The Ethics of Using Job Bidding Sites for Game Art

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  • Do you believe that it's ethical to use job bidding sites for our game art, or any other assets or services that we might need for that matter?

    There are currently several sites that offer job bidding/contracting services such as:

    Even more here:

    I personally don't have a problem with it. It's basically creating an open marketplace for professionals wanting to expand their pool of potential clients. For us specifically, it gives us access and visibility to many talented artists, developers, musicians, etc that just wouldn't be available or affordable normally.

    However, some would argue that use of such sites is considered exploitation as desperate professionals try to outbid each other and potentially end up getting paid peanuts.

    What are your thoughts?

  • I don't think it's exploitation.I also used those sites for work and some off my client's paid me enough to at least pay the bills.Jobs are scarce and if we keep on complaining about not getting paid enough,sites like these would cease to exist and then no one would have an opportunity to make some money for thier game art.

    It's up to the artist to decide whether he/she should take that job that pays poorly.I think that some people which are exploiting artist's have no idea how much work goes into creating game art.It's not a 9-5 job.Sometimes we have to work around the clock to get things done.

  • DravenX - I agree with you 100%. The key point is that artists (and other freelancers) have complete free will in the matter.

    Similarly, I've been contracting in IT for the last few years, and when the economy is buoyant, I get great rates. When it's the opposite, I have to scrape for lousy jobs and accept mediocre pay. If I berated my employers during the bad times for not paying enough, they'd simply tell me bugger off, and I'd end up with a bad rep.

    These sites are essentially an extension of existing markets. Without these sites, people would continue to freelance and bid for work - it's been happening since the beginning of time.

    I gladly welcome these sites, as for me it opens up the global market which would otherwise be completely out of my reach.

    I believe that people who complain about not getting paid enough on the sites don't have a lot of common sense. It's as absurd as going up to e-bay and telling off everyone for not paying sellers "enough". Demand dictates what the price is - it's a free market.

  • One thing which i do hate though is if someone hire's you to do game assets and never pays you.You spend all those hours drawing ,coloring or rendering and then they say they don't want the sprites or assets anymore because they moved on to another project.That's Real exploitation at it's worst.

  • It's not exploitative in itself, but these sites do enable some really bad business practices. I've seen numerous jobs which have either entirely unreasonable pay (one of the worst was a guy wanting a fully illustrated 20+ or 30+ page comic for less than 200USD) or want you to do "sample work" for your bid, which essentially is unpaid work.

    These sites are useful, but they are swamps as well.

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  • Yeah I agree with you both - there are some real scum bags out there, who essentially will try to take advantage of us, which goes beyond these job bidding sites.

    One of my friends is a graphic artist who freelances for small business, and even though she goes through traditional channels to get work, occasionally she will get bad clients who do the same thing: e.g. agree to work being done, and then at the end the clients say they don't want it anymore for various reasons.

    For that kind of situation, I think it's a must to have a contract signed, with stipulations on debt collection and legal pursuit.

    Even then it's not guaranteed. We had a client who we did work for, which was completely successful, but then she turned around a month after the payment due date and abruptly said she was dissatisfied with our work.

    Now this was *with* a formalized contract signed. I tried working things out with her, even giving her the benefit of the doubt by offering a discount just to resolve things, but I gradually realised, she was basically out to scam us. At that point I was pretty pissed and decided to take her to court. It's been more than a year now, and after numerous legal proceedings, we still haven't got our final payment. We're getting much closer, but even with legal checkpoints in place people can still get away with murder.

    So sorry about the ramble - my point I guess is that we need to put mechanisms in place to protect ourselves in case the above happens. If possible cover yourself off with a contract (might not be applicable internationally).

    The other thing I can think of is that with, I read that you can use payment milestones for partial work which might make things easier also.

  • I have some experience using As an artist, you can make money, but you won't make much. The business model favors employers and attracts low paying employers for the most part. I don't use the site anymore, but it seemed like I always had problems with employers when I did. A lot of them tried to get me to do free work too.

    Most well paying employers don't use freelance market websites anyway. They use artist directories, find artists through various connections or artists contact them directly. They have larger budgets, so they don't need the lowest bidder. They hire who they want.

    So freelance market sites can be either good or bad, depending on who you are and what you want. I'm not going to say anyone is right or wrong for using them, but you should know what you are getting into.

    BTW, I don't think it's fair to compare freelance market sites to eBay. One business model drives the price up for those providing services, while the other drives the price down.

  • Karzay being interested in economics, and sorry if I derail the thread, could you explain how you believe bidding sites/ebay drive prices higher or lower? (I swear I'm not baiting you! I'm actually interested in your opinion of how the respective markets and mechanics play out.)

  • Sure thing. When you bid on a job on, depending on what type of membership you have, you can see other artist's bids. You can then underbid bid them to make your offer more desirable to the employer. It's encouraged and expected to underbid one another. I've been contacted by employers to lower my bid or they will go with an artist with a lower bid. I've also been contacted by other artists to not under bid them, because they really need the work.

