Can I Freelance while Pursuing my Game Design Degree?

Depending on your current skills and area of expertise in game design, you can choose from many types of freelance work while completing a game design degree. The most abundant types of freelance jobs are only loosely related to game design, but if you don’t mind venturing out of your normal routine, you can start freelancing right away. Once you build up a substantial list of clientele, you can begin adding more game-related work to your portfolio.

A sizable portion of 3-D artists and programmers do freelance game design work, typically for small projects targeting mobile and Web platforms. If you have 3-D art skills, you can expand your job search to include companies who need 3-D movies for websites, advertising or tech conventions. However, 3-D art and animation work can be hard to come by, and many experienced artists have already established themselves in this field. Your job search is much easier if you have mobile and Web programming skills, specifically iOS, Android, HTML, JavaScript, Java, Python, PHP and Ruby. With the exception of HTML and JavaScript, knowledge of any one of these frameworks makes learning the others relatively easy.

How to Find Freelance Game Design Work

If you’re only interested in freelance work specifically related to game design, you can build up your portfolio slowly by picking up mobile game design jobs on sites such as Elance and oDesk. You can get experience much more quickly if you volunteer your skills on projects with several other students who agree to share any profits and credit for the finished work. To find projects like these, search on game design forums such as Unity3D, Epic Games or Unreal. Another place to look is the question and answer site GameDev.StackExchange. Your prospects are much better if you have 3-D programming skills, such as knowledge of OpenGL and the college-level linear algebra that goes with it.

If your goal is simply to make extra money, you may want to consider other types of freelance work while completing a game design degree. The most prevalent freelance work requiring game design skills is in Web design and development. Most websites don’t require 3-D art or programming, but you can always find HTML, JavaScript, PHP, Python and Ruby programming jobs. If you’re familiar with the iOS SDK and Cocoa Touch, you can find quite a few iOS programming jobs, although Android programming jobs are usually less abundant.

How Much Do Freelance Game Design Jobs Pay?

While pursuing your degree, don’t expect to make as much as a freelancer with years of experience, but usually these jobs pay between $10 and $40 per hour. Your first few jobs will pay at the lower end of the range, but as you gain a reputation and track record, you can take on higher-paying, more challenging jobs. As you bid on contracts, keep in mind if and how you can use the finished work in your portfolio. Freelance jobs that require more experience and expertise can pay much more than $40 per hour. Once established, your goal should be about $1,000 to $1,500 per contract.

The game design industry is growing very quickly, driven mostly by an exploding mobile device market. To use your time as effectively as possible, advertise your skills on job sites to find freelance work while completing a game design degree.