By now you should be getting the hang of the skills necessary to write and some of the things you can do to be a professional in the industry. For the next two articles, I’m going to explore the part of freelancing that has to do with your flow of assignments — what you decide to take on and when you get paid.
There are four things that affect your ability to deliver an assignment on time and in the condition that a game company is happy with: how fast you write, how well you know the system, how closely you follow the submission guidelines, and how familiar you are with the setting.
How quickly you can complete an assignment isn’t always an easy thing to understand, because sometimes playtesting is required and other times real life obligations or communication mishaps pop up. What should have been a project that took you five hours now forces you to re-examine your submission over ten or twenty.
When things don’t go as planned, well… That’s where freelancing gets interesting. Your ability to freelance comes down to what your financial obligations are. Personally, I don’t budget based on what I’m going to earn (or what I might). I plan based on what money is guaranteed to come in the door — and that is typically founded on steady part-or-full time work. You might be different.
To any company, you are an independent contractor. You’re not a company employee and you’re not on the payroll. This means that you are part of the company’s billing cycle which is dictated by the terms of the contract or company’s cash flow.
Often, freelancers don’t read the fine print. I’ve seen a lot of arguments pop up about issues that are clearly resolved by reading terms between the freelancer (you) and the company (them). If you’re taking on multiple assignments, you have to juggle your obligations based not only on deadlines, but how and when you get paid.
On the company side of things, freelancers are vendors. When working with a vendor, companies don’t always pay by the date of the invoice, but by the terms of the agreement. Sometimes, those terms do not spell out the date range when payment is owed. For example, vendors can get paid 30 days after the invoice, 45, 60, 90, and sometimes 120. For a game company, the numbers depend upon how that organization makes money. If their vendors are late or they’re not selling enough to make ends meet, the cash flow dries up, and they fall behind paying their freelancers.
With RPGs, that can mean life or death for freelancers who require that money to pay their bills. Unfortunately, this type of business model, especially when you’re counting on a payment, can be really damaging overall. When you start to fall behind on your own bills, you take up more and more assignments to pay the bills. But what happens if and when things go wrong? One assignment may be manageable, but if all the revisions come in at once?
Who you freelance for and how you structure your queue is really on you to figure out. I’ve found that the best way to stay sane is to have a job — even if it’s part-time and pays eight bucks an hour — to cover my basics. You may find you can take on twenty assignments and everyone pays you on time. Or, you may decide to pick and choose the assignments you’ll take on because you find you can’t write what you’re not interested in.
The challenge, of course, is figuring out how to juggle all the tasks required of you and still make enough to live on at the same time. Next month, I’m going to walk you through a few scenarios to help you decide how you want to proceed to Dice Castle.