How to Quote Your Price Without Shocking the Client

Have you ever scared away a potential client due to your price?

If you’ve been working as a freelancer or consultant for even a short amount of time, you’ve certainly been in the situation where you send a project proposal over to a potential client only to hear nothing back, or have the client express shock at your price.

So, let’s learn a quick little trick when it comes to sending your bids over.

There’s a way to prevent that surprise and increase the chances of them saying “yes” and becoming a paid client.

First, let’s cover the typical order of operations for most freelancers:

  1. A potential client comes to you and asks “So, how much do you charge?”

  2. You freak out.

  3. You get a price together and put it in a project proposal (I hope. If you’re not doing this, you’re shooting yourself in the foot.)

  4. You send the proposal to the client and keep freaking out while anxiously refreshing your email.

So let’s add a wrinkle to this: make your proposal as normal… but don’t send it right away.

Before you send it off, just let them know how much the price is going to be a few hours in advance.

Just send a simple message like this:

“Hey, as a heads up, I’m finishing up your project proposal now. It’s going to come in at around $2000.”

This way, they won’t be shocked when it does arrive, and they’ll be far more likely to have a conversation about the price (or just hire you outright.)

So, before you send over your proposal, let them know the price in a simple email, wait a few hours, then send the proposal itself.

The client will be far less scared of however much you’re charging and will be way more likely to get back to you positively.

And if you work (or want to work) as a game industry freelancer
I outline how to create a great project proposal in my free courses. All you need to do is sign up below to get ‘em.

Sign up here to get access to those two courses.

I have, like, a billion videos for you

You may already know that I’ve been posting a video a week on some of the most commonly-asked questions in game audio.

But also, a ton of people have no idea that such a goldmine-presented-by-the-statuesque-Akash-Thakkar even exists.

So here you go! 1,000,000,000* videos that answer your most pressing questions in 2 minutes or less.

How to Start Following the “No Noise” Principle

Allow me a moment to take you on a trip back in time to one of my favorite historical eras…

THAT’S SEVENTEENTH CENTURY PRUSSIA YAAAAAALL!

No no wait! Come back! There’s a bear in this story!

Okay, so, Frederick The First, King of Prussia, loved really tall people, which were officially referred to as “giants” at the time.

He loved them so much, in fact, that diplomats from foreign lands would send their tall-folk to the king as tribute. The king even formed an army regiment formed entirely of these vertically-gifted people called Grand Grenadiers of Potsdam.

Frederick loved these Grenadiers far too much to risk them in a war, but he did train with them every single day. And when he was feeling particularly gloomy, he’d just have them all march through his rooms, led by the regiment’s mascot, a live, probably-regular-sized bear.

While King Frederick had a pretty weird filtering mechanism, us sound designers actually need to do a similar thing with our audio assets. We need to keep what we want and get rid of the stuff that we don’t need.

When we start recording our own sounds, we often encounter a ton of noise that can totally ruin an otherwise fine recording. Just like King Frederick, we need to be able to choose just the “giants” and get rid of the stuff we don’t want — and to do that, we need to use a tool that’s crucial to all sound designers: noise reduction.

The Grand Grenadiers of Potsdam.

The Grand Grenadiers of Potsdam.

Basically, noise reduction allows us to get rid of… well noise
I’m sure you’ve noticed that when you go out, record, and then transfer those hot hot files to your computer, that you’ll often find things like background traffic noise, low rumbles, hissing, air conditioners, etc. sneaking into your recordings.

And in most cases, we need to get rid of that! The more unwanted background noise that’s in each of our files, the more that will ruin our final effect when we start layering things together, pitching them down, and otherwise adding our truckloads of effects to them.

A lot of sound designers follow a no-noise rule
Meaning that in the sounds that they use, they can contain none of the hiss, or other unwanted “noisy” elements that I outlined earlier. The reason being that the more noisy files you pile on top of one another, the harder things become to discern or mix in-game.

Sure, you may want to use noisy sounds as an effect or a layer. You totally can. Just use it intentionally.

At the very least, do some basic cleanup
Take your app of choice (which I’m gonna cover! Hold on!), and do at least a quick denoising pass on the recordings you’re getting out in the field. Every app works a tiny bit differently, but essentially you point them at a noisy bit of your sound, make the app “learn” what the noise is, and then let it scrub through your audio to clean it up.

Note that when you’re recording, you do want to record a bit of silence before and after the actual thing you’re recording whenever possible. This will leave plenty of easily-detectable noise for your denoising software to pick up and learn from.

There are a lot of denoising options
And the most famous among them is iZotope RX. This quickly became an industry standard, and I can’t think of a single pro sound designer who doesn’t use it.

That being said, RX is pricey, so there are some other great, cheaper options out there, such as Brusfri (which is my personal favorite amongst the cheaper options) and Waves Z Noise or X Noise. Audacity even has a very simple denoising feature built into it. It’s not great, but it’s better than nothing!

Not every sound you ever record will need to be denoised, but many of them will. It’s worth the investment to have at least one of these options ready to go at all times.

It would be ideal if we could just record in a quiet environment all the time
But unfortunately, that’s rarely the case — especially if we’re just working out of our home studios, and/or with inexpensive gear. Cleaning the noise out of your sounds can sometimes turn something that was unusable to perfectly workable in just a few minutes.

Other than some delicious history, let’s cover what we learned today:

  • Noise reduction is pretty essential to our work as sound designers

  • There are plenty of options out there — iZotope RX being the most powerful, versatile, and widely used

  • Cheaper options include Brusfri and Waves Z Noise or X Noise. Out of these choices, I’d recommend Brusfri.

  • Audacity even has its own (not-too-great) denoising feature built in!

Just like King Frederick, it’s a good idea to be selective and take only what we want
So when it comes to our own recordings, it’s a good idea to have some way to filter out the noise of our recordings and leave just the sweet sweet innards.

Learning all of this stuff on your own can be tough
Which is why I created two free courses for you to jumpstart your career in the game industry. Inside, you’ll learn how to charge for your work, find gigs, and build a super strong game industry network.

Sign up here to get instant access.

The Two Most Powerful Words

When I was 17 years old, I started taking online classes from the Berklee College of Music. I had yet to convince my super-traditional Indian parents that going to music school was even a remotely decent idea, but this was a clever in-between solution.

Of course, I can’t blame them for not wanting me to go. Being from a small town with no connections, having no money, having no natural talent… well, there was no proof that I could actually make it.

I remember expressing my doubts to my music business teacher, George Howard (who went on to found Tunecore, and do a billion other ultra-successful businessy things).

I told him that it felt so daunting to “just make a living” in any capacity as an artist. I told him to become a full-time artist was all I wanted from life. George listened well, and responded so simply and so powerfully that I still think of what he said almost daily:

“You will.”

