Professionalism. What is it?

So.

The Long and Short of It

The short version is that I got blacklisted from a (presumably) large company and my reputation was ruined among a few big names in esports.

The long version is that I applied for a position at World Wide Gaming. Ever heard of it? Me either. I found the job offering on Esports Career and saw that it was a really ambitious startups. Personally, I always try to look for startups to join because I know it’s much easier to get into a management position in an organization that isn’t already established. So I thought, “Why not apply for this Editor-in-Chief position? It might end up being a good gig.”

About a week later, I was contacted by someone on Twitter (not the person I emailed) regarding the job. I wasn’t even considered for the EiC position, it was automatically assumed that I would be writer. No words at all about the application or how they thought I would be useful somewhere else.

So that was a bit disappointing. Afterwards, I was told grand stories about a huge investor who was looking to get into gaming/esports news. There was a production studio being built in Tennessee that was supposed to produce 24/7 video news! I was told that I’d have the opportunity to go all over the US to different events and record video (interviews, venue tours, etc.), and that all of my work would be well paid. For an esports writer/journalist, that is like the dream come true.

Unfortunately, I’ve seen way too many similar situations happen in esports—promises of big money/opportunity made to kids who literally have no money at all that are never fulfilled. If it sounds too good to be true, it usually is.

So I started doing some digging. I searched the people involved with World Wide Gaming, including the investor, my point of contact, and one other person I was told about. I extensively researched the history of their Twitter and Facebook accounts. I even looked up IP history and Tennessee corporations. Other than the 117K follower Twitter that had only had the handle @WWG for three weeks, I was unable to find any evidence of foul play or real shadiness.

But I also literally could not find any information about the group itself. In an attempt to get a better understanding of the organization, I sent out some feelers. I asked my point of contact about the Twitter, asked the investor about WWG via Twitter, etc.

The result? I was ignored, blocked, and never got any responses. I tried several times over the weekend to contact the organization, but was unable to find anyone available to contact other than the original guy who contacted me. After several days of silence, I finally received an email from the guy I emailed about the EiC job. He told me that, while my writing and editing skills were impressive, they were looking for someone more experienced with “working with people, developing talent, and working with a young company that needs to grow”.

From this comment, I can only surmise that public questions and concerns I raised on Twitter made them think that I was unprofessional.

The Criticism

Part of me is never repentant of my criticism. My intuition is always right, and I’ve learned to trust it. The lack of transparency and communication within World Wide Gaming is straight up terrible. Listing big names doesn’t mean anything, and it appears that their structure of organization is inconsistent at best. I’m still unable to find who is actually in charge of hiring.

The followup response to my questioning by ignoring and blocking me is the lowest, slimiest, thing a “reputable” member of the community can do. My questions were fair and straightforward, and my attempts to contact them were far from harassment. Absolutely ridiculous.

I don’t think World Wide Gaming is a scam. But I’m pretty sure it’s a group of individuals who literally have no idea what they’re doing. Esports history is full of investors who get into stuff they don’t understand and fail miserably. While several high-profile members of the esports community may be (allegedly) involved, I still worry about the likelihood that many of them have never played these roles before.

The Papercut

Nonetheless, every time I face rejection or criticism, it hits deep. I wonder what exactly it was that I did wrong and what I could have done better.

In this case, I have been up for hours wondering if my comments on Twitter were too visceral or too plain. Was it just the simple act of revealing their investor? Is revealing investors a cardinal sin in the business world?

There’s a lot I still need to learn about business, writing, and life. I’ve got a lot of experience and expertise that I’ve built up over the last few years, but I’m still learning. There is always the very real possibility that I’m an idiot.

In any case, decisions like these will continue to haunt me and make me wonder if I threw away a chance at an esports career. Is this the sort of dirt that people uncover 10 years later and call you a hypocrite for? Have I made some very real enemies in the esports world?

I’m scared, but I will try to channel my effort into the what has always been the most important thing to me: my work.

On words. And becoming an esports writer.

After discovering the literal holy grail of articles on working in esports, I’ve decided to offer up my own thoughts and fill in some of the holes in them with my own experience.

I think it’s important to note that I’m not really anyone significant. I’m not the guy who has 100K Twitter followers. I’m not really widely known or respected. I’m not making that much money as an esports writer. And to be truthful, I’m not even that good at writing.

Nonetheless, I do have a decent amount of experience in this field, and I’ve helped a lot of friends significantly improve their writing and find paid work in esports. Yes, paid work.

Learn How to Format Your Stuff

For the love of god, learn how to format articles correctly. Formatting is like 90% of an editor’s job. As such, organizations look specifically for people who can present a fully fleshed-out article. Even if the content isn’t top-notch, a good-looking submission is enough to convince orgs that your work is worth paying for.

