You may recall my last post on the freelance market around Kickstarter. There I mentioned Lyndsay Peters of Dragon Chow Dice Bags. She works with a lot of Kickstarter projects these days. So many that she now has a reputation as a go-to source for high-value pledge tier rewards.
The problem is that sometimes, Lyndsay finds out she's hired for a project after the Kickstarter launches. For one reason or another, the project creators assumed she was available without further confirmation, with no further details on estimates, quantities, or timelines.
So far it's been fine, but eventually Lyndsay will get roped into a project she doesn't want to do or she won't have time to do. How embarrassing will it be for the creator to have to say "Sorry, we actually can't offer these super-awesome dicebags after all."
This little anecdote shows how fraught the burgeoning semi-pro economy can be for a freelancer. I worry about inexperienced project creators getting disappointed when they thought they had lined up a freelancer, but in fact had not. "Hey, you said you could do this!" the disappointed creator might say. Through no fault of her own, now that freelancer got a smudge on her otherwise professional record.
I understand that as a project creator, you don't want to commit to hiring anyone until after the Kickstarter succeeds. After all, that's the whole idea of Kickstarter. Just follow these simple best practices for hiring a freelancer to work on your Kickstarter project:
1. Email the Freelancer
It seems like common sense, but hey... Start a discussion on the record with your potential freelancer. Explain up front what your Kickstarter is going to fund, how much work there would be for the freelancer, and your timeline.
2. Get an Estimate
After getting all the details, your potential freelancer can give you a rough estimate of what she can deliver given your specs. You should have a firm grip on the scope of work before this point. If the scope changes, alert your freelancer and get a revised estimate. Scope changes can include changes in quantity, dimensions, deadlines, and new constraints. Knowing deadlines is particularly helpful since it affects your estimated time of delivery.
3. Get a Handshake (or sign a letter of agreement)
Now that you have an estimate from your freelancer (and any other vendors you'll need), you can let them know when your Kickstarter is launching, when it will be complete and when they can expect to hear from you. Your freelancer agrees to keep some space open in her schedule and to let you use promises of her product as a part of promotion. Otherwise, there is no formal commitment in place and the freelancer will not do a bit of work until the Kickstarter succeeds and gets paid.
4. Sign a Contract and Fill out Paperwork
After your Kickstarter succeeds, you're ready to hire! (This is where you might want some legal help, I am not a lawyer, so take any advice here with a grain of salt.) Refer to the previously agreed-upon terms to write a more formal contract. I usually offer half of the payment upon signing and the second half at the completion of work. Also, fill out any tax paperwork necessary for your area. (Did I mention I'm not a lawyer? Really, get some professional guidance here.)
5. Update your Backers
One of the nice things about a Kickstarter campaign is that you have a ready, listening audience who loves to see new images of the product in progress. Share samples, sneak peeks, desktop wallpapers, etc. The backers will love it and it's a nice audience for your freelancer. When the freelancer's work is complete, pay any remaining fee and move ahead to any final production.
Following these simple best practices gets all your ducks in a row and makes sure your ducks know they're in a row.