• Akash Thakkar

How to Network in a Time of Social Distancing

Oh my god, Mauro Morandi has figured. Life. Out.

If you've never heard of him, that's not unexpected. You see, Mauro has lived on an island entirely alone for 31 years.

Mauro Morandi on his island

Back in 1989, his boat's engine failed, and the winds took him to Budelli Island, which would become his voluntary home from then on. He's 81 years old now, in good health, and doesn't ever plan on leaving.

He's even got WiFi so he can share the beauty of his island with the world, and show them that nature is to be protected and respected.

For an extreme introvert like me, that sounds like heaven. But for most, that sort of isolation probably doesn't seem ideal.

And alas, this less-than-ideal social isolation is a reality we're facing today, whether we like it or not.

And even with this mandated distancing, many of us still have to run (or build) our businesses, and we all know networking is the best way to do that in any industry.

But with everyone (rightfully) staying inside, how can we keep building our networks and businesses? What can we do to come out on the other side of this ordeal better than ever before?

Here's what we're going to cover today:

Part 1: Why this isn't the time to retreat

Part 2: What it means to "network" in this time

Part 3: How to start networking online

Right now probably feels like the perfect time to retreat

And do next-to-nothing until all of this blows over. That's human nature: when we're scared, we may freeze up.

And when we do that, we can't produce, we can't move toward our dreams/goals, and we can't help anyone else around us.

And, perhaps even most insidiously, we can't even truly relax because we feel guilt towards our lack of motion.

But if we feel this way, so do millions of others

Which means it's time to be a role-model and leader. If we're willing to do the hard work while it's hard, then those around us will follow suit.

And if you can set yourself up to grow in a tumultuous time, you'll be ludicrously prepared for when everything becomes more normal.

And if we stop now, the fight ahead of us is going to be much, much more difficult.

So to prevent that from happening

We'll still need to do the same things that we'd normally do as professional creatives: build a network, talk to people regularly, and set ourselves up to find work.

But that may feel tough in a time where we can't… really meet with anyone face-to-face.

Even still, connections can be made

And friendships can be formed. For me, this is the ideal playground. I've expanded my network more over the last month than I ever could have at any sort of conference or in-person event.

Most people are working from home, so they're easy to reach out to, and the vast majority are looking to have some more contact with the outside world.

And that's where you come in

If you've gone through my 2 free courses (hint hint), then you already know how to contact people out of the blue and get a good response from them.

As soon as you start doing this from a friendly, loving place without trying to "get something" out of everyone you talk to, your network is going to expand radically. Your goal is to simply make friends with people, and help them out if you can.

But how can you start doing that?

It's pretty simple, really

And excuse me for sounding like a broken record, here, but everyone here needs to really listen:

START. USING. INSTAGRAM.

I've written guides, talked about it non-stop, and am seeing my students getting insane results on Instagram, but still, 99% of people in game audio aren't using it even halfway decently.

Unfortunately, most people are wondering "where is my next gig going to come from?" when they actively refuse to use the very platform that will give them countless projects.

The reason Instagram is so great is because it allows you to direct message anyone

Not only that, but the community overall is far far more positive than any other social platform.

And those direct messages?

Almost everyone responds to them. There's so much novelty to them that people actually read them, unlike emails.

So here's how you go about this process:

  1. Read my Instagram guide immediately

  2. Regularly comment positively on people's posts using the guide up above

  3. When they respond in the positive, saying something like "thank you" to your kind comments, send them a direct message saying that you appreciate their work

  4. Then, if you want, ask them ONE simple, easy to answer question about their work

  5. And never ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ask them to look at your demo reel, unless you have a strong rapport with them. Ever.

  6. Do this every single day and your network will explode in a beautiful, positive way

"But Akash, you cocoa crème brûlée" you ask, "won't I bother these people by doing this?"

If you get a compliment out of the blue for the work you're creating, without that person expecting anything in return, would that bother you?

Exactly.

There's nothing to worry about providing your messages are well-written and positive. And if you're in my Game Industry Pro premium course, feel free to send me your messages in our private Slack for review if you like.

But let's create an example on how you would do this, exactly

Let's say you want to network with Nicolas Cage: the greatest actor of all time.

He doesn't actually have an Instagram account (much to my extreme despair), but let's pretend this fan page is his official one:

The fact that this is not followed by everyone on the planet earth is extremely upsetting

What we'd do is find a cool post of his (and let's be real, it's Nicolas Cage so all of his posts are perfect) and leave a positive comment on them.

Chattin’ with my pal

Now, he may respond, or he may not, but if we assume he wrote back and said "thank you", then we can send him a DM to let him know that we respect his work.

And from there, you can feel free to ask him a single, specific, professional-level question about how he learned to be so good at acting.

One note about the questions

Don't overload people with them, and don't make them a waste of their time.

Most sound designers will barrage others with questions like "HOW DO I MAKE A SOUND LIKE IN ANIMAL CROSSING?" or "HOW DO I GET WORK IN GAMES?"

Those are too time consuming and too broad. Put some more thought into the questions you ask. A better one would be:

"I've tried these three specific steps to making a sound like the NookPhone in Animal Crossing. Do you think I should do more of A, B, or C, to get things sounding just right?"

Specific, easy to answer, and thoughtful. Just like Nicolas Cage would want.

So let's summarize what we learned today:

  1. This is absolutely the time to be building your network and businesses. Most people will retreat, and actively refuse to adapt. You, I hope, will move forward and come out of this stronger than ever

  2. Because so many people are at home, they're easier to reach and chat with

  3. Instagram is 100% the platform of choice for networking right now. Don't skip it like everyone else in game audio is. Read my guide on it to get started

  4. Sending kind, thoughtful comments and questions to people on Instagram will make your network incredibly strong

  5. Nicolas Cage is perfect and I will hear no opposition to this fact

So while there are those out there like Mauro Morandi who love social isolation

That doesn't mean you need to. In fact, this is still an absolutely prime time to be building and adapting your business and network.

If you don't have an IG account already

Get started today. Read my guide on it, and get going.

And even if we do start networking online (which I hope you do), building a career in audio can be tough to do alone

Which is why I created the largest, most active game audio community in the world through my newsletter.

When you sign up, you gain access to exclusive articles, in-depth guides, eBooks, free sound effects, game audio tips, and 2 free courses that will help you find paying work in the game industry ASAP.

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