GOT 5 MINUTES?
Good, because this won't take long. I have a lot of dev-work to do and only about 45 more years (on average) to do it, so I'm going to hit you with some TRUTH bullets.
It's increasingly difficult to read that our fellow independent developers are struggling alongside us to achieve what they want to achieve, but struggling harder than they should be in some cases. I've recently watched Richard Cook's "Making an Indie Game..." documentary (which you can find on YouTube) and have come to discover that the path his life took was eerily similar to my own in a lot of ways, except for one key ingredient: our choice of part-time supplemental employment. To give you some background on what his documentary portrays, it's a lot of struggling (as most of us in the States do due to the mammoth and growing chasm between "rich" and "poor"), but what was the hardest to watch, and is undeniably most prevalent among people attempting to "make it big" with their primary passion, was Richard's choice of part-time employment to supplement his passion.
Essentially, it appears that Richard lives in an Orlando suburb, probably renting a house with multiple roommates to make things cheaper on himself, while also owning a car to drive to his two jobs which appear to require eight-hour work shifts. He evidently makes only minimum wage at both jobs, and he reiterates several times in the documentary that he is "dirt broke." At one point he shows us the contents of his bank account (on his monitor) and he's at ~ "-97.00" give or take a few pennies.
This. Is. Insane to me. For several reasons, and I'll tell you all of them because they're really digging into my heart right now for not only Richard and his "starving artist" self-perpetuated motif, but for everyone out there struggling to bring a creative endeavor into this world (note: this solution is not for everyone and is, in fact, for relatively few people because the industry I've chosen is not infinitely available).
If you want the secret, here it is:
There, I said it. I've just given away my trade secret of how I support my Game Dev habit on less than 30 hours of public work a week in order to work the other 40 on Independent Game Development (which, so far, doesn't pay at all and in fact drains our personal reserves). As well as cultivate a wonderful relationship with my girlfriend and two cats. And all of this within the city of Philadelphia.
Both of us, myself and my girlfriend, work in restaurants while I work with Verus Games on Xeno (our upcoming 2-player co-op game! Keep your eyes peeled for lots of updates through the coming weeks!) and she completes a Master's degree. This is not easy, and I'm not attempting to say that it's easy. But working in restaurants (if you are not a drug addict, an alcoholic, or an excessive partier) is probably the fastest legal way to generate short-term income in the United States without an education or credentials, second only to stripping or legal prostitution (in Nevada). So it's MUCH easier than working in retail or "merchandising" (a fancy way to say "stocking shelves at Wal-Mart for 7.50$/hour") like Richard does. And at most restaurants, the shift hours are less and, on average, you are paid more per hour than a minimum wage job (NOT ALL RESTAURANTS, but a LOT of them). And a large majority of restaurants within many city limits do pay very, very well. Well, the restaurants themselves don't pay well, but remember that great divide between "rich" and "working poor"? The rich have to go somewhere to eat, and a "server" is essentially a "slave." And we all know how much the rich love them some slaves.
So here's a short list of pros and cons, from my 7 solid years in the restaurant industry from Pittsburgh, to Beverly Hills, to Philadelphia, in addition to my 1.25 years in game development:
A. You will be forced to socialize with people, and people you may hate.
B. You will work very weird shifts, depending on the restaurant. And you'll often have to work weekends.
C. Due to the erratic hours and social stress of a restaurant workers' lifestyle, the vast majority of them fall into a "social lifestyle," which means they spend most of the money they make in a shift in other restaurants and bars soon after they make it.
D. The vast majority of high-paying restaurant jobs are within city limits (of any nearby cities local to you), and not out in the suburbs, so you would either have to move or commute.
PROS (corresponding to Letter):
A. The lower-paying shitty retail/other job you currently have already has you socializing with people you may hate. Also, you may also meet very interesting people whom you otherwise never would have met. I have met fellow game devs (AAA devs) in restaurants, as well as astrophysicists and science advisers to organizations (my field of choice aside from game development). Who knows who you'd meet!
B. If you work closely with restaurant managers, these weird shift hours can be mitigated a bit by at least getting a steady schedule every week, to give your body time to become adjusted to the schedule. Also, while these shifts are "weird hours" (like late nights followed by early mornings) the increased pay scale can have you feasibly requesting less of them.
C. If you're like me and are using your earned income from the restaurant to go towards your passion, then this is easily avoided by your own focus and self-determination.
D. Move to the city limits, find a roommate to share a 2-bedroom in a relatively cheap apartment (that includes utilities as part of monthly rent), get rid of your money-sucking vehicle, and go to work for 25 hours a week at the restaurant and spend the rest of your time focusing on Game Development. If you're serious about this being your life's focus, then you'll make the changes necessary to fulfill them.
Work smarter, not harder. Find the best type of employment that benefits your current financial requirements, trim the fat in your life that you shouldn't need to be paying for, and make more efficient use of your time. Stress, especially copious amounts of it, significantly alters the quality of work you're putting out into the world. STOP IT. *smacks your hand with a ruler* Restaurants may not be a good fit for you, but TRY IT. Go apply for a "busser" or a "food runner" position at a local restaurant in your area (look at their menu first, probably available online, to see how much an average meal costs and apply to the medium-expensive ones), and try it for one month while you develop games. Save every penny you earn and do the math at the end of that month. Then decide for yourself if it's worth it, or if you want to go back to retail. Or try something else. But most importantly DO NOT GET STUCK IN A RUT.
Good luck to you, all of you, and I hope this gave you some help in your journey. Even if it's not the restaurant industry that you turn to, then I hope it urges you to look to a different avenue for supplemental income while you work on carving out your dreams.
With GameDev love,