Professional vs amateur freelancers

In the image above, this is what happens if you make Tofu angry. Be careful!

I’ve always been a rather unique indie. My main peculiarity was to release games at good pace, without necessarily sacrificing quality (at least, in my intentions!). I’m not writing this to brag, but as a matter of fact. And of course, doesn’t mean that my games were more successful than those of other indies.

Why I work this way? Mainly because I get really bored if I am always working on the same thing, same game, same story. If you think that SOTW was my game with longest development time, and still it was “only 10 months” (for the base game) which is really nothing compared to how long most indie games take (usually at least one year, yes even for normal dating sim/visual novels). And in my case was a full featured RPG…!

Consider also that except for some of my first games, all my stories are at least 100,000 words long, with an average length around 170-180k words! :O

As I said, I’m not bragging, wordcount in definitive means nothing (but if it’s well written, for sure players appreciate a longer story). Many indie colleagues are ten times more successful than me making smaller games and taking much longer each one. But I wouldn’t even try it, simply because I know already that I wouldn’t enjoy the process.

So what does this has to do with the blog post title? well like many other indies, I get a lot of people who want to offer their services (writing, art, music, even coding though it’s more rare). Since I made so many games, I worked with A LOT of people in the past.

I’m only aiming to give my humble advice to anyone who want to collaborate with other indies to create games over internet. This is my opinion, but I believe it’s also valid for other indies (or even other freelancing jobs in general). So what separates someone doing it professionally vs someone doing it in their free time?

Keep in touch

There’s literally nothing worse than not hearing from a collaborator over internet. This doesn’t mean you need to email every day but, especially if some work is expected from you, don’t disappear. This is literally the worst thing ever for me, something that really can’t forgive. Of course I’m talking about weeks (even months lol) of radio silence, not days.

Believe me, it’s much better to hear even stuff like “sorry but a new expansion for the MMORPG I play is out, so updates will be slower for the next week”, than hear nothing. Of course, strictly related to this, there’s also…

Meet deadlines

This is obvious, but it’s probably the thing all my collaborators miss. I’m more lenient because I know how hard is to met a deadline myself. However, there’s a lot of difference from missing a deadline by a day or a week, or by months…

But still, if you do the point above and keep in touch, it’s still somewhat OK. “Look boss I can’t finish XYZ by end of month, but I promise to finish it before the next” etc. Obviously, if you always miss deadlines one after the other… well that’s not good! 😛

Be honest

Another seemingly obvious thing, but that many times doesn’t happen. You don’t know how to do a task or are unsure if you’ll make in time? don’t say “yes I’ll do it” and then maybe either do a bad job, or be late or any other bad outcome. Another thing to avoid is coming up with sudden expenses before talking with the other part. The writing is going to be twice long because you think you’ll do a better result? inform,discuss, not write twice the word count, and then show the bill after the work is done. This is not going to make you get more work from that person…


In conclusion, if you keep those 3 points above in mind, I think you’ll have a much easier life as freelancer. Honestly? even if you only follow 1 or 2 of the point above you would be already a good freelancer! 🙂

Notice that I didn’t talk about skill. First, because except coding, everything else is based on tastes after a certain minimum level. It’s better the art of Nicole, Roommates, C14 Dating, Loren, or PSCD? depends on tastes. Same for music and also writing.

But also, because sometimes someone who keeps the 3 things above in mind has more chances to get work (from me at least) than someone 10 times skilled but that’s always late, lies or disappears for months. I’m making this example, PSCD artist: you probably know that the character art was the main reason the game greatly underperformed at launch (now it’s doing well after the manga update).

Still, that artist definitely meet ALL the 3 points above. He is honest, works fast, always asks when it’s the deadline and if he cannot met it, emails me. Result? since people didn’t like his character art, I hired him to do other art: a LOT of icons for my future RPGs,  Amber’s all crafting icons, the shop builder rooms, colored all the PSCD manga CGs, and he’s doing even more work for me right now.

Speaking of skill, it’s also true that sometimes I have to stop working with someone if the results aren’t “good enough”. If I get a lot of comments like “this art/music/writing is bad” all for the same collaborators, well sadly I need to run a business so I need to think mainly about what customers say.

If you’re short on cash it’s fine to work with amateur (that don’t follow the 3 point above), just don’t expect to get anything done very quickly.

Well hopefully this post was useful for someone and wasn’t too boring! Next time I’ll talk about the games in the works and their status 🙂

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4 Responses to Professional vs amateur freelancers

  1. Callista says:

    Yeah, I totally agree with all of your points. It can be difficult to find someone who is reliable so it’s a matter of being careful of who to choose to help out. Those with experience and a good track record are, of course, going to be more reliable than those lacking such elements. As an editor, I make it a point to do the work I’m given in a timely manner and if I know that real life things come up, I’ll always make it a point to give a heads up on that. 🙂

    • admin says:

      While I think all the points I made are important, as I wrote in the blog for me the worst ever is disappearing. In the past I was more tolerant but now when someone does that once, I won’t hire him/her again ever. Too risky 🙂

  2. Jaeger says:

    What indie games are comparing yourself to exactly? A platformer may not have much in the way of wordcount, but a lot of work can be done to for the level design and art assets.
    That being said, I agree with the points you made about being professional. This can apply to any job. Employees that are considered unreliable are usually the first to get booted.

    • admin says:

      Not games, in general for any freelancer. In my case there’s writing, but as you said in many other genres writing is minimal or non-existent at all! But for indies usually tasks like level design etc are made by the “owner” or coder him/herself 🙂

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