How and how much do you pay to your artists?

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  • Hello all!

    Dealing with a team of two, soon 4, i come into something that i never had to deal before. Paying an artist for his/her work.

    I want to now how do you dealt or deal with this based on your projects.

    This is the background of my story about this:

    I'm the main programmer. And a friend of mine is the artist. Both of us conform the "enterprise" so we decided to go 50 - 50 for any penny earned for sales.

    She is in charge (is a she ;) ) not only in drawing but also every other graphics decision. Like a Artist Director. We both decide and write the story of the game and decide the setting and general gameplay (more i than her here).

    So, to short the story, i need to pay her for her work. Even if she is part of the enterprise at a point to earn 50% of everything. (we will see when others comes)

    I don't know how much, if i should pay per page, per final "usable" work, per time, per month no matter the results done.

    If you have any experience about this that didn't end in bullets and regret i all ears. My friend too ;)

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  • Hillstrom - If you're in it together as a two-person team, splitting everything 50/50 and that was decided on from the beginning, I'm not sure why you would be responsible for paying her. Not that everyone doesn't like getting paid for their work of course, but your situation seems different than the standard 'programmer hires artist'. It seems more like co-owners of a company.

    In any case, a conversation with her would probably be the best way to sort these things out - and if you're serious about your business, a contract would be a good idea as well. It can help to protect both of you.

  • If she has a 50/50 stake in earnings/ownership/etc..., she shouldn't be asking for payment from you for work she's already done. You're not her boss, she's not a contracted freelancer, you're partners.

    RogueNoodle is right though. Come up with some sort of contract before things get sticky. You already seemed to agree to 50/50, be a good idea to get that signed in paper by the both of you.

    As for the 2 members you're going to be recruiting, definitely get an agreement written in paper with them as well, with signatures.

  • We've hired an artist for a new project at $70p/h. The artist has a very specific style and has loads of experience in the advertising industry, so that's as high as I would go.

    It sounds like the artist is going to be pretty integral to the game though, so to get her invested in the project I'd recommend a rev share as others have suggested.

  • Damn, I wish I was being paid $70/hr :(

  • Hillstrom It sounds to me that you should be very careful here...

    The fact they are wanting payment, when the project has earned ?0.00 I find odd!, what happens when two more join the team? will you pay them also?

    And don't forget, If it's 50-50 then any amount you pay her, She owes you...

    Check out some of the "open source" graphics out there...Lots of free with attribution assets, that could get you started, Solo...

  • rogueNoodle, it's true that our relationship is a partnership and with a 50/50 of any sales i don't need to pay extra. But, in the other hand, hard worked art has it's cost in time and effort and no one can, for sure, know if a game it's going to sale enough or even get released.

    So, to cover that possibility, i preferred to paid for the work as is being done.

    I talked with my partner-artist and she, since is her first work, is happy to whatever decision i make (contract beforehand).

    Thehen, nice insight about your experience. I will take your numbers as a reference.

    For now, we are two. Any new member would require a revision to our divisions and payments. For all this my friend/partner agree.

    I wan't to cover failure of sells with payment-for-work. The shares for sales is more a matter of my personal decision than a condition from her.

    I will take Thehen example as a reference and all your thoughts about not go with big payments if i will share 50/50 in the end. Maybe a cut in the Percentage will work.

    Thanks everyone! And any more insights are always welcome!

  • Before you proceed, decide terms and draft a contract.

    As for artists payment, it really depends on your financial situation, the artists experience, etc. With the artist I am currently working with, we agreed to a percentage of revenue with a small advance up front I will pay him on release.

    With this model I will be paying him as long as the game is bringing in money, so if you have the resources you may be better off paying a flat fee for the project or an hourly rate like thehen is. Although 70/hr is way too high IMHO (most game industry artists make $30-50/hr which is around 60-100k a year), but paying up front or an hourly rate will take care of artists payment up front meaning you won't be sharing revenue.

    If you are low budget, look for recent grads or people trying to get into games and offer a percentage. But in your current situation, if you already said 50/50 profit split then you should not have to pay anything up front, or if you do end up doing that, deduct if from the revenue share after release.

