10 Essential Tips for audio freelancers Asbjoern Andersen


Planning to go freelance in game audio – or perhaps you already work as a freelancer? Rebecca Parnell is a BAFTA Award-winning Sound Designer who has worked in sound for 19 years on 50+ game titles, and has been working freelance for the past 10 years – and in this special guide, she shares her essential tips to a succesful freelance career in game audio.


Written by Rebecca Parnell, photo courtesy of Rebecca Parnell



 

Going freelance is a bold and exciting step in one’s career that can be hugely rewarding. It can also be very demanding, and despite the dream of freedom away from the office, designing sound on a beach in Thailand, the reality often requires perseverance, commitment and work infringing on personal time and home space… With that said in quiet times, there is the wonderful possibility to pack up the recording kit and go exploring!
If you are considering making the move to freelance or have just embarked on this journey, here are some top tips to making it a success!

1. Start with in-house experience


A significant part of designing audio in interactive media is the implementation. No matter how amazing your thoughtfully crafted sound is, if it is implemented badly, it can sound really bad.

Having the experience of working in-house throughout the development of a game will enable you to communicate and work more effectively remotely

You need to be equipped to know how the game developers operate, what the different roles in the team are, how your work overlaps and how you can help each other. There is so much to learn! Having the experience of working in-house throughout the development of a game will enable you to communicate and work more effectively remotely. I still very much enjoy in-house contracts from time to time.
 

2. Build your network


There is no better way to find work than to be recommended. Working in-house is a great way to build your network. If a previous colleague remembers your awesome sounds on a project and that you are thoroughly nice person to have on the team, they might recommend you in the future. If you build a good relationship with your clients, they’ll come back to you for their next project. Attending conferences, exhibitions and networking events are also great ways to meet others in the industry, share opinions, stories and meet like-minded people.
 

3. Establish your legal framework and contact the tax office


There are various ways in which you can operate as a freelancer: a sole trader or a director of a limited company, whether registered for VAT or not. Each country has their guidelines, rules and rates. It’s worth doing your research and getting this established from the start. If you are to make a limited company, you’ll need a company number on your quotes and invoices, the same with VAT if you are to register. Also consider whether you require an accountant, they might seem expensive but they might know how to best to manage accounts that frees up more cash to invest in your company.
 

4. Create a suitable space to work


This is really important as you’ll be spending a lot of time there.

Wherever possible have a room that you enter to work and close at the end of the day, making a clear division between work and personal space

Whether you hire a room at a studio, build your own home studio, or adapt a space in your home, it needs to be quiet, without distractions and comfortable. Wherever possible have a room that you enter to work and close at the end of the day, making a clear division between work and personal space.

 

5. Prioritise setting up expenditure


Of course we want all the wonderful toys in the shop, but what do we really need and how much can we afford? It takes time to establish a network of clients and contracts might be patchy in the earlier years, it’s good to have a financial buffer to keep you going. I would recommend starting with a decent workstation (computer and DAW), a good versatile microphone, a good listening environment (headphones or speakers with sound panels), and a handful of trusted plugins (my absolute musts are compression, EQ, reverb and delay). When new contracts come in, or invoices paid, you can slowly build on the plugins, libraries and other equipment.
 

6. Decide a visual identity


How would you like to present yourself? What is your market, who is potential clients? If you have a company what will you call it? What will the logo be like?

What’s your unique identity that makes you stand out?

Whether to be corporate or creative, broad in services or specialised, where best has your experience been and how can you expand on this? What’s your unique identity that makes you stand out? Questions, questions! All of this is worth thinking about when you design your website and branding, to represent your personality and skills. What best to present in your showreel that captures your audience before they click away. Social media sites like LinkedIn and Facebook are great ways to share your latest news and gently remind people you’re available. Endorsements and recommendations are a great way to validate your services to people who come across you for the first time.
 

7. Be organised – lists and logs


There is something very satisfying about crossing off a task from the list, especially if it’s the later part of a long list! Multiple projects and fast approaching deadlines can be stressful. Know what needs to be done and when, and don’t put it off, especially the boring stuff! There are plenty of free applications you can use – Google apps are fantastic: calendars, documents, spreadsheets can help you organise and keep track of your work and progress. Also, log your work and how much time you spent on it.

