From the polycount discussion over here: www.polycount.com/forum/showth…
I get the sense that some HR people (& immigration) look at 'not working inhouse' as being unemployed - mainly because it's so hard to prove exactly how long you were *actually* working on freelance.
If I was to look at it that way, then I've been unemployed for periods of up to 3 years.
I got over worrying about money and financial problems back when I had little to no money to worry about - and I think that's helped me to no end. Life seemed to be stuck on replay when I was in that frame of mind i.e. creating stuff because I HAD to get a job. Years would go by, and it never ever worked out for me, somehow I'd always end up in exactly the same place until I put in the time to find something I enjoyed, and simply worked at that no matter where it took me.
I have friends on my list who have been without a job or freelance work for ages, but they are also the same guys who don't have any online presence or if they do, its minimal at best, yet they can't seem to see why they can't get any work, and aren't willing to 'see' the problem.
I haven't had that feeling of having no work or no opportunities to pursue for such a long time now, from my perspective there are more opportunities now than there ever has been, EVER. So when I hear that times are tough out there and it's difficult to get a job, I actually read that as, this person can't see the real issue yet. (Don't hate me, it's not a personal attack - I mean it purely from the point of coming from exactly that position myself and working my way out of it)
I'm extremely grateful to be in this position, but I don't attribute it to luck. I attribute it to being honest with myself and recognition of the problem first and foremost and then the time I put in searching for something I enjoyed, and restructuring my life around that. Everything else fell into place after I made that critical choice and change in mindset to focus on what I enjoy most to make ( 3D girls ) rather than what I need to do to get work ( 3d everything else )
This didn't mean all I do is make girls, or the only jobs I took was if it was a girl model – it just meant I slowly started to connect with people and companies and clients who enjoyed what I enjoyed. That's the critical difference as opposed to what I used to do which was I was putting out there what everyone else enjoyed at the time or whatever was called for at the time. Leaving NO ROOM for what I liked, no room for ME and my art. Subsequently connecting with people that were cool and all but never REALLY gelled with on that art level.
The problem for me with the 'I got laid off, so need to make art right now just to get by and get another job' is that it's a quick fix – it doesn't solve the underlying issue which is that you'll need to keep doing this every time you get laid off, or lose your job etc. It makes periods of unemployment seem long and particularly laborious, because it's not fun. It's not fun because you probably aren't doing what you enjoy and your worried about your $$$$ going down the drain. Recognize that. Do something about it.
For the type of person I am, the quick fix route felt aimless yet I still did it. Even though I wasn't going anywhere, wasn't making my mark and just kept floating from project to project adding my one tiny brushstroke to a grand (or shitty) painting. Instead of being looked up and called upon for something that I enjoyed, I hoped something would come my way and begged to do whatever was necessary. Hoped and begged. Recognize that too. Do something about it.
I found myself bending to the whims of the industry, instead of shaping the industry around me. Sounds extremely self-absorbed but I don't mean it in that way - it's really difficult to describe but ultimately I guess it can be wrapped up in a phrase that goes something like 'Put out what you expect to get back'
Break the rules, bust out of the mold and go ' I am fucking doing this ' and I don't give a shit about anything else.
Build yourself a foundation for badassery: Be persistent and consistent. Pump out artwork that you like, because you like it not because other people do.
Depending on your personal situation you may have to save up enough to live for 6 months to 1 year in order to really get going so do whatever you need to do to get that cash. Dumb shitty jobs, whatever, but SAVE SAVE SAVE. When you finally do have that money, see it as an investment in you, set a time, and do it. Take 6 months or even 1 year and If you don't squander that time, and blast the world with YOUR art - you'll never be unemployed ever again...because you would have built something that you don't have right now.
A foundation for badassery that will carry you through when you're laid off.
You'll make new art friends, new clients, job offers / opportunities will seem to always be floating around somehow. Reach that next level & pull people/clients/companies that like what you like toward you, by making art that you love.
Take care of YOUR art, and it WILL take care of you
EDIT: Response to my post from fellow forum poster Jackablade:
How do you keep the moral fortitude to get to that position, Hazardous? It's tough to get past that feeling of utter futility of putting time and effort into game art in Australia.
