A bit of history
Ten years ago, when I took the tough decision to quit my job as a fairly well paid restaurant manager to go back and study art in games, I had no idea what to expect. I’d been told at art college, that there are no jobs in art, and stupidly for a number of years I listened. I never knew you or me could design board games.
I changed my direction from Art college to media studies, thinking that tv, radio and broadcast would give me a better chance of finding at least a little creativity in the workplace. I found that harder even, than how I’ve found my current industry, in freelance commercial illustration… It seemed people worked for free for years, and there was never a guarantee of a job at the end. Why had I compromised for something that felt so hard? I ended up giving up and taking a job front-of-house in a restaurant. I loved the interaction with people, but hated the lack of creativity.
No time like the present
Fast forward to now, in an industry I love, and I can’t imagine quitting. Is it hard to find a foothold in the industry? Yes. But I love it so much, I just want to keep pushing. I’ve nudged open doors here and there, and eventually I managed to find a way to support myself and my family, doing what I love. The best part is, I’m learning every day. Learning to be a better artist, communicator and person in business.
Similar to my experience with the media industry, I found working in large video games companies (my first paid art gigs) almost as difficult. It wasn’t the work or even the long hours, or the horrendous sometimes three hour commute each way from London. It was the insecurity. The video games industry has a reputation for being a little cut-throat. A project can start, accumulate staff, then quick as a flash, get cancelled. The collateral damage affecting the designers, devs and artists, sending them back to the job seekers queue.
My first gig, the whole studio closed down, and I sadly packed up and left. I still loved my experience there, but it was like a warning. I saw the next studio I worked for go the same way, and began to look into freelance work.
Make your own path
I jumped as I saw those around me pushed. I handed my notice before the company disappeared, and threw myself into finding clients. I already had one or two lined up. I spent half my day cold messaging authors, game designers and anyone else who might need illustration. In a way, I probably shouldn’t be proud. I mean, I hate getting cold calls on my phone from companies. But this felt different to me, I was throwing all my chips in. Pushing myself and hustling for work.
For the first few years it was the same. I’d blog, respond to forums, try and get my work everywhere. It felt like a million plates to spin, but everytime I got a small commission, boom! I was hooked even more.
Artists have a reputation for dragging their feet, struggling to maintain deadlines and not really being able to hold down work. If that’s the case, I assume they’re not holding down much work. To be a commercial freelance artist, you need to be part creative, part sales person, part project manager. Tenacity is probably my main skill now, if something doesn’t work, try something else. Knock back, knock back, knock back, score!
My point is, there’s a fantastic world out there, where you can carve out exactly the role you want to do, you just have to keep knocking on doors, and making connections.
Now a lot of my work comes from word of mouth and organic searches, where people find my work and can find me, but it always shocked me how there was never a centralised place to find work in the board game industry. I’d be digging around on forums, Facebook, twitter. Answering every tweet or post trying to find the next contract. Sometimes I was lucky, I put so much time into it though, it really hampered how much time I could spend producing art, and improving that side of myself. The bit I really loved seeing progress. There had to be something, but there wasn’t.
At a time when I felt like I needed to “knock on another door”, I began to design board games. I love games, and love strategy, so I figured if I could design something I loved, I was able to commission myself to work on it. I’d be making my own contract!
This is where I discovered the OTHER side of board game production. Again I found myself scrabbling round for information. It’s incredibly daunting trying to design, illustrate and learn the financial side of the industry. I was lucky enough to discover some fantastic blogs like the Stonemaier blogs, and the late James Mathe’s blogs. They helped me learn a lot. But what was missing? A place to find legitimate board game industry professionals to collaborate with and commission. I found myself digging around for the parts of the skillset I was missing, and similar to the feeling I had when looking for commissions, was the feeling I had when I was trying to commission… where… is… everybody?
I discussed a new idea with a friend. A web-app designer, Tim Simms. He was the best man at my wedding, and always blew my mind with the stuff he could do with computers. I asked him what was possible. We began to both really dig deep to find if there was a real hole in the production line we could fill with a combination of my experiences and industry contacts I’d built up through ten years, and his know how on web design.
We started designing DoodleMeeple. It’s aim was simple. To provide reliable freelance industry workers with the people who needed them.
The thing is, both the pool of freelancers, and the people who need them is growing. Daily. If we just use Kickstarter ( a crowd funding platform that has become the mecca for new board game publishers) as a reference we can see that board game production and consumption has grown incredibly.
“Successful tabletop game projects raised a new record amount on Kickstarter in 2019, $176.4 million, up 7% from the $165.3 million raised for the category on the crowdfunding platform in 2018, according to the annual report from ICO Partners. This is the fifth consecutive year of growth; tabletop games dollars have grown eight of the nine years since Kickstarter launched in 2011.”
Quote from (https://bit.ly/2UHWT2k) ICv2: THE BUSINESS OF GEEK CULTURE
The board game industry needs some structure, and we had the power to help.
A new way to design board games
Over the past months we’ve been building our user base of awesome board game creative industry professionals. We’re always looking for new talent, and if that sounds like you, whether you’re an artist, graphic designer, rules editor, marketer, games tester, whatever, you can find out more about how you can benefit from a streamlined approach to finding work.
With DoodleMeeple those looking to design board games, new designers and seasoned publishers alike will find our Creative roster packed with pros. You can invite incredible artists, rules editors, graphic designers, content creators, project managers and loads more to your project from a curated roster of talented freelancers.
We make contracting the hired help easy, and streamlined. It’s not a simple jobs board where both parties grab a lottery ticket and hope for the best. With DoodleMeeple we help to refine your search meaning more relevant people to do what you need, in turn, Creatives enjoy a much more direct opportunity.
By having a more personal interaction with just a handful of candidates, our Creators (those looking for help) get better quality, tailored quotes for their project. While Creatives (our awesome industry talent) waste no time in quoting on projects they know they’re well suited for.
Not only can we begin to facilitate excellent new projects, but we know how our collaborators like to work. Using DoodleMeeple, our new collaborators will be able to take advantage of:
- Easy generated contracts to keep everyone happy
- Creative driven milestone payments, that are confirmed by the Creator
- Money handled through our excellent partners, Stripe for ease and security
- A messaging system that keeps a log of everything to make sure everyone is always on the same page
Everything is getting exciting at DoodleMeeple HQ. We’re in beta, but we’re now testing the final stages. I personally can’t wait to see what amazing projects are created through the platform.
Learn more, make an account and take the first step into the most exciting project of your life. Check out DoodleMeeple.