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Is it possible to be a freelance 3D modeler?

polycounter lvl 2
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undin polycounter lvl 2
I was wondering is it possible to make a living as a freelance, work from home 3D modeler?

I only need around 10,000 euro a year to live off, maybe less.
I have been an artist my whole life and studied art for 6 years and animation for 1 year, and 3D modeling briefly and really loved it. I don't expect to love it if it will be my career , but I think I would find it fulfilling.

I am willing to spend the next 4 years or more learning modeling and building up a portfolio, learning good networking skills, time management skills, learning how to price myself, doing jobs that pay nearly nothing to work my way up the ladder and whatever else it takes!

I'm not asking can I be an amazing modeler and work on AAA games, but simply if it is possible for me to earn around 10,000 euro a year doing this. (not that I would not aim to work on AAA games). I would be willing to make any sort of models for any industry or for 3D print etc.

I understand these threads already exist and many like them:

But I think the amount of money I need to live is much lower then a lot of people
so I think a lot of these answers might not be relevant. I am building up a large body
of research to figure out of this dream could be a reality, so I would really appreciate
advice from modelers and freelancers
Thank you


  • PyrZern
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    PyrZern polycounter lvl 8
    Short answer: Yes, you can.

    Longer answer: Good artists keep getting more work. No name artists get looked over. If you want work, people have to notice your work. You have to make good stuff. You can start cheap. But cheap people don't pay you. Quality sells. But quality artists will be chosen over you. If you undercut, you will be hurting the industry as a whole.

    You can also sell 3d assets. The boom of UE4 and Unity and all that helps you. But you need proper and legitimate tools.

    TL;DR - You gotta be pretty good to make it. Once you make it, it would be easier. But until you do, BEST OF LUCK. And WORK HARD.
  • Muzzoid
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    Muzzoid polycounter lvl 10
  • Pain
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    Pain polycounter lvl 6
    I would say "NO" IMO and in my country, 10k Euro is pretty much for just a year :poly124:.
  • ysalex
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    ysalex interpolator
    PyrZern wrote: »
    If you undercut, you will be hurting the industry as a whole.

    I've never really agreed with this notion. There are clients willing g to pay fairly for good work, and clients unable or unwilling to pay fairly and have unreasonable expectations for pay vs quality.

    The people willing to pay correct rates base their decision to hire on quality first, asking price only if the asking price is unreasonably high. That's never going to change no matter how many non-quality artists try to underbid.

    The opposite is also true, the people looking to underpay will never look to pay fairly unless until the lack of professonalism/quality starts to harm their bottom line, if it ever dones.

    To me the difference between these two types of clients puts the in seperate squares, and they never really meet, so I don't feel like the fact that some people try to undercut effects me, since the only clients they will ever get are not the guys that professionals are likely to be working with in the first place.


    As for "can you make a living doing freelance?" Definitely. Also it can help if you've worked at a studio first to establish some credibility but that's not absolutely necessary by any means and sometimes I think that part is overblown a bit - skills are skills, you have the skill set or you don't.
  • Swizzle
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    Swizzle polycounter lvl 13
    Yes. You absolutely can make a good living as a freelance 3D artist. I have firsthand experience with this, and I know a few other people who either work full time freelance or have done so in the past.

    The keys to working freelance are:

    Building relationships with people who will either give you work or put you in contact with those who'll give you work


    Building a reputation for getting good work done both in your personal work as well as any professional work you do

    It's also important that you are able to keep yourself on a consistent schedule so that you can maintain a work/life balance, and you should familiarize yourself with the tax and legal implications of working freelance in your country. You should also investigate rates of professional artists working at around the same experience level as yourself. You should make sure that you know how to read things like contracts and NDAs; these can be pretty complex if you're unfamiliar with them, and you should ALWAYS read them and understand them on at least a basic level before signing them.
  • undin
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    undin polycounter lvl 2
    Thank you Swizzle , ysalex and PyrZern for your imput.
    This is exactly the type of first hand advice I need.

    Originally Posted by Pain
    I would say "NO" IMO and in my country, 10k Euro is pretty much for just a year .

