Average Price for a Stylized Fantasy 3D Character? (Freelancing)

polycounter lvl 8
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MMKH polycounter lvl 8
Hi Polycount 3D experts, veterans or freelancers! I have a client who is asking for my bid on a character. The concept is a simple, stylized fantasy character with a steam-punk theme. The art style looks reminiscent of League of Legends or similar MOBAs, except a bit simpler. I have decided to stick to 3D Character Art lately, especially with regards to sculpting as I have found it to be more enjoyable compared to what I had been doing previously, which was usually low-poly 3D modeling within Maya.

I have done a small project for him before (a low-poly building with solid colour textures). What I have found is that I've tend to charge on the lower side because I believe that I want to first grab the job, demonstrate my abilities and talents and turn it into a long-term project with steady pay. However, I also want to make sure that I am earning enough for myself, especially to meet the base costs of living each month.

I've learned at a recent seminar hosted by a local college (with programs in 3D art and animation) and put out the question about how much to charge as a freelancer. One piece of advice I got from a professor was that we should find out how much it costs to live per week, and charge 35% on top of that to keep up with inflation and etc. For example, if my minimum monthly cost of living was $2000, that means that per week it is about $500, so 500*1.35 = $670 per week. This is given that it takes me 1 week to finish a character, though I estimate for this character, it may take me at least 2 weeks to get it looking very complete and polished. So am I supposed to charge over $1300 for the character, or start with a more modest figure like $670-700?

Would it be possible to get some good advice on how to properly negotiate? Or what might be the best course of action now? Thank you for your help. :)

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  • PixelMasher
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    PixelMasher high dynamic range
    pitch the higher number and if they are truly interested in working with you, they will either accept it or counter offer something a bit lower. starting with the lower number will probably leave a bunch of cash on the table. if you are charging 700 for a character that is hilariously low and you are well below minimum wage in most cases. 

    don't fall into the fear trap of under charging, thinking you won't get the job and then get super burned out because you are working tons of hours for super low pay. quickest way to turn your love of character art into a grind that you hate. avoid the race to the bottom mentality, and don't be afraid to walk away if it's not worth your time. 

  • MMKH
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    MMKH polycounter lvl 8
    pitch the higher number and if they are truly interested in working with you, they will either accept it or counter offer something a bit lower. starting with the lower number will probably leave a bunch of cash on the table. if you are charging 700 for a character that is hilariously low and you are well below minimum wage in most cases. 

    don't fall into the fear trap of under charging, thinking you won't get the job and then get super burned out because you are working tons of hours for super low pay. quickest way to turn your love of character art into a grind that you hate. avoid the race to the bottom mentality, and don't be afraid to walk away if it's not worth your time. 

    Thanks for your comment PixelMasher! That sounds like good advice that I am willing to try this time. I'm used to working diligently and only thought of delivering the value first and operating on a work relationship based on honesty. Though I think it's time that I asked for more.

    What if the client is an indie and does not have a large budget? He is likely to have other freelance artists he is considering for the job. If I pitch a higher rate, would it not make it more likely he choose another freelancer? From a freelance Character Artist I met at the seminar, I learned that she would accept a rate slightly lower if it aligns with the kind of work she enjoys doing. Also, there have been situations when I gave a quote and the client did not respond at all, so I had assumed that it was out of their budget. For this client, I believe it is himself (an engineer) and his finance guy.

    How much time would it take to finish a stylized character model that would make $700 below minimum wage? It looks as if it would take 60+ hours.
  • PixelMasher
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    PixelMasher high dynamic range
    i mean yea, if there are other artists lowballing maybe you might miss out on the work, but again, if its that low paying your time would probably be better spent working on your own art for your portfolio if you want to get a studio job eventually. 

