When you start talking money and finances, the discussion can become very stressful because the topic is so personal. Yet, it is something all freelancers have to seriously discuss. I have been mulling over how to broach this topic since I started the blog. This past week, I have been discussing with some publisher friends of mine the topic of fair compensation for freelance work. It is very interesting to discuss how each publisher utilizes freelancers and what they feel is fair compensation.
You have to understand, there is not a game industry standard for financial compensation of freelancers. Various other game industry forums and blogs have posted the range of rates freelancers earn working for different publishers. And among freelancers, there are different rates depending on if you are an artist, writer, editor, proofreader, or layout designer. These rates vary among publishers based on type of work. Some compensation is per project, per hour, per image, per word, per page, or some are percentage of royalties. Most often, experience and notoriety come into play as well, with increased compensation rates for more established freelancers. Some publishers have their own set rates they pay all their freelancers, while others negotiate individually with each freelancer.
Sidebar discussion – There is a very serious ongoing debate on whether you should ever work for free as a freelancer. Should you do your early freelancing for free just to get your name in a book because the notoriety will increase your value? I personally believe you should receive some form of compensation for any work that you do to reflect its value. Your talents, skills, and time are valuable. At minimum, request a copy of the final product that you worked on. Requesting financial compensation for larger projects is also acceptable and standard in the game industry. Charity work is the one exception where you are freely offering your talents, skills, and time to the benefit of someone else.
All this is to say, as a freelancer you are going to have to determine what is fair to you to accept as compensation for your work.
Through my discussion with these publishers and some personal reflection, I felt it fair as part of this blog’s ongoing dialogue to be transparent in my own compensation requests, so I have now created a page with that info publicly available. In full transparency, I have a day job and thus am not as dependent upon the compensation from my freelancing. I freelance because I am passionate about gaming and helping others produce amazing games. Thus, the compensation that is fair for me covers my time away from my family and reflects my current talent, skills, and time available to work on freelance projects. Fair compensation for you might be a very different value, and you will have to determine that as you negotiate with publishers.
These are my typical rates for freelance work as I have now posted openly on my blog.
- Tabletop Games – For proofreading or editing, listing my name in the credits and a copy of the game with any Kickstarter stretch goals. If the game can be signed by some of the design team, that is a wonderful bonus. An amazing game to enjoy playing with my friends and family is payment enough.
- RPGs and Novellas – A printed copy of game with my name in the credits and $1 a page for proofreading or $0.01 a word for editing. RPGs with their higher word counts require a more significant time commitment and thus the additional financial compensation. If the game can be signed by some of the design team, that is a wonderful bonus.
- Other Projects – For other projects besides proofreading and editing, I discuss a fair compensation with the publisher.
I hope that my transparency will open up this conversation for us to discuss this oftentimes sensitive topic of compensation. What do you feel is fair compensation for freelancing? What are your thoughts on the sidebar discussion of working for “free” to gain notoriety?