Art: o Red o Gaia Commission

Was asked on Gaia to do a commission of someone's avatar in the style of this collaboration with Melinda:


How to Hire an Artist - with Perspective

Work in progress post....


There's been a lot of fuss on the Internet lately. Dan Howard, a recognized professional illustrator and good friend of mine recently posted a particular student's article and a professional's response.

Businessman. Artist. Programmer. Professional. Student. Hobbyist. Freelancer. Full-time. Independent. Mainstream. Games. Animation. Hundreds of potential situations exist in the computer graphic industry. Each may require you to act differently. Personally, I am a full-time, mainstream industry programmer who does independent, freelance illustration as a hobby and possesses some business education background. I obviously haven't been in every situation ever, but I may have touched enough to suggest ways people can make better decisions through better awareness.

The name of the game is "due diligence." This is the background research practice commonly used by investment firms when funding ventures. If you are a developer holding the money, you are an investor in your product. But if you are the artist making the assets, you're also an investor. Know what is on the table, know what you want, and the best products will surface. For future reference, the "contractor" pays a "creative" to make or help make a product.

1. Consider the product.

What is being made? Are artists serving as human printers or as creative directors?

2. First, consider both positions.

As a creative, you should understand your skill level. If you are a student, you will likely have to charge less than a seasoned professional. In addition to skill level, consider your personal, financial situation. If this is your only source of income, you may want to charge more. Research other people on the same level as you to see how they behave and what choices they make.

Contractors, on the other hand, need to understand exactly what resources they require. Certain functions, like converting a raster logo to vector, may not require much creative input or advanced experience from the artist, in which case you have more leeway shopping around. If you have a particular idea for desired style, you may have to pony up to hire a specific person known for that speciality. For example, a contract who wants to build a Flash game for an online portal will should not seek out a full-time, console programmer. Creatives come in all different types, and contractors must pick accordingly.

Finally, understand your motivation and your product. Why are you making this product? Is it one of many? The core of hiring creatives comes from motivation. Most creatives are internally driven. They make things because they enjoy the process of making them.

On frequent question arises: pricing. Creatives often have trouble putting a number on their work due to their internal motivation. Some will even work for free simply out of interest. The end price should be affordable enough for the contractor but large enough to take money off the mind of the create. This video explains it quite nicely (with cartoons!).

2. Consider the relationship you want.

If anyone is familiar with the prisoner's dilemma, it seems like one should always default to the option that will gain themselves the most at that moment. However, it's been proven that, over multiple iterations, the "tit-for-tat" method works out - start off nice and non-envious and forgive the other party if something goes wrong once, but if this occurs on multiple occasions, retaliate. The golden rule still applies in the business world: "Do unto others as you would have done unto you."


I'll divide opportunities into two categories: one-off and long term.

If you are sure you will never work with someone again, then it is actually in your financial interest to take as much as you can. For small projects, like schoolwork, you should probably do this.

However, the game and movie industries are small, and people move frequently. Especially in mainstream entertainment, you may work with the same person twice. Here, consider that "the best customer is a returning customer, and the best way to keep them coming back is to have a valuable product."

One benefit, though, of a long-term relationship is that cultivating many relationships with many clients builds a brand. For creatives, this means more exposure in an area you excell at. For contractors, this means more artists willing to work for you in your desired style. A brand in itself becomes an investment, and it grows as you do personally and technically.

In the end, it call goes back to motivation. If you cannot commit the time to a full-time position - like if you are a student or have non-work-related affairs, you may want to take more one-off jobs. However, if you want security, look for long-term relationship in full-time emplyment.

3. Proceed with caution.

I cannot stress enough how important a business plan is. For contractors, a defined business plan will show potential creative employees your security which will help you get better talent. In addition, it provides a solid road for the contractor to organize him or herself. Remember, though, as development continues and creatives are hired, the business plan is likely to change. However, any document serves as great organizational points.

Put important things on the table. Employees feel better and often make good suggestions when they know what is going on. The more involvement a creator has, the more ownership they feel, and the higher the liklihood the product will be worthwhile. Contractors worried about information leakage should write NDAs before explaining their business plans.

Lastly, make sure everything is in writing. When making contracts, I most importantly look for information regarding possession of the specific asset versus its associated intellectual property, and amount, method, and frequency of payment. Mainstream companies will always have employees sign contracts. You will probably have little room to negotiate, but in exchange, most of their contract are reliable because they have to maintain long-term relationships. Work-for-hire creatives should be given contracts stipulating which assets must be done by which dates, and the pay will be distributed in such a manner. If you are a creative without a standard contract template, ask others for help or - if you can afford it - go to a lawyer. Make sure all of this is agreed upon before the work begins. I would be wary if a job must be paid entirely up front or entirely at the end - divide work into paid milestones and make plans for revisions. If you are being paid hourly, I personally recommend using a shared Google calendar for complete transparency, to keep track of which hours and mark what was done when.

I hope that these bullet points have made whoever is reading this - contractor or creative - more aware of potential situations. Regarding the other articles. It may just be me, but I feel - In the end, the exception does not make the rule. The only rule is that there are no rules! Keep common sense about you, and judge each opportunity by that opportunity's circumstances.