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?

Compensation – What Is Fair?

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2 thoughts on “Compensation – What Is Fair?

  1. Phew, this is a tough conversation, especially here in the US. But all work should be compensated and doing free work isn’t worth it for your portfolio. When I switched from teaching to web stuff, I did my first site free but it was soon recognized as having value and the owner paid me in Big Cheese Dollars. Luckily, he has the absolute est casual Italian restaurant in Miami and he paid in excess of $1000 in food!

    But, looking back, I agree that free work is seen as having about that same value and won’t truly be appreciated.

    There need to be guidelines for people to follow, both as freelancers and as clients so that realistic expectations are met.

    I pay my editor $35 an hour and she set that rate. I trust her and if she says it took X time, that’s what she gets paid. I wanted to pay her more ($50 would be more than fair for her quality, more if probably warranted).

    For example, she’ll be working on the rules for Mint Tin Mini Apocalypse which has 590 words (lol, I have it open right now). But I would expect to pay $100 for her work on it. She’ll only want to charge an hour but she does far more than proofread – she plays the game with her kids and is more of a co-author than editor. And she works within my ridiculous constraints of space, in this case an inch wide strip of paper 11 inches long!

    If time permits and I’m not a big spaz, she’ll also edit the Kickstarter page and that’s worth even more to me as pay goes.

    She’s an outstanding editor and I don’t mind paying outstanding rates.

    1. It is a tough conversation, but one that we should be openly discussing, especially as the game industry continues to grow. Where I think the industry struggles is your statement “There need to be guidelines for people to follow, both as freelancers and as clients so that realistic expectations are met.” In my experience so far, freelancing does not have guidelines or industry standards. Each publisher determines their own compensation rates or negotiates with the freelancer on a per project basis. I feel blessed that I have been treated fairly in my early projects, especially when I had no previous experience to base my compensation requests upon. What I hear most often from other freelancers is how difficult it can be to earn a living wage early in your career as a freelancer. The experiences I hear about are that it takes years of successful projects and reputation building to increase your compensation to a career level wage. For me, freelancing is a second job I do out of passion so I am not dependent upon my freelance wages but I still want fairly compensated for the quality of work that I do.

      As a publisher, I want to thank you for offering a very generous compensation to your freelancer. It sounds like you have mutual respect for each other’s talents and the success you each bring to the gaming projects.

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