The value of work – Commissions & Models for sale

Whenever I have talked with others or had enquiries about commission work, or selling already completed works, it always seems that people massively undervalue the work required to build, modify and paint a kit. Whereas I can understand that if you are new to the hobby, or have never done any modelling then you are going to assume that the cost for a commission, or making an offer on an already completed and painted kit is going to be the cost of the kit + paint + a little time. This is in most instances however, the offer is nowhere near enough. The value is not in the kit and paint, it’s in the work itself.

I can understand too that, if you are into Gunpla or Mecha kits and enjoy building them, that you perhaps just don’t have the time to paint them, and want to ask someone else to do it to a standard level without all the bells and whistles to display in your collection. This is where you need to think – you will be seeing it as just a paint job – most modellers will be seeing it as exercising their art form.

What many people do not realise is that by buying a completed work or by asking for a commission, you are not only putting a value on someones time and material, you are also putting a value on the level of skill – which can take years to perfect.

Anyone can paint a kit. Yes. Anyone. You snap off the pieces, grab a brush, spray can or air brush and cover the plastic in paint. Not anyone however can do it do a degree that has fantastic visual impact. This takes experience, skill and dedication to an art form. This is why when some experienced modellers are offered virtually the cost of a kit in return for work, they’re quite rightly sometimes insulted.

So how much should you pay to commission a modeller for their work? This is of course down to each modeller so there is no way I could give you a right answer, but here’s a few tips to bear in mind when asking.

  1. How good is the modellers work? This one has a little subjectivity to it, and can vary depending on a modellers style, but it’s worth doing your research first. Look at previous works. Compare it to others. Do you want this modeller to work on your kit? Think about how much money you have set aside for this project. It’s unlikely a multi-award winning and internationally recognised modeller is going to work for very little money, but it’s worth asking.
  2. Does the modeller do commission work? This should be your very first question. Save time and ask this first.
  3. Where are they based? Remember that exchange rates and costs of living are very different around the world. You are best off looking for a modeller from the same region as you to not only save on shipping, but also not to end up paying far more than you should.
  4. Have a set budget? Make this clear right away. If you’re noticing no one is interested, it’s likely not enough.
  5. Be clear on what you want. If you want to rely on the modellers creativity, this is fine, just make it clear as to what elements you want. Have a kit in mind. Most of the time the person wanting a model kit painted has the kit, and will send it to the modeller to be worked on. If not, make sure you can get hold of one. Some kits can be tricky to find at a good price. Find examples of other work you liked. Communicate as much as possible.
  6. Make an agreement. Once you are happy with what the modeller is offering, summarise what you want and make an agreement with the modeller. Once work starts, major changes can jeopardise a whole project. Every modeller is different of course so perhaps ask (if you feel you might) if it’s ok to request small changes during progress. Remember too, paying any money up front will require a higher degree of trust. Don’t get scammed. Exchange emails, don’t do everything over messaging apps or Facebook. Get acquainted enough to ensure this modeller is the real deal.
  7. Don’t treat modellers like a company. Modellers are people, not companies. Be polite please, this is not a boardroom deal. You might expect that in any exchange of money for a service, this entitles you to being a customer with consumer rights. It does in a way, but does not entitle you do be an asshole to someone you’ve not given any money to. Most modellers are hobbyists, meaning they will be working on your model in their spare time. As most of the time there is no legal agreement for services rendered, keeping a good relationship will result in a win-win every time. You’ll get a great model, the modeller will get paid for their time, and hey, you might make a new friend.
  8. Let the modeller give you a timescale. You can always ask for a work to be completed in a certain amount of time and if so it should be made clear very early on, however every modellers life is different with varying levels of spare time available. Ask them how long they expect a project to be finished. They will of course know better.

Remember, a multi-million dollar Dali oil painting is not worth the 100 pesetas he paid for the canvas and oil paints.

How much should you offer to a modeller, for a kit already produced? Sometimes the modeller already has a price in mind and will communicate this, and other times they’ll ask for offers. What’s important to remember here is how good the work is, the history of the modeller, perhaps how well known or respected they are among other modellers and most of all, how much you like the work. Remember, a multi-million dollar Dali oil painting is not worth the 100 pesetas he paid for the canvas and oil paints. Give them an offer worthy of their art. I’m not saying offer a million dollars, just be realistic by factoring in craftmanship.

