Twitch homescreen screenshot.
Users from all corners of the globe spent an absolutely shocking 292 billion minutes watching 2.2 million streamers play the latest video games in 2016 alone, and these numbers continue to grow at a ridiculous pace.

Remember the golden days of watching your best friend play their brand-spanking new Nintendo 64 in their parent’s living room on a 29-inch tube TV?

…So does the rest of the world, apparently, as the modern, Internet-based equivalent Twitch.tv is a cultural powerhouse today.

If you’re looking to get in on the action as a content creator, you may be grappling with where to even start. Looking at established streamers and their channels, you’d be forgiven for thinking that this is a cold, impregnable industry that simply doesn’t have room for another heavy hitter, but you’d be wrong. There’s a place for you in the streaming economy, but you’ll need to play it smart to turn this into a full-time gig.

In this guide, we’ll break down the essential ingredients that make up a sustainable, attractive streaming channel, and we’ll also crack the lid on a few of the ways you can make your unique brand stand out against millions of peers in 2018 and beyond.

Monetizing Twitch in 2018

Let’s get this out in the open straight off; most people who try don’t make any money whatsoever on Twitch. Just like any other worthy pursuit, it’s only those that are willing to stick it out and be consistent on the platform that ever truly make it a part-time, or even full-time job. This doesn’t mean you can’t do the same, it just means that it’s going to take some time. So, how do you make money on Twitch, once you’re in a position to do so?

Donations

Your first dollars and cents earned on the platform are likely to come in the form of donations from a few loyal followers. Hell, this may even be one your buddies taking pity on you at first, but over time, these can really add up to a viable business model with enough work. With the recent introduction of bits to the platform’s economy, users can now cheer you on and help support you at the same time, so with enough patience, you’d be surprised what you can achieve with a small but dedicated following.

Subscribers

For most people who support themselves on Twitch, this is where the bulk of their income comes from. To get access to the subscriber cash pot, though, you’ll need to become a Twitch partner first. That means having an average of 500 or more viewers and streaming at least three times each week. Pull this off, and users can start subscribing to you for $4.99 a month; a fee you’ll initially split 50/50 with the website.

Ads

Ad revenue is a thing on Twitch, and it can vary widely depending upon your popularity, as well as by the type of ads you allow to be shown on your channel. You can expect to make about $0.70 to $2.50 per thousand views, so once you’ve got some more impressive numbers, this can really start to add up.

Sponsorships

Once you’ve got an established channel and some semblance of a personal brand, you open the doorway to paid brand sponsorships. Though this is perhaps the most elusive monetization method for most, it can be an extremely lucrative oe, depending on which brands are interested in you.

The ideal equipment setup

<em>Image via <a href="https://www.instagram.com/reddangelo/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">https://www.instagram.com/reddangelo/</a></em>
Playing today’s top games is hard enough on modern PC hardware, and when you add streaming to the mix, it only adds to the enormous workload your computer has to endure.
Just having a good gaming rig isn’t enough, though; you also will need a variety of other gear to compliment your main streaming setup, and this is where things can get confusing for many would-be streamers.

In this section, let’s take an in-depth look at all of the different components that go into building an effective streaming arsenal.

The Rig

Your main PC is the heart of your streaming setup, and as such, you’ll want it to be able to handle just about anything you throw at it. This doesn’t necessarily mean you absolutely need to go out and spend thousands of dollars on a top-end machine, especially if you’re just starting out, but keep in mind that with 2.2 million active streamers, any little edge you can give yourself can only help you (and your channel) in the long run.

Because of the level of fidelity on display in many games today, it’s more important than ever before to keep your computer up to spec. Ideally, you’ll want a multicore processor such as one from Intel’s i7 product line, or AMD’s new Ryzen 7 series. Coupled with plenty of RAM, this will help your PC keep up with the myriad processing needed to play a game and stream it live in full HD (or UHD!) at the same time.

