Ian Goodall from recruitment expert Aardvark Swift offers advice for devs aiming to set themselves up as a contractor
So you’ve caught the contracting bug, but you’ve heard the horror stories about long hours, low pay and stacks of admin work.
Whilst this can sometimes be the case in other professions, contracting and temporary work continues to be a popular choice for many in the games industry. Studios will often need to hire a contractor with specific skills or knowledge to carry out part of a project, so contractors can be an effective addition to a studio – even if it’s just on a temporary basis.
Of course, there’s both pros and cons to taking up contract work. Whilst it doesn’t always come with the safety net of steady pay and hours, this doesn’t mean it’s low paid. As a contractor, you can expect to earn 20 to 25 per cent more than your permanent peers. In the games industry, if you’re really skilled at what you do, you certainly won’t be short of contract offers.
A common misconception that can put people off short-term work is the worry that you won’t be able to develop your skills and will just be left to do the boring stuff. However, the best thing about working in the games industry is the vast amount of variety available at your fingertips.
Contracting gives you the chance to work on multiple different projects and genres, giving you an invaluable insight into different working environments and techniques. It might be that working in various studios helps you discover your hidden talent or dream job that you’d never considered before.
As well as giving you the freedom to dip your toes into different studios and projects, contract work gives you the flexibility to choose how much time you take off in-between contracts, which could lead to a significantly improved work-life balance.
Okay, so we’ve managed to sway you over to the contracting side, but how can you maximise your chance of employability?
Get yourself out there
It may sound cliché, but particularly as a freelancer or contractor, you’ll need to get noticed. Get yourself on social media like LinkedIn and set it up as your business page and CV with a link to your portfolio.
Networking is essential on both social media and in person. Connect with studios, recruiters and other freelances to begin building up your network. That way, once something crops up in your area of expertise, they’ll know who to get in touch with. But don’t just stick to online networking – get yourself to relevant events in the industry and start chatting. You’re more likely to make a lasting impression when employers can put a face to name.
Find your forté
Studios will often be looking for someone with certain knowledge or skills, rather than someone who learns on the job. The best way to prepare for this is to spend time gaining experience and finding your speciality. Once you’ve established what it is you excel in, you can work on honing this in as your area of expertise. This way, once a role comes up that requires your skill, you’ll have the contract in the bag.
Make your portfolio the best that it can be
When getting a job in games, your portfolio is your best chance of showcasing your personality and skills. It’s essential that your profile is interesting; demonstrating your strongest skills and best work. If you provide potential employers with a portfolio, this allows them to judge where your skills will fit in at their company.
Ask for feedback
Whenever you come to the end of a contract, make sure you get feedback and references for your work. If you’ve done a great job, then future employers need to hear about this.
Definitely an essential for contract work. Employers will expect you to be flexible and responsive in your work. Sometimes you may have to compromise on something, whether it’s the number of hours you set out to work or how you decide to approach a project. Always be open-minded about new ideas and ways of working, as the beauty of contract work is that it’s not forever! Take the chance to dabble in something new and out of your comfort zone.
So contracting can be a perfect way of channelling your skills and passions into a variety of different projects. Whilst it can be daunting to throw yourself into a more unstable position, contract work certainly has its benefits.