I'm sure you've been told to do just that to grow your following, find better gigs, or going beyond work stuff: finding love and happiness, or that perfect taco. But well, how do you actually put yourself out there?
If you're just starting to break into the entrepreneurial mindset, you may have a lot of mental blocks to overcome that cause you to underinvest in yourself both financially and emotionally. For game developers in particular, this goes hand-in-hand with marketing efforts being ignored because you have a laser focus on making the game without giving any thoughts to growing and cultivating a fanbase, followed by making connections finding (or making) opportunities in the industry.
So I'm going to share the ways that I've put myself out there as well as that of my colleagues.
Have Places Where People Can Find You Online and Offline
You need a website, or a microsite at the very least, explaining what you/your business offer. The dynamics of a business or game studio's website are a slightly different animal than a site dedicated to your solo work (Sonic Toad is completely separate from Himalaya Studios in numerous ways and both sites and outreach methods are handled differently.) But you need one no less, having just social media pages isn't enough. While social media is important and a good way to grow and engage with your fans, you need your very own fiefdom and place to send people to check out your work where you're not competing with the rest of the social media stratosphere.
With that said, you also need offline places where people can find you. I have Playcrafting, the recently reignited NYC IGDA chapter, NJ Arcade, and the NYU Game Center near me and regularly attend their events which is how I really developed a local presence in New York's side of the industry. You may have something different at your disposal regardless of your profession. These are the places where I can be regularly be found and that's the cornerstone of putting yourself out there. I grab the mic during community announcements even if I don't have any specific events to promote and have plenty of business cards and promotional goodies handy.
Sometimes I'll even just go up to someone I never met and randomly start talking to them. Don't get all sales-pitchy on them, that's lame. If this person expresses a pain of some sort, can you address how you'll solve that pain? What can YOU do for them?
Still, may not know of an opportunity until you ask and once you've really been at this for a while, you'll be pleasantly surprised at the people who've been watching you.
Get Out and Meet People!
But let's take it further and get a little less targeted than the industries we work in. Networking guru Hank Blank recommends meeting at least 30 people a week, and has some good advice for people who hate networking. This winter's snowstorms plus existing gigs made this hard for me to do in person so I tried to make up for it online, whether it was through fun exchanges on Twitter or blogs (more on that in a bit.)
But going to those Playcrafting, IGDA, etc. events plus the major conferences are where the magic happens and second to that is simply getting creative looking elsewhere. For instance, most of the classes I teach use Eventbrite, as do other events that I attend. So sometimes I browse other events that they recommend or just type in a keyword plus zip code, for something like "game developers", "indie developer NYC", or even just "entrepreneur" and "networking" can get you some interesting results. Many of these events are often free or very low cost, such as the free Networking Sucks! event held at midtown bars every so often.
Do you have a completely unrelated hobby or interest? Maybe you're into knitting and you're looking for clients for your brand spanking new graphic design business. How do you know that a fellow knitter didn't also start a new business and needs help with a logo, or that another one works for a large company who could use someone with your Photoshop skills?
Investing in co-working space and going to coffee shops and other digital nomad hangouts where you can become a regular are also good ways to meet new people. Not just for work opportunities, but wouldn't it be nice to have someone whose expertise you need time to time who you can just quickly text or email to help you out?
Find Spaces Online and Give Back
Did you find a blog or article really helpful? Let the author know in the comments!
If you can't get out to meet people in person, see what's happening in the social media sphere. I ask indie developers who I know, and don't know, about various issues in the business, art, and lifestyle aspects and it not only gives me content but it gives me more people to engage with.
If you are a game developer, you NEED to get onto Gamasutra. Blog there, and be active in the comments on pieces that speak to you. They love seeing things like postmortems, unusual stuff in the game dev world, and while they like success stories you're more likely to get featured on the front page if you have a good story about avoiding failure and what you learned. I've had the fortune to hit the front page four times at the time of writing this, making every blog I posted there a front-page Featured Post, and that distinction has gotten me more writing work plus the connections from readers.
As for commenting, I appeared on gaming attorney Zack Strebeck's Legal Moves podcast after commenting on his tax law piece and we've provided one another with mutually beneficial legal advice. He also did a guest post during V Day week on having a love life as a digital nomad. Would any of that happened if I didn't put myself out there? Nope!
Getting Into Other Mediums
Do you prefer spoken rants to written ones? Do a podcast. It's a great way to make a multitude of connections, get noticed, and get discussions rolling on issues that are important or interesting to you and/or the fanbase you're trying to foster. You're giving back in numerous ways by podcasting.
I chose the Kindle route to grow my presence, writing the first book about tax law solely for indie developers and the tax professionals who want to work with them. I have other books planned, such as the long-awaited ode to Freddy Got Fingered and treatise on American values The Tao of Gord, and a book all about business for indies that I will be collaborating with Nicholas Laborde of Raconteur Games on. (We also met in the comments on Gamasutra!) I've got some other stuff coming to Kindle soon too that's more bite-sized than the book books, because they're an excellent way to really put yourself out there.
If you even do a free Kindle book that's about 15-20 pages, it's a good way to put yourself out there.
All these are just some suggestions: putting what you have to offer, and how you want to give back, front and center. Putting yourself out there is more than simply meeting people, it's also about interacting with them and being open-minded about it.
How have you put yourself out there? What worked and didn't work for you?
Because by putting yourself out there, you too can hang out with a guy with a neckbeard balancing precariously on a ledge!