Open Source Budgeting 1: Expenses

That’s right, we’re about to bring some open-source to our accounting.

Why? There’s a couple of reasons:

  • This is a process that a lot of indie developers don’t know much about. Hopefully we can help that
  • None of us are experts. We could really use any and all help/advice.
  • We aren’t under any NDA’s that would prevent us from doing this*. This, quite simply, won’t last.

First, some exciting news: SeeThrough Studios has just been funded** for the development of two projects that are quite definitely not Flatland. This has put us in the awesome but complicated position of:

  1. Actually having a bit of cash
  2. Having a dangerous amount of cash (I like to call it ‘enough money for us to shoot ourselves in the foot’)
  3. Having a fairly full project backlog till the end of 2013.
  4. Probably not having enough money to last till the end of 2013.

So it’s time to rebudget and replan. That and more, after the jump!

*We’re actually already are under one NDA: I can tell you how much funding we’re getting ($100,000, or $50k for each project), but not the conditions of the funds (when we get how much, etc.). So I’m going to have to step a bit lightly when it comes to that sort of stuff.

**Funding is via the Interactive Media Fund, an initiative by Screen NSW.

What we’ll be doing

I do budgeting using Google Docs. Very simply, I’ll make the documents public and available for everyone to explore as I budget.

Being new at this and being a rather important process, I’m going to take my time with this and do it in stages, and will be asking some specific devs with more experience for some advice as we go. You can expect about one stage a week, and I’m going to guess we’ll be at this for a month or so.

I should note that a budget is never done: it is, like a design document, always in flux. I’m not sure if we’ll be able to keep this open after the initial budget process is complete (again, there are legal implications to worry about here), and that will partially depend on how much you guys want to see more of this.

The budget will cover the 1st of September 2012 to the end of 2013. The late start date ensures we have time to figure out all our legals etc. before we start spending.

Stage 1: Expenses

Stage 1 is expenses, and it’s very much a brainstorming/research exercise. Very simply, I’m going to be figuring out every single expense we could reasonably (or unreasonably) expect, and figure out how much it costs. If there’s a few different prices or a range, I’ll work that out as well.

At this stage I won’t be making any judgements on what we should spend money on. Working out what we could spend money on is the goal.

Why am I taking this approach? Firstly because sometimes the cost of things can easily surprise you. If you start with “I have $x, what can I buy”, your assumptions will stop you from doing things that are surprisingly cheap. Secondly, by asking ourselves how much money we need to do what we want, we can then work out meaningful revenue goals. These can then be tested against what is realistic.


As far as I can tell, our expenses come in four main sections:

  • Infrastructure is a combination of:
    • Operations (any ongoing costs for day-to-day operations of the company); and
    • Assets (hardware, software licenses, furniture, etc.)
  • Human Resources is, in short, paying people. That may be paying wages or paying contractors. It includes any ‘hidden costs’ that might come as a part of that.
  • Marketing is anything that we use to get the game out there. This includes things that are possibly more to do with Business Development and Networking like conference attendance, as well as the simple stuff like business cards, t-shirts and merch.
  • Professional Services are generally accountants and lawyers. I’ve also included musicians here (though not composers etc., who have direct and lasting contact with the team).

You’ll notice that I’ve completely ignored tax. While it’s an expense, it’s better calculated once we have income in the mix, which we’ll be looking at next time.

Over the next week, we’ll be filling in these sections, first from previous budgets and then from further research. As we go, this list may change based on what we find and feedback we received.

The Document

Ok, here it is! This link will take you to the google doc with our current budgeting.

Please note that some of these sections are currently blank – I haven’t had a chance to get the basic structures for everything done yet.

What now?

Now, we don the special accounting cape and budget like we’ve never budgeted before!

In all seriousness, I’d love to get any and all feedback on this as we expand it. I’m hoping that opening up this process is of use to the community, so if you want some more info, clarifications or have ideas of what we should be spending on, just let me know!

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