Where, How, and How Much: Practical Answers to Guild Management
Did you read our previous blog post on starting a guild and thought, “That’s cute, but… where do I actually get a custom e-mail address?” This post is for you. No frills, no philosophy - just straight-up answers.
There may be better services and ways of solving problems - please tell us at firstname.lastname@example.org if you know them so we can share here. We spent many, many hours comparing services & finding solutions for ourselves; it doesn't mean there aren't even better answers. Note that we are not paid or in any way encouraged to mention these specific services. Our only official sponsor at the time of writing is Mobcrush, and they are not mentioned in any special way compared to other streaming services.
SquareSpace - we use and recommend them. The cost including the domain name is $10/month or $96/year (20% savings). Easy to use, beautiful layouts, customizable, and with an incredible customer support.
Weebly - heard of them also being great. We didn’t spend much time there, so they could even be better than SquareSpace for you; do check them out.
For VG image backgrounds, check out the work of Justin Murray on his Devian Art page.
Want a custom e-mail address such as email@example.com? Pick your web site provider first, and then see if they offer this option as an add-on - SquareSpace does, for example. Gmail is the best e-mail provider in our opinion. You’ll pay $50/year per account, so consider setting up just one account as there are better ways to spend money.
Logo & Animations
We recommend LooseKeys studio (@LooseKeys). Prices vary, but expect $150-300 for a decent logo. Logos are very finicky business so if one designer just doesn’t produce the feel you want, move on to another - a good designer will understand and won’t be offended.
T-Shirt & Hat Sales
T-shirt design and one-off prints are covered below, but for having an online store we recommend Bonafide Clothing.
Pros: personal attention, no setup cost, you get a personalized address & store pages, they take merchandise photos, manage orders & inventory, and ship on-demand (no need for bulk purchases). In return, they take 25% of the revenue and their shirts include their (small) logo on the back, just below the collar. You can remove the logo if you pre-pay for shirt inventory, though (100+ shirts at a time). If you want soft shirts - ask for same shirts Mobcrush uses. Base price isn’t punishing and lets you sell great shirts for as low as $19.95.
Cons: it takes awhile to get up and running, and if you want to do two-sided design (front and back) you have to pre-pay cost of at least 100 shirts (on the plus side, pre-paid shirts don’t have livebnfd logo on the back, so it won’t interfere with your design).
Hats: They have 5-panel hats where the front area is one panel instead of 2 (no stitching on the front which would interfere with your logo… trust us, we spent a lot of time looking for this). Many customization options for hats are offered. You must pre-pay for 100 hats at least if you’d like to sell hats - you cannot do those on-demand.
Use whatever designer does good work there. We used Brad Chmielewski (@LooseKeys on Twitter, he is also the host of Shatter the Vain podcast, among other things). He knows his stuff and didn’t murder us despite a lot of micromanagement on our part. Reasonable prices.
Format: preferable format is .ai (Adobe Illustrator), but .psd (Photoshop) should work also. You want to have your canvas in 300 DPI, not just 72 - this ensures no blur once printed. Each printer will ask for a different size of images, but typically it’s 13 inches across, 19 inches down (or something like 4500x5700 pixels). That’s the printable area on the shirt, which is usually the area from seam to seam (with about 1 inch margin - i.e., can’t print closer than 1 inch near a seam such as collar, shoulder, or bottom of shirt). Keep in mind that female tops, sleeveless shirts, etc. can have smaller areas, so the best design is one that leaves a little space on the sides, to allow you to sell more types of shirts.
Front or back: for on-demand orders via Bonafide Clothing, you must do front designs only. Unless you pre-pay for the inventory of 100+ shirts - then you can put design on both front and back of the shirt. Doing front and back with services like CustomInk.com, or doing more than 1 color, will always cost more money.
If you want some shirts ASAP, you can do screen printing at your local t-shirt shop - it’s much faster, often the same day, but costs $40/50 per shirt. They may ask for your design in both it’s final colors (try to stick to one or two colors) as well as in black (i.e. the text and logos all black). What happens is they use the black version to capture the outline of the text/images, and then they fill that outline with the color of choice. Once you have your logos and text in both colors, go to the shop. They’ll have only certain colors available, not all of them - so you’ll have to match your color to the closest one available once you’re talking to them in-person.
