Saturday, August 24, 2013
The Switch: from freelance to in-house
Hey there everyone--
heres a big read.
ive been gone for a while. i havent been posting, i havent been streaming, and i havent really been online at all. the reason for this is that about 6 weeks ago i was hired to work in-house, full time, at a boston studio for development on a few IP's, which i cant (of course) talk about. At the time, i already had several ongoing freelance contracts on, so i was hesitant to agree. however, in the end, i took the job and set out for a long period of 17 hour workdays, of which i am now about halfway through.
Ive been asked a lot by many people via facebook, skype, email, and forums how it is to work in house after freelancing full time for 2 years and trying to climb the ladder with private clients and company contracts. rather than respond to everyone, i thought id put a nice big breakdown of my experiences so far here, in the hopes that its useful to anyone else thinking they might want to make the switch. here goes, hope its useful.
1) The Hunger and The Comfort Zone-
by far the biggest critique of working in house you see on forums in the community nowadays relates to what people call the comfort zone. with regular pay set on regular intervals and with regular hours, its a very real concern that the mind can get used to a sense of 'time off' once you've met your daily requirements. much like being a kid in school, once the bell rings at the end of the day, most people gradually tend to feel satisfied with their 8 hours of work and take the rest of the night off, maybe putting in a little extra on the weekends. this isn't a problem if you're satisfied with your job and standing in the community we're all in, and for many people its more than enough to have a comfortable, balanced lifestyle.
however, for freelancers, going into this mindset after years of working through what im gonna affectionately call 'The Hunger', can be a bit of a shock, if not entirely impossible. As a freelancer doing work for hire contracts, you set your own hours with a balance of how fast you are, how good you want the piece to be, and when the deadline is. pay for freelancer's isn't usually a reflection of the quality we put out-- in order to climb the ladder, you need to constantly be improving, so we tend to never be satisfied with the results, no matter how many hours we put in. this means a very congested lifestyle, balancing multiple clients with (for the majority of freelancers) very low paying work. this of course means you need to do more to make more, which of course means more time.
for a lot of us, it becomes a sort of addiction on the forums and in the community, we see everyone getting better, we want to be better ourselves, and we need to constantly balance our own work with the huge number of freelance jobs we take on. all of this combines over time into an almost constant state of positive stress- The Hunger.
going in house, i didn't have the option of becoming complacent and taking more time off. i already had commitments i had to fulfill stretching all the way through october. I can honestly say that while this nonstop pace is extremely exhausting- im getting more work done, and faster, than i ever have before. the studio environment is different enough that when i switch over to freelance at the end of the workday, it still feels fresh and my mind can still process what i need to do. my advice to anyone worried about going in house and stagnating is to do exactly this to prevent it. you dont need to work 17 hours a day to feel good about yourself- but putting in a couple extra for yourself after the 5 o clock bell can make the difference between just having a job and moving forward in a career.
A second big concern when going in house is the fact that you won't exist as much on the internet, if at all. I've been experiencing this first hand for the past 40 or so days now, and its a very weird shift when one is used to being so public so often.
the fact is- when working on an active IP in house, you cant show that work to anyone. you cant post it on forums. in many cases, you cant even tell people that youre working on it at all. this means that your 40 hours of work a week is invisible to everyone but the team you are on. if you're lucky, you may have rights to put the work in your portfolio down the line- it all depends on the contract, but in many cases that is not the case, or can take years of waiting (by which time you are so much better that the work shouldn't be in your portfolio anyways).
the obvious way around this is to do personal work or show-able client work after hours or on weekends in order to keep a pulse in the community. knowing people and being an active participant in the forums, sites, blogs, and tumblrs is all necessary to keep getting work and being relevant in what we all do. however, the second option, which ive been going for, is to set a date of acceptable absence and to get everything you need done by then in order to come back strong.
at the moment, on top of my studio work, i have 3 ongoing freelance contracts- only one of which i can show (if watermarked). this of course means i have no time for personal work, and am entirely nonexistent online. but ive set a date for my deadlines on these projects, around 30 days from now, upon which i will make the transition back to personal work from freelance, in order to get back in the game. personal work is most important thing you can do as a working artist. its more important than any contract you have, and for some reason it still (almost always) get the back-burner treatment.
My advice to anyone thinking of going in house is- if youre making enough at the studio to not have to take on freelance, then don't. be responsible and strict with yourself, and set a healthy weekly regimen for personal work to keep yourself alive on the internet, as well as constantly developing in your portfolio. I'll be doing the same once my contract's are up, and I can't wait to start.
3) Take Advantage
working in a studio can be more than just a paycheck if you approach it as such. you'll be around other creative people and can get a lot of help and perspective on your own habits an methods if you're willing to learn from them. after almost 2 full years of living alone in my workspace, i cant tell you how insanely relieving it is to be around human beings on a day-to-day basis. its almost unreal to think i was alone, inside, as long as i was. the energy of being around others in an active environment has made me more productive and faster in everything i do, and i cant stress the benefits of it as a working environment enough. even if you dont go in house at any point in your career, i would recommend looking into the idea of sharing a workspace somewhere, outside of the home, so that you can take advantage of and experience the shock of the change of mindset you will go through. watching others do what they do and learning from how they approach similar work will evolve and change your own mindset to work in ways you hadn't previously thought of, and being part of a team will let you see certain jobs for what they are when broken down into pieces that several must tackle at once. this will lead to you approaching images, how they read, and how to best complete them, in entirely new ways.
So, if you're lucky enough to be on a good team in a good environment, take advantage of it! ive worked alone at home long enough to confidently tell you you'd be wasting a major opportunity not to.
so for now, thats it! if i think of more, ill amend this to reflect it.
for those who asked--
I wake up at 5 everyday. im out the door around 6. i commute to work and start my day around 8, work til 5, and then switch over to freelance until 10 or 11 pm. then i sleep, and repeat. in a month ill be starting a new lease closer to the city to free up the 3 hours a day ive been spending commuting. i need them badly haha.
thanks for reading, and i hope everyones well!
Posted by Daniel Warren at 1:45 PM