Tips to Overcome the Challenges of Being Your Own Business Person: For Authors and Game Designers

Heroes in History25

So I’ve been at this blog thing for more than a year, though I wish I had more time to get to posting. Today I want to talk a little about the challenge of being your own businessperson.

It doesn’t matter if you are an author or aspiring game maker, it is REALLY HARD to stand out. Even if you have an above average product, you still have so much competition from many other people. Part of the extra challenge when you do creative work is that your product (with very few exceptions) is a WANT and not  a NEED. This I will explain in my next post.

No one needs your book or game to survive. However, there is a human need to be entertained, which is where you must fit things in.

Since I’ve been selling Heroes of History for about 3 months now, I can say I’ve done way more than the average person in terms of sales, going well into the 4 figures in total sales, including Kickstarter. This is considered exceptional for an indie game, which I am proud of. The fact that I got nominated for an award is even better. But, it’s even less likely that I will earn a living from making tabletop games than from writing, and neither is very likely.

I am aware that many indies, authors and game developers, are not very good at self marketing and promotion. So here’s what I’ve learned, and hopefully some of these tips will help you:

  1. don’t use conventions and  trade shows as a primary means of making sales. I’ve been to more than a half dozen comic cons and tabletop cons. I have yet to meet an indie game designer who plans to attend major conventions and actually turn a big profit, if any profit at all. The primary reason you go to those things is to network with fellow indies, meet bigger publishers that you might consider either selling your work to or at least get advice from, and collect information from your customers, such as their purchase habits, hobby enthusiasm, and what future products they might like (such as posters).
  2. You must make as many contacts as possible. One of the reasons I’ve been so successful in selling Heroes of History is that I’m willing to drive out and meet game shop owners from across the Mid Atlantic region, and even in New England (I also visit some Museums too). Now many of the owners will say no, but if even only a few say yes, you will make some sales that your fellow indies won’t because they work a day job and just sell on Amazon and at conventions. Many owners will allow you to do a demo day at the store, which is a good way of meeting potential customers and gaining fans. This rule also applies to authors: Find indie book stores (while they last) and talk to owners about buying a few copies or letting you have a book signing event to get your name out there.
  3. A lot of the stores and museum shops you reach out to will either forget, mislead you, or be careless with, their promises to buy copies. I have more than a dozen stores owners who allegedly were going to buy my game and simply did not return phone calls or emails. Most likely these owners are overwhelmed with running their stores, but many may think they want your product, then change their minds later.
  4. Carry sales receipts! The government counts what you do as a business, even if you’re self employed or file as a sole proprietor (meaning you’re the only employee and will always be the only employee), so you need to pay taxes. Not only to sales receipts give the store or museum a track record of your sale, but for taxes. I use Wave Accounting to log my expenses (disclosure: I have a friend who is my bookie) but I use printed receipts as a backup record.
  5. Use the MileIQ app to record your mileage expenses. Believe me, this is the best purchase I ever made.
  6. Be proud of your product. Even if you know it has flaws, you did what few people ever do: Actually produce something.

 

Got anything that I missed on this list? Share it below. And don’t forget to follow my page.

 

 

 

 

 

Five Reasons Millennials Are Not ‘Entrepreneurial’

Nary a day goes by when a commentator or columnist doesn’t express dismay at the struggling American economy and how lazy/selfish/unappreciative/fill in the blank “kids these days” are. I don’t know if it’s new or a pattern that occurs every decade.

The Millennial Mindset and America’s Productivity Crisis” by Steve Tobak 1/18/2016.  Below are his reasons Millennials aren’t more productive (truncated for length):

1. Quit trying to deal with a certain generation as if they’re either special little snowflakes or entitled, narcissistic brats and start holding them accountable as unique individuals.

2. That said, those unique individuals need to quit doing such an effective job of living up to those Generation Me stereotypes, put on their big boy pants and get to work.

3. And their coddling parents should quit acting as if they had absolutely nothing to do with the demon spawn they raised and stop blaming gadgets, schools and society in general.

The problem is that Millennials are not getting jobs or starting companies like their predecessors did. What are they doing? We’ll get to that in a minute, but suffice to say that America’s largest generation is not pulling its weight. And if we don’t start facing that reality and dealing with it, we’re all screwed.

