During the Coronavirus pandemic, people around the world are looking for ways to make money from the comfort of their own homes. We get it. Here at Kapwing, we've all been working remotely, prioritizing personal health and safety, and ensuring that we all have the resources and support necessary to maintain a productive and fulfilling work experience while we're away from the office.
But sometimes, you might need to supplement whatever income you’re making with a little extra cash flow. The most fulfilling way to do this is to monetize something you already love doing. If you play video games regularly, for example, it can be greatly rewarding to develop a stream that lets you do what you love while using it as a side gig.
I talked to my friend DrJwns (@DrJwns on Twitter and Twitch) about his “streaming on the side” experience and what advice he would give to people who are wondering how to get started. A Rocket League streamer, DrJwns brings a unique perspective to the streaming scene, focusing on mindfulness, performance psychology, and ego management. Plus, his day job in ad tech gives him a broad perspective on growth and brand marketing. Here’s his advice for growing your stream to the stage of monetization:
What are the best ways for streamers to grow their followings if they’re trying to move toward monetization?
"The discoverability of your content on a streaming platform isn’t as strong as it is on YouTube. If you want to stream in a way that’s monetizable, to create a bigger draw, you have to define the reason why people should come to you. Once you’ve defined your audience, you can give them value on different platforms, you can create YouTube content, Twitter videos. What do you want to retweet, what thoughts do you want to put out? It all bleeds together: if you make a solid YouTube video, you can put it out on Twitter, or make a teaser for it. Which links to your YouTube, which links to your Twitch. You can create your own social media ecosystem once you’ve defined your identity and audience.
"You can create your own social media ecosystem once you’ve defined your identity and audience."
"Preparing for my YouTube channel, I have like, 6 or 7 YouTube videos that I've outlined ahead of time. Then I figure out how to put them out on different platforms and piggyback on the algorithms. Say a Rocket League player looks up something because they want to get better and my stuff pops up. Then maybe they pop over to my Twitter, or check out my Twitch page. Which is better for discoverability because your YouTube channel can be accessed 24/7, whereas your Twitch can only really be interacted with and experienced when you’re live."
What can you say to people who want to grow their stream,
but they’re not one of the very best, or not the “internet
influencer” type of person? How can they still bring people
into their stream?
"You need to find ways to be entertaining. But that’s really nebulous. You know, if I’m not super good looking, or really elite at a game, then the answer becomes harder. You might not be super, super good, but you can be good enough to teach other people about whatever game you’re playing. Generally I’m pretty good at explaining concepts to people, and getting them to those “A-ha” moments, so they can get to a better understanding. So, for me, that’s something that I’d want to do when creating youtube videos and streaming. People can also do things that might seem gimmicky at times, like I sometimes play music on stream live. That’s where YouTube can be great, too. The YouTube comment section is anything but shy – they’ll tell you if it’s something you can do well or if it’s something that’s not really worth it. But you can always differentiate your stream from others if you try to use whatever talents you have.
"Sometimes the best people don’t actually have the biggest followings. If someone wants to have an Apex Legends stream, maybe they can check out the Twitch or YouTube of the best players and compare them to some of the people that aren’t quite as good, but maybe they’ve got more subs or viewers. And you can see why one person has a bigger channel who’s not as good, and identify the themes of their content. Like in a video that’s part of their Battle Pass reveal, they might show the items in the Battle Pass and their reaction to them makes you laugh. Whereas the “pro” just puts out stream highlights. You’ll see what works for people who aren’t quite as skilled; their skill isn’t necessarily in playing the game, but they’re skilled in using the game for entertainment and engagement."
What kinds of goals should people set if they’re trying to
grow or monetize their stream? Even more, how can you go
about setting goals for something so exploratory?
"I’ve always been a big John Mayer fan, and one of the things he’s said over the years is “you have to define success, or you’ll never be happy.” You need to define what success looks like, but also define milestones to shoot for along the way. To that end, I’ve been working on getting my new YouTube channel up & running. So let’s say I’m starting with 0 subscribers and I want to have 100 at the end of the month, based on nothing other than that 100 seems like a lot of people to subscribe to a brand-new channel in a month. So that’s how I’m thinking about it – make your goals on a short enough structure, where you have a cycle where you push for it and then check in and ask if it was feasible in retrospect. Maybe you’re surprised and you get 500, and you can adjust to that.