A fancy netgear router.
A fancy router is nice, but for most streamers simply plugging into the router directly via ethernet can make a big difference in performance. Wired connections usually outperform Wi-Fi, and prevents variable bandwidth share. I spent over $300 on this router last Black Friday and the performance gain over my old $90 router has been negligible!
You’ll also want to ensure that your graphics card is equipped to handle the games you’ll be playing. Streaming the latest games on their lowest settings is generally not a great way to attract a wide audience, so ensuring that you have a card that can keep up is one of the most important factors to consider when building your new rig.

You’ll also want to factor in what kind of hard drive you are using, as a solid state drive can have a measurable impact on the speed of your entire operating system. In addition to these components, you’ll want to be sure to include plenty of cooling options in your build. To truly make a living streaming, many users on Twitch pull long hours on their channels, and having adequate cooling will ensure that your investments are safe during these stints.

Whenever the topic of streaming comes up, some users have questions about using Twitch on a PC compared to on a gaming console such as an Xbox One or a PlayStation 4. While these are certainly options you can explore, as they have their own dedicated audiences, you’ll need to keep in mind that many of the more advanced features we’ll discuss below aren’t available on these platforms.

Recording Gear for Twitch

Recommended PC specs for serious streamers:

  • Solid State Hard Drive (for OS)
  • Processor – Quad Core CPU (Intel Core i7–4770K or comparable)
  • RAM – 16 GB RAM
  • GPU (Graphics Card): DirectX – Version 12, GeForce GTX 980 or similar with at least 4GB Video RAM
This side of the streaming equation is one that beginners sometimes feel less familiar with, but in most cases, setting up a good-quality audio recording setup is a simple and straightforward process. In order to get a minimal, one-input setup going, you really only need three fundamental pieces of gear; a microphone, some audio cables, and an audio interface.

In terms of which mic is best, it can be easy to feel overwhelmed just surveying the options, but keep in mind that Rome wasn’t conquered in a day. You don’t have to go out and spend big on this side of the spectrum right off the bat, and something like the fantastic Blue Yeti mic can get you set up and rolling for less than a hundred bucks.

As you grow, a dedicated, powered microphone with an audio interface may become necessary, but to get the ball rolling, this really isn’t a requirement. Just be sure that you’re in a good environment and that your viewers can hear and interact with you, and the rest will come with time.

Internet Connection: what stats matter for streaming?

With careful attention to wiring in devices and balancing devices on your home network, even a basic DSL connection can work for streaming. Image via Pexels.

Many green streamers pay little attention to their Internet connection itself, but this is one of the most important factors to ensuring that your viewers have an experience that makes them back back for more.

In general, a fiber optic connection is going to be your best bet here. Failing that, a cable connection as long as you have sufficient up and down speeds to handle the video transmission at the resolution you are streaming in (which will ideally be 1080p or higher). If you’re on a DSL connection, you may run into issues with streaming high-bitrate content, so it’ll be up to you to do some experimenting.

Lastly, you’ll want to consider whether or not you are connecting to your network via a hardwired or wireless setup. When streaming for a live audience and simultaneously playing a real-time video game, the last thing you’ll want to run into is massive latency issues. The hard truth of the matter is, working off of a WiFi router will always produce more delay than going straight through an ethernet cable. You also won’t be dividing your bandwidth across all of the other devices you have connected to your local network, which can be a major plus in households filled with wireless connectivity.

The Fancy Stuff

This is where things get really interesting. As we mentioned, one of the key elements to success on Twitch is setting yourself apart from other streamers, and aside from a winning personality, this is how you can do that. Let’s take a look at the two major functionality-expanding services pro streamers use to set themselves apart from the competition: streaming software and overlays.

Streaming Software

OBS is a popular beginner-friendly streaming software for optimizing Twitch.
To stream games to Twitch, you’re going to need some recording software. This is what actually allows you to setup your stream and customize it to look and feel that way you want it to. Since you’ll be swimming in a sea of other streamers, you’ll want to ensure that your setup is unique and uniquely “yours,” so you’ll want to spend some time figuring out which software suite is right for you.

