10 Things I Learnt from Hiring the Wrong Person

Our latest endeavor at Total Eclipse is a puzzle game for iOS devices, titled A Clockwork Brain. It’s a spin-off from our very successful Hidden Object/Adventure series, The Clockwork Man and we’re about to release it in the coming weeks.

There came a point in the production of the game that we decided it was time to move from the prototype graphics we’d been using until then, to the final ones that we had envisioned.

That meant that we had to look for an artist, who would be working remotely, full time on the illustrations and UI elements that were needed for the game. Since this task
was to involve a freelancer, I decided to place an ad and wait for the right person to
come by.

As it usually happens, we received a lot of applications, some good, some bad, but nothing
that really stood out. When we hire someone to work with us, we are looking for both expertise and professionalism; in case any of these are lacking, serious issues could come up later on.

In the past, when I would look for an illustrator, I would take my time, going through the different portfolios, talking to the candidates who seemed like a possible match, making sure I was doing my best to find… the best.

When stinky projectiles hit the fan!

This time, however, I’d given myself and the project a silly deadline; a week to find the person who would be hand-painting all of our game’s graphics, for a game in which we had invested many months already!

This limited time frame led me to hire the most unsuitable person, even though, just as we were signing the work-for-hire contract, deep inside me I felt I wasn’t making the right choice.

A couple of days later, not only had this person given up on the project he signed a contract on, but he also “ran away” with over $1,000. That money was our downpayment for some of the pieces he was supposed to do and deliver in layered PSD format!

We were left with a couple of JPG files, completely useless for our project and a kind of bitterness that we hadn’t felt before. We’d lost money and time, two of our most precious assets, but most importantly I’d personally lost trust for people in general; a rather scary thing to happen to someone!

That day, working with a remote contractor ever again seemed impossible. However this was exactly what we had to do for the project to continue.


The day after

I let a couple of days pass, in order to regain my trust in my ability to discover the right person for the job, and I set out the find him/her. A few days later, we had what we were looking for and more! Jonatan didn’t turn out to be just a great illustrator, but a true professional as well!

Screenshots from "Directions", one of the mini-games of "A Clockwork Brain"I’ve since promised myself to always keep this experience in mind, and to learn as much as I can from it.

Here’s what this encounter with the Dark Side taught me:

Lessons learnt

  1. Always trust your gut feeling! - It may be the smartest thing you do.
  2. Never make hasty decisions when they have a significant effect on you or your project! - Take your time; it’s worth it.
  3. Never leave important decisions in a project for the last minute! - A bad decision could have serious repercussions.
  4. Always check an artist’s portfolio for work similar to what you’re requesting of them. If there isn’t something there, ask for a test piece! - Not getting a sample may cost you dearly in the long run.
  5. Always ask for a test piece before any agreement is signed. If the artist declines, drop the collaboration! - A test piece will tell you a lot, not just about the artist, but for the person behind them as well.
  6. Always check for pencil drawings in an artist’s portfolio, as they can tell you a lot about the person’s abilities! - Black & white drawings can speak volumes about an artist. Seek them out!
  7. Always be specific on budget and deadlines, as well as of the project’s specifications! - Make all expectations clear up front. See if the candidate abides by them.
  8. Always have your contracts written/checked by a professional! - Writing your own legal documents in order to save money then, can cost you much more and put you in a difficult position later on.
  9. Always try to find out as much as you can about someone before you hire them! – Go through their previous work & references, search online, and talk to them as much as possible. Don’t go as far as a criminal investigation, but surely try to find out who this prospective collaborator is.
  10. Never trust someone who brags too much about what they can do for you, without seeing what they can actually do first! - True story!
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  • Anonymous

    “Always ask for a test piece before any agreement is signed”

    This limits the quality of the artist you’ll find.

    Good artists don’t have to do spec work and will likely reject working with you.

  • Angrias

    I think asking for a test piece is very wise, but most “good” artists already have a solid body of work online that shows off their strengths. 

    The trouble is finding an artist on a budget. Many younger artists, without much work, may be very talented and willing to accept smaller jobs. So I think a test piece is perfectly reasonable and smart. 

    I actually came across the job listing for this position today, I considered applying and began to research the company as well as the project to see if my art style was a good fit. In fact, thats how I came across this post. I’m glad I did! This feedback from a hiring experience is very useful.

  • http://porcupine.gr/ porcupine

    When hiring under pressure it’s very difficult to discern the person, the artist, the professional. It takes years of experience and most of all a canny mind. 

    But there’s a technique that works for me: a candidate must be interviewed and judged by someone of the same gender. It all has to do with empathy. A man is a better evaluator when it comes to men candidates, because he can recognise certain patterns of behaviour. These patterns are not met in female candidates. And vice versa. 

    I wish I knew this when I was in your position. But it’s never too late I guess.

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