The last, two months, 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.
Before you can ask yourself any questions about who you want to work for, you’ll need to know where to look for assignments and how to prepare yourself for them.
Here are the three best places to look:
- Open Calls on Forums: If you play hobby games, then you may frequent forums like ENWorld.org or RPG.net. Most forums will have a thread called “Open Calls” where publishers post new assignments or requests. In most cases, you’ll send the publisher a private message (or PM) or respond to their thread. These can be time-sensitive. I recommend lurking on these threads for a while to see what type of publisher is posting there. That way, you can check out their website and play their games before you volunteer your services.
- Publisher Websites: Many RPG publishers will have a website and offer Submission Guidelines. These guidelines spell out what they want, what they don’t, and when to ask them for a job. Some publishers, like Steve Jackson Games, have thorough writer and artist guidelines to follow. Others, like Margaret Weis Productions don’t publicly post their guidelines. When a company doesn’t offer submission guidelines, sometimes that means they prefer to hand-pick their freelancers because they want to work with more experienced folks. Other times, it may reflect the fact that they don’t have the personnel to handle the volume of submissions or what is known in fiction as “the slush pile.”
- Conventions: Conventions are the most common place to find freelancing assignments because it gives the publisher an opportunity to connect with you face-to-face. Conventions for the Aspiring Game Professional is an e-book that was written by Jess Hartley, an experienced freelancer. If you’ve never gone to a convention to find work before, I recommend checking out Jess’s e-book.
While conventions are great places to meet publishers, they are also crazy busy for them, too. I don’t go to a convention to socialize anymore; I go to work. That means that most of my meetings were already scheduled before I attend the convention. For me, having a convention itinerary is crucial to understanding the pros and cons of any show I attend.
Many publishers operate their publishing schedule around a bigger show like Origins or GenCon. RPGs take a long time to produce, so often these books are worked on six months (or more) before a show. So, on their end, a publisher will place priority on existing freelancers and people they’ve worked with in the past for meetings. The “new guy” (or girl) is still important, but less so in the grander scheme of things. Why? Because publishers are at conventions to sell their games to customers. Selling a new RPG to a fan trumps meetings. Publishers are at conventions primarily to sell games; freelancers usually go to conventions to find work and play games.
There are many different types of publishers within the hobby games industry, though, and that’s what I’ll go into next time to help you fine tune your job hunt.