Believing In and Taking Care of Yourself as a Streamer
Let’s not lie, guys: Streaming is a dream. You get to play your favorite games, interact with people who enjoy what you do, and, if you’re lucky, you might even make some money. A select top few make enough money to live, achieving the dream. Fame, money, video games – sounds like the most amazing thing, right?
Well, not always. Most of us, even generally successful streamers, go through rough patches. Frustration and depression are a common obstacle among those who aim to entertain, and struggling with mental health is an issue for myriad content creators. Add to this the frustration many of us experience when all the hard work, the hours of planning, creativity and execution lead nowhere, with stagnate numbers, no new viewers coming in or old ones leaving, and suddenly, there’s that persistent, nagging voice in your head: “should I be doing this? Is it all worth it? Will I ever be recognized?”
We all know where you’re coming from. It’s a horrible feeling; it can be soul crushing. Many have given up on streaming because of it. If you’re a content creator in the dumps and you’re reading this: I applaud you for not having thrown in the towel! Streaming is hard work, and the overwhelming majority of us never “blow up.” If growth is your goal as a content creator, it’s a grind.
With this article, we’ll cover some helpful hints and strategies to guide you through your own funk. Meanwhile, if you’re struggling and would like to share your story with me, or if you just need to vent that rock-bottom-anger, please don’t hesitate to contact me on my Discord or via the Twitter handle below the article. I’m here to help.
Let’s get started...
First Thing’s First: Talk to a Pro
If you’re sad a lot, feel empty and like you don’t really have a future or want one in the first place, struggle with motivation or self care, or just can’t seem to get out of a funk, you might suffer from depression. In that case, you’re not going to be able to solve your problems through your stream. Seek professional help. I understand resisting this idea. I personally hated the idea of talking to a stranger about my feelings, but in the end, it might have just saved my life. There is nothing wrong with getting help, and it’s going to be painful and hard, but I promise you this: it will get better if you give yourself a chance. Always put yourself first, before your work, before your stream, no matter what. If you’re struggling to find help, you can always reach out to friends and family. They’re there to support you, and guide you. And, as pointed out above, you can always use the contact info below this article to contact me; I’m happy to help.
Let it out.
It’s okay to be frustrated. Let it out. Your friends and family should be your lifeline when you feel down. Don’t let anger and frustration build up; it can lead to serious mental issues and bitterness. Talk to someone you trust, someone who you know cares for your feelings and wants you to be well. Don’t hold back. Let it all out. Just don’t publicly target your frustration at other creators, or throw shade at those who might be more successful than you. These feelings are natural, and need to be expressed in private, with someone you trust, but airing it out in public will only hurt your image and your state of mind. Find someone you can trust, a professional, friends, family, other streamers, and vent. It’s a small thing, but it helps.
Sometimes, when you’re down, it’s important to take a good look at yourself. Is streaming really for me? Do I have ideas I still want to realize? Should I change my brand? Should I change my game(s)? What do I love about streaming? What do I hate?
Once, when I was down, someone close to me asked me an important question:
“If you absolutely knew no one would be disappointed at you for leaving, and you absolutely knew you would never be partnered or have 100-200 viewers, would you go on?”
My answer was yes, because, otherwise, I’d never know what other amazing things I could experience with my community. I’d never know the feeling of having someone tell me how my stream made their sad day better again. That realization, that clarity, helped push me through my funk.
Think about it. Would your answer be ‘yes?’ If not, really take a look at your stream. Talk to your closest viewers, mods etc. about what’s working and what isn’t. Maybe even take a break, a few weeks off, during which you can gauge how much you miss streaming. If you go back to it, you’ll have a clear mind, fresh motivation and more realistic expectations. If you don’t, that’s also fine – there’s no reason to stream if you don’t really enjoy it. Either way, practice some mindfulness, and really think about what it is you want.
