WHY I FREELANCE AND WHY YOU SHOULD TOO

It used to be as little as 10 years ago, you could get a job at a large game studio and feel pretty secure.


Plenty of junior-level positions were open, and almost every skillset was in demand.


My, how things have changed. 


Now, if you want to work at a large company, they ask for 5 years of experience and 2 shipped console games for most every decent position.


And who knows? If you get the job, maybe you'll be fortunate enough to get laid off right after your game ships.


If you do really well, your game will get canceled, and you won't even be able to talk about it in future job interviews.


And maybe, just maybe, if the stars align, you won't even get paid for your work.


Twice.


FANTASTIC!


For some reason, a lot of you want to work for large companies that will use you up and throw you aside.


By the way, this isn't because these companies are malicious. 


They're just poorly structured.


Maybe you want security - even though you're likely to do better financially when you're only accountable to… you.


Or maybe you want experience with working on a team - though that can be earned by putting yourself out in the industry, going to game jams, being social, and being a part of the massive community.


And perhaps you want to work on one certain game franchise - this drastically limits your opportunities, but that's fine. 


Most likely, however, you're scared to put yourself in the line of fire, get bruised, fail, and have only yourself to blame for your setbacks.



DON'T GO THROUGH THE FRONT DOOR


Thankfully, the industry is getting better and better, but the more people that enter it, the more the onus is on you to get the best work possible.


If all you're doing is submitting resume after resume wondering "Why are less-qualified people getting the job?" then you're totally screwed.


These studios get thousands of resumes all the time.


And the top-performers? They're the ones who didn't even apply for the job, but were asked directly to work with them. 


If you're trying to get the best opportunities by going through the front door, you'll be waiting in line for eternity.


The ones who get the best gigs are the ones who built their own experience first.

They freelanced, got really freaking good, built their networks, and as a result, get all the best gigs. 


They don't just "show up" and hope for the best.


They don't dabble.


They don't jump from shiny thing to shiny thing, wondering what their "passion" is.


They don't try to be a game developer on top of being an internet celebrity, a renowned ballet dancer, and a top-rated chef. 


They focus on just three things:

  1. Building their network (by focusing on making real friends)

  2. Working on projects that will move them and those around them forward

  3. Saying "no" to anything that doesn't fit in the top two

And as a result, all the best opportunities come to them.



THIS IS HOW IT WORKS


The process that AAA studios go through when they're hiring for a coveted position goes something like this:

  1. They put the job posting online (this isn't always the case - the best jobs get filled before they're even posted.)

  2. An internal, employee-only email is sent out asking "Hey, does anyone know someone who could fill this job?"

  3. Someone responds with "Yes. I have a friend who would be great."

  4. Then that friend gets the job.

  5. Any resumes that were received weren't even looked at, providing the recommendation worked out.

Does this apply to all positions? No. Of course not. 


But for the most competitive ones like audio designer, or concept artist? This is extremely common.


"But Akash, you lascivious fountain of milk chocolate, if I get hired as a [position I don't actually want] within the studio, one day they'll eventually hire me as a [position I actually do want]."


No. They won't. 


Many studios prefer to keep their employees on the "track" that they're currently on.


They're investing thousands of dollars to train you at your current job. They don't want that to go to waste.


And honestly, if you're spending 8-10 hours of your day as a QA specialist, then what are the odds that they'll notice your audio abilities? 


They'd much rather hire the person who's been spending their days as an audio designer, working on games constantly.