freelance audio payment Asbjoern Andersen


Are you charging enough for your audio work? Ryan Ike is back with more thoughts on pricing, and how to calculate if you're doing highly specialized audio work - at rates that are effectively below the minimum wage. Read on for his thoughts on setting the right price for your freelance audio work:
Written by Ryan Ike, and republished with his kind permission
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After my thread (and post) about how game audio people (and freelancers in general) don’t charge enough, a lot of people responded with “I want to charge more, but I don’t know how to price myself.”

 
It’s easy, but you need to analyze your work, a thing lots of us don’t do. I’ll explain:

Most of us, especially if you’ve been at this awhile, have a basic idea how long it takes to make X thing. “I can write a minute of finished music in a week working full time hours, less if it’s a genre I’m comfy with, more if it requires lots of live players” Something like that.

As freelancers, we’re charging for our skillset, but even more so, we’re charging for our time. And a TON of us forget to take this into account when we set our rates on a new project.

If you sign on to write a full sized indie game soundtrack, (let’s say roughly 45 minutes of music), break it down. How long does it take you to write a 3-4 minute track? Or a minute of music? What about edits and revisions?

Yes, this is tricky and not an exact science, and every project differs based on the working dynamic, the type of work, etc. But just ball park it.

In most cases, you’ll find you’re charging not nearly enough for the amount of work you’re set up to do

Once you have an estimate on how much of your time this will take, charge based on THAT.

In most cases, you’ll find you’re charging not nearly enough for the amount of work you’re set up to do. If I charged $20,000 for the above example and it takes me roughly a week to write 1 min of music, that’s 20k over 45 weeks at BEST.

If we do a little math on that, that works out to roughly 11 dollars an hour if I”m putting in a full 40 hour workweek each week. That’s way under minimum wage here in Seattle, and a lot of other places too.

And that’s the really surprising thing I’ve learned by asking fellow audio folks to compare how much of their time they’re providing VS what they get paid. An absolute ton of you aren’t even working for minimum wage. You’re working for less.

I was chatting about this with a sound designer friend of mine who wanted to raise their rates, but wasn’t sure what to raise them to. I won’t name them, but they’ve worked on some incredibly popular things you’ve DEFINITELY heard of.

ME: Well, how long does it take you to make a sound asset, usually?
THEM: I mean, they’re all different, but usually around 3 hours.
ME: Ok, and what do you charge?
THEM: $50 per file.
ME: So . . . like 17 bucks an hour?
THEM: …oh.
 


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

 

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And again, this person is crazy talented and has already worked on some major franchises, and they’re still barely charging over minimum wage where we live. And didn’t even really realize it, because we’re not used to thinking of our work in terms of time spent.

Game audio is far, far from a minimum wage-level job. The amount of time and practice required to get good, the cost of building a studio space and having the right gear/software, going to cons to network and stay in business, it’s HUGE.

More on setting (and getting) the right price for your work:

 

Want to know more audio pricing? Ryan Ike has written another guide on audio pricing, and how to get it right, here. Also check out Kate Finan’s in-depth guide on how to set – and get – the right price for your audio work here.

Yet so many of you charge barely more than what you’d get paid if you worked at Starbucks. And not that working there is bad, of course, but it doesn’t require years of practice and thousands of dollars in gear to be employed there.

So, the next time you’re figuring out the finances of a new gig, think how much an hour of your time as a creative professional SHOULD be worth. 50 bucks? 60? More (typically, yes, more).

Break down the amount of work, figure out how long it’ll take you, and charge accordingly.

And it doesn’t matter if you prefer to charge clients based on X amount per track or asset, X amount for the whole project, or if you actually just bill based on how many hours you worked. But base X on how much time you’ll spend, and how you value that time.

A big thanks to Ryan Ike for letting us share his thoughts on pricing! Got some insights or tips on how to set the right price? Please share them in the comments setion.

About Ryan Ike:

Ryan Ike is a composer and sound designer based in Seattle, WA, with work spanning games like Gunpoint, West of Loathing, and Where the Water Tastes Like Wine. Outside of making audio, he spends his time trying to help newcomers find their place in the game industry, and is passionate about making sure that game audio pros (and creatives in general) are getting the pay and respect they deserve. You can listen to his work here
 

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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:
 
 
  • Foley Modern Seating Play Track 75+ sounds included $25 $20

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  • Foley Real Outdoor Footsteps Play Track 13500 sounds included, 184 mins total From: $59

    REAL OUTDOOR FOOTSTEPS is part of our successful “Foleyart Collection” series. With an additional 13,500 externally recorded footsteps, this library offers unprecedented content!

