Game Dev Freelancing Traps

Like myself, a lot of indie developers venture into freelancing to support themselves between projects or to finance their current game. It can be a learning experience to get into a lot of different projects in a short period of time but, the truth is, you can never be 100% sure what type of people you’ll be working with. You’ll meet great people for sure, but, sometimes also not so great. Are they scammers just trying to get your work for free? Do they even understand the process of making a game? The prospect of losing days, weeks or months working on stuff that falls through is a very real one. Even wasting time writing a proposal that goes nowhere can be demotivating when you could be working on something else (your own projects for example!).



Any freelancer needs to be able to sift through the plethora of jobs proposals out there. Below I’m sharing a list of 12 red flags to watch for. The more of these you see into the job proposal/contractor, the larger the sign you should stay away from them. You’ll still miss a few here or there, but this gives you a baseline of bad contractor characteristics.



1) They (the contractor) are bad at communicating. Often very, very informal or very poor English (or whatever language). Surely the environment for game developing (specially in the smaller spaces) can be informal but anyone that is serious about hiring someone should be able to have ability to communicate in a professional way.



2) They have a hard time showing anything regarding their project. This often happens when they don’t know how to structure the ideas they are having. Sometimes this can also happen when they have the “million dollar idea” and therefore can’t have anyone “stealing” their stuff. It is fine to sign an NDA, but you’ll need a minimum of information to even give out a quote on any project or even to see if you are interested/able to work on it.



3) They have wild expectations of time for projects or how far a team can be stretched. This often happens when it is the contractor’s first project and they are not fully aware of the workflow that goes into making a game. They expect short deadlines and, of course, accompanying that, very low value for your work.


4) They don’t like to talk about payment or the payment form is very convoluted. Do you really want to get paid in Robux, Amazon Gift Cards or some crypto currency you’ve never heard of? 


5) They are complete strangers that want you to work for free or are expecting funds to come from something that they
know 1000% will come through later ( it won’t).
So many people want someone else to execute their ideas for a promise of later payment. They have very little explanation of what they bring to the table or structure to their plans. Because you don’t know the person, you don’t even know if they are the type of people that will be committed enough to pull through and you might be left hanging with half a game after putting in a lot of work.

Another common trap is the expectation of funds from various sources. Work now, we’ll pay you (an unspecified amount) later. There is no way anyone can 100% guarantee funding, regardless of where they are considering drawing it from. Do you want to volunteer for a project you really care for? That is great! But from the start have the mindset that most of these projects will never see the light of day or make profit to share.


6) They have hard time explaining what they want or the project has no focus. The less clear plans the contractor has, the more chance they might be figuring out latter that the project is not what they where expecting and therefore, just dropping it entirely.


7) They are rude or belittle you. No excuse for that! If they are rude at the start, what are the chances they’ll be better after they are paying you? Very small. 

Please consider that sometimes different cultures communicate differently, and somethings might not be necessarily perceived as unpolite. This one is hard to figure out, so let some leeway if there is a language/cultural distance between you two.


8) It is too good to be true (make of that what you will).


9) They have NFT or Crypto in their profiles. Sorry for generalizing but it is often the case that these projects feel very shady.


10) They have absolutely no internet presence. This is not necessarily bad, but the more points of reference you have for a potential contractor the better, specially if they are trying to make something big.


11) They want to make an MMO and it is their first game. Again, sorry for generalizing, but the scope for these types of games often escape the grasp of people. Sure, they are great, but they are often a massive undertaking that shouldn’t be taken lightly.



12) They want to make a game because a super popular game was released in the same genre in the last weeks. (they
played that and are super excited about it but didn’t really thought it through).


Again, you can find great people that fall into one or two of these characteristics, but the more of these you see, the more you should be aware that it might not be a good fit for your time. Stay safe!