Your local shop will want your designs in PNG format at 300DPI resolution and every piece should be in a separate file. For example, for our fist shirt, we sent them 3 generic files: the fist, the mobcrush logo, our motto text for the back. We then sent 3 files that were just Sirius team player names for the back of the shirts.
In San Francisco, we use Bang-On T-Shirts - find a similar place locally.
Technically, shirts themselves are cheap, very cheap. We’re talking $5-6 for some of the best-quality shirts out there (made in the USA, too). But different vendors will upcharge based on quality. The thicker the shirt, the more durable it is, but also the less soft and comfortable it is. American Apparel Tri-Blend is very soft, for example, but won’t last as long as a 100% cotton shirt. If you want something that’s reasonably soft but will also last - go with a combed or ringspun cotton shirt as opposed to a normal cotton shirt. American Apparel's 50/50 is a great pick - 50% ringspun cotton, 50% polyester. It's very soft, but still feels like it will last.
Read here for more on shirt quality.
Designing a jersey is the easy part; printing is the hard part. Very few places will print jerseys for you if it has graphics all around and on the shoulders. It takes weeks, you have to order in bulk and pre-pay, etc. Don’t do this until you have a team worth putting into jerseys, or until you’re swimming in money. Once you’re ready, though, we recommend you contact Christian Stagg from Dynamic Team Sports. If you find out which printing company the teams in other games are using (League of Legends, DOTA, etc.) - please let us know at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Merchandise Store vs One-off Prints
T-shirt design, unless it's just you logo on it, takes time. It doesn't exactly make your guild better or stronger. Use livebnfd.com if you expect to sell more than a few shirts. Even then, stick to one design unless you're achieving decent popularity and/or have free design services available.
If most of your customers are your own guild members, consider sticking with one-off prints - just order in bulk more or less to get a discount (say, 15 at a time), then distribute to each member.
Database & Info Sharing
Write things down! But where? We recommend Evernote - it syncs across any number of devices, so all of your co-leaders and co-organizers can access things. Going to Korea with a team? Make a note with apartment details, emergency info, etc. Signing a contract? Put a copy in Evernote. You can later sub-section and give access to certain notes only to certain people. It stores text, images, PDFs, etc. You can even have a note for common web URLs - VIPL schedule, VGL announcements, media mentions of your team(s), and so on. You can also create a password-protected note where you store logins to various services.
For file storage, use Dropbox, Box, or Google Drive. We use such service to store copies of contracts, hi-res images such as logos and merchandise designs, photos of our teams in professional settings, member photos, etc.
Tip: don’t use your contact e-mail address as your login address.
Do not use Skype unless you like being DDOS’ed. If you do use Skype, make sure to go to Settings -> Advanced (or w/e the equivalent is on iOS/Android), and DO check the “Allow direct connections to my contacts only” option. This hides your IP address from non-contacts (yes, your IP address is completely exposed to anyone and everyone otherwise). Make sure you do this for every device where you installed Skype. Finally, do NOT accept contact requests from people unless you’re _sure_ you know who they are and you trust them. We suggest limiting this list to people at SEMC or other officials, and to never ever add players you meet in Vainglory - ask them to chat to you via Discord instead.
Discord app does provide text chat, and if you’re starting from scratch, we recommend you try sticking with Discord for text as well as voice. Us - we're still using Line app for text because that’s where we started. Band app is also good and is used by many in the Vainglory community. All of these options are free.
If you travel to Korea, download Kakao Talk app - it’s a Line app clone, but something that’s very popular here.
Having problems? Try IPVanish or Hide My Ass. Then, change your external (WAN) IP address - use a search engine to find out how. As soon as you change your external IP, always use one of those IP blocking services from the time your computer(s) boot or as soon as you get on your mobile device.
Twitter is where it’s at. You can have accounts on Facebook, Instagram, or wherever else if you like, but if you want to focus your efforts - stick with Twitter. Make sure to follow @vainglorygame and @vaingloryleague.
