Hi, my name is Bryce Szandro, Founder and CEO of Next-Gen Dreams 3D.
I started the company 4 years ago due to my freelancing business growing over time. I then started to employ the talents of other artists in the industry.
I’ve been asked to share my experiences from the past 4 years of running an independent Art Collective and what have been my key takeaways.
You’re probably wondering how I started out in the industry and ended up running my own company. I got my first taste of 3D when I was 14. I would spend nights and weekends on the polycount forums learning and being mentored by other artists.
I did my first freelance gig at 18, having the pleasure of being a weapon modeler for Zero Latency, a Melbourne-based VR studio creating free roam VR experiences.
I then did a stint in Arch-viz, creating VR walkthroughs of display homes while freelancing for games. Over that time, I was able to supplement my income, and from there, I decided to set out on my own into the world of freelancing and contracting, and with that, I found my calling.
My first lesson. A mindset shift.
Freelancing for yourself and running outsourcing teams are two very different things. When starting out, I had to learn to delegate my work to others and to put contingencies in place for the possibility of things going wrong.
What if the person I hired doesn’t work out? How do I ensure I can still deliver to my clients? If this goes wrong, how do I remain profitable?
I quickly learned to plan projects all the way to the end and make sure that we have backups in place. I also realized that the costs of performing work increased with more organization and scale, and so did the figures we had to charge to ensure the company remained stable.
Invest in your people.
Once you start to grow, you will start to learn who the key players in the organization are, and you need to position them accordingly.
Over time, if you pay enough attention, you will see team members' strengths and weaknesses. It’s your job as a manager to put them in a place where they can easily succeed.
Additionally, you must understand what is important to each individual and make sure that you take that into account when making decisions that impact them. A good manager realizes it’s not about what your team can do for you. It’s about what you can do for them.
If you’re able to ease the burdens of your team, that frees their time and their minds to focus on the work at hand.
Create alliances outside of your organization.
When I started in this business, I traveled a lot, went to conferences, tradeshows, and learned who’s who in the outsourcing part of the industry.
I learned very early on that not everyone is your competition. Other studios can be open to collaboration, so find others who share a similar vision and combine your efforts. It’s better to hunt in a pack rather than alone.
The best deals are based on mutual respect and mutual benefit. That is how I define a true partnership.
My reversal to this is to be careful in the earlier stages, don’t be overly generous with your good nature as it can be used against you.
Be a shield for your team.
Clients are interesting beasts. Some are honest, reliable, grateful, and great communicators. Others may use tactics to get a better deal out of you and say your team is underperforming even if the work is of high quality and delivered on time with little to no iteration.
Hell, we had one client fire our entire team saying they weren’t happy with the service, only then to for them to try and poach team members from under our noses.
When receiving feedback and criticism, even if it’s harsh, read between the lines and be very particular about your delivery to the team, as it’s important not to harm morale. A confident team breeds competence.
Another lesson learned. If you hire friends, be prepared to lose them.
Professional and personal relationships are very different. Sometimes friendship and business mixed together are a recipe for disaster.
Being in the driving chair of a company, I’ve had to make some hard calls which burned some bridges.
I can honestly say, if you truly value someone’s friendship, keep them away from your business dealings as emotions can run high if a friend doesn’t feel like they are getting their fair share.
When hiring, your team becomes an amazing recruitment tool, especially if you have experienced members. They are going to remember many standouts from their past endeavors.
Use them as a filter for talents that you are looking to employ in your company.
Always get on a call with whoever you hire, experience their character firsthand, as a lot can be learned about someone just from taking the time to do a phone call.
Ultimately, when it comes down to hiring, trust your gut. It will serve you well in most cases, and if it doesn’t seem to be working out, don’t be scared to let them go.
The final lesson. Always believe in yourself.
The final takeaway I can give you is to never give up. Continue to persist even if things feel dire or futile. You’re only done if you stop, so keep trying, and if you fail, try, try, and try again.
It’s a slow crawl up the mountain, and with time you’ll learn how to climb faster.
In conclusion, I hope these points help you in the world of outsourcing. This business is very competitive and rewarding.
I wish you the best in your rise to success!
In relation to what is next for the team and me at Next-Gen, we will continue to strive to push the boundaries of what we’re capable of.
Making great art is what we do. I’m excited to show everyone what we’ve been working on over the past couple of years when the time comes.
I would like to thank Javier Benitez for having me on his blog, and I hope to contribute more in the future if you found my words insightful.
It was my pleasure to collaborate with Bryce on this article. We've always had a great relationship, and even though we don't work together anymore, I still see him as a big role model!
Thank you, Bryce, and thank you for reading this article!