Why you shouldn't bother with sites like Upwork (and why you should)
Okay, I admit it, I love bananas.
It's the perfect fruit! It tastes great, it's easy to carry around, and it's an essential to addition to any smoothie. I even love that artificial banana flavor that you taste in runts and marshmallows.
But, we all know that artificial banana doesn't actually taste like the real thing... or does it?
It turns out that the artificial banana flavor that most people hate love tastes like a nearly-extinct strain of that fun yellow fruit: The Gros Michel.
These Gros Michels used to be the most common type of banana in the US, but a super fungus has basically wiped them out, so not many people have had one.
Apparently they're more "banana-y" than what we know and eat today, and because they were around first, all of our artificial banana flavors are based off of that.
While modern science *could* make an artificial banana flavor that's more akin to the banana we know today, why bother? The artificial one tastes so good (to me, at least, and that's really all that matters when you think about it), so there's no point in improving on perfection.
Similar to how modern artificial-fruit-flavor-science isn't spending their time trying to modernize banana flavored candy, we freelancers should also be judicious about where we spend our time - especially when it comes to looking for work.
Many game audio freelancers are spending tons of time looking for jobs on sites like Upwork, but for what we do, they're not worth bothering with most of the time.
Upwork, and other sites like them
Are basically sites where clients can post jobs, and freelancers can apply to them. There are tons of different types of work that people are looking for, from graphic design, copywriting, IT, podcast editing, and beyond.
I know plenty of people (not in audio) who have found a fair amount of side-work on websites like these (Upwork and Freelancer being the two most popular), and have found it to be a useful place to get a side hustle going.
There are even the occasional posts looking for video game/film sound designers on there. So why aren't they good fits?
Frankly, good clients simply don't go through those websites
I can't think of a single high-end, or even somewhat-decent client who would even think of going through an outsourcing site to find their audio designer.
The type of game developer clients that would go to websites like these are usually:
1) Very cheap
2) Not invested in the project itself
3) Don't care about you in any way, shape, or form
4) Is likely to ask for endless revisions, knowing they can leave you a bad review if you say no
Freelance job sites encourage a lot of window-shopping, which means people are just looking for the cheapest price. I've never once heard of a super-cheap, stingy client being a joy to work with.
And while those clients are looking for the cheapest option, it's anything but cheap for us to be on these sites long-term.
That's because we need to pay to apply to any job on these sorts of sites
You read that right. If you see a job that may suit you, you need to pay to apply. It's not that expensive, but the idea of paying to apply for a job that has a small percentage of a chance of going through is an unwise use of your time and money.
So, what should we do instead when we're looking for work? Where do we even go?
I'll say the same thing you've heard me say thousands of times before
Network, network, network. It's THE thing that will help you land more projects. When we bother to actually make a connection with people, then we're far more likely to get hired onto their projects. Not only that, but we can actually tell through our interactions if these are clients that are worth working with in the first place.
And considering all of our networking has to be online nowadays
Instagram is easily the best place to find high quality contacts and work. Twitter and LinkedIn can work as well, but for most people, IG is the clear winner.
If you're new to the Instagram game, you can just use my guide to get started. You'll get far higher-quality contacts, better projects, and you won't have to worry about always underpricing yourself for the worst clients ever.
"But Akash, you scrumptious nearly-extinct, deep fried, chocolate-dusted Gros Michel banana, you," you ask "What if I want to get some side income online?"
In that case, sites like Upwork can be great. If you'd like to do some audio-related tasks like editing a Podcast, or cleaning up some voice over for clients here and there, or even non-audio related tasks like graphic design, that's totally great. Go for it. Just avoid doing more involved projects like game and film work on those kinds of sites.
In short, these sites are great for side income, but not useful for any sort of full-time, meaningful audio work.
But what about Fiverr?
You may also be wondering about Fiverr. Again, it may be useful for the occasional odd side job, and maybe to gain some quick experience, but avoid it for any sort of meaningful income. Fiverr can also be useful to hire the occasional live performer here and there, especially when you're on a budget.
As soon as you can though, support the artists you care about by paying them a real rate.
Just make sure that focusing on these sorts of sites doesn't become all that you do
For those of us who want to work in game audio full time, then make sure that you're still spending plenty of time networking, making contacts, and practicing your craft. Doing those things will be far more beneficial than applying to hundreds of jobs on these freelancing repositories.
So let's cover what we've gone over today:
Sites like Upwork and Freelancer aren't a great place to go for long-term, meaningful audio work
They can be useful for some side income, especially in non-audio roles, or for simple tasks like podcast editing
The best clients are never on those websites
To get the best clients, you have to be putting yourself out there and making friends. No excuses
My birthday's coming up next month, and if you really want to surprise me, get me a Gros Michel banana
So while food scientists aren't wasting their time trying to make a new banana flavored candy
We shouldn't be wasting our time on sites like Upwork when it comes to finding any sort of long-term, meaningful audio work.
And like I mentioned up above
Making friends and networking is the way to start building towards that long-term work. If you haven't already integrated this into your work, read my Instagram guide.
And for those of you who want to stay on top of your networking and get higher quality projects
Be sure to be on my newsletter.
I have two free courses, designed specifically for those of you who are new to the world of game audio and want to network and find paid work in games. If you want in, just sign up, and you'll get instant access!