There's a load of technically talented individuals coming up through grassroots esports right now. With the COVID impacted year we've just had, the industry has a higher than ever proportion of freelancers/contractors compared to full time permanent staff, not uncommon to other entertainment and event industries.
And while these individuals have taught themselves well and gained experience in the practical part of their roles, whether that's production, league operations or commentating, sometimes the basic business skills that would have been picked up through other employment are missing.
As somebody who often commissions freelancers for a range of projects (albeit significantly reduced in 2020), I thought it would be useful to set out what I hope to see when dealing with freelance staff as some practical advice which will hopefully increase at least one person's chances of being picked up for work or being retained longer term.
Now i'll admit, like most operators, there will be a pool of people who we regularly work with who are often the first choice for projects that do come in, they're people I know and trust from previous work and quite simply it's quicker for me to make arrangements with them.
But when a project lands where we don't have people to hand who are available or with the right skillset, e.g. a game title we haven't worked with before, I'll make a public call for people to get involved, usually on LinkedIn, Discord or Twitter. Depending on the role, I may get hundreds of replies, especially when I'm looking for talent, here's how to increase your chances of getting noticed positively by me, and I suspect the same will apply to others in similar positions:
- READ THE BRIEF - I can't stress this enough. If I'm looking for a UK-based Valorant Host, for example, and you reply as a Rocket League Commentator from the US, you're just going to annoy me and waste my time. You probably weren't going to get this gig anyway, but I'm going to remember you as the person that didn't read the brief, you've set our initial expectations now.
- Reply with at least the information required - If I'm getting hundreds of replies, I'm not going to keep coming back to you for more information that I've asked for in the brief in the first place.
- Put some effort in - Treat it like a job application. A one liner "I can do it" isn't going to make you stand above the rest. It doesn't hurt to run it through a spellchecker either, especially seeing as most browsers will do it for you now anyway.
- Check your availability first - If I've given the dates, the first thing you should do is check you're available, the dates probably can't move around your availability, it will have lots of moving parts.
- Reply using the method I've asked you use - If I say "please email me at..." then email me the details, that's the system I'll be using to compile the applications. If you send it all over Discord/Facebook/Twitter/MSN/IRC/ICQ, I'm not going to keep track of it. This also tells me a lot about your work ethic if you follow these instructions properly.
- Have a CV/showreel ready to go, regardless of the type of work you're applying for. But make sure what you've included on here is real and not exaggerated, it's a small industry, if you claim you've worked on a project and you haven't, you'll get found out.
- Make sure you've worked out your week/day/hourly rate so you can provide it when asked. Once you've given that price, you should honour that UNLESS the brief changes (remember that can change up or down). At this point, it is a negotiation but if you keep bumping your price up because you went in with the wrong price in the first place, you're going to appear to be unprofessional and again that gives me a hint as to how you'll be to work with further down the line, I'm not going to trust you.
- Accept that there's a budget. This does not mean to devalue your own worth, you will know what level you are working at and sometimes a project may be too small for you and the work will have to go to someone else. A T3 event isn't going to be able to afford T1 talent, no matter how hard you push.
- Don't undercut people just to win the work. Obviously if I'm commissioning a project, I want to deliver the best value for money to the client, but at the same time undercutting for the sake of it just damages the whole industry and creates difficult expectations for the future and will again make you appear untrustworthy. Undercutting can take the form of offering a lower day rate, but also can involve you offering to do the job of 4 people on your own. You may need those 3 colleagues in the future that you've just cut out of a project.
- If you're lucky enough to have an agent, then absolutely fine to hand off to them, but tell me you're doing that first so I don't get contacted out of the blue and know they have your authorisation to discuss the project.
You've submitted your reply, in the right format above, now it's time to wait. But the process is not over:
- Be Patient - I don't mind people asking when decisions will be made and for an idea of when you may hear back, that's perfectly reasonable. Chasing me down on every instant messaging platform for an answer on a Sunday night isn't, if you were in the running for the work, you probably won't be if you keep doing that.
- Do not, and I cannot emphasise this enough, get your entourage to start spamming me saying you should get the work because you're better than everyone else. That includes asking your mum, uncle, cousin, girlfriend or 5-person private Discord server to Tweet me.
- If you aren't successful, take it graciously and don't burn any bridges. By all means ask for brief feedback about the decision so you can look at whether it was your pitch, price, experience, but if you didn't get the work, taking fire at us or the brand on social media is not going to help your future reputation.
- Don't go above my head if you didn't get the work. If you start approaching our client or the brands/sponsors involved because you didn't get selected to work on the project, you're the one that's going to look silly in the long term.
Hopefully you've landed the work and it's time to start locking in the details and getting a contract in place, don't disappear and go radio silent as soon as you've got the confirmation. We'll cover the contract stage in a future article.
Fingers crossed that helps at least someone with the first steps and of course, do reach out if this whole process is something we can help with.
Meanwhile, have a great Christmas!