While a lot of people who are searching for a career in esports want the security and stability that comes with a full time job, there are several other types of contract and employment situations that professionals find themselves in, either by choice or due to the nature of their work.
Freelancing is a popular employment type in esports, especially in the more seasonal and talent-focused areas of the industry such as broadcasting, production, and even writing. But what is it like to be a freelancer in UK esports, and how can you make a living doing it?
We’ve talked to a number of professionals from several popular sectors who have previously made a living, or still do, by freelancing.
- William Whittingham – Content Coordinator with Hitmarker and Freelance Caster and Host.
- Jacob Hancox – Freelance F1 Caster and Writer.
- Lee Routly – Producer with VERITAS Entertainment (LVL Berlin)
- Natacha Jones – Creative Director with NUEL and Freelance Broadcast Producer.
- Freeman Williams – Creative Content with Excel Esports.
- Dom Sacco – Founder and Editor with Esports News UK and Esports Consultant.
- What is a freelancer?
- How do you find your first opportunity freelancing?
- But what about more formal freelance opportunities?
- Do you have to freelance full-time?
- What about the pay?
- Is there anything I should know before freelancing?
- What are some of the best things about freelancing?
Freelance work is where an individual is self-employed and is contracted by a company (or companies) to carry out work. This allows more autonomy and freedom to choose who you work with and what opportunities you take, but does limit job security and employment benefits you may otherwise gain from working in a full time, permanent position.
In some sectors in esports, freelancing is the norm rather than the exception. “Almost all the roles at esports events are freelance,” explains Tasha Jones, a freelance broadcast producer and observer, who also works as the Head of Creative with NUEL.
“Going into it I knew I would be doing a lot of freelance and contractor work,” Tasha added.
This is true on the other side of the camera as well, mentions Jacob Hancox, a freelance caster and journalist. ‘I didn’t decide to start freelancing per se. With casting, there isn’t really a way to get into it without freelancing at the start at least.’ If you want to work in certain sectors, especially where the work is on a project-by-project basis, then it is likely you will need to freelance initially, if not throughout your career.
If you want to work in certain sectors, especially where the work is on a project-by-project basis, then it is likely you will need to freelance initially, if not throughout your career.How do you find your first opportunity freelancing?
As with many areas in business, having a good network and building relationships is important in freelancing too.
“I had a friend contact me who was working for someone at the time. They enlisted me to write the pages on their website, basically, so things like advice, interviews and features on the area of business they focused on,” says Dom Sacco, a freelancer for the British Esports Association and the full time manager of Esports News UK.
Working on building a network of people passionate about esports, as well as naturally supporting and growing with those around you, can be crucial in getting your foot in the door — especially in contested fields like events and writing.
However, you don’t have to get your first opportunity via a connection, as there are other routes of entry. Freeman ‘FreeMedou’ Williams, a freelance Fortnite content creator with Excel Esports, said: “I found freelance work by essentially cold calling online. I direct messaged loads of esports teams offering my services, and eventually someone was interested!”But what about more formal freelance opportunities?
If speaking to companies informally isn’t your style, there are always more formal positions that you can apply for.
Will Whittingham, currently a full time member of the Hitmarker team and a freelance caster, host, and broadcast observer himself, said: “I found my first freelance opportunity on Hitmarker, and fortunately it was enough to kickstart my career!”
Using platforms like Hitmarker can be an excellent way to apply for opportunities, or even just to see what is available in the freelance esports scene.
Once you’ve found your first opportunity, others often follow — assuming that you’ve proven yourself capable.
‘I found my first freelancing opportunity via Broadcast.gg’s Discord server, however these days all my work comes from Hitmarker, or clients come directly to me,’ explains Lee Routly, a broadcast producer with LVL, in Berlin.
It isn’t always the freelancer doing that outreach for work once they have a good reputation and name within their field.
Tasha added that: “Over the years I’ve built relationships with employers who will bring me back for repeat projects, which is really good for financial stability and for my professional development — it allows me to keep learning and trying new things.”
Building a reputation and proving to companies that you are a competent and dedicated worker can not only get you invited back for similar roles, but can help you grow professionally and find new opportunities through them or their connections.Do you have to freelance full-time?
Freelancing is often considered to be the only type of work you can do when you’re pursuing it, the same way that people often think they can’t take on jobs outside of their full time position.
However, several people we spoke to have found success working freelance alongside their primary jobs, whether that’s in esports or not.
Freeman said: “Time management would be a big one for me, especially if that freelance role is built around a 9/5.I plan each of my days out so I have enough time to tackle everything! You’ll get yourself into a negative spiral if you miss deadlines, workouts, time with friends, etc. It’s definitely made me super efficient with everything I do.”
