How to Business: a Primer for Gamers

Introduction and Philosophy
Why Business?
So, when I am not reading or writing about things like smelly goblins, interdimensional frog mind-palace adventures, or newer and better forms of magical undead, I am paid to do business things. I am paid to do this because I recently graduated from an institution of higher learning that seems to think that I am now a master of administering business.  I say this not to toot my own horn, but just so you know where this stuff is coming from – I had like zero business experience before this.
I really enjoyed business school and the things I learned there, and I want to share some of the best and most relevant stuff with the world of gamers who sell gaming stuff. Much of what business school teaches you is more relevant in a large, corporate context – how to get other people to get work done well, how to keep track of large quantities of money, and how to figure out the value of complicated substitutes for money. That stuff is fascinating and complicated, and many folks make big bucks figuring it out, which is why most folks go to business school in the first place. Unfortunately, most of that kind of stuff isn’t that useful to a guy or a gal sitting in their apartment who wants to make a little bit of money creating something they love.
Which brings me to what I hope to accomplish with this and upcoming posts: I want to help out people who are just fine making awesome game stuff for free, but wouldn’t mind getting paid for it either. I think I can help in two ways – first, as someone lucky enough to have a decent job, I can buy the awesome stuff they make or contribute to their Patreon or other such things that put money in their pockets.
Secondly, I can share some of that business knowledge I’ve gained in a useful and entertaining way (I hope), such that geeks can make the most out of their hobby businesses. I’m not saying these posts are going to make you the next Wizards of the Coast, but if you make game stuff and people like it, I think maybe I can help you go from making beer money to making game money.
A Philosophical Aside on Creative Work, Community, and Filthy Lucre
A lot of people, especially a lot of creative people, see money as a necessary evil, and the acquisition of it as distasteful at best. I am not one of those people. I love money. Not in a real life gold for XP, “money is your score at life” kind of way. More like a “money  is a medium for different people with different values for things, work, and time to come to mutually beneficial arrangements” kind of way. Can money be put to bad uses and lure people into full-on, legitimately evil behavior? Of course it can, and all too often has. But I don’t blame the money for that. I think money is just an extremely flexible tool that can advance bad ambitions just as well as good.
So what do I mean when I say I love money? I love that a company gives me dollars in exchange for things I make or do within a certain time period, and then like magic, I can give those dollars to someone else, who gives me access to their creativity and awesomeness. When those people let me use their awesomeness to have a good time with my friends, even better!  A huge, global corporation would never spend a cent on Hack & Slash, Sleeping Place of the Feathered Swine, or No Salvation For Witches, but they will (and do) spend money on me, and I spend it on those things and more. The best part? Everybody’s happy – we all get what we want out of the exchange. I think that is some pretty powerfully cool stuff.
I realize, though, that not everybody looks at money like this, and often with good reason. I’m not trying to bring you around if that’s the case. For some people, money and creativity don’t mix. For others, it’s a moral or political thing. And for some, the reward of people seeing and enjoying your stuff is worth way more than any amount of cash.
So, if you like giving your stuff away for free, if that is part of the appeal, keep doing that. It’s awesome! Those of us who benefit from your sweet, sweet generosity love you for it. I’m not trying to turn anybody into an RPG Scrooge McDuck, here.
On the other hand, if you can spend more time doing what you love because you make money doing it, that’s fantastic. Maybe you don’t have to work as long hours at your job. Maybe you can take a job that’s less stressful and it’s easier to be creative in your free time. Or maybe with some money coming in, you can more easily justify to yourself or people who depend on you the time you spend. Like I said, I think any of those would be great, and I want to help you make it happen.
What’s in it for you?
Maybe you’re reading all this and going “yeah, that’s fine for the geniuses and the prodigies out there, but I can’t make money doing what I do.” Well, I honestly believe that if you’re making stuff that gets your motor going, then it probably does somebody else’s too, and people are generally willing to pay something to get their motor going. “Stuff” here is very broad – people have and will pay for things as diverse as blogposts, maps, podcasts, and more.
These posts will help you to connect with the people willing to pay for what you put out, price it where everybody gets a fair deal, and then keep track of the money and how to make smart decisions with it.
What to Expect
I’m going to write a series giving an overview of the most relevant and useful things I learned in business school in the context of creating stuff for roleplaying games. Now, some of these posts might look like they’re going to be kind of boring (I’m looking at you, accounting), but trust me when I say that I will be trying only to include things that are important and relevant. I’ll make an effort to tie everything back into the big picture as we go along, so we shouldn’t spend too much time deep in the weeds with overly technical stuff.
The topics I plan to do are below, with the last being a follow up answering any reader questions. Going forward, if I ever get any questions or think of anything that seems useful, I’ll revisit the topic. When I finish the series, I plan to make a pretty quick and dirty .pdf available to collect everything together in one place, so feedback on how to improve the material or what’s assumed/not covered will be quite welcome.

  1. Introduction and Philosophy
  2. Reader Questions