Freelancing in the current job market

Bummer6
polycounter lvl 8
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Bummer6 polycounter lvl 8
My friend asked me to post this in his stead since he likes his job, and understandably he doesn't want to jeopardize his current position. Anyway, here's what he has to say;

hi polycount!
i want some information on how the job market looks for freelancers (and maybe a little bit of carrer advice).

i have a fulltime job in the game industry right now, and i like it a lot! however, i feel limited by the standard work weeks, and want more freedom, and also less time spent working. i basically want to work at most half of a regular work week, and im not bothered by earning less to make it happen.

to me working as a freelancer seems to fit these criterias, but i want a deeper insight on how the jobb market looks like if/when i take that step.

obvouisly it differs a lot depending on your fame and skills, but since i cant show any of my work cuz it would make this not so anonymous, i just have to say that i worked at almost AAA sized companies and smaller ones, for 2 years now.

i have a wide skillset, experience with both characters, props, envionments, rigging and 2D, so i would look for freelance oppertunities in any of these areas.
so for someone like me, with my aledged skills, how hard would it be to make a living of freelancing, with the goal of only spending 2-3 weekdays working? like i said, i dont expect to make a fulltime salery with this, i would probably charge something like 15€/hour.

my other concern is, that the nature of freelance works forces you to hunt for clients, and this would defeat the purpose. like i would have to spend half the week searching different forums and selling myself only to get work for the other half of the week.

basically my question is, is it stupid to give up a fulltime position for freelancing if your goal is to work less?
any input would be appriciated!

Replies

  • Deathstick
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    Deathstick polycounter lvl 4
    I'd be personally terrified of purposely only trying to work half a week as a freelancer. My general perception is that you work as much as you can freelancing, to save up for the rainy days when there are no current jobs.

    My old professor is a way better, more of a "freelancer" freelancer than I (more of a contractor I guess), and she stated multiple times that her time is spent 50% on producing actual artwork and another 50% on building up her business and finding more clients.

    Unless of course you live in a super cheap area, have a ton of savings, or always have people begging for you to work for them (and they actually pay on-time)


    IMO it sounds more like maybe you should try doing broad market things like selling and producing assets for the Unity/Unreal marketplaces or trying your hand at something like the steam DOTA/TF2 workshop versus doing strictly freelance. Not a 100% guarantee to live off of but some people have been successful at it.
  • WarrenM
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    WarrenM Polycount Sponsor
    Freelancing isn't the path to doing less work. You're starting up a business. If you're looking to coast, keep your day job.
  • Matt Fagan
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    Matt Fagan polycounter lvl 3
    Echo what WarrenM said ^
  • stickadtroja
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    stickadtroja polycounter lvl 6
    warrenM, what does coast mean?
  • Deathstick
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    Deathstick polycounter lvl 4
    Coast generally means to be less stressed
  • AlecMoody
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    AlecMoody interpolator
    so for someone like me, with my aledged skills, how hard would it be to make a living of freelancing, with the goal of only spending 2-3 weekdays working? like i said, i dont expect to make a fulltime salery with this, i would probably charge something like 15€/hour.

    You should be charging waay more than that. If you are actually skilled, and you are working for clients with a budget, then that is serious undercharging. You aren't going to get jobs by marketing yourself as cheap.
    Freelancing isn't the path to doing less work. You're starting up a business. If you're looking to coast, keep your day job.

    That is mostly true but it depends on your frame of reference. Many studios have mandatory crunch - I chose if I want to work more than a 40 hour week. This is one of the main reasons to structure your contract around a day rate instead of per asset.
  • CapableWizard
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    CapableWizard polycounter lvl 3
    I'm not sure how only working 2-3 days a week would logistically work. In my limited experience clients often have pretty strict deadlines, the few freelance gigs I've done have required way more crunch that anything I've had in a job.

    You can't realistically get a lot done in a 2 day week, I'd imagine most of the larger gigs would require more commitment.
  • slosh
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    slosh interpolator
    Yea going freelance has its scheduling advantages once you become established but you're gonna work WAY harder for far less money for a couple years to get there. Even once your established, if you want to live off freelance wages, 2-3 days a week ain't gonna cut it. That's just the wrong mentality for someone wanting to do freelance.
  • ysalex
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    ysalex greentooth
    Deathstick wrote: »
    My old professor is a way better, more of a "freelancer" freelancer than I (more of a contractor I guess), and she stated multiple times that her time is spent 50% on producing actual artwork and another 50% on building up her business and finding more clients.

