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!

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Book Kickstarter Update: The Big Push (We Need One)

First off, a huge thanks to everyone who’s been pitching in to help spread the word and contribute to the Kickstarter campaign for my book: Up Up Down Down Left WRITE – The Freelance Guide To Video Game  Journalism. It’s been a wild ride so far, with lots of ups and downs, and we’re nearing the end – for better or worse. I’ve added a lot of awesome bonus rewards and incentives in the past week, and we still have a LOT to raise in the remaining 8 days before the funding deadline, so I figured a big update was in order.  Please read on, because I super need your help.

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Shop Talk: R.I.P. Nintendo Power

Though I’m still a relative youngin’ compared to lots of other gaming folks in our midst, I remember a time before the NES existed. And I remember subscribing to Nintendo Power magazine when it first was launched. Many years later, I was lucky enough to fulfill a childhood dream when I scored a steady freelance gig writing for the magazine. I’ve really enjoyed penning articles for the mag the past few years and working with some great folks on their editorial team, which makes today’s news that Nintendo Power will be closing down all the more crushing.

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Shop Talk: Developing Ideas for Articles

Hunting down games to review or preview is as easy as looking at online retail lists of upcoming games or fire up a web search to see what’s cooking in the development world. Coming up with good ideas for articles and columns, on the other hand, takes a lot more effort, but it doesn’t have to be a total drag. There will be times when your creativity wanes and good ideas don’t come as easily. You can overcome these mental droughts with a little research and some brainstorming. Here are a few quick tips on how to get the noggin juices flowing and track down leads for ideas to pitch.

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Shop Talk Quickie: “Quoted” and “Secret” Book Project

photo borrowed from the linked articleI spend a surprising amount of my free time answering e-mails from newer freelance writers and prospective game journalists seeking advice on various aspects of freelancing in the gaming industry. I love to gab, you see, particularly when it comes to talking shop, so I’m always willing to help point folks in the right direction and offer whatever humble assistance or know-how I can provide. To that end, I’ve been doing some serious behind-the-scenes writing – some of which you’ll find in the Shop Talk and Ask The Freelance Dude advice columns here on the site. For the past year, I’ve been bashing out the rough draft of an extensive How-To book covering all the ins-and-outs of being a freelance game journalist, writer, critic, whathaveyou. I’m well past the half-way point and I can see the finish line in the distance. Woo! Huzzah! Not surprising news, perhaps, at least to folks who know me and read this site somewhat regularly.

In a month or so I hope to be launching a Kickstarter campaign to help raise enough funds to hire an editor and cover the myriad costs of completing and self-publishing the project. I’m working out the details, planning out my video thingy, and all that good stuff as we speak. I’ve already commissioned some AMAZING cover art, which I’m really thrilled with, and if all goes well with the campaign, I hope to have everything I need to motor through the home stretch, wrap up the book, and have it launched all shiny and polished by next spring. I’ll have an e-book, PDF, and print versions available. Fingers crossed!

In any event, if you’ve found my advice useful, have written-in with questions, are a fellow comrade in the freelance trenches, are interested in learning more about how to dive into the freelance world, or simply want to be an awesome person, I’d very much appreciate your help with spreading the good word when it’s time and contributing to the Kickstarter if you can. Thanks in advance! More info on that stuff shortly.

But that’s not the real reason I sat down to write this post.

A week or so ago I was contacted by  a writer fellow with a request to comment for a piece he was working on for What Culture. I obliged. Here’s the piece, if you care to read it. Short and sweet – but neato nonetheless.

Shop Talk: Freelance Workspaces Volume 1

One of the coolest things about being a freelancer is you can work from anywhere: a corner of your bedroom, an underwater sea pod, the middle of the woods, wherever. Putting together your ultimate workspace is a lot of fun, and I’ve always been fascinated with seeing how other writer folks, particularly people in the game journalism world, setup shop. As a fascinating experiment to indulge my own curiosity as much as anything else, I recently put out a call to fellow freelancers in the game journalism community to share photos and thoughts about their own personal writing spaces. Here’s the first batch. Enjoy!

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Shop Talk: Estimated Taxes – The 30 Percent Rule

Looking back  to the very first year that I made enough income from freelancing for gaming publications to have to pay estimated taxes, I was freaked out. Like very freaked out. On one hand it meant I was doing well – making some decent money and pushing closer to my goal of eventually quitting my day job as a news reporter and pursuing game-focused writing full-time. On the other hand, it meant being forced to wade neck-deep into the murky, putrid swamp of tax hell.

Estimated taxes in particular are the bane of every freelance noob, and the first year you’re stuck doing them is usually the most confusing and terrifying. How the hell do you hit a moving target that fluctuates widely depending on how much income you make from one year to the next? Very carefully. It gets easier after you clear that first hurdle. Since every person’s situation is different, I’ll leave the real in-depth nitty-gritty on estimated taxes to the tax professionals. But one piece of advice that I’ve come to live by as a freelancer when it comes to estimated taxes and keeping your ass covered is to follow the 30 percent rule. More on that in a minute.

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Shop Talk: 5 Awesome Tax Deductions for Freelance Game Journos

In very much the same way that I’ve been procrastinating doing my taxes this year, I’ve been putting off writing a piece on the subject too. Perhaps that’s because it makes me seethe with a red hot anger more potent than the fires of hell. Navigating the tax season minefield for the first time is a nightmare for newcomers to the freelance world. Just when you think you’re safe, you step on a Bouncing Tax Betty and it takes your limbs clean off. It’s messy stuff. But it does get easier with practice, and you’ll lose fewer appendages over the years, assuming you have any left by the time your seasoned and grizzled.

Since I spent hours last night immersed in the primordial goo of expense receipts, income spreadsheets, regulations, and other tax paperwork only to emerge dripping with the awful stuff, it seems a good time to write about how you can cut back on the amount of your hard-earned money that gets sucked away by The Man’s big stupid tax vacuum each year. Here are some of the common things freelancers in the gaming industry write-off as business expenses.

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Shop Talk: Queries – From Pitched To Published

Querying publications with feature pitches is still among the best ways for freelance writers to break into new outlets, but there’s more to a killer pitch than simply coming up with a good idea. I’ve been getting quite a few inquiries lately asking about the best way to craft features pitches. I plan to cover that topic more in-depth at some point in the near future, but in the meantime I thought it might be fun to give a concrete example of a successful pitch that made it to publication…using myself as the guinea pig. Now I remember why I never delete old crap from my inbox.

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8 Excellent iOS Apps for Writers (@MacLife)

“One of the great things about being a writer in these tech-driven times is the ability to work from just about anywhere. Productivity while on the go can be a life-saver, but even bashing out a chapter of your novel or penning magazine articles from the comfort of your cushy couch has its own perks. Luckily, the App Store is brimming with handy tools for writer folks. From organizing your thoughts and taking notes to conducting research and knocking out articles without a computer, we’ve rounded up eight must-have apps to help you get the words flowing.”

Check out the full article here at Mac|Life.