Can you really be a freelancer?

I have had a look at the Freelancer Jobs forums, and I was wondering: Is it really possible to go freelance, especially over the internet, in this sector?

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  • Joseph Silverman
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    Joseph Silverman polycounter lvl 12
    Possible and very practical. There are challenges, naturally, in getting constant work and budgeting, but if you search the polycount forums you should find numerous threads discussing different aspects of freelancing.
  • Jeff Parrott
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    Jeff Parrott polycounter lvl 14
    Not really through the Freelancer forums. It seems like a wasteland. I've gotten more freelance jobs from just posting art in Pimping and Preview forum than through the Freelancer forums. As far as making a living yes it's possible. You have to hustle, work like crazy, be self-motivated, and take direction well (sometimes with little direction).
  • Torch
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    Torch greentooth
    Self motivation is key, definitely - a lot of the time its difficult to relax without a stream of constant work coming in. If you're good though you'll find work no problem! You should check some game engine related forums for work, UDK and Unity actually have commercial specific sections on their forums to advertise your work.

    Working from home has to be treated like a day to day job - work hard, don't be an ass to your clients and you'll have an awesome reputation in no time :D
  • bugo
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    bugo polycounter lvl 12
    Yes, have been in the past for 3 years, not a big deal if you don't need to pay high amount of bills, and you get the freedom to chill if you need to, work when you need/want to.

    Therefore if you don't get a constant amount of work, make sure you save, which I didn't and had problems with bills and etc in the past.

    I miss it with all my heart, but at the same time, I won't come back to it, cause I don't want to have money related problems again.
  • low odor
  • Zepic
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    Zepic polycounter lvl 6
    low odor wrote: »


    This made me laugh, then it made me cry a bit inside from the harsh truth:

    5.png
  • gilesruscoe
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    gilesruscoe polycounter lvl 7
    You sure can! Breaking in and building up clients is the toughest hurdle to get over, but once you have a decent pile of clients its a fairly good flow of work, just need to manage it well. The income varies vastly, but from what I've found Freelance tends to make a little more than studio jobs, but you don't get any of the benefits of being employed.
  • almighty_gir
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    almighty_gir sublime tool
    what giles said.

    if i were to step into a studio role now i would have to take a paycut due to two issues:
    1. i'm "technically" a junior, because i lack in-house experience.
    2. travel costs for commuting to/from work.

    if one of those were removed i'd jump into a studio with very little hesitation. but at the moment i'm pretty comfortable freelance.
  • nyx702
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    nyx702 Polycount Sponsor
    low odor wrote: »

    Exactly.

    IMO it's very difficult. With so many people out of work all the freelance is getting gobbled up quickly. If you live in an area with studios you can occasionally get in house contract work which is nice.

    It seems there is a critical skill line that you have to be across for it to work. If you are not good enough nobody wants your crap or you have to charge super low rates. If you good and over that imaginary line you can scrape by. If you have amazing artz you get all the work and make MILLIONZ.

    Personally I don't like doing freelance fulltime for very long. Last month marked the end of doing freelace for a year and half. I was only able to do that because my wife could support us. I was seriously considering getting a non-game job because it was driving me insane. Again, unless you are super-pro you kinda get the crap work that nobody wants to do. The stuff that isn't important enough to do in-house.
  • PogoP
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    PogoP polycounter lvl 9
    Working from home has its pros and cons. It's nice to be able to set your own hours, but it sucks from a social standpoint. You have to be fine with your own company, and invest in a decent DAB radio ;)

    There is nothing like the feeling of being in an office, working with like-minded people. You will learn so much more being in an office than working at home.

    My advice would be don't go freelance for a good few years after your first industry job. I did a year in the industry and then started freelancing for Unknown Worlds, and I sometimes wonder how much better I would be if I worked in an office with people to learn from.
  • wester
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    wester polycounter lvl 11
    Yeah this is a topic I've been meaning to try to delve into. One of my new years resolutions this year was to get into doing some freelance work. Nothing too crazy and overwhelming since I do have a fulltime job as well. But I go home and model literally every night immediately after work so it would be cool to apply that towards freelance.

