A beginner’s guide to becoming a streamer

Every month, 8 million people go live on Twitch, broadcasting their passions and talents around the world. And at any given time, 2.5 million people watch content such as video games, music, cooking and art on the platform.

If you’re one of those viewers, you’ve probably been wondering if you should get out there and become a streamer yourself. You definitely can, but there are a few things you need to know first.

Build your setup

You can’t become a streamer without gear. Different types of streams require different setups, but if you just want to dabble in streaming before spending your hard-earned cash, you can opt for the most basic setup of them all: a computer.

Depending on the amount of RAM on your computer, you should be able to run streaming software (OBS Studio is free and the most popular) and video game of your choice. Keep in mind that simpler computers with 6GB or 8GB of RAM may struggle to stream more resource-intensive games that require more processing power. Your computer is arguably the most important part of your setup. So if you find that your computer is causing lag in your game or stream, update it before doing anything else.

[Related: Best streaming devices of 2022]

If buying a new computer isn’t an option and you have an old but working laptop lying around, you can use your most powerful device solely for gaming and the other for streaming. Dual computer setups are a bit more complicated than running everything on a single computer, so you’ll need a capture card to bridge the gap between devices. You’ll also need to buy one if you’re streaming console games or using anything other than a webcam for your video feed.

If you have the right processing power, you’re ready to speed things up. If you want others to see and hear you while you’re streaming, you’ll need a camera and microphone. But if you have a working smartphone, longtime streamer and pro-gamer Tyler Blevins, better known as Ninja, says you already have everything you need.

“You can use your phone as a camera and just buy a mount for as little as $8,” he says in his MasterClass. How to become a streamer.

From there, you can create a setup as complicated as your budget will allow. It’s a good idea to start with a proper microphone, as streamers agree that glitchy audio is a bigger problem for viewers than a subpar video stream. After that, upgrade your camera and invest in better lighting if you haven’t already. These elements are especially important if you’re streaming something other than video games, e.g. B. cooking or art.

Finally, pay close attention to the speed of your internet connection. Good streaming quality requires high upload speed, as opposed to fast download speed, which is better for a smooth Netflix experience, for example. The absolute minimum bitrate you need to stream is 5 megabytes per second, Ninja says, and anything over 10Mbps will get the job done. If you don’t know what your actual upload speed is, you can take an online internet speed test to find out.

Create your streaming persona

Upgrading your setup is always a good idea if you’re really into streaming. But if you want to see your community grow and eventually try your luck as a full-time streamer, know that you could spend Jeff Bezos’ entire fortune on gear and still not gain more viewers or subscribers.

This involves working on your content and deciding what kind of streamer you want to be – a gamer, a chef, an artist, a musician or whatever. The good news is that you don’t have to decide right away and you can try different things along the way.

“In my experience, streaming is an ever-evolving art form, so finding your ‘thing’ and being open to trying new things has always made sense to me,” Ninja says via email.

Once you’ve decided what you want to stream, it’s time to figure out what kind of entertainer you want to be – your personality. Most people think of streamers as loud, outgoing people who bounce up and down every time something cool happens on screen. If that’s what you want to be, great, but it doesn’t have to be. Maybe you’re not that keen on conversation and just want to show off your gaming or cooking skills, or maybe you’re a bit shy and prefer healthier interactions with your viewers. Whatever your streaming personality, make it authentic.

“I only talk about things that really excite me,” says Ninja. “If I faked it, my audience would read it through and it just wouldn’t feel right. That’s why I always emphasize when I’m asked to offer advice to aspiring streamers – just be yourself.”

If you ever doubt yourself, remember that the internet is huge and there is room for everyone, no matter how calm or crazy. Also, you can change your mind at any time. After all, at least as of the time of writing, there are no streaming police.

Set your goals

Your approach to streaming will be different depending on what you want to make of it. If your goal is to make a name for yourself and build a massive community, you need to be strategic. Ninja encourages players to pick a game and stick with it—at least initially.

“The majority of the time [people] find yourself by the game you play, not by what you are,” he explains in his class.

When it comes to picking the game, he says it’s better to go for something that’s not so mainstream that it’s played by a million other streamers, but also isn’t so obscure that nobody wants to watch it . He also explains that every time you switch games, no matter the size of your community, you’re likely to lose half of it, since a lot of people might tune in not for you, but for what you’re playing. He only recommends this jump if you’ve built a following who’ll be watching for you, regardless of what you’re actually doing on camera.

Another element to consider in your strategy is promoting your content on social media. If you have video editing skills, take some time to go through your streams and post videos to platforms like Instagram, Twitter, and TikTok.

“TikTok is nice because people post clips and it’s the algorithm that shows their stuff to an audience that tends to like it,” says Jess Boddy, special projects editor at popular science and a streamer known on Twitch as JessCapricorn.

But maybe you’re not in it for the influence or the sponsors. Maybe you just want to share your skills with the world and have a good time — and that’s totally fine. If that’s your goal and you’re a little queasy about the numbers, Boddy suggests turning off your viewership. In the beginning, you’ll likely go live for entire streams without a single view, which can be daunting as you’re probably unsure of what you’re doing just yet. She says not knowing how many people (if any) are on the other side of the screen can be comforting and make it easier to just have fun.

set limits

If you’re an avid streamer, you’ve probably noticed that some of your favorite streamers go live for hours at a time. This might lead you to think that this is how you succeed as a streamer.

But that’s not necessarily true, says Boddy. In addition, it can even be very harmful to your mental health. Because of this, she suggests setting a schedule with specific days, times, and duration for your streams.

“Being live for at least an hour and a half is good because it takes time for people to trickle in — I find I hit my average viewership an hour into my stream,” she explains.

Ninja also believes that a schedule is crucial to protecting you from burnout, but he stresses that flexibility is key. If numbers mean something to you, he says that staying a little longer on certain occasions could be in your favor.

“Riding the waves is important,” he explains. “Sometimes you’re approaching your end times and you get mugged or your viewership goes up. Keeping up your streaming can be beneficial for you: it could result in a higher average viewership and get you closer to your goal [Twitch] Partner.”

That’s no excuse for working overtime on every single stream, though, so he insists you should treat this as an exception, not a rule.

Setting a schedule also has an added benefit, Boddy explains: consistency. “I’m at a point now where my community will know when I’m going live and they’ll be in chat before me, which is a crazy thing to think about, but it’s also very comforting,” she says.

Just get started and stream

As with most life lessons, there is only so much to learn about streaming by watching and researching – the best way to master this 21st century art form is to actually do it.

Whenever you feel ready, you can go ahead and start streaming. You’ll learn a lot in the process, and the fact that you probably won’t have many viewers (or none at all) to begin with allows you to optimize your stream without a large audience watching if something goes wrong.

[Related: Can playing video games be your full-time job?]

Ninja recommends jumping into the streaming pool and setting daily or weekly goals. You don’t have to debut with a three-hour stream — start small by going live for 30 minutes and only progress to an hour when you’re ready.

Boddy mentions that some people can get embarrassed knowing people they know in real life are watching, so they choose not to tell their friends and family about their streaming until they feel more comfortable about it . On the other hand, you might want the support of your immediate IRL community when starting out. Do what feels right for you and keep going until you find your comfort zone.

Finally be patient. Getting a big deal online always involves a great deal of luck, and that goes for streaming too. The most important thing is that you have fun and use this as an opportunity to share your beautiful self with the world.

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