008. Weekly Twitch Story: From 0 to 12.5K+ Followers

The views expressed here are entirely my own and do not reflect any views or beliefs of Twitch, Twitch staff, or any Twitch affiliates.

Front page of Twitch, October, 2015.

Front page of Twitch, October, 2015.

Good morning! I decided that Sundays will be my Twitch Story days. Something interesting, funny, weird, maybe a cool event or success or failure, anything that I think might be of interest relating to my Twitch journey.
(In case anyone missed this post, Twitch is a gaming website where people can live-stream themselves gaming, or creative content. People can log on and chat with the streamer, live!)

Today I thought I'd start off by discussing how I went from a brand new baby streamer to where I am today. Who would have thought a gaming site would have led to me living my dream as an artist? I absolutely love the community that my stream has become. My viewers are my real friends, and they probably know me better than most people in my every day life. Over the last two years I've gone from a complete noob, to a thriving and fun community of over 12,500 followers (though I'm sure many of my friends will say I'm still a tech noob...thanks guys...). There are so many factors that contribute, but if I had to sum it up, I think I owe my success to the following:

1. Daily interaction in dozens of streams for 3 months before I ever started streaming. Not only observing what makes a stream enjoyable and fun, but building relationships with lots of streamers/viewers. Being genuinely interested in the community and what is being created or played.  Being a viewer first allows you to understand what makes a stream successful. Later on, your friends will host and raid you, and you repay them with the same support. It's such a supportive community which is one of the reason I love Twitch Creative so much!

2. Being myself. It's obvious when a streamer is pretending to be someone they're not. Trying to be overly nice or funny or cool is a huge turnoff. It might get someone short-term success, but it won't last. Viewers can see through the bullshit. The Creative community is so incredibly diverse. Being yourself, showing your true personality and creating what you love will draw genuine and like-minded people, and you will get more enjoyment out of it in the long run. 

3. Chat interaction and giving back. One of my favorite things about streaming is the interaction. I do my best to respond to every single line of chat (which can be difficult when trying to stay focused on a painting). I feel it's really important to make sure everyone feels welcome. I also love doing giveaways and rewarding loyalty. Every streamer has a different approach, but for over a year I've been doing subscriber-activated giveaways: every 10 subs or resubs I do a quick giveaway in chat (subs have higher chance of winning but subscription isn't required). For the cost of a stamp, I can send the winner a custom watercolor postcard  (which I love making) and show my appreciation in some small way. When I do milestone streams (like 1 year anniversary or 10,000 followers), I do a couple larger giveaways. If I could afford it, I would do a lot more giveaways because I love it!

4. Stream because I love it, not for the money. Now, obviously there are streamers who make a lot of money streaming. Some gaming streamers make over $100,000 a year. It's a legitimate business. Things are a little different for us Creative streamers, though it certainly is possible to make enough to pay the bills, as I am doing (but that includes art sales and commissions). When I first started streaming, the Creative section wasn't even an official thing. There was no chance of getting Partnered on Twitch as a Creative streamer- you had to be a big gaming streamer to do that. So from the very beginning I was of the mindset that this was just for fun, and honestly I'm so thankful for that. I feel like I have a very healthy relationship with and appreciation for my stream. I was never in it for the money because I had a day job for the first 6 months, which meant no pressure, and that led to more joy, and deeper relationships with my viewers. 

5. Consistency in "schedule." By this I mean creating a stream schedule and sticking to it. Not canceling or changing a lot of streams (which is difficult and you make sacrifices). For a long time I was streaming 4-5 days a week, for 8ish hours per day. I rarely changed or canceled streams (only sometimes for outside events, or anxiety attacks). Keeping a consistent schedule meant viewers could rely on my stream/chat as a place to spend time and enjoy themselves. I experienced a drastic shift in my stream when I was getting divorced and planning a trip to Europe in January 2016. I was actually traveling in Scotland when I reached 10,000 followers, just barely over a year into streaming! It was a strange time for my stream, because I was going through so much personal transition. It was bound to effect my community. People were understanding and supportive, but they have their own lives and priorities. I took 2 months off to travel and heal. During that time I lost more than half my subscribers and lots of followers, and when I eventually returned to streaming, my viewership was around 1/2 of what it was before. But I was happy. I was healing. I was feeling like myself. As I continued to stream full time again in March 2016, my subscribers returned (and increased), my viewership increased and surpassed my previous levels, and I was growing as an artist. I hadn't changed the way I stream. I was just back to a consistent schedule.

Now I'll go into details about my early days of streaming.

