Only Monetized Through Subs? You’re Doing It Wrong.

What Content Creators Can Learn from Freelancers

With Affiliate sub buttons launching on Twitch, along with access to monetization through bits, more streamers are able to make money through their craft than ever before. That officially endorsed income, cash earned with the support and blessing of Twitch itself, has been a cause for celebration, with creators feeling like they’re that much closer to their dream of being able to stream full-time, as a professional.

And yet, turning your passion into a career is going to take more than a sub button and tips. Subscriptions provide reliable income, sure, and now more creators have access to that avenue than ever before, but making money is very different from making a living, and the creators able to gain subscribers in numbers that will actually pay the bills are few and far between. Does that mean that, even now, a real career in streaming and content creation is a pipe dream? Not even close! It does, however, mean that streamers of all sizes need to think beyond the sub button when it comes to monetizing their stream.

When my parents grew up, way back in the ‘before-times,’ their paths were relatively simple. They went to school, got degrees, and found salaried jobs: full-time work from companies that offered benefits, that expected, and hoped, that employees would stick around for a long time. Now, though? Times are different.

Now is the era of the freelancer. The part-time professional. More than ever before, workers are expected to work via contract, to take on a project here, a project there, to build their own portfolio to the point that the income provides for what they need. Whether this is a good thing or not is a discussion for another place, but the element relevant to our discussion is that idea that they do it themselves. They can’t rely on a contract with an employer, a regular paycheck, and all the assurances those things provide. Any single source of income is always vulnerable. Things happen, and pending jobs get delayed, or never materialize at all. Freelancers know they can’t rely on just one job, just one source of revenue. They have to constantly be thinking about their next move, their next job, and always have to consider what other professional outlets for their skills they might have overlooked.

A typical freelancer in its natural habitat… and a tiny cup of coffee.

All of that should sound familiar. Just like freelancers, streamers are on their own, without an employer to guarantee how much they’ll be paid and when, and need to build a diverse portfolio of revenue streams to have stable and reliable income.

Subscription numbers fluctuate. Tips are spontaneous, given on a whim. Brand deals come and go. Merch sales spike and fall. None of these, on their own, can be counted on to keep you going, but together, along with other strategies, you can build something resiliant. The more chances you give yourself, the more ways you put yourself out there, the more sustainable the income generated through your stream will be, and the more secure your financial present and future.

Now, I know this will rub some the wrong way. You don’t get into streaming, at first, to make money, you do it because you love it. The last thing you want to do is take advantage of your audience, or to seem like your begging. But, we’ve been doing this a long time, watching creators grow and learn and build their platforms, and the truth is that audiences are not simply waiting for the opportunity to take offense and tear you down. They actually want to contribute, to participate, to be a part of the stream, but they all want to do so in different ways. Having multiple options only enables more viewers to hop onboard, and they’re not going to resent the options that aren’t for them, they’re just going to ignore them. Meanwhile, you’ve taken care of more of your fans, and you’ve diversified the manner in which you make money, making your future more secure.

So, if you’re serious about taking your stream to the next level, don’t just stop a that sub button. Take a good, long look at your stream and think about what else you can offer, not just as a streamer but as a freelancer. How can you further monetize your skills? A diverse, varied strategy will go a long way towards making sure your stream can survive whatever the future throws at it.

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