Build a Brand, Believe in It
There are roughly 2.2 Million active broadcasters on Twitch. The question is simple: How do you stand out? If you’re already discouraged, or down, your answer might be something like ‘not at all.’ That’s simply not true. Your character, your personality, is unique, different from any other streamer’s. People are going to attracted to your persona, who you are, if you show them. Did you set up your stream with your own personality in mind?
The theme here is “branding”. You want to make yourself and your stream recognizable, to give your viewers that thing that makes them go ‘I love that X does Y.’
The harsh truth is that if you sit in front of a cheap webcam, with a scratchy mic, and play a game without really talking, it won’t get better. Your stream won’t improve, and neither will your state of mind. Ask yourself: What would I want to watch? Do I care about audio more than video? More IRL, Creative or Gaming? Variety streams or just concentrating on a single game to get better? Have a system. A mentality.
Don’t shy away from exploring quirky ideas, either! If you feel that a gimmick would be fun to have, don’t ask yourself ‘but is that too stupid?’ If you like the idea, do it! Take the chance!
Even if it’s gonna be difficult and time-consuming, find your identity, your structure, it’s important. It’s what makes your stream a true extension of you, and turns it into something of which you can consistently be proud. A big part of avoiding the mental dips that come with content creation is making sure your stream always feels like a natural part of you and who you are. Branding is how you build that strong identity.
Find Your Coworkers
Another very important basic necessity is networking. Seriously: network, network, network. Find Streamer Facebook Groups you like. Use “Browse” on Twitch, find new peers, support them, make friends. The latter two are paramount: Don’t jump into someone’s chat, say “I like your hair, nice stream” and expect them to be your friend for life. I believe it’s more important to meet and really support a select few people and maybe even befriend them than to just throw yourself at dozens. As with everything in life, human interaction and relationships are key. Had I not networked as well as I have, I can promise you I would have never become a Twitch Partner. Co-stream with other creators you like. Find a common game and play it together. Make sure to run voice-chat between yourselves – and remember the golden rule of improv, to always “yes, and.” If your partner (or a viewer for that matter!) comes up with a funny joke, a one-liner, a humorous comment, expand on it, no matter how weird it may sound. Don’t just shut them down with “Uh, nah”. Interaction is entertainment.
Stick to your guns.
A lot of articles out there try to tell you that if you do X, you’ll be successful, but there’s no golden bullet. Every stream is different. There are no ten commandments for streaming that will make you the next LIRIK or summit1G. You are you. You cannot be someone else. If you try too hard to play a role you’re not comfortable with, your viewers WILL notice – and they WILL leave. Meanwhile, you’re going to get worn down, exhausted, sick of pretending to be something you’re not. Instead, do what you like. Play what you like. Try to liberate yourself from the idea that only high viewer counts mean good streams. If you can walk away from a stream with a low viewer number but that great feeling of “today was an absolute blast”, you’ve succeeded. I’d personally choose that over a larger, but less interactive audience any day.
If you’re in the dumps, or your numbers aren’t outstanding, you have nothing to lose. Try new games; whatever sparks your interest. See how you like it and how your existing community and new people respond to it.
And the most important part of this: stream for the viewers you have, not the ones you might get. I have always been of the opinion that, even if you’re small, be thankful for the community you have. Never forget that these are real people, spending hours of their time with you because of what you do. The most valuable currency anyone can share with you is their time and attention. Listen to your community and their input. They care about your product, or they wouldn’t be there! The more you let yourself feel how much they care, the more mental strength you’ll have.
One Stream at a Time
It’s important to keep a long time goal in general, but when you click that “Start Streaming” button, concentrate on the stream you’re having. Don’t think of the next one, or the previous one. Focus on what’s happening. You cannot go from zero to hero within a single stream – and if anyone ever did, know that it’s the exception that proves the rule. Give yourself time to evolve, to learn who you are and what you do. Don’t compare your viewer numbers too often. If low stats are the thing bringing you down, do your best to remove that number from your routine. Cover that number everywhere while you stream. Don’t look at it. It will ever so slightly change your behavior on stream, but your viewers will notice and the atmosphere will shift.
