What is a Freelancer?
Traditionally a freelancer would be thought of as a writer, journalist or novelist. However, times have quickly moved on and in this digital age freelancers can be found in most sectors within the game industry. A freelance writer is still very important and many game studios hire a writer on a short contract for scripting and dialogue and even the game design document. Freelance animators, artists and audio workers are widely used too.
What are the Drawbacks?
So, there are jobs available, you get to work remotely at home as and when you choose plus you get to work on lots of different projects often resulting in lots of variation of work and increasing your portfolio’s depth and variety. Sounds great right? Well it is for some but it does have its fair share of drawbacks. One of the biggest drawbacks being there is no job security. You may have work for a month or two and then suddenly nothing. Many people can find this hard, especially when they have bills to pay regularly but no regular income. Aside from this factor freelancing is a tough business to be in. It’s a common thought that freelancers will spend more time looking for work than actually doing work. This isn’t so true once you’ve been doing it for a while and built up a client list but starting up can be very tricky.
FINDING FREELANCE WORK
Probably the best way to getting consistent work, is to gain contacts by networking. Go to parties, industry meet ups (GameDev, Meetup.com, E3 Expo etc.), let family and friends know you are freelancing create a LinkedIn account and visit groups and advertise yourself on online forums by being an active member.
*Top Tip* When using an online forum use your ‘signature’ for each message you post as an advert for your expertise. Use it to let people know what you specialise in, a portfolio link and that you are a freelance worker.
The Bidding Process
Bid = Top Hours * Top Rate * Potential Errors
Once you have found a client you will typically receive an email from them asking how much you charge. This question can be difficult; almost annoying at times as you will mostly have to reply with “That depends”. It will depend on the quality, quantity and type of work they are after. However, try to give them a number in your first email response as they will have a figure in their head that they are comparing you to other freelancers out there.
Knowing what to charge can be tough but a great strategy is to present a figure (your bid) in a best and worst case scenario. For example if they ask a freelance audio artist to create sound effects for a 30 second cut scene you may bid £30 best-case but in case it requires bits adding and tweaking later on with different game directions, £40.
A big part in knowing how to become a freelance game designer is to understand quotes and contracts. When discussing a contract with a client make sure you are very professional, do what you say you can/will do and present yourself in a clear manner. Make sure they know what they are paying for. There are generally two ways to offer your work; in a pay per asset (i.e. a sound effect/3D model/cut-scene etc.) or a pay per time (i.e. a week/month/year). For larger scale games it may be preferable to work on a per-month or per-project basis as opposed to per asset. This is because it will then not be about trying to create as many assets as possible in a short space of time but rather it’ll be about producing your best quality work.
What to do if You Make a Mistake
Sometimes you will under quote yourself and find that tasks will be harder to complete or need more work. If the scope does dramatically change that your working hours are impacted seriously then draw up a new contract that details any new work, so that there won’t be any shocks to your employer. It’s a good way of letting them know during the development process that if more work is asked for it will affect the invoice at the end. It’s always best to stay to the original quote you provided as much as you possibly can. Your client will appreciate your hard work and hopefully offer or refer you to more work in the future.
*Top Tip* Be Professional and don’t be that person who puts their creativity above professionalism. Make sure to use correct spelling, grammar and no use of shorthand in your emails. Respond promptly and be friendly and courteous. Being consistently professional will put you head and shoulders above the competition.
I hope you have found the information here on how to become a freelance game designer useful. If you would like to get more information on getting a job in the game industry then please take a look at my How to Become a Game Designer Book
This post was written by Joshua Brown, author of How to Become a Game Designer. Joshua has over 10 years experience in the Game Industry as an environment artist. After gaining a BA hons Degree in Computer Games Modelling and Animation he wanted to share my knowledge to like minded aspiring game professionals.