Know what needs to be done and when, and don’t put it off, especially the boring stuff

This helps with reporting back to your clients and detailing work on invoices. Keeping a record is great reference for when quoting for a new project, developing a better understanding of time required.

 

Popular on A Sound Effect right now - article continues below:

 
  • Drones & Moods Strange Moods Play Track 69+ sounds included, 65 mins total $10 $7.50

    Whether you seek eerie ambiences, mysterious chatter, or a bassy sweetener, Strange Moods has you covered. In this collection, you’ll find over an hour of perfectly-loopable, atmospheric audio. Inspired by such games as Limbo, No Man’s Sky, and Badlands, all 69 files are high-quality 96kHz/24bit WAV files and drag and drop ready.

    25 %
    OFF
    Ends 1504224000
  • Nature & Countryside High Desert Ambiences 1: Essentials Play Track 10+ sounds included, 94 mins total $29 $14.50

    In High Desert Ambiences 1 – Essentials, get the desolately beautiful sounds of the American Southwest as the sun brings to life the songs of desert wildlife. This collection features sounds that will make you fall in love with the desert with the trickling of distant rivers, smooth cricket chirps, echoey caws from ravens so close you can hear the details in their wings flaps, snorts from a cautious yet curious mule deer, choruses of birds at dawn, and much more. Most recordings are well over 4 minutes, with one half-hour night-time track that will make you want to take out your tent immediately. For lush, peaceful nature sounds from the heart of the American Southwest, here’s High Desert Ambiences 1 – Essentials.

    2% for the Planet:
    Two percent of the price of this library is donated to an environmental cause. I view it as an “artist royalty” for the planet!

    One Year Anniversary Sale: 

    • A huge THANK YOU to all customers who purchased my sound libraries this past year! Sale ends Monday 8/21.

    KEY FEATURES:
    • Featured on Designing Sound: “Our Favorite Sounds of 2016
    • Desert dawn and evening choruses
    • Distant flowing river, songbirds, and insects
    • Ravens soaring and squawking in a stark and resonant valley
    • Lengthy night-time cricket chorus
    • Partially audible and ultrasonic bat clicks up to 70kHz
    • Ghostly distant animal calls
    • Mule deer warning snorts and jumping movement
    • Files ranging from 31 seconds to 30 minutes
    • Rio Grande dawn chorus along the Texas/Mexico river border
    • Locations: Near Marfa, Texas (in a mountain valley at an altitude of 6,000 ft) and Big Bend National Park along the Rio Grande River, Texas/Mexico border.
    • These desert ambiences are extremely quiet, so I have included descriptive markers to signal interesting events in an otherwise featureless waveform. These markers can be read in programs such as RX, Reaper, and Soundminer. The markers are also included as .txt files in the sound files folder.

    ambiences_markers

    GEAR USED:
    Sennheiser MKH 50/30 MS pair
    Mid/Side recordings decoded to LR stereo
    Sound Devices 702
    Rycote AG MS Blimp
    Need more than the essentials? Listen to High Desert Ambiences 2 – Dawn and Morning Choruses ($79, 94 stereo WAVs, 20 GB, 4 hours 47 min, 192 kHz / 24-bit).
    50 %
    OFF
    Ends 1503360000
  • Basketball Game Ultra is a huge sound effects library for, well, basketball. It includes both an international match field recording (with over 5,000 people attending the game) and isolated sounds of backboard hoops, basket swish nets, metal bars, shoe squeaks and dribbles on various hard surfaces, as well as other related sounds – all performed by a professional basketball player in indoor and outdoor courts as well as inside the studio.

    Οur aim with this collection is to give you choices to:

    • Create realistic soundscapes of world class basketball games or other sports events
    • Design from scratch your own unique sound frames
    • Foley the character in your audiovisual production

Introducing SOUNDLISTER - the place to find audio professionals:
 
Are you an audio professional? Or are you looking for audio pros for you project?
Be sure to check out Soundlister - you'll find 100s of audio professionals there already.
Need specific sound effects? Try a search below:
 

8. Do your research and be confident in what you charge


Think about how you would like to charge for a project, your clients may wish you to charge on a per SFX basis but if you are overseeing implementation too, how is that worked in? Most audio professionals now prefer to opt for a day rate. Be careful when working out your day rate, some “useful” on-line calculators just divide your current salary by 365 days! Think about tax, in the UK, employers part pay their employee’s tax.