One of the most popular options out there for beginners is OBS, which is a free and open-source streaming service that comes with a variety of customization features like scene transitions, filters, custom audio mixing and more. Other alternatives such as XSplit include many of this same functionality, so pick the one that looks easiest for you and jump in.

If you want to include some advanced flair in your stream to stand out, most popular services include features like the ability to “chroma key” your webcam shot, allowing you to remove the background of your room entirely using a simple green screen. This requires a bit of an extra time and money investment, but the benefits translate to a more polished stream that can attract a more long-term audience. After all, if you want to be like the pros, you’ve gotta act like it.

Streaming Overlays

LeStream using a chroma-key overlay.
Image via LeStream

Overlays allow you to add extra dimensions to your streams, letting you create custom polls, donation markers, animations, alerts, labels, and chat boxes. These features let you involve your audience in totally new ways, and when done correctly, they can go a long way towards building a brand identity that can be explosive for you in terms of growth.

Many popular overlay suites exist, but none are quite as ubiquitous and accessible as StreamPro. This free platform lets you set up entirely modular display overlays in a matter of minutes using a fantastic cloud-based editor. It even includes a slew of custom integrations, allowing you to display things like twitter feeds, teespring notifications, custom chat boxes, and more. If you’re serious about making Twitch streaming a full-time profession, you need to be using an overlay to augment your daily content.

Building a streaming audience in 2018

With so many streamers vying for the attention of the masses, it can feel like an uphill battle trying to gain a foothold on Twitch in 2018. Let’s take a look at just a few ways you can be building out something that provides real value to your viewers below.

Find a new and effective niche (or put a unique twist on an existing one)

In the world of online streaming–and everything else, really–personality is king. Anyone can watch a dude sit at home and play a horror game in his basement, but have you ever done so while hooked up to an EKG? This example may be a bit extreme, but it still gets the point across; building a dedicated audience with your streaming will require you to showcase the aspects of your personality that are most unique.

Maybe you have a particular voice that lends itself well to the stream, or maybe you have an IRL qualification or job that viewers would find interesting. Whatever it is that makes you unique, capitalize on it, even if it’s something small. People on Twitch want to watch you play video games, yes, but they also want to connect with you and have a good time. Give the people what they want, and you’ll be rewarded for it.

Screenshot of Twitch stream.
Popular streamer Savjz’s Twitch channel has many unique features, such as a donation “leaderboard” and custom chatbots. Image via savjz

Networking on the network

No streamer exists in a vacuum. Learn to network with other professionals, and observe how they run their streams. Pick out the aspects you enjoy the most, and try applying them to your own channel, albeit with your own unique twist. Users on Twitch only have so much time to devote to watching content creators, and their time is likely already split between multiple top streamers. What can you do to pull them in and make them a regular?

Keep it consistent

More than anything, building a bustling Twitch channel takes time and dedication to the cause. You’ll need to apply your own personal brand of streaming consistently, day in and day out in order to keep your numbers swelling. This means sticking to a regular schedule that viewers can count on, and always having your game face on when you are live.

With the advent of new outlets like the new IRL directory, you can provide your viewers a window into other aspects of your life, so be sure to take advantage of this to create an even deeper bond between them and your content. Being consistent and interactive will breed a sense of loyalty amongst your fans, and it can even lead to massive support in the form of t-shirt sales, donations, and more.

Twitch Streaming: The long road to success

Almost nobody who currently streams for a living will tell you that it’s an easy, bump-free journey to the top. Creating killer content at a breakneck pace week after week is not for everyone, and many users burn out before ever collecting a single donation dollar. All the same, if you’re committed to growth and you let your unique personality guide your content, you’ll be able to gain a foothold on the platform, in time.

We hope this guide helps you get going on Twitch with minimal frustration. If you have any additional questions about getting setup, be sure to leave a comment below and we’ll do our best to get your squared away.

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