The streaming community is filled with advice for getting started as a streamer. I read my fair share when I decided I was going to seriously pursue streaming, successfully implementing some of the tips and learning some were best left alone. (Looking at you, streamer hashtags on Twitter!)
While the “getting started” advice pool is flooded, there are a few things I learned while streaming that I wish I’d been told earlier on. For your amusement and to hopefully help you as well, here are three things I learned the hard way while streaming on Twitch.
1) Bite the bullet and start with the free overlays and assets.
My thought was “Why should I use a free stream overlay for my Twitch channel? Anyone could use this. I could be using the same overlay as some super popular Fortnite streamer and not even know it until their fans find me and start giving me grief for it. I’ll just make my own; that way I know I am unique.”
Welp… First, the overlay I made was awful, and generally a huge waste of time. I think I used it for two streams before giving up on using it. Second, I really shouldn’t have been worried about the risk using the same overlay as someone else. It’s like buying a gift bag: sure someone might mention you used the same gift bag for the birthday party as someone else, but it’s what’s inside the wrapping that is really going to matter.
I got my free overlay from Player.me, but I also highly recommend checking Streamlabs OBS*’s selection, since they put all that you’ll need to make your stream overlay, alerts, etc. in one place. Once you get enough of an audience, you can worry about commissioning an actually unique stream overlay to suit your needs. And if you do ever find someone using the same free overlay as you, just remember that great minds think alike.
Asterisk to this entire point: If you are an art streamer and want to make a custom overlay to show off your talents, I highly recommend it. My good friend Nephalope sat down and designed all her stream assets before she even streamed once. Her streams look amazing and anyone interested in the overlay can find her commission information in her information panels. A double win.
2) Reserve time to play games off-stream.
One of the first games I started streaming was Neverwinter Nights, a favorite of mine from my teen gaming years. I used to play this crazy sorceress who couldn’t decide if she preferred running around with two massive swords or an enchanted longbow. Sitting down to stream the game for the first time, I quickly realized… I had forgotten how much I’d used cheat codes to get through the game the first time. Now, on camera, I had to quickly get good at the game for real. I wasn’t about to God-Mode my way through the game on stream.
How much you listen to your audience’s input is on you, but it’s very easy to ignore the fact that your play style on games changes when you are on camera. You’re more aware of every move and every choice you have to make. It can get to be a lot, to the point where games you usually love become a chore. Streaming is work, even if you are playing games, and it’s important to realize that. Take some time to play games the way you want to play them. Maybe you’re saving every five minutes in case you make a choice you want to immediately revert. Maybe you’re using cheat codes to get through all the fights super fast. Or maybe you’re just playing a game that you don’t want to stream. Recharge those batteries and your streams will be all the better for it.
3) No matter your viewer average, you will always have those “no viewers” days.
There are few feelings worse than a bad view count stream, especially when your averages start to hit the double digits. Seeing my audience steadily grow makes me excited and bolsters my energy on stream. That’s a double-edged sword, though. I can’t count the number of times I’ve been super excited to start stream. The game is going well and my audience has been engaged in what we are doing… Only I didn’t realize Netflix dropped a new season of some original series that same night, and audience is off binge watching it before work the next day. It stings to sit there, 20 minutes in, and realize your “loyal viewers” aren’t showing up.
No matter what, these days happen. Sure, you could cancel stream; I’ve ended stream early on occasion when I’m not enjoying things. But you could also keep streaming. Wait for that one person to walk in, a new viewer who hasn’t seen you before, and engage with them. Maybe they, too, are wondering where their friends are and wouldn’t have otherwise seen you. All those tricks you learned when you were just starting out about “just keep talking” and “ignore the view count” hold true forever. Even on a bad day, you never know who might drop in to chat.
*Streamlabs OBS link is an affiliate link. Using this particular link helps support Lynn Theory at no cost to you.