  • Break your paragraphs up with images, videos, or lists. No one wants to read a wall of text.
  • Always write cleanly and concisely. Avoid excessive punctuation, overly wordy descriptions, and long sentences.
  • Use key words in your headings and paragraphs.
  • The standard article length is 800-1200 words.
  • Resize your images to a standard size (varies depending on the publishing client)
  • Learn basic HTML/BB code (headers, italics, bold, hyperlinks, images, blockquotes, etc.)

The typical format for an online article is very similar to a high school paper. Pick a topic, provide at least three main points, and tie it all together with a conclusive sentence or optional conclusion section.

    Header 1
    Introduction (no heading)
    Header 2
    Body Paragraph
    Header 2
    Body Paragraph
    Header 2
    Body paragraph
    Conclusion (optional)

Elements of Style

Elements of Style is one of my favorite books of all time. Anyways.

Brevity is paramount in the industry of online publishing. Though you may enjoy the flowery descriptions of classical writing from Dickens or Tolkien, it simply doesn’t have a place here. People are scanning through your paragraphs for key information. Multiple headings with short paragraphs using short sentences with lots of periods—that’s the way to go.

The golden rule is generally 3-5 of everything. 3-5 headings, 3-5 paragraphs per heading, and 3-5 sentences per paragraph. This also loosely applies to images/line breaks and bullet point lists too. Longer articles can play with this formatting a bit, but a standard online article typically sticks to this rule.

You need to be (sometimes overly) clear in your wording. Explain everything as if your reader “is dumb”, especially for analytical articles. This is both for the reader’s sake and your own. It’s easy to connect points A to C in your head as you’re writing, but sometimes you may skip over certain points of logic entirely in the article.

Outgrowing “Volunteer” Hell

You’re going to have to volunteer for things at first. That’s just how it is. Traditional careers have “internships”; esports writing has “volunteer work”. I worked for TeamLiquid.net for several years as a volunteer before I was ever actually taken seriously, and that time was invaluable to me in terms of refining my writing and getting a feel for online publishing.

You need skills and experience before you’re ready to publish biweekly articles for money. You have to learn how to format the articles correctly, connect with your audience, and create storylines.

Blogging is also a legitimate way to learn skills. There are several great writers in the Heroes community alone who have started with outstanding posts on Reddit or the TeamLiquid.net forums and bloomed into successful writers. Volunteering for an organization allows you to get more exposure, but it’s not the only route for gaining experience.

The point I want to make is that “volunteering” is not a dirty word, it’s a chance for you to build competency in a low-pressure environment. Once you’re at a decent level, you can start to look for paid jobs.

How to Look for a Big Boy/Girl Job

So you’ve grown out of your volunteer days, and now it’s time to find a “real” job. Spoiler alert: paid writing jobs are hard to come by in any industry, but especially in esports. Nonetheless, there are paid jobs out there, you just have to look.

eSports Career is probably the easiest resource for finding a paid writing job in esports. I have found and applied for multiple jobs through the site, and some of them (like Esports Edition) have turned out to be real treasures.

Another method for a job search is campaigning. Think of every sponsored esports organization you can think of (Dignitas, Tempo Storm, Red Bull, SK Gaming, Coke, etc.) and just email them with your credentials and an inquiry about joining their editorial team. It’s not the best way to find a job, but you’d be surprised at how many people will actually respond to you with mild interest.

The third major way of landing a writing job is networking. I spent a good amount of time earlier this year just lurking in streamers’ channels, following community members and pro players on Twitter, and looking for every possible opportunity to interact with them. It’s much easier to get a job with an organization if you have a friend who can give you a heads up or vouch for you.

A word of caution to this tale: make sure you research all organizations you’re thinking about joining. Look for past history of management problems, failure to pay, or legal issues; these are all red flags. Look up who’s in charge and find out more about them. Make sure the size/prestige of the organization matches the size/prestige of your goals.

Understanding Base Rates for Writing

Another super important consideration for a job is the payout. Before becoming a freelance writer, I had no idea what I should get paid. I had to do a lot of digging and research before I was able to figure out what the “standard” rate was.

I’ll make it easy for you: don’t take a writing job for less than $0.05/word.

Just don’t do it. Unless you are an ungodly prolific writer who can spit out 10k words of quality articles per day, it’s just not worth your time to write for any amount that low. That said, your base rate as a noob esports writer should start at $0.05.

    Min rate: $0.05/word
    Max rate: $0.25/word
    Target: $0.10-$0.15/word

A really sweet gig will net you up to approximately $0.25/word, but those types of jobs are few and far between in the esports world. Shoot for the median $0.10 to $0.15, and you’ll make a reasonable income.

For flat rates per article (i.e. $50 per article), compare them to the average article length (800-1200) to get the rate per word. Then try not to go overboard; the longer your article gets, the less your time is worth.

Always sign a contract.

Seriously, always sign a contract. (Beware of non-competes).

Discovering Your Worth

Your worth is how valuable you are to an employer. Brand new writers with little experience in online publication and writing for an esports audience aren’t worth much. Competent writers who have been around for a few years are going to be worth much more.