Those two words fueled me for years. That’s all it took for me to know that making it was possible. When we’re surrounded by naysayers, that’s often what we need most: quiet confidence.

In a world where everyone is addicted to outrage, yelling, and bragging, a quiet pat on the back can be one of the most powerful things we can experience.

Think back to your life: are some of the most powerful moments the loudest or the quietest? For most, it’s the latter.

So if you’re doubting whether or not you can do this…

Or if you’re worried whether or not you’ll make a living, just like I was…

Know that If you keep pushing yourself and pressing forward…

You will.

How to Make Harry Potter Sound Effects

Something that probably won’t surprise you is that I love Harry Potter.

Well, I love the universe and story of Harry Potter. I’m IN love with Severus Snape.

So I was pickled tink when Marshall McGee (sound designer on Just Cause 4, and host of the excellent Youtube show, Waveform) challenged me to a wizardly sound design duel.

We each had to design magic spell sounds to two Harry Potter scenes using only 5 samples. Samples that Marshall picked out beforehand, not all of which sounded particularly “magical.”

It was a ton of fun and the episode came out ludicrously good. AND it’s educational! It’s basically the same as going to Hogwarts, minus the incredible lack of child safety laws.

Watch it below!

Go Slow | Go Far

Go Slow Blog.png

When Alan Turing and his team pioneered the very idea of the “computer”, it’s likely they had no idea that it could be used to create music from scratch.

But, one of the world’s first computer scientists, Christopher Strachey, managed to take the computer known as the “Manchester Mark II” and got some tunes out of it. Fittingly, these just so happened to be Christmas songs.

Take a listen:

While these sounded… pretty bad, they were only the beginning. Just 20 years later, every pop band on the planet was using some sort of synthesizer or drum machine in their music. And 30 years after that, these giant pieces of equipment were being condensed down to the soft synths we know and love.

In total, it took over 50 years to go from a christmas-song-playing-computer-that-sounded-worse-than-a-cat-with-a-steamroller-coming-out-of-its-mouth to the “can do anything” synths we have today.

And though that entire process took a long long time, we know that anything worthwhile does. Whether it be building synthesizers for the world to use, or building your career. We’re often told that we have to speed our lives up in order to gain success when in reality, slowing down leads to greater long-term results.

In this yuletide post, we’ll chat about:

Part 1: Go Slow | Go Far

Part 2: Making Sure Your Goals are Actually Yours

Part 3: Avoid the Passion Trap

Considering it’s the holiday season
And most people are taking stock of their lives and their goals, I figured this is as good a time as any for your disapproving Indian dad (that’s me, by the way) to help out. We’re not going to talk about how to set goals in this one (that’s for next week), but we are going to talk about the mindsets around them.

Note that I’m talking about what has worked well for me and many of the people you look up to in the industry. Pretty much everyone else tells you to do the opposite of what I recommend, so listen selfishly and do what works for you ❤

It’s easy to think that to achieve goals
You need to be going all-in and as fast as you possibly can. That’s the message we’re sold non-stop. “Get abs in 3 weeks!” “2 weeks to your profitable business!” and on and on. In some cases, yes you can get some quick results, but they are almost universally unsustainable. I’m always impressed by the people who do only a small number of things, but do them well without stress or frazzle, as opposed to the typical creative type who bounces from thing to thing and never gets anywhere.

When you’re not killing yourself to achieve your goals, or chasing after shiny things (switching industries constantly, learning irrelevant skills, etc), you’ll get a remarkable amount done. Far more than the typical manic artist that you see everywhere.

Going slow means you’ll go far
The people who take their time with their work make more money, have more time, and less stress in their lives. Sadly, too many people are running around endlessly, doing way more than everyone else, but getting next to no results.

This doesn’t mean that the slower, more focused people do the bare minimum or slack off. It means that they’re very purposeful about the few things that they choose to do, instead of just piling their plates full with endless tasks.

Most driven people don’t want to become “lazy”
But it takes laziness to let extreme overwhelm creep into your life. You have to be very conscious and vigilant of taking projects, improving your skills, and choosing the right places to spend your time. It takes way more energy up front, but takes much less to sustain this sort of life.

So instead of setting 14 skills you need to improve on in the next year, you’d be far better off choosing just 1–3, getting those down, then moving on from there. In the short-term, you will absolutely see the “go-all-in” people surpass you. But, as they all quietly quit their pursuits over and over, you’ll build the habits that will give you a sustainable, profitable, and happy career. You just want to make sure the goals you pick are truly ones you want to pursue.

It’s easy to follow goals that are actually yours
I know that sound silly, but goals can be an insidious beast. You could want to be an orchestral composer your whole life, watch a single documentary, and then decide to become a professional dancer. Your whole life gets upended in just one moment. We’ve all had those inspirational “wow” moments when a new goal supplants an older one in mere seconds. These goals usually aren’t what we actually want out of our lives and should be ignored most of the time.

While there’s nothing inherently wrong with changing your path, just make sure that the goals you choose are actually yours. It’s also common to see your peers winning awards and then decide to follow their “blueprint” so that you can win an award like them too. Not only will this lead to no recognition, but also a feeling of constant misery and comparison. And when we’re in that state, we start to fall into what I call the “Passion Trap.”

We all fall prey to “following our passion”
And this can be a good thing when starting out. Following the energy of what we actually want to do with our lives is a great rudder. That’s where passion’s usefulness ends, however.

No matter what you do with your life, your “passion” will absolutely wax and wane — often for years at a time. Just a few years into your career, things get really, really hard and you start to wonder if you were “meant” for whatever it is you’re doing.

So then you quit and start over with something fresh. Things feel good for a while, get hard, and then you quit again.

Sound familiar?

This is a trap that most every artist falls into
I certainly have many times. I know artists who are much older than me that are still figuring this out. It’s an incredibly common phenomenon. Steven Pressfield (author of the amazing book “The War of Art”) calls this waning passion and general feeling of dissatisfaction toward our craft “The Resistance” and recommends that it be fought at every turn.

It’s up to us to push through these tough feelings. And once you do, you’ll notice that very few people manage to get to the other side of it. But, that’s what pros do. They fight through it and deliver anyway.

“Sure, I could go slow, but I need gigs and money NOW”
This I completely understand. For you, this may not be something you can adhere to right away. Sure, you’d love to slow down and focus on just a few key things, but you just have too much to do to provide for yourself and/or your family.

In that case, make slowing down a goal to work towards. Take baby steps. Gradually cut things out that are irrelevant to your path and double down on the aspects of your life that are most important to you. You don’t have to do a full 180 starting tomorrow.

