Turning Down Work

As a freelancer, there are times when one has to make choices: choices about which companies to work for, which products lines to apply for work on, and which creators to work with to name but a few. There are even times when, if one is blessed, one has to make choices about which jobs to work on and which to turn down.

I’ve rarely been in a position in my writing work to have to choose which jobs to turn down. For whatever reason – most of them personally unflattering to consider – I have not had publishers beating down my door to get me to work with them. However, there are still times when a project just doesn’t feel right so I turn it down — in the most polite way possible. Case in point: at GenCon a number of years ago, I had approached a well-known gaming publisher about working on their house-brand RPG. The publisher knew me by name, and seemed enthusiastic that I was interested in working for that company. That publisher countered with “Hey, how would you like to work on licensed product Y?” In truth, though I was familiar with it I was not a fan of the source material of that particular license. I turned the publisher down on the spot, after a certain amount of hemming and hawing and a great deal of apologizing. I would have had no enthusiasm for the project, and the quality of my work would suffer accordingly, and I said as much. I have never been offered any other work from that publisher, despite making contact several times since.

I’ve worked on a good many role-playing systems, and I believe that’s one of my strengths in the gaming biz: I can learn a system reasonably quickly, and write for that material well – or at least decently and competently. To date, I’ve written material for at least ten different gaming systems, including D&D 5th Edition, Call of Cthulhu (6th Ed.), and Vampire the Masquerade, to name but a few. Several books I worked on won industry awards, and many have gone on to sell quite well, both of which I am quite proud.

Speaking of pride, these days I’m less willing to work for the kind of money that the Tabletop Gaming Industry typically offers, and that’s another reason why I may not be getting much work in the biz. I’ve been concentrating on writing more fiction over the last couple of years, and while the pay may be slightly better, opportunities are fewer, so it more than evens out. I’m nowhere near the point of being self-sufficient earnings-wise, but I like what I do, and I continue to grow and learn as a writer.

I enjoy writing for role-playing games, and would certainly do so again. Part of being a freelancer means you are constantly on the phone or sending emails looking around for more work, and in that, I’ve been lax lately. It gets old after a while, and one can get tired of beating the bushes in search of opportunities. I’ve been writing for community content sites recently – both fiction and gaming content – which is more flexible in nearly every aspect. The royalty rate is also very nice, even if the sales for some of the brands I’ve done this kind of work for aren’t as strong as others. I’m keeping at it, and am looking forward to several pending projects. Having work on the table is always good when you’re a freelancer, and having projects of your own to work on is a great back-up plan for those times when regular work is scarce.

With the global situation as it is, many RPG companies have scaled back their release schedules for the next twelve months, waiting to see what happens. With many ports closed, companies that rely on overseas production of their products are in a major bind, as they typically have to pay for the print runs in advance. With practically no cargo moving right now, those same companies are strapped, having no income and no way to get more until cargo starts moving again. With that in mind, it may be a while before many freelancers have work available to them. The same is true for fiction, and it’s painful to see so many of my colleagues facing a different set of choices: whether to pay rent or buy food this week. With that in mind this seems like a terrible time to be looking for freelance work, but such is the freelancing life.

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