Indie Income Inquiry #1

Several years ago, I decided that I wanted to live off of my work as a game developer. I didn’t know what to expect, how to prepare for it, or where to ask for help. I am finally to the point where I feel comfortable being completely transparent about my work and about my income. This has led me to the idea of The Indie Income Inquiry!

My goal is to create a give-and-take regarding independent game developers and their insight(s) on how to make money, find work, and survive in the current marketplace. I will first offer my monthly report and hope that a few people contact me with their information. In Indie Income Inquiry #2 I will share what I have gathered!

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During the month of October I got a lot of new things rolling. Financially, it will end up being a good month. I stated before that I want to be transparent, however, I want to respect the people that I work for/with and because of this I will omit some specifics. I will separate finances into broad categories rather than going into great detail.

Marketplace sales: $371
Contract work: $900
Other: $2000
TOTAL: $3271

Not bad. To some that may seem like nothing, and to others that may seem like the world. Either way, I was able to earn a living by doing what I love! That is what we all strive to do. I’d also like to add the disclaimer that some of this money may have been funneled back into one or more of my projects. Perhaps a contracted musician or artist needed to be paid, or a devkit or license needed to be purchased. The number of dollars pocketed was probably much lower than what is displayed above.

Also note the categories. The first, and smallest sum of income was the result of my sales on the YoYo Games Marketplace for Game Maker assets. The second involves all programming that I did for projects created and owned by other developers, as well as requests for adding additional features to my marketplace assets. The last category contains all work that I did on my project(s). Pay here typically involves salaries/advances for work where a publisher and/or distributor is on board.

Let’s Break That Down

////////// Marketplace sales: $371 //////////

The Game Maker Community is awesome and now it can also be used as a form of income. However, like most marketplaces, visibility is EVERYTHING. YoYo Games pays out at the end of every month where you hit a $100 milestone. My first month of sales was roughly $13.00, so my take-home pay was $0.00. Unacceptable, so I hit Twitter HARD.

GIFs. I would tweet my work. I would be very public about my work. I started a new Twitter account prior to launching the SUPER III Kickstarter, and within the last 2-3 months I have increased my following by 650 people. Every night I would make something with the marketplace assets that I was working on and I would tweet a new action/tech-heavy GIF. It works, I promise. YoYo Games and people of the Game Maker Community would retweet my work (smart use of hashtags is important) and the coverage that I got from this ended with practically all of my current products being featured on the front page of the marketplace.

YoYo Games Marketplace
Rope + Water Physics Platformer Engine (for use w/ Game Maker Studio)

Basically, the lesson of this portion is that your skill(s) are capable of being monetized whether or not you currently have contract work!

////////// Contract work: $900 //////////

The contract work was made up of two separate projects. Contract work can come in many shapes and sizes. The first was for about $800 at a competitive rate. This is your typical contract work where someone needs assistance while making a commercial project. The second was only for $100, but it was during a time that $100 meant everything.

I would also like to mention that some of this contract work was a side effect of the marketplace assets. If you are public about who you are and how people can contact you, THEY WILL. I have had numerous people contact me saying that they have purchased assets x, y, and z, but would really love to see all these other, more specific features added. Be nice. Be flexible. If it is quick, do it for free. Returning customers are a good thing!

Rope + Water Physics PlatformerAction features added to the Rope + Water Physics Platformer

////////// Other: $2000 //////////

I have remained a bit abstract with this one, but that is mostly due to the fact that the projects involved have not yet been announced, publicly. However, I will try to tip-toe around it to give you as much information as possible.

When an independent developer starts dealing with larger projects, they may hit a point where a partnership is necessary (for funding, support, distribution, etc). Remain friendly with ALL contacts. At some point you will be contacted by someone who you have no use for, but at some other point, you may NEED them. While working on Frog Sord, I was approached by several publishers, distributors, and marketing people. Due to the nature of the project, they were all unnecessary. That is no longer the case and I was easily able to reach out to these people and impress them with new ideas.

There are plenty of ways to survive off of deals like this. If you are confident in your project, a lot of publishers/distributors are comfortable paying advances or loans as a form of mock salary. They pay you to work on the game and the initial sales of the end product goes towards paying back any advances that may have been made.

In my case, I am working on two personal projects. Both projects are being published and distributed by another party. I am paid an initial flat amount in exchange for a set percentage of sales. Further investment will be an advance or loan. This is both flexible and dangerous. I have the freedom to go a little budget crazy, but that budget is cutting into my percentage of the sales. It’s a balancing act that’s worth playing with.

There are many other reasons to play nice with other devs and contacts. At the moment, my plate is full and I can’t accept any more work. However, if any of my current ventures fall through, I have several paid gigs that I could slide into. This is almost necessary in this industry. Contract work is never a sure thing when starving artists are hiring other starving artists.

Tip

Support/Follow others! When you follow someone or share their work (Twitter, Tumblr, etc), it is likely that they will take a peek at your page. If it’s covered in GIFs and impressive work of your own, you will likely get support in return. A lot of my contract work comes from retweeting art from games that are in need of code. Seek out people who need you and make sure that they understand why.

Contact/Contribute

If you have comments, concerns, feedback, or anything related to the subject of “indie income”, please contact me through my personal email: zbell91@comcast.net

Thanks for reading,

-Z

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Indie Income Inquiry #1

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