Tuesday, February 15, 2011

On being a freelance game writer/designer- Part II

If you haven't read last weeks blog, you'll probably feel like you just dropped into the middle of a conversation. You'd be right!

So then, how did you become a freelancer?

Ah yes, now that the history lesson is done, let's get back on topic. So how did I go from BattleTech fan, to freelance developer? As you will recall, from last week, my first flippant answer was "don't ask". This isn't as flippant as it sounds.

I've been reading a lot about getting started as a freelance writer. The mantra there pretty much boils down to, "write, finish, submit, rinse and repeat." The key to that process is the "finish" part. If you don't finish your story you can never try submitting it. This is a process I'm still learning on the writing side, but Jason Schmetzer, Editor of the BattleCorps site, pounds on this one for how to get your stories accepted by BattleCorps. This is awesome advice and I know Craig Reed did just this, becoming a fairly regular writer on BC as a result.

For basic freelancing, this is essential. For becoming a freelance game writer/developer it is also good general advice. If you lack basic writing skills, it will seriously hinder your aspirations to be the next Gary Gygax. It is not, however, a barrier to entry. I've been writing for BattleTech now several years, and I've yet to get a story accepted to BattleCorps. It's a different medium and different requirements. I'm considered good for game writing, but for full on short stories I've not passed the bar.

Digressing again, back to the core question.

Welcome to the 21st century, the age of online/social media. By the time you get your name in print, the odds are you've developed an online reputation that is going to follow you for years to come. This is an essential fact of life and something we all have to come to grips with. I face this in my professional life on a daily basis. It got to the point that I seriously considered changing my writing name to separate my writing "hobby" from my day job. In the end I realized it wouldn't do much good at this stage. If an author writes under four pen names, it will take you probably two minutes to find out all their names and their real one. Welcome to the digital age!

No, I'm not digressing this time. Becoming a successful game freelancer, and I would argue a successful writer, speaker, consultant, any job that requires good public perception means you have to be very aware of your online reputation. Heck, entire sites have risen about measuring this reputation. Klout.com and Peerindex are two prime examples of this.  And my own growth to a freelance game  designer for Catalyst mirrors these principles.

It was my participation in the 3048 Fan Council (An online post based RPG) that started it all. Several people were impressed with my writing and more importantly my drive to work with people and be inclusive. CBT Moderator and BattleTech factchecker, Worktroll, asked me to help grow the still young BattleCorps Legion. I was the first and only non-mini painted character in the regiment. I was invited to playtest not long after that and to be a moderator after that. This was all a result of my online presence on CBT and BattleCorps. I was nice, I was inclusive, I contributed to the conversation. Everyone knew I was a hard core House Davion /FedCom fan, but I was on great terms with fans from all walks of the game.

And this is exactly how many of the ASF Cabal and Master Unit List team were recruited. All of them had shown a marked expertise in some area. William Gauthier had built his own fan Objective Raids document, Luke Robertson regularly wrote in character essays on aerospace usage and so on. But that wasn't everything. After that their demeanor went under the microscope. William is a great example of this. In the BattleTech community he is know as "MadCappellan", a more ardent fan of the Capellan game faction you would be hard pressed to find. And while being dedicated to his faction, William has never let it take him to far. His online interactions are commendable.

Do you have to have a really good online reputation to become a freelancer?
No, you don't. But you have to be very damn good, very good. And you still have to find a way to get your foot in the door. There are a few that I know, but they are the exception, not the rule.

So how did you go from Fact Checker to Developer?
And this is where you do ask, sort of.

But that's for the next blog.

Until next time,
Writer, Explorer, Learner

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