    This is crazy.

    50% of her time spent looking for clients? Forget that freelancers typically work more than 8 hours a day, some of them a lot longer - she's spending 16-20/hrs a day to make it as a freelancer between clients and looking for clients?

    Honestly I think a much better use of that time is spending it on the clients you have, or your art skills. That way you are keeping the clients you have, or attracting new clients to you without having to pan handle for 8 hours a day.

    To be honest there is just no way I see that as plausible.

    __________


    As for freelancing, yeah like others have said, 3 days a week isn't going to work, it just wont. Money aside, most clients need freelancers who are going to get projects done in a timely way.

    There is some balance because you might have breaks between clients (but a lot of freelancers dont), where you will work hard for a month or two and then get a 2 week break.

    But the thing I mostly wrote to address was the quality of the time spent working.

    There is a massive difference between freelance work days and job work days. Job work days are getting up early, getting in a car, commuting to a location, working with bosses and office politics and meetings swirling around you (not every job I realize, but a lot of them), and then commuting back home.

    Freelance jobs are much more flexible. No commute, meetings are by skype or managed by outsource software, or shifted sideways into email correspondance. You still have the same responsibility (get good, technically efficient, cool art done), but you dont have people hovering over you, no bosses, no office birthday parties, etc. As well, most artists in studios probably know that meetings are super essential for teams, but the meetings are geared towards keeping the group working. As a freelancer, your tasks are compartmentalized, so you get all the info you need without anything else, so no sitting around in a meeting while the programming team talks about bugs etc.

    So while freelance is easily a bigger time commitment than a studio (in my opinion), the quality of the hours worked is much more focused and rewarding, not to mention comfortable.

    So if your friend wants to leave his job because of burnout, and thinks that freelance will be easier on him, he's wrong in the way that freelance doesn't take up less of your day, but correct in the way that freelance can feel a lot more freeing and constructive, and doesn't come with a lot of the baggage of a job that I personally feel weighs people down a lot more than they care to admit. So while the time commitment in the same, the hours are more quality and, can be, more rewarding.

    There are trade-offs. Co-workers are in general very nice to have around for asking questions to and socializing with, but that part can be supplemented in any number of ways.
  • DireWolf
    Work less I'm not sure. The task that makes good money are usually hero asset or characters which can take up to 2 months to complete working just like a full time job. I don't know about you but that's ultimately what I'd like to do, freelancing hero assets you know, because it pays much better than random assets you can do in a week. It's so much more difficult to focus, motivate and discipline yourself. Working less may not be the right mentality.

    When you're not well-known yet probably you'll have free time between jobs. That shouldn't be what you want tho.
  • Joshflighter
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    Joshflighter polycounter lvl 8
    ysalex wrote: »
    There are trade-offs. Co-workers are in general very nice to have around for asking questions to and socializing with, but that part can be supplemented in any number of ways.

    I hear a lot of people complain about the lack of real life socialization, compared to what one might have in a studio. As a freelancer, I never had this issue. I always try to befriend other freelancers among my team (Online). This helps tons with questions and socializing about the work we are doing. On top of that I make new connections, and connections are super important as a freelancer.

    As for real life socialization, the benefit of being a freelancer means I don't have to move, so I have all my friends from way back living in the same area.

    Anyways, like everyone else stated; Freelancing is not stress free.

    QFT @ what Ysalex posted.
  • Guedin
    I'll be able to add a different view cause this is what I actually did. For around 6 months, I was able to work 3 days a week. I was lucky to find some clients who didn't have urgent deadline, and agreed for me to work only half a week. It went really well and I finally even worked as a freelance in house and kept the same schedule.
    It was great cause I was able to work on a personal project during that time.

    So yeah, I guess it's feasible. But I do realize I have been lucky to find the good client, etc...
    But, it might depends on the place where you live, your skill or who your clients are, but 15$ per hour is a pretty low fare, like it was already mentioned . If you don't have a second job, it'll be really tough to live with that in North America or Europe.
  • Graze
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    Graze polycounter lvl 6
    So in regards to working freelance I would first and foremost say your portfolio is EVERYTHING!!! or 99% of it.

    I tried to do freelance a few years ago and failed hard, barely any income, crappy clients trying to underpay me massively. That was because my work was not good enough to attract better clients.

