How to Become a Freelancer in Esports

As an esports freelancer and esports consultant, I know exactly the process you have to go through to do freelance work in the esports industry.

How do you become a freelancer in esports? To become an esports freelancer, you must have a set of skills or knowledge that companies desire to outsource, advertise your services to companies and negotiate your signed contract.

In this article, I will go over those 3 steps in detail. Also, I will share my experiences of how I came to the position where I could do freelance and consulting work myself. This will provide some real-life examples of this methodology working and what it really takes.

Let’s get you started working in the esports industry!

Being Valuable in the Marketplace

Before you can even consider becoming a freelancer, you need to have a set of skills or knowledge in a subject matter that is worth contracting in the first place.

Through this entire article, as I will walk you through it, you must think about this from the eyes of an employer.

Learning a Valuable Skill or Set of Skills

You may wonder what is a valuable skill that an employer is looking to contract.

Above are all different career positions in esports. Getting skills for any of these will be very beneficial! Credit to Nico Besombes.

In our gig economy, it’s becoming more and more common for companies to hire fewer employees and more contract work due to the freedom it provides the workers and reduces the burden on a company.

Instead of having a guaranteed payment of 40 hours a week (plus benefits), even during non-peak seasons where you may not be working on things as important, a company can just pay you for the 120 hours you need to spend on a project over 3 months and hire you again when another project of a similar nature comes up.

Therefore, arguably skills that a company would normally hire could also work well as a valuable skill for freelance.

But we always want to max our ability to become more desirable for contract work and increase the ROI we provide to the company (resulting in a larger cheque for us).

In my experience, at this current stage of the esports industry (that I see persisting until at least 2025 where it’ll likely die down), companies are hiring esports consultants and professionals specifically because of the fact that they don’t understand esports.

Remember, many of these c-suite employees are of an older demographic, they likely see their children playing these games and hear about Fortnite in the news, but they may be ignorant of esports as a whole or how it specifically works.

I’m a major advocate of the Pareto Principle, 80% of the valuable and marketable information you need about esports comes from learning at least 20% of the industry.

My favorite way to learn about esports is through books and business podcasts (find ones that talk about the business of esports, not drama or the status of various esports tournaments). Luckily for you, the resources page on this site has all of my recommended books and podcasts.

I don’t care too much if you listen to the podcasts (those are more of the general 80% of the info that results in 20% of value), but the books are a must if you are new to esports. If you aren’t a reader, just get the audiobook and go for a walk (my strategy).

These 2 books are honestly all you need to have a great baseline understanding of esports business:

*Note, the hyperlinks above are Amazon affiliate links that generate my company a bit of revenue per sale. Purchases using those links are very appreciated as it allows me to create more transparent content like this that you wouldn’t find other business professionals providing elsewhere!

Both books aren’t overly technical and are pretty fun reads, I’d start off with Good Luck Have Fun first as a great intro. Once you get through those books, I recommend then you continuously learn via podcasts (I got a list on the resources page for podcasts).

Therefore, understanding and being able to communicate the functionality of esports (especially the growth rate, demographic and market share to close the deal, more details below) will give you a competitive advantage when contracting for a more general-purpose job (example would be a graphic designer for a new line of esports-branded drinks).

Other skills that are specific to esports that specifically esports organizations are looking for are things such as tournament organization, bracket manager, esports team manager, esports team coach, esports commentator, esports team analyst, etc. Those specifically will align you to work for an organization that is endemic in esports.

My approach to freelance work is to handle all things they want to do esports. This allows me to provide more value to the company, becoming more valuable as an individual and generate more money with less effort (if I could work 80 hours from 1 client or 20 hours for 4 clients, that results in more work in communication, acquiring and retaining clients). Some of the services I provide (not exclusively) are building communications strategy, building out the plan, gathering influencer marketing, sponsorships, execution, etc.

Obviously I would rely a fair bit on outsourcing and sub-contracting parties to assist in things I’m less proficient in, but bringing in my contacts for the jobs and managing it all further speak to the value I bring to the company.

Regardless of what your skill is, having something employers actually want but don’t want to hire for it (again, gig economy so progressively more and more normal jobs are becoming contracted), you want to build yourself around that.

Building a Portfolio of Experience

Now that you have at least 1 skill that you hopefully have some form of mastery over, you will need to be able to communicate your mastery and competency to prospective employers.

The best way to do this is by building a portfolio. Portfolios in the freelance world nowadays are typically on a website displaying and/or communicating the work that you’ve done in the past. That said, I know some colleagues that get by just as well from using social media as their portfolio (Twitter and Instagram specifically).

LinkedIn works very well too, especially if you are doing outbound marketing on LinkedIn. More about the usage of LinkedIn in the outbound marketing section.

The question is now what work to put into your portfolio. Well, if you don’t have experience, you will have to get some.

Esports is notorious for free/volunteer work getting done and the barrier of entry into that free work is…. well, nothing.

You will need to find volunteer positions to start building your portfolio and get some really good work done to showcase.

For example, you could volunteer for an esports community and be their graphic designer. Using those graphics, you can display them on your website.

