Last Friday marked the one-year anniversary of my last day at Fantasy Flight Games, and my first day of full-time freelancing. I made the decision to be a freelancer out of a desire to work on more games, and more different types of games, in a more creative set of roles, with a wider variety of people, than a full-time job at FFG allowed.
And it worked, on all of those counts. The most incredible has been on the “wider variety of people” front. FFG, with all of its licensors and foreign co-publishers, is far from a hermetic environment, but I’ve worked with, or have plans to work with, people I didn’t know existed at this time last year. And pretty much without exception, they’re awesome people.
I’ve read — and my experience this past year bears it out — that while people tend to be able to accomplish less in a day than they think they ought to be able to, the converse is true for a year. That is, people tend to be able to get more done in a year than they ever would have expected. This last year, the number of days when the end of the day came around with the day’s to-do list about half crossed-off (or worse) is pretty staggering. But at the same time, I can’t think of any deadlines I blew in any serious way, and I have a pretty significant list of projects completed, and published.
The downside of freelancing seems obvious: Less reliable finances. And that’s true… sort of. I can’t find the article now, but a couple of years ago I remember reading something Matt Forbeck wrote on the subject of freelancing, in comparison to holding down a traditional job. You never know, he said, when your day job’s going to evaporate in a layoff, a merger, or some similar cataclysm. Especially these days. Day jobs seem permanent, but it’s an illusion. Matt said he preferred knowing right where the wolf was all the time, right outside his door. He’d rather dispense with the illusion of permanence and deal with the reality that there are no guarantees.
His observation about being able to see the wolf is true. At any given time, I know right which week the wolf is standing on, the week when, if no new gigs land between now and then, there will be no more money. (I have similar clarity about the end of my mortgage, I suppose, but there are about 28 years in between the wolf and paying off the house, as things stand today.)
But after a year, with only one significant cashflow dry spell (and it was a cashflow dry spell, not a working dry spell), I’m finally getting to the point where I instinctually trust that there will continue to be gigs, and that the wolf’s just going to have to get comfortable walking backwards down the calendar until I decide to stop pushing him. And so Matt turns out to be right: It’s a relief to know that I’m the one pushing him, and that the primary force isn’t some jackass who’s going to change his long-term business strategy and leave me high-and-dry, for reasons that have more to do with his whims and insecurities than me or my work.
Let me tell you this: Let me tell you how great it is to not have a boss. I have lots of bosses, don’t get me wrong. Each gig has a boss in the sense of someone who defines the scope and approves the deliverables. But none of the gigs have a boss in the sense of a guy who tells me where to sit, and when to sit there, and how long I can eat lunch, and what kind of computer I have to use. These days, I work for three or four hours a day in a coffee shop instead of in my office at home, and sometimes I go to the gym in the middle of the day, and sometimes I go out to lunch with my wife, and sometimes I blow off work for the afternoon and go play poker. The flip side is that some evenings I hit the work again after the kids are in bed, but you know what? A lot of the time, it’s because I want to do some work in the evening. Thing is, I like the work. After the experience of this past year, circumstances would have to get pretty bad before I was willing to have a boss again.
This is all pretty meta with respect to the general “game + story” themes and purposes of Gameplaywright. Will would certainly put this kind of writing about his career over at The Gist. For my part, cobbling a personal blog back together is one of the things that’s fallen through the cracks this past year. (Although I did start a Tumblr microblog.) But honestly, the longer that life continues on without that particular to-do item checked off, the less I’m sure that I’d do enough personal blogging to make it worthwhile. So today, I’m dropping a pretty much entirely personal post on you here, Gameplaywright reader. Thanks for reading it.