William Copus worked his way through the burgeoning world of esports back in the early part of the 2010s. Now, he leads the ad sales department responsible for Dot Esports, a major gaming journalism site.
It wasn’t an easy journey. Some early-life alienation and the financial pressures of the gaming industry played tough parts, but Copus says he knew he had to roll with the punches. Read on to learn how he put his passions first, took some gambles, and built esports communities from the ground up.
Find Your Grind: How would you describe your job to someone who knows nothing about what you do?
William Copus: I sell advertising for video games and gaming-related products on the Dot Esports network.
FYG: Tell us a little bit about yourself and your career history.
WC: I grew up in a small East Texas town (23 people in my graduating class), a town where the kids growing up never leave or pursue higher education. They kind of just take over their family’s farm. While all the kids were interested in hunting, fishing, and agriculture, I was always attracted to video games. That’s what I spent the majority of my time on growing up.
My gaming habit started with RuneScape, but I did more than just play the game. Part of the fun for me was creating a community as well. For RuneScape, I created a few clans and a website for “merchanting” (flipping items in the game to make a profit). Fast forward to college and my roommate showed me League of Legends my freshman year. It was my first MOBA, but I instantly fell in love with it. I also went on creating a community for that. Riot released a new game mode called Dominion (now removed), so I created DominateDominion in October 2011. It was a place for Dominion enthusiasts to share builds, talk strategy, find teammates, and more. I also started to hold weekly Dominion tournaments streamed live on Twitch with commentary.
While Dominion was niche, we grew to a nice little following. On the weekends, the tournaments would average 200-300 concurrent viewers. Between the tournaments, my weekly Dominion streams, and the website, I started to see some revenue flow in. Back in 2011, esports wasn’t nearly as mainstream, but I definitely saw the potential. So I took a semester off college to focus solely on DominateDominion. I branched out and renamed to DominateGaming so I could expand the coverage and hosted a few Summoners Rift and Twisted Treeline tournaments as well. At the University of Texas, I was only allowed to take off one semester at a time before having to reapply, so once my semester off was done and I didn’t see the success I was hoping, I went back to school. But I had a hard time juggling both the community and my classes. So I did another one semester on/one semester off.
During that time I saw an opening from a company called DailyDot, which was looking for someone to stream their new esports talk show. I was pretty experienced in online streaming from my tournaments/daily streams so I applied. It was only a part-time job as a Technical Director but helped pay the bills. I busted my ass to make sure I could help in every single way outside of just running the streams as well.
After six months, I overheard my boss at the time saying once I graduated he would give me a full-time job. I talked to him and mentioned I had no problem putting school on hold if he would want to offer the full time job now. So I did. With only one year left to graduate, I put school on hold again. After a couple years, DailyDot decided they wanted to sell the esports section, so DotEsports was acquired by an Australian company, GAMURS.
By that time I moved from Technical Director to Video Producer since we decided to shift focus away from live. After a year of being a Video Producer, I was told video needed to make money or else we would be cut. I started reaching out to companies to make some video sales. In my first week, I made two sales, and it looked promising. So I was juggling sales and producing. Then, I was moved to sales full time. I am now the Director of U.S. Sales & Strategy.
FYG: What kind of experience or degree would someone need to get a job like yours? How did you obtain that experience/degree?
WC: Ideally, they would have some sort of sales experience. I got into this knowing nothing. The only knowledge I had was the small sponsorship deals I negotiated with DominateDominion back in the day. However, this was much larger. I relied on Google to find out more information — how to create a sales deck, looking at examples, rate cards, etc. I was a noob at sales. But I knew gaming, and it’s easier to sell something you’re passionate and know a lot about. I didn’t know the sales lingo or usual process, but I could look at a client’s product and tell them why and how it would work with our network of gamers.
FYG: What advice would you give to kids in high school, especially kids from rural areas, who want to get into esports?
WC: It’s OK to be different, and don’t let anyone tell you “no.” I was thankful my parents believed in me. They weren’t too excited when they found out I was dropping out of school to pursue competitive gaming, but they believed in me. Most people, especially in rural areas, won’t believe in you, and that’s OK. They usually have a narrow lens they see life through. They don’t like different or “unusual” things, but don’t let them stop you. With all of that said, don’t go into this thinking it’s easy. Everyone would love to work in esports, so you have to compete with them. It’s not just sitting and playing video games for a living; you have a lot of work to do.
FYG: What strengths, skills, or character traits do you think are most important for your position?
WC: Be a hustler. Grind. For sales, it obviously helps to be likable so you can’t be an introvert. Have conversations and network. Go to events to meet others in the industry.