Yes, “doing less” can count as a goal
Most people, when setting goals, try to find ways they can add more stuff into their already totally-full lives. Getting more done on fewer tasks is almost always the antidote to the overwhelm that comes with normal goal setting

Funnily, that’s what the best artists, authors, and game developers do when it comes to their work. People understand, generally, when the top people take their time with their work. Sure, I want the third Kingkiller Chronicles book to come out right now, but we also all know that the good stuff takes time.

So let’s take a moment and summarize

  • Taking your time and not overloading your plate will push you further than most every other artist out there.

  • Taking on a ton of stuff just because it’s in front of you isn’t admirable — it’s a form of laziness.

  • Your passion WILL disappear no matter how much you enjoy working on your craft. It’s up to you to fight through that.

This takes time
Whether you’re working on creating synths using a computer from the 1940s, or you’re working towards a fulfilling career. Being focused and taking your time will yield far more results for you than shotgunning out in every direction. Take your time, slow down, and you’ll go very far.

And I’d love to help you go further in your career
Which is why I created two free courses for you to jumpstart your career in the game industry. Inside, you’ll learn how to charge for your work, find gigs, and build a super strong game industry network.

Sign up below to get instant access.

Looking for awesome gigs that PAY? Sign up and learn...
  • How to get paid ridiculously well for your work
  • Know exactly what to say when someone asks your rates - even if you've never done a professional gig before
  • Attract the perfect clients
  • Why the way you've been pricing yourself has been losing you the best projects

The least sexy, but super important skill for sound designers

I want to introduce you to this Completely Innocent House™

FBI House.jpeg

There is absolutely nothing suspicious about this house. It’s SO unsuspicious in fact, that it has never received mail (despite the fact that people come and go all the time), the curtains are always drawn, and camera lenses are poking out of the windows 24/7.

I repeat: This is a Normal House.

To make things even more wholesome and not-at-all suspicious, the owner of the house is officially listed as “FBI” in public records. You see, it turns out that this house just happened to be purchased IMMEDIATELY after the Soviet Embassy moved to just across the street in 1977.

While it’s pretty darn obvious to literally everyone (the realtor who sold the FBI the house even put the owner’s occupation as “Clerk — really a spy”) that this is a spy house, what wasn’t so clear is that this house had a second use. You see, while the Soviet politicians were busy hiding everything from the spy house, the FBI was quietly digging a tunnel underneath their embassy.

While the tunnel never came to fruition due to constant issues with flooding, that’s a pretty baller way to hide things in plain sight.

There’s plenty of knowledge that is invisible when we start to work in the game industry — especially as composers/sound designers. Still, like a secret spy tunnel, this hidden knowledge is incredibly important. And one of the most important but-often-invisible things we need to know about is source control.

Source Control for Sound Designers.png

Source Control (also known as “version control” or “revision control”)
Is a ludicrously useful tool in all software development — not just game development. Basically, these tools allow you to keep track of all of the different versions of files across multiple members of the same team.

In essence, it allows multiple developers (you included) to collaborate on the same project and merge all of your updates and changes together into a shared repository!

Sexy, right?! Can you believe how exciting this is?!!!?!

But in all seriousness
Lack of knowledge about source control is something that I see trip up TONS of audio designers. A developer will tell a sound designer “Okay, here are our git credentials” and will be met with a blank stare most of the time.

If you’re serious about your career and working on teams both big and small, AAA or Indie, then being able to work on the project and update your changes is pretty darn crucial.

Imagine not being able to collaborate with your team because you don’t have some basic knowledge.

You’ve probably heard of things like “Git” “SVN” and “Perforce” before
And these are all different source control methods. They all have a similar goal but work in somewhat different ways. There’s no “best” way, and everyone (especially programmers) has their own die-hard preferences. Though you are pretty much guaranteed to run into Git sometime soon if you haven’t already.

If you want to understand this deeper (and you do if you want to have a serious career in games), then go through this handy, interactive git tutorial here.

Most every game uses this
If you’ve played a game in the last 15 years, they almost certainly relied on some sort of source control to keep track of all their files. Think about it: if 500 people are working on a game, all individually working on different (or the same) parts of it, wouldn’t it be nice to have something that keeps track of who’s working on what, who uploaded what files, and what changes have occurred?

And yes, knowing how to work with source control means you can have your hands directly on the game’s project (in let’s say Unity or Unreal) and implement your sounds directly into the game.

Also, when things go really bad, you can always revert to an earlier version of the project, so it makes it VERY hard to irreversibly break a game when you’re using these tools.

Can’t you just upload your files using Dropbox like usual?
Sure, you can do that, but when it comes to actually implementing your sound into a game and integrating it into the project, then you’ll need to know how this stuff works.

You DO NOT need to be a master of it at all. Just a basic understanding will get you up and running with pro devs very quickly.

So, to recap:

  • Source control is the least sexy thing on the planet

  • But boy is it important to working with teams

  • There are tons of different types of source control, most commonly Git, SVN, and Perforce

  • You can learn Git (which is incredibly commonly used) quickly and easily here.

Even though source control isn’t sexy or even remotely (that’s a Git pun for my fellow super-dorks) fun
It’s an incredibly important skill that we need to have when working in games. It’s one of those things that has been right in front of you the whole time, but never made itself clear. Kind of like a house on the corner that turns out to have a secret spy tunnel underneath it.

Get some guidance
Getting started in game audio takes a lot of time, effort, and skill. While it’s never easy, you can save years off of the time it takes to get success with the proper guidance. That’s why I made two free courses for you to help you break in to the industry, learn how much to charge for your work, and network with other developers.

Just sign up for those below!

Looking for awesome gigs that PAY? Sign up and learn...
  • How to get paid ridiculously well for your work
  • Know exactly what to say when someone asks your rates - even if you've never done a professional gig before
  • Attract the perfect clients
  • Why the way you've been pricing yourself has been losing you the best projects

Where to Start Learning Game Audio Implementation

There’s a single word whispered among budding sound designers. A word so devilish that it can only be uttered in hushed tones…

~*~*~*~*~*~Middleware~*~*~*~*~*~

And occasionally I’ll walk by a group of sound designers, only to have them suddenly stare at me in fear as if they were a pack of antelope, and I a hungry tiger looking for my next meal.

Even though they’re in the grips of awe at my handsome visage, they continue to whisper their sacred words of worship…

~*~*~*~*~*~FMOD~*~*~*~*~*~

~*~*~*~*~*~Wwise~*~*~*~*~*~

1_JYYMLQl3kDRGKLPGENo2yQ.png

I know exactly what they’re discussing: how learning these pieces of software is going to get them every job ever.

Alas, this isn’t even slightly true. Knowing software like FMOD or Wwise isn’t a special skill. It’s just a basic expectation that most employers will have of you.

Knowing how to use them won’t separate you from the pack one tiny bit, but not knowing them will lose you tons of opportunities as a sound designer — especially in the AAA world.

