Tuesday, March 17, 2015

GDC post-mortem and Patreon


GDC post-mortem

TLDR : The career fair was extremely wimpy this year especially considering I paid $195 for a ticket. I only found two companies where freelancing might be a possibility. All of the opportunities were more likely to be found at the after parties.

I went to GDC earlier this month as part of my new plans to more aggressively try to get out of the pen and paper RPG market and do some different work. I even put a little bit of thought and effort into being a little better at selling myself by maintaining a really positive attitude, smiling a little more even when idle and trying to use more positive phrases in conversation like "yes" "go on" and "continue"(little hard to explain). Not that I'm normally negative as I never say anything bad about my own work. It was just some techniques I heard for building a more positive experience in a conversation.

Unfortunately I think my portfolio still needs to be aimed more at this industry and I think the chances of getting freelance rather than in-house work is very slim. I need to show more examples of iterations on an idea and maybe do some orthographic images. My portfolio may also be too dominated by fantasy setting stuff. I focused so much on showing my absolute best work that I edited out what may have been a better spread of work to show. It would have been worth it to show some of my work that I would give a B to that were in a modern day setting. I had some work in my portfolio that was pixel art and more kid friendly but that wasn't the kind of variety I needed here.

I don't normally care for bars and parties with massive amounts of people whom I do not know at all but this is the year of doing things differently. My friend Dan is very into that though so I followed him around to all of the parties. This is where the best opportunities and leads seemed to be. Not that there were art directors here but that you have other artists saying they want to show your work to their boss,etc. That's obviously very different from the gaming conventions I attend where everybody is freelance rather than full-time. Those gaming parties are more of artists giving each other the heads up and which companies are good or bad to work for.

Many of the portfolio reviews were extremely kind but I still don't believe that anything will come from those. Only one of the reviews seemed like they were going to give any sort of criticism.

PATREON

Expectations

My expectations were extremely low since so few people know the platform or understand the model.  I sell a good amount of prints at conventions but I'd say there are only 5 people at GenCon each year who buy prints and originals not JUST because they like the art. They actually like/care about me and want to support my work and purchase at least one print and a sketch every single year. In Cincinnati there are about 3 or 4 more. These are people who are not related,co-workers,etc. I've helped spread the word about a lot of other artists' kick starters, have had great relationships with a ton of clients, give private critiques to many artists(at their request) and have given work many artists. I expected more of these people to pledge but only to pledge $1. I have over 1300 watchers on DA but only 11 who seem to fave every piece I post and I have some rapport. When I get my membership each year it's during buy one give one so I have given many of them DA subscriptions. I've never ran any crowd funding campaigns myself so I thought I had built up some goodwill. I did not expect old co-workers,family or friends to pledge. So realistically I only expected to be at $12/creation with 12 patrons.


Patron Reality

I was surprised to find how bad I was at predicting patrons. I have two ex-coworkers, a friend, an artist I have critiqued, a DA follower and two complete strangers.  The total amount is $63/creation so in a way it has been better than I expected at the start of this adventure but mostly just because one patron pledged $50. Still kind of disappointed by the number of patrons. I wrote this off as some people being cautious of a new platform and them being unsure as to what sort of work I planned to create.

I thought that once I created an awesome piece for patrons (and people received their rewards) I would see some additional backers or increased pledges. I released Cthaeh and it was super well received and has been my most popular piece in a while. I even marked it with my Patreon address instead of relying on people to read descriptions,tweets, status,etc. Unfortunately I didn't gain a single patron which has been a bit disheartening. Spreading it like crazy at GenCon hadn't yielded any results either. I sort of went into this with the expectation that I would only get $1 patrons but that with each great piece I would hopefully gain a $1 patron. So it would be a very slow but steady build.

The Good

I need to do personal work. I enjoy doing personal work. If I only had one patron pledging $1 it would cause me to want to get to work on that personal piece as soon as possible just so I'm not keeping them waiting. In reality it doesn't cost them any money until I've released the final piece but I still feel like I owe it to them to get them a piece as soon as I can.

Leverage! It wasn't long after creating my Patreon that I received one of those terrible e-mails asking me to make artwork under a work-for-hire contract for $50.  Thanks to my Patreon I was able to tactfully say, "look over here. People are ready to give me $63 to create whatever I want and own all of the rights. So I would obviously need a rate of at least X." In the past I've had to say no and give a rate and these sorts of people will talk about the exposure or say they can get somebody just as good even cheaper than their initial offer or they'll come back with an entirely back end payment plan. It's nice that I can now advance that conversation much more quickly and it has even resulted in people coming back with more fair rates. I'm considering whether it would be worth it to artificially inflate my Patreon just for giving myself leverage on regular jobs.

POSSIBLE CHANGES to make (actually I think I'm going to run and make these right now)
1.$10-for an 11x17 print level rather than $30 for 11x17-16x24. At conventions I normally sell 11x17 prints for $20 and 16x24 for $35 so this is a pretty great deal. $30 for print level on the Patreon is because I expected very few backers at that level and that level also earns raffle entries for the annual book which will cost me $120 to produce so I had to raise the cost so I didn't have to worry about getting slammed with that loss if I had very few Patrons. Also, I really wanted to offer higher quality and larger prints at this level. The sort of prints I

2.Encourage backers to pitch image concepts/themes. While I wouldn't make any promises, it could help patrons to feel involved and they may find the process more interesting when I'm interpreting written ideas.

3.?

2 comments:

Dave Kester said...

Joe,

I'm glad to see you avoid Kickstarter and move toward Patreon. I have been a supporter of Kickstarters and starting to realize that it isn't really hitting my desire/niche for how I want to support independent content developers.

I've been looking into Patreon as a way to put out there my own interest in writing and blogging and let other people give back something to that cause.

As you consider your plans I would encourage you to think more broadly in terms of why people might patron you. As we expand our views of patronage I hope that as a society we can leverage these kinds of tools more and more. Right now I think people are still asking themselves, what do I get out of it? Instead i'm going for, "What do we get out of it?"

I'm going to patron you at the $5 level just because I need to start putting out there my desire to support others. Thanks for the posts.

BTW: I found you by looking for pictures of aliens for a home brew RPG campaign i'm working on. :) Thanks for the great images.

Joe Slucher said...

Dave,
Thanks for the support! I didn't bring it up in my post but one way a lot of artists have approached Patreon as a way of giving back to patrons is by offering lots of instructional material. I'm really apprehensive about earning an income from other artists' supporting me. I remember being in college and being desperate to learn whatever I could and I think some artists and magazines are preying on that crop of young artists.If I offer any real instructional material I would feel the need to make it free. I was at $65 funding and just sent out rewards. After fees and cost of rewards I made $14. A big part of that is because most of my patrons are in Canada.

Besides for prints another way to give back is through offering rights to work. In this particular case though, I'm running a Patreon so I can have some work which I own the rights to.
By the way, go vote on the thumbnails for the next piece!