Best Tips for Building a Freelance Career
August 23, 2012 Page 3 of 3
Managing Multiple Projects
Working freelance has its ups and downs. Sometimes I'll be up to my ears fighting off multiple projects at once, and it can be tricky making sure I get everything organized. Planning is important here, because the goal is to make sure every client gets the correct audio before milestones, without forgetting anything. It's usually the case that during discussions or emails with clients, ideas and suggestions get bandied about.
It's your job to jot those down and to ensure that each asset that's requested gets created and submitted. I have a calendar posted on the wall right by my monitor, with due dates and names listed to make sure that I have enough time to create assets for each client's deadlines. I always make sure to schedule in buffer time, because audio is a creative process and there's sometimes moments where things aren't quite working out.
Other tools I use are Google Docs and spreadsheets tied into a Gmail account that I can access anywhere. They'll have all my projects listed on them, with all the assets requested alongside due dates, as well as important milestones and outstanding invoices. Before I start my work I'll take a glance to make sure there's nothing new or nothing needing to be removed, so that I know what exactly I'm working on for the day and that it'll get done in plenty of time.
Be clear with new clients if you'll need a couple weeks before you can get to them. I think they can respect that you're a professional trying to balance inconsistent work, but always mention that if it's a problem you can move them up.
Be prepared for overtime and weekend work should this be the case! I have never missed a deadline or come short on an asset list, and I hope never to. Also, remember to schedule in time for revisions and last-minute additional asset requests. Blessed and few are the projects that get audio right on the first go.
Criticism is a Good Thing
I've been told that one of my best traits as an audio designer is that I take criticism in a friendly and professional manner. It took a while to get there, as I've always been defensive of things I put time and thought in. Who isn't? "The customer is always right" is a phrase everyone knows for a reason: it's true. They are funding and making the game, and likely have a vision for the end product including how it's going to sound.
If you're not meeting their audio goals, it's a problem of miscommunication, and in the end that's your problem. I've had clients who are very musical and can express clearly what their design goals are, and others who are near tone deaf and unsure of what they actually want. Learning to hear what they have to say and putting that directly into the next round of revisions is key.
Over the years I've gained the confidence to know when to push back for the good of a game, and when to relent on a design choice that has no other impact than to make the client happy. Sometimes they just want to feel in charge and "have a good handle on things". While it's your audio work that's going in the game, and you want to make sure it's the best it can be, at the heart of it, you want to make sure your client feels confident that they did indeed ship a game with great audio. We can do that by receiving every criticism with attentive professionalism, and ask questions to refine what they are saying. Let them know you're listening.
Free as a Bird
Freelance audio design is as rewarding as it is challenging. Setting your own hours, the thrill of a new project, the fulfillment of a job well done -- it's an exciting life full of uncertainty, but with amazing opportunities just around the corner. It's definitely very difficult to break into and to start growing that client list, but with a professional attitude and high-quality creativity, clients will begin to come back with more projects and emails saying they'd love to work with you again. A successful freelancer has the gift of choosing their own projects from a long list of eager customers, but only after years of learning how to effectively earn the trust and loyalty of repeat customers.
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