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Payment and Freelance questions.

Fenyce
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Fenyce polycounter lvl 6
Hello everyone.

First off, I know there are already a few threads out there... So sorry, I searched a bit but didn't find one that did fit well.

I'm from Germany and I know a little about the earnings as a Grafik Designer here, but nothing about Game Artists. I just heard that it might be less. I read somewhere on polycount that a junior game artist might get about 1500€-2000€ in Germany.
Most studios want you to tell them what you want to earn, and I'd like to hear some realistic figures...

And regarding Freelancing.
I've read a lot of articles lately and watched a lot of videos... And the $/hour did vary from 35 to 75$...

In Germany it's recommended by an allianz of designers to claim around 78€ per hour. Which is waaay more then 35-75$...

The question is, what's a realistic figure?
I know it's highly depending on your skill level and experience. Non the less I'd love to know a realistic range of figures to get an overview.

Maybe someone want's to share his/her experience?

I'm interessted in $ and € per hour alike.

I know... most people don't like to talk about money, but I think for an newbie it's an important theme to get a good start.

Thanks.

Replies

  • Ruz
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    Ruz polycounter
    78 euros per hour?, wow i think that is way more than most companies would be prepared to pay
    Based on an 8 hour day that's about 3 times what I charge
    from what I know the going rate is anything from 100 to 200 pounds a day
    which is a maximum of 250 euros a day.
  • Fenyce
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    Fenyce polycounter lvl 6
    Thanks for the reply.

    The 78€ per hour is for freelancers with an own little office (it's basicly a figure for Graphic Design Freelancers) so it's including health insurance coverage et cetera.
  • SecretPro
    For an artist working full time, the hourly wage can rage from 17-25 USD per hour. Alot depends on your location, but dont expect a decent wage; just be happy you have a job, that is the usual mindset
  • Fenyce
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    Fenyce polycounter lvl 6
    Thanks SecretPro, and sure, it's not like I'd love to work in the industry to get rich, ha ha ha. But it would be nice to get at least a decent payment (and therefore I think I should know what's the average)
  • Justin Meisse
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    Justin Meisse polycounter lvl 16
    SecretPro wrote: »
    just be happy you have a job, that is the usual mindset

    Not the right mindset, just the usual one.
  • LRoy
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    LRoy polycounter lvl 8
    SecretPro wrote: »
    but dont expect a decent wage; just be happy you have a job

    this is awful advice
  • EarthQuake
    Freelance artists typically earn more than onsite artists, because you need to factor in health insurance, retirement benefits, rent, utilities, hardware costs, software costs, and protecting yourself during periods when you do not work (few freelance artists have constant, year round work). Studios are usually willing to pay talented freelance artists more because they do not have the additional overhead that onsite artists have.

    Another very important consideration is taxes, you will need to save for and pay your own taxes (unless you make very little). So make sure to estimate your tax rate, and put away that much or more into a savings account for tax time.

    As far as specific rates, its hard to give much advice here. This is something you need to figure out based on your expenses (again don't forget about all the costs you need to cover), cost of living, your talent/experience level, the demand for your services, etc.

    Somewhere between $200-400 USD per day range would probably be a common rate for a freelance 3d artist. Again a lot depends on your experience, where you live, expenses, etc etc. If you have no experience, probably closer to the low end.
  • SecretPro
    LRoy wrote: »
    this is awful advice

    It was an honest statement, not an advice. That is what the true reality is under the scene, the things people outside do not comprehend. Many reasons that lead towards that.

    Any artist that has been struggling, to make ends meet. Hoping to just land somewhere after years of applying and seeing no response. Many of us in this community have been there, when you get an offer you take it, sure it might not be the best studio or the best offer(bad wage, mid tier benefits, etc) but as an artist you must take it.

    I am in no power of doing so, but I would bet that if a survey was in action and asked any unemployed artist if they would want to work for Crytek and the job was open, is a guarantee more than 60% would say yes, even with the concern's of the company.

