For years, streaming has been getting increasingly popular as both a hobby and a full-time career. It has gone from being a niche practice to a multi-billion-dollar industry, with some streamers pulling in million-dollar salaries while sitting behind a camera and playing games. It’s no wonder hundreds of thousands of people are trying to learn how to start streaming, as it’s a lucrative and entertaining business that gives players the power to share their passion with fans around the world.
However, it isn’t as simple as sitting down in front of a camera and pressing a button. There’s a long and strenuous journey to becoming one of the biggest streamers, and only a minuscule percentage of creators will ever truly ‘make it’ in the industry. If you’re wondering how to get started streaming, look no further than this guide. This is the ultimate breakdown, and from the equipment that’s needed to looking at those who have already made it, this guide is packed full of tips for streaming.
Why is Streaming So Popular?
So, let’s say you’ve just logged onto Twitch or YouTube – which are considered the best live streaming apps – and you’re watching a streamer. For some reason, they’re sitting there playing the same games that you are, but there are ten, twenty, or even one hundred thousand people watching them while they do it. It seems bizarre at first, but as you settle in and watch for a little longer, you might start to notice a few things.
- The streamer in question is naturally confident, entertaining, or humorous.
- They engage with their chat, picking out comments that generate interest or a conversation.
- They’re highly skilled at the game that they’re playing, and their viewers can learn a lot from them.
- Their stream boasts high production value, with bright lights, flashy graphics, and top-of-the-range equipment.
These are not the individuals trying to learn how to get started streaming – they’re at the top of their game and they have millions of fans. They’ve got there because streaming is dramatically popular these days, giving viewers the ability to interact directly with the celebrity on the screen. It’s a practice that builds communities and that rewards viewers for their engagement. It enables an audience to build a connection with a streamer, regardless of the level that they’re at.
If you’re trying to learn how to become a successful streamer, it’s important to bear in mind that it all begins with these aspects: engagement, fostering a community and interacting with your audience.
How to Start Streaming with a Streaming Setup
Before you can figure out how to start streaming, you’ll need to make sure you have the right equipment. For the most part, there’s very little that you’ll need in order to get started at the most basic level, but what do you need to start streaming?
It essentially boils down to just a handful of components, but it’s important to bear in mind that this can become a very expensive venture very quickly. Before you know it, you could be in debt and streaming to a much smaller audience than you’d like, so make sure you have the funds to build up your streaming setup ahead of time.
Here are the core components that you’ll need to start streaming (ideally):
- Console, PC, or laptop
- Streaming software
- Peripherals (we’ll cover that in a second)
- An internet connection
- An idea
While it’s not necessary to have everything on that list, that is traditionally considered to be the bare minimum that you’ll need to put out a stream that people will want to watch. Of course, you can embellish your streaming setup later on with all kinds of fancy gadgets, RGB lights, and furniture, but for now, that’s enough to get started and maybe begin learning how to make money from streaming.
It’s a great idea to have a camera and a microphone, so your audience can see and hear you. Then, you’ll need a console or a PC to actually stream from. There is a lot of free streaming software that’ll make your life much easier, and of course, you’ll need an internet connection. By ‘peripherals’, we mean headsets, controllers, keyboards, and anything else you’ll need to power your stream, but if you use a console paired with a PC or a laptop, you’ll also need something called a ‘capture card’.
How to Prepare to ‘Go Live’
If you learn how to stream on Twitch, this is the section that’ll you need to pay the most attention to. Once you’ve secured your streaming setup, it’s a case of knowing how to put it to use in order to actually ‘go live’. Firstly, you’ll need to make an account on Twitch – unless you’re trying to figure out how to live stream on YouTube, that is. This is as simple as filling out a sign-up form, creating and fleshing out a profile, and preparing to stream.
There are typically two pieces of streaming software that the best content creators must choose between: OBS and Streamlabs. As one of the best tips for streaming, we’ll say quite honestly that while Streamlabs offers the best integrations and widgets, it’s OBS that is less resource-intensive, which is nothing but good news if you don’t have a massively powerful computer. Once you’ve decided which piece of software you want, you’ll need to download it, set it up, and link it with your Twitch or YouTube account.
