‘Why do you stream every single day without a break?’
As with any good story, a little back story is required: Let’s rewind to almost 7 years ago.
I had been working as a chemical contractor for two decades. I began as an apprentice at the age of 11. This included sealing driveways, painting, staining, epoxies, glues and acids. Anything that was dangerous, messy, or that took a steady hand, I tackled with the goal of being ‘the neatest’ one of all contractors in my area. Where others would go out and start a job within 5 minutes of arriving, I’d prep/tape the job for sometimes as long as 2 hours. I like to think that this attention to detail eventually crossed over into my streaming career, but at the time, while I enjoyed Justin.tv, I was nervous about stepping in myself. I was worried about the technical aspect, not, ‘Could I stream,’ ‘Could I make people laugh,’ or ‘Will I get stage fright.’ The main things holding me back ended up being, ‘I’ve never used a camera online,’ and, ‘Do I have time to do this while working so much at my career?’
I absolutely loved the idea of playing games in front of people, but it seemed like such a pipe dream. I knew/know more than the average user when it comes to his computer, but if something truly ‘breaks’ I have to go to more knowledgeable friends to beg/borrow to get it fixed. That thought more than any other is what stopped me in my tracks. I had no idea about mics, cameras, OBS, alerts, hardware or green screens. So I said, “I’ll look into it later.”
Protip: Don’t wait. If you're constantly planning and not doing, take that next step. Just do it. I’ve taken a ‘wait and see’ attitude many times in my life, and it just doesn’t pay off. It has lead to nothing but being a step behind everyone else. It’s been a valuable, but tough, lesson to learn.
The Game Changer
So from 2011 to the end of 2015 I watched, waited and learned. But, standing on top of wood, cement and asphalt all day long for 9 months a year for an average of 90 hours a week does horrendous damage to every part of your body that matters. Knees, neck, and back, all of them were under massive strain. Towards the end of the summer of 2015 I had terrible pain in my back that simply wouldn’t go away, so I Finally caved and went to my doctor.
“You have the back of a 50 year old,” he said. “It’s time to either slow down, or find a new field to work in.”
Five more years of labor and I’d most likely be in a wheelchair. I didn’t know what to do.
There are most likely hundreds of you with similar stories. I firmly believe that I’m not a special case in any way, shape, or form. I just worked too hard, too early, and too often and, worse yet, for way too little. I was angry, hurt, and annoyed all at once. I wanted to yell at the top of my lungs about how unfair it all seemed. What could I possibly do as a broken bodied former contractor at 35 years old?
It was time. I knew I had to give streaming a shot, even though I’d never done it before. I had a deadline, now. It was either adapt or die. I couldn’t work myself into a truly broken state for so little. I threw out all the worries, and instead of saying to myself, ‘How can I be a really good streamer,’ I changed it into, ‘How can I start as soon as possible.’
I had to learn, so I went to the source: other streamers. I watched streams that had a few dozen viewers. These are streamers that will, usually, talk to you in chat. I asked basic questions. I asked how hard it ‘really’ was and what was needed to start. It all boiled down to a mic, OBS and a game someone wanted to see on Twitch. That was honestly it.
I set a target date for my first stream, planned an extra month off work over the holidays, and started researching. What kind of streams are out there? What kind did I want mine to be? I discovered a great deal.
It wasn’t long before major themes began to emerge: who did what, what worked, what didn’t, what seemed to work but backfired, etc. Four major things seemed to stick out to me.
The more often your butt is in the chair, the faster you’ll grow.
The more interactive you are with chat and comments, the better your community will be.
Clean(ish) streamers were very, very rare.
No one (from what I saw at that time) except Cohh Carnage was streaming every single day without a break.
I didn’t have to be good at I.T. I didn’t have to be great at the games. I didn’t have to be young, ‘hot’, ‘sexy,’ or ‘good looking.’ It seemed to all boil down to consistency, and all 4 of those points have consistency at their core.
If you are consistently in the chair you’ll grow.
If you consistently interact with chat you’ll make your community feel more included.
If you consistently don’t say the F-bomb, C-bomb or N-bomb, people that watch from work or with their kids will be able to watch.
