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Money vs vision - Should I go onboard on a long-term project?

Hello! Sayu here again, and now for some career advisement for other artists. Recent events inspired me to write this, and since the influx of new art jobs is not very overwhelming right now, I feel like this is the best time to write this down. This is another piece of me sharing my experience in this medium, not just for the time I've been full-time, but for all the time I've been around creating and posting online.

There was a time I asked one of my favorite artists what advice she would give to artists wanting to go down the same path as she went. She said she regrets taking on projects in the past she didn't like or think would help her grow as an artist, because she needed the money. Since then, that got me thinking of the importance of the integrity of your vision as an artist, and the need for the act of sacrificing what you believe for money.

I know it's a privilege to be able to turn down projects for not needing money -- I hardly do that myself, I must admit. But I hope this will get to aspiring commission artists and whoever is out there either making a living or hoping to be able to, in the future. Let's also reinforce that as an artist, it's important to have more than one source of income.

I was recently invited to a long-term project by a "CEO" of a "game company". Said game company got me thinking if it was really serious. Later down the line, I found out they invited me by accident, and they were making a game for rev-share. I was able to detect a lot of red flags in their recruitment process before I found out I didn't want to be onboard, and would like to share that with you, so you can successfully target your career towards making a reasonable monthly revenue.

How to feel like your team knows what they're doing

If you're a hobbyist, it's alright to not know what you're doing. But if you're making a living, it's crucial to know that. In this post, I'll teach you how to have the gut feeling that no work is going to get accomplished. That feeling sucks, but it's important for your survival and your career growth.

Every premise for a game is promising from the standpoint of its writer. Every manga is better than Death Note in the world of ideas. The question is: how did that person come up with that idea? Why do they think their idea is a success? Did that come from a really founded argument, or just their desire to create something? Is their idea even marketable, or something that would easily spread through word of mouth?

Again, there is nothing wrong with giving life to ideas through games and other types of media, but successful game studios that know what they're doing come up with ideas through hours of dedication to market research, playing other games, identifying patterns and finding inspiration in market tendencies that might have not been explored yet.

If you want to take it to a less profit-driven view, writing takes a really long time to master. For someone to become a good writer, there is an immense pile of reading they have to go through, and most people just like to assume their story is great without that effort.

Rev-share is, for the most part, a big no

I feel like I've shattered some artist dreams so far in this blog, and here it goes again: projects made for future rev-share are, for the most part, not worth it; people go down different paths in life. It's hard to conciliate work with anything else.

I've always loved and admired my best friend's work with writing. We've been friends for more than 10 years and she is the best writer I had the pleasure to know, but we were never able to conciliate our busy lives to make a short manga or anything, quite honestly. As life took its turns, each of us went down their own path. And we tried more than once to make projects together, but nothing really came out finished. Making a short manga demands a lot, and even though we tried it, we would have to go through the process of writing a script, making changes, character design, layout alternatives for pages, feedback, sketching and lining. It'd be way less hassle if I could go through that alone and not have to involve another busy person.

This is one of the reasons why I think zine projects and fan tarot deck projects happen to be a waste of time, unless of course you are an invited artist. Being invited aside other artists means they at least took the time to look you up and appreciate your work. But always consider the possibility of your work being sent into a limbo of non-existence.

I'd say, if it is a dream to make a game or a manga, at least let it be with people you love and estimate. Always remember: finished is better than perfect, so start with something very small. The smaller it is, better it'll be to finish.

Make sure your team is not putting their efforts into the wrong fields

When said game studio invited me, I realised they put a lot of effort into their non-public, developer discord server that was dedicated to the team, and for me that was a huge red flag. Why is organization a red flag, you ask? It's not the organization per say, it was the effort they put into making every single channel in the discord server seem like they were "putting their wonderful ideas to life" and how it looked so bubbly and sparkly.

A real game developer's non-public server would only have channels with the essentials. We know how much work it is to build a discord server, and if you're really concerned about starting and finishing a game, you'd better get started now and not waste time on how wonderful you want others in the team to perceive your game idea.

Make sure that said team has finished and released something before

This is a very important step of the process. Nowadays, I very rarely accept new clients with zero finished visual novel projects, since this is the main media I try to get published on. I'm not sure if I would accept getting into a manga or graphic novel project from a client who doesn't have a portfolio of finished projects either, since I also care about propelling my career from this type of product.

Make sure everyone in the team has the skills for the job

In that discord server, I saw a lot of very passionate creative developers. However, the final results of their developments were very different from what the team was expecting visually. In a team of game developers that know what they're doing, an UI designer has a heavy understanding not only about interface design, but graphic design as well. If you can make an interface with a bunch of comic sans bottons, great, but that won't do for a great project that's supposed sell a lot of copies and get played by thousands of people. And for that reason, game developer teams that know what they're doing usually have very compact teams of people who are very generalist and know a bit of everything that's demanded to make a game.

Make your art great and hop into your own projects

If you happen to be a full-time artist, I think it's important to try to dedicate yourself to your own projects. Remember, if you can draw, you're already doing the hardest part. But I can't stress this enough -- please make it easily finishable! If it's a manga project, make a 8-16 page doujin. If it's a visual novel, make it a 2 acts dating sim with a maximum of 4 characters, and break it down into smaller parts. If it's a graphic novel, make it a one-volume shot and expand your projects as you progress.

If you want to become a game developer or an artist for games, remember that the entertainment industry is very demanding, and will rarely hire a specialist -- one of the reasons why I never got into it and I don't regret it, staying an outsorced artist instead. But in my case, I think it's a privilege that I get to stay outsorced.

Saying no is important

I know it's very tempting to take the offers and embrace them as an opportunity life gives you, but if the project has all the characteristics I mentioned above, chances are your precious work will be archived and forgotten along the work of many other specialized artists when you probably won't be able to do their job. Always opt to working by yourself!

With this, I hope I was useful once more, and these hints are appliable to you! If you enjoy my writing content, you might like subscribing to my email list and checking out my art channels below.

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