It’s a good idea to test out both Streamlabs and OBS and decide for yourself what you think the best live streaming software is. For the most part, it’s a subjective discussion, and what’s good for one creator might not work for another. If you’ve figured out how to get started with the streaming software and your hardware is all connected and ready to go, then you’re prepared to ‘go live’, streaming whatever you so desire to the great, wide world.
How to Grow as a Streamer
There are several ways you can grow on Twitch as a streamer, or on any other streaming platform, and most of them involve a little common sense:
- Broadcast top-quality content
- Be consistent in what you produce and when you produce it
- Engage with your community both on and off the platform
- Network with other streamers and ‘piggyback’ off their communities
- Be good at the games you play – or so bad that it’s funny
- Try and be as original as possible
- Diversify your content, creating VOD content as much as you stream
It’s a fairly lengthy journey, and if you don’t want to end up a shunned, banned Twitch streamer, you’ll need to follow the rules, tick the right boxes, and essentially, scratch the right backs. It’s a case of putting in a lot of work over a long period of time, and if you’re serious about becoming the next best Twitch or YouTube streamer, you’ll need to really grind.
Whether you’re a Call of Duty: Warzone creator or a Fortnite streamer, the requirements are the same. It doesn’t matter if you stream once a week or five times a week, consistency is key, and delivering a high-quality stream is almost mandatory to becoming a successful streamer. It’s an unfortunate fact, but you can spend thousands of dollars on a streaming setup – if you have no confidence, you don’t engage with your audience, and you’re inconsistent with your timings, then you just won’t grow.
It’s a good idea to build a community – use social media platforms for free networking opportunities, and consider opening a Discord server. Funnily enough, that’s another avenue of opportunity and you can ultimately learn how to stream on Discord.
There’s a wide, complex world out there, and only the best of the best will make it – but that could be you.
What Type of Games Should You Stream?
In truth, there really are no limits to the games that you can stream. If you’re learning how to start streaming, you may be worried that you’re ‘playing the wrong game’, but in reality, you can play whatever you so desire. It’s important to bear in mind that not all games will be popular, but you’d be surprised what does and doesn’t have a market or a prospective audience.
Here’s one of the best stream tips we can offer:
It can be easier to start your streaming journey with a niche title, as there’s a smaller audience and a smaller pool of streamers to contend with. If you start out with one of the biggest, most popular games in the world, you’re a tiny fish in a massive ocean.
It’s tough to strike a balance sometimes, though. For instance, if you learn how to grow on Twitch relatively quickly, you could play a top-tier title like League of Legends and pick up a broad following quite rapidly. Or, you could dominate a smaller, quieter category and become an icon in a much less saturated space.
Typically, the most popular types of games on platforms like Twitch and YouTube will be competitive titles – shooters, most commonly. For example, games like CSGO, Call of Duty, VALORANT, and Escape From Tarkov do very well on Twitch. They offer high-octane, entertaining gameplay because they simply never slow down. However, when a new single-player game launches, it too will typically fare quite well, simply because those that cannot or will not play it themselves can watch someone else play it.
If there’s a specific franchise that you’re an avid fan of, then it makes sense to stream it. For instance, if you like Fallout, Assassin’s Creed, or The Sims, then by all means, stream your gameplay. These are examples of franchises that don’t have a lot of viewers on Twitch or YouTube, but there’s a dedicated community there that will support you, provided you tick those quality assurance boxes that we’ve already discussed.
Ultimately, if you’re a competitive gamer, then the best esports streaming platform is arguably Twitch. It’s where most esports tournaments are broadcasted, such as the Call of Duty League and almost all CSGO events.
How to Become a Better Streamer by Diversifying
We’ve already touched upon diversifying, but if you’re learning how to start streaming, then this certainly is something that we need to touch on a little more. To explain it simply, diversification is the practice of spreading yourself out across multiple platforms, putting content in several places that can open up your audience in many different ways. For example, you could do the following:
- Host regular streams on Twitch
- Upload long-form content to YouTube
- Upload short-form content to TikTok
- Post screenshots to Instagram
- Network with fans of your franchise on Twitter
Every platform there is totally free to use, and with a little time, effort, and dedication, there’s no reason why you can’t diversify. It’s a tactic employed by the most subbed Twitch streamers, and almost all of them refuse to rely solely on Twitch for their ‘discoverability’ efforts.