That’s why it would be a good idea to go through all of Audiokinetic’s free Wwise courses here. They just released a new one on Unity integration too! Hooray!

And if you want to dive deeper into Wwise’s API and audio programming, go to Adam Croft’s site here.

What about FMOD you ask? There’s this new course right here that will walk you through the workflow pretty thoroughly.

There’s also the free FMOD TV Youtube Channel that will walk you through the basics — just note that most of the tutorials are pretty old. They still mostly apply, but some things have changed since they were released.

Are there other resources out there? Yes! Tons of them! But this is all I’ll share for now to keep things simple.

While there are tons of technical resources out there
There are very few on how to actually make it in the game industry. That’s why I made two free courses for you to help you break into the industry, learn how much to charge for your work, and network with other developers.

Just sign up below to gain access.

Looking for awesome gigs that PAY? Sign up and learn...
  • How to get paid ridiculously well for your work
  • Know exactly what to say when someone asks your rates - even if you've never done a professional gig before
  • Attract the perfect clients
  • Why the way you've been pricing yourself has been losing you the best projects

Organize Your Samples Better by Taking Less Responsibility

Have you heard of numbers stations? You know, those ludicrously creepy radio stations that just repeat numbers over and over?

It turns out that these stations stick to a strict schedule, repeating numbers every hour or half-hour. It’s often believed that these are used for spy transmissions, but no one can really be sure.

Well, no one but me. I am sure, and I know it’s spy related. Trust me. I’m a Master Spyman™.

What’s most fascinating is that no one is taking any sort of responsibility for sanctioning, maintaining (yes, even though many started broadcasting during World War 1, some are still doing their thing today), and using them. No government, agency, radio station, or company has come forward and said “oh yeah, we made these weird apocalypse cubes.”

In this case, whoever did create them decided to offload the responsibility of dealing with them to someone else. And in some cases, offloading responsibility can be a very good thing.

Thankfully, considering none of us are government agents, (except for you, specifically. I’m on to you) our offloading of responsibility can be far more wholesome. When it comes to organizing our sounds, giving the responsibility of keeping things organized to audio library software is usually the best way to go.

1_JsmpT7blKqXbGLZnnsKpeQ.png

It always pains me to see people finding sounds without an app
Especially when I see someone just open up the default finder or explorer on their computer and just start typing “give me that squishy good sound please thank you.”

Or god forbid a sound designer starts manually clicking through a complicated array of folders, previewing hundreds of sounds before they find one close to what they wanted.

So, an app like the free ADSR Sample Manager can radically speed up your workflow when it comes to finding all the samples on your hard drive.

There’s really no excuse not to use one
If you want a fire sound, and you can simply type in “fire” into your app and instantly gain access to all of the fire sounds you have, why shouldn’t you use one? This also prevents the need for a ton of extremely complicated organization in your library.

Seriously, just download it
Point it to where all your samples live on your hard drive, let it index them, and boom. You’re set. No more poking through folders for hours or relying on the god-awful file system of your OS.

The ADSR Sample Manager is great
So are other alternatives like Soundly and AudioFinder. Soundly is neat in that it comes with some free sound effects. It also has a paid-for subscription that will get you a bunch of extra goodies.

If you’re curious what the big game companies use, they tend to go with more expensive options like Soundminer and Basehead. Honestly, any of these options will work great.

Also, if you’re using a DAW like Reaper or Cubase/Nuendo, they already have sample managers built-in. In Reaper, it’s called the Media Explorer, and in Cubase/Nuendo it’s called the Media Bay. I’m sure other DAWs have something like this, too. Search around and see if yours has this feature.

I can hear you screaming now: “Akash, you steamy mug of hot chocolate, we should ALL be using an in-depth folder structure for our audio!”
And I don’t disagree. You should at least have some degree of naming conventions and folder structure set up to make things easier on you. I don’t think you have to go as crazy as most people say you do, but there are plenty of upsides to being at least moderately organized.

If you need a starting point on how to organize your sounds and what naming conventions to use, you can go here to see how Tim Nielsen of Skywalker Sound does it.

Just note that there are no industry-standard naming conventions. Use what works for you and your team/company.

No matter how in-depth you go, just make sure you’re using something
It may seem so obvious to you to use one of these apps, but you’d be shocked at how many sound designers simply don’t know that these tools exist. Now no one has an excuse not to use one!

So, to recap:

  • Use an audio library app no matter what. The ADSR Sample Manager is a great free starting point

  • There are other alternatives too such as Soundly and AudioFinder. The big-name companies use Soundminer and Basehead most frequently.

  • Your DAW might have a media manager built-in. Check and see.

  • If you want to start using a naming/folder convention, start with Tim Nielsen’s from Skywalker Sound.

  • I am the greatest spy who’s ever lived. Don’t you forget it.

Offloading responsibility can be good
Especially when it comes to building creepy sentient number stations or setting up a system to search through our sounds for us.

So get downloading
If you’re overloaded with options, just stick with the ADSR one and go from there. Or, if your DAW has a sample manager built in, then just use that. Either way, your workflow will be infinitely faster as a result.

Get some guidance
Getting started in game audio takes a lot of time, effort, and skill. While it’s never easy, you can save years off of the time it takes to get success with the proper guidance. That’s why I made two free courses for you to help you break in to the industry, learn how much to charge for your work, and network with other developers.

Just sign up below to get instant access.

Looking for awesome gigs that PAY? Sign up and learn...
  • How to get paid ridiculously well for your work
  • Know exactly what to say when someone asks your rates - even if you've never done a professional gig before
  • Attract the perfect clients
  • Why the way you've been pricing yourself has been losing you the best projects

How to Think about Sound Design

I’ve recently gotten really into real-world spy thriller stuff. It’s been a trip.

And one of my favorite spies has to be Elizabeth Smith Friedman. Most people don’t know her name, but she made huge contributions toward the Allies’ victory during World War 2. Elizebeth was a code breaker. In fact, she one of the greatest who ever lived. Her and her husband, William, practically pioneered the field of cryptology.

Unfortunately, due to a level of sexism that rivals Google, all of Elizebeth’s accomplishments have been swept under the rug and all credit for her work was given to both her husband and J. Edgar Hoover. Still, even while the world pointedly ignored her, she became a key spy in hunting Nazis both during and after the war.

Even in the face of all of this adversity, Elizebeth’s mindset allowed her to push through and become a genius-level infiltrator. Without this iron mind, she or anyone else would have cracked under all the pressure. The mindset we adopt affects much more than just our ability to manage intense levels of stress, however. As sound designers our mindset will allow us to think about sound in a much better, more articulate way, allowing us to create the sounds in our head much, much easier.