When you discover your worth, you can determine the proper payment for your work. Do not be afraid to negotiate with organizations.

As a general rule, undervalue your worth but negotiate higher. For instance, if I know I’m a noob who still has a lot to learn, I will value myself at $0.05/word, but I will negotiate for $0.10/word. If I can convince my employer to bump up my pay by even one cent, I’ve succeeded in raising my worth for future jobs.

Your worth is a big part of your identity as a writer, and it’s important to soberly recognize where you stand in the grand scheme of things. Practice self-awareness.

Your Future in Esports

You can do it. You may need to work another job to keep afloat while your esports career takes off, but it’s not impossible. All you need is a lot of hard work, dedication, and a support group of community members who can encourage you.

Esports is a rapidly growing industry. News sites and small orgs are springing up everywhere looking to cash in on the money train. As we move into the future and esports becomes more integrated into our daily lives, there will be an increasing demand for skilled writers. Right now is your chance to get in on the ground floor (maybe second floor) and make a name for yourself before competition becomes too fierce.

If you ever need any help, I’m always free to help review/edit articles and recommend jobs. Just hit me up on Twitter and I’ll be happy to help out :).

Betrayal. Moving Forward.

Breakup

Two weeks after my resignation from the Heroes section of TL.net, I still feel lost. I liken this feeling to a breakup, and I think that’s an accurate description. I’ve dumped innumerable hours into Team Liquid over the past five years, so being told that I was worth little more than a trial writer was painful. It was worse than painful; it was the worst betrayal I’ve ever felt. I’ve never had a relationship lasting longer than a year. I’ve never poured that much into something.

Nonetheless, I move forward. Life is full of ups and downs, and you just have to move with it and grow. One of my favorite quotes, as silly as it may be, is from Abathur from Heroes of the Storm: “Work harder, faster. Make better, stronger. Evolution never complete.” If I think about what I’ve been through and what’s coming in the future, I know that everything I do is simply preparation for better things—that I’m actively evolving all the time.

Remember when you couldn’t work a microwave or boil a pot of water? It wasn’t a huge deal back then, but growing up has forced you to figure out a way to feed yourself.

And so I feed myself.

Dragging Myself Out of Bed

There are a few invaluable lessons learned from this whole affair. First, I know that my instincts are correct. I am a good writer, a good manager, and I have the ability to run my own business. These unwavering and unerring instincts have led me so far and are continually reaffirmed when I reflect on what’s happened.

Likewise, I have the equally crippling weakness of affection, which can cause me to lose sight of those instincts. I’ve always been the type of person who looks for the best in everyone. To some degree, this is a good quality; giving people the benefit of the doubt, especially in a management position, is a strength.

The difficulty lies when you know you shouldn’t give someone a second chance and do it anyway because you like them, particularly in a managerial role. If you want things done well, never leave it to someone you don’t trust will do it well. Do it yourself, find someone else, or spend some effort trying to train them.

Recently, I asked a friend of mine who manages a store what he thinks are the most important traits of a successful manager. Here’s what he replied:

  • You’ve got to make sure everyone likes you. Because when something’s wrong they need to be able to open up to you.
  • You’ve got to be willing to put in more work than all your other workers but still get what you need done.
  • There are no days off. The store is your baby.

Interestingly, none of these came as a surprise to me. I have worked long and hard enough at a craft to understand these rules.

However, I’m still young. I’m still ignorant. This experience has also been humbling in a multitude of ways. I realized that the work that I’m putting out—my articles—is not on par with the work I’ve come to expect from myself. The articles I have written over the last three months are, in truth, not very good and don’t live up to my fullest potential.

An Attempt at Success

Success isn’t a miracle or a happy accident, it’s a story full of ups and downs.

I have spent a large part of the past seven years working on my craft (writing), experimenting with styles and formatting and wording. In an effort to further my career as an online (and modern) writer, I learned HTML and Photoshop so that I could deliver a full product to customers.

And yet…I still haven’t really put it all together. My latest article is perhaps my proudest in a while, but it still pales in comparison to what I’m actually able to do. My best work is still ahead of me.

To some degree, that’s a really comforting thought, but it means that I need to get off my ass and really get motivated. It’s both a gift and a curse to know where your potential lies. It lets you know when you need to start working, but it can also feel like an unending and unlikely road to success when you’re continually tormented with the idea that your work isn’t good enough. Still, it’s some sort of fuel.

I’m making an effort to spend more time reading and understanding stylistic writing, and I want to write more on average. I’m realizing that it’s important to live and breathe success…to literally breathe every thought and every word into the model of success. You have to want to be successful as much as you want to live; this is how you transform, this is how you grow.

You have to know hunger in order to learn how to feed yourself.
You have to know famine in order to learn the importance of water.
And you have to be better than you are right now in order to continue moving forward.