This could be in the form of a game composer, but equally it could be an artist, 3D modeller or someone to help with any other aspect of your game.
How to tell when you need help is the subject of a future article, but assuming you know you do, how do you make sure you hire the right person and are not let down?
I hope to show you through the principles of hiring a game composer, that the same thinking can be applied to hiring any freelancer for your game.
Where To Start When Outsourcing Your Game Development?
I’m going to mainly be concentrating on hiring a freelancer directly. There is enough help on sites like e-lance, o-desk and the like that you don’t really need me to tell you how to use those sites.
But if you are planning on using a freelancer who has either approached you or you’ve found yourself, what kind of verification process should you use?
Do They Have The Chops?
Firstly, look at their website, read some of their articles and generally check them out online. Do they know what they are talking about? Have they the knowledge and skills you require and can they show examples of their work? If not, move on.
Secondly, have they got testimonials on their site showing positive comments from past clients, even if it’s just one or two? If not, why not?
It could be that they are just starting out or that they just haven’t bothered to put testimonials up on their site because they are swamped with work anyway, but even this tells you something about them, or the way they see their business.
Take Things Slowly
Assuming they pass the above online snooping tests, initially just contact them. This could be via e-mail or indeed they may have a specific process for new clients you’ll need to go through.
I’ve written about exactly how to work with a game composer before, so I won’t go into details, but having an initial conversation or ideally a few, is the next stage in the relationship.
You don’t have to have to send them an actual brief, or discuss money etc, but just e-mailing them a few times gives you a good taste of things to come.
You can just introduce yourself, mention the project you are working on and see if they have any interest in it.
How long they take to get back to you, the tone they take, the process they want to take you through etc will give you a very good indication of how professional/reliable they are.
For example, I like to encourage game devs to download and read my Getting Started PDF available at the bottom of my portfolio page. This goes into more detail about me and what I do and is a good starting place for anyone considering working with me.
Exchange a few e-mails for a few days, and send them at different times of the day and night. Do they reply on Sundays, at night, or… ever? Most good freelancers will reply to an initial request within 24 or 48 hours.
As mentioned, the tone of the reply is also important. If they reply with ‘Hey man, I could help. I’m $150 an hour, cool?’ they probably aren’t the professional, reliable freelancer you are after.
If on the other hand they express thanks and interest in you reaching out, and are mainly interested in finding out more about you and your project before laying a price tag on their work, things could start on a much better footing.
Before I ever talk about specifics or money of a job, I want to know much more about the game and the game developer. To just jump in and pitch a price without knowing full details about the project is frankly not very clever or beneficial to anyone.
Start With Small Wins
The next stage I would say is to start small. Can they do a demo of what you need initially, so you can see if they can provide what you want?
Most game composers will provide at least an initial demo of what they have in mind for your game, and I’m sure artists and other freelancers will do the same.
It could be that initially you just need help with one main music theme for your game for example. Letting them create this for you and seeing how that goes is a sure fire way to test the water with a composer. If things go well, perhaps you’ll give them the whole soundtrack next time.
Do What You Say You Will Do
This is where it comes down to you as the game developer. You can’t expect to be treated honestly, respectfully and professionally by a freelancer if you don’t show them the same courtesy.
Get back to them promptly, supply screenshots when asked, give constructive feedback and most importantly, pay them when you say you will.
If they can rely on you, you are far more likely to get treated with the same respect in return.
Surely This Is All Common sense?
It may sound like common sense to do a lot of what I’ve discussed here, and you’d be right.
But I’ve heard too many stories of composers being brought on board to produce a whole game soundtrack, only to crumble under the pressure, not be competent enough to complete the task or just disappear completely.
Unfortunately, ‘just disappearing’ seems to be the online way of avoiding difficult conversations these days, so you do need to be careful about that one.
Doing the right online research initially, taking things slowly and the small win testing I mention above should give you a safer indication of who you’re dealing with.
Then, hopefully dramatic disappearing acts will not happen!
(Photo: David Copperfield Poster)