GameDev Thoughts: Why Freelance Contractors Are Crucial For Indie Development Teams

In the game development industry, outsourcing work to freelance contractors is a vital resource that most studios need in order to survive. First off, it saves you a ton of cash, and increases your startup runway. As you start your own studio you want to save as much money as you can in order to produce the best game possible. Unlike having to pay people a regular salary when you are in-between projects, outsourcing lets you called upon said contractors only when you need to and on a case by case basis. It does not only help you save money; it also helps you spend it only when you need to, while also having the appropriate contacts in your back pocket. Outsourcing is just as much about building relationships with contractors as it is about building a profitable business. It’s simple: if you want your company to make money, you are going to need to spend less than you make, and outsourcing affordable help is one way to get you closer to that success.

Of course, if you are unsure of the fate of your company, as most studios are, your whole team can be composed of contractors. That’s much better than numerous layoffs and burnt bridges. Hiring people when you need them keeps people interested in ongoing projects while they are also focused on other things and not depending on you for their welfare. Having these sorts of transient relationships relieves you of an enormous amount of pressure in a multitude of ways. Next, it eases the onboarding process. When building your own studio, time is your most valuable resource. With contracting, you can hire large teams relatively quickly and relatively easily.

Additionally, outsourcing also helps your team concentrate on what’s most important. If there are assignments or tasks that are especially boring or redundant, perhaps you can contract this work out so that your internal team can work on more pressing assignments. After all, if the task is that repetitive, it is usually easy to learn and execute. Your team will also be able to focus on more vital parts of the project that can take your studio to new heights. While you may already have a Project Manager on your team, it would be a good idea to hire one if you will be doing a lot of contract work so that these people can manage and keep in touch with all of your contractors. Perhaps you should even think about only outsourcing a manager when you have an especially high number of contractors. That way they have their work cut out for them and when work is slow you do not have additional members on your team that you do not need.

Keeping your in-house team small will mean less operational costs — a smaller team means that you can work out of your bedroom until the time is ready to potentially scale up. High turnover associated with bigger teams only instills fear and distrust in your team. These things are the bane of great communication and morale. Your in-house team should be able to know their role and how to execute it properly. Having your team size be smaller will create a high sense of morale and make everyone feel responsible for the success of the company. Bigger teams tend to mean more politics. Also, smaller teams tend to have higher productivity levels due to high morale.

You’ll more than likely want to outsource some work to experts in their field. Sometimes the most highly respected freelancers, such as writers or composers, may be located halfway across the country. You’re not going to fly every time you need to contact them just to arrange a meeting. When you outsource, you are not controlled by location or time. The best freelancers may not be interested in moving, or even finding another job. Working as a contractor gives them flexibility to work on side projects while maintain their primary employment and it gives you flexibility in not only being to afford their services, but being able to call upon them when you need them.

In the world of game production things are always changing. For example, you may not need that PR manager, because, unfortunately, you may not be able to afford them. If they were an in-house employee, that would mean you would have to layoff that employee, which can be quite difficult. By being able to outsource, it gives you and the contractors a flexible relationship. While it may seem that outsourcing is putting a lot of people out of work, it is also giving as much as it takes. Think of all the people who work additional jobs that they would not be able to work if they were not a contractor. Contractors and employers have a unique relationship that is mutually beneficial. It is this relationship that allows for game studios in a free-market economy to prosper.

Important Takeaways: Outsourcing work to freelance contractors is important. First, it saves you money, and obviously that’s critical for a business that’s right around the profit margin. Next, the onboarding process will be eased, as you don’t have to go through the months of searching and hiring employees and can jump straight into development. Additionally, outsourcing allows your team to focus on the important parts of development since you can delegate less important or repetitive tasks to a contractor. Next, problems associated with bigger teams won’t trouble you, since you can keep your in-house team small. Finally, you can outsource to experts and accommodate them into your schedule without worrying about specific locations or times. Since the world of game production is always changing, you may not always need every team member. If they were an in-house employee, they’d have to be laid off and that isn’t fun for either party. If they were a contractor, the relationship is more flexible and this situation isn’t as stressful.