Publisher’s Choice Quality Stock Art © Rich Hershey / Fat Goblin Games
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I’ve gotten a lot of questions lately about the best way to become part of the RPG community and make connections with the people and companies that hire game designers. Here are my top tips for making a splash in the industry.
Put Your Stuff Out There
If you’re a creator, one of the best ways to network with others is to share your work. Get on social media, forums, Reddit, Discord, etc. and shout about your creations. Ask other people for feedback (and accept that feedback with grace when it is given constructively). The internet loves giving opinions! This is a great way for people to get to know you and your work. Don’t forget to return the favor to other creators you love and comment on and share their stuff as well!
Protip: Before you post, make sure you’re in a healthy state of mind so you can handle the criticism (and sometimes unnecessary malice) that comes with sharing your stuff on the internet.
Apply for Jobs
Applying for gigs is a great way to get your name in front of others. I have had many submissions and applications rejected in this industry, but just sharing my experience and willingness to work with a company or person has led to other opportunities even though I was rejected for the initial job. Rejection does not typically leave you any worse than before you applied for a job and can give you another connection you did not have previously. If you think you’re right for a gig, throw your name into the ring. You never know what will come of it.
Protip: Pay attention to a job listing and make sure you’re right for a gig before you apply. Applying for every job just to make connections is not a great idea because you might be wasting someone’s time, which people will not appreciate.
Hire Other People Yourself
If you want to work with someone on a project, reach out to them. Find out what their rates are and if you can afford that person, pitch THEM a project. I collaborated with many of my favorite artists, designers, editors, and more because I reached out to them first. They reach out to me later on with a project of their own and recommend me to others, because I compensate them fairly and am a great coworker.
Protip: Even if you don’t have a ton of cash to hire someone, ask your preferred partners if they’re interested in splitting royalties or keeping the rights to the work they do. There are lots of ways to work together so everyone wins.
Social media is the place to make connections in almost all industries these days. It can be overwhelming, but having a presence in a few places can really help you make connections. Many of the jobs I’ve gotten have come from Twitter. Facebook, Reddit, Discord, Instagram, and more all have very active RPG spaces.
Protip: Review the rules of the space where you communicate before you start or join a conversation. Stay respectful of the members of the community and follow the established rules and codes of conduct.
When you start a conversation on social media, use language as precise as possible. Be mindful of what you post and ask of others. Are you starting a conversation for fun? Convey that with your tone. Make sure the topic you picked isn’t actually harmful or serious to others. Starting a more serious conversation? Make sure you apply any appropriate content warnings and give some guardrails for your discussion like, “I want to focus the conversation on X,” or, “You may think I mean Y, but I’m really trying to drill down on Z.” If you tag someone in your initial post on Twitter or Facebook, they’ll be notified of all the replies. Unless that person wants that, be kind and put their name in a comment or later post.
Once a conversation starts, keep in mind that it’s up to you to monitor and moderate it. Keep the conversation focused and on tone. When someone says something awesome or appropriately funny, let them know you appreciate it. If someone strays, let them know. If someone is a jerk, block them. It protects you and your followers.
Protip: If it turns out you goofed and harmed someone with your words online when you did not mean to do so, apologize and take steps to correct your mistake and make sure it doesn’t happen in the future.
Follow Friday (#FF) Tip: If you’re doing Follow Friday, pick ONE person and tell everyone WHY they should follow them instead of tagging a giant block of creators. The former is meaningful and makes the person take notice. The latter typically gets the people no new followers and a bunch of notifications about Sponge Bob GIFs.
Joining a conversation someone else started online can be a super fun way to make connections. Social media is a public space that often invites fun brainstorming, sharing stories or ideas, constructive criticism, and debate. Before you join a conversation, make sure you read the main post (and any linked articles… not just their click-baity titles), and give a response that actually applies to the situation. If you’re getting ready to post advice, a long tangent, or an argument, make sure that is something the person who posted is actually looking for. It’s not fun to get any of these things unsolicited. Sometimes sharing a post and showing support is more important than actually jumping in with your own thoughts. This is especially true in situations that you cannot personally relate to.
When you do respond, keep it fun and respectful. Sarcasm is not a font, so it rarely comes across. Remember that while you may feel like you know some people well enough to make jokes based on their social media presence, they may not know you that well. Respect and kindness go a long way in life, especially online.
Protip: Side conversations, tangents, and debates can happen between two or more people that often have nothing to with the initial post or poster. Be sure to untag or take the conversation elsewhere when this happens as a courtesy to the person who helped spark the conversation.
Conventions are all about hanging out with other people! Go to hang outs, meet people at their booths, set up coffee or lunch dates beforehand, and play some games. Let creators know you enjoy their work and be comfortable talking about what you do and your own goals. Ask your friends in the industry before a convention if they can help you set up meetings with people they know. I love meeting friends of friends because they typically are great people (who become my own pals in short time).
It’s always good to try to meet someone at a scheduled time or at parties, meet-and-greets, or other appointed meeting places. But if you see someone you know of or want to work with randomly at a convention, don’t be afraid to introduce yourself with a quick hi, unless they seem super busy. You can always catch them another time. The RPG industry is small enough that you likely will run into that person again soon.
Protip: If you design games, guess what? It’s ok to introduce yourself as a game designer. Same goes for artists, editors, and anyone else out there, even if you’ve never made money at it.
Create Your Own Spaces – Make them Safe
Online and in person, creating your own spaces is a great way to make connections. It might be a Discord for a podcast you produce, Facebook group for awesome RPG artists, a weekly game night at a local store or library, or a meetup for creators at a bar during a convention. When you connect other people, you are also connecting yourself to them. Plus it lets you talk about RPGs a lot more, which is what it’s all about!
When you create a space, make it inviting and safe for others. A clear code of conduct that calls out bigotry of all stripes and a plan of action for addressing harassment is a great start. If your space becomes too big for you to manage on your own, ask trusted members of your community to be moderators.
Protip: Listen to your space’s community. Communities and their needs change as they grow. The best way to keep up with that evolution is to keep an open ear and mind.
Clear Communication on the Job
When you’re working with other creators, communication is key in helping maintain and make new connections. Be upfront about your needs as a creator before the project starts so there is no question about payment, rights, etc. after you’ve already done work. When you don’t understand something, ask instead of assuming. Keep your communication on the job clear and concise and collaborate with others, and your name will be connected with other people.
Protip: Send thank you messages after a job is complete. It lets people know you enjoyed working with them and cannot wait to do so again.
Above All Be Genuine and Be Kind
When you’re connecting with other people, be yourself. Kindness and respect are important, as they are in everyday life, but you must also be kind to yourself. Remember to be true to who you are. There is no one else on earth who is you. No one can be you. You cannot be someone else. Embrace that. Let people know what you love about RPGs, what you want to change about the industry, and why you do what you do.
Remember that respect begets respect. Treating others with kindness will lead them to do the same. If they don’t treat you with respect, then you do not want a connection with that person anyway, because YOU are awesome.
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