    With sites like eBay, you offer your product, set a starting price and people who want it, bid for it. If the person interested in what you are selling want it more than the current bid, they'll bid higher. It drives the price up. I've seen an artist make $2k on a custom toy. Typically custom toys range between $10-400.

    That's my take. Keep in mind, I'm an artist. Employers would have a different view entirely.

  • Thanks, Karzay. I've used something similar for home maintenance, called ServiceMagic. As someone who's looking for a pro, I appreciate the site's rating system, the ability to compare prices, and the site's pre-vetting of contractors. As a random homeowner, I'm not really competent to comb through thousands of contractors to determine who does the best work for the best price. Since I'm paying them for a service the technical aspects of which I may not be familiar with, I need to be able to trust that I'm not being cheated, and the rating and review system allows me to do that.

    I've paid for a contractor who wasn't the low bidder on several occasions, because I wanted one with a higher rating I could trust. Cheap people will tend to get more poorly skilled contractors, but ones with outstanding ratings can often afford to charge more because people like me need to know that I'm going to pay once for a job done right.

    When it comes time for me to hire an artist (I'm a writer/designer), it's going to work the same way. I hope I can pay an artist a wage I can afford and they're satisfied with. I've been going through dozens of sites on my Site List: Graphic Artist thread here, and without some sort of rating/review system and pre-vetting by the administrators, I feel like finding the right artist would be a Sisyphean task.

    I get what you're saying about the contrast with Ebay, where the "clients" bid up a starting quote, as opposed to Guru or ServiceMagic where contractors submit quotes for comparison and the client can negotiate. On the other hand, I'm an Ebay sniper, and I'll bid a low price I think is fair on hundreds of auctions for a month to snag that one fluke low score.

    In your or other artists' opinions, what would you consider a fair price for each of the following, in a style similar to Braid:

    o 1280x600 detailed junglescape background for a side-scroller

    o 120x60 static shrub

    o 60x60 5-frame walk animation for main character

    o 60x60 30 second, 25fps animation for cut scene for main character

    o 600x480 splash screen, 3 second, 25fps with simple company logo animated

    And on top of that, for purposes of this thread, what do you find that people actually pay on bidding versus freelance sites?


  • In my experience it's always best to go in with a contract. Saying what the work is, what the agreed rate is (don't be afraid of selling yourself too highly), and that both sides agree to own up. If any complications occur, what part of the contract is still binding, etc.

    Sign it, scan it, send it over, get a double-signed copy. Boom, you have a working contract.

  • RandomExile,

    Sorry for the late reply. I've been busy with work. I don't freelance anymore, so my pay rate from back then would probably be way off. I've been working for a gaming studio for a number of years now. Working with other professionals, I can tell you that the information found on is fairly accurate. At least where I work.

    My best advice for you would be to find an artist you like, ask them the same questions and go with your gut feeling. Is their time, energy, quality of work worth what they are asking for? I say this, because every artist is different and charge differently based on what they think they are worth.

    Inexperienced artists, you might be able to talk down. Experienced artists are less likely to budge on price. I hope that helps.


    I agree. A contract should always be required. I would be weary of making contracts with people from other countries. It's less likely you can hold them accountable should they break the contract. I use to have them pay 50% upfront (to let me know they are serious) and pay in increments as work is completed there after.

  • I don't think that the sites are exploitative, I just think they have a very defined niche. In Brazil, for example, you are considered to be "middle class" if you are making between $291 - $1,019 USD per month. In Pennsylvania, I wouldn't even be able to move into a very cheap apartment with $1,000 a month, and would really struggle to do so with $2,000 a month.

    So sure, if you live in the US and you are trying to underbid people in other countries, where expensive of living is so much cheaper, you're not going to find yourself making a reasonable income, most likely. But if you are just trying to build up a portfolio, this could be a decent way to try to make a few bucks in the process.

    Likewise, the type of work available on these sites are generally locationally irrelevant, which makes it an outstanding way for anyone to access these sources of income worldwide.

    So no, it's just the market speaking, so to speak. It's just a lot of people aren't used to having such a diverse competition.

    This is why so many jobs go oversees. Not just because people are "willing" to work for less there, but because, sometimes, a smaller income has a comparable power where these workers live.

    Obviously, that isn't always true, and many people are exploited worldwide for cheap labor.

  • I concur with "teahousemoon"... I would also struggle with just $2k per month... Some companies are employing artist for 5k and up + medical, benefits etc.., yes, even the ones who are starting...

    The main reason people are going to these sites is because, they have searched the average monthly income of each country and tried to employ artist from those areas.. specially artist that have little money and little knowledge about contracts... in short, slaves.. yes, some people think only of them self's...

    always 50% upfront and no cheapness.. ;)

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