As studio models are evolving so are the options available to individuals employed in game development
Flexible ways of engaging a workforce are necessary for the modern studio, which means that working as a contractor is an appealing prospect.
So, what do we mean by a contractor? We are using the term to describe someone working on a temporary basis for an end client, usually placed in that role by a recruitment agency. Contractors can also be known as consultants or freelancers.
A contractor in this definition is not employed by or on the payroll of the end client; they are paid for time worked, calculated on an hourly or daily rate basis. Contractors are valued for their immediate impact, and ability to complete a deliverable with little management overhead.
The benefits of working in this way are many. As a contractor you are effectively selling your skills and your time. You have the freedom to choose your next move. You build your experience quickly on project after project, developing an impressive CV over time.
Financially rates can be lucrative and you can maximise your earnings with efficient tax management. Finally, let’s face it, permanent isn’t always permanent.
But there are challenges too. Some skills may not be in demand on a project basis. There is often no guarantee of another contract when one ends, so this may not be the right lifestyle for you. You are responsible for your own payroll management and potentially running your own business – more on that later.
A successful contractor will have the ability to go to new organisations, adapting to the different ways of working. You need to get on with people easily and give advice only when it’s required and wanted.
SUPPLY AND DEMAND
And what about the benefits to the end client? Using contractors provides a flexible workforce based on project demand, leaving no staff surplus when workload reduces. This is critical in such a project driven environment as a games studio as redundancies significantly impact morale and studio brand.
Many of the costs of a permanent employee are avoided, making contractor engagement cost effective. The specific skills a contractor brings may not be available in the current team, and they can be relied upon to deliver on their assignments getting up to speed quickly.
So how does contracting work in reality? Clients engage with their agency to provide a contractor, defining the need, initial contract length and budget. We attract, select and qualify the best talent for the role, manage the interview process, contracts and on boarding until the contractor starts.
Quite simply, we make it easy for you by working behind the scenes to ensure that the contract is right for both parties and that legislation has been complied with.
There is more legislation than we have space here to tell you about, but we’re happy to explain all to you if you want to know. It’s also vital that the contractor understands how they operate and how they get paid.
Let’s look at that in more detail. Once you have a contract, there are two main methods of trading that contractors in the games industry choose from.
SPOILT FOR CHOICE
The first is working via an umbrella company who employ you and handle all the contractual administration, such as invoicing, tax and VAT. They charge a small fee for this but most contractors claim for legitimate employee expenses, offsetting them against tax which maximises take home pay.
The umbrella model is a good choice to test the water as a contractor, if you expect to be contracting only for a short time, or you can’t face the paperwork of running your own business.
The second is to set up your own Limited Company. This means finding an accountant, taking out insurances, checking your status against current legislation for tax and paying the right amount. There are lots of companies who help manage this for you but there are still responsibilities that remain yours. This is a good choice if you’re committed to contracting longer term, you’re happy with the responsibilities and you can manage your own finances with an accountant.
So what’s next? If contracting is attractive to you, the next step is to do some research. Talk to the agencies with a contract specialism in video games to see what kind of contracts might be available, whether you are suitable, and how much you could earn. If you want to know more, please get in touch with us via firstname.lastname@example.org.