Be careful when working out your day rate, some “useful” on-line calculators just divide your current salary by 365 days

Think about sick days, holidays, expenses (equipment, rent and rates), and your availability (without employment security it is a reasonable expectation for you to build a financial buffer for the quiet periods between contracts). Do your research, have a look at what agencies are offering for similar roles and compare. Once you’re comfortable with a figure – be confident! If you are in talks with potential client, they’re likely to be impressed with the examples of your work and recommendations they have seen. If they do want to work with you but find your figure too high, they’re likely to negotiate to find a compromise. If you are turned down, ask for feedback, always better than second guessing.
 

9. Build good client relationships


Unfortunately with the nature of game development, audio can be forgotten. The team is working together in an open plan office, when checking their work the in-game the sound might be off. In reviews the team might talk enthusiastically over the game audio. If there is not an in-house audio person/team present they might not know the powerful use of audio, the aesthetics approaches that can be taken to bring the experience more to life. It’s your job to show them what can be done, get them excited and on board with your ideas, ask them for feedback! You are however also reliant on them, without their help you might have difficulty getting some or all of your sounds implemented correctly. Unfortunately at times a producer or project manager has to prioritise tasks to reach a release date, and need to juggle resource with requirements across the team. Understand this and prioritise yours, think how best to work effectively and pick your battles.
 

 

10. Enjoy it.. and living life too!


It is wonderful, to establish a career doing what we love, every day something to look forward it, and even the boring tasks are satisfying because they are our own – masters of our destiny! However take heed, it’s easy for work to take priority and can become all too consuming.

However take heed, it’s easy for work to take priority and can become all too consuming

Don’t be afraid to book a holiday, it might sound daft but it can be easy to put off to a more convenient time. Take time off; spend it with family, friends, get away from the screen and to the great outdoors! Exercise, travel, read, learn, listen and enjoy the arts. All this wealth of experience and from the stuff of life makes your creative output all the richer when back at in the studio.

 

A big thanks to Rebecca Parnell for her freelancing tips!

 

Please share this:


 

 

About Rebecca Parnell

Rebecca Parnell is a BAFTA Award-winning Sound Designer, having worked in sound for 19 years on 50+ titles, covering the most popular platforms of the time.

Rebecca started her career in game audio as a Sound Designer for Richard Joseph’s audio outsource company Audio Interactive at Pinewood Studios, working with many developers including Sensible Software, Codemasters and EA/Bullfrog. She moved to work in-house at VIS entertainment, Criterion Games and Outerlight before going freelance in 2007, and in 2009 launcher her company Magicbrew, working with developers NaturalMotion, Hello Games, Wonderstruck, Space Ape, Microsoft Lift and more.

Rebecca has judged for the prestigious BAFTA Game Awards and the Music and Sound Awards, and guest lectured at the National Film and Television School.

Rebecca has also branched out to work in film, having edited sounds for several shorts and a feature, most notably Babak Anvari’s BAFTA nominated short Two and Two.

When Rebecca is not working she is often out exploring with her recording kit collecting inspiring sounds. Whether that’s in the streets of her home city London, in Brazilian jungles, the markets of Marrakesh or visiting a hill top tribe in Laos to identify bird calls, she is always keen to explore the aural world.

 


 

 
THE WORLD’S EASIEST WAY TO GET INDEPENDENT SOUND EFFECTS:
 
A Sound Effect gives you easy access to an absolutely huge sound effects catalog from a myriad of independent sound creators, all covered by one license agreement - a few highlights:
 
  • Rock / Stone Ringing Rocks Play Track 500+ sounds included, 27 mins total

    Ringing Rocks has the chiming, beautiful tones of an ancient boulder field. As hammers strike stone, the powerful clangs resonate like church bells and bring to life a natural sonic wonder. Plus, you receive many types of melodic tones, hammering rhythms, grinding metallic stone, resonant scrapes, and much more. If you need rocks unlike any you’ve heard before, listen to Ringing Rocks.