Of course, don’t let any of this put you off ever asking a modeller about commission work or to enquire about a kit on sale. Most of us are approachable, decent folks who enjoy the interaction. Just understand that sometimes it’s frustrating to have your time wasted, or your work devalued unintentionally, and hopefully this will make things a little clearer. As I’ve mentioned a few times, every modeller is different and may not even agree with what I’ve written, and it’s all based off experiences I’ve had and others who I have talked too. Receiving a request for a commission is a real honour and gives us good vibes, and getting a good price for our work is equally gratifying. I will always recommend however, if you don’t have the money for a commission or completed work, get yourself into painting and detailing. It’s not as expensive as you realise, and all it takes is time, dedication, education and interaction.

Anything to add? Did I miss something or got something wrong? Got some experiences of commissioning, or being commissioned to do work? Good stories? Bad? Do share! 

 

 

 

 

Dear Bandai, the UK wants a GBWC! (I think?)

As the 2017 GBWC event reaches it’s final heat in Japan, I have been salivating over the incredible work on show from all over the world, and I am left thinking as I annually do, I wish I had the opportunity to join this fantastic competition.

Being from the UK where the hobby is still very niche, and where kit sales are limited by a handful of highly competitive small, local and Japanese retailers without any UK wholesale agreements all vying to take business from the Goliath of international model kit retailers HLJ.com, it’s hard to gauge just how ‘big’ the UK scene really is in terms that Bandai will take notice of – actual sales. I wonder if HLJ.com report their sales by country? Would there be any benefit for them to do this even? I do however know one thing for sure. We have some exceptional talent that deserves a slot in the GBWC, and we would be a fantastic addition to a growing international event.

I find that here in the UK we are at a kind of impasse, where our talent meets the requirements but we’re simply held back by a technicality – for want of a better word. Is there a way to show Bandai how well their kits are selling in the UK? It would require, I would think a direct link to the event organisers and a concerted effort from all retailers selling to, and from within the UK reporting back sales figures, or a large wholesaler to take up the ‘risk’ of stocking Gunpla. I just can’t see this happening. Local UK retailers are working with crazy small margins to aviod been smashed by import charges and to not pass these costs onto customers – meaning smaller Japan-based retailers and individual sellers are able to undercut them on price. This is all business, and completely understandable – the demand is that people want the best prices for kits, and have little to no interest in paying that little bit more for the short term, for long term gains in terms of better deals for UK-based retailers – which would not even be guaranteed at this stage. It’s pretty obvious to state that if more UK retailers where selling Gunpla, competition would increase and prices will drop, but without affordable access to wholesale for small retailers, this is distant goal.

Don’t get me wrong here. This is no hit-piece for any retailers out there, I am just writing this as I see it with the experience of talking to retailers worldwide and wholesalers like Blue Fin over in the US, but this highly competitive nature of Gunpla sales here in the UK is definitely a stumbling block in the way of getting a GBWC event here in the UK. There are some questionable techniques in my opinion too employed by some retailers in social media that create these strange, factional echo-chambers with brand advocates exchanging pointless defamation for causes unknown. If your service, advertising and prices are good, and you have a good and expandable business model – there should be no need for such activity, surely one of the rules of business is to not limit your potential customer base? I will avoid these sellers, but would not begrudge anyone else wanting to get good prices, nor bear any ill feeling towards retailers having to work with no advertising budget and social/organic reach alone. Just like everyone else of course, I will look for the kits I want at the best prices and put ethics in last place (as bad as that sounds, it’s true for most of us on a budget) – and instead advocate for the hobby here in the UK as and where I can, recommending retailers on the basis of who is best for the hobby. In light of this, I am hoping that I can attend next years IPMS show in Telford along with a few other Gunpla fans (thanks to David for working to pull this together), to see if we can gain more interest in the hobby – because this is where it really matters for hobbyists and retailers alike. If you feel the UK needs representation in the GBWC, I urge you to do the very same. Talk about it, especially with your more nerdier mates, get them involved and show them just how incredible this hobby is. If you need a shout-out for anything social you are doing for the hobby here in the UK, have a facebook page, YouTube channel or blog to share, drop me a message. Always happy to help, and of course, get yourself a membership on the Mecha Lounge!

Update on things + The Mecha Lounge news!

Hello! It’s been some time since my last post, but as always life has been catching up with me and as such some of the ‘ol hobby time has been reduced.

First off, we we’re told last month that the owners of our house have decided to sell, so we had to find a new place to live within 2 months. We managed to find a new place which is a little more costly but slightly more roomy, and will be moving in a little under 2 weeks time. As you can guess, a lot of my time has been taken up packing.

