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Service Providers (aka Freelancers, Contractors, Consultants) don't work for free!

This blog post discusses the difference in looking for partners vs service providers and how to approach service providers with a low budget.

Game Dev Service Providers Don't Work For Free! In my constant scans of the internet to find projects for the service providers listed on GameDevMasters, I have come across countless requests similar to "looking for freelancer (unpaid), will share money from successful kickstarter". The success ratio of kickstarter projects is less than 25% (according to an analysis by Thomas Bidaux). If anyone has other data, please feel free to comment. But regardless, it's irrelevant! The terms “freelancer” and “unpaid” should never exist in the same sentence. Service providers can't take the risk of working for anyone in the hopes they may get paid. It's not their side project, it's their job and business so they need cold hard cash to sustain themselves and their business!


Offering Revenue or Equity Share Means You Want A Partner


There are 3 major relationship situations in the games industry that properly call for revenue or equity share...

*) the game developer and publisher relationship

*) participating in incubators and startup accelerators

*) formation of a partnership between 2 or more people (which you could also say the above 2 are as well, but they're worth calling out separately)


Exceptions can be made, but in general if you are a game developer who is not looking for a publisher or incubator, but you are looking for someone to work with you on your game project in exchange for revenue share, then you are looking for a partner. You want someone to take the big risk with you then reap the potential rewards and there's nothing wrong with that, but you're not looking for a service provider.
 

And if you're looking for partners, keep 2 things in mind...
 

  1. The revenue share relationship is a tough agreement to establish and maintain. Even if you agree on terms, there's the matter of reporting revenues and keeping track of all the financials. You will either need a tremendous amount of trust between the parties involved or a lawyer … most likely both with an accountant thrown into the mix as well.

  2. Be prepared to discuss what you offer in practical skills, not money. “I'm looking for a programmer and artist to work on my cool idea.” is not going to work. Every programmer and artist you just posted to has a cool idea so why would they team up with you instead of work on their own!? Do you have business connections? Do you have marketing skills? Do you have anything practical that will help the project? If the answer to those questions is no, meaning you just have the idea, then you will need lots of money so you can hire employees or service providers.

Approaching Service Providers With A Low Budget
 

The skills of service providers are broad as well as their pricing. Don't be afraid to approach service providers even if you have a low budget, but there is a tactful way of doing it without you insulting their expertise by offering payments way below their value.


First, do your research! Do you really know how much the services you are requesting cost? If not, then ask your network, read articles, and attend workshops at local events. If you really can't get information from any of those resources then ask in forums and groups, but when you do, be sure to list what you have tried. People will be more willing to help if they can't simply reply, “try Google.”


Second, create a request for proposal (RFP)! Your RFP provides details on what you need. For example, if you need art, then...what style ... do you have any references or examples of what you're looking for … what format ... how many pieces (i.e. assets) ... is it concept ... is it game ready ... etc. Your RFP gives the service provider enough details to scope out any work you listed plus any you didn't consider that's necessary to get the job done so they can put a proper time and cost estimate to that scope of work.


Third, formulate the 30 second request, i.e. the brief summary you'll use to post out the opportunity or mention in conversation. Simply posting, “anybody here do art”, “I need art, message me if interested” isn't going to work. Posting a brief summary and mentioning you have a full RFP to provide is much better. Imagine if a service provider saw 100 posts a day, there is no way they want to reach out to every single poster to ask the same questions over and over again just to find out that many don' t have the answers, so if you present the information upfront, you will not only get more responses but also attract the more professional and experienced service providers.


Doing those 3 things above shows that you are a professional with a low budget, not a disillusioned idea person looking for free or cheap labor.


Know What You Want Then Communicate Effectively


Whether you're looking for a partner or service provider, be clear in what you want and write clear professional posts. The way you write your post is the first impression someone gets on whether they want to establish a professional relationship with you or not. The more professional you appear, the more you stand out in the current world of “I need help, LOL” posts, and therefore the more attractive you will be to professional and experienced service providers and potential partners.


Good luck with your projects!

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