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How to not get a gig

Earlier this week I was fortunate enough to run across a potential opportunity for freelance audio editing work.  Though I’ve done similar work before, I’m focusing pretty heavily on programming these days and therefore wanted to help connect a client with someone I knew would take care of them.

This happens pretty often right?  Most gigs don’t happen because of a resume.  Most freelance audio gigs happen because someone needed help and you were in the right place, right time.

So it astounded me when the entire process was pretty much a giant pile of failure.

I assumed (incorrectly) that I could put out an APB in my online channels and would be given good shit from my people.  I assumed I would have 25+ names to sift through before providing their information to the client.

I was totally wrong.  It runs both ways too – I screwed up, and my audio colleagues did too!  So here’s a giant postmortem on both how to not get ideal candidates, and how to not get a gig.

The original tweet

That’s the tweet that started the whole thing.  I followed it up with an extremely similar post in Team Gameaudio (Slack).

I did so, so many things wrong here.

I should have asked for a DM with links to your resume/CV and a relevant audio sample (in this case, a podcast edit).

But nope, I asked for a super vague DM.  So what did I get?

With the exception of one person (who I now consider one of my immediate go-to contacts), I got super vague DM replies.

Why?  You get what you ask for.

But my colleagues, this does not excuse what I’m about to point out.  You should do and know better.

Why?  Because someone doing a tennis podcast who knows nothing about audio would send the EXACT same message.  Because they don’t know what to ask for!

So that makes the one person who responded well look SO much better.  Because in a torrent of murky confusion, they provided clarity and a path.

Ok, enough being vague.  Without naming names (there’s really no need), here’s what you need to avoid when you next jump at a gig.

Things to avoid

Don’t apologize for your work

Imagine this scenario:  I want to start a tennis podcast.  People know me and I have an audience.  I watched some YouTube videos and bought some gear that works and sounds good.  But editing audio and producing (“making it tight”) are foreign concepts to me.  I need help on the final polish, so I ask online for help.

You reply.

You send me an audio sample, and before I can listen to it you apologize for its poor quality in a variety of ways and say no worries if I’ve already found someone else.

Why do I want to work with you again?

I’m looking for someone I can trust with my new baby of an idea.  I’m not asking for you to be the best – but be competent!

Instead you disqualified yourself twice.  Maybe I don’t know your audio sample is bad quality, but you just told me.  You’re also actively backing away from my project because you’ve assumed I’ve found someone better.

If I’m remotely busy, then we’re done talking.  I would rather work someone who inspires confidence in me, and who will take care of my baby.


Have relevant experience

Not all audio is created equal.  I repeat, not all audio is created equal.

Just because you know how to work a DAW doesn’t mean that you can do everything, that you’re interested in everything, or that you should do everything.

When I was first trying to break into games – the biggest complaint I heard was there was an “influx of people from movies who think they can do games”.  The two disciplines are vastly different.

I understand podcasts are somehow “different” because it’s “simple VO editing”.  But imagine that prior scenario again…

I want to start a tennis podcast.  You are a composer or musician, and you send me your music samples.

If I don’t know anything about audio, this is my response:

“Oh you have a bunch of great music!  Maybe you can make a theme song for my podcast?  I don’t really have any extra budget though and I’m trying to find someone who knows how to edit podcast interviews, not music.

Do you have any friends who have done podcasts?  If you’re interested in doing a theme song I’ll totally give you credit!”

…and then you might go flame the lost client in private online channels, because they didn’t know what they’re asking for.

Now that you’re mad at me and offended – don’t worry, I’ve done it too.  I’ll happily raise my hypocrite flag.

I don’t mean to say that you shouldn’t apply for lots of varied things, I think you should.  But you shouldn’t offer your professional services to someone and go “well, I’ve never done a podcast before – but it sounds like fun, I have a few years of experience, and you should totally pay me!”


Don’t just give me your email

Here’s where I can’t get too high on my high horse.  My DM was vague.

But plenty of people replied to me and said “I’d love to apply!” and gave me their email.  The expectation here is I’m supposed to just toss the client their email address.

What you’ve forgotten here (and quite frankly everyone did), is that my reputation is also on the line.  I’m acting as a screening representative for the client.  I’m not going to just pass a mostly random stranger’s email address on.

You also give me nothing to make you look good.  As soon as more than 3 people reply, I officially have no time to scour your Twitter, website, SoundCloud, and LinkedIn to compile all your shit.  If you didn’t provide it right off, I now have to ask for it.

Once I have your stuff, if you apologized for it or gave me irrelevant samples – I’m still back at square one.