    2% for the Planet:
    Two percent of the price of this library is donated to an environmental cause. I view it as an “artist royalty” for the planet!

    One Year Anniversary Sale: 

    • A huge THANK YOU to all customers who purchased my sound libraries this past year! Sale ends Monday 8/21.


    Key Features:
    • Featured on Designing Sound: “Our Favorite Sounds of 2016
    • 237 files, 500+ natural chime and bell-like rock sounds
    • Captured in 192 kHz for exquisite detail and sound designing potential
    • Location: Near Upper Black Eddy, Pennsylvania
    • A small hammer, medium sledgehammer, and crowbar were used to create a variety of timbres
    • Audio files with single rock strikes alone
    • Audio files with many sequential, varying strikes
    • Resonant scraping of hammers on rock for tactile textures that are perfect source material for rich metallic drones
    How It’s Made
    Read the full story of these mysterious rocks on the – A Sound Effect Blog!
    Gear Used:
    Sennheiser MKH 50/30 MS pair
    Mid/Side recordings decoded to LR stereo
    Sound Devices 702
    Rycote AG MS Blimp
    50 %
    OFF
    Ends 1503360000
  • Animals & Creatures High Desert Hummingbirds Play Track 290+ sounds included, Approx. 30 min total mins total

    Get the stunningly detailed sounds of one of nature’s tiniest aerial acrobats flapping and fluttering in one of the quietest outdoor places in the continental United States. With their ultrasonic chirps, mesmerizing flight abilities and evolution-exhibiting beaks, this library captures the sounds of these rarely heard creatures from a mere two inches away.

    2% for the Planet:
    Two percent of the price of this library is donated to an environmental cause. I view it as an “artist royalty” for the planet!

    One Year Anniversary Sale: 

    • A huge THANK YOU to all customers who purchased my sound libraries this past year! Sale ends Monday 8/21.

    Key Features:
    • 255 clean sounds of hummingbirds recorded in the resonant mountains of west Texas
    • 35 sounds of hummingbirds with other songbirds
    • Humming, buzzing, popping, fluttering, and purring drones
    • Wing slaps and wing contact movement
    • Ferocious territorial dogfights
    • Laser-like chirps
    • Ultrasonic chirps up to 30kHz
    • Wild vocalizations
    • Swift fly-bys, whooshes, and dive bombs
    • Multiple species with a variety of fundamental “hum” frequencies
    • Categorized into high, mid, bass, and sub-bass hummingbirds
    • Clips ranging from solo hummingbirds to six-bird feeding frenzies
    • Microphones placed 6-8 inches from hummingbird feeder with flybys as close as 2-3 inches
    • HD videos at 60 fps
    How It’s Made: 
    Get the full story behind the High Desert Hummingbirds SFX library on the – A Sound Effect Blog
    National Museum of Wildlife Art:
    Recordings from this library are featured as part of Iridescence: John Gould’s Hummingbirds at the Nation Museum of Wildlife Art.

    GEAR:
    • Sennheiser MKH 50/30 MS pair
    • Mid/Side recordings decoded to LR stereo
    • Rycote AG MS Blimp
    • Sound Devices 702
    • GoPro Hero4
    50 %
    OFF
    Ends 1503360000
  • The Cyborg Collection features a wide assortment of over 3000 Sci-Fi sound effects ranging from small user interfaces to massive robots.

    Everything from simple droids to powerful plasma rifles and futuristic transformations are included in this 3.2GB library. Check out the track listing here to see the variety of robots, interfaces, weaponry, vehicles and spacecraft included in the collection.

Explore the full, unique collection here
 
 
FOLLOW OR SUBSCRIBE FOR THE LATEST IN FANTASTIC SOUND:
 
                              
 
GET THE MUCH-LOVED A SOUND EFFECT NEWSLETTER + 40 FREE SFX:
Just enter your details below to get the newsletter and free sound effects (soundlist):

One thought on “10 Essential Tips for Game Audio Freelancers

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

HTML tags are not allowed.