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How to make money broadcasting from your phone

Anna Bahney

(CNN Money) — Amber-Tiana is the biggest star to ever work at the vegan smoothie shop at the The Westfield Mall in Sherman Oaks, California.

The 27-year-old performer broadcasts her five shows — some musical revues, a talk show and a pop-culture quiz show — live each week to her half a million fans. They’ll show their appreciation by sending her a virtual teddy bear, flowers, a yacht or even a castle — all of which she can turn into cash. And all she needs is her phone, wi-fi and an app called Live.me

“This is the Millennial’s version of being a street performer,” Amber says.

Her virtual gifts are worth points. Those points accumulate into diamonds, which can be redeemed for cash. After two years, her side-income has increased steadily so that she now makes $800 to $1,200 a month for 10 to 16 hours of work a week.

“I can press two buttons on my phone and I’m live,” she says. “People can like or comment or share the broadcast. Or they can give me gifts. These convert to actual money — they can leave 4 cents up to $500 dollars.”

She does it all after working her catering job or at the smoothie shop. For a side gig, she does well. But the place this is taking her, she says, is priceless.

Here’s how she did it and how you can, too.

Getting Started

It can take a while to become a featured broadcaster: for Amber it took a year and a half.

She first saw the power of broadcasting at a publicity event. There was a woman there that was getting swarmed by fans. But Amber didn’t recognize her. Turned out she’s a broadcaster.

When Amber checked out her broadcast, she immediately saw the potential: with a performance, journalism and communications background, she knew she could put a little more oomph into a show.

“Going live is just empty if there is nothing new or interactive about it,” she said.

So she began singing songs requested by the people who came into her broadcast. She experimented with her content and expanded her line up. Now she broadcasts four nights a week. On Saturdays and Sundays she does a one-off broadcast or pops in as a guest on friend’s broadcasts.

To those staring out, Amber suggests figuring out the best thing that you do. She and her fellow broadcasters sing, dance, act, cook and talk. “What is special about you?” she says. “Maybe you’re a movie-buff. Every day you watch a different movie and do a movie review. Then ask people what movie they think you should watch next and give a review.”

Tools of the gig

You’ll need a smart phone, wi-fi and the broadcasting app, which is free to download.

“When I first started, I put my phone on top of two glasses, on my best friend’s floor,” Amber recalls.

Now, she has some lights, backdrops and mics that she uses in her broadcasts. But it’s not necessary when you start. Some broadcasters are live from their parked car, from a desk or somewhere in their home.

The live streaming experience of Live.me is busy — there’s chatroom-like text rolling at the bottom, likes coming in the form of stars (which are free), and icons marking when you’ve been gifted (that’s cash money).

After becoming a top broadcaster, you can also earn money indirectly through broadcasting. Live.me allows you to have outward facing links. Amber has opted to link to her merchandise page, where she now sells branded t-shirts, iPhone cases, pillows and mugs. She changes it sometimes to link to her Instagram account so that she can build up her followers there, thereby garnering new brand-deals, which will bring in more money.

Since Amber currently has eight sources of income (four creative like broadcasting and merchandizing and four traditional like the vegan smoothie shop and catering), she keeps spreadsheets of how much money is coming in from each source and the time she devotes a week to every gig.

Making great broadcasts

First of all, you have to follow the rules. Live.me posts on the site that “boring, lame or repeating stuff is not welcomed.” Any time you enter a broadcast you’re reminded that sexual or violent content is prohibited and violators will be banned.

While there is a category on Live.me called “Girls” and one called “Boys,” with broadcasters fielding comments like, “kiss me” or “i love you, baby,” the community is policed by human and artificial intelligence monitoring. Broadcasters can also deputize a trusted person to be an administrator and block people not getting the rules.

You’ll get bigger audiences and more gifts if you present a full package including a cover photo of you that represents your personality and the talent that you want to share, according to Amber. But, she says, mostly it’s about audience interaction.

You’ll need to have a strong wi-fi signal and at least a two-hour battery life on your phone (later you can invest in an external battery, like the master broadcasters use).

Be sure to be lit from the front, she suggests. No back lighting or side lighting. Clear the clutter from behind you to keep it seamless and professional.

Amber also recommends having a plan for your broadcast. She breaks her two-hour show down to 10 minute segments.

She’s happy with the money she makes now and has even pulled back on some of her broadcasting so that she can devote more time to other creative work. “Some people are making six figures broadcasting,” she says. “I don’t make that, but I love where it is taking me.”

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