Of the few large studios left, most are on the verge of shutting down and the remainder are run by people who should never have been given power or out and out criminals.
There are hundreds of tiny indi studios, especially in Melbourne, but few of them have any money, many are extremely inexperienced, and the majority have little interest in anything beyond pixel art.
The local industry is super saturated with artists and that situation is exacerbated every year when the local games colleges churn out another small army of graduates.
The carrot of going overseas exists, but, and perhaps this is where your experience differs from my own, without a bachelor's degree and perhaps some handy overseas relatives, you're chained to this barren dust bowl until you have ten years of experience.
It's not impossible to make a go of it here, but it's pretty tough not to become demoralised and then apathetic by the apparent futility of it all.
That's a damn good question man, I'm glad you asked. Despite us being horribly geographically challenged down here as far as the Games Industry goes in order to progress, I had to completely abolish that entire side of the equation from my mind. There were a couple of key factors to keep the fortitude buffed.
1) I turned inward, and made this a completely selfish vendetta - with no regard whatsoever to whether there would be any industry to support me, I just set out to get good at one little thing. If my end goal was to build a brick wall, I wanted to put in the time to get good at making bricks, I wanted to be the best at making bricks.
2) Through this my determination bled out and led me to meeting and connecting with a guy who personified the very meaning of persistence, and who probably doesn't realize just how much of a rock he has been to me ( Herman Ng or Openaneworld ) who has to be the most dedicated artist I've ever met / worked / lived with. He just never stops and I can't believe he ever will and that's why he's invincible. He didn't say much at all about this topic but I was able to see how he lived and his philosophy and approach towards what I saw as a big problem to me.
So with 1) I had a feeling I was on track, but when 2) came along I could see proof that this approach works. Both of those things are vital ingredients I think. Seeing proof that what you're doing is right when you have doubts is extremely reassuring, and can be that magical leg up when you need it most. That is often the time when lots of people fall into despair and give up.
I really wish I could be that person to shake them up right at the moment when they are about to give up. I would gladly do it, every single time. I hate seeing that bright flame in people extinguished by the dark side of reality – you know, the what if's, the self-doubt etc. But because I don't live with the 'victims' like Herman did with me, all I can offer are words and put them out there in hope that they stir something and keep a potential victim afloat that one extra time needed to propel them forward.
Any time I felt doubt or that all of this was pointless, I just remembered how badly I wanted that magical immunity that Herman had. So I'd only need to look over and go... here is a guy that's doing it, there's your proof Troy, do you want to stay in that loop, or do you want to do what he's doing, and get out of it.
I had an extraordinary ability to spend hours and hours face-palming and wishing I could be as good as dudes like Pior, Renaud, Slipgate, Bobo, MM, Daz, Sze, Kolby, Soul and so many others at the time.
Being a daydreamer, a youtuber, or a forum junky when I was jobless and can't get any freelance work all of a suddenly became TOTALLY not okay with me.
Fast forward 6 or so years from that time and here I am, still trying to get better. Although I've buttoned off the pace considerably from those times, I'm still trying to improve and still pursuing what I enjoy.
I still get rejected from job offers, I still sometimes miss out on freelance that I would love - it's not all glorious. But it's definitely a massive improvement over where I used to be where there were no job offers and no opportunities to pursue at all. At least I know if I need cash to live I have options.
All throughout my career I've had consistent periods of non-inhouse employment ( ie time to fill with freelance ) – use those times as best as you possibly can, and definitely when possible make time to express who you are, and what you like.
I would say even when working fulltime, just top up the tank every year by entering a comp, staying relevant, and letting people know you still exist and you can still do what you do.
This is ultimately about:
1) Realizing you do have the potential to be your own power source.
2) Converting yourself into your own power source.
So you can:
3) Stop relying on being forced to take any job, ie borrowing from other power sources because you have to.
With the ultimate goal of:
4) Getting more people who want to borrow some of YOUR power source because they want what you have.
I dont have a degree, and I dont have any relatives overseas apart from here and New Zealand - so the whole overseas thing definitely comes into play. If the opportunity comes up to travel - go ballsdeep man. Don't turn that opportunity down, its the best thing you could possibly do to expand and discover more out about what makes you tick.