Do reserve your username on major streaming services as well - Twitch, Mobcrush, and Kamcord. We’d even suggest reserving similar names to yours, such as one with an “l” in place of an “i” - this saves you headache when someone comes in posing as you or your guild.
If your team participates in something with prize pools exceeding a few hundred bucks, or seems stable enough to last for months, we recommend you solidify your relationship with contracts. Money has been known to ruin friendships - take the unknown out of the equation by having a written agreement.
We at GankStars are passionate about player-sided contracts and hope this inspires others to do the same. Just like unhappy employees leave companies, unhappy players leave teams. That said, take a cut from the get-go to cover guild expenses - logo & t-shirt designs, merchandise sample printing, travel, etc. Make your contracts short-term at first and change them as the organization grows.
For example, you may only need to take 10 or 20% of winnings at the start to cover guild expenses. We certainly don’t recommend going above 20% at the start - again, it’s best to have motivated players. But as the org grows, this number will change - travel, analytics, coaching, and promotion cost money. Don’t start off with a 50/50 split just because someday your bottom line may dictate it. Just like when you start own business, you the business owner should be paid last because re-investing into the business and its people pays off.
We also don’t recommend taking control out of players’ hands over their own destiny. Imagine being unable to interview at another company just because you’re employed somewhere already! Short, specific, player-focused contracts make for happy team members. That said, if you’re reading this as a player - understand that your team’s brand is organization’s property, and that the organization/guild needs to have some sort of budget to exist. Any good contract will include brand protections and restrictions on how you as a player can behave on social media, how your image as a player of the guild/team may be used, etc. Both sides need to avoid short-term greed.
We are not ready to share a template contract at this time, but perhaps we will in the future - if so, a separate blog post will be made.
If you’re handling money, it’s best to be incorporated - be it a Limited Liability Company (LLC, recommended) or an S-Corp (Small Corporation). Don’t rush this - having a company is as easy as paying a few hundred bucks to LegalZoom and, by itself, it means nothing. But it also takes some time, so start this a month or more ahead of when you think you’ll be making your first payouts or securing your first sponsor (although you can easily secure a sponsor without an LLC). LegalZoom is great for help, but it does try to sell you a bunch of extra services - you can probably be fine without most or all of them. The final decision is yours.
When you make an LLC in the United States, you must pick the state in which to incorporate it. Each state has different laws regarding LLCs, different protections for customers vs company members, different tax filing requirements, etc. We recommend you incorporate in Nevada. They have very LLC-friendly laws and a lot of adjudication experience in the area of entertainment/gaming. You don’t need to live there to incorporate there. Nevada is the state where GankStars is incorporated as an LLC.
When incorporating as an LLC, make sure to list your co-leaders as members. Pay attention to the articles of incorporation! Write them in a way that is fair and predicts both good and bad in the future (members leaving, members trying to take over other members’ share, decision-making, decision resolution/tie breakers, leaving shares for future investors, distribution of initial shares, etc.)
Finally, you want LegalZoom to apply for an EIN for you. Employer Identification Number is essential to conducting business in the USA as a company - it’s basically your company’s Social Security Number.
After you have your LLC legalized, use your Articles of Incorporation and EIN to open a business bank account at your bank of choice. After that is done and your team starts having travel needs, you can apply for a credit card if you want, to start accumulating air miles and other rewards. We recommend Chase Sapphire Preferred for that.
Absolutely take the time to write down every guild-related expense _and_ save the receipt. You can do this in Evernote or use an app & service specifically designed for it, such as Expensify. Physical receipts can be destroyed once you have them in electronic form - just make sure to back up the data. Why write down expenses before you're incorporated? You can actually expense purchases made prior to your LLC becoming formed, within a certain time window. Things add up, too, and you always want a sober look at your finances. For example, we just looked at how much one-off shirts cost us and said "whoa, enough with that."
Side note - be frugal. Spending is easy; saving is what counts. Expenses skyrocket when you grow and you'll always, always wish you had more budget. So - do you really need what you're about to buy?
Phew! That was a lot. We hope this gives you enough information to get started! Please tweet at us @vggankstars if you’d like something added or just want to say hi. Best of luck out there!