    But back to topic, I agree while freelancing may posses some negatives, such as an instability and depending on region or law, an individual that freelances can be considered as unemployed, to name a few. You have a more short term increase of payment.

    Full time artist: 35k-48k is the average. There are the exceptions of course at certain studios and who have had vast experience and can range in the 50k-64k.
  • Justin Meisse
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    Justin Meisse polycounter lvl 16
    I've read that you can typically ballpark a studio budget at $10k per man month - that doesn't mean developers earn $120k a year, that $10k a month includes software licensing, benefits, overhead costs, etc...

    The reason freelancers can charge more is because they actually cost the studio less, the reason you should charge more is because you have to pay for all the stuff the studio would typically pay for.
    SecretPro wrote: »
    Full time artist: 35k-48k is the average.

    I'd categorize that as junior salary in some areas of the US and below junior in some of the more expensive areas.

    People taking lower wages equals decreasing wages for everyone; fight the urge to screw yourself over because "you're lucky to have work".
  • Eric Chadwick
  • Torch
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    Torch interpolator
    SecretPro wrote: »
    Alot depends on your location, but dont expect a decent wage; just be happy you have a job, that is the usual mindset

    Why should you put up with little to no pay, just because you work in games? A job is a job at the end of the day, and if you're doing hard work for a client you should be paid accordingly.
  • Spoon
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    Spoon polycounter lvl 8
    If you are just starting out, I guess you can expect around 15-20 USD per hour. If you learn quickly, you might go up in rates relatively fast.
  • AlecMoody
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    AlecMoody ngon master
    Spoon wrote: »
    If you are just starting out, I guess you can expect around 15-20 USD per hour. If you learn quickly, you might go up in rates relatively fast.

    Assuming the thread is about working on main stream AAA type games- People either have the skill set to be valuable to the company or they don't. I think going into with the idea that you can be semi competent but only charge $15-$20 an hour is flawed.
  • EarthQuake
    To the general "take what you can get" sentiment that is coming from a few people: Have some self respect guys. I understand that sometimes times get tough and you would rather be in a less than ideal situation than have no job at all, but this should not be the default mentality. This is very toxic to the industry as a whole. I said it in the Gamasutra thread and I will say it again, your worth is not merely the sum of the buttons you know how to press.

    Lowering your rates far below what is standard for freelancing isn't going to help you in the long term. All you're doing is undercutting yourself. You might get a job or two, but it isn't sustainable. You might build some contacts, but those contacts will expect you to work at bargain basement rates, so there won't be much room for advancement. No established studio is going to expect an artist from a developed nation to work at $15/h. Period. If you shoot that rate off, not only are you significantly underselling yourself, you will look like you have no idea what you are doing.

    $15/h is minimum wage in some states. Remember that what you are doing is skilled labor.
  • Torch
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    Torch interpolator
    EarthQuake wrote: »
    To the general "take what you can get" sentiment that is coming from a few people: Have some self respect guys. I understand that sometimes times get tough and you would rather be in a less than ideal situation than have no job at all, but this should not be the default mentality. This is very toxic to the industry as a whole. I said it in the Gamasutra thread and I will say it again, your worth is not merely the sum of the buttons you know how to press.

    Lowering your rates far below what is standard for freelancing isn't going to help you in the long term. All you're doing is undercutting yourself. You might get a job or two, but it isn't sustainable. You might build some contacts, but those contacts will expect you to work at bargain basement rates, so there won't be much room for advancement. No established studio is going to expect an artist from a developed nation to work at $15/h. Period. If you shoot that rate off, not only are you significantly underselling yourself, you will look like you have no idea what you are doing.

    $15/h is minimum wage in some states. Remember that what you are doing is skilled labor.

    +1
  • Justin Meisse
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    Justin Meisse polycounter lvl 16
    Is freelancer pay less outside of AAA? From what I've experienced the in house artist pay is the same. Or is it just the fact that contracts are shorter because the lower the specs, the less time it takes to make an asset?
  • Fenyce
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    Fenyce polycounter lvl 6
    Just wanted to say a quick "thank you" to everyone who responded so far :)

    This thread is really helping to get some insight.
  • SecretPro
    Torch wrote: »
    Why should you put up with little to no pay, just because you work in games? A job is a job at the end of the day, and if you're doing hard work for a client you should be paid accordingly.


