Request The Rest

So the next step in getting your CRAP done is that now you've Created what you can, it's time to Request what you can't do yourself. This goes back to the TMI principle that everything you want requires an investment of Time, Money, or Influence.

If you are a real freak and you actually want to do things yourself from end to end, you can invest the Time to learn it. And in the early stages of your efforts, this may be all you have - a lot of people reach the point of developing badassery because they've insufficient Money and are living paycheque to paycheque, and being new in an industry naturally means you've no Influence to leverage.

I ran into this with the video intros for my YouTube work. I wanted a very specific thing with sound effects and background music and animation, but when I went out to try and get it, I found that everyone I could give Money wanted too much of it... and everyone I could Influence into doing it as a favour completely sucked at it.

So I did it myself, investing my Time. It took me a few months to get comfortable enough with Illustrator that I could do the graphics, and then a couple more to wrap my head around AfterEffects, and then I had to find the right sound effects and create a decent soundtrack.

What I didn't do myself, I generally traded Money for. I had to buy some sound effects collections, which came to about $60 or so all told, and I picked up some clipart vector graphics and backgrounds for like $20. The soundtrack is one I did for the video game I entered in Dream/Build/Play a few years ago, Railgun, which unfortunately didn't win and I didn't see a lot of possibilities for that as a business and income stream.

The face graphic was done by Colin Theriot, one of my few applications of Influence that has resulted in quality work I use frequently, because he is awesome and you should totally join his cult. Note that this has paid off on his side, too, because I insistently talk him up and advertise his stuff for free. That's not exclusively because he drew me a picture, but it helped.

Ultimately, I did about fourteen variations on this theme, which took about twelve total hours of actual work once I understood what I was doing.

An important thing to keep in mind here is that I have generated assets, I use that image Colin did for me everywhere. I have a massive library of sound effects and vector silhouettes and background images, because royalty-free licensing is cheap as shit. And even on the Time front, the skills I've developed with Illustrator and AfterEffects are applicable to future projects... potentially for paying clients. Except I hate clients.

Regardless of the end goal, I always pursue the purchase or acquisition of something reusable. If I could have gotten this sequence made for me and paid under $100 (I was being quoted $200 and up), I would have found it an inferior deal because I wouldn't have the pieces of that sequence or the additional library of licensed assets, nor would I have the skills to use them.

In a similar fashion, here's a professionalism secret: every high-end product begins each piece of the product with a distinctive and recogniseable series of images and sounds. It's best if the images are animated and the sounds include music. It induces a Pavlovian response where you reinforce repeatedly that this visual and audio sequence precedes the kind of thing you deliver - it's branding, but it's also conditioning. By using images and sounds that stir specific emotions and associations, you can transfer those emotions and associations to you and your training.

The six-second intro I've got on my videos, for example, is full of industrial imagery and sound effects - screeching sheet steel (heavy metal!) and heavy latches and pneumatic wrenches. The background music is a sort of '80s techno thing. And the first sound effect is taken from a library of fight sounds, in the 1970s kung fu vein. This is designed to evoke a machine shop and the idea of using high-powered tools, which carries along with it the notion of doing work, but that techno track implies that it's still a party environment. My most engaged and involved audience are people for whom these carry positive associations.

And the key to all of this was that before I went and did this, I couldn't do any of it. It's not the product's Revenue task - it's Excise - and most of the months I spent learning the software was Assistive. But from a Logistical perspective, it performs an important job that is necessary for the overarching plan of the product - it reaches the customer on a level that just jumping straight in wouldn't.

On the "current example" front, since I've already associated a theme song with my work, I'd use the same track to introduce a CD program. Marketing!

Tomorrow we'll talk about the part where you Assemble everything...