Reaching success as a Twitch streamer is no easy feat, given how competitive and popular the hobby is. Gaining popularity on the platform takes a lot of time and hard work, as well as avoiding some key mistakes that will set you back.
There are many mistakes that new streamers often make when starting out on Twitch, which should be avoided. If you’re starting out on Twitch, then you should do your best to avoid making these mistakes.
Constantly asking for follows, subs, and donations
While it’s understandable to want to make money while live streaming, asking for donations, Subs, and follows too frequently can rub viewers the wrong way. Doing so can make you appear disingenuous and scare off viewers.
TheReluctantHermit, a streamer who's been on Twitch for about three years now, believes that authenticity is the key to achieving channel growth on Twitch. Asking for donations regularly can work against this, and make others think you’re only in it for the money.
“If you make it apparent that the only thing that you're trying to do all the time is you know, reach out with your hand that can create kind of an icky feeling,” Hermit says.
By simply creating content with the primary objective of entertaining others and having fun, viewers can sense that energy and will naturally be more drawn to you and are more likely to follow or subscribe.
It’s important to make sure you are financially stable before committing to Twitch. Don’t become a full-time streamer if you have to rely on getting a large amount of subs and donations, without already having a solid number of subscribers and followers. Because if you do rely on Twitch and aren’t already getting enough donations without constantly asking your viewers on stream, then you will inevitably come across as needy and drive some of them away.
Hermit adds that “it's important that if you want to do this career-wise, have a situation where you can do it sustainably.”
Obsessing over numbers
When you first start off as a streamer on Twitch, it can be easy to begin comparing yourself with other streamers. Don’t do this. It’s vital to remember that everyone is different and nobody becomes a big-time streamer overnight.
Many new streamers fall into the trap of obsessing over their numbers, both follower count as well as current viewer count while live. Streaming software will display your live viewer count by default, but we strongly recommend always keeping this disabled.
Just like how time seems to move more slowly while staring at the clock, so does your viewer count if you keep it on-screen. If you disable it, it will be easier to stop obsessing over your current numbers and instead focus on simply creating great content.
ChrysKay, a small Twitch and YouTube content creator, emphasized the importance of this: “Don't obsess over numbers like, oh my god, don't obsess over numbers. Just don't do it. Remember that everybody starts from zero.”
Everyone else who ever streamed on Twitch has started with zero followers, even juggernauts like Ninja and Pokimane. Those streamers didn’t gain their followers overnight, and it took a whole lot of time, hard work, and dedication. It’s important to recognize this and to not get frustrated when the viewers don’t begin filing in immediately. Everybody grows at a different rate, so it’s vital to not take it personally if you don’t grow as quickly as you may want. This applies to both Twitch as well as other platforms like YouTube.
“When I first started my very first stream was pretty good. I had a lot of people in chat,” Chyrsie adds. “but I was at zero followers, you know? And the same with YouTube. When I started, I started from literally the ground up. And I see so many new content creators that just obsess over their numbers. And they think why am I not famous yet? But they don't put any effort into their content. It's because you have to start slow. Don't obsess over the numbers and just work on yourself. Work on your content, and eventually, you'll get there.”
This is one of the most important pitfalls to avoid on Twitch, as obsessing over one’s numbers can cause frustration, jealousy, and ultimately cause burnout. Focus on creating great content, and your follower count will naturally grow over time.
Investing too much into equipment
A large number of new Twitch streamers will quit within their first year of starting on the platform, due to various factors including burnout, exhaustion, and a lack of growth. Streaming is simply not an easy way to earn a livable income; despite this, tons of brand new streamers invest a lot of cash into starting on the platform, spending money on expensive microphones, cameras, game capture cards, and more.
Ashuriiyuki, a Twitch streamer with over one thousand followers and several years of experience with the platform, strongly suggests that new streamers should avoid investing too much of their own money when first starting out.
“Don't jump into streaming super fast. Have fun with it. Go slow, don't buy the DSLR instead of a webcam. Don't get the super fancy $300 microphone and all the special lighting. Go slow with it. Figure out if this is what's for you first. For my lighting for the last few months was an LED lamp with a piece of paper over it to diffuse it because my lights had broken.”
While you certainly should have video and audio quality that is at least of an acceptable quality, good equipment can be found at affordable prices. For example, the Blue Snowball microphone – which produces near-studio level audio quality – costs under $50 new, or even less used. There are plenty of webcams that offer great video quality for under $100. You can also find great streaming overlays that are affordable, while still looking very professional.
“You don't need all the fancy things that you're seeing like Ninja or Amouranth use,” Ashuriiyuki adds. “They have the money and the means and the viewership to do it.”
While networking is a great way to meet others, regardless of the industry, it’s important to actually make real connections with other people. In the realm of live streaming, many content creators will often network with others through social media, particularly Twitter, Instagram, and Discord. The latter of the three is the most important, as small streamers often join Discord communities dedicated to streaming as a way to meet other like-minded channels, make friends, seek advice, and market themselves.
