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Ask the Experts: “When are you ready for an agent?

February 26, 2008

Free agency is something that’s being discussed more and more recently. At GDC this year, instead of being referred to as a “contractor” or a “consultant”, I was called a “free agent” at least three times, and that alone caught my attention. So, I asked industry vet and friend Dave Taylor when you might be ready for an agent.

You’re ready for an agent when you’re ready for either a job or funding for an IP. You don’t have to be famous or accomplished, but being either of these will obviously help you land a “bigger” agent. It’s important that you find an agent that you have chemistry with and can listen to, because you need to pay attention to his training and do as he says to find the best deal.

Different agents specialize in different things. Some only make introductions. Some negotiate the deal. Some do the pitching. Some actually help you manage your company. You really have to shop around and find the best fit.

I do it comparatively rarely, and I can only handle a few clients at a time. I need to have a strong connection with the client. I either need to be a fan of the client’s work, or I need to be really impressed by the client’s energy and commitment. My strengths are probably pitch prep, rolodexing, pitching, and negotiating. I also like to remain on the advisory board. I don’t bluff or bully, but I try to create the conditions that lead to multiple bids.

Do you need industry experience?

Nope, you don’t need any industry experience. One of my most profitable deals was with a guy new to the industry.

How do agents differ from recruiters?

Recruiters tend to play both sides of the fence, repping pubs/devs as well as people. This imo is a bit of a conflict of interest. For this reason, it’s been my experience they’re not quite as aggressive when negotiating for their clients. Also, they usually take a portion of the person’s first year salary. I take a percentage of everything negotiated (equity, cash, points, etc). Other agents charge differently, but they tend to share the more aggressive negotiations.

Got a question for an expert in something or another? Let me know.

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