thread: 2012-03-13 : Indie POV pt 2: Does It Pay?

On 2012-04-02, Devon O wrote:

Hey Vincent,

Short answer: [b]thus far I have made hugely more money as a freelancer than as a COP[/b], although hopefully over time those numbers (BOTH of which are pitifully small) will change. Also it's not really a fair comparison for reasons described below.

Long long:

As one of those rare someones who seriously does both, thus far I've made (assuming they eventually pay me for all current contracts) ~$2900.00 freelancing a reasonably solid amount at pro-rates for a major publisher and made approximately -$1247.20 [note the negative sign] from publishing my own book (assuming, generously, that the amount of books I just sold covered hotel costs and gas to get to the con, and counting only those and art and printing costs, and not food, as expenses). The games (and there are dozens of them) that I created, wrote (and even occasionally released for free) during the previous ten years have paid nothing, not even in dividends of generated interest. But that's fine. I'm just getting started, and I wasn't expecting any overnight miracles.

Of course I'll be the first to admit those numbers are hardly fair for comparison: and not just because I didn't have enough grassroots support to use kickstarter to fund my game; I've been freelancing for a hair over a year and have close to ten professional credits , and my own delicious game just launched at ICON (as in like the day before yesterday) with a tiny print run and doesn't even have online distribution yet. Especially without a Kickstarter, selling games is a Marathon, not a sprint. But the outlay for things likes simply BEING at Gencon, even if you don't have a booth, can make it feel like one steps forward, two steps back.

I think the point about you being Astronaut X (or whatever) is actually a fair one, as long as you're not being compared to "7000 words a minute hypothetical freelancer man".

Saying that "it's a bad idea to try and make a living from being a writer" isn't invalidated by saying "hey look at Stephen King"; the same goes for making RPGs. The Stephen Kings and Vincent D. Baker's of the world are one-in-a-million, except statistically speaking that may be an understatement. Sadly, the novelists I met at WorldCon a few years back with literally 27 published novels who were still clinging fervently to their day-jobs in order not to starve and advised aspiring writers to do the same are more the norm.

For the most part, for even 99% of the most talented and dedicated 1% who try, the answer to the question "how do you be creative for a living?" is "You can't". The odds of doing it are worse than winning the lottery; like if the lottery had talent, dedication, and perseverance as minimum bars to entry and approximately the same odds. Depressing, but in my (limited and biased) experience, almost an inarguable truth. Then again I've always been a pessimist. About everything.

I'll be the first to say there's no money in freelancing either, which is problematic for me: all of my meager income right now, all of it, miserable as it is, comes from creating content for games whether my own or those owned by others. Thankfully, I'm fortunate in my personal situation in some ways, i.e. not currently freezing/starving in a gutter.


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