Despite the chaos, I did manage to finish my RE 1/100 Efreet build-off with fellow YouTubers, StyderPrime, Justinius Builds, Zakuaurelius, Jabman025 and 00GundamReviewsV2, you can take a looky here, and see the showcase video here. It was a pleasure to take part in this little jaunt, and some excellent models were produced 🙂

I am also working on the revival of the Mecha Lounge! For those of you who do not know, the Mecha Lounge was a forum that ran a couple of years back for mech modellers all over the world, and was fantastically popular until social media groups started gaining traction. I decided to revive it for several reasons. I no longer felt that modelling groups on facebook, where a useful platform for people serious about mech modelling. Sure, facebook is great for sharing great works and getting advice now and again, but it’s temporary nature means a lot of questions were being asked repeatedly, leading to some people just either not answering or getting pissed off with it. It also means a lot of seriously impressive work just gets missed! The Mecha Lounge had an extensive Q & A and tutorial section, that was a great repository of expert advise and valuable feedback that would never get lost in the noise, or be subject to facebook algorithms that favours advertising over useful content. It also had advise given by verified veterans of mech modelling, so you could always guarantee answers were given with real experience.  I want to have a dedicated source, free to access and without restriction. It’s success will really depend on it’s users, so once it’s ready to roll, it’ll be open for a year to see how it goes. It’ll have compo’s and giveaways too! Be sure to give the Mecha Lounge Facebook page a like for announcements on the official launch date. I expect it should be in one or two months time once I get my shit together and have an A-team ready to go 🙂

If you want to see how it’s going (you won’t see much but you can bookmark this page if you like) visit:

http://www.mecha-lounge.com

I am also on the lookout for any seasoned mecha modellers out there from all over the planet willing to dedicate some time to making this community the best it can be. Send me a message on the GundamUK facebook page if you are interested!

I shall keep ya’ll updated on the facebook page as to the status of my move. I need to make a new spray booth, and photography area.. looking forward to this project 🙂

 

 

Getting started on YouTube

Starting your own channel on YouTube is a great way to share what you are doing in the hobby, so I thought I would share a few thoughts when it comes to creating your own channel. I need to thank Zach (ZakuAurelius),  Henry (Vegeta8259), Jiminboo (Gunpla Fixation) and Justin (JustiniusBuilds) here as this was something we recently discussed in the GunplaTalk and where a lot of this advice comes from. I’m drifting around the 2k subscriber mark and have kind of let up on YouTube for a bit, but my experience does count for something.

First of all, decide what you are making the channel for. Are you making the channel to document your building process? To do a kind of V-log of your life in the hobby? Reviewing kits, paints or tools, or offering some tutorials? Showcasing your completed works?

You can do any mixture of anything really, it is after all, your channel, but I would offer up a few tips to bear in mind if you want to gain a following or produce good, watchable content.

Be yourself!

Goes without saying, but so many new channels attempt to copy other peoples ‘style’ and end up being called out for it. Reproducing the same old tired review format too is not going to get you anywhere – unless you do it incredibly well. Inject your own personality into it, don’t try to be a ‘presenter’. Be conversational. This is not TV.

Talk about stuff.

Talk about what you are doing, why you are doing it, what your opinion is. Engaging people and drawing them into your subject is a great way to interact through comments. Don’t hold back on what you think too – not every point of contention breeds negativity, it can often draw a great debate that can be helpful rather than shit-slinging. Just train yourself to blank stupid, and engage with those who are offering up valid arguments amicably and respectfully.

Don’t ignore people, especially those offering helpful points.

Some of the larger YouTube channels do this, and it’s incredibly ignorant. It also breeds that ‘ol ‘holier than thou’ mentality that will only result in you losing subscribers. Answer as many comments as you can, where required. You can, contrary to this point’s title, ignore trolls and obvious dickheads.

Show what you are doing, in detail

I often watch a video of a completed model or part and think to myself “wow, that’s amazing! how did they do that?”, or “they used this paint.. but how was it applied?” You may not want to share your secrets, but doing so will encourage you to experiment more, and share your findings – as well as spark conversations.

Edit

Edit your videos. Those moments where you go blank when starting a new sentence don’t need to be experienced by viewers. Slurping from your cup, looking something up online or text messaging someone is lazy. People are taking the time to watch your video, give them a little respect at least by editing out your idle moments. Some YouTubers are blessed with flowing charisma, in which case they don’t even need to edit – most of us are not.

