Tips for Freelancers - Immersion Studios

29 Apr Tips for RPG Freelancers

I’ve been working with a variety of freelancers for some time in the creation of Infected, and in that time I have learnt a few things from the client perspective that I think could be of real benefit to any freelancers out there who are interested in doing work for RPG creators. This could be as writers, illustrators, editors, typesetters, or possibly even marketers.

1) Reply Immediately

This goes for everyone trying to look and be professional. When a client emails you, reply to them as soon as possible. 1 day is the maximum accepted waiting time – anything beyond that and the client will start to wonder what’s wrong. If they have made a query to you to ask you for your rates or to see if you are available for commissioned work, the amount of delay in your answer will be a huge factor in whether they’ll employ you or not. I have also learnt that the first “reply-lag” from a freelancer is indicative of how communicative and responsive they’ll be throughout the project. If they take three days to reply to my first email, chances are they’ll take a week to respond to queries. That’s way too long.

This also goes for regular contact. Be reachable. When your client has a query, answer it straight away. There’s nothing worse than having an unreliable artist with a piece of art you’re waiting for… with the clock ticking.

2) Be Up-Front

Honesty is important. But that can also mean being realistic in what you can and cannot do in a time-frame. Don’t be overly optimistic! Chances are if you estimate too low on the amount of time it will take, out of a sense of optimism, or from a fear of losing a possible commission, you’ll end up running late – and that sucks. Be realistic on how long things take, but at the same time take into account the next point…

3) Work Your Butt Off

Hey, most freelancers I know work really hard! But sometimes it’s worthwhile to reiterate the “working hard” part. This is because if you quote a client on the time frame for an image, you should move mountains to make sure it is delivered on time. Sometimes delays are unavoidable, but remember you want to set yourself up as a reliable artist – someone whom the client knows will deliver what they have promised. You might get that first deal, but chances are if you’re late regularly, you won’t get much repeat business.

4) Have a Contract

If your client doesn’t have a contract, then you should create one.Check out this site for some boilerplate templates – writers can use them just as easily as artists. You should do this to not only protect yourself, but to have a very clear framework for what you’re making.

An important point in all this is naming out how you’re going to create the piece. I would suggest having it listed that you will supply “thumbnails” (or “outlines” for writers) on which the client can give the biggest changes. Here they should be able to alter it completely should they wish. But once they’ve locked down what sketch or thumbnail they want, they cannot change their mind afterwards. The next step would be to give detailed sketches (or a draft manuscript) on which the client can make further structural changes, but not completely alter the entire thing, and then the last step would be to present a “final version” on which the client can have 3 opportunities to send the artwork back for changes.

You should also list down how much you will charge if the changes the client is requesting go “beyond the pale”, i.e. are a bit over the top.

I’ve had a lot of artists provide me with thumbnails… and only a couple provide me with rough sketches that I can look through. Most artists jump step 2, and go straight from thumbnail to fully complete illustration. I would absolutely advise you against this, because it gives me as the project creator almost no ability to change compositional elements. At a rough sketch stage, or a draft-manuscript stage, I can make substantial changes that will dramatically affect how useful and good the piece is for me. Artists who present me the final product without giving a details sketch (or, heaven forbid, no thumbnail/outline) make me feel really bad when I have to go back to them and say, “Sorry, I need a huge part of this changed.”

Related:  Game Design Lesson #1: Things I Wish I’d Known When I Started Game Design

Save yourself work, and keep your clients happy – do this step thoroughly!

Also make sure you’ve got the rights worked out really well. I’ve learnt that one the hard way on another project.

5) Be Willing to Change

This is so, so important, but it actually applies to clients as well as artists. Inevitably, the client’s ideas will be different to the artist’s. Some people (like me) have very clear ideas about what they want. But it is a mistake to expect the artist to be able to see what’s in my mind. When you start working together, your ideas will mesh together and come out with something new – a synthesis. Be willing to have this take place. Be willing to be flexible with your ideas. And for artists particularly, be willing to stretch yourself and try different things. The more techniques and skills you have up your sleeve, the more clients will want to work with you (you’ll become that person who can just do everything!).

6) Exchange Well Above Normal

A normal level of exchange is basically two things of equal value. You buy a camera that’s worth $100, for $100.

However, as an artist, your objective should not be “normal.” Your objective should be that your client is thrilled with your work, and that you are too. You want to deliver something that is well above the normal level. That doesn’t necessarily mean that it should take you more time and effort, or cost you more. However, I do believe that it is evident when an artist puts their heart and soul into everything they do. Never smash and dash. Never rush through it or “go through the motions”. It’s not worth it to yourself, your creativity or your reputation. Sure, “satisfactory” might be okay for some, but do you want that level? No. Push yourself to deliver the best you possibly can, every single time.

Hey, it’s hard. I know as much as anyone – Infected was my first RPG project, and I thought it would take me 3-6 months, but instead has taken two years and uncounted hours of work. I’ve had to learn Photoshop, InDesign, website design, marketing, blogging, shipping, fulfillment, tax laws, contracts, art direction… and more. But it’s worth it, because I have left no stone unturned in my efforts to make this a truly great RPG.

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These are some of my ideas for RPG Freelancers, and really freelancers in general. I hope they help you!

~Oliver

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Want to see what we do? Check out a free copy of our Quick Start Rules for “Infected Zombie RPG” here, and check out the website for “Infected” here. Pre-Orders are still available, but not for much longer!

We also have more articles on our website – some of them might even be related to this one:

Game Design Lessons #11: What My Cat Taught Me About Game Design

Game Design Lesson #7: Art. What Is It Good For?

GMing Lessons #12: Refunds

Game Design Lesson #6: Road to Kickstarter: Where Do You Start?

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