    Freelancing while I was with my previous studio wasn't possible as they had very strict rules about their employees and what they did in their freetime. Needless to say my current employer is much more lenient and it's something I want to take advantage of.
  • b1ll
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    b1ll polycounter lvl 13
    Download vertex 1.
    Theres a Greaaaaat article about freelancing

    http://www.artbypapercut.com/downloads/
  • EarthQuake
    b1ll wrote: »
    Download vertex 1.
    Theres a Greaaaaat article about freelancing

    http://www.artbypapercut.com/downloads/

    Yeah, too bad its written by some wanker who has no idea what he's talking about :poly142:

    Seriously though freelancing can work, but you have to grind to keep getting work, and you have to seriously understand how to budget and save your money to account for downtime, taxes, health insurance, retirement, etc. Managing your time can be a struggle as well, figuring out that work/life balance takes some getting used to.
  • Blaizer
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    Blaizer polycounter lvl 14
    Freelancing is "easy" if you work your 10 hours per day (with a good client list, of course), 2 hours more than a normal job, and i think it's not recommend for all people. It has its advantages/disadvantages, and all is quite personal.
  • crazyfool
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    crazyfool polycounter lvl 8
    its tough as hell but doable, takes a good year or two to build up a client list and in that time you will probably have contracts that cant end soon enough and others that you want to go on forever. Working with tough customers is a great life lesson that cant be taught and teaches you how to deal with them in future endeavours. The vague feedback is something you soon learn to address aswell. Most of the time its great though, the best ones are the ones run by artists and not production managers that arent 100% on what you are doing. You soon find that making the art is the easy part and getting the jobs and working your finances is the hard part. Make sure you know your tax laws aswell before you spend anything!!!!

    In the UK we got some goodens :poly142:
  • fightpunch
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    fightpunch polycounter lvl 10
    I got bored as hell after 4 months of doing freelance. Some folks can handle the isolation, some can't.
  • Fomori
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    Fomori polycounter lvl 8
    What nyx702 said rings quite true to me and I also tried freelancing for nearly a year and a half. Started out well, but I couldn't cope with the months of slow income, and doubt can really creep in. Not a good idea if you're starting a family (like I was).

    I think it helps a lot if you've already been working in the industry for many years and have a lot of contacts and a proven track record of impressive game releases.

    Obviously if you are so incredibly bad ass you will eventually get the work flowing in (providing you are motivated in finding it).

    I don't miss it as dealing with difficult clients can be an absolute nightmare.
  • CougarJo
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    CougarJo polycounter lvl 6
    Interresting topic. I can't say more, I've freelance only one time :)

    But the reply of everyone are very instructive!
  • almighty_gir
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    almighty_gir sublime tool
    okay so let me expand a little on my previous post, and some of the others here.

    if you're single, living alone etc. get a part time job that covers your rent/food requirements. do not be a starving artist. from my own personal experience, working a shitty job while trying to build a client base actually motivated me to do it even more.

    it will be hard. very hard. your progress will most likely be slow and at some points might feel completely non-existant. don't worry it happens!

    don't be scared to take the shitty jobs nobody else will do. take them, and rock the shit out of them man, be the best at those shitty jobs. you still get paid for them, you're still building a reputation as a solid, consistently good working artist. jobs on the unity forum for $100 sound like nothing, but word of mouth will carry you to bigger things if you rock them hard enough.

    when you land your first "big fish", quote them the amount of time they want to hear, and the price they want to hear. and then go above and beyond that. don't charge them more, just put a few more hours in for free, don't even tell them about it, but make sure the final product is the best thing they've ever seen.

    and they will come back
    and they will tell their friends about you

    and then you start getting busy, you suddenly have to start telling people "sorry i don't have time right now, but i will be available in two weeks". and that's fine! it also means that they might (occasionally) come back and say "well, if you don't mind doing it before then we can pay you extra to compensate your time". at which point you're well on your way.

    BUT, as others have pointed out. there WILL be downtime where you feel like everything has dried up and you don't get more work. use this time to get new folio pieces up, constantly update your name, your brand, your image. constantly sell yourself.

    i need to post some new folio bits... fml with all this work >_<
  • MM
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    MM polycounter lvl 13
    been freelancing fulltime for 3 years and dont see myself working in a cubicle any time soon.
  • Ruz
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    Ruz interpolator
    downtime sucks and it's been a bit dry of late. had a great year last year( up til christmas), but it sucks right now.
    The problem with freelancing is that you think you are doing ok , working hard on stuff, money coming in then all of a sudden the work dries up and you have bills and shit to pay.
    I do love freelancing though, but just wish I had a more regular supply of work
  • b1ll
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    b1ll polycounter lvl 13
    Ruz, the main problem might be that you not plan ahead, i dont want to repeat what i already say in Vertex article, but in short,,, Scheduling is very important,. Even if you already have a full plate, you have to keep planning for the next month , or 6 months from now.

