The advancement of technology has generated millions of new jobs in a stunningly short amount of time. 50 years ago there were no social media managers, web developers, drone operators or data scientists. And if you heard someone say "I want to be a streamer/YouTuber/vlogger" 20 years ago, you'd think "what's that?"
But now children want to take advantage of this nascent market of streaming and YouTube. In 2019, a survey asked 3,000 children between the ages 8-12 to choose from five professions to answer which they wanted to be when they grew up:
- Professional athlete
The most desired profession? Vlogger/YouTuber.
It's not surprising either. Anyone can become a YouTuber/streamer and there's a crazy amount of upsides.
- You can become rich and famous
- You don't have to work a boring 9-5 job forever
- Your life is what you make it
We get caught up in the allure of these celebrities. You only see what they want you to see. And you only see the top 1% who are a) extremely hard working and 2) lucky.
In reality, these careers are less glamorous than they appear.
I'm going to share with you the downsides of becoming a streamer. I don't want to completely dismiss your idea of building a "dream job," but it's important you understand the full scope of what the job entails and how difficult it truly is.
You have less than a 1% chance of success on Twitch
According to TwitchTracker, there are 6.4 million channels streaming on Twitch every month. Only 45,000 of those channels are Partnered.
That means 0.7% of broadcasters are Twitch Partners.
But these numbers are a bit misleading. You see, Twitch never removes Partner status from inactive accounts. Devin Nash estimates there's roughly 10,000 active Twitch Partners. If that's true, Twitch Partners account for less than 0.2% of all streamers.
If 500 people were to start their streaming career today, statistically speaking only 1 of them will reach Partner.
You had a better chance of graduating valedictorian of your high school than you do at becoming a full-time streamer.
Hopefully that puts things into perspective.
But you may question whether or not you really need to be a Partner to go full-time.
Well, streaming full-time without being a Partner means you'll be fairly poor.
Omeed asked Twitch Affiliates approximately how much they were making each month. 50% said less than $100.
Even if you're on the high-end of making $750+/month as an Affiliate, you're still making less than a McDonald's employee on minimum wage. At least they earn $1,100/month.
So if your goal is to go full-time as a livestreamer, please re-evaluate your decision.
Twitch is in the business of making money, not in the business of helping you grow
Like all other companies, Twitch needs to make money in order to sustain itself. Twitch makes most of its money through:
The best way for Twitch to grow its profits is by showcasing their most popular streamers. These are your Ninja's, Shroud's, MoonMoon's and Asmongold's of the platform. Twitch knows these channels provide entertainment for a vast range of its viewerbase. As a result, viewers are more likely to stay on site (ad revenue) and subscribe.
On the other hand, Twitch ignores millions of its small channel broadcasters. Small channels feel it's unfair they don’t receive as much help as established streamers. They’re right to an extent. The big guys are always on the front page, while the small guys dwell in the blackhole of Twitch's Browse section.
But guess what? That's business.
The visual below should help you understand why Twitch does this.
This is known as the Pareto principle. It states that 80% of consequences come from 20% of the causes.
If we apply this to Twitch's business model, you can make the claim that 20% of streamers account for 80% of Twitch's revenue. By contrast, 80% of streamers account for only 20% of its revenue.
From a business perspective, it makes sense why Twitch promotes their popular streamers. Those guys and gals make them the most money. Simple as that.
When can you go full-time?
Let's say your goal is to become a full-time streamer. When is the right time to go all-in?
According to Devin Nash, you should wait until you reach 400 concurrent viewers per stream.
Of course this will vary based on your situation. But let's say you do wait until you reach the 400 viewer average. How much can you expect to make?
This screenshot is taken from Tips for applying to the Partner Program.
A streamer averaging 396 viewers made $18,941 over a 4-month period. That's $56,823 per year. Very much a liveable wage.
But this would be someone who is really successful on the platform, though. Think: mid-to-high tier Twitch Partner.
Twitch doesn't explicitly say "you need to average # amount of viewers" to qualify as Partner, but you can safely assume you need 75 viewers on average.
So that means less than 1% of streamers average 75+ concurrent viewers per stream.
You may be able to get away with going full-time when you hit the 100 viewer average mark. But you won't be making much. At that stage, you need to reinvest earnings into your content.
- Create YouTube videos (with Twitch clips and unique content)
- Network on Twitter
- Share videos on TikTok and photos on Instagram
This deserves a post of its own, but you get the gist. Continue adding content on different platforms to get discovered by a wider audience. You'll never grow to 400+ viewers if you don't.
From a viewer's perspective, streamers seem to be one of the happiest groups of people they know. In reality, most streamers struggle with mental health issues.
How could that be?
Full-time streamers have a demanding job. That demand comes from two major forms of pressure put upon them:
- To constantly be online and share new content
- To improve their entertainment value
Unhealthy work/life balance
Full-time content creators often spend 6+ hours/day live-streaming. That's the person you know and love. But they also work for hours afterwards creating videos, working with editors, responding to emails, managing social media accounts, and other forms of stream maintenance.
