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.
 


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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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    Just Impacts – Extension I
    Just Impacts – Extension II

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Latest sound effects libraries:
 
  • Destruction & Impact Just Impacts Bundle Play Track 1434+ sounds included $183

    This bundle includes these libraries from the popular Just Impact series:

    Just Impacts – Simple
    Just Impacts – Processed
    Just Impacts – Designed
    Just Impacts – Extension I
    Just Impacts – Extension II

    – at a massive discount!

  • Military TANK T-44 Play Track $149

    Tank T-44: The great hulking mass that would spell doom for the Red Army’s enemies has been captured in all its glory trudging along, with every turn of its metal treads and gears recorded masterfully.

    The sound capture equipment used were best-in-breed Neumann U87 and Schoeps M4 microphones, and the tank’s authoritative rumbles and clangs were recorded from various positions, and at various speeds as the treads grip the ground and transfer the power of its mighty engine, transmission, and parts. There are also stereo recordings for the tank’s engine and the tank’s exhaust pipe.

    We at Flysound have dusted off the cobwebs and taken this 30 tonne beast for several victory laps to record its belligerent brilliance. The T-44: one of the great patriotic tanks! In a time when action productions are all to often devolving into the fake and unrealistic, this sound package is an authentic antidote of epic proportions. Tank you!

  • DESCRIPTION:

    Here you can find 61 HD quad surround ambiences of the wild North European nature. They were recorded during a two-week recording trip on foot and by rowing boat in the hot July of 2018 at the heart of the national park in Karelia, North-Western Russia. Spacious, transparent, immersive and absolutely free from any technogenic and anthropogenic sounds. Still air and wind through grass or trees. Birds and insects from single and sparse at the cloudy morning to dense and busy at the hot sunny noon, a mosquito chorus at dawn and ear-piercing grasshoppers at sunset. Distant thunder rolls and disturbed Arctic Loon, huge old trees creaking and grumbling in the wind.

    10 % of the library’s revenue goes to nature preserves and animal shelters.

  • Ambisonics Vintage Trams Play Track 46 sounds included $30 $20

    Vintage Trams: passes and rides from a number of perspectives.

    The bygone sounds of rattly old trams, passing in the street: the rumble of the metal wheels on the tracks, the sound of the pickup rods on the overhead wires, the clang of the bell and the voice of the conductor, all of these are here for your delight. Starts and stops, rides and passes, all lovingly collected in First Order Ambisonic surround and collated in FuMa & ambiX orders and weighting. Full Soundminer metadata and Excel Spreadsheet included.

    And there’s more! A bonus collection of sounds in stereo from my extensive archive, with a ride on a San Francisco cable car, more vintage trams and a series of recordings of a Trolley Bus, an electrically powered bus running form overhead cables, but so quiet in operation, it was known as ‘the silent killer’ as pedestrians tended not to be aware when it was approaching.

    33 %
    OFF
    Ends 1575759599
  • Ambisonics Vintage Traffic Play Track 40 sounds included $30 $20

    Vintage automobiles passing singly and in groups, from the earliest part of the 20th century. Perfect for those traffic backgrounds in your period production. Hundreds of vehicles, none dated later than 1910, passing at various speeds, and in various configurations and at various lengths. Captured in First Order Ambisonic and available n both FuMa and ambiX order and weighting.

    33 %
    OFF
    Ends 1575759599
 
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