    I then tried freelancing again at the start of this year and it has gone really well. That really boiled down to having a body of work that interested people out there that also stood out. I would suggest your friend make a portfolio that is super kick ass, post online and start making a name for themselves. There work will hopefully circulate around and then they might start getting contacted. I actually left my fulltime job with no portfolio to do freelance, really stressful and lucky it paid off, but it could have easily not, so don't do that.

    Now I am actually setting my life up right now to do the same thing, work a few days a week and then take the rest off. It is very possible but you need clients who are not in a rush for the work. I am lucky I have a fulltime gig, and several other gigs where I work on them a bit in the evenings and weekends, this means when the fulltime contract ends I will have easily 2-3 days of work available. This comes down to luck but it is still very possible. Always be honest aswell and don't take too much work on at first, its better to do a good job on one thing than a bad job on all.

    Now money, rates vary alot BUT there are some baseline numbers I realized that work when starting out. I tried to charge £400 a day at first JUST to see what people would say, then lowered it till I got consistent results. I eventually found that £180-£220 was a very safe number to go with at first. I found all clients respond well to that area. If you are a concept artist though you should be able to charge alot more really (closer to £300). I am both a concept artist and 3d character artist so vary your rates accordingly.

    I should mention my clients are not big companies, so add more money if you get them by a fair amount. I know friends who earn £500 a day, and alot more if it is in movies.

    Conclusion, freelance can be amazing, but you need to have a portfolio that lets you shine, the hours are longer but the income is alot more so you can save up way more money and hopefully take a solid 6months off if you like (if you get enough work coming in). If your friend wants to contact me personally there more than welcome to, I hope that helps.
  • ysalex
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    ysalex greentooth
    Damn Graze your portfolio really is top notch! I love the design too.
  • PyrZern
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    PyrZern polycounter lvl 5
    I can only hope that freelancing is greener the higher up you go/the better you become. Because so far I only see the dirt cheap ones <_<" The existence of mid-pay to high-end are like totally hidden away from my views thus far. I do post stuff up online, so that means I have to make better stuff. Way better stuff.
  • rino
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    rino polycounter lvl 5
    PyrZern wrote: »
    I can only hope that freelancing is greener the higher up you go/the better you become. Because so far I only see the dirt cheap ones <_<" The existence of mid-pay to high-end are like totally hidden away from my views thus far. I do post stuff up online, so that means I have to make better stuff. Way better stuff.

    i agree with what Graze said. and it's true it does get better. when i started i'd get cheap deals, but later on it got much much better.

    i think it's about the portfolio.
  • Tits
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    Tits mod
    I can sure confirm that freelance usually really doesn't really mean working less.
    It can sometimes be hard to stop working since there is no defined end to your work day (leaving work and getting back home!) and also sometimes hard not to overbook yourself with too many project when the chances arise.
  • DanglinBob
    Lets not forget also that in the US, going freelance means more taxes (if you report them accurately) and higher insurance costs, in addition to the irregular paycheck and so on. Basically it is why contract work tends to command a HIGHER wage than full time... if you're not getting more for your increased risk, why do it?

    That said, plenty of people do moonlighting (working freelance on the side) - and often times take it as cash under the table (unreported) if it is low amounts. Especially true for international transactions.

    Not saying you should, but it is common :)
  • RyanB
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    RyanB Polycount Sponsor
    You can make whatever you want and sell whatever you want on asset stores. Waiting around for freelance work is unproductive.
  • Rurouni Strife
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    Rurouni Strife polycounter lvl 7
    Freelancing is definitely not less work. Definitely more freedom, I can work out at 3pm for instance. But I often feel I work more for less sometimes. Not all the time, but sometimes.

    Secondly, unless you're grabbing big clients you need to juggle multiple jobs. It's stressful and difficult to do well but if you can manage it, you'll be surprised how fast you can both improve and build up some cash.

    I see a lot of comments on his buddies suggested rate. If he's in a country where 15 Euro an hour is a good hourly rate, then go for it. Here in the states that's about the same in dollars and you're going to have a bad time freelancing for so little (unless you live in Mississippi). I know a guy in Russia who usually does $30 but he can afford to go as low as $15 because of his location. Location is a big deal.

    So yea, tell your buddy to do the math on the rate (taxes, what's livable, etc), to juggle multiple projects, and to work on asset store kits when he/she doesn't have a gig. Not sure his goal to work less is going to work out.
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