Table of Contents
Here are some rules and guidelines that I try to follow when working freelance in game audio.
Rule #1 – Go out there and meet some people!
Regardless of all the tools and ways to find remote work, there is still no substitute for meeting developers and artists in person. No matter where you live, do your best to find a meetup or game jam or even start your own and go regularly. People like working with people they like and its a lot easier to like someone that you have met in person and enjoyed talking to than someone who you only know through email and an avatar.
When I moved recently I found sound design work at the second meetup I went to, compare that to having found remote work after emailing and applying to 62 different developers/ads. (those are actual numbers)
So many of life’s experiences happen though people you randomly meet. Best friends, marriages, companies formed, revolutions started, all of these things happen though meeting people in person and there is no substitute. I love to hide from the world in my studio as much as the next audio person but meeting people and sharing ideas and having real conversations is where it all happens.
Rule #2 – Show up!
When you do find work (and you will eventually) be available, communicate often, do your absolute best, be nice and polite, and help out in any other way you can. I have gotten a few gigs because the other composer/sound designer went radio silent or took too long to reply to emails, etc.
If you stay with it for years, eventually a large portion of your work will be from repeat clients. You should be doing your best so that each time they start developing a new game they already have you in mind. They will also recommend you to their friends if they’ve had a good experience with you. So just stay hungry, don’t be hard to reach and don’t take forever to reply and once you do get a gig.
Even if your best isn’t as good as someone else, it’s still your best. Each project is your baby too and it will reflect on you for years to come. Also try to help out in any other way you can. Test the game, promote it when it goes on greenlight or comes out, help edit the trailer to whatever else you can do to be someone of value and help the project succeed.
Rule #3 – Pick your winners!
Look for games and developers that you believe in, are unique, and are made by amazingly talented people. The faster you can hone in on what genres work for you and you are passionate about, the better off you’ll be.
In my opinion – financially speaking, you are likely to earn more money over your lifetime from a game that pays you less but is popular, critically acclaimed, has a cult following, or is extremely unique than from a game that has a large budget and pays you a lot but gets no attention or is not developed with real passion.
I know many people reading this would say “But I am looking for any project to get involved in, how can I be picky at all in the first place?” I get it, its hard to find work in the first place. But don’t sell your self short.
If you see a game and you don’t understand why anyone would be interested in playing it, then maybe your time would be better spent elsewhere. You will be doing them a favor because they will eventually find someone passionate about their game and you will produce better work with a game you really believe in.
One of the lowest paying gigs I got when I first started out has, over the years, paid as much as my highest paying gig, mostly through the attention it received and the ease it made in meeting new developers. This helped to create new clients, fans, and also sell many soundtracks.
I’m not suggesting you accept less money than you are worth. I am suggesting that you don’t just follow the most money, or easiest work to get. Follow things that really grab your attention and amaze you.
All great music genres and groundbreaking artistic movements happened because people were following what they were passionate about, and that happened to be at the same time when the rest of society was ready to appreciate those ideas as well (usually a little after). If you follow what you love and what you are intrigued by, you are more likely to be in the right place at the right time rather than following the most accessible jobs. Just my opinion.
Rule #4 – Be a good farmer!
There is A LOT of competition in the world of games, and many believe the game audio market is oversaturated so you will have to play the long game.
Finding work as a composer or sound designer is less like picking low hanging fruits and more like planting seeds and nurturing their growth.
What I mean by this is: Create good friendships, participate in the conversation and in the community, help out other artists/devs, give back and keep in touch. These partnerships happen over time and often you will be contacted out of nowhere from a conversation you had a year or more ago.
For instance here’s how I got a recent composing job: A year ago I saw an interesting dev on twitter and followed him. I occasional saw him on there an probably commented and retweeted a few of his tweets. One day I saw him say “I should probably start thinking about adding music soon…” So I PM’d him and said I’d be interested in collaborating with him. He then replied “I had already listed to your whole bandcamp when you originally followed me, and I love your work.”
Thats how it works, long term involvement within the community.
Being a good farmer is also about helping out and connecting others. You will come across multiple opportunities to recommend a colleague for a job, or offer some advice to a dev with a few audio questions.
Be a source that gives back. Write a blog, make a video, reply to the email of a budding composer, or connect people of talent with people in need of talent. One of my happier moments is when I told a talented pixel artist about a job opening on a well known game and he got it!
So if you see a way to help out or give back, do it!