But when joining these communities, it’s important to recognize the fine line between networking and “viewer begging,” as some call it. Tons of streamers who are members of these communities often abuse the “promote yourself” text channel that is often present. Posting in these channels isn’t always negative, but regularly self-promoting in others’ Discords can be seen as poor etiquette.
Thorigorn, a small streamer who’s been a member of several different small streamer Discord communities, is all too familiar with this practice and strongly dislikes it. “There's a difference between begging for that kind of attention versus, you know, asking for help with something. They're two very different things. I don’t want to talk down to anyone who needs genuine help with something, and there's nothing wrong with asking for a bit of direction, but I agree. Posting in streamer Discord communities and asking for viewers is kind of like viewer begging. It rubs people the wrong way. It's just not it's not good. Don't do that.”
If you do self-promote in other Discord channels, it’s important to also be a regularly present member of that Discord community; provide value to other members by chatting with others on a regular basis, be helpful to others, or even assist as a moderator. By being a supportive member of a Discord community, others will be more likely to want to support you back.
TheReluctantHermit adds to this, discouraging new streamers to send other streamers direct links to their own personal Discord communities, if unprompted.
“Don't, don't reach out to streamers and send them your link,” Hermit urges. “It's a cold calling. It's not a thing. It’s considered poor etiquette for you to send your Discord link. Discord is a more intimate way of getting to know people. You have to create value there for people who want to join.”
Instead of sending links to your Discord or self-promoting your broadcasts on other channels, a better solution is to simply make friends in other communities. Be kind, helpful, and friendly, and get involved. Don’t try to force it. This will naturally make others want to take a look at your own broadcast, and hopefully result in new friendships and increased viewership.
On a similar note, new streamers should also avoid simply exchanging followers with other small streamers, or participating in “follow-for-follow” culture, as some call it.
Follow-for-follow (F4F) is essentially the practice of following other channels that you have little-to-no relationship with, and simply follow or view so that you too can receive an additional follow or view. Many new streamers take part in this practice with the goal of reaching Affiliate status, and while this might result in some initial channel growth, it does not help channels in the long run.
“In the follow-for-follow culture,” TheReluctantHermit shares, “what ends up happening is that you might see some growth initially. But in the long run, it becomes unsustainable. And then your mind goes, well, why are things changing? And the answer is, you've made yourself follow too many channels, and you can't be everywhere all at once. And realistically, you need to start kind of figuring out where do I actually want to put my energy?”
Hermit recommends that new streamers invest their time instead in friends and other small streamers whose content you actually content with. Engage with and support those who you really vibe with, and work on growing that friendship. Doing so will lead to much better results.
“That's a really, really important thing. Finding the people that you get along with and building your space and your friendship… that's how I've seen people create a sustainable, joyful experience on Twitch. It's learning to refine who you really want to spend time with. And when you spend time with them, be there for them, create content with them, that usually creates an actual good friendship. And suddenly, not only are you creating a positive community around you, you're developing friendships that are actually real.”
Streaming for the wrong reasons
Twitch is an awesome platform for streaming fun content, chatting with others, and making new friends all across the world. But unfortunately, Twitch has a massive problem: tons of new streamers quit before ever gaining an audience.
This could probably be attributed to various different factors, but probably one of the biggest is the fact that many folks start streaming for all of the wrong reasons. With many big streamers reportedly making millions of dollars, some newbies jump into streaming with the false belief that they too can earn a living, without having the same level of passion as others.
This is very important: do NOT start streaming with the primary goal of getting rich and famous. The majority of streamers on Twitch do not earn a livable income, and the odds are simply not in your favor. If you start streaming with the expectation that you will make a six-figure income and become the next MoistCrit1cal, then you are in for a rude awakening.
“I see so many people start Twitch you can tell they're only doing it for the money,” Chryskay shares. “Like there'll be people that are like ‘oh, I'm a full-time streamer.’ But like they’re not putting any soul into it. They don't actually give a shit about what they're doing. They're just doing it for the money and the validation. Right when it's like, if you don't love it once, like are you doing it, you know?”
Chrysie adds that burnout is inevitable for those who are streaming for the wrong reasons, as you need to have passion and love for content creation if you want to be successful.
“You're gonna burn out so quickly because if you don't enjoy doing it, you're not going to want to do it.”
Only playing the most popular games
It’s no secret that Twitch features a very poor discoverability – getting found on the platform is difficult, as the platform recommends larger, more established streamers over newer channels with few viewers. Some new streamers decide to stream the hottest and most popular games, with the belief that this will give them a better chance of getting discovered.
This could not be more wrong. Not only are streamers less likely to be found, as more popular games will have a larger number of broadcasts at any given time, but this is also a terrible reason to play a game. Instead of streaming the most popular games, play the games that you enjoy playing the most – and then stick to one or two game genres that you enjoy the most.
