Find Freelancers Who Produce Stellar Work [CASE STUDY]

Find Freelancers Who Produce Stellar Work [CASE STUDY]

If you’re looking to find freelancers who won’t let you down, talk to Ted Smoot. This systems admin turned indie game developer became an expert in working with freelancers after his game proposal (and first title) was accepted by the National Automatic Merchandising Association (NAMA) for it’s upcoming Gratitude Tour. To finish Snack WarZ, an action/survival game that portrays vending machines in a positive light, Ted knew he needed help. And so Ted turned to freelancers. Through his experience, Ted learned the key to find freelancers who produce is more than requiting talent, it’s implementing accountability.

Find Freelancers Who Produce Case Study:
Snack WarZ

Challenge
Create a video game that portrays vending machines in a positive light for NAMA’s Gratitude Tour.

Solution
Find freelancers to support the graphic design and programming functions (two skills Ted lacked), so Snack WarZ could be completed in time for the Gratitude Tour.

What Ted Did Right

  1. Managed Costs with Detailed Specifications:
    Poor management is the easiest way to run up a giant tab with freelancers. The more time spent on back and forths, work revisions and so on, the more money you’ll shell out. In an effort to control costs, Ted took one month to write engineering and graphics specifications. He used these specs to give freelancers a clear understanding of his expectations and scope of work. In return, the freelancers were able to provide accurate project estimates and work that stayed within Ted’s vision.

    Screen shot from Snack WarZ

    The hero vending machine is about to kick some monster butt.

  2. Conducted a Vetting Process that Demonstrated Skills:
    Each freelancer Ted considered was required to go through a thorough vetting process. Artists had to present solid portfolios, as well as complete an assignment to demonstrate competence. Programmers were also asked to complete an assignment to show proficiency in LUA (Ted used Corona SDK for development) and mobile platforms.

    Based on their art style and ability to complete assignments on time and to spec, Ted easily choose his freelance artists. For programmer hiring decisions, Ted relied on the expertise of his programmer friends to review assignments and offer advice.

    Snack WarZ screen shot

    Learn more about your snack/weapon choices.

  3. Ensured Accountability Through Contracts:
    Because Ted did not know the freelancers he hired beforehand, accountability was of the utmost importance. And the best way to hold a freelancer accountable is by working it into his or her contract. To accomplish this, Ted broke out the overall project fee and tied portions of it to each milestone. I.e., in order to receive payment, a freelancer had to submit his or her work on time and in full. In addition, Ted defined a “completed milestone” as receiving the original files, source code, etc. With this structure in place, Ted ensured he got a complete and working product on time.

    Screen shot of how to play Snack WarZ

    Learn how to play Snack WarZ with these in-game prompts.

  4. Made Freelancers Document Work:
    In the event a freelancer quit or went MIA, Ted needed a way to easily transfer work to a new freelancer. He did this by requiring freelancers to document their work (e.g., how to build, how to install, etc.). While this task may seem mundane, it became a crucial time saver for Ted when freelancers bailed on him.

Where Ted Went Wrong

  1. Hired a Friend:
    The first artist Ted hired was his friend and former colleague. Because Ted had worked with this individual before, he was familiar with the person’s skill set. In addition, this individual was Ted’s friend, so there was a pre-established trust. When Ted’s friend missed a drop dead date, Ted had no choice but to fire this person. The result destroyed their friendship.
  2. No Plan B:
    No matter how talented a freelancer may be at programming or art, he or she can lack time management skills. In fact, this is a fairly common problem in the freelancer world that Ted encountered twice. On both occasions the freelancers Ted were managing missed important deadlines then went MIA, leaving Ted in a jam. After the second incident, Ted changed his game plan and recruited a number of “plan b” freelancers. These individuals made it through Ted’s vetting process and agreed to be on-call in the event another “plan a” freelancer fell through.

Results
With the help of freelancers, Ted successfully completed Snack WarZ in time for NAMA’s Gratitude Tour.

Ted Smoot demos Snack WarZ at NAMA Gratitude Tour

Ted Smoot demos Snack WarZ at the NAMA Gratitude Tour.

