Friday, September 6, 2019

Don't Apologize for Your Streams, Just Improve

Let's play some Twitch Mad Libs. Fill in the words as they apply to you, if you've ever started a stream like this:

"Hey guys, sorry I missed yesterday's stream but (noun) needed me to (verb) at (time) and I was too (status effect) to stream. (Future date) I'm going to be better though, and every (span of time) going forward I'll be streaming at (hour). You can count on it!"

We've all followed this script before in some way or another, and it's understandable. It feels bad to break your promises and let people down, after all- you want them to understand why you weren't around so they aren't upset with you. But conducting streams like this is very problematic- not only is it unprofessional, it snowballs into missing more shows in the future. Wean yourself off this habit as soon as possible. Don't apologize when you miss your streams, or even bother acknowledging that you did so. Just do better next time, and silently excel as you move forward.

This is a very important step for a content creator. When you stop apologizing and promising, you drop all the baggage of your failures, and are able to move forward confidently with your plans. It also means you are truly taking responsibility for your actions. You stop depending on the sympathy of others to fuel your excuses, and learn to rely only on your own perseverance and work ethic. In short, you simply become a better streamer.


On Twitch, there's no boss to give excuses to.
It's natural that most of us would want to seek forgiveness for missing content releases. This habit has been conditioned into us for our entire lives, after all. Through all our years in school and work, we've come to learn that it's usually okay to miss a day as long as you can come up with a sufficient excuse. If you tell your teacher why you were gone, they might let you retake that day's test and save your grade. If you can sound sick enough on the phone, your boss will probably let you take the day off, sometimes even with pay. Throughout childhood, teenage years, and early adulthood, we've learned that we're supposed to explain ourselves when we mess something up, so our superior understands why it went wrong.

On Twitch, there is no one above you to answer to. There is only you. You're not an employee on your Twitch channel, you're the business owner. Someone who is responsible for their entire business doesn't make excuses when they miss a day, they work twice as hard the next day to make up for it. If you didn't stream, it doesn't matter how valid or understandable your excuse is- at the end of the day, you didn't stream. You can only move forward, so just focus on not missing streams in the future.


Schedules are a killer for new streamers. Deviating from a schedule is the main reason that streamers end up needing to apologize in the first place. The way most streamers plan out their channels is as follows: the streamer thinks about what they'd like their content to look like, then they announce a streaming schedule and do their best to stick to it. I think this is a totally backwards mindset.

You should prove what schedule you're capable of executing first, and then announce it.

On Twitch, like in Monster Hunter, preparation
is key.
It's important to understand the practical realities of working on whatever schedule you're shooting for, before you commit to it. If you decide to only play horror games on Wednesdays, it might look good on paper, but in practice it could make you miserable to not be able to play your favorite genre six days out of the week. Maybe your new showtime is too close to when you get home from work, and you often can't make it in time to start your stream. Maybe your streams now intersect with when your significant other likes to eat dinner or when your favorite TV show airs. Plus, just because it looks like you have a free three hours this week from 7-10pm doesn't mean you will next week. Make sure you're executing first, living that schedule for at least a week or two, and only then promising when and what your content releases will be.

As a freelancer, my work schedule is very irregular, and on a given day I might be flying somewhere, working at an office in the morning, from home at night, or in a hotel room in the wee hours. If I promised that I'd be live on Twitch every night at 8pm, or at any concrete time with the life schedule I keep, I'd never be able to deliver consistently. For weeks and months, I created multiple shows every day to try and see which showtime worked best for me. And after all this, I decided on an unorthodox idea. I would do three shorter streams per day, but never promise a specific showtime. This means I can now fit streaming in whenever I'm available, and still make a whole lot of content. I lose some viewership from not being live at the same time every day, but I gain rock-solid consistency and peace of mind in knowing that I can deliver on my promises. I've done roughly 1,500 individual streams so far since going Affiliate last year, and I've never missed a single show. I was only able to come to this conclusion by heavy experimentation however- not just announcing a schedule I wish I could keep and then hoping I wouldn't break it. There's an ideal stream schedule out there for you too, but it won't simply come to you- you'll have to go looking for it.


When a content creator seeks validation for their failures by apologizing, they are hurting much more than their level of professionalism. This path leads to a dark payoff. Apologizing for missing streams can cause you to give up streaming.

Don't let it feel good to miss your streams.
In the entry Build Your Twitch Channel Like You're a Secret Agent, I spoke of how telling people about your plans trips the same chemical response in your brain as actually executing on those plans. The same is true for apologizing when you miss streams. By doing this, you're seeking a way to still feel good when you fail to deliver. "This is great!" you might say. Nobody is mad that you missed your show, they're even encouraging you! Now you don't associate missing your streams with negative emotions. So the next week comes and you miss two streams, but that's fine because no one is mad- you 'got away with it'. And from here you slowly start missing more and more of your shows until you've slipped too far and aren't doing it at all anymore.

I've seen it happen to plenty of channels before. Heck, it's happened to me before- I used to always announce a schedule for my content, and then start half my shows by apologizing for having missed the previous one. Those channels didn't work out. Don't forget, in the first Twitch Playbook entry I mentioned I had been on Twitch for a year, but I've been doing livestreaming for the past six years. That's five years of other personal channels on various platforms where I made every mistake in this book before anyone had ever even heard of me, and most of my previous efforts fizzled out because of a need to constantly apologize for missed content.


So just do your streams without announcing anything, and keep track privately whether you're able to stick to the schedule you want. Once you're able to prove over a week or two that your stream schedule works, then you can announce long term plans. This will ensure you're able to actually keep your promises and not have to constantly apologize. Don't be someone who announces new things every week and then breaks those plans the next. Build trust with your community, and with yourself. If you want to be a better and more consistent streamer, don't apologize for your content. If you keep silently improving, you'll be just fine.

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