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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    The library was recorded entirely in 24bit/96k with a double Mid/Side rig consisting of Sennheiser MKH60/30 and 8040 mics, encoded to 5.1 Wav. A stereo option is also available at a lower price. As a bonus there is a collection of bird call spot FX taken from the recordings with noise reduction applied, for those who may need to add individual wading bird calls to their ambience.

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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:
 
 
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    Sounds were recorded using multi-mic setup: Sanken CO-100k (most of the time pointing mechanical parts), Sennheiser MKH-8060 (mainly for isolated exhaust pipe), Schoeps CMC6XT mk41/mk8 (general image) and part also with Trance Audio Inducer contact mics (adding unique mechanical perspective).

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Explore the full, unique collection here

Latest sound effects libraries:
 
  • Red Libraries teamed up with the sound designers Frederic Devanlay and Thibault Csukonyi to create the new “Mutant Insects” collection

    The library gathers a wide range of oversized wings for equally-oversized designed flying insects, along with an extremely rich toolbox. It allows you to quickly and easily create every flying creatures and mutants you have in mind, but also sweeten or emphasize details with natural layers for real-life documentaries, games or feature films.

    These insects are more impressive than in real life by their size and the noise made when flying.
    So we called them “MUTANT Insects”.
    And why not also use it for bird wings…

    8 different species are featured : Fly, Hornet, Grasshopper, Beetle, Moth, Gnat, Rhino Beetle, Dragonfly.

    The movements offered are Idles (loop), Passes by, Swirling Evolutions (loop), Swarms (loop), Abrupt Movements (take flights, attacks, spasms…)

    These evolutions have been created with the help of the Traveler plugin by Tonsturm, and the Sound Particles software by Sound Particles.

    Presets for Sound Particles and Traveler are included in the pack. Many thanks to Tilman Hahn and Nuno Fonseca.

    The toolbox will allow to imagine your own mutants or to just simply create real insects, With natural layers such as hummings or different appearances to made wing strokes.

    40 %
    OFF
  • Drones & Moods Glacier Ambience Play Track 27 sounds included, 130 mins total $30 $20

    Glacier Ambience is a pack of ambient drones created especially for the purpose of being used anywhere.

    If your voice-over needs life, your video needs a mood, your sound design ambience needs a lift, and more.
    These are ambient soundscapes and drones and not sounds from an actual glacier, but they were created while I was looking at one.

    All this in one package. All designed for the specific ability to drag and drop any of the tracks in the package to your soundtrack and it will instantly bring a background mood and life to your creation.

    All the sounds in here have been created while I was living in Iceland – with drones, glaciers, ambient life, nature and northern lights in mind.

    33 %
    OFF
  • River Estuary is a series of recordings centred around the River Deben estuary in Suffolk, an area famous for its natural beauty and wildlife. It is a treasure trove of sounds that capture the ambience of this serene environment, with a focus on the wading bird calls that give the estuary its unique sonic character.

    The library was mostly recorded on a boat stationed in Woodbridge in the late winter of 2018 with private access to the boatyard, allowing me to record safely over night. I continued the recordings up until late summer, making trips to other areas along the Deben in between. I was also granted permission to record on the privately owned Sutton Hoo side of the Deben, another of Suffolk’s areas of outstanding historical significance and beauty, equally full of life but further away from the rumbling traffic and human life coming from the town.

    It includes the sounds of curlews, oystercatchers, redshanks, geese, swans, ducks and various other wading bird calls, as well as general ambience recordings of the area at high tide and low tide and all hours of the day. The night calls that echo over the expanse of the river at low tide are particularly evocative.

    The library was recorded entirely in 24bit/96k with a double Mid/Side rig consisting of Sennheiser MKH60/30 and 8040 mics, encoded to 5.1 Wav. A stereo option is also available at a lower price. As a bonus there is a collection of bird call spot FX taken from the recordings with noise reduction applied, for those who may need to add individual wading bird calls to their ambience.

    20 %
    OFF
    Ends 1550962800
  • Industrial Factory Tones Play Track 17+ sounds included $15

    Factory Tones by Badlands Sound features 17 two minute seamless loopable roomtones, making these a breeze to work with – perfect for your projects.

    I was able to capture all these sounds with no one there so these are just factory room tones that are steady with very little movement or noises from the outside world. All sounds are available to hear in the products audio demo.

    This sound library was recorded with professional gear including the Sound Devices 702t, Rycote ORTF, and a pair of Sennheiser MKH 8040’s creating high quality roomtones of 96k / 24 bit.

    If you are looking for factory room tones or looking for bigger tones and beds to fill the scene then this library is for you. All files in this product have great file names and metadata.

  • Roomtones & Ext. Ambiences House Tones Play Track 57+ sounds included, 114 mins total $40

    House Tones by Badlands Sound features 57 two minute seamless loopable roomtones totaling of almost two hours of different room tones found in a home including Bathrooms, Basements, Bedrooms, Closets, Garages, Home Offices, Laundry Rooms, Kitchens, Living Rooms, Showers, and Utility Room.

    This sound library was recorded with professional gear including the Sound Devices 702t, Rycote ORTF, and a pair of Sennheiser MKH 8040’s creating high quality roomtones of 96k / 24 bit.

    If you are looking for house or apartment room tones then this library is for you. All files in this product have great file names and metadata with descriptive words with no number lists.

 
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