How long have you been streaming?
I originally began streaming on YouTube, but quickly switched to Twitch when other YouTubers/streamers advised me that it was best not to have all your eggs in one basket, which has since proven to be a fortunate decision, given the current state of monetization on YouTube. I began on Twitch February 2016, and have been a partner since April 2016.
When and how did you first monetize your content? What is the context that led to that decision?
I've always wanted to do something related to games, but I had this mindset that I shouldn't keep my head in the clouds and find a "real job." I found a role as a full-time Project Manager for a translation agency, where I still work. My husband, however, got a job in Japan, and I decided to change my full-time contract into a part-time one and work for them abroad so that I could go with him. That extra free time made it possible to commit more to streaming and video production.
My background in translation is a key part of my story as a professional creator. I realized that translating Japanese games through let's plays was the perfect niche to build an audience around, and I found the perfect game to start with (Fatal Frame 5, Fatal Frame being my favorite horror franchise!). With a dream of one day doing YouTube full-time for a living, my content has been monetized from the start. Some people criticize me for being open about wanting to earn money with my channels, but who wouldn't like to be able to do what they love for a living?
Why offer both subscriptions and one-time donations to your fans? What’s the difference, practically, in how each helps to support the stream?
I never really planned for this to be the case from the start, but it kind of naturally developed, alongside the content, into the diverse options I offer now.
When I just started streaming I only had a laptop, and quickly found out that it was not nearly powerful enough to handle newer games and stream them at the same time. Some fans asked where they could donate money for a new computer, so that I could start streaming regularly. I did a couple of funding streams then and, to my surprise, had $2000 in a couple weeks. I built my own PC and the donation page has been open ever since, with a donation goal every now and then if I need a new piece of equipment, like the Framemeister device that lets me stream retro console games. I don't get many donations, normally, because I simply don't ask for them, and that's fine. With how YouTube is recently however, I have started to mention that advertisements are not really lucrative anymore and they understand and want to donate to show appreciation and help me pay my bills.
As far as subscriptions are concerned, I started a GameWisp account because it seemed all my other creator friends either had a Patreon or a GameWisp account to supplement their income. I think my campaign has done well because I've been frequently changing my tiers, learning as I go. In the beginning, I looked at several other channels and made my first tiers, which were private streams, group hangouts, and Japanese lessons. The lessons got a bit frustrating after awhile though: either they had too much going on in their lives to study properly, or they underestimated the amount of studying it actually takes to learn a language. So I changed that tier into gaming sessions, to play games privately with someone, and that seems to work out fine. As I did the group hangouts, I found out that some of them were super shy and had a really hard time being in a group with strangers, so that's when I thought of the pen pal tier, which is working out nicely as well. Discord has also taken on a big role for my subscribers; people find others to play games with, play D&D together, and there's even movie nights a couple times a week! These experiences lend themselves well to subscriptions.
So, I guess as for the question "why offer both" I can only really ask you in return "why limit yourself to one?" One downside to donations is that although they are super nice, they're also unstable. You could get a lot of them one month, and basically nothing the next. But subscriptions make up for that by being something you can count on, something that provides much more stability. In addition to my GameWisp campaign, I also have a Patreon specifically for my translated content on YouTube, keeping it distinct from my GameWisp offerings. This was a request directly from my viewers, and has provided even more stability. In this way, they support each other, and together they support my donations.
Plus, everyone has a preference, and I've found that by adding more options, people have only responded positively. For a long time it was just donations and GameWisp, but at one point someone asked me why I didn't have bits enabled. I just hadn't looked into it, but when I learned about it, I enabled the feature and it has since helped me out a lot. It's all about listening to what your fans are asking for and adapting accordingly.
How do you promote your different products?
I actually barely promote myself, my mods and moobot (automated mod) do all the heavy lifting. Moobot will automatically post one of the reminders (be it merch, subbing, donations) every 30 minutes, unless one of the mods already posted one (then the cooldown resets). My mods are very good at reminding people what perks are involved when they sub, they help them with any connection issues with Discord, they run the movie nights, etc. etc. I wouldn't be where I was without them, honestly, and mods are that important to pretty much every streamer.
I started out streaming on YouTube and those streams were very messy. I just modded a bunch of people that I knew from comments/Twitter that seemed nice. Once other YouTubers told me it would be better to stream on Twitch to generate a secondary income though, I decided to only keep the ones that were modding well on YouTube. Since then, I’ve been more careful with who I modded, and worked towards having a mod in every time zone.
Now I have two mods in Australia, two in Europe, and five in the States, so there's always someone around! We have our own Discord server where we discuss what is okay and what isn't, what I'd like to see more of etc. And I guess that way I directed it into what it is now.
I've been super picky about who I add: anyone I mod now has to be a regular visitor in the stream for at least a year and has to really get along with the other mods. The mods have the final say if I add them, and together they set rules about who promoted what when.
What lessons have you learned in regards to the benefits of having more than one method of monetization? How has your audience responded to each?
I think each platform has its own unique perks, and they speak to different people. By adding ways for people to sub you also make sure you're not shutting someone out. When I added the Patreon for example, there were quite some people that said they were happy I did it because they already had an account there and it was just easier. The sole reason they hadn't subbed to GameWisp or Twitch was that they just were unfamiliar with the websites and weren't planning on looking into it (happens, unfortunately). Twitch offers unique emotes, I love GameWisp because it lets me upload private stream vods, and Patreon for being so easy to work with (and people have the option to sub without wanting any perks in return. Not sure if that's an option for GameWisp). It also comes back to a safety net for me. YouTube basically breaking down would have been a disaster if that was all that I had, but because of all of this revenue I created on the side, YT was only a third of my income (still, ouch).