Spring has sprung, and those New Years resolutions likely have been forgotten, or fallen by the wayside. During this time, one of the best things one can do for any goal is to take a step back and reflect on the first quarter of the year. If there were any smaller goals set, has there been progress? If goals set for this year were on the ambitious side, it may be time to reevaluate them, and perhaps set more realistic goals to work on for the rest of the year.
Ever since the quarantine has started, people have been turning to gaming and streaming as a career as it is one that can be accomplished without any prior experience and does not require a stressful interview. One of the toughest pitfalls to overcome when beginning a career in streaming and/or esports is to set lofty goals for the first 1-2 years. The best way to overcome this pitfall is to set realistic goals, have a plan for the first year or two, and to develop an emotional and financial support system as those monthly bills still need to be paid. Before developing those goals, one needs to begin their streaming career first, and determine whether it’s right for them before thinking about developing short and long-term goals.
A major question to ask yourself before beginning a career in the esports or streaming world is: do I see this as a hobby or career? Great streaming careers often start as a hobby, so there is nothing wrong with dipping the toe into the shallow end of the pool versus diving into the deep end as the latter tactic does not work for most. Before making the decision to begin a streaming career, it is important to make sure it is financially reasonable. When I had started streaming, I still had a part-time job, but in addition to already having something else that produces income, it is also important to make sure there is a support and/or backup system in place. A support system can consist of either someone you’re living with, or a backup career plan where you are still scouting local places to submit a formal job application to.
Generally, most begin their streaming careers as a hobby because there is no guarantee someone is going to “make it” – which is defined as being able to sustain the stream as a career that pays the bills each month at the very least.
Whether you choose to begin streaming as a hobby or as a career, budgeting is going to play a major role in how much time and money is devoted to the stream. Most streams are going to require money in order to get them started via equipment, artwork, and eventually emotes once affiliate is reached. Since time is money, that is also going to be treated as a resource in the budgeting equation- especially if one maintains some sort of employment. Time is also split many ways in streaming- networking and collaboration, time spent actually streaming, editing videos after stream for Twitch and YouTube, visiting conventions and workshop sessions (once it is safe to do so), and scheduling and organization.
So now you’ve begun streaming. You’re doing great and receive affiliate in a matter of months through great networking, persistence, effective time management, good programming, and hard work. Now what? This is the part that affects all streamers regardless of status or years spent streaming: goal- setting. To some, it can be described as a painful process that destroys motivation. To others, goal-setting is how the stream continues to grow and prosper. The first time goal-setting may be difficult in particular is the path from affiliate to partner on Twitch.
To call this process a grind is an understatement. In my personal experience, if someone can get through two years of streaming without giving up, then that person has potential to turn it from a hobby to a career if that is the desired outcome. What does healthy goal setting as an affiliate with the desire to become partner look like? Goal setting as an affiliate begins with not expecting partner overnight, or even in the next year.
The next is accepting that a swift road to partnership is not the big picture goal one should be setting. One should realistically be striving for sustainability. Granted, that is easier to obtain with partner, but I have seen partners become partner, and immediately quit a few months after as they could not stay motivated. Big picture goals are still important, just not ambitious big picture goals. So in this case, the big picture goal is sustainability, however, part of this process includes setting smaller goals.
Smaller goals are as important, if not more important than the big picture goals. The reasoning behind this is that without smaller goals, it will be difficult to reach any bigger goal. Motivation and persistence are going to be those factors that drive someone’s streaming career forward. Smaller goals can include time spent streaming (with a good handle on time management), collaboration and networking with other streamers, building a positive and safe community for others, using resources provided by the streaming platform effectively (channel points and emotes for example), building a brand and identity, and most importantly, enjoying and being proud of the content being created. As with any career or hobby, the key is being happy with what you are doing each day instead of dreading it.
As more colleges turn to promoting esports as a career, streaming with the objective of eventually landing a position on an esports team leads to a whole different set of goals both big and small. Before streaming the game that will eventually become the esport you wish to play in, it is important to do research and play the game off stream. It will become infinitely more difficult to stream practice and events if you do not have experience with the game first as your attention will be slightly split between chat and alerts on stream.
After practicing, it may be a good idea to reach out to other colleagues and streamers you plan on observing and collaborating with to see how they handle streaming and playing at the same time. Streaming practice and esports events is an important component as they contribute to the big picture goal of sustainability. If a dry spell is ever reached with tournament results, having a stream to fall back on is important, and could even cause calmness during a tournament knowing the stakes you are playing for are slightly lower if you are not relying on winnings to put food on the table or pay rent.
So, you’ve made it. You’ve landed a position on an esports team, made twitch partner, or even topped a few events in your esport. Now what is there to be done? You’re starting to make just enough to pay the bills and be able to support yourself. Sustainability has been the name of the game up until this point, but now you need to start thinking about the future. Most jobs have 401Ks and retirement plans set up. Unfortunately, there is no one looking out for your best interest going forward other than yourself. Now, you will want to start thinking about trying to make enough to go into savings and also continue to stay as motivated as you were when you were making not as much.
One of the most important goals (big or small) that should be set at this stage is taking time for self-care and mental health. One of the toughest parts about the workforce (self-employed or traditional employment), is that there is rarely time allocated for mental health. As this is written during a time of quarantine, this is the time to reflect on mental health and self-care. If you learn anything from this article today regardless of where you are in your hobby or career, it is taking time apart from the daily grind to make sure you take care of yourself. If time cannot be found, it is important to assess time management skills again and make sure time can be carved out.
A career without mental health and self-care and time allocation will lead to burnout, which will stop or even erase progress. No matter where one is in their streaming and esports career, mental health and setting small goals still should be a part of daily life. If only big goals are left (especially ones out of the streamer’s control such as daily average viewers, subscribers, and even winning a big tournament), then burnout will happen, which is devastating in this field and for basic sustainability.