3 September 2018
It’s Labor Day in the United States, a day when we celebrate our laborious contributions to society by not working. I’m very fortunate to have a job I love, and part of that job is writing a blog post on Mondays, so here I am!
I have three quick thoughts about labor that I’d like to share today. If labor is on your mind as it relates to crowdfunding, entrepreneurship, or your life, I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments.
Last year on this day, I wrote an article about fair wages. I’d like to summarize an updated version of that article, as I find it to still be quite relevant today:
As a business owner, I have the power to make positive change regardless of what the government says is the lowest amount I can pay someone. In Missouri, the minimum wage is $7.85.
Stonemaier Games doesn’t have employees (other than myself); rather, we have some independent contractors who work as needed, usually around 5-10 hours a week at most. I pay them a minimum of $20/hour. Why $20?
- Because $20 is the minimum I would want to work on anything for an hour. How could I ask someone else to accept less?
- Because I don’t spend Stonemaier’s money unless it makes us better. You get what you pay for. I’d rather Stonemaier be $20 better than $7.85 better.
- Because it feels like the right thing to do. If someone works 40 hours a week making $7.85/hour, that adds up to $16,328/year before taxes. That’s inconceivable.
I love that Kickstarter creators, entrepreneurs, and business owners have the power to make positive change not just with the people who enjoy our content, but also those we employ to help us create that content.
One of the delightful surprises I discovered during my first tabletop Kickstarter campaign (which was in progress exactly 6 years ago) was that it’s quite common for gamers to take an active role in improving, sustaining, and sharing the games they love.
This happens in many forms: playtesting, proofreading, translating, answering questions online, teaching games at events and conventions, etc.
It has been equally surprising for me to learn that many volunteers are not compensated at all for their time and talent. So while I can’t change how other companies do things, I have control over my actions as they relate to Stonemaier Ambassadors, and I’ve sought to compensate them whenever I commission them with a responsibility.
Just to be clear, I think there is a difference between commissioned and uncommissioned volunteering. If I reach out to you and ask you to translate the Between Two Castles of Mad King Ludwig rulebook so it can be available for download in 15 different languages the day that we announced it, I’ve commissioned you for a task, and I think it’s my responsibility to compensate you (I pay them, but some companies offer a copy of the game, which seems to work for many people).
Conversely, if I don’t commission a translation from you, but you decide on your own to translate a rulebook and send it to me, I don’t believe that compensation is necessary (at least, it’s not expected). Yes, it’s great that you’ve translated the rulebook, and I appreciate it, but it’s like if I showed up at your house and mowed your lawn without asking. It’s nice, but I shouldn’t expect to be paid (if that was my motivation for doing it, I should have talked to you in advance). That’s uncommissioned volunteering.
Job Application Update
Last October, I posted an article about how Stonemaier Games would start accepting job applications even though we don’t have any open positions. Here’s how I explained it:
We’re currently not actively seeking full-time employees, part-time employees, or independent contractors, but we want to stay open to working with talented people. If you have a specific skill set that can improve Stonemaier Games, please fill out the form below. We’ll read your application right away, and we’ll be in touch if–and only if–we are interested.
The application consists of a simple form asking for your name, email, and the question, “How can you make Stonemaier Games better?”
It’s been an interesting experiment. So far I’ve received 125 applications, and I would say about a dozen of them have resulted in some sort of paid assignment (those that come to mind offhand were for proofreaders and an artist). And there are several applications on the page I would definitely consider if I wanted to split my job into 2 positions, so I’m glad I have it as an ongoing resource.
That’s it! I’d love to hear your thoughts on these strategies and principles, as well as insights into the methods you use.
Also read: Game Designer Contracts and Stonemaier Games
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