Unfortunately, the vast majority of this diversification takes a lot of time to accomplish. For instance, making a YouTube video can be quite taxing if you’re doing it from scratch. Firstly, you’ll need an idea, and then maybe even a script or an outline. Then, you’ll need to record footage or voice audio, edit the video, make a thumbnail, upload the video, and market it appropriately. At the heart of this guide to streaming sits a very clear message: being a streamer is a lot of effort!
How to Learn From Other Streamers
If you want to learn how to start streaming, one of the best things that you can do is watch a streamer who has already achieved their goals and become ‘famous’. It’s something of a cheaper tactic, as you may find yourself essentially copying what they do, and there’s no guarantee it’ll work for you, but you’ll be learning from the masters. While they’re not teaching you directly, there are several things that you can study to identify how they do it, and whether or not it works with their audience.
1. Check out their setup and style
Firstly, take a look at the streamer’s setup, transitions, backdrop, and even camera placement. It’s a good idea to see how they’re positioned, how they sit, and how they light themselves up on the screen. It’s important to note that there are so few successful streamers that sit in the dark while playing a game on a grainy stream.
2. Identify how they interact with the crowd
As the saying goes, ‘clothes maketh the man’, and in streaming, it’s all about appearances. At the top of the table, the most popular and successful streamers also tend to be the most confident, charismatic, interactive creators. They’re loud, they’re animated, and they waste no time in throwing out an emotional response to almost any in-game scenario. While there are successful streamers that throw out a more chilled vibe, there’s no doubt that the loud, in-your-face creators make the biggest bucks.
3. Find the little details and appreciate them
We’ve highlighted what you need to start streaming, but one of the next best stream tips is to notice the smaller things. On Twitch, streamers have the ability to set up a ‘channel points’ system which gives viewers the ability to redeem earned virtual currency against custom rewards. There’s also the ability for creators to upload custom emotes, badges, and icons, and there’s a lot of customisation that can be done to the streamer’s profile itself.
During the stream, notice what’s going on in the background – does the streamer play the music that correlates with their vibe, for example?
Take Advantage of Events That Will Boost Your Streams
There are several events in the streaming and gaming world that’ll help you boost your stream.
For instance, on Twitch, there are regular events ( called ‘drops‘ in Twitch Slang) that go live for specific games, offering viewers the ability to earn in-game rewards just for watching people stream the game. At the end of 2022, Escape From Tarkov, a popular extraction shooter game, entered a drops campaign, and it was so popular that it smashed viewership records for the game on Twitch. That’s the power of these campaigns, and if you stream when one is live, people might watch your broadcast simply to earn free items!
Otherwise, it’s important to keep an eye open for in-game events, such as new seasons, updates, or expansions. When they drop, they can breathe new life into an otherwise dead title, bringing viewers flocking to Twitch and YouTube to take a look at gameplay, perhaps ahead of investing in a particular piece of DLC, for example. If you’re informative and offering something of a review for them on your stream, it may encourage them to follow you.
If you’re a real fan of a particular franchise, you can use milestones and anniversaries to potentially drive some engagement. For instance, let’s say you’re a fan of Fallout and it’s the twentieth anniversary of the franchise. This news may bring people back to the game for nostalgic reasons, and they’ll be looking to watch someone stream the title on Twitch or YouTube.
Above All Else, Don’t Lose Focus
So, that’s a massive breakdown of some of the best tips for streaming. If you were wondering how to start streaming when you clicked on this guide, it’s our hope that you’re going away at least somewhat informed for the future.
It’s a massively saturated scene out there, we won’t lie. There are millions of people trying to stream at any given point, and it can be extremely hard to break into a particular niche when you’re just starting out. If you have issues with your confidence or self-esteem but still want to stream, it may take longer before you’re comfortable enough to appear in front of a camera.
Ultimately, it’s not a sprint, but a marathon – there are many milestones to pass before you make it big, and there’s every chance that you may never make it big at all. That’s fine, as, at the end of the day, such a small percentage of streamers make enough money doing it to earn a living. It can be a hobby, and that’s perfectly okay. If you’re streaming because you want to share your passions with the world, then you’re already doing something right.