Shop Talk: The Year in Freelance 2012

shoptalk copyOr perhaps more appropriately titled: “Holy crap I survived another year of freelance game journo word-fu craziness!” Every year seems like a wild ride, but 2012 in particular has been an interesting one across the board. So much so that I feel compelled to blab personal thoughts about some of the more interesting moments of my year. Feel free to indulge in my self-indulgence!

Hello, New Gigs!

2011 was more a year of hunkering down and rocking out work for a pool of established outlets than a year of freelance business growth. In fact, looking back two years ago, I don’t even think I picked up any new gigs that year at all, as I had my plate full. But the shuttering of some major publications and the evaporation of a few of my best steady gigs put me in a tailspin. I spent the last quarter of 2011 scrambling to line-up some fresh work for new outlets. Thankfully, a few solid months of major effort began yielding results at the start of 2012.

002In January, I finally broke into Official Xbox Magazine – one of the few Future US outlets that had eluded my freelance grasp for so many years. It’s been great working with them this year, and I’m particularly psyched that after a slate of online work for the site, a bunch of my pieces made it into the print magazine too. I also had two massive 10 page print features recently run – one on the 10 year anniversary of Xbox Live and another on how to break into different game industry careers – which felt great. I’ve done lots of print work over the years, but these were the first full-scale print pieces I’ve done of this size and scope. Exciting stuff!

Shortly after starting with OXM, I began working with a few other new outlets. Best Buy’s @Gamer was an exciting addition to my print gig roster, and I’ve done some sporadic reviews for the mag this year. Writing occasional review scripts for GameTrailers was a neat change-of-pace too. It’s pretty wild to turn in a review and then see it transformed into a shiny, flashy multimedia video thingamawhatsits. 2012 also saw a huge boost in my iOS related coverage, with steady gigs at both Mac|Life and Macworld. It’s been a blast getting back into iOS-related writing. This past year also rekindled my love of long-form feature writing. I took a break from big, meaty features for a while, but it’s been really satisfying to dig back into writing interview-intensive pieces. Scoring my first feature for the newly launched Polygon helped rekindle that fire.

Despite the stress that can come from realizing you suddenly need to recoup a huge missing chunk of monthly income, scoring some new gigs really helped re-charge my engines after a rough go. I pushed a lot harder than I’ve had to in some time, and it felt good.

Goodbye, Old Gigs!

Speaking of recouping missing chunks of steady income, I’m finding myself in a familiar position at the tail end of 2012. A few months ago I found out that two of my steadiest print gigs were about to disappear. Future’s shuttering of Nintendo Power was a real shock to the system, as I’ve written about in length previously. Making things worse, news of PlayStation: The Official Magazine’s inevitable demise came around the same time. I really enjoyed working some of the great editors and writers at both mags over the past few years, and it’s a real shame to see these great publications and the folks who helmed them go.


Up Up Down Down Left WRITE!

In mid-2011, I began writing a regular column here on my site, Shop Talk, offering advice and thoughts on the ins-and-outs of freelancing in the video game industry. I’ve always been very open to answering folks’ questions and helping fellow writer comrades out whenever I can. Some great folks helped me out when I was getting started, and I don’t hesitate to pay that goodwill forward.

But I’ll admit – I had an ulterior motive when I started both Shop Talk and my Ask The Freelance Dude column. I planned to use those pieces as a rough foundation to kick-off the process of writing a book on the subject. Beyond a means to offer help to those who might benefit from it, these columns were designed in-part as an experiment to gauge interest and test the waters. The overwhelming response I’ve had, from a great boost in site traffic to all the much-appreciated feedback and questions, has been really gratifying, and it cemented my decision to move forward with the project.

mockupcover copyHeading into 2012, I hunkered down and came up with a solid outline, did a lot of preliminary writing to get the framework of the book started, commissioned some amazing cover art, and settled on a title: Up Up Down Down Left WRITE  The Freelance Guide to Video Game Journalism. The Kickstarter campaign I launched in September got off to a great start. It was encouraging, really. But as many Kickstarter projects go, things sort of fizzled during the middle stretch of the campaign. Despite all of my rampant [re: obnoxious] cheerleading and the support of some great folks, it really didn’t look like I was going to make it, particularly towards the final weeks.

By the last few days, I was waffling between cautious optimism and bitter resignation. This thing wasn’t going to happen, and I had put a ton of time and energy into it. I gave up a few times, but with a few days left I made the decision to stick with it through the bitter end and renewed my push.

Then things exploded. With about 48 hours to go, the campaign started to pick up again, thanks in-part to the vocal support of backers, many thoughtful re-tweets from colleagues in the gaming press, and the support of some great editorial folks. Long story short: we made it. It was an emotional, exhausting, thrilling month-long journey. Thank heavens that part of things is over. In the months since, I’ve been gunning full-speed ahead to finish the book. I’m actually writing up the last few chapters as we speak, and I’ll soon be delivering the final draft to my excessively competent freelance colleague and Mac|Life editor Andrew Hayward, who I’ve hired to edit the book. Very excited to be working with him and to have this thing one step closer to completion.

Writing a book is a massive effort, as is getting it funded and self-publishing the thing. I’m so thrilled to be this far along in the process and chugging steadily towards the finish line.

Beer Me, Dude!

Having hit many of my personal goals in the game journalism world over the past few years, I’ve decided to set some new ones, which include branching out into writing outside of the game industry. You’ll still see me penning the vast majority of my work at game publications, but my latest push into new markets has led me to set my sights on one of my favorite hobbies: CRAFT BEER! Wooo! Partayyyy!

heartofdarknessAfter I moved back to Vermont a few years ago, I started homebrewing my own beer, and that really opened up a whole new world for me. I jettisoned my shitty stand-byes of light macro brews and dove headlong into the realm of beer nerdistry. I drink a lot of beer, indeed, but more than a desire to get tipsy from time-to-time, I really enjoy tasting the rainbow of different beer styles out there. So it only seemed natural that when I decided to try pitching some new markets, that the craft beer industry would hit the top of my list.

While regular visitors to this site have likely seen my recent ongoing slate of beer reviews tagged under my Beer Nerdistry column, my first properly published craft beer article – not counting a few beer-related pieces I’ve written or Mac|Life and elsewhere – will be running in the Jan/Feb 2013 issue of Draft Magazine, which should hit newsstands any time now. I have a lot of pending craft beer-related pitches out there, so hopefully 2013 will see some more action on that front.

Upwards and Onwards into 2013

Whew. Rollercoaster year. The great thing about freelancing is it’s never dull. It’s always some shade of awesome, crazy, stressful, or unique. Beyond what I’ve talked about there, I’m pumped to be adventuring out into some new territory with a soon to be starting ghostwriting gig and a bunch of other new writing ventures I’m exploring – both inside and outside of the gaming realm. If you’re reading this and are looking to hire someone for a special project, consulting gig, or to sling words for your ultra-badass publication: don’t hesitate to get in touch!

Here’s to a productive New Year full of freelance fun, happy surprises, and ample asininity. Cheers!


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