My Fisrt Game – How to outsource art for your game using freelancing sites

Hi. This is the fourth post I’m writing about how I published my first game.

In the previous one I’ve wrote about how I’ve defined the assets I would need for the game.

I’m not designer so I was decided to hire a professional to do all the art for me.

There are some issues I should address:

  • where would I find them?
  • how to chose the best one and still keep my budget?
  • how to specify what I need?
  • how to pay? In advance? I don’t think so.

How lucky I’m! I follow a blog named iDevBlogADay. This is a project proposed by an indie developer named Miguel.

In short: every day 2 developers write about anything they want related to iPhone development. What I like more in this blog is that they write much more about marketing strategies and stuff related to their business management than technology.

I came across an article written by a guy named Alfred. Article title: How to outsource art for your game using freelancing sites.

He wrote his own experience outsourcing. Based on his experience I hired an artist to create the images to my game. What I’m going to write is almost the same Alfred wrote in his article but with my own point of view, my doubts, my mistakes and lessons learned.

Where to find artists?
There are a couple of options available:

Hiring an enterprise or a freelancer near to your location.

  • Pros:
    Both of you speak the same language. It eases communication and reduces the risk of misunderstandings.
    Be able to visit the one you hired from time to time to see how the work is evolving.
  • Cons:
    Prices are high (at least here in Brazil).
    Of course both of you will sign an agreement but if you need to go to the court to solve any issue it will consume much more time and money than you were planning to expend in your little project.

Hire an enterprise or a freelancer on the web.

  • Pros:
    There are too much more professionals that you can chose.
    You can get much more paying less because there is a very aggressive competition by clients.
  • Cons:
    Usually you won’t speak your own language. English is the lingua franca of the world and probably you will need to stick to it. This can lead to terrible misunderstandings.
    You’re not able to visit them from time to time to see how the work is evolving.
    You (usually) won’t have any contract. And let me say the truth: would you hire a lawyer in an other country to sue someone because some small amount (US$ 500.00 or less)? Of course not. You will expend much more with the lawyer.

Of course when you already know the enterprise / freelancer you’re hiring risks diminish a lot and it’s not a much concern whether the professional was hired on the web. But I didn’t know anyone. So, which option would I stick with?

After having carefully examined the options I decided to hire a professional web. Why?

Basically because it is cheaper. A can hire a good professional for a small amount of money when compared to Brazil.

In order to play safe I decide to hire a professional using some specialized site. Alfred has cited some of them. I’ve made my own research and I decided to use this.

Outsourcing using a specialized web site
Following I will write about what I like and what I dislike about them.

  • Pros:
    You have a lot of professional available. Not only graphic designers, but programmers, translators and much more. You can run your one business just hiring their professionals.You can see professional qualifications and portfolios. This let you hire just the ones who best fit your needs.You can search professionals based on criteria you’ve choose.You can direct invite a professional or post a bid and then select from candidates who will do the work.You can post hourly or a fixed-price job.You and the contractor will be put in contact after you’ve picked one. No man in the middle.There is no risk involved. You pay to them and they pay the contractor when the job is completed. What if there is a dispute between you and the contractor ? They have the last word to say who is right. They will use your specs, the job done and the e-mails you’ve exchanged to say whether the job will be paid.
  • Cons:
    You cannot use paypal (at the moment) to pay the neither the site nor the contractors. If you’re like me you probably don’t like to give your credit card number to every site. I’m a big fan of paypal and I use it all the time.

Despite the fact that I found out just one negative point I got very concerned. I’ve spent a couple of weeks researching oDesk trying to find something against them.

I’ve found out nothing to discredit them. oDesk has a very good reputation on the net. They are extremely professionals and give us a freedom to negotiate. So I made my mind and create an account on oDesk to hire a professional.

How to make an assets work list

Do you remember when I told you that oDesk would decide whether the contractor would be paid in case of dispute

In order to reduce any problems you need to give the most precise information for the contractor. I mean, you need to do an asset work list. It will contain the specs of all that must be done. You can get a model here.

Note: I need say thanks to Alfred. Moreover, I must tell you that my template in really is Alfred’s template with my game data. You can get his template from here.

I recommend you to send your assets list as a PDF file. Here you can see the original file I’ve used to post the bid.

You must noticed that in the assets list I demand vector image file format instead of a raster format like png. That’s because I will need to resize some of them in to a broad range of sizes and raster images will lead to loss of quality. I’d recommend you to the same.

I said the size I’m expecting to use the images. I don’t know whether it matters when the image is done using a vector file format but I thing that giving extra information may reduce bad surprises.

Know your budget and deadline

I had my relatively small budget (USD 250.00) and I wanted to get the most of it.

I choose to bid a fixed-price job. Why? A couple of reasons:

  • The main reason is that I no nothing about graphics development. It means I could not estimate how many time it would took to get the job done. Too risky.
  • A fixed-price for a well specified job would bring only serious professionals because they know they wouldn’t get paid if they didn’t delivery what was agreed.
  • I could offer an amount under my budget and would have margin to negotiate as needed.

Just because I chose Fixed-price it didn’t make me an expert in graphics development and I still wasn’t able post a bid with a fair value.

So I did some research in the oDesk site looking for job offers like mine and I found out a lot of them (you need to be registered as an employer but it’s free to register).

The best thing is that oDesk let you see many details about the job offer:

  • what have to be done
  • who posted it
  • who accepted it
  • its type (fixed or hourly paid )
  • the price paid
  • when it was posted
  • when it was done

Based on that I got an idea about the price to pay, the time it would take and what to write in the job offer form.

Notice that you don’t need to post multiple bids, one at a time. You can take to similar jobs and post both as just one job offer.

I did this. I had an idea for 2 games so similar that I posted one job offer for both of them (Even Or Odd and another one I still didn’t developed).

Please be sure to use one assets list for game. It’s not mandatory but it may help you to organize your work.

Once you got registered at oDesk  you can see my negotiation.

Just to summarize I posted my job offer by USD 150.00 and in the and I paid $155.56.

Don’t tell details about the game

Alfred advices not to tell too much details about your games. If you’re going to develop a super idea with a revolutionary game that will make you millionaire I think he’s write.

On the other hand, if you’re doing a simple game (like me) I don’t think you should be that paranoid.

Don’t pay more than 20% upfront

It’s a very good advice from Alfred. Once you pay something upfront (even using  oDesk payment system) you’re on your own. The contractor will get that money immediately and any problem with him/her means you’ve lost the amount paid.

That said, I’ve paid around 18% upfront because the amount was small and I thought the negotiation was good.

Maintain a good relation

I liked a lot to interact with the designer I hired on oDesk. He is a great guy. When I get my second game done I will contact him (through oDesk) for another job.

In the next post I’m going to write about my experience publishing Even Or Odd.

You can read previous posts about my first game here:

I’d like to ask you to give a try on my game and post your comments. You can get it here.

Any comments are welcome. By the way, my English is poor so you’re welcome to correct me to.

Disclaimer: Please note that the links for the oDesk in this post are affiliate links and I do earn a commission through any purchases that you make.
If you do make a purchase, I appreciate it greatly! If you wish, shoot me an email or let me know on the Facebook Page so I can thank you personally.
Rest assured that I do not recommend a product / service that I don’t trust and that I don’t use.

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