On top of the super-neato history lesson you just got, this article covers:

  1. Two different sound design mindsets

  2. How to approach new sound effects

  3. Learning the technical before the creative

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Our sound design mindset
Has a lot to do with how we approach every single project. Not too long ago, I was speaking to Jeff Seamster, who was the lead sound designer for games like Star Wars Battlefront 2, Bioshock Infinite, Battlefield 1, and tons of other huge games. Jeff laid out two ways each of us, as sound designers (or artists in general) can approach our projects: We can either take an asset-based or a craft-based mindset toward our work.

An asset-based mindset
Is probably the most common mindset that most sound designers adopt. I’ve certainly thought this way before. This is the headspace where we start to think of things just as assets. Here are the footsteps… the magic… the ambiences… let’s just check the boxes… Tick tick tick.

While we’re in an asset-based mindset, we’re not thinking of our project as a whole. Instead, we’re just getting stuff into the game for the sake of it. We’re getting the “boring” stuff out of the way so that we can work on the cool stuff.

Now, sometimes this is fine. In the early days of a project, we sometimes do just need to get stuff in and fix it later. This mindset only becomes poisonous when we adopt it for the entirety of development. It causes us to become disengaged and often leads to mediocre results at best. However, a craft-based mindset will often serve us much better.

When we’re focusing on our craft
Every single sound is the opportunity to explore. From the simplest, single-layer footsteps all the way to the most complicated action sounds. We take on a mindset of “how can this sound best serve the game?”

This allows us to approach each project with a much more playful mindset. Even if we are making a sound that most people would think of as boring, we’re still moving the game towards sounding amazing when we’re in this headspace. Sure, the footsteps will be straightforward and simple, but they will be the bedrock of audio that all the “cool” stuff is built on top of. We’ll need both the simple and the complex to bounce off of one another and create our ideal soundscape.

So, when we’re approaching each and every new sound, we can start to think of it as a chance to push our craft forward.

When we’re tasked with creating a new sound effect
We can now ask “how will this best serve the game?” And go from there. We’ll spend a lot less time wondering how complex the sound should be, what synth we should use, and what sample libraries we should draw from. Instead, we’ll have a much greater sense of what we need to do to best serve the game. From there, we can start creating using the additive process I outlined previously.

Granted, you can’t just rely on your creativity alone to get through this. There is a foundation you need to build beforehand.

And most of this foundation is technical in nature
It’s tough to be creative in sound design without at least some technical background. This doesn’t mean you need to be an audio programmer (though if you want to go that route, sign up for Adam Croft’s newsletter.) It does mean, however, that you need to have a solid handle on your DAWs, sample libraries, plugins, processes, and more.

I recommended this in a previous article, but to learn all of the technical stuff in depth, check out Geoff Cole’s resources. They’re some of the best out there to learn the technical side of sound design, including gear, signal flow, and more.

But this isn’t the only way to think about sound design
I can think of plenty of other sound designers who would not approach things this way. That’s totally fine. My aim here is to provide you with mindsets and tools that you can use to approach your work with more joy and efficiency. Start with what I’ve outlined here, and if it works, great. If it doesn’t then ditch it and build your own systems.

I’m working on three new (secret but really cool) games right now
And I’m taking a craft-based mindset for all of them. Granted, there are absolutely times where I just need to get stuff in and working so we can test to see how Wwise is working. That’s totally fine! As I said, there’s nothing wrong with filling things in so that we can hear how things sound in context.

But now that things are working from a technical standpoint, I’m stepping back and essentially starting over. This time, I’m starting from simple sounds like footsteps and designing them to be in service of the game, instead of just assets that I need to get out of the way before getting to the “cool stuff.”

And that leads us to what we’ve covered here:

  • Spies are awesome

  • We can either take an asset-based or craft-based mindset when creating our sound design

  • Craft-based will often create a better soundscape, but sometimes, we will need to focus on just getting assets into the game early on in the process to make sure things are working

  • Before we can start getting really creative, we should at least have some basic technical chops available to us so we’re not floundering around, wondering how to create the sounds in our heads

No one paid any attention to Elizebeth Smith Friedman
But her mindset allowed her to persevere, push the field of cryptology forward, and smash Nazi spy rings with ruthless efficiency. If a person’s mindset can allow such huge accomplishments, then our mindset when we approach our work will make a massive difference in our output as well.

And if you haven’t yet
Be sure to read my previous article on the additive art of sound design. That article will make sure you have a checklist of elements to create great sound design from quickly and easily.

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All of Your Technical Sound Design Questions - Answered

When I was first starting out in sound design, the technical basics completely eluded me.

Things like gear, sample rate, etc. etc. etc. bored the hell out of me. Honestly, I still think they’re pretty boring.

Not to say it’s bad to learn the basics — not at all. Learning the basics is extremely important.

So, when I’m asked a basic technical question nowadays, I want to jump to help — still remembering how confused I was when I was starting.

But every basic technical question has already been answered 100000x on the internet by someone really smart… for free. Just a quick google search will reveal that to us.

Sometimes, though, we just need something that is organized in a clear, clean way without needing to search through dozens of different articles.

So, I was absolutely tickled when I found this treasure trove of sound design information from Geoff Cole. It answers literally every technical sound design question we may have from gear, to effects, to setting up a studio, and everything in between.

It doesn’t focus on the creative aspects so much, like knowing whether or not a sound is good, working well with clients, or how to develop your own sound design “voice.”

But don’t worry about all that. Now that someone else has covered all the technical aspects, I can focus on getting you really good at the creative craft of sound design as quickly as possible.

Still, you absolutely have to have a solid handle on the technical side of things before we dive into the creative stuff.

Which is why Geoff’s site is so freaking good. There’s no excuse not to go through it and absorb every bit of material he has.

And once you do, you’ll be prepped and ready to absorb all my upcoming material on creative sound design.

Don’t go it alone

Working in game audio requires a ton of different skills. To succeed, you’ll need a solid mixture of creative, technical, and business skills. While the first two are tough enough, I see so many great sound designers struggling to keep the lights on due to their lack of business skills.

And who can blame them? Very few sound design programs out there teach people how to charge for their work, negotiate, and network in their industry. That’s why I created two free courses to help you find top-quality paid work, all while building a strong network.

Just sign up for those below to get instant access.

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Do You Need to Go to School to Work in Game Audio?

Here’s a question I get all the time: “Do I have to go to college/university to get a career in game audio?”

To answer that very quickly… no. No you don’t.

But school has a lot of hidden benefits that no one really talks about. I, personally, practiced 8–10 hours a day every day for many years to get into the Berklee College of Music not just so I could get better at music, but primarily to get out of my poor socioeconomic status. It worked.

It’s not really a good idea to go to school to just get good at music/sound. You can do that on your own by studying directly under a few teachers and finding some great mentors.