You don’t need huge production values

Just a good camera, good sound and good lighting. You need not be an expert film maker, but you can tell at least when something is watchable, so always watch your own vids back. You don’t need a flashy, graphical 30 second intro, but it helps to have a little something that give’s your vids familiarity, even if it’s just a still.

Be regular

Humans love routine! On a Friday, I get home from work and I watch a few regular shows that are a nice highlight to the end of the week for me. Knowing when the next vid is coming makes watching them habitual – and this is something you want to get people doing. Just make sure the content warrants habitual viewing 🙂

Keep the content consistent, and throw in something different now and again

When I used to do regular vids, I did one every Sunday – normally just a WIP of my current model. Then, every couple of months I would have a kind of “catch up” where I discuss community things, stuff I have bought, new paints, tools and so on. Mixing it up from the usual now and again keeps it fresh.

Don’t beg for stuff

Want to open up a fresh can of hate? Then ask people for stuff. Honestly, this is a very dumb thing to do, especially when you have a low amount of subscribers. Unfortunately, a promise in return for products is not enough. If you are established, have great, regular content and a positive following you’ll know how to ask in the best possible way, because you will know your audience – and they’ll know what they can expect from you.

Don’t be conned into positively promoting shit

Being contacted by a potential sponsor is great, although you should be aware that you need to make it clear that you are being sponsored. Some sponsors may ask you to promote a product you know is terrible – either decline it, or just be honest and say it’s shit in your review. People do not like people without integrity who are obviously lying through their teeth. Honesty is a far better route. A retailer that respects your opinion of a product, positively or negatively is a great retailer to work with.

Don’t misuse Patreon

Patreon is a smashing platform to offer up a ‘tip jar’ to your audience, who can regularly donate small amounts of cash to help you produce more content. Offering up your Patreon page, and just starting “help me do my hobby” is the wrong way to do it, especially when you are just starting out in the hobby and no one really knows you. “help me make better content for you, and offer you some extra nice things” is the right way to do it. I recently too saw a very prominent youtuber make the most terrible pitch for Patreon I have ever seen – offering another video of the same kind of content they had previously done in a completely nonchalant manner. If you are considering this, get a good pitch going and research into what works best for you, and your audience. Speak with some other YouTubers in the community and ask what they did. Look at how your videos can be improved – set a target perhaps to purchase a new microphone or camera to improve the quality – at least then the audience will experience what they have tipped you for.

Personal problems? Need to check out for a while?

Then do. If you’re starting to feel like it’s not fun, then stop – just let your audience know you’re going away for a bit. Everyone know’s we all have lives we need to live, letting people know you’re taking a break is a positive courtesy and allows your return to be welcoming.

Sub-for-Sub

This is the dumbest route to get subscribers who will never watch your videos. It’ll also make you look like you want to ‘cheat the system’ without providing anything worth watching. Don’t be one of these people.

Interact with other channels

Comment, like and subscribe to other channels you like in the same hobby. The more interactive you get, the more YouTube is likely to feature you in searches – not only this you’ll get to know others who are doing the same stuff as you, which can lead to channel shout-outs, collaborations, build-offs and more.

Let people know what you do

Don’t be too worried about promoting your channel through other social networks or forums, just make sure you read and understand any rules in these places regarding spamming.  Creating Facebook and Instagram accounts for your hobby is a good way to promote what you are doing too, and offer up a little more interaction. it’s good too to separate this from your personal Facebook – it’s likely people want to see what you’re doing Gunpla-wise rather than what you are eating for dinner, or what you think about Kanye West.

Hopefully something here will help you out. There is a ton of really excellent channels out there so you’ve got plenty of inspiration to draw from, so get out there and start interacting and talking. From my perspective, I like to share on a bite-size level the hours I spend making models, and I am glad a few folks enjoy watching what I do. I’m not all that fussed about gaining a huge following (although it would be nice) but I do want to make content that’s worth watching and to contribute something to the community at least. I’m still refining and interacting as much as I can to improve and still have a lot to learn. Hopefully I can get back to regularly posting, I just need to finish off Fallout 4..

 

Posting work in Facebook communities

Sharing your work on Facebook can be a real mixed bag, and it really depends on just how you use it, what you want from it and how comfortable you are with it. With that in mind, here’s a few thoughts you might find handy – especially so if you are new to the community and to the hobby.

Let’s start with a share of a picture on one of the myriad of gunpla, mecha and modelling communities on Facebook. Here’s a few things you should bear in mind when you start getting feedback on your posts.