Or, you could be a team manager for a grassroots tier 3 esports team. You could create a timeline of your professional experience (in reverse chronological order) on your website and write about the work you did and the accomplishments the team had. Throw some pictures in there as well and boom you are filling in your portfolio.

The nice thing about getting baseline experience is that you can scale that up. Once you get some grassroots experience, you can get an internship. For me, it was 4 months running esports tournaments before interning for the High School Esports League.

The nice thing about some internships is that you could also get into them without experience, but trust me that experience of even 2-4 months will give you a much better leg in the vetting process.

My Experience Before Freelancing

To give you an idea of all my experience before freelancing, I’ve founded and became the president of 3 esports clubs (2 in high school and 1 in college), interned at the High School Esports League, interned for Lazarus Esports, was the esports content expert (volunteer) for Games for Love, rented and hosted an 8-hour event in downtown Toronto, hosted a multitude of college, high school and online esports tournaments and volunteered with SKL Esports during the SKL Canadian League of Legends Nationals.

That was a lot of experience, about 4 year’s worth, and you don’t need that much honestly, you can easily get by with much less.

It all comes down to building some baseline and actually reaching prospective clients with the opportunities you can provide them.

That’s a perfect segway to the 2nd last step.

Reaching Your Prospective Clients

So far, the path should have been fairly simple. This step, however, is the most work and requires a lot of tact that you may not be familiar with.

Your biggest asset for this section will be to learn sales skills. Obviously, I’ll go into some of the skills and tactics I’ve successfully used.

That said, as you can tell, I’m a nonfiction book fanatic. You don’t have to read sales books, but they will get you to where you want to go faster (and I’m not just saying that to sell you some books, although any revenue that my company can make helps me keep this afloat 😊).

Here are my top sales books recommendations:

  • How to Win Friends & Influence People (US linkCAN link)
  • Fanatical Prospecting: The Ultimate Guide for Starting Sales Conversations and Filling the Pipeline by Leveraging Social Selling, Telephone, E-Mail, and Cold Calling (US linkCAN link)

*Note, the hyperlinks above are Amazon affiliate links that generate my company a bit of revenue per sale. Purchases using those links are very appreciated as it allows me to create more transparent content like this that you wouldn’t find other business professionals providing elsewhere!

Again, not a requirement, but it will really help change your perspective on sales and selling yourself. With that said, let’s dive into the tips I can provide you.

Inbound Marketing vs Outbound Marketing

You got a message. You are the message. And for this message to be heard (in your case, your ability to do quality work and your desire to be hired), you must have some means of it reaching them.

That’s where the question of inbound vs outbound marketing comes into play.

Inbound marketing is marketing where your prospective clients come to you for your services.

For example, this blog brought you (the reader) to my website. By reading these articles, you know I have the skills corresponding to the content. I can setup a popup asking people to schedule a 30 min discovery call with me to see if there is anything I can help with. I have gotten some clients from this website, even though I don’t even advertise it anywhere.

Some additional forms of inbound marketing is a well-positioned Twitter account (or any social media account), word-of-mouth marketing, ebooks, webinars and SEO positioned sites (beyond but not exclusive of articles and content like this one).

Outbound marketing is marketing where you go to your prospective clients and talk about your services.

That’s where most of my clients have come from. I’d go on LinkedIn and send out emails to business managers who seem like their current business could benefit from my services. I specifically reached out to city governments, cultural organizations, nonprofits and educational institutions.

Some more examples of outbound marketing are Facebook posts in specific Facebook groups, cold calling, advertisements and automated emails.

You can do both methods as I did, but ideally you want to focus on 1 (in my case, it was outbound). There are two main pros and cons to each, which I will display in the table below.

Pros Cons
Inbound Marketing ● Passive form of marketing, an initial investment will continue to yield you prospective clients long term
● Can be used for multiple revenue-generating purposes beyond freelance work
● 
Great scalability; as once you find a method that works you can continuously recycle it and build off it
● Better ability to negotiate your pricing as the employer is coming to you instead of you going to them
● Extremely slow process; requires building traffic before any chance of locking down a client
● Massively delayed feedback, you won’t know if your efforts are resulting in your target demographic or if they will gain any traffic until several months of effort
● High chance of investing a lot of time and garnering no success
● Has an overall lower conversion from traffic to clients than outbound (but makes up with much easier to acquire traffic)
Outbound Marketing ● Instant results; get earliest clients relatively quickly instead of waiting for months or years such as with inbound
● Instant feedback; quickly learn which approaches work and don’t work
● 
Great short term way to generate money when looking for part-time work
● Great scalability with more employees and more messages (can also be automated with bots)
● For each new prospective client, you have to spend time to research and communicate with clients who will mostly have low interest
● You are required to do a lot more research, planning and selling during discovery calls than with inbound marketing
● The conversion declines with poorly created or automated messages

To put it shortly, outbound is great short-term and can be scaled up in a relatively safe reliable fashion. Inbound has a significantly greater ROI if successful but has a large chance of failure and requires a lot of initial free work before even knowing if you were successful or not.

I’m not doing consulting work currently as I am currently at the time of this writing undergoing a business reposition away from B2B and consulting.