    I think your missing the point. First I want to make clear I am not advising this, I am stating what is a fact. In many cases you don't decide what you earn, you can negotiate but that only goes far, the studio has the financing so if they put a cap at 50k. Is up to the individual to take the agreement or not.

    I think many of you understand for every project there is a budget and you stick to it. Just because an artist feels they are so special and want more, is beyond reality it does not work that way. They give you what they can at a semi reasonable level.

    And I fully wished this job was treated as any other critical job, such as teaching or engineering for instance. But the folks that often run companies and have the say don't view certain developers that way. Again I am not saying we are cogs in a machine, but rather spreading the sentiment felt in AAA business side of things, you can also look at the film industry for similar treatment.

    Here is a quote from glassdoor (Rockstar Games) that paraphrases my comment: "Extremely passive aggressive managers that treat you like a new guy working at McDonalds even if you are very skilled or senior. All managers have this "you should feel grateful that you work here" attitude. People hate them with passion."

    In this industry note that the employees do not come first. If you have not yet done so, to get a good sense of what I mean I would recommend watching Life after Pi.

    On the other topic, of why this is not like just another job, simple. "On top of the fact that games are the new 'rockstar' profession for young teens, everyone who could remotely draw started flooding into these schools with hopes of making the next big game. Because of this, there's now a fuck-ton of 'talent' out there all vying for the few openings that appear from studios willing to hire. This makes the competition, as I mentioned earlier, extremely rough." Quote taken from this article http://kotaku.com/i-learned-my-company-was-getting-shut-down-over-twitter-1616920488. There are more factors aside from this example, but this relates back to my previous say on the cap in salary, while some might feel 50k is not worth what they consider their skill to be. The moment you decline many artist, who are just as skilled are in line to take the spot, pretty common.
  • Blaisoid
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    Blaisoid polycounter lvl 7
    Assuming the thread is about working on main stream AAA type games

    Not sure why would you assume that.
    AAA is just a fraction of all freelance offers out there, isn't it?

    And yes, when it comes to indie games there's all kinds of freelancers that could be considered semi competent and clients who could be considered semi generous ;)

    I don't think it's a bad place to start from, at least for people who aren't industry veterans.
  • Justin Meisse
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    Justin Meisse polycounter lvl 16
    Secret: you've explained every job in existance, there's a budget, the client/employer tries to low ball you as much as possible and you try to get them to go as high as possible. You hopefully meet somewhere that makes you both happy.

    There's a reason that quote says 'talent' - if there's so many qualified people why does it still take so long to fill open positions? The schools are just pumping out more noise.
  • SecretPro
    Secret: you've explained every job in existance, there's a budget, the client/employer tries to low ball you as much as possible and you try to get them to go as high as possible. You hopefully meet somewhere that makes you both happy.

    There's a reason that quote says 'talent' - if there's so many qualified people why does it still take so long to fill open positions? The schools are just pumping out more noise.

    To clarify I have not, I am talking more specific towards the entertainment side which are all private entities. Mostly fueled by investors, me as an artist and with my project I am not building a spaceship or the next iphone I am creating media. The moment my media becomes either stale unreasonable or unsure everyone gets affected. In other words to make it blunt, society can continue and be perfectly fine without my skills. Good to follow history from the TV industry to just recently the future status of studio Ghibli. This is not a must, unlike a state fund, which is critical for teachers, security, infrastructure, etc. Just want to clarify and I think it would help us all if we stop comparing the field to others outside of the entertainment circle just to subdue our issues. Better to fix the problem than to say, "No big deal, this also happens in industry A, B, or C"

    In regards to positions, can you please elaborate. Because if I am not mistaken, finding a gig as a rigger, or character artist is a rarity in its own. Remember the population is not concentrated in California or UK alone, very hard to find a gig as an environment artist if you are located in Russia for instance.
  • Justin Meisse
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    Justin Meisse polycounter lvl 16
    I have no idea what you are trying to say now. I'm not sure what the teacher comparison is supposed to mean; they are a societal need but get paid less than game developers. I was saying you should negotiate your salary/fees; I don't know why you'd have a problem with that. I was out of your average bracket after my first year as a professional and it was mostly my fault I was being paid so low because it was almost double what I was making in Florida.