Take Kate Stark for example. In an interview with PC Gamer she said "30 to 40 percent of my time is streaming, and the rest is managing it. No one in my audience knows that after I stopped streaming last night at 1:30 a.m., I stayed up working on a YouTube video, wrote some emails, readied stuff for my accountant."
Starting a streaming career leads to an unhealthy obsession of broadcasting at all costs. Countless streamers said that when starting out depression, anxiety and sleep deprivation plagued them, all stemming from the fear that viewers would forget about their channel as soon as they went offline.
Here's a short list of streamers who've struggled with a healthy work-life balance:
- ProfessorBroman. He published an essay on Polygon about this taxing lifestyle. “There are 168 hours in each week,” he wrote. “As a full-time Twitch streamer, I’m expected to be live for as many of them as possible.” Bowman went on to detail how, to grow his channel back 2013, he pulled 12 to 16-hour streams seven days a week. He didn’t believe he’d “earned” a day off until he reached 400,000 followers.
- For Renee, daily chores became a struggle as she started streaming. She worked 8-hour days, on top of channel maintenance, and soon fell into a depression. “I wasn’t seeing my friends or making myself dinner or keeping my house clean.” She was fixated on how her numbers rose and fell, apparently in connection to how present she was.
- Kate Stark began streaming to add another revenue source outside of bartending. Twitch became her number one priority, as it does for most. "I couldn’t think of a single streamer who didn’t overdo it, who didn’t give up healthy eating or working out, or seeing family or having a social life or taking holidays."
Vacations are a big no-no for streamers. Many don't even go to TwitchCon and other conventions fearing they'll lose viewers and subscribers. It's ironic because many of their biggest fans attend these events hoping to meet their favorite streamers in real life.
"Holidays? That’s a joke," said Stark. "I took a holiday last year for the first time in five years, where I didn’t stream or vlog. I was offline for two weeks. It was amazing." But she had to spend the ensuing weeks building her followers back up again.
In 2018, Ninja lost 40,000 subscribers after going on a two-day break. Bye bye $100,000.
It makes sense that a lot of these streamers alienate themselves from engaging in real life activities. Their popularity and income is directly tied to how often they're broadcasting. If you're offline, there are millions of other streamers competing for your viewers. It creates an unhealthy obsession to "always be casting," as ProfessorBroman puts it.
Constant and consistent entertainment is hard
There's a reason why your favorite content creators are so good at what they do: they started creating for an audience of one. They produced content they wanted to see themselves. Through the process of sharing that content they amassed a huge fan base.
At this point, however, the pressure builds upon the creators to please their fans. What a YouTuber or streamer wants to create may no longer align with what their followers want. Attempting to do something different may piss off a large chunk of people, resulting in a loss of fans and revenue. This leads to self-doubt and a sense of feeling lost.
Lirik went through a phase of self-doubt and had to take a break.
“I just don’t feel entertaining anymore and don’t really know why people continue to watch,” Lirik said. “It’s like going on stage every fucking day and not knowing what to say anymore because you are out of material.”
He added, “Sorry, just need time off the internet. Gets tiring, mentally, living in meme land every day. Trying to figure out my next steps in life, change my habits, discover my goals, and ultimately find what the point is.”
Full-time creators also feel pressure to constantly grow and outperform themselves. PewDiePie shared his thoughts on this.
“The problem with being a YouTuber or an online entertainer is that you constantly have to outdo yourself...I think a lot of people get swept up in that...they have to keep outdoing themselves, and I think it’s a good reflection of what happened with Logan Paul. I don’t think Logan is necessarily a bad person; I just think he really got caught up in that idea that he has to keep pushing himself to get those numbers."
“If you make videos every single day, it’s really tough to keep people interested, and keep them coming back.”
Again, this often leads to burnout and several other negative side-effects. Here are a few articles to learn more about mental health issues full-time creators struggle with:
- YouTubers, Twitch streamers are opening up about serious burnout, personal struggles
- For Twitch Streamers Who Spend Their Lives on Camera, It’s Hard to Know When to Stop
- Streamers, Care for Your Mental Health
What happens when you quit?
Let's say after a few years you're still averaging only a couple hundred viewers and make less than $40,000/year. By this point, you're officially burned out and can no longer keep up with this type of lifestyle. You call it quits.
What happens next?
Finding another job [that pays the equivalent] isn't going to be easy.
Streaming itself gives you no transferable skills that can be applied to jobs that require experience and/or a college education. Sure, you're able to multitask by playing video games and interact with chat, but no other job requires this skill. You probably worked with graphic designers for your logo and intros. You probably outsourced video editing for your YouTube channel. You probably had a team of mods managing your Discord channel. You may have management experience but hiring managers aren't going to bring you on board in a mid-level position because you're on Twitch or YouTube.
If you started streaming right out of high school or college and decide to look for a real job, you'll have no real world experience. You're effectively starting from scratch.
If you're an adult who quit your job to stream and want to return back to the industry you once worked in, you may have a few years gap without experience. That's not an attractive look to HR.
Maybe you have something to fall back on. But more likely than not, finding a decent paying job is going to be tough.
If you do decide to pursue streaming full-time, make sure you have a contingency plan just in case things don't work out the way you expect.
At least keep this in mind before you begin your streaming career.