How to get TouchDesigner gigs
I’ll be honest, it’s a bit of a sensationalist title, and I also don’t know who “they” is! I guess they could be education system or community forums or peers. But let’s get down to the point. Getting TouchDesigner gigs can be difficult. Not only are there so many different facets of TouchDesigner development, such as 3D-heavy gigs, web API-based gigs, sensor-based gigs, and more. So how are you even supposed to get good at learning all these different things let alone getting hired to do them so you can pay your bills?? Well, over all the years I’ve been in the industry, I’ve noticed a few trends that no one really talks about that can make your early career a lot easier and can give context to those in the later stages of their careers. So let’s dive in!
It’s not about being the best
I say this with trepidation because you won’t make a living if you’re a bad developer. That is plain and simple. Get good at what you’re doing, in this case TouchDesigner, and you’ll get more gigs. BUT, there’s always context to your skills. Especially when you’re just getting started and you’re still learning there are tons of gigs to be had. Some jobs won’t require the best, in fact I’d even present a hot take that most jobs don’t require the best. Tons of jobs are responsive-video-players-TM or some-kind-of-kinect-based-trigger-system-TM or any other trope of an interactive installation. This doesn’t mean there isn’t merit to these jobs (they often pay way more than the hectic super technical/art gigs!), but the reality is they don’t require the top 5% of TouchDesigner developers to do them. The reality is that some jobs just need maintenance or a maintainer to make sure things are going smoothly/fix a bug. Some jobs have more taxing working environments than they do programming requirements (like sitting in a freezing server room on the other side of the world make sure computers boot up automatically). Some jobs are to just be the main developers assistant with some boring tasks, testing, reading, or whatever else the main developer might need.
So don’t think that because you’re not a super star of a developer that there isn’t a TouchDesigner gig for you, oh boy there’s gigs a plenty! You just have to know what gigs to ask for and to accept that they might not be glamorous for a while. One way to do that is to ask around if there are small or menial jobs that maybe more experienced/busy developers don’t want. At a certain point, the high-end developers will just have people asking them to do things all the time and they’re just too busy to do them, but if they knew someone hungry for a first-gig they’d probably refer it to you. Be hungry!
Create resources/teaching material
In the early days, educational materials were my biggest breakthroughs. In the later stages of careers, this may or may not be as relevant (at least in my experience), but when you’re just getting started and you may or may not have a portfolio to share around, you can not only prove you have skills and abilities, but you can also validate my next 2 points below by creating resources, tools, and teaching materials. Aside from the fact that they’ll challenge your skills and benefit you, you can do a number of cool things like:
- Release a useful tool for free and tell companies they can hire you for further customization, white labeling, adding branding elements, and more (which almost every company actually wants to do!)
- Create some teaching resources and then tell companies you offer private corporate training or tell other developers you can offer online consulting
- Release a bunch of tools and actually create nice documentation and presentation pieces about them to use as a portfolio in the place of gigs (I know I’d except them as valid portfolio items and other pros would too)
- Create interesting and polished mini-demos of different things you like doing in TouchDesigner and take them to different company offices and show them off and let them play around with them and say you’d love to collaborate (easiest way to get people excited about something is let them play with it)
If you ever wanted to jump start your career, need I say more?
Be an active community member
This one may surprise you, but being an active community member is an easy way to get gigs. You want to build mind share in the minds of people who have gigs. Mind share is a marketing term that is basically a representation of awareness. The more you do things in the community, the more you’ll be seen by people higher in the food chain than you, and one day when those folks are looking to hire someone or get an intern or refer a gig to, you want to that person to be aware of you and your work and what you’re up to. Specifically with TouchDesigner, this would mean being active on the forums, being active on the Discord channel, being active on the Facebook Help Group, posting your work around, trying to help other users, and just being generally nice and easy going (see next point). Notice this point isn’t called “go to networking events” or “schmooze with the pros”, because I find those places to be pretty artificial. User groups, forums, the real everyday community spots are where it’s the easiest and most salient to see who folks are and what they’re up to.
Be easy to work with and chill
My god this is the easiest one (for most people) and probably the most impactful one. No one wants to work with someone that kills the mood or loses their cool in the 11th hour. Plain and simple. Some of the folks I refer to gigs that I don’t want to do are people that I have enjoyed working and that I know will work easily with the client and won’t bother anyone. Aside from referrals, the developers I like to call when I need development support are almost always the people I enjoy working with and hanging with, not the best of the best. Like I mentioned in the beginning, most gigs don’t need the best-of-the-best, so I can almost certainly just hire a friend and have a good time on a gig. Everyone wins.
I didn’t go to school for TouchDesigner or computers or anything, so I honestly don’t know what “they” teach you, but when I was coming up in the industry no one was really telling me anything. There weren’t enough gigs to go around and everything was pretty blackboxed and cut throat. These days there are more TouchDesigner gigs than there are developers, and our community is exceptionally open and into sharing and helping each out. So the challenge of getting gigs isn’t so much about being the best anymore but about how you approach the idea of getting TouchDesigner gigs. These few tricks should put you in a really good place and give some solid strategies to new and later-stage developers.