"Plus, you need to adjust your goals to the platform: on YouTube, the bottom of the funnel is subs – on Twitch, it’s monetary subscriptions. So my first 2 months of my new stream, which I haven’t grown on other platforms yet, got me around $100, which is pretty exciting for playing video games, and gives me more incentive to see the potential in growing larger by using other platforms like YouTube or Twitter. Just becoming an affiliate is exciting to begin with, and it sort of hits you: 'Hey, I can make some money just by playing video games?' And it sort of makes you feel like you're on the path to whatever you want to accomplish – becoming a Twitch partner or whatever it is."
How can you use online relationships to get your stream to a
"The main step to growing your stream is always to find where you can slip in and add to the greater conversation that other people aren’t doing – for me, it’s things that are fun in Rocket League, how to get better, how to improve your mindset. That’s the first step to getting the sort of audience that you can monetize. And not to be cruel to small streamers, but you can also learn a lot from people who have, like, 3 or 4 viewers on their streams. Sometimes you’ll see that they love streaming, their setup is good, and they stream well, but there’s not really much to stick around for.
"Especially if you’re a smaller streamer, with a smaller comments section, you need to engage in a different way: talk to people, use the venue that you have. Like if you’re playing music in a coffee shop, you go around and talk to people, get to know them, play to them – if you’re John Mayer playing at Chase Center, you can’t do that. But if you go to a coffee shop and act like John Mayer at Chase, you’ll come across as pretentious and you might lose the, you know, 20-person audience that you have when you come back. The same applies to the size and type of your streaming audience and the ways you can build on online relationships."
How can you make sure you’re growing a monetizable base?
Say your viewership is rising, but you’re not seeing it
translate to subscriptions – what do you do?
"Well, you need to think about why someone would follow you, or sub to you? Some people have sub-only Discords, or give subscriber-only benefits. I’ve been subbed to a guy for like 3 years – I used to play Super Smash Bros. Melee, invested in it for years – Ginger, who’s a really elite player. What made me stick around was his demeanor, the space he created: the music selection was fun, the vibe was cool. And he’s really thoughtful about the game, and very thoughtful about giving people answers, and gives a lot of nuance, details that other players will breeze over. He’d also do subscriber analysis – you could send a video of a set you played, and he’d give notes.
"What made me stick around was his demeanor, the space he created: the music selection was fun, the vibe was cool. And he’s really thoughtful about the game."
"It was both a source of content for him, and also a subscriber benefit. Giving people more legit reasons for why they should pay $5 a month to subscribe. Some people just want to support, but some people want to get something back for their support. So defining more ways to give your viewers something back is important. NeatoQueen, who I’m subbed to, will do subscriber matches, where subs can get in a private queue in her Discord and you can play matches with her and other people in the community. And it’s 3v3, so it’s a great way to bring the community to the channel and keep them around for years."
Steps for Getting Started:
Putting time and dedication into your stream is worth the while in order to get some extra cash flowing, but what are some specific technical steps you can take to get your stream to the next level or make some money from gaming? I talked to Riley Cardwell, who has been helping gamers grow their streams for a while now, about the first technical steps that everyone can take today:
Obviously, professional streaming can use a ton of money for equipment and software. But there are a few things you can start doing for free to make your stream look professional. First, just make one adjustment to the settings on your mic, even if you’re just using a built-in one. If you find that your audio is clipping at louder parts, decrease the input level of your mic or use a sock as a pop screen.
You can also make any streaming graphic you need for free using Canva or Kapwing. Make your own color scheme (try to use just 1 or 2 colors) and font set (using just 1 or 2 fonts). As for your streaming setup itself, simply clean up your background area so it’s not distracting, and dress for your stream like you’re going on a casual date with someone – you should try to win over your audience the same way.
Streaming might be the most popular way to make money from gaming, but there are some more unconventional routes you can take in order to start a cash flow. One great way to do this on the side is to create digital assets and sell them to the people you interact with – offline banners, stream overlays, Twitch panels. You can either respond to people online who are asking for visual assets, or you can make them ahead of time and sell them on Gumroad.