    If the work doesnt come to you, You have to go get it, Make plans, dont be idle. If you have downtime , Use that time to your advatage.

    Freelance can be handled very well on long term basis, It was my business for over 10 years, and downtime were not common.

    Its a business after all... Its doable, and like MM said i would never go back inhouse.
  • Torch
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    Torch greentooth
    I'm surprised to see a few people not wanting to work in a studio and preferring to work from home - each to his own and all that, but personally I'd prefer to be in a studio having all the camaraderie with other people working there, etc. Have freelanced for the past year and a half and although its cool choosing your own hours, etc. it does get pretty lonely!
  • almighty_gir
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    almighty_gir sublime tool
    man i'd love to go work in a studio, caveman syndrome sucks balls.

    BUT, and this is just my personal situation, studio work would mean making sacrifices i'm not willing to make.
    i'd take a drop in pay, sure my pay would become more regular, but due to lack of in-house experience most places would only consider me a junior level artist, which means i'd probably lose between 5 - 15k (depending how good a year i've had).
    combine that with the cost of commuting (due to personal/family circumstances, relocation is only an option if the offer is in the very high range), and i'd lose another 5k.

    and from what i hear, most studios won't allow me to work in my underwear.
  • Ruz
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    Ruz interpolator
    b1ll - that kind of hits home. when it comes to the business side of it I am lazy fucker, doing virtually nothing to promote my business. really I need to kick myself out of my bad habits.

    Torch - the problem is that in some studios you might get on great with the team, have excellent camrderie, all that,
    but in another company they might be a bunch of cunts. I find that hard to risk , since it normally invlolves moving house/city.
    With freelancing, if the company sucks, you can move on.

    I had a great time at nexus in london before christmas - great team sprit with the 2 other character guys, so even a loner like me can enjoy the studio experience given the right setup/team.
  • wester
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    wester polycounter lvl 11
    When you guys say "plan ahead, 6 months if need be", does that mean to secure a client 6 months from now? Or is it more of a financial planning type of thing?

    Also how do you actually start? Is it simply having a strong enough portfolio and experience, and then just emailing around? I was talking with Liquid Development there for awhile but as I was with a publisher that wasn't too keen on having me freelance for other games I had to pass.

    Also if these are answered in the VERTEX article, my apologies hah. I'm going to give it a read tonight after work.
  • Justin Meisse
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    Justin Meisse polycounter lvl 14
    odd that you'd expect a JR. position in a studio - I always have the idea in my head to go freelance but only after I have some senior to lead experience under my belt.
  • almighty_gir
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    almighty_gir sublime tool
    that's just my experience from interviews and discussions with leads.
  • Torch
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    Torch greentooth
    Gir - I had an interview with a central london studio this morning, the role is definitely higher than junior level and I've only done a bit of freelance, etc. so am still pretty amateur. I'm sure at your level of skill you could expect more than a junior role, no question!

    Although you mentioned there's other commitments you have to take care of so I can understand having to take those into account.
  • Ace-Angel
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    Ace-Angel polycounter lvl 7
    Lancing is all about balancing, kinda like this:
    lance.gif

    It's all in how you handle, and try to make your point strike true to what you need it to be in the grand scheme of things and...oh...woops, wrong lance.
  • Ruz
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    Ruz interpolator
    yeah gir you are undersellling yourself mate. the reason they may want to class you as junior is to save money:)
  • Hazardous
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    Hazardous polycounter lvl 11
    I've tended to bounce between freelance and fulltime, basically whenever an awesome job offer popped up to work on a project that I thought would be cool, I went for it. Otherwise I stayed home freelancing. The key is what B1ll was talking about - ALWAYS look for work, it should be part of your daily schedule, even when your super busy, keep stacking it on there. For every job you knock off the queue aim to have another to slot in behind it.