    Sometimes there are problems with mixing when the Foleystage is too present. Outdoor recordings are difficult, so we have recorded at up to 2500m altitude in very quiet places of the Sierra Nevada in Spain and the Swiss Alps.

    These samples are also available as expansion for Edward Ultimate SUITE  and Edward Foleyart Instrument. In this case you need a full version of the instrument to use the expansion. Choose your desired package below!

    Key Features:
    • 13 500 outside recorded Foley sounds @ 24Bit, 96 kHZ
    • 25 combinations of shoes and surfaces
    • Different walking speeds and behaviors
    • WAV files are Meta ready (not included in EUS and EFI Expansion)

    Includes the following surfaces:
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    Extremely Slow Walk • Medium Slow Walk • Walk • Jog • Run • Stairs Slow • Stairs Fast • Stomp • Land • Scuff • Scrape 1 • Scrape 2 • Scrape 3

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Explore the full, unique collection here

Latest sound effects libraries:
 
  • Paper Paper (Kaibrary) Play Track 500+ sounds included, 267 mins total $40 $30

    This is a collection of various types of paper being performed in common actions like turning pages, crumpling, tearing, and other handling sounds. Included are more bizarre textural sounds using paper like violent flapping, buzzing, bowing, and squeaking.

    This collection also comes with two folders, a close up set of recordings, and a sister collection of medium-distant recordings back in the room. This is for use in background, like a person in an office turning a page over, a man shuffling a newspaper, or counting money on a table.
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    25 %
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  • Trucks, Buses & Vans GMC Pickup Truck Play Track 42 sounds included, 23 mins total $39

    A grumbly old GMC pick up truck you might find on the farm, likely from the early 90’s. Exterior pass by’s, up and stop’s, start and away’s, idles, revs and doors.

  • Weapons Nocked Play Track 2047+ sounds included $85

    Whether your need to bring a lone rogue to life or a surge of arrows in an epic battle scene, Nocked will provide you with a plethora of flexible content.

    Our largest library to date, this collection is a comprehensive focus on the sounds and functions of the archer and the act of archery. Included are eight recorded bows (2 crossbows, olympic recurve, traditional recurve, longbow, long compound, short compound, and Magyar bow) with 2 additional 'mythic' bows of our own design, each using 3 types of arrows (aluminum, carbon, and bamboo) on 3 varying surfaces (hard, soft, and dirt) from 4 simultaneous recording positions (at bow, at target, midflight mono, and midflight stereo). Each bow and each arrow type have a character all there own.

    The content’s dynamic range is wide, from whispering bamboo arrows gliding on rests as they are drawn to firing position, to the powerful THWACK of crossbow bolts striking their target. All non-firing sounds were recorded in a controlled studio environment while all recordings of the bows being fired were taken on a plot of wide-open rural farmland, encompassed by forests. When needed, this ambient natural environment provided an ideal impulse response to be used in the design and editing of some of the sounds to create a heightened effect.

    Included are a wide array of archery actions and Foley:
    Nocking and unnocking arrows
    Drawing
    Firing (loosing)
    Mid-flight pass-bys
    Releasing / relaxing a draw
    Impacts on targets
    Arrow and accessory Foley (handling, selecting, gathering, dropping, etc.)

    A multitude of takes are provided across each bow/arrow/surface/position combination for easy randomization and differentiation of sounds, or to track any number of unique archers at any given moment.

    Go ahead, let them fight in the shade.

  • Environments The Netherlands Play Track 70 sounds included, 350 minutes mins total From: $50 From: $40

    Recorded over the course of two months this sound library features an extensive amount of Dutch ambiences including locations such as train stations, parks, cafes, streets and forests.

    All atmospheres run for approximately 5 minutes and were recorded at 24 bit/96khz using the DPA 5100 and Sound Devices 788T. This library is available in stereo or 5.0.

     

     

    20 %
    OFF
    Ends 1534543200
  • Foley Modern Seating Play Track 75+ sounds included $25 $20

    Modern Seating is a library compiled of a variation of modern chairs found in the office or home. The idea is to fill the need for chairs which aren't always on the verge of breaking or creaking in every direction. It's a foley library of rolls, pickups and general movement in each type of chair or seat. The library was recorded using the Shoeps CMIT5 and the Avedis MA5.

    20 %
    OFF
    Ends 1534543200
 
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