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Thread: what to charge as a freelancer?

  1. Snasitra is offline
    Location: Lowell
    Posts: 88

    what to charge as a freelancer?

    Hi Everyone,

    I've worked for game companies for the past 10 years a staff artist and am now going to be working freelance as well as being a full-time professor at a college. I'm going to be working for a company I've been a staff artist for in the past and have been asked how much my rates are.

    When I worked in places in the past, I've seen outsourced 3D artists get paid as much as $15,000.00 for a single, next-gen character and the typical staff salary of a 10 year experienced artist would probably be somewhere between $60,000.00-80,000.00 a year where I live. I also saw a next gen character made for $4,000.00, so it seems like it's all over the map and of course, largely dependent on who you are.

    I'm going to be making environment objects that are not next-gen (just diffuse map with relatively low poly count). What do you guys think is a standard way to go about this and (if there is a standard), what is a decent quote for an experienced artist? I'm not a well known industry guy like say... Craig Mullins is to 2D painting, but I have a solid resume of released titles and 10 years of experience/portfolio (which is not on-line at the moment).

    Thanks for any help on this.
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  2. Neox is offline
    Location: Berlin
    Posts: 326
    just calculate together what you'd need to live a decent live and transfer that to a hourly/daily rate, prices per asset always suck when you have to do a lot of changes... but 15000$ for one char, would love to get that money
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  3. DreameR is offline
    Location: Leamington Spa
    Posts: 1,137
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  4. Snasitra is offline
    Location: Lowell
    Posts: 88

    Yeah... I was completely floored by that too, but that's the number. Granted... this is for someone who's really, really established and I don't think that they're pulling that money all the time, but it's not as outlandish as you would imagine. The asset in question was a 15,000 poly star character with normal maps, spec maps, multiple revisions, etc, etc and it went on for a month with the company really working the artist hard, but yeah... it's a ton of money and sort of messed me up in the sense that I don't know what to charge.

    I don't see myself as being at a point where I would ask that money and I'm just trying to figure out what all the freelancers are averaging these days so I can find a reasonable number that will work for both me and the people I'm working for.

    Thanks for any help you can offer about what you guys might be asking for rates these days. I've also heard a lot of illustrator types saying $50.00 an hour, but that's a different job. I'm working mostly as a 3D artist and that's the rate I'm looking for.
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  5. Neox is offline
    Location: Berlin
    Posts: 326
    look there is no "you can charge this", it is totally depending on what company you are working for, where you are living, how save the job will be etc. calculate together what you'll need to live the life you want to live and be hones to yourself, the hourly rate should totally be depending on a lot of circumstances that only depend on you and your surrounding. Is the area you are living an expensive one or a cheap one? depending on that you have to charge more or less for your living. Does the company guarantee you X Hours a Day/Week/Month or is it just short term stuff, is the company a large one or a small one, are the projects big or small, there are so many indicators that influence your price.
    From my experience here in Berlin Germany, 40-50$ an hour is a fair price but you could also charge more, for example if you are booked very good, like if you are booked 8hrs a day for X months and another company contacts you to work for them, you don't lose anything if you don't get the jjob because you already have your safety, so go a little higher with your price, if they still want you and you fine with doing some extra hours, well then do it

    Personally i wouldn't charge anything below 30 € anymore, which is around 40$ but thats just my experience, here in Berlin, working for some bigger companiesand some smaller.
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  6. d1ver is offline
    Location: San Francisco
    Posts: 35
    shit guys I work for 5$ per hour %\
    I'm not even laughing right now...I knew that salary in Belarus sucked, but didn't expect it to suck that much....

    pardon the offtop...
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  7. Neox is offline
    Location: Berlin
    Posts: 326
    well as said it totally depends on where you are living, and therefore its not really offtopic
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  8. Mestophales is offline
    Location: Lancaster
    Posts: 108
    Freelance is subjective to the budget of the person or company doing the hiring In the past I have paid no more than $500 for a single model. You can also look into selling models online, in your area of expertise I would look at look for a vendor stonemason he makes environmental props all fairly low poly but sells quite a bit. There is always room for quality work.
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  9. YdoUwant2know is offline
    Knight: 5
    Location: Los Angeles
    Posts: 979
    Figure out what you are worth, multiply it by how many hours you think a project will take, add bit extra for wiggle room and call it good.

    For a starting amount, figure out how much you maker per year. To do this add up everything, the company gave you, not just base salary. Include things such as: 401k; medical insurance; retirement; free pop; everything. Now lets say that is about $80,000 (just for the sake of argument) then dived that by the number of hours you work each year. For example, at 40 hours per week, accounting for about 20 days off per year for vacation, holidays, sick days, whatever, you work about 1920 hours per year.

    Divide that 80,000 by 1920 hours and you get a base rate of 42 dollars per hour for labor.

