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There are lots of unknowns to being a creative. What do I charge? How to find good clients? And the key is usually getting help from someone. But even once you have the info you need, there’s still a barrier to success. You have to believe that you deserve it #gameaudio #gamedev
A lot of people message me to ask about rates. “Hi, here’s what I do, here’s what I’m charging now! Is it ok?”
Often my answer is, no, you should be asking for many times what you are now. But a lot of the time, the person isn’t just shocked, they’re let down. “Oh, I could never make that much” is a response I hear a lot.
Why not? You’re providing a service that, takes thousands of hours of practice, expensive tech and software, schooling, travel to cons. Moreover, it’s a service the person hiring you can’t do themselves. They need your specialty. Why shouldn’t you earn a living wage off of it?
A thing I did to myself a lot was say “well, I’m not ready yet. I’ll ask for big boy money when I’m ready.” But “ready” never comes. It’s an indefinable line. As long as I thought that way, and I did for a long time, I continued to undervalue myself.
If I had a client pay me something approaching fair, I thought it was because they were nice, not because they understood that creative services cost money because there’s genuine skill and effort involved, just like anything else.
Realize that you’re not just “dabbling.” This isn’t just a “hobby.” Lots of people will tell you that, but if you’re doing what you do for a for-profit thing, that’s not the case. You’re a pro. You deserve to get paid, to be treated well, to be respected for your work.
The other thing I hear a lot from people: “I always end up on gigs that are disorganized” or “I get asked to do things way beyond what I’m paid for” or “my clients leave me in the dark.” And that’s because those folks are working for what I’m gonna call “less mature” clients.
Now, I don’t mean they’re stupid kids or that they’re jerks or anything. I mean that, compared to maturity models in other industries, they’re a little on the lower end of that spectrum.
They maybe haven’t made a ton of projects yet, or don’t fully know how to manage a team, or how much funding they need to pay people well. That’s ok, we all start somewhere! In most cases, it's not malicious, they just haven't learned that stuff yet.
But I talk to a lot of creatives who are good enough to be working with more mature clients, ones who have been making inroads in their industry and know how to communicate and run a project in a way that wastes as little of peoples’ time as possible.
But when I tell people that, again, they don’t believe me. “Oh, I’m still kind of student level” say a lot of people who have been doing pro-level work for years. “I should stick to starter gigs until I’m ready.”
And there’s that “ready” again. It’ll never come if you think that way. Look at the work you do, at the time/money you put in. At how much you’re learning. You might be “ready” now. In most cases I've seen, you probably are.
So what I’m saying is, even if you know where to find work, how to spot a bad work environment, what you’re worth and how to charge for it, you’ll never get ANY of it if you don’t believe that you deserve it.
And you do. Even if you’re new to your field, or still learning, if you’re working for someone’s for-profit thing, you don’t deserve to get undervalued. No one does. Start believing that you and your art are worthy of respect, and you'll start getting it.
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