Start with Why - Finding Purpose and… Pokemon?
Why defining your ultimate purpose for working as a freelance composer or sound designer for games is critical to your success.
(Stick around until the end for a free worksheet that will help your business)
Gotta catch em all!
Your Ultimate Purpose
Let me introduce you to a person who has perhaps the clearest focus and purpose of anyone I've ever known. A true example of what sheer power of will can accomplish. I'm talking, of course, about Pokemon trainer Ash Ketchum:
The best cartoon theme song OF ALL TIME. I ~WILL~ fight you over this.
Besides being one of the greatest theme songs ever written, the lyrics speak immediately to the core of Ash Ketchum's ambition. His dream is "to be the very best like no one ever was". To train Pokemon "is his cause"; his destiny. In other words, these three minutes of nostalgic ear candy leave us with no doubt as to WHY Ash does what he does.
Now let me introduce you to someone who has no epic theme song but who has nonetheless gained international attention for his purpose-focused personal/business framework: Simon Sinek
Defining Your Purpose & Inspiring Your Customers
Simon Sinek holding an invisible Pokeball
“People don’t buy WHAT you do, they buy WHY you do it.”
Simon Sinek - Start With Why
If you’re want to achieve success as a game audio freelancer, I invite you to consider the following chart:
This framework has come to be known as “The Golden Circle”. It attempts to capture the essence of your business and encapsulate it in three defining questions:
Every person and every company knows WHAT they do. Your WHAT is the product or service you offer. If you’re reading our blog, you likely create sound effects and/or music for games.
Your HOW is usually what sets you apart from others doing the same WHAT. There are fancy business terms for this like USP (Unique Selling Proposition) or Differentiation. Perhaps you specialize in SNES-style sound effects or play a rare instrument that helps you create unique musical experiences.
Your WHY is your purpose, your cause, your belief. WHY are you a game audio freelancer? WHY do you get out of bed in the morning?
…and WHY should anyone care?
Communicating with the Golden Circle
“So what do you do?”
Ah, the most mighty of icebreakers. It makes intuitive sense that this has become the standard networking question; we start a dialogue with strangers off on a light note by asking them something simple.
Simplicity is why most people communicate from the outside of the circle and move towards the middle. While this may be acceptable for polite conversation, Simon suggests that great companies do exactly the opposite:
“When most organizations or people think, act or communicate they do so from the outside in, from WHAT to WHY. And for good reason — they go from clearest thing to the fuzziest thing. We say WHAT we do, we sometimes say HOW we do it, but we rarely say WHY we do WHAT we do.”
“When communicating from the inside out, however, the WHY is offered as the reason to buy and the WHAT serves as the tangible proof of that belief.”
Finding Your WHY
We can all imagine what Ash Ketchum’s defining purpose in life is and how he might articulate that. All of his actions and decisions point to and support his overarching WHY. But how do we find our WHY and how does it fit into our business plan?
Here’s the thing: it is actually harder to conduct yourself as a game audio freelancer if you have not yet thought very carefully about WHY you are in this field in the first place.
Take the following two examples:
Game Audio Freelancer Jack has decided that his reason for pursuing life as a game composer is to find his own unique compositional style and be known throughout the industry for it. In other words, his WHY is a desire for artistic expression, satisfaction, and recognition.
Game Audio Freelancer Jill relishes the variety that her work as a sound designer brings her and loves bouncing from project to project, meeting new teams, and solving new problems. She doesn’t care for accolades as long as she is being challenged and is enjoying herself. Her WHY is her belief in the power of teamwork and personal growth for its own sake.
Can you imagine these two people having similar approaches to their business?
If Jack is looking for recognition and his own voice and Jill is looking for great teams and a personal challenge, there is simply no way they could both conduct their businesses in the same way and achieve success.
The clients they will be looking for, the projects they will be pitching to, the events they will visit, even their business cards must by necessity reflect their individual WHY.
Start With WHY
When game developers employ you to create sound or music for their game, it’s simply not the same as buying a T-Shirt. It’s a very personal decision.
There are many, many, game audio freelancers out there, and your WHAT and even your HOW simply won’t be enough in most cases to win over potential clients.
“Oh look, another game audio freelancer I’ve never met and don't relate to at all!
How do I give them money?”, said no game developer EVER.
Whether they are aware of it or not, game developers are searching for someone who understands and reflects their WHY. Those who identify with Jack and his WHY would likely never hire Jill and vice versa.
And here’s the biggest takeaway of all:
If you have no WHY, there is nothing for anyone to identify with.
Having a clear WHY helps everyone else quickly understand you on a human level and not just as another product/service provider.
Having a clear WHY helps you focus and define the steps you must take to achieve your true goals instead of bouncing around from project to project not really knowing what you're working towards.
“People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.”
Let’s take our inspiration from Ash Ketchum and Simon Sinek and announce our WHY loudly and proudly to the world!
BONUS: The Golden Circle Worksheet
I've taken the liberty of making a worksheet for you to help brainstorm your WHY.
If you want to download it, fill it in, and even print it out and post it on your wall to help you keep your WHY in mind while working, go ahead!
Hi, I’m Ben Gallagher.
After struggling for many years to make it as a game audio freelancer, I created The Game Audio Pro with the goal of helping others understand the fundamental business skills that are often the difference between success and failure for freelancers.
If you're ready to take your game audio career to the next level, download my guide to The Most Important Mindset for Game Audio Success.