After watching several Twitch streams for a few months, I started to wonder what it would be like. So in January 2015, I gave it a try. I watched tutorials on YouTube and googled how to use the free streaming software, OBS, used Photoshop to make some simple overlays for my stream. For my first stream, I played Call of Duty - Advanced Warfare campaign. First time ever playing any of the CoD series (having been a Halo fanatic). During my first stream I only had a couple viewers, ranging from 0-5 throughout the entire thing. A few of them trolled me, but luckily I was already familiar with modding so I got rid of them quickly and focused on playing. I was lucky enough to meet a really nice viewer who returned to watch almost every day, and helped me through the game when I needed help, as well as playing together when I switched to Multiplayer (and 2 years later, he still stops by my stream which is so cool! Hamtime1 you are the best!). Over the next few weeks I continued to stream when I got home from work, for at least a few hours a night. I was hooked. After a few weeks, I finally got a capture card, and was able to stream Halo (my favorite game) through my xbox1. I had so much fun talking to viewers while playing, and connecting with other streamers who were excellent players that I looked up to. However, as many women gamers know, it's only a matter of time before you are confronted with misogynistic comments, or disgusting sexist remarks. Why? Because it's the internet. There's no getting around it. Boys feel it is their right to make horrible comments towards women. 

There were enough games, enough nights where a couple assholes completely ruined it for me. I was really frustrated because I knew it would never stop. That is just the nature of being a woman in a gaming community saturated with boys barely out of puberty. Despite the many wonderful people I had met, I was fed up. Luckily, it was around this time that I was becoming aware of a couple Streamers who were not just gaming on stream, but painting. Yes, PAINTING!

I decided to try out a painting stream myself. I was terrified. This meant putting my art on display, which is NOT something I was used to. I was only ever painting as a hobby in my free time (rarely), and occasionally sold something to a friend. So having something so intimate on public display was scary. What if I messed up? What if people were bored? 

Screen capture - the first time I was raided by Bob Ross with over 2,000 viewers. Note my facial expression...

Screen capture - the first time I was raided by Bob Ross with over 2,000 viewers. Note my facial expression...

Despite these fears, within the first few painting streams I was stunned by the connections I was making with viewers and I absolutely loved it. Sharing the creative process was something new (even in college I worked on my own and only showed the final results to a class or teacher). Viewers were engaged, asking questions, saying they were inspired to draw or paint. I was terrified of failure, but at the same time confronted with an incredible opportunity. I loved the sense of community we were developing together, and sharing the messy creative process was becoming less scary. My gaming streams dwindled, and my viewership shifted (I lost a lot at first then gained more later). After a couple months, my viewership hovered around 15-30 live viewers (which at first scared me so much that I would sometimes turn my camera off). Then some big Streamers started to host and raid me, and I would sometimes have thousands of viewers at once. As I got used to it I realized there's nothing to fear. "Get rid of the trolls as you need to and just have fun" I told myself. 

Other Creative streamers were creating art as well and we were all connected on such an intimate level. As the community grew, Twitch saw the value in Creative streaming and supported us by partnering a select few Creative streamers, starting a Bob Ross rerun marathon (which brought in thousands of new viewers who had never heard of Creative before), and officially launching the Creative section on Twitch. I had received my partnership a month before the launch which was amazing timing. My stream grew rapidly around this time. I was streaming constantly. It was my safe, happy place! 

My stream success has ebbed and flowed over time. Things that happen in our personal lives effect our ability to stream and the quality of the stream. There's not a recipe for success. However, my stream is never more successful than when I am happy. Keeping a balance in life is key to maintaining long-term happiness and success, no matter what your job is! It took me a long time to be OK with taking days off, or even weeks, to travel or take care of myself. When I feel obligated to stream, and I "force" it, my viewers can always tell. It's no good. Even today I see my viewer, follower, and subscriber counts drop when I take time off. Yet I know that it is the only way I can remain a balanced and happy version of myself, which in the end, is what matters. I have to maintain faith that the community will be there when I return. Don't be afraid to live your life!
Featured on Twitch Weekly show, October 2016.

Featured on Twitch Weekly show, October 2016.

I would not be where I am today, living my dream of being a full-time artist, traveling the world, if it wasn't for Twitch Creative. Watching streams, and then eventually starting my own, has led to so much personal growth, artistic growth, and self awareness. Some of my best friends are people I met through Twitch. I know there are a lot of people who share a similar gratitude for this incredible community. 

Every streamer does it for their own reasons, and has a different journey. We all share similar experiences along the way, so if anyone wants to chat about it, let me know!

I would just like to reiterate how important it is to make sure you are happy and healthy. Your stream will thank you.

If anyone has any specific questions, please leave a comment or send me a message!