Can I Make Money Selling Sound Effects?
Making money by selling sound effects at first glance might seem like something only an audio engineer can do. However, you’d be dead wrong. The fact is that anyone can create and sell simple or even complex sound effects online. We’ll look at the major things you need to consider including what niche or niches to choose for your sound effects, how to record them, where to sell them and how to price and promote them. All of this is tied up in a neat bow that will have you earning cash just by recording some sound effects.
Before we jump in, consider the profitability of sound effects. They’re used everywhere. TV shows and movies might be outside of your skill range, but there are plenty of indie video game developers, podcasters, YouTubers, Alexa skill developers, and more that are in desperate need of serious or funny sound effects.
As content creators become more widespread and popular, the need for creative side content such as sound effects will explode in popularity too. And of course, demand for sound effects means demand for you and more cash in your pocket.
Sites Where You Can Sell Your Sound Effects
Before we jump into niches, what equipment you’ll need, and everything that goes alongside it, you need to know where you can sell your sound effects. Because without that, you won’t have a “stage” for your SFX. Without that stage, you won’t know where to earn that extra bit of cash. We’ve scoured the good, the bad and the ugly and have collated the 5 very best options for selling your sound effects online:
#1 Envato Elements
Envato Elements, previously AudioJungle is a popular marketplace for selling sound effects. If you’re a bit more creative you can even sell music that you’ve created. The large customer base and great reputation make it a great first stop for an aspiring SFX creator. And because listing your sound effects for sale is so straight forward, you’ll be earning money from them in no time.
Pond5 is probably Envato Element’s major competitor. Again a marketplace for selling sound effects (and music) with the added benefits of a fresh modern and easy-to-use interface for sound effect creators and customers alike. And to make things even better you can just jump straight in and start selling your SFX without the need to apply like some of the stricter sites.
123RF boast 5+ million members and they will market your sound effects across 44 countries worldwide. What makes it really appealing is that they are not exclusive. That means you can sell the exact same sound effects on multiple sites, not just 123RF – they’re perfectly happy for you to do so. The other benefit is that they have less categories than other sites, focussing on just photos, vectors, footage and audio – this increases the chances of your sound effects being seen and bought.
Sonniss is a long-running marketplace that is dedicated to buying and selling sound effects (SFX). This means that you will get a huge amount of very directed traffic toward your sound effects. There is an expectation of very high quality from Sonniss and this is reflected in how much they sell your sound effects for. Some sound effect bundles sell for over $1,000. So there is a huge profit to be made here.
#5 Unreal Engine Marketplace
Those who are into gaming will of course know of Unreal Engine. In addition to the engine itself, Unreal also has a marketplace that hosts assets (including SFX) for games created with the platform. Game developers are always on the lookout for good-quality sound effects for their games and the Unreal Marketplace is often their first stop. Just imagine your sound effects making it into a published, commercial game, and what’s more, you’re actually getting paid for those SFX.
Besides the above main players, there is also Fiverr, Audiomicro, Game Dev Market, Epic Stock Medi, Unity Asset Store (similar to Unreal Marketplace), and much, much more. Don’t limit yourself, jump in, sign up and get a feel for which marketplaces (plural!) are right for you.
Also, consider your skill level and where you want your sound effects to be used. For example, if you want your sound effects used in a game, then sell those SFX on the Unreal, Unity, and Game Dev Marketplaces.
Finding Your Niche For Selling SFX
As with most pursuits, you will be more successful if you’re targeted in your approach. This is often done by selecting a niche or several niches. This lets you focus and pour your money making energy into a defined number of areas. What niche you choose will be up to you but there is a definite need for certain types of sound effects:
- Nature sounds such as wind, birds, insects, and water flowing.
- Indoor sounds such as creaking doors and floorboards, electrical equipment humming, etc.
- “Human sounds” such as laughter, crying, muttered talking, applause, boos, etc.
- City sounds such as traffic, and the general hustle, and bustle.
- Synthetic sounds such as video game beeps and dings (you need to create these rather than record them).
You will find that you sell more sound effects if you go a step further and sub-niche. For example, try focusing specifically on traffic noises. Additionally, you can break out into your own niches for hyper-specific sounds like particular types of machinery – you’ll have fewer buyers but due to how specific the sounds will be, you can charge considerably more for these SFX.
Will My Sound Effect Sell?
This is the big question and really, you can’t know for sure upfront. But you can, after selecting your niche, make your sound effects more likely to earn you some side cash. Get yourself into the mindset of a buyer – the game developer, the YouTuber, those making movies, clips, or TV shows and ask yourself:
- Is there a situation where this sound could be used?
- Can you imagine hearing a YouTuber or podcaster using it as a jokey sound effect?