    In regards to positions, I've sat in on hiring and it was hard to find qualified people. I know what it's like living in an area without plenty of game studios, I had to leave Florida for work. I eventually worked my way to Austin and I'm making a pretty decent middle class living as an in house studio artist. I've been doing it for seven years now and I've been a bit interested in freelancing, which is why I pop in to threads like this now and then.
  • SecretPro
    I have no idea what you are trying to say now. I'm not sure what the teacher comparison is supposed to mean; they are a societal need but get paid less than game developers. I was saying you should negotiate your salary/fees; I don't know why you'd have a problem with that.
    It seems you are now contradicting yourself, you made a statement citing that I characterized my description of this field, to basically all other fields.
    Secret: you've explained every job in existance,

    After, I took the time to reply and state that is completely untrue. Which is why I mentioned public sector jobs such as a teacher. Now you are saying that they are an essential need, in a way agreeing with my comment. I am quite confused because you are agreeing, yet initiating this last comment as if the remark I made was wrong. :poly105: So to answer your question, the comparison is to express that certain jobs don't fall in this line of talk, simple.

    With that aside, I already mentioned this, I don't have a problem with artist negotiating or asking for more. If is up to me I feel any artist 5 years or more should range 70k average and upper 8 plus years should fall on average 85k. I am commenting on why normally things don't go our way and the mentally behind the industry that is all.
  • Spoon
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    Spoon polycounter lvl 8
    AlecMoody wrote: »
    Assuming the thread is about working on main stream AAA type games- People either have the skill set to be valuable to the company or they don't. I don't think going into with the idea that you can be semi competent but only charge $15-$20 an hour is flawed.

    It might be.
    For me, my first freelance in AAA was in fact 20 USD/hour. As all entry AAA jobs want you to have experience in AAA (You need experience to get experience- cirlce), I happily took the job, assuming it was a step up for me, if I wanted to go AAA.

    Now, we can all agree it is a low salary, but I am simply giving the OP an answer to his question. Not THE answer, but one I know is not totally uncommon.
  • Justin Meisse
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    Justin Meisse polycounter lvl 16
    SecretPro wrote: »
    It seems you are now contradicting yourself, you made a statement citing that I characterized my description of this field, to basically all other fields.

    I still have no idea what you're talking about. I was saying there are budgets and negotiations involved in our industry just like every other job, I did not say that every single facet of the game industry was literally like every other job out there.

    I'm not going to argue with you any more, especially over silly tangents that have nothing to do with the topic at hand.

    This was shared with me recently, seems like some good advice: I can get it cheaper: what to do when client rejects your fee
  • SecretPro
    I still have no idea what you're talking about. I was saying there are budgets and negotiations involved in our industry just like every other job, I did not say that every single facet of the game industry was literally like every other job out there.

    I'm not going to argue with you any more, especially over silly tangents that have nothing to do with the topic at hand.

    I see, in that case my apologies, on first sight I did not take it that literate.
    Secret: you've explained every job in existance, there's a budget, the client/employer tries to low ball you as much as possible and you try to get them to go as high as possible
    That is similar to implying in every other job people get paid for working. Being so, I would had easily answered by stating "Ok, point being?" or just ignore it all completely. As this really semi derailed a bit.
  • Swizzle
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    Swizzle polycounter lvl 13
    EarthQuake wrote: »
    Words of wisdom.

    +1

    EQ's on the ball, as usual. If you undersell yourself and your services, you're fucking yourself over in the long run because you're training clients to think that your services are worth less than they really are. And not only are you doing it for yourself, but you're doing it for other people in the industry as well. The expectations you set carry over to other people your clients work with.