This hobby has a wide age range. From early teens into 50’s it’s a hobby lots of folks get into, so it’s worth bearing in mind that the kind of feedback you are going to get might be pretty varied. Younger hobbyists may be a lot more bold, cheeky or volatile. Older may be snooty, condescending or ignorant. Be aware of maturity levels.

Another thing to bear in mind is culture. This one should really be common sense to everyone given the international nature of the internet, and yet bizarrely I quite frequently see this being overlooked in favour of people assuming everyone else is in the same locale. A comment you receive may seem rude – but to someone of a different culture it’s perfectly acceptable. A good analogy can be found on colour theory. Red, to the western world can mean anger, blood, passion and warning. In the east it can mean luck, prosperity, celebration and joy. The same applies to use of language. Language ability should also be accounted for. Check the commenter’s country, before you call them an ass-hat.

Remember chaps, this is the internet and people are much bolder behind a screen than they are in person, the same applies to me! –  more so when you don’t know them. The important thing is, do not bite and let it ruin your experience, or ruin potentially valuable feedback on your work no matter how it originally come across in tone or tact. They are just words, on a screen – not an attack on your person. If you are sure, or unsure if a particular commenter is being rude or obnoxious even after taking into account culture, age and language – simply ignore them. Thank those commenter’s who give you something valuable. Those ‘that’s awesome’ comments too are nice and appreciated, but realistically not that valuable for progression. Don’t just expect praise, and accept that no matter how good you are, there’s always someone who will find faults. Clear-cut and personal abuse, which does happen for time to time should be dealt with as any other outright abuse on Facebook. Report that fucker.

If you find yourself fuming after a comment is made, do not reply! Credit yourself with 24 hours before even considering responding. More often than not, you’ll realise that ‘biting’ and getting engaged in a time-wasting argument about little to nothing is just not worth your time. Emotionally driven, ‘in the moment’ comments do not do you any favours, and we’ve all done that at one point and regretted it. Self control is such a virtue. A lesson I learned the hard way.

Choose your groups carefully. There are a billionty billion gunpla/mecha/anime communities now on Facebook, so choosing the right ones for you for what you want to get out of the experience is crucial. A good idea is to have a good look through the kinds of posts, and comments the community or group is getting, or if you know many of it’s participants and trust them. If the pictures being posted look like they are at about your level, and the comments are constructive and helpful in nature – then go for it. This process will take some time as communities evolve with numbers and quality, and will change according to your own preference or who you know in the community. Seek out the ones that work for you, and don’t stick around in the ones that are annoying or too off-subject. Don’t become one of those types who unscrupulously and continually carpet-bombs their work across several communities without any consideration or idea of what a group or communities rules are, just to get ‘known’. Just look at the current ‘known’ modellers. Do they do that? No! they will carefully choose groups and communities to share to that they regularly contribute to, knowing that carpet-bombing will only end up with them being labelled as a spamming bounder. If you are going to start posting, do it with consideration, read community rules and introduce yourself. Be polite, you’ll have far better luck starting out on the right foot to gaining something helpful and enjoyable.

So how about the other way around? How do you comment when you see other peoples work? Try to provide constructive criticism – even though I believe Facebook is a terrible platform for it. I often read people saying they either feel that they are not at a level ‘high enough’ to provide any feedback, don’t want to come across as a bad person or just don’t know what the right words are. The fact is, we all have varying levels of confidence in communication, based in part on how we’re perceived by others. The only way to overcome any barriers you have when providing any feedback is to do away with that perception. This can result in others thinking you’re a total turd, while others might see you as someone who is just plain honest or constructive. You just can not please everyone, and you have to accept that. If you still feel you can’t express yourself, then stick to being a lurker, then no one will think anything about you. Those who feel like they lack technical expertise – you have eyes right? Just say “I like that red part in the shoulder” or stick with what you know, don’t be afraid of sounding like you don’t know your shit without knowing you’re shit, and let the nerds giggle in their own creepy niche circles. If they’re courteous in correction, and not mocking – that’s valuable feedback, on your feedback. Remember too, the comment is for the poster – not for the other commentators. Don’t be a drone, offer up your own opinion.

Last but not least, remember to mark your images – especially finished works you have spent hours working on! Take a look at this article for more: http://www.gundamuk.com/2014/11/24/mark-your-model-images/

So how about you? What are your experiences posting your work on social media? How do you deal with negative response? What is the main reason you do it, or don’t do it? Got any horror stories or advice? As always take my ramblings as my own. I put my thoughts out not from authority, but to spark conversation.

Thanks ya’ll for reading. Toodle pip.