A lot of people in the entertainment industry work odd hours; jobs like DJs and news producers begin late at night and don't end until well into the next day. It can cause a high amount of stress, make it difficult to maintain any sort of social life, and be hard to get time off, since there aren't a lot of people around to cover for you.
Streaming has all those issues and then some. Full-time Twitch streamers have to be online and in front of their screens for eight, sometimes more, hours a day, with little time to eat, rest, or even take a bathroom break.
"I do a night s***, around 6PM to 12AM or later," said Janet "xChocoBars" Rose. "I only take a break to use the bathroom. I have to eat on camera because when you think about it from the viewers perspective, you're either offline or watching a dead stream for 15 minutes. I'll lose subscribers if I didn't eat meals on camera."
Rose has been a full-time streamer for three years playing games like Fortnite, PUBG, and Hearthstone. She has almost 3,500 Twitch subscribers and over 90,000 followers on Twitter and can't remember the last time she took a vacation due to how demanding her schedule can be. "If you're not streaming you're losing subscribers, I lose around 100 subscribers a day if I'm not on camera," she added. "It's near impossible for me to do anything during normal hours, I don't really have a personal life since it's hard to see my friends."
It's hard for streamers to take any time off, since they'll lose the money that's allowing them to play games for a living; even Tyler "Ninja" Blevins lamented how many subscribers he lost when participating in the Fortnite tournament at E3 in Los Angeles last month. Although it's a bit different for someone who's probably the most prominent streamer in Twitch history.
For streamers like Rose, those days off can mean a huge drop in income — especially considering how long it can take her to gain those subscribers back. What's even worse is how the situation is no different when family emergencies take her by surprise.
"There was one time where I had to leave the next day, without notice," Rose said. "My dad had a stroke while he was in China, so my mom and I dropped everything to go and see him in the hospital."
She was in China for about a week and a half, and the impact was obvious.
"I decided to leave after that since everything seemed fine with his health and I had to get back to work," Rose said. "I was only gone for a week and a half although it felt like two months. Everyone was understanding on my stream, but I still took a big hit."
Rose knew that this was something she had to do; she couldn't request time off work or call in sick because the viewers are her boss, and these bosses don't pay for vacation or sick time. "I will always prioritize my health and emergencies," she said. "Although I usually try to give my streamers a heads up if I'm going to be gone."
She hasn't been gone much over the past three years; while she does take Tuesdays and Fridays off she can't remember the last time she was offline for more than three days for some real rest and relaxation. More than just being online often, it's about maintaining a consistent schedule for as long as possible.
"I can make a change but I need consistency. Inconsistency can really hurt your viewership," Rose said. "No one is going to wait three hours if you decide to stream later, and if you make another change soon after they are going to feel like they wasted their time."
A lot of self-employment options come with the ability to make your own schedule; it's a perk that can't be beat in most normal offices. Streamers don't get that; they need to be online at regular intervals to build a viewership.
While that pressure to maintain a regular schedule, especially at weird hours, can be stressful, it also can make the streaming life a bit mundane.
"It gets really repetitive, I have to do my best to try and change things up to make it interesting for the viewers," Rose said. "Sometimes it's as small of a change as playing duos instead of singles in Fortnite."
The constant grind of the same schedule, combined with the fact that most streamers like Rose will be alone in their rooms most of the time, can lead to most of their lives taking place online. For example, a very transparent part of Rose's stream is her relationship with fellow Fortnite and Hearthstone streamer Jeremy "Disguised Toast" Wang.
It's something that's natural in a streamer's life; since it's hard for Rose to sustain a personal life outside her schedule, she combines both worlds. But even after streaming in the middle of the night for six to eight hours a day, having a very public relationship online, and making countless other sacrifices in her daily life, she still doesn't know if she should be putting more hours in.
"I never know if it's enough, don't know if it's the amount or if it's the content. There are people out there who stream 10 hours but keep the streamer schedules," Rose said. "No one on Twitch knows exactly what they're doing; if I knew I'd be Ninja-level right now."