Know that goals will only shift.
Say you reach Affiliation. Congratulations! Well done! This means Twitch has recognized you as an “active broadcaster”. Sounds good, doesn’t it? You have the potential to entertain the masses and to grow. Maybe your next goal is Twitch Partnership, the coveted purple tick, entry to lounges and after-parties and everything that comes with it.
It’s a long, long road, and it can be harsh and painful.
And now, let’s say you reach that goal. You have an email in your inbox that says “Congratulations, you were accepted into the Twitch Partnership program”. Tell everyone. Jump on your bed. Cry tears of joy. I know I couldn't hold myself back when Twitch sent me an invitation. It’s an amazing feeling.
But your journey for growth doesn’t end here. You want more. You want to be one of the top creators in the world. Your goals have shifted.
Pretty soon you’ll realize that the struggle is exactly the same. You’ll still battle for more viewers, more subs, more recognition. You’ll find that making business with brands is easier, but making it all work out how you want it to is tricky, difficult, and sometimes you’ll deal with bad people. You’ll experience jealousy, envy, mindless hate. Never hate back. Try to help if you can. Think back to how you felt. It’s not easy, right?
What I’m trying to say is that it will never be easy-breezy. To maintain a strong viewership, you’ll still have to evolve constantly, to keep entertaining, to stay fresh. That will never end. Pressure might increase, because now you are a Partner, now you need to look the part. Envision all of it and think to yourself: ‘Is this what I want?’ If your heart explodes at the idea of being a Twitch Partner, by all means, go for it. But don’t stream for Partnership. Twitch Partnership is what happens if streaming for yourself, for your community, works out. Not the other way around. It’s okay to have goals, but be modest about them, too.
Be proud, but never rest.
First of all: Be proud of not giving up streaming but looking for help. Thousands, even tens of thousands of other broadcasters are exactly where you are. But instead of throwing in the towel, you fight on. That’s admirable!
Lean back, fill those lungs deeply a few times and exhale slowly. You are a streamer. You have probably already built a community, no matter how small. You entertain people, you brighten their days, you make them feel better. You can be proud of yourself for getting this far. Remind yourself how it feels, to have built something with others, to have that community, to impact their lives. Do you feel that slight feeling of ease? That is you starting to accept that you have a good foundation. Now all you need is some tools, some building material time, and patience.
Never forget where your roots lie, be thankful of your community and involve them in your process of growing, ask them for ideas, feedback. Remember, though: You make the final decisions, because it’s your stream. Don’t bend to what you think other people want. EVER.
It’s just not for everyone.
If none of this works out to help you get out of what gets you into Streamer Frustration, even after a few weeks or months have passed, maybe it’s time to look it in the eye: Streaming just isn’t for everyone. If it hasn’t worked out, take a break. Don’t stream for a month or two, tell your community how you feel and why. Gauge your interest in that time. If you are done, consider ending your broadcasting career. There’s no shame in it, and there’s even courage in making this decision when it’s most necessary. It’s important for you to understand that a closed door almost always means another one opens. All you have to do is find it and take enough time to do it. Don’t be harsh on yourself. You didn’t fail. You learned and evolved.
Together we are strong: International Depression Helplines. Find the helpline for your country, take a deep breath, call. These people will listen, take you seriously and help set you on your course to finally start feeling better.
Therapy121 offer free first time sessions to help you find a clear course when everything looks hazy and scary.
If money is a concern to you and you’re in the US or Canada, let 211 help you find counselling. It helps.
If you feel most comfortable on Twitch, there are actually streamers who concentrate on Psychology. Check out Coco_The_Louder, for instance. She’s a warm, welcoming individual with a doctorate in Psychology who does IRL streams providing education - not therapy! - about psychological issues.