, or improve your gaming background. To avoid going deep into the red, you need to follow some money-saving strategies while you capture an audience.
Focus on Free Upgrades
As a streamer, you’re probably tech-oriented and get giddy over new hardware releases. But you don’t need the latest NVIDIA graphics card or the best mic that money can buy. In fact, you probably don’t need any upgrades at all. Before reaching for the credit card, make sure you’ve exhausted all of your free upgrades, first.
You Don’t Need New Hardware
New hardware is cool. If you’re a console player, you probably want the PS5 or the Series X. If you’re a PC gamer, you’ve likely had a few dreams about better graphics cards or a faster CPU. However, in reality, upgrading your hardware will not land you a bigger audience or improve the quality of your stream as much as you think it will.
Don’t believe me? Just check out ReidBoyy on Twitch. Until recently, ReidBoyy was still streaming to an audience of thousands from his PS4. While other gamers in his squad like Iron and Devious use the highest PC specs possible, ReidBoyy keeps his costs low and captures a console-based audience by using what he has to build community and provide a great stream.
Of course, if you are running on old hardware, you’ll need to play to your strengths and be conscious of its weaknesses. For example, if you’re streaming on a PS4 or XBOX One, try to keep the console far away from your mic, as the older systems usually struggle with streaming and can become loud — the last thing you want is to give your fans a headache. Instead, play to your strengths, and consider building a community by playing older titles and capturing niche interests.
Build Your Community
Building a community doesn’t cost you a dime. Yet, few start-up streamers focus on building a community. This is a major misstep as, unless you are a top gamer, viewers stay for the sense of belonging they get while watching your stream.
As a new streamer, you should avoid the temptation to multitask too much when building a community. Experienced streamers like StoneMoutain and xQcOW are great at talking to their chat while they play, but focusing too much on your viewers while streaming will result in poor gameplay that will quickly lose you any viewers that you do have.
Instead, focus on chatting with your community between games and try to ask them questions to engage them further. You can also promote greater engagement by creating an accessible stream so everyone can enjoy your content equally.
Partnering with other streamers is another great way to build a wider community. Try to coordinate your play schedule with streamers that you click with, and don’t worry if they only have a modest viewership — partnering with other streamers is more about creating engaging content than it is gaining exposure.
You should also use social media to promote your stream and gain greater exposure. Setting up on Twitter, Instagram, or Facebook is free, and you can easily edit your highlight clips into short reels that grab people’s attention. Just be sure to use the analytics that every social media platform provides, as this will give you a greater insight into the tags and content that perform best for you.
Get Your Subscriptions in Order
At some point, one of your viewers is going to deem your content worthy of a donation and will try to subscribe or tip you. You need to reward these viewers by getting your subscriptions or tips in order before it becomes an issue.
Most streaming platforms like Twitch and YouTube allow you to customize the way you deliver subscriptions or tips, and it’s worth creating something that incentivizes viewers to click the “Thanks” or “Subscribe” button. Usually, this will be something simple and small like custom emotes that relate to your content. You should then follow up on any donations with a shout-out on the stream.
Budget Like a Business
Adding subscriptions, building a community, and improving your engagement is a sure-fire way to grow your audience and start building revenue from live streaming. Getting some cash from your stream is an incredible feeling, and the first small donation you receive is sure to fill your pride. However, you have to remember that streaming is like running a small business and that most small businesses overextend themselves due to budgeting failures.
Streaming itself has a very small overhead and a minimal start-up cost (providing you already have all the gear you need). But, when you’re self-employed as a streamer, extra costs creep up on you and may throw your budget into a tailspin.
When putting together your budget, account for things like the cost of healthcare and living costs like transport or trips to streamer conferences. By creating a master budget that includes both living and operational costs, you can see how much you need to earn to stream full-time.
A clear budget also helps you eliminate expenses before they become an issue. For example, if you are leaving a salaried position with healthcare benefits, you’ll need to adjust to cheaper insurance and should keep your costs low by using virtual primary care. Video primary care is just as effective as in-person appointments, but you can shop around for affordable providers online and help keep your cash flow positive.
Create Cash Flow
Even profitable businesses sometimes struggle to keep the lights on. While your overheads as a streamer should be relatively low, there may be times when you want to generate some cash to pay for a new gaming PC or console. Of course, you’ll need to use that budget to ensure you aren’t operating in the red, but if you need cash in a pinch you can usually find short-term income by getting a little creative.
As a steamer, you’ve unknowingly developed skills that will serve you well in a digital marketplace. You’ve probably learned how to run social pages, and may even have developed video editing skills. You can use these skills to make money while working from home, as roles like editing and graphic design are in high demand on freelance sites. Even a few simple projects can pay well, and provide you with an extra source of income.
Of course, there are times when you simply need cash now. At the moment, one of the best ways to generate quick cash is by selling your car. Used car prices are up 45% at the moment due to supply shortages and inflation. The high demand means that you might want to consider selling your car yourself as listing your car online will probably give you the biggest payday.
When you gain capital from extra work or selling assets, you must reinvest it into something that adds value to your stream. Making a small upgrade to your webcam might be the right answer, or you may put the cash you’ve generated aside for purchasing future titles. The key is to keep your head when you gain cash and always follow your budget.
The key to running a successful stream is to treat it like a business. Even if you have a modest following, you can generate a little revenue from subscriptions and should reinvest your earnings into hardware or new releases. Remember to budget out any expenditures you do have and consider generating some extra cash by working from home, as this will help you gain key skills and generate some momentum for your new stream.