I've enjoyed recording samples and playing with audio as a hobby for quite a while now. Recently I purchased a zoom h2 and the quality of the recordings are just great. What I'm curious about, is how to get my foot in the door for making money with sound design / field recordings?

I don't mean on the scale of making a career out of sound design, but how can someone get started with making money on the side -- turning a hobby into something slightly economical. What avenues of income exist? Where / who do you sell your services to? Etc.

Edit: Some great suggestions on sampling / letting the files sit there for passive income (soundsnap / audio jungle / etc). Is there any notion similar to contract work for web / code design? Sites like FossFactory allow bounties to be placed on programming requests. Do any sites host requests for sample packs?

  • 1
    Bear in mind a Zoom H2 is a basic entry level recorder
    – user49
    Commented Dec 1, 2011 at 19:30

12 Answers 12


SD is a career path and you can start small and take it very far, provided you have incredible amounts of patience and time to devote. it's as tough as any other specialised field, but also because it requires a lot of creativity and ability to interpret others' information and come up with ideas out of thin air for things that don't necessarily exist.

One field that has become (I think) more accessible is game sound for devices such as iphone/ipodtouch where you can work with an independent developer who may also do this on the side. game sound is as much about creativity as it is about sheer hacking and maximising what little you have of your allocated resource.

Pre-recorded sfx libraries are something you might try and put out, but this field too is getting saturated.

There was at some point a post-production job-bidding website. I can't remember the name, but I don't think it took off… not hard to see why.

I think that in general you should rule out passive income.

  • 1
    Ha! Agreed. I think that "passive income" only really makes money for people selling "Guides to Getting Rich with Passive Income!" Work hard. Actively. That's a nice reminder for myself.
    – MtL
    Commented Mar 3, 2010 at 15:08

Another site in which you can put your sounds and get paid through PayPal: SoundBoard.

I didn't see it mentioned on the post. Thought it could be of some use.


You could always make a sound library and sell it. Personally I'm getting a bit sick of the Sound Ideas and Hollywood Edge libraries, as versatile and massive as they are.

  • Is there a market for doing freelance recordings, and releasing the samples for free after the contract runs it's course? (via freesound.org for example) Or is the only approach to offer sound packs and hope people bite?
    – haz
    Commented Mar 2, 2010 at 16:44
  • I'm not sure what you mean. Freesound lets you use whatever as long as you give credit, right? I meant releasing a small (or large) pack of sounds you've organized, tagged, etc. for people. Once they buy it, it's royalty free. Did I answer the question? Feel free to elaborate. Commented Mar 3, 2010 at 5:18
  • I think what Mr. Loveall (people naemd Edward have AWESOME last names) is referring to is something like what the gentleman with quite possibly the most well groomed goatee in the sound design community, Mr. Ric Viers does. He runs 'The Chop Shop', in Detroit. Him and his lackeys record everything. Everything, if it makes noise, they'll slap a mic to, on, or near it. Him and his Chop Shop then release all of these recordings via Mr. Viers company, BlastWaveFX; blastwavefx.com If you can get the gear, and the motivation to record that much, it is an awesome way to make a living. Commented Mar 3, 2010 at 12:23
  • I guess I differ in the sense that I don't necessarily need to (or want to) make a living with sound design -- just make /some/ money (eg. enough for new mics, software, etc). My ideal situation would be commission / contract work to have sounds recorded and released on my own terms. So client X asks for seagull sounds, and offers $$ to have them recorded and put on Freesound for everyone to have access to it. Sound design (for me) is a hobby. I'm just looking for a means to finance the hobby -- not the career.
    – haz
    Commented Mar 5, 2010 at 19:27
  • That scenario is very unlikely. When you're hired as a freelance recordist, it's a 'work for hire.' The rights to your recording belong to the person/group/company that hired you.
    – user111
    Commented Mar 9, 2010 at 18:10

Another way is to make your own sound fx website and distribute your content there. But, if you want to do that and have success you need to get a lot of high quality on your samples to sell them well.

There are also services such as http://www.soundsnap.com/ where you can upload your sound effects and they sell them on the website.

If your goal is to offer services of sound design for visual media, you need to read and practice a lot first. Then you could have stronger skills.


Audio Jungle is another stock sound effect site. (Much like iStockPhoto, but for audio clips.)

Content creators can upload their own sound effects. People can browse the database and purchase single clips as microtransactions. A percentage goes to the creator. The rest goes to the stock site.

I have no personal experience of this service. Just thought I'd point it out. Passive income is a delicious idea, but... I'm not sure what the success rate is really like. *SOMEBODY'*s gotta be making money off this. Likely the first fish in the pond.


I'd take a good look at the policy of audiojungle and the likes. See what the best selling sound designer is making. Than calculate how much goes to the website etc.

You might wanna consider releasing some sample packs for free under a creative commons license. If its any good it will get picked up by blogs etc, generating traffic to your site. From there on you can try and monetize your "even better" sounding sample collection.

Whatever you choose to do, i hope it works out! (would be interesting to see some results if you choose to upload stuff to audiojungle or soundsnap)


you can definitely pay some bills by distributing quality sfx online, though it takes a good amount of sfx to make it worth while. I made about 4,000 and they sell multiple times daily through about 8 different online sound sites

though its competitive and yes, saturated, so you want to try and create new sfx that aren't redundant (ie no more dog barking sounds :)

ringtones, too, is a massive industry with millions of monthly sales worldwide, plus they're an awful lot of fun to make

if you ever do build up a sound catalog, hit me up and you're welcome to distribute them through my site SFXsource Sound FX Library

  • I'd be interested in your list of 8 -- if that's not a trade secret that is ;). I'll definitely forward some samples your way once I get some recording time.
    – haz
    Commented Mar 10, 2010 at 14:11
  • i´d like to know yours 8 site list, where you show/sell your work. and of course, i´m visiting your site right now! thank´s!
    – user129
    Commented Mar 11, 2010 at 13:31
  • a few of them are audiosparx.com, shockwave-sound.com, sounddogs.com, sound-effect.com, tradebit.com, and sound-effects-library.com
    – AdamJ
    Commented Mar 17, 2010 at 17:17

AudioMicro.com is another site to license your sound effects on. They pay a 50% commission and everything is non exclusive. I usually end up getting about $1 for each effect I license there and they pay me out every month via PayPal which is nice and easy.


Field recording is the most crowded area of SFX libraries. For a passive income you may need to find more specific areas.

For contract works, without a portfolio, the only way is to go for your close circle and try to join projects of someone you know in person.


You can sell your work online. Works for me when doing sounds which can be used in music software. And a blog is a great way to show what you're capable of. I got many commissions because I made my music and sounds available online.

But direct contact might be the best thing. I you think you know people who might be interested in your work, email them and point them to you blog and phone them up.


Be kind and share for free too http://www.freesound.org/


My favourite site www.pond5.com (50% comission, paypal, easy upload, more than 75.000 sfx)

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