However, attending school will help you build an incredible network very quickly. Providing you do the ludicrous amount of work that’s required to do so.

Can you do all of that without attending a college program? Absolutely. It’ll just take a lot more initiative on your part.

Watch my latest video on whether or not you should take a college/university program to work in game audio:

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Why Deep Listening will Improve your Sound Design

Have you ever had that feeling where, after repeating or re-reading a word a whole bunch, it loses all meaning?

Turns, out, that’s called “semantic saturation.” That’s when the neurons in charge of the pronunciation and meaning of a word get so overwhelmed that they refuse to function for a bit. It doesn’t happen all that often, but it’s a fun little thing to observe when it does.

Our brain does all sorts of things to filter out various stimuli from the world around us — all in an effort to prevent our neurons from getting overwhelmed. This filtering process happens quite a lot with our sense of hearing. Most of the time, we listen to the world around us very passively, not noticing anything in particular unless something happens to stick out, like when someone honks their horn.

But, by using our hearing consciously and listening deeply, we’ll be able to hear the world around us in a way that we can’t normally. This allows us to shut out plenty of distractions, prevent our brains from getting overwhelmed, and really perceive how we can create better, more detailed sound effects.

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Deep listening is the active, conscious listening to the world around us
While we’re awake and going about our day, we’re just listening passively most of the time. The sounds of cars going by, leaves rustling… these all go acknowledged on a very subconscious level. None of these sounds takes any conscious attention to process.

However, when we participate in deep listening, we actively tune all of our attention to what we’re hearing. What kind of car is going by? Is it an electric car? A sports car? A hybrid? How fast is it going? Is the radio on? How heavy is it? What does it sound like when it’s idling at a red light? What does it sound like when it shifts from first to second gear? Or maybe it has a continuously variable transmission?

As you can see, there is a limitless amount of detail in literally every sound around us. However, because we don’t consciously listen often enough, we tend to miss these details. When we miss these details in the real world, we can’t recreate them in our game projects.

While deep listening takes some focus
It has a key benefit for our sound design work. Firstly, it helps us discern the details in the auditory world around us. We’ve all tried making sound for a game or film project, and were unsatisfied when things just didn’t “sound right.” This is because we are missing the key details that every sound should have. Unfortunately, if we don’t listen deeply to the world around us, we won’t know exactly which details are missing, causing frustration as we try to improve our work.

How should we perform deep listening?
Deep listening is an awful lot like meditation. If you do meditate regularly, then this will come pretty easily to you. Whether you are in your home, or in a totally new environment, you want to do everything you can to become present with the sounds around you. You can pick a specific sound, such as an idling car, or listen to something broader, such as the ambience of a forest around you.

Your goal is to put as much attention as you can to the sound that you wish to zone in on. Try closing your eyes, slowing your breathing, and focusing as best you can on just one sound.

Note that you absolutely will get distracted and will have to gently guide your attention back to the sound that you wish to focus on. Do this, and you will notice the incredible nuance of every sound that you may have been missing up until this point.

You can do this anytime
Providing your attention won’t be heavily split up. For example, while I’m writing this article, I’m not able to deeply listen to the world around me. However, if I’m out for a walk, or doing a simple task like cleaning the kitchen, I can absolutely zone in on specific sounds around me and hear what makes them special.

You can listen in this way pretty much wherever you are
The only thing I would recommend is to not do this while your attention is needed elsewhere. If you’re talking to a friend, riding a bike, driving a car, or wrestling an alligator, it’s probably best not to split up your attention.

We definitely don’t need to do this 24/7
That’s like telling an athlete that they need to be running all day, every day. We need breaks from time to time. It’s a good idea to start listening this way during downtime in your day. Maybe you’re waiting for a bus, sitting in a coffee shop, or walking up the stairs to your apartment. Those are all great times to zone in for a bit. Even just a few seconds here and there will reveal a lot of wonderful audio nuances to you.

Listening to your neighborhood
If you’d like to get started on this quickly, then try just taking a 5-minute walk around your neighborhood while listening deeply. You can start broadly, like listening to the way the wind blows around you, or you can hone in one specific sound — such as that dog that never stops barking across the street. You will be shocked at how much your conscious mind has been missing.

So, what have we learned about deep listening?

  • Deep listening is the active, fully-conscious use of our hearing to help us discern the nuance of the world around us.

  • The more we do this, the better we get at creating our own sounds for our projects. Instead of missing key audio details, we’ll know exactly which audio elements each moment needs.

  • All we need to do is put all of our attention on what we’re hearing — whether it be a single sound, or listening to a broader environment. If we get distracted, just gently guide our attention back to the sound we’re listening to.

Our brain naturally wants to filter things out
Whether it be a word we hear over and over, or the sounds of the world around us, our brain naturally wants to filter out as many stimuli as possible to keep us from getting overwhelmed. That’s why it’s up to us to consciously zone in and listen deeply to the world around us.

Breaking into the game industry can be tough
You have to meet tons of people, know where to find work, learn how to negotiate, and be good at what you do. I didn’t know any of this when I first started, which is why I created two free courses for you to help you master these skills.

All you need to do to gain instant access to these free courses is sign up for them below.

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Should you learn FMOD or Wwise?

I recently sent out a survey asking people what they wanted to learn about game sound design, and got tons of fantastic responses. So if you were one of the kind souls who filled it out, thank you!

Well over 80% of the answers asked about whether or not it’s a good idea to learn FMOD or Wwise. I think that’s the wrong question to ask. The answer to “should I learn…” is almost always yes. ABC: Always Be Learning.

I get it, though. Game audio isn’t always super clear on what you should or shouldn’t be doing.

Game companies do like seeing people with implementation skills, it’s true. But they generally much prefer hiring a good sound designer who is just okay at implementation, over an amazing implementor who sucks at sound design. Implementation can be learned relatively quickly, while the skills of sound design take much longer to train.

This is, of course, providing you want to create sound design for games, and not become an audio programmer, full-time implementor, or a technical sound designer.

FMOD Studio

FMOD Studio

So, this is a quick article to point you toward the right resources to get better at implementation using FMOD or Wwise:

Free Wwise Course & Certification.

Free FMOD tutorials.

Adam Croft’s fantastic website and newsletter.

There. Now no one has any excuse not to be at least decent at implementation!

These technical skills are important
And along with technical skills, we also need to focus on creative and business skills. Unfortunately, I see so many great sound designers struggling in their careers because of their lack of business skills.

I certainly found it tough to charge for my work, network, and negotiate with developers when I first started. And considering I struggled so much in my early days, I created two free courses to help my fellow game audio freelancers find great, paying work that they love.

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Quicker, Easier, Clearer Sound Design

When I first attended the Berklee College of Music in Boston, I was excited. I was especially looking forward to the school’s professors and curriculum to teach me as much about music as possible. I had a lot of holes in my musical knowledge to fill, after all.

