Outsourcing Concept Art smArtly

Based on the last ~15 months of contracting out concept art, I’ve
refined my style a bit and just made a dramatic change in the way I
parcel out work.

I used to price out concept art per piece. Everything from initial
roughs to polish to ink to color to turnarounds was a single asset at
a single price.

I noticed a tendency, though — the artists, in their desire to get
paid sooner rather than later, would rush through the initial roughs
too quickly and try to finish each piece of art as fast as they could.
That’s totally natural and to be expected, since I’m not paying them
for their time, but for the finished result. But I felt like I was
losing out on a lot of potential ideas. So I asked myself, how can I
get the most out of the initial idea-generation process?

Then it came to me. It’s simple: Break it into two phases: Rough Phase
and Polish Phase.

The initial Rough Phase can include a pre-set number of sheets of
rough ideas and some basic pencil tightening and ink, but no color. I
spend a reasonable amount of money and time on this phase, and I make
the Rough Phase its own end, instead of an annoying stepping stone to
a finished piece. I get a wide variety of ideas, then determine which
rough concepts to move forward with and polish. The roughs get done,
and they get paid.

The next and final phase, the Polish Phase, is where I take the ideas
I selected in the Rough Phase and finish them off. I get color
thumbnails (to experiment with a wide variety of potential color
schemes), final coloring, the turnarounds and the inevitable last
minute spit-shine.

Voila, you have a finished concept! You get the full benefit of the
rough idea phase where you can bounce around ideas all you want
without the “finish the entire concept” pressure, and then once that’s
wrapped, you approve it and pay him.

And to the artist, he basically gets paid two times for one concept.
AND his earning potential increases!

Wait, what? How does his earning potential increase?

If you’re anything like me, the wide variety of ideas he generated in
the Rough Phase will find their way into two to four brand new
concepts that wouldn’t have existed if it hadn’t been broken up into
two phases. YOU get more ideas, HE gets more work. Not just that, but
since you priced each phase out differently, you can very quickly and
effectively amend the contract to add more Polish Phases at the
pre-agreed price terms!  No more time spent negotiating. Get that all
done up-front!

Could it get any better?

…no, seriously. If there’s a better way than this, I want to know
about it so I can scrap this and DO it! 🙂

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