01/09/2014

BLOG: Sole Traders Don’t Have to Work Alone

In an increasingly digitised world, there are very few jobs which can be done alone. Whether you’re an artist, developer, even a project manager you have to work with other people to deliver anything.

The odd thing about this is that the creative sector has one of the highest numbers of freelancers and sole traders of any industry. However, all of these people need to work with others before any product can be built or any project delivered to a client. Seeing that the world is digital, all of this work can be simply bounced from person to person via email and Dropbox. Thousands of people working in bedroom offices, kitchen tables and garden sheds emailing each other; it paints a lonely picture and it’s not a lot of fun.

This is especially true in the games industry. Producing a game is a tricky process which demands different specialised skills at different stages of the project. While creativity is of course important, the project management of a game is critical. Creating an amazing product is no mean feat. For instance, Angry Birds was the developer’s 52nd title and I’ll give you one guess as to how successful the other 51 were.

This means that success is very hard for one person to achieve alone. You need the input of others but, with everyone working remotely or hot-desking, getting that type of meaningful interaction is difficult. This is why hubs are so important to the creative industries.

A hub provides a dedicated space, an infrastructure and a culture that allows fellow entrepreneurs to work co-operatively; sharing ideas, technology, skills, knowledge and experience. It doesn’t work for everyone, but I’ve found that these types of communities are far more important to companies in the creative industries than in other sectors. I’m sure that if you asked the MD of a finance or insurance firm to share their business ideas and working methods with supposed competitors, they would probably laugh you out of the building! In our industry, however, technology and trends change so quickly that learning from each other is the norm and can provide a distinct advantage for everyone involved.

While having companies share ideas may appear mad, success in the creative industries is as much about your relationships within the ‘scene’ as it is about talent. The games industry is such a monstrous global platform with thousands of competitors and millions of potential clients, that at a local level, creative companies have much more to gain from cooperation. That isn’t to say everything in a hub is fair game. As creators we respect each other’s work and have a mutual understanding that if something isn’t public, what you see in the hub stays in the hub.

Another advantage we find when working in a hub is the access to new talent. When you’re working on new projects you need different resources at different stages. If you’re then surrounded by skilled and talented people it makes it much easier to meet potential collaborators, discover others you might want to work with and find out if they’re available – all over a chat in the kitchen. Essentially it cuts down waiting time and recruitment costs.

Before you plunge into a shared working space, though, it’s worth checking that it has flexible terms. When we’re creating games we scale up quickly for projects and scale down again. We’ve negotiated to hire desk space on a month to month basis, so that if/when we scale back down again, we don’t have to keep shelling out for desks we’re not using.

Perhaps the surprising aspect of it all is the confidence being part of a hub gives the company. As well as physical benefits, being part of an established creative hub helped put us on the map. For instance our shared space is the go-to spot for journalists looking for quotes, and the first place an industry bod might consider for a product launch. More excitingly, when one of our fellow companies make it big, or create a product with a big buzz, we all share in that celebration. And it gives us all a little spotlight by proxy!

Of course you can do it all by yourself – and there are plenty of successful agencies who do – but really, where’s the fun in that?



AUROCH DIGITAL

Leading games studio Auroch has recently masterminded Bristol’s first ever games hub, a community business space in which games companies can work, interact and collaborate.

Illustrated by Tom Lane

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