Don’t tell me your life story

Everyone knows that if you get a hiring manager to look at your resume for more than 10 seconds, you’re lucky.

Add to that, I really need someone for my podcast.  I am really thinking about and super concerned with my podcast.  It’s a representation of me after all!

Get it?

Be concerned with your clients problems and needs.  Instead of telling me all about yourself, where you went to school, and everything you’ve worked on – you should be asking questions.

“Hey Adam – who is the client?  Do they have any podcasts already posted that I can listen to?  What are they struggling with?”

If I don’t know you and you need to tell me about yourself, I need your resume and something like this:

“Hey Adam, there’s a link to my resume below.  I’ve worked in various forms of audio for 5 years.  Here’s the link to a gaming podcast I did, sponsored by Twitch, where we ranted on the hilarity of the Hamburglar for 3 hours.”

Oh sweet, so 5 years in you should know how to work a DAW.  There’s also a company name I recognize who was attached to your work.  Plus, there’s context that leaves me with the possibility of being entertained!  In 3 sentences!

For those of you who feel like one sample isn’t enough, you could add:

“I also have a few more samples if the client is interested.”

BOOM.  Oh, and after you should ask about the client’s needs.


Don’t respond and assume someone else already got the gig

Right now, I have no idea if anyone got the gig or even got contacted.  I’ll probably follow up with the client in a few days – but they’ve probably got other things on their mind too.

But you’re always better late than never.

Remember, when you don’t send in your work – you never even gave someone a chance to tell you no.

I know that feels better on your ego because you didn’t get rejected.  But it should actually feel significantly worse, because you rejected yourself and didn’t even try.

How to actually get the gig

Ok, so now you know how to fail a bunch.  I do too.  This was a learning experience for everyone (mostly me), trust me.

So what did the individual who impressed me a bunch do?  Two things.

First, they supplied me a resume without having been asked.

Second, they provided one extremely relevant, high quality sample without being asked.

That’s it.  It was that simple.

Realistically, that’s the bare minimum someone needs if you’re applying for a regular job right?  They’re going to ask you for your resume, and then after a phone screen they’re going to ask for your demo reel.

So it’s not like said person had to put in a metric shit ton of effort.

That’s what makes me so sad about this whole process.  It wasn’t really that hard to succeed, and everybody’s failures here remind me of where I’ve failed too.

It was a rough learning experience, let me tell you.

So, in full – what can you do to succeed next time?  Let me completely spell it out for you.

Your future rules of engagement

Let’s create another scenario.

A new opportunity has appeared in your email or social media channels, and it’s something you can probably do.  Maybe you don’t have exact relevant experience but you’re sure you can “get the job done”, whatever the job actually is.

The opportunity looks this vague:

First, you definitely hit reply.  Then your message should look something like this:

“Hey Adam!

Just saw your message regarding the freelance podcast lead.

Here’s a link to my resume <link>.
Here’s a link to an audio sample, a video interview I did post on for  XYZ YouTube channel.  If you haven’t heard of it, the channel has over 500k followers.

You’ll notice I haven’t worked on podcasts, but I work with VO regularly through film post.  I also have additional samples if the client needs them.

Also, could you give me a little more information and context?  From the way your tweet was phrased it sounds like there might already be episodes online.  It would really help me be able to help the client if I knew more about them and the situation.


Holy smokes, let’s break down why this is awesome.

  1. You kept it short, every sentence had meaning.  I might be reading 20 DMs like yours.  I like you more now.
  2. You included your resume (or CV, or website) which has all of your contact info!
  3. You included a link to a (mostly) relevant sample.  Also, you gave me the context and it’s something lots of people have probably seen!
  4. You explained that you are a bit out of your wheelhouse, without apologizing for it.  You also offered more samples if we needed.
  5. You asked questions!  You’re interested and want to get to know more about the client.  That makes me feel like you’re interested in taking care of them!

Always remember, when you’re doing business – you’re actually trying to take care of people and look out for their best interests.  Whether that’s the person screening and whose reputation is on the line, or the client themselves.

I really seriously hope this has been helpful to you.  As you read this, you’re bound to be tempted to see yourself, or think I’m accusing you directly.  But instead of turning inward, I hope you realize everyone makes mistakes.

I’ve literally made every mistake I outlined in this post, and the reason that this post exists is because you all reminded me and I’m yelling at past-me.

The point is to learn, correct your mistakes, and knock it out of the park next time.

Because there will be a next time, right?  You’re still working for it, right?  You should be.

As always – if you want help, advice, or rants: @adamtcroft

Copyright 2016-2017, Adam T. Croft, all rights reserved.