Posted on June 11, 2012 by Monica Valentinelli
For about a year, I’ve been writing about freelancing for the hobby games industry on the Geek’s Dream Girl website. Here’s a round-up of the articles I’ve been writing for the site:
- Calling all Freelancers! Adventure to Dice Castle: Before we head out on our quest to Dice Castle, there are a couple of things we need to figure out. First? We’re going to take a look at your character sheet to see what’s already there. Oh, and for those of you who decide to min/max this process? There will be some opportunities for that, too. You’re a Commoner at the moment, but with any luck you’ll be a Freelancer in no time. So sayeth the GM, so shall it be done.
- Tools and Equipment: Adventure to Dice Castle: To become a professional freelancer, there are a few tools you’ll need (and some I suggest) that you’ll benefit from having. If you followed along last time, the hard part of building your character sheet is over. Today, all you have to do is run through this list and assess what you need, how much you’ll have to spend, and what equipment you already have on hand.
- The Village of No-No: Adventure to Dice Castle: You adjust your shoulder bag and stroll into a village nestled in a lush valley. The first thing you see is a man and a woman arguing at the top of their lungs. From what you can make out, they’re pissed off about coin. The woman turns to you and says: “Don’t work for that guy, he’ll never pay you.” The man, who happens to be wearing a jerkin with an embroidered logo on the back, rolls his eyes and drones: “Don’t hire that freelancer, she’ll never hand anything in on time and it’s full of typos, too.”
- Wizard’s Guidance: Adventure to Dice Castle: A commenter on the article correctly pointed out that our hero’s biggest problem was that he didn’t do any research on Lances-For-Hire, LLC. before he asked Tom for work. There are other issues with what our freelancer encountered, which is why the wizard decided to step in. He has taken you back to his modest hovel far away from the prying eyes of nosy villagers.
- Where to Find New Jobs: Adventure to Dice Castle: I talked about how important it is to research the companies you want to work for. I also provided an allegory that (hopefully) highlights how employers view you. As a freelancer, you are essentially operating your own business. Self-employment — even if it’s part-time — is a real job. Freelancing for the hobby games industry just happens to be more creative than doing someone’s taxes or making copies all day.
- Introductory E-Mail Doesn’t Have to LOL: Adventure to Dice Castle: When you’re a freelancer, you will need to communicate with people who don’t live in your area. That means you’re going to chat with them online or via e-mail. Unfortunately, e-mail doesn’t always work well to convey emotions. Sure, it’d be easier if we’d take a page from Dork Tower and color-code our text, but the reality is that when you e-mail? All anyone has is your words to go on. Having good communication is crucial to building a good relationship with someone. But what should that look like?
- The Perils of Edition Wars: Adventure to Dice Castle: Hobby game edition wars exist because tribes form up around systems and settings. No matter how hard you may try, there is no possible way to convince someone who loves their twenty-year old system that it sucks. Companies know and understand that edition wars take place. Some turn a blind eye; others embrace them. However, companies have legitimate reasons why they want to update a game that has nothing to do with intentionally hurting fans. Maybe they want to modernize a setting. Maybe they’re hoping to engage existing players in crowdsourcing, like what White Wolf Publishing did for the twentieth edition of Vampire: the Masquerade. Or maybe? They want to attract new players.
- To Speculate, or Not To Speculate. (Trap?) Adventure to Dice Castle: When you see a rumor or something you’re dying to know, take it up privately with your contact at the company. Tell them that you want to know if this is true because you were hoping to write more for them. Then, when they respond? Ask them if you can share that information as a quote. Trust me when I say that in some cases you do not want to ask forgiveness. Permission and manners will get you a lot further especially if you’re dealing with companies that have licenses and products slated for the next year or so.
- Let’s Talk about Gold (I Mean Money): Adventure to Dice Castle: The terms of payment in a contract will say something like: “Payment after 30 days of publication” or “Payment upon receipt.” Payment after 30 days of publication means that you get paid after the project is available for customers to buy. If you’ve written a submission, that means the project still has to go through the line development process, playtesting, editing, and layout before the book sees the light of day. It is not uncommon for a project to get delayed, too, especially if licensing is involved. So, what that clause can mean, is that you may not get paid for six months, a year, or more.
- Sample Freelancing Scenarios: Adventure to Dice Castle: A company you have never heard of is offering to pay you handsomely for a 10K assignment you can write quickly. When you inquire further, you’re surprised to learn they don’t believe in exchanging contracts.
Never (ever) work without a contract! Offers of payment in an e-mail may not be enough to ensure you get paid. What’s more, your rights and the company’s property both need to be protected. Any company that offers work-for-hire without a contract clearly doesn’t understand what’s at stake.