The Key to Successful Game Audio Networking
One standard piece of advice for game audio freelancers is to always be networking.
Go to events. Do game jams. Put yourself out there!
What no one seems to talk about, however, is what to do after you've gone out and met a bunch of people at said events.
And unfortunately, it's what you do after this important first step that makes all the difference in the world to your career.
Navigating the world of networking can certainly feel like being in a maze sometimes.
The Achille's Heel of Networking
Networking can be a tricky business. Just showing up alone at some event and introducing yourself to strangers is easier said than done.
I've been to those events. I've lived that nightmare. NO FUN.
But you push through it and once you get a few conversations going you generally meet some awesome people, have a good time, and go home feeling proud of yourself for toughing it out, as you should.
Pat yourself on the shoulder you networking stud!
You tuck yourself into bed and dream sweet dreams of what good things will come from your hard work chatting up strangers and being social.
But there's a problem...
When was the last time you were at an event, online or otherwise?
How many people did you meet and chat with? 5? 10? 20? More?
Now: how many of those can you not only remember by name but also remember what they do and what you talked about?
This isn't a bizarre and unprovoked test of your memory. I do this to illustrate a point.
If you don't remember them, how likely do you think it is that they remember you?
There's no need to be glum.
It's really difficult to remember all that information, especially during an event that might span days and involve meeting dozens of new people.
Unfortunately for you, everyone else suffers from the same problem you do.
No one can remember all those names and faces for more than a few days, maybe a week max if they have superpowers.
See? Even Batman forgets. Don't feel bad.
So yes, you did a great thing by going to that event and introducing yourself to new people, but what does it matter if they all forget about you (and you about them)?
The Follow Up
The answer to this problem is deceptively simple: you have to follow up.
And I don't mean one "nice meeting you" email a few days later and then never speaking to them again.
I mean following up often over a long period of time and making a genuine effort to build a quality relationship.
Think about it like this:
Strong relationships in business and life are formed over time across multiple interactions.
The stronger the relationship (and assuming you are the right fit for the job) the more likely your name is to be top of mind when people are considering who to reach out to for the sound and/or music of their next game.
Tiny Windows of Opportunity
Unless you're best friends or already work closely together, it's unlikely that you will be the first to know that a game developer will soon be considering their audio needs.
Depending on the dev team and the project, they might only make one game a year or even every two or three years.
This means that if you weren't on the top of their list in that tiny "only once a year or maybe less" window of opportunity, you will have to wait quite a while before you might be considered for their next project.
I'm sure they'll be calling me about a job any minute.
This is why following up often is not just important, it's essential to your networking strategy.
The Nuts & Bolts of Following Up
Ok, Ben. I get it. I need to follow up.
But how do I do that without being weird and annoying?
Here are some simple tips to help you avoid coming across as a stalker:
1 | Not Too Much
If you just met someone, shooting them that "nice meeting you" message and maybe even following up with info relevant to your initial conversation in the first week is great.
After that, keep it up but stagger the conversation and, unless you develop a real friendship, keep the follow-up to a minimum. Maybe once a month or even every two months unless there is a fantastic reason to be in touch more often.
2 | Bring Value
Establishing genuine relationships means going above and beyond empty small-talk and striving to provide real value to your network. People gravitate naturally to those that bring value to their lives because it is in their self-interest.
Do they need alpha-testers for their game? Sign up and give feedback.
Do they ask their community for feedback through Twitter surveys or something similar? Share your opinion.
Did they recently tweet about needing inspiration for taco night? Share your abuela's traditional recipe with them.
Did they post something cool? Praise them for it and tell them how awesome it is!
If you can't think of anything valuable to say, don't say anything at all. Seriously, it's better to contact people sparingly but bring crazy value (or at least a non-random reason for writing them) than it is to send them vacuous nonsense.
3 | Don't Forget to Keep it Professional
Being friends with your customers is a great idea, but don't forget, this is a business relationship. Trying to be someone's friend while passively trying to get them to buy something from you can come across as creepy.
This is maybe one of the most difficult aspects of networking for many game audio freelancers, but these contacts need to know you are looking for more than just friendship. They will respect you for your honesty and for the fact that you take your career seriously.
Think about it like a relationship, if you don't make your intentions known at some point, you risk confusing your potential partner and being stuck in the friend zone.
There it is:
Follow up, bring value, and don't be afraid to suggest the idea of a potential collaboration if the timing seems right.
In the end, the specific way you follow up with contacts and potential customers has to be unique to you. The copy/paste, spray & pray approach networking is easy to see through. You need to be true to your own personality and your own way of doing things.
That being said, don't be afraid to explore outside your comfort zone.
Human relationships can be messy and difficult, but they are also the key to all the joy that life has to offer, both professional and personal.
”Not following up with your prospects is the same as filling up your bathtub without first putting the stopper in the drain.”
Don't let all that hard work you put into expanding your network by meeting new people slip through the cracks by not following up.
Keep up that great momentum. Stay in touch with those awesome folks you met, build genuine relationships, and enjoy the exponential growth this process will bring to your network and your business.
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.