I was Soma from Food Wars ready to go to Tōtsuki Culinary Academy.

Only one year in, though, and my dreams started to falter. I just wasn’t getting it. No matter how many times a professor explained a concept, or how much extra homework I did, nothing was making sense. In fact, even though I had a great time at Berklee, there were still a lot of basics I just didn’t understand after graduating.

Even at the time, I knew it wasn’t the professors’ fault. They were doing their best. It wasn’t the school’s fault — so many other students were doing great using the system that I struggled so much with. Instead, I blamed myself for not being able to learn.

Over 6 years after graduating, though, I now have a solid understanding of music and sound. How? I looked for different angles. I learned that blaming myself was unproductive. Instead, I learned to blame the systems I was taught and decided to learn about music and sound from angles different than what Berklee used. This led to huge leaps in knowledge in super short periods of time.

It’s easy to think that, if something isn’t clicking, we must blame ourselves. Providing you’ve been putting the work in, that usually isn’t a good idea. As sound designers, we too need to approach sound from as many angles as humanly possible to make sure that what we’re creating is as good as it can be.

In this article, we’re going to dive down the sound design rabbit hole and cover:

  1. How to approach sound design from multiple angles

  2. Creating sound using an additive process

When I mention multiple angles
I don’t mean recording your sounds from various microphone positions. Not in this case, at least. What I do mean is that many of the sounds you create need to have multiple, seemingly unrelated, elements associated with them.

Take, for example, the sound of a door being closed. Many beginner sound designers will simply record a realistic door closing, sync it up with their film or game project and call it good. While this will sound perfectly realistic, there are almost no pieces of media (other than documentaries, and even then, not all the time) that sound exactly the way the real world does. We as players and viewers want our experiences to go beyond reality, even if it’s done in a subtle way.

So, as designers, it’s up to us to determine what each sound needs
So if purely realistic sounds aren’t always the right choice, then we need to determine what extra elements are needed for each and every sound. Each of these elements could be a newsletter in and of themselves, so we’re not going to go super deep into each one.

Instead, I’ll introduce the concepts of each, then explain them much deeper in future videos and posts.

Sound good?

Firstly, we must take the emotional context into account
What’s the emotion of the sound we’re trying to create? Yes, even if we’re simply creating the sound of a creaky door, we need to consider the emotional impact we want to make. Is this a horror movie? In which case, the door should be ominous, and possibly sound heavier than it actually is.

We also need to consider what, if any, impact the sound should have

Sticking with the door example, it could be that this horror-movie-door gets slammed shut. In which case, what sort of impact do we want that door to have? Again, it probably shouldn’t sound completely realistic. This is a horror movie after all.

And speaking of enhancing, we can also use “sweeteners” to upgrade the sound
A sweetener is generally a sound that, on its own, doesn’t sound like much, but when layered underneath other sound effects, subtly enhances the core sound that we’re working with.

When this door slams shut, for example, you can add the sound of a large bass drum being struck. On its own, it would sound out of place, but in the context of the movie, a big bassy thud will definitely make this door sound like a big deal when it gets slammed. But there are other elements as well. We can’t just focus on the shutting of the door itself.

So, we move on to the coverage elements
Not only do we need to focus on the creaking and slamming of the door itself, but we must also focus on any sounds that happen before and after the on-screen event. For example, does the door crack and moan before it gets closed, as if in anticipation? After it gets closed, does the house shake and shudder in response? These elements allow our sound to fit

And lastly, we move on to the tail of the sound
What happens after the main chunk of the sound stops? In the real world, there isn’t usually much of a decay. Many sounds start and end somewhat abruptly. That being said, if you start and stop sounds abruptly when working on any piece of media, then you’ll find that they just don’t blend into the scene as nicely as you would like.

You’ll need to follow an additive process with these elements
Which means you’ll need to add each element one by one. For example, you could start with the initial impact, then add coverage, then a tail. Lastly, you could add a sweetener as well. You don’t need to do these in any particular order. So long as the final sound is good, then you’re set.

Note that each of these elements can (and likely will) be made up of more than one sound. A door slamming shut in a horror movie may feature the sound of a door, cracking wood, and a bassy boom, all as a part of the impact element. Layering various sounds in each of these categories will make a huge difference for your sounds overall.

You may be thinking “that’s a lot to think about for every sound I ever make”
Thankfully, you do not need every element for every sound. Some sounds will work just fine with an impact and a tail (such as a simple gunshot.) Whereas others may need more of these elements. It’s up to you as a designer to use your ears and determine what’s working best.

You now know how to avoid a common sound design mistake
Many people will ask other sound designers “how do I make X sound?” but that’s a very limited way of thinking about sound design.

Think about it, you wouldn’t ask an artist “how do I draw a dog?” would you? There are thousands upon thousands of ways to draw a dog. Is the dog big? Is it happy? Is it half-hippopotamus? The question itself doesn’t lend itself to a good answer… only more questions.

Instead, you can (and should) think of sounds in terms of various elements. “This door should have a lot of impact. What sounds can I record that would have a lot of bassy thuds to it?” is a far more effective question “How do I make the Resident Evil 2 door sound?”

We’re absolutely going to cover this all more in depth
But for now, here is a recap of what we’ve covered:

  • Using purely realistic sounds (usually) isn’t going to lead to satisfying sound design in your projects

  • It’s a good idea to consider the emotional context of the sounds you create. Are they horrific? Is the character evil? Take this all into account!

  • You’ll need to add multiple elements to many of your sounds, including impacts, sweeteners, tail, and coverage elements.

  • Not every sound needs every one of these elements. Some sounds are simpler than others. Some sound, like ambiences, stand on their own without any of these sorts of elements.

My time at Berklee taught me the importance of approaching things from multiple angles
And how that mindset can really apply to anything. When we’re working on sound, we certainly can just rush into creating our effects and hoping it works out, but it would be far more effective to consider what each sound needs from multiple points of view.

One of the hardest things about working in game audio is the lack of direction
It can be a gargantuan task just to break into this industry and an even greater challenge to start making an income as a composer/sound designer.

If you’d like to master these skills, then sign up for my newsletter below, where you’ll get access to two free courses and a free eBook that will help you find game industry work, network with fellow developers, and get paid well for what you do.

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Grit > Talent

I remember when I was in high school and just getting seriously invested in playing the drums.

I would practice for 8 hours a day every day without fail. Even when my family and I drove 18 hours to visit my cousins every summer, I would bring a practice pad and play in the car non-stop.

Instead of partying on the weekends like everyone else, I would practice. In my mind, this was the only way I could get out of the small, incredibly poor town that I'm from, so I invested everything into it.

