To this point in my career, I've dealt with billing in one of two ways: 1) by the completed minute, which works great for music and full cinematic sound design 2) by the individual sound effect.

With that in mind, I have no idea how to bill for a larger project that will require more than a handful of sounds. Do I count up all the sound effects and bill them by number, or do I take a total time on the effects and bill them that way, or is there a better solution for this?

4 Answers 4


I have done quite a few audio budgets for games and personally prefer offering outsource sound designers a flat fee for X amount of days designing sounds. This is arranged often a few months in advance of them coming on the project. The reason is that my initial budget proposal has to be complete before the game requirements are clear. It also means I can change what the sound designer will be doing during the time they're working with us - and not have to worry about the cost. This is really important for us as we tend to do really rapid development where the game requirements change by the day. So paying a sound designer per sound or per minute isn't really feasable or practicle.

As an example I once employed a designer to initially work on HUD sounds and a some in game stuff, but after about 2 days everything changed and we decided that they ended up doing music for the game instead. Just because the requiements changed.

Btw I have no idea if this is normal practice it is just the way we do it here ;)

  • I don't have a daily rate -- I could caluculate it, sure, but it's not something I can actually deliver working a 9-5 and doing this in my free time. Sep 1, 2010 at 13:27
  • 1
    working on this in your free time would make way of working hard;) Our regular designer actually has a set of rates worked out e.g. a par time, daily, weekly, monthly sound design and a composition rate. He also works for a seperate company that gives him a part time wage per month - for them he just does work on demand - how the hell he has time for it all I have no idea - but he seems to get along.
    – RedSonic01
    Sep 2, 2010 at 6:27

In my experience, it goes one of two ways:

  • Flat-fee for entire project
  • Daily rate

I've not worked for payment by completed minute before, so not sure if that's accepted business practice or not. Are you working in the US? Or for a company that is based overseas?

If it's a large number of deliverables, I would estimate the amount time required to complete the project and then submit that to the employer to be paid out as a flat-fee upon completion. If it's a small amount of stuff, then daily rate may be the way to go.

  • Thanks, Jay. I'm in the US, freelancing after my regular 9-5. It looks like a flat rate may be the way to go. Sep 1, 2010 at 13:28
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    +1 to this advice. The better-defined the scope of work is, the better a flat-fee arrangement is. The more open or loosely-defined the scope is, daily rates can be more flexible and mitigate the risk of scope creep. Sep 1, 2010 at 15:17
  • "scope creep" - nice term :)
    – RedSonic01
    Sep 2, 2010 at 6:30
  • I usually end up working more than expected for flat fee arrangements as many things change on the road. The fee should be calculated including the frequency (quite high) of such things happening. Sep 4, 2015 at 13:50

There is some tremendously detailed information about billing clients in Aaron Marks' "Game Audio". Although his info is centered around the games industry, I'm sure a lot of the information would apply to sound design contracting in general. Here's a link to the book on Amazon, I couldn't recommend it more.


  • I don't know why I didn't even think of looking in there -- it was sitting less than five inches away from me when I asked my question. Now I'm at work, so it'll have to wait. Sep 1, 2010 at 13:26

I'm fairly new to sound designing for games. I bill sound effects on a per-effect basis.


Sound Effects Rate is $8 per sound effect. This is just an example number, but I'll show you how I arrived at it. Let's say it takes on average 15 minutes to create 1 sound effect (some may take 5 minutes, some may take 25 minutes, etc). So that means on average you can create maybe 4 good quality sound effects in 1 hour (that is including sourcing the effect, tracking, editing, mixing, mastering, testing). 4 effects X $8 per effect = $32 per hour. If your hourly rate is around $32 per hour, then $8 per sound effect makes a lot of sense. Now, obviously depending on the level of game, 1 sound effect could take 1 hour or more even, especially if you are helping out in any significant way with implementation/integration.

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