That said, I may re-enter the consulting space in the future and as a result, I significantly prefer inbound marketing to have that flexibility.

If you need the bills paid now or very soon, go outbound. If you already have other sources of income, or willing to take a risk and want a much larger ROTI (return-on-time-invested), go the inbound route.

Pitching Your Services as an Opportunity for the Employer

This is something I learned from my very successful mentor and it has worked very well for me.

When you are having a conversation with an employer to pitch your services, don’t communicate it like you want them to pay you for your services.

Instead, sell them on the opportunities present for them that they can reap.

For example, if I was a tournament organizer, I’m not going to sell them on my skills as a TO. Instead, I will sell them on the opportunities open to them from how their product launch of ABC coming out in 6 months will benefit from the eyeballs and traffic from a tournament with their branding on it to increase sales and increase their heavy consumers.

You need to sell them on the opportunity, not on what you do. There is a great book on the subject called “Start With Why” by Simon Sinek, and he also has a great Ted Talk on it (linked below).

Closing the Deal

Now to our final step, closing the deal. When I say closing the deal, I mean all the work that comes after the discovery call.

I won’t discuss in detail what to do if they’ve shown interest but aren’t fully at a close yet. I could write an entire article on the subject matter (and if that’s something that interests you, let me know via email).

I will give a few quick tips on what to do:

  • Even before we go there, if they are already thinking about next steps such as how they’ll afford it, looking at their schedule to understand timing or are seeing how their employee schedules may need to shift for this idea, you’ve already sold them on the idea and you just need to hold your ground
  • Adjusting the price is also not a bad idea, but you can’t undercut yourself too much. As we will discuss below, future deals will be predicated on your initial negotiated rate
  • Further selling them on the opportunity and doing a bit of free work (without mentioning you are doing free work) to provide them additional insights, connections, features or revenue sources that will further entice them on buying in (note that any of the additional legwork may be useless as you may still lose the client, but it works exceptionally well if you are willing to take the risk. It can, however, be recycled for a new client in a similar business model if this client falls through)

Undercut Yourself Short Term for Long Term Relationships

This subtitle speaks for itself, you want to really do a great job for them. You want to undersell yourself (but not too much where you can’t get the client) and really show them your value.

This may also mean taking a lower pay but slightly increasing it after you’ve built a relationship and really built out work that shows them that you are a freelancer they want to keep long-term. This is a great way to get your foot in the door than have more negotiating power in the future.

You may also undercut yourself starting off just because you are starting off. From there, if you do great work, they may start telling their fellow business owners and connections about you when those businesses need some work done (word-of-mouth marketing).

You will also want to gather whatever testimonials you can get when you start off to give you more authority in future negotiations and better aid to selling yourself in the future. To get some really strong testimonials, you need to do a great job for them to want to spend the time writing it out.

Not the best examples, but this is 1 example (I have many more) of an authentic person who was so satisfied with the tournaments hosted by my team and I that he went out of his way to thank me. These types of testimonials from the consumers of your services are just as helpful as from established businesses. Just think, if I asked this person to write 3 sentences for me to promote my website, they’d do it in a heartbeat. (I have permission to display these private messages from the senders)

Negotiating Your Contract

I won’t go too much in-depth here but there are things you want to be aware of with your contract that I wasn’t when I started off.

Firstly you’d want to specify a currency, especially if you are doing international work (as I did). If you are going to charge tax, be sure to include that into the contract agreement and specify which country’s tax laws apply (in Canada it’s 13% sales tax, which was almost always higher than anywhere else I’ve worked).

Make sure you keep liabilities off you, especially if you are operating this as a sole proprietorship instead of an LLC (I’d recommend always going LLC, but if you are Canadian like me, you don’t even have that option).

Regardless of which form of business you are registered as, if any, you still want to ensure any unintentional damages you cause to the business don’t cost you money.

That’s a very easy way to go bankrupt is to have to pay for damages you’ve caused in sales or IP for a multi-million company when you are making like 30-50k a year.

Make sure your work is clearly defined and the timeline for your work is also clearly defined. If timelines need to be extended, that has to be a mutual conversation and changes must be signed off on (make sure the contract explicitly states that it must be signed off agreed changes. Don’t allow word-of-mouth changes as that results in conflicts).

As a certified project manager, believe me that scope creep comes at you in directions you won’t realize.

Lastly, I’d take an initial deposit and also set a deadline for when the final payment will be made. Avoid agreeing to things like “paid 1 week after the client deems the work is finished” because you may end up in a never-ending loop of “the work isn’t finished” (relating to the point above).

Conclusion

Depending on where you live, freelancing may be your only current path into esports. Regardless, learning how to gain freelance projects in this economy is going to give you a lot of leverage and really increase your career when you decide.

You don’t have to worry about being unemployed at your other full-time job if you know you can always do some part-time consulting to get by.

Freelance work isn’t exceptionally hard to get, at the end of the day it’s having something others want and selling it to them.

You will need to practice but once you get the hang of it, you’ll find that it’s easier than you ever thought. That said, if you ever need help or advice, feel free to shoot me an email at uzair.hasan@esporthow.com.

Best of luck and happy hunting!