Even with all of this practice and all of this focus, there were plenty of people my age who could play tons better than me. I also made a couple of friends that barely needed to practice. They were among the rare few that "had it" naturally.

As years went on, I kept falling behind them. My skills would grow, but not nearly at the rate of any of my naturally talented peers. It was discouraging, but I still pushed as hard as I could to get better.

And after almost a decade of playing the drums, I ended up going to the Berklee College of Music, where I saw all of this happen to an even greater extent.

I saw prodigies who barely touched their instrument be in the top 1% of playing ability. I saw people who never showed up to class performing at huge gigs and playing circles around everyone else. They were also the ones getting most of the scholarship money.

And then I saw something that I didn't understand at the time.

I saw many of these incredibly talented naturals get crushed by the tiniest of failures.

Losing one gig would cause them to go into a spiral of despair. Being bested by someone else would cause them to question their very existence. Hell, I saw one of them burst into tears at getting a B on a test.

But now, in hindsight, it all makes sense.

Everything came incredibly easy to these people, so they never once had to tough anything out. They grew up surrounded by praise and attention. They didn't know the sting of failure.

As soon as the smallest negative came into their life, they were shattered. And most of the time, they quit. They didn't have the opportunity to build grit.

I even did a quick search on the people who got full scholarships in the years surrounding my time at Berklee. Out of 12, only 2 of them are still in the music industry.

Think about that, out of 12 people that Berklee deemed to be good enough to receive hundreds-of-thousands of dollars in scholarships, only 2 stayed the course.

Now, maybe some of them realized that they wanted to do something else with their lives. Great. Nothing wrong with that.

But out of a dozen people, I think it's a pretty safe bet to assume at least a few more than two wanted to make music for a living.

I mention all of this because every single one of us (myself included) has thought about quitting our pursuit to work in games. 

We wonder if we should just get a regular job.

We wonder if we have what it takes.

Often, we'll get into a slump and wonder if all the insane amounts of effort are worthwhile. And we think that we must not have the natural personality, gifts, or talents that would ensure our success.

Most dangerously, we start to think that we can't grow and change - that all we have now is all we'll have forever.

I'm here to tell you that it's not just natural ability that's going to take us to the next level. Sure, it helps, but it is far from what defines our future.

A considerable part of what determines our futures is grit. 

Grit is the ability to face adversity and grow. It's the ability to make intelligent decisions whether we're on top of the world, or at a low point in our lives. 

To this day, I'm still thankful to my childhood drum instructor, Karl, who during our first lesson, said "We're here to develop skill. We're not interested in talent."

I think about that line almost every day. I'm not a natural. Nothing in the game audio world has ever come easily to me. It takes a tremendous amount of focus, work, and failure to move just a few inches forward.

That's a regular part of this process, though. We're not in this because it's easy.

Is there somewhere in your life where you can have more grit? Is there something that you've been resisting? What's keeping you from pushing through to the next level?

Schedule > Goals

We're already a few months into 2018! Hooray!

This also means it's time for people to start quitting on the goals and resolutions they set for themselves. Aww.

That's not really too big of a surprise, though. This is usually the point when things start to get hard.

Many of us sometimes wonder if we really "should" be working this hard for something that doesn't have any guarantees.

After all, it feels like it all comes so easily to some people.

Why shouldn't we just sit back and watch anime about the handsomest boys being handsome together?

From Gakuen: Handsome. An anime I watched with my good friend Jacob Pernell. It's about the handsomest boys being handsome together. Watch it. It's so good.

From Gakuen: Handsome. An anime I watched with my good friend Jacob Pernell. It's about the handsomest boys being handsome together. Watch it. It's so good.

I've absolutely felt that struggle. The entirety of my second TEDx talk was about this exact feeling.

Thankfully, mercifully, that feeling of struggle and challenge is 100% part of the process.

Setting Goals

Setting goals is great. It's definitely a good idea to take some time and write your goals down. Getting clear about what you want in your life makes it a lot easier to say yes and no to the right things.

In fact, I'm SUCH a big fan of tracking and measuring goals that the amount of journals I have has gotten a little out of control.

I only have 9. What. That's completely normal. Fight me.

I only have 9. What. That's completely normal. Fight me.

Your Schedule

While your goals matter, you need to make sure you have a plan to follow through with them.

Being able to follow through on something consistently puts you in a different league. It's a level of discipline that can be considered a super power in our distracted world.

So while your goal will give you some direction, how you schedule out your work matters a hell of a lot more.

How are you scheduling your tasks? Especially the big, life-changing daunting things you know you need to do.

Do your workouts actually show up on your calendar? How about your composition practice blocks?

Do you have a back up plan for when you can't go all-out on your tasks? Maybe you get sick, or are traveling… do you know how you can keep progress going then?

Your Average Speed

Author, blogger, photographer, and generally super cool-dude James Clear calls this process "increasing your average speed."

He posits that the maximum speed that you do something doesn't matter so much. Anyone can get inspired, work their ass off for a short period of time, and then regress to bad habits shortly after.

But if you do something consistently over a long period of time, your results will be incredible.

My Methods

I use this mentality in every aspect of my life, whether it be personal or career-based goals.

To give you an example, here is a screenshot of my fitness calendar to show you how I schedule in my workouts. Each blue block is a separate workout.

I put these blocks in before any tasks/meetings. Taking care of myself comes first.

Now, can I hit all of these workouts with a 100% success rate?

No, of course not. Sometimes I might be sick, be traveling, or have something else come up.


Backup Plans

But, I have contingencies.

If I'm sick, I'll go for a walk instead. Or if I'm completely dead, I'll just rest.

I do lots of meal prep so my food is always healthy and ready to go.

If I'm traveling, I'll get a temporary gym membership in whatever city I'm in. Even when I was halfway around the world in Malta, I signed up at a gym and got my workouts in.

That being said, sometimes you just run out of time, have tons of meetings to get to, or are just at a conference that is exhausting.

There's a contingency for those scenarios, too. I got some weighted jumpropes that give me an incredibly intense workout no matter where in the world I am.

My pile of weighted jumpropes.

My pile of weighted jumpropes.

No matter what you're pursuing, you need to have backup plans. Your process is not going to be smooth all the time. 

Make sure you can do SOMETHING, regardless of what comes up.

As a sidenote, the times I have set up aren't completely rigid.

Each of these workouts may shift from time to time depending on what's going on that day. That's totally normal. So long as I get that workout in that day, then we're good.

Whatever you're consistent with will shape your future self.

If you're consistently putting yourself out there, practicing, and looking for projects, your odds of finding great work are multiplied greatly.

If you're consistently feeding bad habits and mindsets, they'll eat you alive.

What are you going to do to make sure you can execute as often as possible? How are you going to increase your average speed? 

What are you going to schedule in to your week?