Freelance artists are used to working as a contract artist, someone who isn’t considered an employee of the company. This means that your client won’t be taking any taxes out of your paycheck and you won’t receive benefits or overtime; you are strictly an independent contractor. You get in, finish your illustration, and you get out. Hopefully you receive your money in the next 30 days but most likely your payment will be late, at least in my experience. This is what most freelancers have grown to expect.
What you may not know is that this isn’t always the case when dealing with video game clients. There is a system that is actually far better than hoping your client sends you your first, and only payment, 30 days after you finish your work.
It seems too good to be true right? The art Gods have parted the skies and comforted you in their warm embrace!
What am I talking about? I’m talking about a company called PRO Unlimited. What is PRO Unlimited exactly? They are responsible for managing temps and contractors around the world. They handle tax documents, contracts, and third-party payrolling services. They also offer benefits. Benefits for a freelance artist? Yes indeed. They offer health insurance, vision, dental, 401(k), worker’s comp, the works. It sounds like a truly magical system, and it is.
In addition to these benefits, PRO Unlimited also uses a weekly payrolling system. You no longer have to do the work and then wait an additional 30 days to get paid. With PRO Unlimited you receive a weekly paycheck, a weekly check that is deposited straight into your bank account. No more waiting, no more check getting lost in the mail, no more angry e-mails demanding where your money is, just instant cash. Now that’s what I’m talking about.
Working for a client who uses PRO Unlimited is a freelancer’s wildest dream. You still have the freedom to work from home, sans pants, yet you receive full benefits and a weekly income. You really can’t get much better than that.
Of course nothing this great lasts forever. Since you are still considered a temp, your contract is eventually going to end. When your contract ends, so do your benefits. If you only work for a month, you will only receive benefits for a month. While that is better than not having any benefits at all, it is still a sad day when your contract ends.
You also might already have health insurance, which was the case with me. I’ve always been a big believer in having health coverage, especially with all of the problems my wife has gone through over the past several years. While it is great that PRO Unlimited offers these benefits, they don’t always apply to everyone. I do know that from the majority of my friends, these benefits would be greatly appreciated since many freelancers don’t have health insurance.
Now that the Affordable Care Act is in effect, the offer of health insurance from PRO Unlimited might seem a bit moot, at least for people in the US. Their plan might be better, but I’m not sure how much of a hassle it would be to cancel your insurance, get the PRO Unlimited insurance, and then go back to your old insurance once your PRO Unlimited contract is over.
I think the thing I enjoyed the most about PRO Unlimited was that I received weekly paychecks and that taxes were automatically taken out of each check. I remember thinking “awesome, free money!” The problem with freelancers is that they don’t have any taxes taken out of their paychecks, so you never really have as much as you think you do. If you spend that entire paycheck, you’ll end up going negative once taxes are due since they were never taken out in the first place. I liked not having to worry about the fact that I needed to save 30-40% of each paycheck for taxes.
The only hassle with working with PRO Unlimited was the amount of paperwork you have to fill out before you can begin working. I believe I had to read and fill out 15-16 different documents. They totaled roughly 40 pages in all and I ended up having to sign and return 18 pages. It definitely took some time to go through all of the documents and fill everything out.
Since I worked remotely, most of the paperwork I had to fill out didn’t apply to me at all. There were some forms I had to sign saying that I understood there might be hazardous chemicals in the kitchen and bathroom of the office. This of course didn’t matter to me considering I didn’t even live in the same city as the client.
I also had to fill out forms listing which schools I went to, my work history, etc. If you have ever had a full-time job before, you know the form I’m talking about. As an artist working remotely, this really didn’t have anything to do with me. I’m sure these forms are all required regardless of where you live and what your job is, but it was still annoying.
Other times the people working at PRO Unlimited weren’t aware that I was working remotely, so they would contact me asking if I was going to attend the meeting that day. Again, since I didn’t even live in the same city I obviously wouldn’t be attending the meeting. Don’t get me wrong, all of the people I worked with were very nice but it was just a hassle when you have to deal with paperwork and e-mails that have nothing to do with your situation.
Freelancing is great and amazing, but it is even more so when you work for a client who uses PRO Unlimited.
Mike "Daarken" Lim
"In the early years of his youth, Daarken attended the Academy of Art University in San Francisco. Most of his days were spent huddled over a sketchbook at a figure drawing workshop or in a cafe, where he was affectionately known as "the guy that likes to draw deltoids." After three long years of drawing deltoids and video game playing, Daarken graduated Cum Laude with a BFA in traditional illustration.
Daarken began his career in 2004 when his incessant video game playing was interrupted by a phone call. The mysterious voice on the other end identified himself as someone from Wizards of the Coast. Daarken immediately blurted out that he would like to work for them. His overzealous nature was countered with the statement "but you haven’t even heard what the project is yet." So began the lifestyle of creating monsters and zombies, with the occasional video game playing on the side.
Daarken’s true video game playing powers were put to the test when he was hired by BioWare Mythic in 2007 as a concept artist for Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning. His two loves combined into a gigantic ball of awesomeness, which he happily rolled around all day. He now spends his days freelancing full-time, creating monsters and zombies and, of course, playing more video games."