    I'm not quite sure what this means?
    Originally Posted by Muzz
    Thanks for your imput, but you did not give any reasons as to why is not possible?
  • clinington
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    clinington polycounter lvl 7
    Yes, it is possible. Swizzle got it absolutely spot on with his comments.
  • Rurouni Strife
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    Rurouni Strife polycounter lvl 10
    Yep, it's what I'm doing right now. Swizzle basically took the word out of my mouth so I don't have much to add.

    Although, undercutting on costs to an extent isn't necessarily bad. However, you have to start at your base value and go from there. It's a viable business maneuver to get work, but it has its cons.
  • Tits
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    Tits mod
    Swizzle and Ysalex said it all :)
  • JacqueChoi
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    JacqueChoi polycounter

    Seriously though, What Tits said.

  • ysalex
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    ysalex interpolator
    Jacque is joking about the cocaine thing obviously but there is some truth in the joke - freelance hours are not like 9-5 job hours. A lot of freelancers work much more than 8/hr a day, and in my experience 12-16 hr/days aren't uncommon, and it gets much muddier if you count the amount of time actually running the business in there, corresponding, trying to find work etc.

    The silver lining is that freelance at home hours feel much different than at your full time job hours. If rather work 16/hrs a day for myself than 10 hours a day in a studio (of course depending on the studio). Plus no commute time, no meetings, no pants, etc. I also don't feel "spent" after a long day of freelance the way I would feel "spent" after a long day at work.

    To me the hours are actually a positive but it's worth considering.
  • PyrZern
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    PyrZern polycounter lvl 8
    I sneaked in the undercut part just in case. Cuz I don't want to see this going where VFX Artists went a few yrs back. Life After Pi still haunts me times again.

    But you are right, if you make good quality stuff, people will be willing to pay.
  • Tits
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    Tits mod
    I indeed worked way more hours as freelancer that I ever did in studio. ( did up to 18h a day, don't do this kids...)
    However in studio I felt like it was ''forced'' on me while at home it was basically my decision to do so (I had taken two different contracts at once, I was responsible for working that much)
    Like Ysalex said, it does feel very different. You are at home and there is no need to commute, dealing with other people bothering you, useless meeting etc.
    You can take your break whenever you wants and nobody is keeping tab on you, you can cook your own meal and even pet your adorable cats.

    At the same time you are responsible for the amount of work you take over, how much your charge etc.
    You can just as well decide to work less than 40h a week if your budget allows it and you want to relax/ do portfolio for while.
    I just took 1 full month of vacation, no one to ask if I can or not.

    What I like about freelance is that when you have the chances to get multiple offers at once YOU get to pick wich project you like the most. You can negotiate and re-negotiate your wage more often than you would in a studio and get more control on the hours you do if you want to
  • Hazardous
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    Hazardous polycounter lvl 12
    Over almost 12 years, ive only spent about 5 years of that workign in a studio, the rest was freelance and I think ive lived a pretty good life, lived in some very nice places, and been able to support myself and my family rather well.

    But, its come at the cost of time, like the others have mentioned. If you are prepared to dig deep, you can make a very good living for yourself, probably much more than you would ever make via a salary at a games company.

    @ 25 years old I got my first major contract which was $120,000USD, for 4 months work. I needed help so I hired on a few friends, paid them good money to help me out and we nailed it. Things just grew from there. I found that it was possible to get one or two projects like that per year, work your ass off, then take big blocks of time to chill out and recoup!
  • Eric Chadwick
    More advice and resources on our wiki, if you haven't seen it yet.
  • bonepuller
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    bonepuller polycounter lvl 4
    Obviously the answer to the general question is yes because people are doing it. I think you should focus more on whether you can become as good as the people making a living doing it.
    But I think the amount of money I need to live is much lower then a lot of people so I think a lot of these answers might not be relevant.
    I'm confused by this. Are you asking if you can get by without being as good because you need less money to live?
    I am building up a large body of research to figure out of this dream could be a reality
    Again, research is good, but that shouldn't be your focus. Focus on your art and do it for fun. Do it with passion and you'll become great.
  • PyrZern
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    PyrZern polycounter lvl 8
    Or that he doesn't have to take on as many jobs to stay alive.
  • WarrenM
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    WarrenM Polycount Sponsor
    If rather work 16/hrs a day for myself than 10 hours a day in a studio (of course depending on the studio). Plus no commute time, no meetings, no pants, etc.
    Yes, this is huge and can't be overstated. I'll always sit and work for myself for 12+ hours happily, but working 8 hours at a desk for someone else feels like hell at times. Not always, obviously, and sometimes it's reversed ... but on the whole, directly benefiting from your own sweat and effort is very satisfying.
  • undin
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    undin polycounter lvl 2
    Hey everyone. Just wanted to give an update:

    Its been 2 years since I originally posted that, how time flies!