    60 hours for a character seems super low, I would account for atleast 2 weeks worth of work at 40 hours a week + revisions and feedback implementation, which quickly drops your rate to below 10 bucks an hour if its $700.

    again, its all about self awareness and what you want to do/enjoy doing. Personally I would hold out for decent paying work or work for myself for free than take lowball freelance work that I am not going to be able to show in my portfolio until the NDA lifts and slows down my overall progress. depends on your goals :) 
  • MMKH
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    MMKH polycounter lvl 8
    i mean yea, if there are other artists lowballing maybe you might miss out on the work, but again, if its that low paying your time would probably be better spent working on your own art for your portfolio if you want to get a studio job eventually. 

    60 hours for a character seems super low, I would account for atleast 2 weeks worth of work at 40 hours a week + revisions and feedback implementation, which quickly drops your rate to below 10 bucks an hour if its $700.

    again, its all about self awareness and what you want to do/enjoy doing. Personally I would hold out for decent paying work or work for myself for free than take lowball freelance work that I am not going to be able to show in my portfolio until the NDA lifts and slows down my overall progress. depends on your goals :) 

    I've been working for myself for free (creating my own art for portfolio and practice) this month for 3DInktober2019. Individually the pieces are probably not the most portfolio-worthy, given that the large majority of them were done in a day. But, collectively they would look good I believe. The reason why I'm participating in this contest is to get my work noticed by people, be part of a collective/community event, create free 3D content (the more we give, the more we receive) that can inspire or help other 3D artists, and simply to experiment with no pressure (except the pressure of completing all 31 pieces this October).

    It's really interesting that you say 60 hours for a character is not that much time, because I could finish this character within that time and at a good quality. In pretty much all of my previous freelance projects, the client has rarely even asked me to make revisions, and have said it was nice working with me because they don't have to supervise/manage the process much. By the way, this character is supposed to be at 3K polygons and flat-colour shaded, so it might not end up looking all that detailed as the models in League of Legends.

    For this project, there is no NDA (at least not yet). I'm in a situation where it would be very nice to be paid sooner rather than later, than rely too much on the possibility of landing a studio job (that in the past has seemed to have eluded me). The thing is though, there are studios with entry-level job postings which I know I am already capable of doing. I have faith in the right timing.

    Most of my past projects have been operating on a price-per-project basis instead of an hourly wage FYI.

    All that being said though, I will take the shot and pitch the higher rate. :D
  • Ex-Ray
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    Ex-Ray polycounter lvl 9
    The other important thing to consider is, if you keep offering low rates for a prolong time, you'll eventually have the reputation as the 'cheap freelancer' and I would imagine it would be very difficult to change this perception.

    If you find yourself in a situation that you want to offer less, then I would state in the invoice a discount of some sort has been made and that it clearly states what your original rate was and then the deduction. You want to show your client this is a one off thing. But really you want to avoid this whole scenario completely.

    You want to compete with the quality of your work and not with your rates.

    A interesting video here, different industry but still relevant:
    https://petapixel.com/2016/10/31/no-bs-advice-will-not-turn-500-client-5000-client-move/
  • MMKH
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    MMKH polycounter lvl 8
    Ex-Ray said:
    The other important thing to consider is, if you keep offering low rates for a prolong time, you'll eventually have the reputation as the 'cheap freelancer' and I would imagine it would be very difficult to change this perception.

    If you find yourself in a situation that you want to offer less, then I would state in the invoice a discount of some sort has been made and that it clearly states what your original rate was and then the deduction. You want to show your client this is a one off thing. But really you want to avoid this whole scenario completely.

    You want to compete with the quality of your work and not with your rates.

    A interesting video here, different industry but still relevant:
    https://petapixel.com/2016/10/31/no-bs-advice-will-not-turn-500-client-5000-client-move/
    Thanks Ex-Ray. The article and video in the link were great.

    By the way, I'm still waiting for a reply from the client. If he ends up being that "$500" client, then I suppose I'll just keep doing what I love and enjoy digital sculpting and personal works until I find that $5000 client. I've actually made it my goal to "earn $5,000 per month" as a 3D artist anyway (before the end of the year). :)
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