Cohh is consistently online every day, he said openly to his chat hundreds of times, “Borrow my ideas. Use what works for you!”
So I took the parts I liked and what I thought would work for me and used them, and I came to the conclusion that to get where I wanted to be I had to stand out in a way that wasn’t harmful to others. And that’s probably the biggest thing I wanted to bring to this, which I hope, is my very last career change. I didn’t want to bring the backstabbing, the finger pointing, the ‘office politics’ or simple garbage of ‘other jobs’ to my channel/career.
People seem to hate undo drama in their entertainment and I picked up on that quickly. So many streamers seemed to be looking at each other (back then in the early years) and they looked at the game they were playing at a certain time as ‘theirs’ and there was a great deal of territorial posturing that went along with it. I wanted absolutely zero part of any of that.
I made every mistake you could make those first 100 days. I played a game no one really played, at a time no one really watched. I didn’t set up additional recording so there were no highlights for my first 75 days. But I was lucky and grew. I met others. I gave and got hosted. And I learned what worked and what didn’t.
I saw very quickly that people took notice that I was on every day because my title always had ‘[Day #] Title’ in it. There was some confusion, at first, over just what this was referring to, but eventually people settled in to realizing what I was doing and it became part of our routine to tell people what was going on.
I think it’s important to say that I coupled being on everyday with ‘always reading/interacting’ with chat, and the response was very, very good. I told myself that every single stream was another ‘chunk out of the wall’ towards my goals. My goal was to within the next 5 years be in the top 1,000 streamers, while also not doing anything to hurt anyone along the way. And that last part was extremely important to me. I’ve seen everything you can imagine about people stepping on each other, back stabbing each other, trash talking each other, and treating each other poorly. I vowed that this time I’d do everything on my end to NOT do anything like that AND if people attacked me/used me/abused me, that I’d just cut ties and stop dealing with them. So with that in mind, I wouldn’t get involved in feuds, rivalries or any such nonsense.
But then I thought, why not take it a small step further and put effort into actively helping others with their streams? I couldn’t do the work for them, but I could give friendly advice (if they asked for it), tips and tricks and expect nothing in return.
The results were better than I possibly could of hoped, I had set what I thought was a realistic goal of having 50 regulars in channel at all times and 10,000 followers by the end of two years. It didn’t even take nine months.
And I firmly believe much of it comes from being on every single day AND changing my viewpoint of other streamers from ‘competition’ to ‘co-worker’. I know that sounds simplistic but it takes away so much stress and, I’ve said this before in channel many times, it turns Twitch into ‘easy mode’.
One thing streaming every day does is gives you insight into your viewers, in particular who watches when, whether they be exclusive weekend watchers or people catching a stream from their desk on weekdays. Being aware of these things, and leaning into them by acknowledging your “weekend crew” or other subset of fans, helps you to create a stronger community identity and stronger stream.
I almost laugh at my decision to start ‘every day.’ I didn’t really think about plans, events, trips, and how it would impact every travel decision I make. Even if you just want to go out with friends, have a vacation, go to a party or whatever, you simply must plan it out. If not, it doesn’t work. The stream doesn’t care that you have surprises, emergencies. Your audience wants to know that you are keeping your word and that you're there everyday. And that’s the thing, one major component of being on everyday is giving your word and sticking to it, and there have been many days where I am simply exhausted, beat, sick, tired or feeling like crap, but as they say ‘the show must go on’. All streamers have to go through this, really, whether they stream daily or not, the added pressure simply makes it more extreme.
To that end, it has forced me to have a better handle on my own mental health, where I might have down days or feel like garbage, I am much better at controlling it and understanding it because I stream every day. For me, that means not sharing every negative emotion or event with my audience. Each person will figure out how much and how often they wish to tell viewers about their lives, and it’s good to wear your heart on your sleeve a bit, but, in my opinion, that doesn’t mean it’s a great idea to complain or vent to your audience. I don’t think it’s helpful, in my own case, to say anything negative about the channel, as an example. Whether it makes me sad, happy, mad, joyful, angry, shocked, pissed off, or whatever, I only share the good things with my channel. I worry about driving people away if I’m having/had a bad day. It only takes once to anger someone enough to have them say, ‘I’m done with this place’ and I know negativity in big doses almost never leads to good things. You can decide where you fall on that spectrum, for me, I keep 95% of it ‘behind the green screen.’
