View Full Version : The Business of 3D: Getting Started, How it Works

01-31-2004, 01:58 PM
up until recently my plans for LW were just for fun... but now, i would like to take my skill (i have a little skill) and make money out of it. How do you advertise? I know that alot of jobs may come from past acquantinces but what about when ur first starting out? How do you go about pricing? Do you have to physically meet the client? If there's any more tips you got, let's have 'em! :)


01-31-2004, 02:42 PM
Sometimes you just have to get lucky:) .

01-31-2004, 03:09 PM
Well, the first thing you need would be a good demo reel that you can pass onto potential clients to show them the range of your abilities. That or a website you can point people towards that showcases your work and what you can do for them. If you want to work for yourself, you need to know how to market yourself.

Elmar Moelzer
01-31-2004, 05:06 PM
Hey SamuraiSlayer!
Here is a bit from my personal experience after 3 years of running my own company:

1. Even if you are an excellent artist, this will not guaranty you a satisfiing amount of jobs. Make sure you know where to get jobs from, before starting your own business.
I would suggest, that you have a few (at least 2, better more) clients, that you know will give you small projects every month or so.
Make these connections while you are employed somewhere and before you start your own business.
Best thing is to do some small projects with them, over weekends. If you see that they are happy with your work and that they will want to come again, you have a good basis.
This will also provide you with a small portfolio to start with.

2. Make sure, that you always ask 50% up front, or a milestone- based payment for large projects, especially if you have to hire other people to help you out. Otherwise, you can end up with the client going out of business and you are left with people to pay from nothing (this happened to me twice!!).

3. Make sure, that you have a well defined todo- list (with well defined extra cost for additional work, the client may want you to do) for larger projects, or otherwise you will end up with the client asking more from you, than you expected (note: clients always want more than they initially said).

4. Small projects that can be done in 2 or 3 days are good, especially if you have enough of them to keep you going.
Large projects will usually go much slower, as the clients will want to spend a lot of time for additional tweaks or more time for the preparation of a project and meetings etc. This is additional time that you will not always be able to ask (full) money for. Make sure that you include that into you calculations!
Personally, I prefer having a small architectural project every other day, than a ten times bigger project every other month.
These small projects are your bread and buter, the big projects are the sugar on top...

5. If you have good industry- contacts, try to get to work on some projects as a subcontractor. This is a good way to get more insight into the industry and you might be able to include this subcontractor- work into your personal portfolio (this is not always the case, but at least here most of the time).

Hope that helps...

01-31-2004, 05:52 PM
I'm just doing casual freelance atm but I was recently in your position of taking the pleasure of 3d into the business of 3d.

Its really hard starting out, one thing is for sure tho - lots of little jobs are sooo much nicer than a few big ones! For one it helps you stay intrested in your job, if you've been working for months on the same thing it will get a bit dull.

Pricing is really hard! When i first started out i was completely clueless, read up as much as i could find (which wasnt a lot!) and decided to go about it in the following way. I took a professional hourly pay, estimated how many hours the project would take me (including time for testing, rendering and as always CHANGES[normally double or tripple what i first expect just to take into account changes, problems, and my bad judgement!]) and then tried to figure out if the client would pay me that. And then altering.
The thing that gets me with pricing is this; you dont know how much they'll spend, and they dont know how much you need. Both sides want the best deal, so who gives a price first?
If you do and its alot lower than they expected then you've missed out and might've missed the opportunity to buy some new upgrades which could potentially get you another project. Alternatively if you quote wayyyyyyy to high then they'll probably turn around and say no way, or just wont turn around at all and you're left woundering what is going on!
If they price up first then the same sort of thing can happen. The game is about getting them to price first so you can say 'well i was thinking lower than that' then give them something half way between what you want and what they want...(that always makes them really happy and good relations leads to potential jobs down the line) OR if its lower than what you want but still worth your while (it could just be something you realllly want to do, or that would look great in ya portfolio, or you could just need the money) just say ok thats fine and no one knows any different.
It often helps to do a load of research on your client first, i get a lot of jobs from the net so a browse around their website, quick look at their client list, and you start to build a picture about how much they maybe willing to spend - that will help you quote them happy.
As you do more and more things for other people you'll get better at quoting and allowing the right ammounts of extra time etc. I recently done a logo, decided at the time it would take me about 2hours work time, told the client it would take a week, and found out it probably took half a day work time(not including how long they took to respond to emails etc!). Another thing to think about is the time it will take and the time you tell them it will take - simply put if you finish early then they'll be impressed and again this will increase the likelyhood of further work.

Woo, i'm babing on a bit here! Sorry! Some work you *have* to meet the client, some you dont. Generally the bigger the project the more likely it is you need to physically meet, because when big money is at stake 1 hour communication face to face is priceless. I'm now shutting up. Hope this helps!

01-31-2004, 09:32 PM
Get a part time job to supliment your income during the dry periods. When I was going to Uni I drove a cab, not a great paying job, but it was something that I could fall back on whenever needed.

If you want to do big jobs, you'll need to have some cash behind you to keep your business running. I actually prefer big jobs becuase it gives a bit more security, if you have a fve week project with a decent budget.