    Or like others have said, simply pimp your work everywhere, constantly, and if its good, youll get opportunities showing up in your inbox every other day some good, some bad.

    I still get the ' Hello! I would like to make a Mortal Kombat style game, I need some characters modelled, textured and animated, my budget per character is $75US, can you do it??? ' kind of 'opportunities' but not so often anymore.

    Its totally possible, but you have to be good, and you have to be consistant to survive.

    Tbh I think learning to survive out from under the comfortable umbrella of working inhouse, is one of the best things I have ever done.
  • BoBo_the_seal
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    BoBo_the_seal polycounter lvl 14
    I did Freelance for a year between Ensemble and Ironlore. This was 9 years ago. At the time, everyone was telling me that you have to be careful, as finding consistent work would be very hard. This scared me to the point that I had a problem of not being able to say no to people. I actually ended up taking on way too much work. I crunched that year more than I ever did in a studio and I burned myself out a little. I also went stir crazy not working with people on a daily bases. I love to interact with others and being a part of the creative process. When freelancing, your goal is to execute, execute, execute! The creative process is most often already worked out.

    When THQ/Vigil went under, I decided to give freelancing another go but only if I could address a few of the issues I ran into the last time.

    This time I have teamed up with another artist to start a freelance studio OMNOM!. We are getting studio space to help address the issue of isolation and we are going to be diligent not to over extend ourselves through scheduling and through a network of sub-contractors who can help us as the need arrives. I have always enjoyed mentoring/teaching and nurturing up and coming artists. We are going to stay small but we plan to bring on artists we feel we can help develop their raw talent. So far so good! We are having a blast with it!
  • b1ll
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    b1ll polycounter lvl 13
    Like Haz said, planning ahead is to have work line up 5 month from now. Not only 1 client, because deal can change over time, but multiples options.

    When you take on Freelance as YOUR business. You have to handle multiples things, its your career so take care of it. It means planning, scheduling, dealing with clients. Not just art ,sadly ^_^

    If you build good relationship with your client they will come back, maybe slowly at first, but the more you work with the same client, the more trust and freedom you gain.

    Dont be a douche when you deal with client but dont be a 100% yes man too. Handle it with care.
    Bobo case is classic. Dont overwork yourself, classic over shceduling ^_^ .

    Planning and schedule are the key here, Plan ahead keep a schedule. . Anyway i feel like im repeating myself ahahah

    Anyway you guys have question feel free to ask. Like i said I choose Freelance as my career for over a decade and i didnt go stir crazy or burned out ( well by choice at times cause im greedy) . Good luck. Its a fun path .
  • NyneDown
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    NyneDown polycounter lvl 11
    Lots of great insight and advice in here! I've been keeping my eye on this thread (I lurk like a mofo) as I just recently decided to take the leap of faith and went freelance full-time.

    Previous to this, I worked as some what of a graphic designer and 3d visualizer for the textile industry...so I had no prior "in-studio" experience. I had a really great opportunity pretty much land in my lap...and my previous full time job got pretty unbearable. So the decision was made a little easier, but there is definitely a risk involved. I will say that I've been working harder than I ever have prior to this. And that isnt a bad thing at all, because I love it. Like Hazardous mentioned, it's good to get out from underneath that umbrella. I've found that I've pushed myself a lot harder than I would have otherwise. You wont work 40hrs a week...you'll work a whole lot more than that. One thing that does kinda suck, is being stuck by yourself all the time. I have 3 dogs to keep me company, but they're a lot like my previous co-worker stinking up the office...so some things havent changed ;-)

    We also had to make some certain living adjustments just to free up some of our finances. I wont be commuting anymore, so we sold my car. We dont eat out as much...which is obviously a win win considering it's also healthier. We've cut back spending in general on everything, and my wife coupons more than honey boo boo's mom. So it can be done, you just gotta plan...like others have said. Taking a look at your financial situation and what type of bills you have is a good place to start.
  • dejawolf
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    dejawolf polycounter lvl 11
    if you wanna do freelancing, you need to learn how to work as efficiently as possible.
    learn your tool to the death, find every way possible to shave off second.
    Nowadays i can work 3 hours every day, and complete a decent model of a tank (12-15000 polygons, normal mapped w. 3 LODs) in less than 2 weeks, and make a decent living.
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