• Ben Gallagher

The 10 Commandments of Game Audio Freelancing

Digging deep into important topics for your game audio career is smart and I've done a lot of that for my readers in recent articles.


But sometimes...


It's fun to just hammer out some great advice in list form!


While they haven't yet been chiseled into stone, these are what I believe to be:


*cue epic voice of God*



THE TEN COMMANDMENTS OF GAME AUDIO FREELANCING!!!

Listen up or be smitten! (smoten? smited?... I dunno...)




10 | Thou shalt be patient and have perspective


For the vast majority of us, it takes many years and an unbelievable amount of effort to build a solid, sustainable career as a composer or sound designer for games.


Understanding this fact now will help you to avoid stress and frustration as you work towards your goals.


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Be patient. Be persistent.


You will get there!


But it takes time.



9 | Thou shalt not DM developers thou dost not know and ask if they "need sound"


You've likely heard it before but I'll tell you again here:


Don't. Do. This.


Developers get bombarded by a surprising (and embarrassing) amount of these requests and they've had enough.


If you do this, not only are you basically guaranteed to not get the job, you're shooting yourself in the foot for any future chances you might have had to work with that person.


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Don't. Do. That.



8 | Thou shalt NETWORK


As game audio freelancers, our entire livelihood depends on our reputation and our relationships.


Neither of these can exist without some kind of networking.


Unless your talent is so immense that it simply can't be ignored (unlikely for most of us), you will have to put yourself out there at some point.


And guess what:


This process takes a looooonnnngggg time!


It doesn't matter whether your demo reel is perfect or that you've never even worked on a game before.


What's important is to start integrating yourself into the community, joining the conversation, and making genuine connections with other people.


What's the best time to do this?


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Right now!



Oh, and once you've started making connections, don't forget to follow up.



7 | Thou shalt set boundaries between thy work and private life.


Your work life and your private life are not two separate entities.


They are the same life... yours!


If you don't draw a clear line in the sand between these two things, they will blend together in uncomfortable ways, causing problems for both.


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Set boundaries.


Give your all to your craft during work hours but protect the time you need for yourself, your friends, and your family or risk burning out.



6 | Thou shalt prioritize that which is most important


Think of your career like baking a cake.


The order in which things happen is important.


If you put the batter into the oven before mixing the ingredients... you end up with a mess.


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Look at these amateurs...



Here's an example I see all the time:


Freelancer: "Hey, I've spent 2 years and 300 hours on my demo reel and I think it's almost perfect. Can you give me feedback?"


Me: "Your reel was fine 285 hours ago... Have you gone out to any game dev events or met any potential customers recently?"


Freelancer: "No..."


Your business needs different things at different times and not recognizing which aspects of it to address and when may be holding you back more than you realize.



5 | Thou shalt not do any work, even free work, without a contract


Your work is valuable and it should always be treated as such.


There is a lot of uncertainty and discomfort in our industry around the topic of contracts, but they are vital to protecting the time and energy you devote to your projects!


Am I suggesting you have an airtight legal agreement for every random indie dev you deliver 10 sound effects to?


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No... No I'm not...



But there should be at least a plain English email or text exchange about who owns the rights to what assets and what work is expected in which timeframe.


Hint: if you're not getting paid or are accepting being underpaid in exchange for the experience, YOU should always own the rights to everything you create. PERIOD.



4 | Thou shalt know thy worth and price thy services appropriately


I get it.


We're all desperate for paid work.


But that doesn't excuse accepting starvation wages just for the chance to make music for some sketchy person on Reddit.


The only way to build a successful business is to consistently do exceptional work your customers love, and you simply can't do that when you're teetering on the brink of bankruptcy.


If you've just started freelancing, it will be difficult to get well-paid jobs at first.


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Building the relationships and reputation that will earn you quality work is difficult and takes time.


In my opinion, it's better for beginners to have a part-time job that helps you sleep soundly at night so you can put positive energy into your business.


This also helps you say "no" to jobs that are obviously going to be toxic and a waste of your time and energy because putting a roof over your head and food on your plate aren't on the line.


If you're not sure what a fair price for your game audio services is, this might help.



3 | Thou shalt support thy fellow freelancers


Your fellow freelancers are not your competition.


They are your colleagues.


And guess what?


We're all in this together.


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Building genuine relationships with potential clients AND your peers are both great ways to grow your business.


Because your peers just might one day be your partners.


As they say, "a rising tide lifts all ships," and the success of other game audio freelancers just might be your success as well.


If you're really interested in getting structured support from the game audio community, consider creating or joining a mastermind group.



2 | Thou shalt commit thyself to excellence


Let's face it, there are no average composers or sound designers at the top.


Your skills and the quality of work you deliver are paramount to your success in our industry.


And no one can obtain those skills for you.


If you want them, you have to get them yourself.



"For things to change, you have to change. For things to get better, you have to get better. For things to improve, you have to improve. If you grow, everything grows for you."


Jim Rohn



1 | Thou shalt not compare thyself to others


Everyone is fighting their own battle but the only losers are those who think being better than other people is somehow the goal.


Better than comparing yourself to others, compare yourself... to yourself!


Are you better than you were last week? Last month? Last year?


Life is too complex and messy to assume you can do anything except be the best version of yourself.


Discover your happiness by finding satisfaction in your own journey.


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Michael Bublé believes in you. That means you can do anything.




That's it!


That's the list.


I hope something here has helped you in some way.


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Which "commandment" was your favorite?


Which do you not agree with?


Which do you think is missing?


Let me know in the comments.



I created The Game Audio Pro with the goal of helping others understand the fundamental business skills that are often the difference between success and failure for freelancers.


If you're ready to take your game audio career to the next level, download my guide to The Most Important Mindset for Game Audio Success.