Self-Employed Placement Experience: Music & Sound Technology Student Works as Sound Designer

Antti Liakka Music and Sound Technology Self-employed Placement AudioAssets

Antti is running his own business doing sound design for games companies

  • 23 March 2021
  • 5 min read
Antti Liakka, BSc (Hons) Music and Sound Technology, is a freelance Sound Designer on a Self-employed Placement (SEP). 

Tell us about your self-employed placement (SEP)

My business, AudioAssets, revolves around designing sound effects for independent game companies. I also do non-client projects where I design sound asset packages for the Unity and Unreal Engine asset stores.

In a client project, I receive a brief from my client which tells me what sounds I need to design and the context behind the game. With that information I record the audio samples I need, design appropriate sounds and give them to the client. 

In addition to client projects, I also do sound asset packages into the Unity and Unreal Engine stores. With these I simple look for what sounds are lacking on the stores and create appropriate packages. For example, if I see that there are not very many weather sounds in the stores, I design a weather sound asset pack.

How is your placement activity related to your degree? 

Sound design is a part of my Music and Sound Technology degree. As I do not come from audio background (I was a plumber before I came here to study), the skills I have learned during my degree have been vital to the success of my placement year. It has been great to build on the skills I have learned and develop new ones.

Benefits of SEP

The biggest benefit being on a self-employed placement is that you can focus on whatever you want. This makes the year very flexible and you can focus on improving the skills you want to improve. You can also learn various soft skills such as time management.

During my placement I have been able to put the skills I have gained during my course in practice. Also, being part of a game development process is a key experience that you would not necessarily get during the course. It will be very beneficial to be able to say I've had such experience in job interviews.

Finally, being able to work on multiple projects in parallel has helped greatly with project management. It's forced me (in a good way) to be more thoughtful about how I spend my time and how I keep all of the project files and important documentation organised.

What's the best thing about your placement so far?

The most enjoyable thing I have done has definitely been working on various different projects and coming up with creative ways to design sounds for them. For example, I did a variety of weapon impact and creature attack sounds from a large lettuce and few leeks. Being able to take a sound and transform it into a new sound is a very rewarding experience. Especially when you get positive feedback from a client or a supervisor.

My greatest achievement so far has been getting through the January/February period when the University recording studios were closed. I am relying on the studios quite heavily for a professional recording equipment and space so losing that was a big hit. However, I managed to get through it by exploring new ways to design sounds which gave me an additional skillset that I might not have gained otherwise.

Also, I have managed to make a small profit during the year which is great. It's a bit different from going to work for someone and getting a pay cheque, because you are getting money from something you have built from ground up so it carries a greater level of satisfaction and pride.

What's the worst thing so far?

The thing I have enjoyed the least has been marketing. I knew that would be the case before the year started so I was prepared for it. Especially the idea of using social media for marketing was very daunting to me because I do not use it very much in my personal life. Luckily for me, I have been able to have enough clients to keep myself busy. It's definitely something to improve upon as I move forward because marketing is a key part of any business and mine is not an exception. 

Did you have any concerns about doing a SEP?

The main concern I had was whether I had the confidence to make the year beneficial. I am very much used to working for someone instead of being my own boss and I had to give that idea a lot of thought.

However, after talking to my tutors and Creative Careers I decided to do it and I am very glad I did. The feedback from my clients and my supervisor has been the key on improving my skills and the confidence to the quality of my work. The support from the university via Creative Careers and Student StartUp has also been very valuable while developing my business.

For anyone interested in doing a SEP I would definitely recommend talking to the Creative Careers and Student StartUp services. They can give a load of useful advice on how to move forward with your idea. Additionally, you should talk your business idea through with your tutors and peers. I did that and I got many great suggestions and ideas I probably would have never thought by myself.

What new skills have you developed? 

I have developed lots of new skills ranging from new recording techniques and new equipment. I have also developed my project management skills and  soft skills such as communication skills which have been very useful for me as I am very much an introvert. 

I have also been able to reinforce the skills I have learned during my studies and I feel that I am better equipped on taking on my final year with everything I have learned during my SEP.

What training have you done?

I attended the RouteToStartUp workshops run by the Student StartUp team and learnt lots of very useful information regarding how to set up and run a business. I've also received other support from the StartUp team on how to build a website, how to do accounting and so on via other talks and sessions.

What are your plans for the future?

After my degree I'm aiming to get a job in the game industry as a sound designer. This year has definitely made me think about going freelance and I might do that in the future but at first the experience gained from working for a game studio would be vital in my opinion.

Have you any advice for students thinking about doing a SEP?

In my opinion, the most important thing to do when thinking about doing a SEP is to talk to people. Talk to the Creative Careers, talk to Student StartUp, talk to your lecturers and fellow students. They can  help you refine your idea and decide whether a SEP is something you want to do. Make use of the resources that are there for you.

Any tips for students who want to run their own business for a placement year?

Create the foundations to your business early on. It is very easy to jump straight in to work at the start of the year but it very important to build the necessary infrastructure such as social media accounts and a website early on. And that might sometimes take a bit longer than you think. I found it to be useful to get those out of the way so that I could focus on my projects. 

Also, make the most of the experience, you get out what you put in so work hard and you will gain a very huge and beneficial experience.