Golden Rules of Freelancing
Freelancing is tough. Long hours, bad pay and design angst are just some of the trials you’ll face on the way to being a successful freelancer. That said, the rewards – particularly the satisfaction that people all over the world are playing your games – are pretty cool. If you follow the rules below, you’ll be well equipped to forge a successful freelance career.
This is huge. Once you commit to a deadline, you have to honour it. Once this is set, the publisher is going to commission art, update his release schedule and generally start marketing the product. If you don’t hit your deadline, every other part of the development cycle is going to get constricted and the product may even end up coming out late, which reflects badly on you and the publisher.
If you are going to have a problem hitting the deadline, let the publisher know immediately. Be honest and be realistic. Can you still finish the work to an acceptable standard in a decent timeframe?
Every publisher that accepts submissions will have guidelines available. Surprisingly, the publisher will not have developed those guidelines just for fun. He’ll actually be expecting freelancers to follow them.
Following the guidelines is going to cut down on the amount of editing and development required to prepare your manuscript for publication. The less editing and development required, the happier the publisher will be (making it more likely you will get more work).
It’s always good to check your email regularly. The publisher may want to touch base with you, update the product’s specs, impart important information to you, send you draft artwork or maps and so on. This is very difficult to do if you disappear off the face of the planet for weeks on end. Silent freelancers spawn concerned publishers.
KNOW THE GAME AND SETTING
Write for games and settings that you know (and like). Your love of the game will shine through in your text. If you aren’t committed to what you are writing, it is going to show.
DO YOUR RESEARCH
If you are sending a proposal to a publisher, you need to make certain that it will actually fit into one of his product lines. There is no point (for example) emailing me with an awesome proposal for a steampunk-style adventure. Raging Swan Press doesn’t produce such adventures. You are not only wasting the publisher’s time, but you are wasting yours. Also, sending in inappropriate submissions reduces the chance of a publisher actually reading your subsequent appropriate pitches.
ACCEPT THAT YOUR WORK WILL BE EDITED
Take a deep breath. Your work is not perfect. You have made mistakes. Your work is not Holy Scripture.
The job of the developer is to spot errors and to correct them. He will also ally your work with the canon of the relevant setting/product line. Don’t take this personally; this is a necessary part of the process. Freelancers that complain about every change to a manuscript don’t tend to get more work from the same publisher.
Play the games you write for. Not only will you get cool ideas from actual game play, but you’ll know the system far better than if you just read the rulebook.
YOU ARE IN A PARTNERSHIP
When you sign a contract with a publisher, you are effectively becoming his (temporary) work partner. In a true partnership, there is no place for egos. You are not doing him a favour deigning to allow him to publish your stuff and he is not doing you a favour publishing you. Work together, to create the best product possible
ENCOURAGE AND ACCEPT FEEDBACK
Feedback is good. Feedback lets you learn more about what the publisher wants and what he doesn’t want. In many cases, the publisher will have more game design experience that you; listen to his advice and remember that at the end of the day he is paying for your work. Once he has paid you, he can do pretty much what he wants with it (within the terms of the contract, of course).
You need to write. Even if you are not currently on a live project, you should try to write something every day. It’s excellent practise and gets you used to producing material.
ABOUT THE DESIGNER
Creighton is a keen gamer who passionately believes in the Open Gaming License and is dedicated to making his games as fun and easy to enjoy as possible for all participants. Reducing or removing entry barriers, simplifying pre-game prep and easing the GM’s workload are the key underpinning principles of the products he releases through Raging Swan Press.
Over the last 11 years, Creighton has worked with Expeditious Press, Paizo and Wizards of the Coast. He now releases his own products through Raging Swan Press. You can read his thoughts on game design at raging-swan.livejournal.com.
Creighton lives in Torquay, England where, apparently, the palm trees are plastic and the weather is warm. He shares a ramshackle old mansion with his two children (“Genghis” and “Khan”) and his patient wife. Famed for his unending love affair with booze and pizza he is an enduring GREYHAWK fan.
Raging Swan Press