    First I just wanted to thank everyone who commented on this thread. I wanted all you to know it
    really helped me to decide what carrier I wanted to pursue. All the advice was really good. Thanks
    for taking the time out of yizers day to write them!

    Special thanks to @PyrZern, @ysalex@Swizzle@clinington@Rurouni Strife ,  @Tits , @JacqueChoi , @Hazardous , @Eric Chadwick , @bonepuller , @WarrenM

    Since then :
    - I did more research into various 3D industries for about 6 months after that (arch-viz, 3D print,
    movies and TV as well as games & VR)

    -Then was busy with other things for the following half year. At the beginning of this year
    I started pursing 3D seriously, and spent 9 months learning interface and basics of
    Blender, Unity, Unreal, Photoshop, Gimp , xNormal and some zBrush. 

    - I made this portfolio : https://www.artstation.com/vantai
      And experimented with making some animations :
      (I am going to scrap both this portfolio and demo reel though, see below)

    - I also made this asset store pack : https://www.assetstore.unity3d.com/en/#!/content/89765 and sold about 20 of them so far, just to learn about how the 3D asset market worked. (I put the pack on turbosquid, cgtrader, 3D squirrel , renderosity (that site is weird?) , gamedev market, and tried a bunch to put it on blender market... the admins said it looked good, but then never replied to any of my stuff so its not on there). In retrospect I think it was a really silly pack to make, but it was a good learning experience to make.

    What I am going to do now :

    - I just recently decided that I want to be an environment artist, and have become passionate about this.
    - So now I am going to scrap my old portfolio completely

    - I have started following everything about environment art on polycount, wips, competitions, going through all the stuff in the wiki in environment discipline

    - Start from scratch learning how to make very simple assets like crates, weapons etc.

    - Then I am going to do a couple of online courses on modular environment creation

    - Then I am going to make a small modular environment

    - I will build 1 or 2 assets and 1 environment and make a new environment art portfolio out of this stuff
    (focusing entirely on environment art and on quality over quantity)

    - The next software I am thinking of buying/learning is Quixel (rather than substance painter) .... dono if this is the right choice 

    I am super excited and putting in at least 20 hours every week.
    Can't wait to be walking through some deadly environments I made in real-time engines!

    If anyone has any critiques of my approaches or work or attitude or anything about me really they would be very welcome!

  • Larry
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    Larry greentooth
    I am exactly like you. I started this year, learned pretty much the same stuff and i want as well to be an environment artist (So you and me, are eternal rivals!) I learned substance instead of quixel because with substance designer you get to make your textures for materials exactly like you want, and not rely on scans or online pictures. Substance pack is such a powerful tool, you will barely need anything else. Plus, i think substance is more popular in the industry so you have higher chances of running into some studio which requires you to learn it

    Question: Have you sold any times the pack that you've made? 
  • undin
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    undin polycounter lvl 2
    Hi Larry,
    Yes we are eternal rivals! I have started learning substance this week actually, I thought I would
    like quixel better because I like photoshop, but I prefer substance. (also substance is on linux and I prefer to work in linux).

    I have sold that pack 25 times I think. Originally it was going to be a big pirate pack with ships, nature, characters etc. I worked on a lot of assets, but then had to keep going back and making changes to every single file (including re-doing all the typology etc), because I was learning as I went. So I realized that was stupid and if the idea is to just figure out how to get an asset pack working and published, then it should be small. So it ended up being that prop pack. Considering that I have no idea why anyone would really want to buy a low poly pirate prop pack (very nich audience?) I'm surprised it has sold at all.
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