“What the most important thing is to avoid is jumping games all the time,” Ashuriiyuki shares. “Focus on a genre or focus on the style of game, or maybe a smaller set of genres rather than just playing everything under the sun. Because you're not going to make a solid community doing just that.”
You’ll be much more likely to gain viewership if you play games that you have the most fun with, or are highly skilled at – and then sticking to those titles that you begin building an audience with. It’s unlikely that the viewers that you gain while playing Doom Eternal will also be tuning in to watch you play Animal Crossing: New Horizons, as those games have wildly different playerbases. Find the types of games that you enjoy playing on stream the most, and then stick with that genre.
But at the same time, don’t stream a particular game only because your audience wants to see it – if you hate the experience of playing a game, it will show on your stream and viewers will sense that you are having less fun. To put it simply: stop playing games that you don’t enjoy.
“I mean how many times have I tried to play hollow Knight? Right. I tried to get through that game because I got gifted by the community – the community wanted to see it but I thoroughly hated streaming every minute of that game, and it showed,” Ashuriiyuki recounts. “The community realized that I was not having a good time and therefore they were not having a good time.”
Streaming without a clear schedule
Audience sustainability is a major issue for many streamers on Twitch, regardless of their content’s quality. And one of the biggest reasons that streamers fail to grow or even sustain their viewer counts over time is a lack of communication, and failure to have a consistent streaming schedule.
It doesn’t matter how great your content might be; if your followers don’t know when you’re going to be online, then how can you expect them to show up for your broadcasts?
“If I'm just going live at random points,” Thorigorn says, “Who the hell's going to know what's going on? Right? People don't know what's going on. How are they going to have something to work with?”
In order to have consistent viewership, you absolutely must have a streaming schedule. Utilize Twitch’s schedule tool, update it on a weekly basis, and communicate with your viewers during broadcasts – tell them when you will be online next, so that they will know when to watch you! Additionally, use social media – post your schedule on Twitter, Instagram, and your channel’s Discord community (if you have one). Post when you are about to go live! This will give followers an additional way to see your streaming schedule.
And of course, stick to that schedule – and be as consistent as possible. Thorigorn believes that “probably one of the things that's helped me most, at least personally, is that consistency.”
Streaming too often
Another huge mistake new streamers often make is biting off more than they can chew. While you need to fully commit to something to be successful, you shouldn’t overdo it. Streaming regularly is important, but there is such a thing as streaming too frequently.
“You don't have to stream every single day,” Ashuriiyuki suggests. “Now will that potentially get you more viewers? Yeah, in the long run if you stream consistently, whether it be three times a week or every single day, that's gonna help you out a lot more and having a schedule. But when you have a full time job, or a part time job, streaming too often is going to hurt you.”
Hermit adds that, at one point, he was live streaming too frequently and had to scale things back to avoid burnout. “I was streaming six days a week. I only had Wednesdays off. And what I discovered was that it was too much, especially for the kind of content that I do.”
Live streaming can be very draining, and like all activities, can lose its appeal if done too often. It can even negatively affect one’s mental health and other aspects of life if overdone. It’s important to understand your limitations and to take care of yourself.
Being rude, mean, or offensive
On a similar note, avoid being rude or mean to your viewers. This may seem like an obvious thing to avoid, but sometimes streamers get upset and carried away while on stream, which can result in saying or doing something regrettable, and then driving away viewers.
And while getting upset or angry is sometimes unavoidable, it’s recommended to end a stream early if you find yourself in a negative place while streaming.
TheReluctantHermit has seen this occur and advises streamers to be careful. “I have definitely seen some situations where I've seen some larger creators really lose their marbles on stream which is important, you know, to feel your feelings. But what it does is it can drive your audience away, because suddenly there's a shift from being one way to another, you know, and that stark difference can be jarring.”
It’s also important to recognize that it’s also very possible to offend or upset others even without intending to do so. For that reason, streamers sometimes have to be careful about what they say on stream. Even something that might seem fine to say while gaming privately with your friends may not be seen as appropriate while streaming to your viewers.
“If you say something, like you shoot a girl some offhanded sexist comment, that's going to really hurt your viewership,” Ashuriihuki adds. “Right? If they're offended by it, you're going to lose them.”
Users watch Twitch streamers to be entertained and have a good time, so if you are in a poor mood, are outwardly negative, or say something offensive while online, you might drive them away permanently.
While live streaming can be a ton of fun and may even lead to a career in content creation, it’s important to understand that it takes a lot of hard work and dedication – and one part of the learning process is to understand what not to do.
Perhaps the most important takeaway from all of this is to understand that you should work on creating great content by playing games that you truly love, being your authentic self and forging friendships with others, and creating a schedule that is consistent and manageable in the long term.
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