    As a freelancer, you should be charging rates that are high enough to pay for all your expenses for the duration of the contract. Asking for anything less is like telling a full-time employer that you want to make a salary that's not enough to pay your bills.
  • Torch
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    Torch interpolator
    While we're on the subject, I worked with an Outsourcing studio that came to me again for some help a while ago, (my rates for work had gone up a little than when I first started freelancing) and they offered me a pretty measly sum for what I estimated would take around a week of work. After I mentioned the payment was too little for the amount of work involved, they replied: "Our clients need characters done in 1/2 the time and for 30% less of a rate you offered, means you gotta figure out how to shave a lot of time off your modeling."

    As you can imagine I was pretty ticked off as I believe I offer fairly good rates for large amounts of work as it is and was tempted to reply "...or you could just not be a cheapskate," but in these situations you just have to smile and go "Ok, thanks for the offer, hope the project goes well" and move on :)
  • EarthQuake
    Hahaha yeah, the common folly of "we need it sooner so we will pay you less for it". Nope. Not how any of this works.

    You can have two of the following:
    1. Fast
    2. Good
    3. Cheap
  • EarthQuake
    So, a lot of people have mentioned that you may need to set very low rates when you're starting out. I have some thoughts on this:

    When I started working professionally, roughly 10 years ago, I had no clue what I was doing. The first job I got I was ecstatic to be getting paid to make game art. I gave the client a silly low rate because I really wanted the gig and didn't really understand all the work involved. I was young, and naive. In hindsight I could have charged significantly more and still got the job, I actually worked for the same client later in my career for what I would consider a good rate. I'm sure that first job he was thrilled that I was so stupid and asked for such a low rate, and I really can't blame him.

    At the end of the day, if your art work is good enough to get the job, its good enough to demand an industry standard wage. If you need to charge $15/h just to get the job, you really probably should step back and re-assess your situation, take some time off and work on your portfolio (if that is an option) to get your work up to an industry standard level.

    TL;DR: Many people start at a stupid low rate because they don't know any better, not because its simply what you need to do.
  • SecretPro
    EarthQuake wrote: »
    So, a lot of people have mentioned that you may need to set very low rates when you're starting out. I have some thoughts on this:

    Many people start at a stupid low rate because they don't know any better, not because its simply what you need to do.

    Good point, with that in mind, what do you envision as a starting rate for an artist gig at a AAA studio?
  • throttlekitty
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    throttlekitty Polycount Sponsor
    EarthQuake wrote: »
    TL;DR: Many people start at a stupid low rate because they don't know any better, not because its simply what you need to do.

    That's very helpful, thanks. Not having worked in the industry or much outside of my $7.35 minimum wage state (or another area that did most hiring through temp agencies), this gives me a better idea for what to charge.
  • EarthQuake
    SecretPro wrote: »
    Good point, with that in mind, what do you envision as a starting rate for an artist gig at a AAA studio?

    Too many variables really. Where does the artist live? What sort of education/experience? What does his portfolio look like? I've seen many a young artist with a better portfolio than senior level industry pros, and I've seen student work that is nowhere near professional level.

    Like I said above, most artists, probably in the $200-400 a day range, depending on the above. So that's $25-50 USD an hour. Inexperienced artists definitely on the low end there. If you put a gun to my head and told me to give you a rate, $28-32/hour 225-250/day starting out, assuming the artist is competent. Inexperienced artist with an outstanding folio? $300/day $37/hour easy.

    $37/h might seem like a lot for a junior, but again you have so many more expenses to pay for, and you almost certainly will not have constant work throughout the year.

    location is super important too, $28/hour if you're living in San Fran is really low. Though honestly, if I was freelancing, I wouldn't choose to live in San Fran or other super high cost of living locations.

    The specific type of game, studio, art style, amount of work all play into the rate as well. You might give a studio you really want to work for, who does an art style you're comfortable with, and can give you months worth of work a significantly lower rate than a studio that will only give you a short contract of very difficult work.
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