Grab your pencils! Welcome to the second installment of Adventure to Dice Castle, where we’ll continue with a focus on tools and equipment.
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.
1. Reference Material – Not sure what an Oxford comma is? Need to reference the Victorian era? Reference material can take the form of non-fiction, writing resources or style guides. These books will be crucial to your assignments. For reasons I’ll get into later, there are reasons why you don’t want to rely primarily on internet reference material. If you’re worried about cost, don’t forget about your local library!
2. Business e-mail Address – I recommend keeping an e-mail address that doesn’t speak of your love for Justin Bieber or your favorite anime character. Seriously. As enlightened as you may be, appearances do matter. You can either use a free account or one attached to your website’s domain.
3. File Folders – You can pick up a portable, plastic filing system and some folders from your local office supply store for less than $40. The folders will allow you to easily keep track of expenses and income as well as your contracts, pitches and research.
4. Bookkeeping Method – Now, some people recommend that you set up a separate bank account right off the bat. Others suggest that if you’re just starting out, the income is minimal so it’s better to keep a good set of books and take those to an accountant. However you decide to do it, keep in mind that regardless of whether this is a hobby or a career for you, the money you earn is income.
5. Computer/ Internet Connection – On the cheap end, you can get away with buying a netbook for a couple hundred bucks. If you’re looking for something more robust, I recommend looking for a refurbished computer to save yourself some cash or buying an new, yet older model. You will need an internet connection, too. It’s impossible to be a freelancer in today’s market without one.
6. Gaming Books and Dice – Once of the things I mentioned last time, was that if you want to be a designer, it’s a good idea to play games. If you want to be a freelancer, it’s also important to familiarize yourself with the settings and the systems you’re writing for. While some companies will provide the material for you digitally, your chances of getting hired will increase if you’re already familiar with the setting and the system.
7. Word Processing Software – Whether you use a branded product or something like OpenOffice, the software you use will also need to be compatible with whatever that company is using. Many businesses like to use “Track Changes” which is a feature from Microsoft Word. Others will use Google Docs or are okay with OpenOffice. While it depends on the company, I’ve found that “Track Changes” and “Comments” provide good communication for editorial feedback, because you can see the passages that need to be improved or altered.
8. Business Cards – You can find inexpensive business cards almost anywhere for first time buyers or through special deals. I wouldn’t order a lot of them right off the bat, but having a business card is definitely better than not having one. When you give them out, try to get the business card of the person you’re networking with.
9. Website – I have mixed feelings about websites, because often I see new authors and game designers take their presence to the extreme. Having something up (e.g. a few pages with information about you, the games you’re playing, etc.) would be better than having a social media profile or no information. However, I feel you want to be careful about overselling yourself and what you’ve done. If you have little to no publications, then there’s really no reason to push the envelope on a website. You can always change and grow your presence over time.
10. Nice Outfit – While some people can freelance without ever meeting a publisher, having a nice outfit you can wear to a convention can come in handy. What does “nice outfit” mean? If you’re a guy, wear a polo shirt or make sure your t-shirt doesn’t look like you just washed your car with it. If you’re a girl? Wear an outfit that isn’t skin tight or costume-related. Most of the people in the gaming industry dress business casual more on the casual side than the business side.
Next month, I will take you on a trip to the Village of No-Nos. You will have plenty of opportunities to participate in the scenario, so I hope you’re ready to play! Er… Work. I mean, work really hard.
Remember, working with any business means that you’ll have to practice your teamwork and collaboration skills. So don’t be afraid to help out your fellow man, woman or dragon. Add your recommendations for reference material and other tools and equipment in the comments below.
About the Dice Castle Series: Adventure to Dice Castle is designed to take a budding writer and game designer from the role of “Commoner” or fan to professional “Freelancer.” The series debuted July 2011. Each month, Monica will take on an allegorical role of GM to help readers understand what working for the hobby games industry will be like for them.