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Work With Everyone

I have this mantra: “Work with everyone.” It’s a business & creative endeavor philosophy I started subscribing to around a year ago. I’m still pretty new this this hobby/industry/creative community/whatever you want to call it, but there’s something I noticed that’s worth calling out:

Nearly every person I respect in this space works
or has worked with a lot of different people.

As I’ve started working with different people, I’ve taken lessons from my interactions with all of them. Editing & developing Paul Tevis’ game A Penny For My Thoughts, working with Fred Hicks & Ben Baugh[1] on Don’t Lose Your Mind, working with the massive Evil Hat Crew on The Dresden Files RPG, working with Brennan Taylor in my role as Indie Press Revolution‘s General Manager, all these things keep me on my toes and make me a better, sharper, more proficient professional. (Apologies to those I’m leaving out, as I have taken lessons from all of you.)

If I were to stick exclusively with the same crowd, while we would probably build a fantastic rapport and solid shorthand, I feel like I’d also limit my exposure to new ideas and ways of doing things. And in my former/day-job profession as a software engineer, I totally see that happening all that time.

So, I don’t want to be that guy. I want to try working with everyone, to learn all that I can and to (hopefully) share knowledge in turn. Furthermore–and this is key–I don’t want to give people reason to treat me like someone they don’t want to work with. While I won’t succeed 100%, I think that’s the key to whatever success I have ahead of me. At some point, I want to work with you. And I want you to want to work with me. This means I need to make and keep up a reputation for being reliable, useful, and being thought of more highly than “a total cockbite[2].”

At the moment, the “reliable” one is hurting, because I’ve over-subscribed myself. But, I’m unburying myself and am not immediately taking on new work (though I am always talking to people about “The Future”). That means I have learned one of the early lessons that many freelancers learn the hard way, of over-booking themselves out of fear that saying “no” means never getting another opportunity. (I suspect “the myth of opportunity” is a future blog post.)

I think I’m pretty useful to people. At least, Fred keeps hiring me to do stuff with Evil Hat, so there’s got to be something going for me there. But, again, that usefulness only comes from experience, and a variety of experience is better than being cloistered.

The “not being a total cockbite” is the big one. There are people that I am leery of working with, in spite of my mantra, because they have that sort of reputation. That reputation flags in two ways: One, am I actually going to be able to finish a product or project with this person, or is this just a waste of my time? Two, is this person’s reputation going to drag me down along with him or her? I don’t want to be professionally hurt by being a Cockbite-by-Association. So if I have that sort of reaction to people I might otherwise work with, I have to recognize that people could have that reaction of me. Thus, I take steps to keep myself from being that guy, even if it means I’m a little more boring on Twitter and the like than I otherwise would be.

Thus, “Work with everyone” (or the full version, “Work with everyone who is willing to work with me, but don’t be stupid about it and go into each new working relationship with eyes open”) is shorthand for my entire philosophy on professional conduct. As a freelancer, I’m young. It’s easy to cut off opportunities when you don’t yet have an established reputation. “Work with everyone” helps me take action to avoid that. I won’t be entirely successful, as I’m sure I’ll piss someone off or flag as undesirable to some folks, but I’ll be more successful than if I didn’t try, if I didn’t have a code of conduct that drives my interactions.

Of course, this is just about business. When the day is done, I have a pretty select group of people (although always slowly growing) with whom I want to go to the bar and grab a drink. “Work With Everyone” doesn’t mean “Be Everyone’s Best Friend.” Man alive, I certainly don’t have the energy for that.

– Ryan

[1] Oh, crap. I still owe that man his ENnie.

[2] I do love the word “cockbite.” It may not be a professional word, but by damn it does the job. And it’s fun to say. Try it.

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6 Responses to Work With Everyone

  1. I ran into that early into my stint doing freelance/Highmoon Media, where I took on anyone and everyone and believed we’d reach the moon (no pun intended). It didn’t happen, and eventually it was me who ended up coming as the flake who couldn’t deliver, which hurt on a variety of areas. It took some stepping back and letting opinions be what they may before I was able to regain control and learn my lesson. If you’re setting out from the start with this mantra, you’re already ahead of the game.

  2. stacey says:

    I hear what you are saying about trying to work with other people. I am new to the game design venture as well and am still trying to learn how to work with one of my closest friends. But the more people you can meet, the better it is. But sometimes people have a hard time doing that and social networking is hard to always accomplish. It is hard to prove to people that you are trying to make more friends as well as contacts. I am glad to see that what you are doing is making you happy.

  3. I learn something new with everyone I work with. It has given me my “share the love” mantra and a whole lot of patience when working with people who are still learning what to do. You learn by teaching. You learn by following. You learn through collaboration. It is all good.

  4. Tim White says:

    Be careful of that trapcast_jenn though….she’s a panda. ;)

  5. Jeff Tidball says:

    The concrete benefits I’ve gotten out of working with a wide pool of collaborators in my career to date is one of the factors that makes me so scornful of the freelancing bans that some publishers impose on their employees. It hurts everybody, all around, those employers (especially) included.

    “Cockbite.”

    Heh.

  6. Mike says:

    “That means I have learned one of the early lessons that many freelancers learn the hard way, of over-booking themselves out of fear that saying ‘no’ means never getting another opportunity.”

    A corollary: Even if you’re excited about a project, don’t let that excitement get in the way of being a professional. I don’t mean “professional” as in “Don’t tell the boss to piss off” — I mean “professional” as in “someone who’s paid to do this.” Don’t let that exuberance and joy get in the way of taking care of the business end of things. And if the person you’re working with isn’t especially interested in that, then seriously reconsider whether you should be working with them, even though and in spite of your enthusiasm.