My streaming routine is a tad extreme, but developing a firm schedule for your stream can be just as powerful as doing ‘everyday.’ Being on 5 or 6 days a week and only taking Sunday or the weekend to yourself can be amazing, you simply have to find what works for you. Start slow, because it’s always easier to add days to your routine than to take them away. And remember that taking time off isn’t a bad thing, in fact it can be a great thing for you and your stream.
Streaming daily was the right choice for me for a few reasons. I knew that if I did 5 days a week, or whatever, I would easily think it was okay to take breaks whenever things got hard, whenever things got bad or whenever I felt like it. After all, no one can control me but me right?
Coming into being a streamer I was used to working 8 months a year every single day for as much as 16 hours. I thought I could use that consistency here to grow my new dream/career in a positive fashion. But I remembered from that time, the moment December 1st hit, I would collapse into bed and sleep in for an entire week without having the alarm set whatsoever. I’d sleep till I woke up naturally, eat whatever I wanted, and heal up. Then it would take months for me to heal and prepare for the next season which would show up entirely too soon every single year. I knew that, if left to my own devices, even when transitioning to streaming, I could fall into old patterns, making decisions on the fly or working myself to the bone and then crashing.
Deciding to stream every day took the guesswork out of my head. I never think ‘when will I stream?’ Instead it became ‘what will I stream today?” That won’t work for everyone, but for me it’s easy and simple. And at this stage, I like easy and simple. The clock is my boss, and it’s easy to understand. We work together, every day, to make sure the stream keeps going strong.
Taking Care of Yourself
It’s important that you know your limits, and that you don’t push yourself past the point of good health. Just because I stream everyday, for example, doesn’t mean I have to make them long streams. A half hour is okay when it’s an ‘off’ or ‘slow day’ I try to make my channel have Mon to Wed be 3 or 4 hour streams, Thursday is my pick of short or long depending on if I have work I’m trying to take care of or stream work I’d like to get done. Friday to Sunday are my long streams where I try to put in a minimum of 6 hours and a max of around 14 hours per day. The point is that I can modify this on the fly and I frequently do, with the one constant is ‘Everyday’. That flexibility allows me to give my own wellbeing the proper attention, while still keeping my streak going.
And this is very important, because working too hard can have a very real, and serious, impact on your overall health. The story of my friend, Geekdomo, who had a heart attack because he was streaming so much, is never far from my mind. Being aware of the risks is important and because I stream everyday I’m working on things that can hopefully mitigate the negative impacts of streaming daily. Every streamer should be aware of these risks, which include blood clots, leg swelling, and spinal compression. Make sure you take regular breaks to rest your eyes and stretch, and try to eat right, drink plenty of water, and exercise enough. All of these things have to be taken seriously.
Do your best to get a handle on your weight. I know that sounds like simple advice, and something everyone already knows to keep an eye on, but it’s not just about your health. Being heavy, or out of shape, makes it harder to stream; your body is working to hold all that weight, even in the chair, working to maintain it, cool it, warm it, and feed it the energy it needs. If you feel like you could stand to be in better shape, you’ll find that working towards that goal will help you when creating content. Sitting in the chair becomes easier, cold days can be fixed with extra layers, warm days don’t become unbearable experiences where you have to have an AC chugging to try to cool you down. I say all of this from experience; I was 270 lbs when I started streaming, and my final ‘push’ to be a partner while working full time made me balloon up to 320. I’ve dropped 30 of the 50 lbs, which has gone a long way towards making streaming less difficult. My goal is to get back down to 240, and I’m excited to get there. Streaming is so much easier when healthy. I don’t mean this to be an attack on anyone; losing weight is hard, and something almost all of us struggle with. For those than can manage, though, getting healthier will make everything else a little easier.
Thanks for taking the time to read all of this. I hope it explains why I do things the way I do. Pick the pieces that work for you, use them, improve upon them and do your own thing. We are, after all, in this together and there is one other universal truth I believe: You Sir/Ma’AM are AWESOME!