About Snack WarZ:
Snack WarZ is an action survival game where you play a vending machine and face off against wave after wave of monsters. With each second you survive against the clock, and each gold star earned, the more challenging it gets. Use the coins you earn for skillful game play to upgrade your snack arsenal. Learn more about or download Snack WarZ at snackwarz.com.

Many thanks to Ted Smoot for sharing his story with Indie Game Girl on the best way to find freelancers who produce stellar work.

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Emmy

Emmy Jonassen is a marketing pro who helps indie developers build adoring fanbases. Marketing people who love buzz words call this "lead generation."

9 Comments

Tim

about 11 years ago

Some very good points there Emmy/Ted. Some things I'd like to ask is: which websites did Ted use? Elance? oDesk? Others? An example of his specifications would be nice. I'd say not everyone knows how to draft specifications. I've had my fair share of freelancers and here's also something that I'd like to share to reduce time in the recruitment process. In your briefings always ask to have a totally unrelated term included in their proposal mail. "Please include 'Mumbo Jumbo' in your proposal". This works wonders in sorting out those that can't even be bothered changing their proposal to your requirements. If they can't even do that, how are they supposed to meet your more complex requirements? Usually between 50-80% fails this simple test.... Anyway great post Emmy and probably something several developers struggle with. Tim

Reply

Ted

about 11 years ago

Tim, I have the most experience with Reddit (/r/forhire) and Craigslist (gigs/creative). These two have honestly served me very well. While I have not used Elance or oDesk, I have heard mostly good things about them. The specification is something that really started as an outline of all the things that needed to be in the game. I made it as granular as possible. That early list that then became the specification that I placed in the hands of a developer. E.g. Environment -Landscapes, weather conditions, time of day, obstacles, obstructions -Boundaries (TBD) Machines -Throwing action, arc -Contingency plan a few types of motion (TBD) Products -Generic items -Soda, energy drink, chips, and candy -Color schemes and labeling (TBD) Characters -Machines & Products -Monsters Modes -Classic -Timed --Time limit (TBD) Controls, Settings, Preferences -Pause, resume, mute controls -Items that can be turned on/off -Music, SFX, tutorial Levels -(X) levels in version 1.0 (TBD) -Dedicated level selector screen Badge, Trophy Wall -Establish reward schedule (TBD) -Design screen to showcase achievements Damage Matrix -Establish rules governing damage inflicted to enemies -Variable based on product type -Factor in velocity and trajectory (if realistic) Scoring Mechanism -Tally points for game-play -End of level recap (stats interstitial) -Starring system for grading the completion of each level Depending on what you want to happen in the game you would have other functions listed. etc. Lastly, I wrote out in sentences what the "path" through the game would be like. For example; Player started the game, selected level 1, then played until received 1 star and shared their score on Twitter. All of these actions ended up driving the engineering spec. Also, I like your idea of asking people to include something unrelated to see if they can follow instructions. -Ted

Reply

Tim

about 11 years ago

Ted I had no idea how a spec sheet would look like. Awesome of you sharing this. I bet there'll be more that will find this very helpful. Thank you!

Reply

Ted

about 11 years ago

Tim, Glad this can be of use! -Ted

Reply

Joe

about 10 years ago

Where 'plan B' freelancers paid for being on call? What would be fair compensation?

Reply

Emmy

about 10 years ago

Hi Joe. I'll reach out to Ted and see if he can comment on how much he paid them.

Reply

Felipe Budinich (@FelipeBudinich)

about 10 years ago

I loved the idea of Plan B freelancers.

Reply

Frankie

about 9 years ago

Nice article, also great and useful comments, Im just right starting looking for some freelancer, so this is extremely useful as I already had problem when I hired a friend.. My idea is to start with a very small simple project and if things go well, to proceed further with more projects and so on. But before looking, I should probably start writing down all my defined specs as right now I have a general idea of what I want to do.. What do you guys about the Jobs section of Gamasutra to find freelancers? thanks!

Reply

Emmy

about 9 years ago

Hi and thanks for the comment. Testing a freelancer on a small project with well-defined scope is a great (and safe) way to determine whether that freelancer is right for you. Great idea and thank you for sharing. I do not have experience with the Jobs section of Gamasutra, but I'd invite my other fans to share their experiences...

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