    Now this just labor, it does not account for software, or computer parts, or electricity, or any of that other stuff. So find a price for that, again averaged out per hour for a full year, add a bit extra and remember the government takes its cut so account for taxes, and figure out what you are worth per hour. Keep in mind, $75 to $150 per hour is common for specialized work. (Think about it, an auto shop bills at $80+ per hour labor, IT guys bill at over $120 per hour, and lawyers at over $300)

    Now that you have a base rate per hour, figure out how long it is going to take you to work on something and give them a price based on that (make sure you give yourself some leeway for revisions). So if one object is going to take you 8 hours, at $150 per hour, that would be $1200. At $75 per hour it would be $600.

    When you apply this to say that $15000 character, that equates to about 100-200 hours worth of work, so really not that far off if you think about it.

    Then again, this is just a basic way of doing things, you may need to take other things into account such as licensing and whether or not you can resell the the work. There is also the question of how many times they can use the work. Can it just be used for this game, or can they now use it as many times as they want without paying you again? Most of the time in a freelance situation, they will own the work, and can use it however they see fit, but it all depends on the contract. Other things to account for would be credit. Are you credited for the work, or do they just say thanks and leave it at that? Depending, these factors could chop the price in half, or add a bit more to it.

    Something else to keep in mind, never be afraid to add a bit to a project with the intention of dropping the price. Say you know you can finish a project in 8 hours, ask for 10, but be willing to settle for 8. Who knows, they may have been willing to pay you for 12.

    Last but not least, make sure you figure out revision pricing in advance. For small models this is generally not a huge issue, but then again, I know more that one artist that had a 8 hour project turn into a 40 hour project because the customer kept changing their mind. Once they sign off on it, if they want it changed, make them pay.

    I know the pricing structure I used has a bit of a large swing to it, but the idea is that you really need to look at your own situation to come up with a number that works for you. If your expenses justify only $40 an hour so be it, just don't sell yourself short. Remember, when you first set up your pricing structure with a company it is a negotiation. Start high and work your way to something you can both agree with.

    Best of luck.
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  10. amyrobet is offline
    Location: newyork
    Posts: 16
    I dont know how to help you, but good luck for you!
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  11. patrickh is offline
    Location: Riverside
    Posts: 3
    I'm interested in this as well, great question!
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  12. Snasitra is offline
    Location: Lowell
    Posts: 88

    Thank you so much for the the very, very helpful posts. I really appreciate it. I have a small update that might be able to help others with similar situation.

    So... I'm being hired back to do some freelance work for a company I had been a staff artist for in the past. They're hiring me in a way that my wage will come out about the same as when they brought me in. I'll be making quite a bit more money in the initial paycheck, but as noted, there are a bunch of expenses they're not paying for and as I have been told, I will get hit very hard as a freelancer by taxes and they're nice enough to account for this in what they're paying me.

    I was initially completely floored by the really high price of the next gen character model, but when you add it up, I agree that it's not really that much. It just goes to show how expensive it is to run a business. Someone making $15,000 for a next gen character would come out to be something like a $130,000.00 a year employee if they were staff or at least how I did the math. Anyone in the industry knows that although this would be well into the catagory of high paid employee, it's not unheard of for the big companies that work you like crazy.

    As I see it, the high wages are very justified based on the amount of instability at most game companies and the overtime which is rarely paid. Most game artists I know (including me) have worked well into our share of unpaid overtime and have experienced more than a few moments of companies going under and looking for the next ship to jump to. Extra money/padding is really a must for talented people in this situation I think and the salaries are justified.

    Thanks again for the help on this. I just wanted to get some feedback because it's hard to discuss money when you're not educated enough on the topic of freelance rates to have a meaningful discussion. I appreciate all the detailed responses.
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  13. Oluseyi is offline
    Location: New York City
    Posts: 30
    I know this is a bit of an old thread, but I thought this could help. The best information I ever found on what to charge was from John Manders' site. He's writing an on-going series of articles titled "How to Become an Illustrator," but the lessons in canto ii: organize your business are relevant to all disciplines. Here's the link, and below is an excerpt of what I consider the most important bit:

    Even if youíre running a bare-bones illustration business off of your kitchen table, youíll need to spend money on equipment and supplies. If you work traditionally, youíll need art supplies: paint, board, brushes, &c. If you work digitally, youíll need software. Either way youíll need a computer, printer, scanner, bookkeeping software (more on that in a moment), office supplies: stationery, packing materials. Youíll need a filing system and storage. Add onto that a phone and internet access. Also figure rent and electricity.

    Those are your operating costs.

    Hereís the formula. Add up all your business expenses for a year. For your big ticket items like a computer, add up your credit card payments for a year.

    Add your salary onto that.

    Divide that total by 230 working business days per year (52 weeks minus 6 weeks vacation, sick time, and holidays). Even if youíre illustrating part-time, use 230 days.

    Add a 10-15% profit margin.

    Thatís your day rate. Thatís how much you charge if an illustration takes you one day to do.
    Substitute whatever you freelance at for "illustration" in the above.
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  14. John Manders is offline
    Posts: 1
    Keep in mind that your day- or hourly- rate is your minimumóitís what you need to make in order to survive. What you charge may exceed your rate. Itís not how much your overhead costs, itís what you can negotiate.

    For more info on what graphic artists are charging, take a look at the Graphic Artistsí Guildís Pricing & Ethical Guidelines.
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