As gamers, we often discuss culling our game collections.
As freelancers, we discuss margins and managing our work/life balance.
Yet, we seldom discuss the overlap of those two discussions. Especially early in our careers as freelancers, we are so desperate for work that we will often accept any project offered to us. Even as we gain some confidence in our abilities, develop a reputation, and have projects coming in regularly, we still want to hold on tight to all of our opportunities. Let’s look at this from our gaming perspective.
Unless you are a game collector, you know what it is like to have games you just aren’t playing that are taking up your limited shelf space. You know you have to remove some games to make room for new ones. Sometimes the decision is simple. You really don’t enjoy the game for some reason or just have no urge to play it any more, so culling it from the collection is easy. But, there are those games that are nostalgic, or have strong emotions attached to them, or you feel you HAVE to keep them to call yourself a gamer. Even though you don’t play those games at all and they are just cluttering up your game collection, you struggle to cull them.
As freelancers, I feel we need to look at our freelancing in a similar fashion. Once we build up a “collection” of freelancing opportunities, we need to be evaluating that “collection” as it impacts our lives and our freelancing career. Do we have some freelancing relationships that are gathering dust…that is they are not being effective for us or the publisher we are working with? Are these freelancing relationships providing us opportunities, growing us, and building stronger relationships? If we have a bad experiencing freelancing, those are easier to discontinue and move on. But what do you do when you are friends with the publisher and his team, or the freelancing relationship is productive but you just don’t feel it is really a benefit to either of you? You just keep working together because that is how it has been for years. When do you cull a good relationship (like culling a good game), to allow both you and the publisher to find new opportunities and grow? I like this quote from Marilyn Monroe.
Sometimes good things fall apart so better things can fall together.
As a freelancer, you need these relationships with publishers and consistent projects to keep working. Yet, when is it the right time to let “good things” end so “better things” can happen? I don’t have the perfect answer, but I have experienced this process. Just this past week I had this very conversation with a publisher I freelance for and who I consider a close friend. As much as I have loved working with him over the years, we both came to an agreement that it was time to end our current working relationship. His publishing company has grown and moved into new directions since we began working together. I have worked with many other publishers and grown in capabilities and interests as a freelancer. My life has taken quite a few twists as well with my caregiving responsibilities increasing. The paths of the publisher and my freelancing life have diverged enough it was time to end this “good thing.” That said, “better things” may come of this in the future, as we might reconnect with other ways of working together. So “culling” a freelancing relationship does not necessarily mean ending it completely. Think of it like culling a game by trading it rather than selling it.
So much is spoken about online, in books, by counselors, and at conferences regarding relationship health, life balance, and caring for yourself. As a caregiver for my wife, I often read about how caregivers need to care for their own health as well (especially mental and spiritual). I feel that as freelancers, we need to do this as well. I tell all my game studies students and others who ask me about freelancing in the game industry that it is all about the relationships. I still feel that, but as I have been working in the freelance world longer and as I have grown as a person, I am realizing it is not just about the quantity of relationships…it is about the HEALTH of those relationships. I am not an expert in this area, but if you are a freelancer and you need to talk with someone about your freelancing relationships, I am willing to be a sympathetic ear and sounding board for you. Feel free to contact me via this blog, email, or social media.