The State of Freelancing For Game Developers in 2020
From working in studios, selling indie games or being a freelance developer, there are many different ways to make money as a game developer.
In my quest for riches and personal freedom, I have tried all of them, my favourite being freelancing.
Selling indie games requires a lot of upfront investment and is highly risky. Although this is where i want to take my career in the long run, this option just isn't viable for me for a full time gig.
Working a fulltime job is great financially. You will be quite secure in your position and have a full time team. However this is at the sacrifice of your personal freedom. Vacations and traveling around the world can not be done while you are working a fulltime job.
Finally we have freelancing. For game developers, there are plenty of jobs and I will get to where you can find those in a second. You find clients, agree on an hourly rate and travel whenever you want. If you feel like taking a break, you finish up your contracts and take a break. When you feel like you need more work, you start pitching to clients and pickup work.
Freelancing lends itself well to agility and adaptability.
Let's talk about the different options game developers have as freelancers, as well as my own personal journey.
First there are places like Unity Connect, Reddit and other "no mans land" websites where you can meet clients and get jobs. These places have no rules and are unregulated. You and your client will need to establish trust to ensure that everything goes smoothly. Although these places are great, there are better places to find jobs with higher pay rates.
These are established websites like Upwork, Toptal, Freelancer and Fiverr. Freelancer and Fiverr are definitely on the lower end in terms of experience and pay rates but Upwork and Toptal are the holy grails for game development freelancers.
Although I have not tried Toptal yet, its reputation speaks for itself. It is an elite developer marketplace where you will get the top pay rates, however amount of game development jobs available is up for questions.
My experience on Upwork has been great. After spending a few weeks to a month figuring out how to best manage my time, energy and clients, I definitely feel it is a great place for developers to start and gain experience. Although you will need to build up your profile before you make any real money, it really is worth it and there are plenty of free resources to help you succeed.
I stopped using Upwork a few months ago. I wanted to build my own platform, so I started this website. After spending a month or two going at it on LinkedIn and Unity Connect, I will be returning to Upwork.
Simply put, the established freelance websites have dried up all the contracts on the web. With the strict system for getting paid and handling disputes, clients and freelancers alike prefer them than the old fashioned way.
You can think of an established freelance platform like a city and the other "black" contracts like an untamed forest. It will take a lot of preparation to take on the forest. Although the rewards could be greater, setting up base on Upwork or Toptal will prepare you for the long haul.