    Whatever you do, GET IT IN WRITING!!

  • Here is a sample contract I found through IGDA that is a decent starting point if you are doing it yourself. You need to remove the watermark in Word but the red text/highlights will show you what to replace.

  • Fat40oz,

    Whatever resolution we take about this will alway be backed up with a contract. That's totally in mind. I'm looking into a good "contract" to make so i can keep my friend/partner/artist motivated and payed (i don't know if that word exist) for her work.

    My obstination about that 50/50 share is more of a personal decision than a concern about the contract, a condition from my partner or any doubt about this topic. That share is the only thing i want to keep writed on stone.

    My concern is more in the "while" than in the "when".

    I want to cover the possibility that our project never sells enough (or at all) to make taht share worth the work.

    That's why i want to pay "something" as the work is done. No matter the future 50/50 share (wich remains as my stubborn way to be in peace).

    I like those hourly/pay examples because it helps me to round a number. This number is mostly my concern, no matter the release shares.

    My partner is a soon-to-be graduated from Art's Faculty, she enter in the inexperienced bag but i already saw her works and it's far enough for the project. I don't have much problems with payments. And the project, in terms of art complexity or amount of content is not demanding at all.

    That's what i can add to help round a good number based on your experiences.

    Thanks for your help on this, all of you! ;)

  • It sounds like your partner is just getting out of school and doesn't have much experience yet. Typically, artists in that position can expect to be making around $15-$20/hour doing freelance jobs (as its super hard to get a job in art straight out of school, or at all). I'd suggest that (or possibly lower) as a payment base for your situation, especially since they are also receiving a stake in the project's profits.

    Personally though, my partner does all of the graphics and we share a 50/50 split (I handle programming, music, and marketing, he handles graphics, writing, doing the bug testing, and advertising). That ends up being $25-$45/hour on average depending on the project.

  • A freelance artist ususally starts at $25 and up, anything below that number and you are probably with a newbie artist or someone who really wants to compete with the old guys, in short never a good idea to devalue your work...

    You should look into royalties, advances + splitting works(%), if you gave her an advance, then she will probably not get any money from the beginning - when the game is published, until you earn at least that amount back...

    It's basic negotiating...

  • As a hint. You as the programmer. Your time is of worth value to. While there seems to be more programmers than artists. This does not mean your time is worth nothing. Don't devalue yourself.

    Draw your contract and stick to it.

  • Rabidsheep and EatCreatures,

    Thanks for your examples. That's exactly what i was looking for.

    So we have a $15-20-25 up to $70 with or without further sharing.

    I decided (with my partnert agreetment) something like EatCreatures said. I pay her for her work based on the complexity of the art needed. Since we are both partners in the enterprise we will go 50-50 as planed and for my personal decision as i said before.

    Seeing your examples of payment per hour and resuming the total amount of artwork needed we agreed in a monthly fee for x months until the job is done. For that fee my partner do any art needed. So far i'm happy, she is happy and we keep motivated each on it side of the project.

    We will use this first project as a test for every detail and for the second project we will rework our contract with the best solution we found at that point. In the end we are close friends.

    Keep sharing your thoughts about this, could help people in my position!

    Thanks to everyone for your help! ;)

    PD: Running a hosting company i will broke a golden rule and posted this in the middle of a server migration. Was lost into oblivion of course so i posted today again.

  • Let's put it this way, she's just out of "school" and needs something to show off her work. Your game is that something.

    If she's 50/50 in the business, then she shouldn't be taking anything more from you. Yes, it's nice to be able to pay someone for their work, but let's be real. If, by the end of the game you paid her $1000 for her work (purely an example), and the game makes $1000. She's made $1500 and you made -$500. How's that fair? ;) If she takes money for work done, then her share should drop. You need to be paid for your work too!

    Sounds like she's only doing the graphics, whereas you're doing the coding, the website, the marketing etc.

    Also remember, she'll be able to use your game in her portfolio to get more work so it's more beneficial to her.

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