Dom also mentions, ‘Burnout is a real thing and sometimes you don’t realise you’ve taken too much on until it’s a bit too late and you realise you’re juggling too many things at once!”
Making sure that you plan out your time and manage it efficiently and leave yourself plenty of time for both your regular job and to relax and unwind.
It’s sometimes hard to properly rest when you’re passionate about your work, as most freelancers in esports are, but the rewards for staying rested and comfortable are definitely worth it in the long term!What about the pay?
So, now that you’ve had some insight into where to find your freelance opportunities and how to manage your time, let’s talk about money.
Speaking from experience, Will from Hitmarker says: “The biggest advice I can even give to freelancers is to make sure they have a contract before they do any work for a company. I’ve never had a company refuse payment, but some companies have changed my payment currency and salary after the fact, as well as letting me go from roles for very suspicious reasons, so having the protection of a signed contract is crucial.”
“When you get your agreement it is also important to know how much to charge, and to talk about it with others,” he added.
Tasha advises: “Most freelance/contractor roles are paid ‘day rates’ rather than hourly. This means you’ll get paid a set amount for every full day you work, regardless of hours. If you know the hours are going to be long and the work is going to be hard, make sure your day rate reflects that. If you’re pulling a 12 hour day, £100 is not enough.”
She also stresses the importance of speaking to those around you – “Discuss industry standard rates with others doing similar roles. Reach out to people on Twitter or LinkedIn and find out what the going rate is, if you don’t know anyone in the space. You want to make sure you’re being paid enough for your time and also that you’re not undercutting someone else.”
This is important to consider, as companies often benefit from freelancers either failing to communicate with each other or actively competing based on salary rather than skill. You don’t make any friends by undercutting people in the same area as you, and having a good reputation can be vital in finding opportunities.Is there anything I should know before freelancing?
While there are benefits to freelancing, there are also negatives, from the inconsistency and need to always be searching for the next paycheck to not feeling part of the wider team.
Not feeling like part of the team can also take a toll on freelancers, especially when you work with a company for a significant length of time.
Will told us, “One thing that got to me, and honestly was not something I would have thought was an issue, was not being invited to be part of a team photo for an event. I had worked with the company at that point on and off for nine months, and not being considered part of the team was tough.”
This is something Dom also feels with freelance, adding, “I think the freelance life can get a little lonely at times and of course you don’t have paid leave or anything like that. If you’re ill, that can be difficult as you’ll still have work that needs to get done. I think another disadvantage is how competitive it can be. When you have a full-time job, it’s guaranteed pay each month and you don’t need to worry as much about getting other jobs and when the next pay cheque is coming in.”
Not having a secure salary every month, as well as fewer protections in your role, can make freelancing a tough prospect. It’s not always easy, and understanding that before going into the area is important to make sure you aren’t surprised by these issues if they arise.What are some of the best things about freelancing?
Some of the advice we’ve given here may be putting you off freelancing a little (which is definitely not our intention!), but there are some benefits that make working for yourself an amazing experience!
“The advantages of freelancing are primarily the flexibility afforded by it. It also allows you to pursue multiple different career paths at once if you are still unsure of exactly what you want to do,” says Jacob, and this idea of being able to explore different sectors while being paid to do so is one of the biggest appeals to freelancing.
On a lesser level, it also lets you experience different areas in the same sector, as Lee Routley did in broadcasting. He said: “The advantages I would say, for me, it was a lot of fun to work a number of roles over many events. I got experience with productions from many different roles and I believe it has given me an advantage now that I’m leading productions.”
Freelancing also allows you freedom and flexibility that full time work often doesn’t.
Dom adds: “The advantages are definitely the freedom it brings. You can work on your own terms to an extent, choose the times you’ll be working, take on some extra work if you like, or at other times, take on less work so you can focus on other things in your life, for example if you’re moving house one month and won’t have as much time for work. You don’t typically need to clock in and clock out at a set time, and you’re your own boss to an extent.”
This kind of control over your work schedule is often vital if you’re working on multiple projects or have big real life events to worry about.
Freelancing is an excellent way of earning and learning in esports, while also getting to choose your own jobs and name your own price. It’s not always easy, but we hope that the advice given here can help give some clarity on whether freelancing is for you, and how to get started and thrive.
If you need to find freelance roles in esports or gaming, or to discover the other jobs available in the scene, make sure to check out Hitmarker.net for the latest opportunities and career advice.
Good luck in your job hunt — we’re here to help you every step of the way!