Since the dawn of Web 2.0…Millennials have been branded as the entrepreneurial generation…The hype and the sensational headlines have been overwhelming:

Millennials Are the True Entrepreneur Generation.” “Gen Y Grads More Likely to Launch Startups.”… “Why Millennials Could Be the Most Entrepreneurial Generation Ever.” and so on.

But that turned out to be far more myth than reality…Millennials have actually been the least entrepreneurial generation…perhaps because they see entrepreneurship as a mindset that has nothing to do with actually starting a company. Unfortunately, wishful thinking does not lead to jobs or GDP.

While it’s true that many Millennials are snubbing corporate America, they’re generally not starting companies but joining the growing ranks of the gig economy: doing a little of this and a little of that as self-employed solopreneurs. A recent report by MBO Partners says that Millennials make up 30% of all full-time independent workers.

Instead of climbing the corporate ladder and building their careers or starting companies and creating new jobs, they’re opting for the perceived freedom, flexibility and control of self-employment…The problem is that driving an Uber cab, renting out a room on Airbnb or generating online content are not exactly high paying gigs or boons to the economy. That’s why self-employed Americans make up 17% of the working population but generate just 7% of the nation’s GDP, according to the MBO report..

If we don’t start treating Millennials – the largest demographic in our nation’s history – as individuals and hold them accountable for becoming productive members of society, how in the world are we going to increase productivity, return to robust growth, pay down our national debt, and fit the bill for all those entitlements?

2015-Millennial-Money-Report-Earn

2015-Millennial-Money-Report-Debt

This is not the first, nor the last, hand-wringing that will come with why kids my age aren’t running out to build the next Uber or Facebook. Despite the sensational media reports about teens and twenty-somethings getting rich of some new business idea, the author is right that few of us actually will try any business startup, let alone some major innovative company.

Points 1,2, and 3 are about how coddled we are. I can assure you, dear reader, I got no coddling, except Mama’s delicious spaghetti and meat sauce. And laundry done. And a roof over my head. Okay, fine.

As for debt, that is very unfair. We are not only pressured to go to college right away (in hindsight I should have joined the military or the National Guard, would have doubled as serving the country and also gotten help on student loans) but to take out massive amounts of debt, then run into an economy that’s been struggling for years. My entire adult life has been essentially a recession or stagnant economy. Not the kind ideal to finding a high-paying job or confidence in starting out on a business.

Wherever else you may see lists or reasons of why we aren’t making enough money to buy our first mansion at the age of 26, here are my five quick reasons:

1. Cost. I started to produce a card game for kids, not fully aware of just how expensive it gets to produce two decks of cards for a game. Especially when I’m trying to create a valuable product and not take shortcuts on the product itself. Fees, taxes, regulation costs-things I could not know about until I had to pay them, at least without the time investment to shop around. In hindsight, I wonder if, knowing what I know now, I would have continued with this venture. But it’s too late now.

2. Debt. I addressed this above. My guess is, many of the young techie startup folks have little or no debt, due to a) scholarship money, b) rich parents, c) trust fund, or d) any combo of the above. The rest of us, not towering geniuses going to Ivies, Duke, or Stanford, carry a lot of debt.

3. unprepared for hard life. Going into business for oneself isn’t easy, even if Warren Buffet makes it look like anyone with $100 and a pair of shoes can make millions overnight. It requires long hours, personal sacrifices, and lots of focus, which is hard in this ADHD age we live in, and which some of us suffer from, maybe even quite literally. I completely get the need for hard work and sacrifice but that really has to be conditioned, and it’s not something that can be taught in a classroom.

4. Lack of access to mentors. I noticed that most of the top Millennial Entrpreneurs have solid access to a) capital and b) advisors. I don’t mean they did so great and then got a and b. I mean they had them FROM THE GET GO. To be fair, it is possibly to meet or exceed one’s goals without “privilege”. But MAN is it hard. Far easier to start with one’s first million, or a “small loan”.

5. Government. No one knows all the regulations out there, but there are lots of federal, state and local codes and taxes to manage. And we didn’t even address the IRS tax code today.

If you have any thoughts, feel free to comment below and share this article. I’m sure there’s a lot of hand-wringing, but to me, the combo of high-debt, low cash to begin, and inexperience both as a professional and in preparedness contribute to most of us just checking out and playing the latest Assassin’s Creed, which is awesome for the record.