- Does it have a clear purpose?
- Will people be looking for and seeking this particular sound out?
A great way to get a bit of inspiration is to watch some YouTubers, podcasters, some TV clips, adverts, etc., and pick out commonly used sound effects.
How to Prepare & Create Your Sound Effects
Assuming you’ve now decided what types of sound effects you’re going to sell, you’re going to need to know how to prepare them. The requirements will differ from marketplace to marketplace (so make sure to check), but typically you’ll be looking at around 5 seconds per clip, a bit rate of 320kbps, and a file saved as either WAV or MP3.
Depending on the marketplace you choose, you might be able to get away with using your phone’s microphone for recording, but most likely you will need to buy some equipment. This can be as simple as a noise canceling microphone for your laptop if you are to record only indoors, or more sophisticated microphones complete with windbreakers for outdoor recording.
Some hot picks for professional USB Microphones that won’t break the bank:
For any given type of sound effect that you want to make some cash from, you’re going to need to make a lot of versions. For example, if you choose traffic, you’re going to need to record a lot of traffic noise so that you can then pick it out as general traffic noise, beeps, engines revving, doors slamming, and so on. Ideally, you want to have as many versions of each sound as possible. It is a numbers game and the more you have listed, the bigger the chance yours will be bought and you’ll make some cash on those SFX.
This means that you are absolutely going to need to be organised, so name files appropriately, use folders descriptively, and most importantly back. up. your. files. Use a free service like Google Drive or Microsoft OneDrive. There is nothing worse than spending hours recording only to lose everything due to a computer failure.
Editing Your Sound Files
Your sound files won’t come out perfect and will need at least minor sound-level adjustments. Also, you’ll probably want to be able to split longer audio tracks up into multiple sound effect files. Finally, you’re going to want to remove any “dead air” at the end of your recordings. As with most other things, at-home audio editing has improved dramatically over the past few years. We suggest using Audacity (free) to get a feel for things, and then moving on to Sound Force Audio Studio (low cost) or going the full professional route with Adobe Audition CC (moderate cost).
We won’t go into the ins and outs of audio editing here as it is an extensive subject. But once you’re ready to edit your files and sell those SFX for cash, just take a look through the many simple tutorial videos available for your audio editor of choice.
Make Even More Money by Selling Sound Effects
OK, so now you have your catalogue of sound effects created. Before you go ahead and throw them on the sites mentioned earlier, consider how and why things sell online. A person searches for something, a result that matches that search is shown, they look at the options, they pick one, and they buy.
Why is this important? Well, if your sound effect doesn’t show in the search, you’ve lost the sale already. This is why keywords and SEO (Search engine optimization) are crucial. Suppose you’re wanting to sell traffic noise. Using “traffic noise” in the title and description is an OK start, at least your SFX will appear in the results, but now you’re competing with tens of thousands of others.
Think about long-tail search terms. What specifics might a person search for? In this case, something like “big city”, “rush hour traffic”, “angry honking horns” etc. are clear, common, and specific enough to get you hits and avoid being lost in the crowd.
What About Marketing?
Marketing usually is key when selling anything, but when you’re dealing with such a high volume of SFX it can be difficult to target potential customers with ads. Our advice, let the marketplaces and your keyword selections market your sound effects for you. Time and money spent on marketing for such tiny niches are better spent producing more content.
If you absolutely must market, consider brief Twitter posts, with a direct link to your effects and a few relevant hashtags. This allows your time to be spent in the best way and allows you to maximize how much money you make with sound effects without cutting too heavily into your time.
How to Price Your SFX to Earn Big
Finally, pricing as always is the hot topic. Don’t price too low as this can make customers think your sound effects are low quality. Don’t price too high otherwise, no one will part from their cash and you won’t earn money from your sound effects. Field how much others are selling their sound effects for and price yours similarly. When you’re starting out you can try to undercut to get your reviews and ratings up, but as I say don’t go too low otherwise it can give a feeling of low quality.
If the marketplace allows it make sure that you offer bundles. For example, you can do a “New York Traffic bundle”, a “Stop sign traffic bundle”, and a “Low-speed Traffic bundle” and then even combine all three into a “Mega traffic bundle”. You want as many eyes on your sound effects as possible and bundles are a great way to do that.
Making money by selling sound effects is one of the last few untapped work-from-home side jobs. With only a cheap microphone, some free or low-cost audio software, and some of your own time you can generate a crazy amount of sound effects in no time. Volume is everything so get those sound effect files churned out, price cleverly and bundle them up if possible. You can turn a fun passion or side project into a nice extra source of income overnight.
Get recording, and start earning money with sound effects today!
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