Also the variety of work you do maybe wide and varied, so always good to be flixible and continually learning new skills.

01-31-2004, 11:14 PM
thx for all the replies guys, and its really helping :)

but what is the 1st thing that i will do. I know a website and a demo reel would help, but where EXACTLY do i start?

Jaffro: You said you get a lot of jobs from the net, so where do you go to find them? Search engine, classifieds? If a search engine... what do you search for?

thx guys :)

02-01-2004, 12:27 AM
Once you start looking you begin to find them.

Try liquidwit.com they sometimes have work for logos etc. Also check the job sections each day on CG Talk, CG Channel, Flay.

But you're own website is a big plus, so probably start there first.

02-01-2004, 01:42 AM
well, I did the opposite.... he he

02-01-2004, 07:19 AM
As im in the UK I use a website called noagenciesplease.com, its not strickly graphics work of any kind, but it brings in things every now and again, generally logos although i did get a film effects job from there a while ago. There's also http://www.freelancers.net but its pratically a clone. I'm also lucky enough to get a decent ammount of work from a connection to the family. But this is only my partime enjoyment, if i was trying to live off it i suspect i would be sending CD's out to people promoting myself and have a PROPER website. As well as having another, safer, job in a supermarket or cab driver as riki said. I would recomment trying to get a flexible job as possible, becuse if your lucky enough to land yourself a BIG job then you may need to squeeze some cheeky sick days to make sure you meet the deadline when everything is going tits up!

SamuraiSlayer, the 1st thing you should do is start working on a good portfolio of work. My website is nothing but images and animation, its a very poor site but it serves its purpose very well - shows what i can do and what ive done recently. So i would say to just start making a few things to show off, i see a lot of logo design requests so i recomment making a couple of good logos. Try re-designing the lightwave logo (even those that contest is over now) it will give you a good research subject and a image for your portfilio - then maybe this (combined with other images) will get you a logo job, then you can put that one on your website too... etc etc.

Once you've got a good gallery of work showing what you can do then be sure to use that to your advantage when replying to ad's. As riki mentioned "always good to be flixible and continually learning new skills ", and its vital you keep doing this, when there's no paid work then you should be working way harder than normal trying to learn new things as well as finding new jobs!

woop, there i go again rabbiting on. Never expect to be able to go out there and choose a job btw, its more look every day twice a day until you finally see a suitable one and then hope to god you get it when you apply. But first things first, dont go for a job without being backed up by your own work and make sure you always link them to your web page of work. So get working on some images/animations as the first thing to do, or just take what you have and put it on a webpage.

02-15-2004, 06:44 PM
ok i took in some of this advice and posted myself at cgtalk (that was a kinda hard sentence to word, so...) and got an offer and accepted it.

so... new question: how do you go about pricing and insuring that you get ur money? if you work at a studio or something then of course u'll get ur money but if its over the internet then... ???


02-15-2004, 06:58 PM
You need a signed written agreement, which outlines clearly your terms and conditions, what is being supplied, who owns what, the delivery date, renumeration, etc etc that sort of thing, plus an up-front payment, usually 33%.

Of course most ppl don't follow this advice, myself included but after you've been burnt for 6 or 7 k you slowly start to get the message. ;)

02-15-2004, 09:36 PM
thanks for the quick reply :)

so for the signed written agreement how do you get it signed by both parties...

i know i could write something out and scan it and send it to the client, have them sign it and scan it and send it back to me but then im kinda convinced that it wouldnt be very valid...

do you have to resort to snail mail?

02-15-2004, 09:59 PM
Yeah signing across the net is a bit annoying. In the past I've just faxed it to clients. You can buy cheap all-in-one printers now that have 'photocopiers, fax and scanners'. maybe worth looking into if you're getting serious.

02-15-2004, 10:24 PM
so copied signatures are just as valid as the original?


02-15-2004, 10:27 PM
No probably not as good, but in the given situation, probably the best you can do. Usually when clients contact you, they have urgent deadlines, you wouldn't want to be waiting for snail mail before you could get started.

02-15-2004, 11:32 PM
in court it's the same value.... he he:D

02-16-2004, 12:59 PM
Firstly, Elmar and Jaffro's advice is particularly excellent IMHO.

Spend time building the relationship with your client, listening to what their project is about, what they need to do, and getting to know them a bit, and asking astute questions. Don't do anything concrete without a written agreement and with a bit of money up front. Connect with trustworthy mentors in an unrelated field. You may know someone in the local Chamber of Commerce, or there may be a related group, retired and putting a bit back into community with advice.

I found most days between marketing, keeping track of the business (essential!) and other tasks I have about a third of the day to actually do the work. This changes from week to week when there is immediate production work to do, but it averages out to about that, or around 3 hours per day. The markup and extra budgeting is in part to help cover the time spent doing these extra tasks, which is why your rate should be professional.

Another good place to start is market research. The library and possibly local small business support centres can help. There are at least two angles to look at it (and probably much more): 1) is there a niche in the market? If entertainment is popular, what about animation for architecture or e-learning? The possible advantage is that you'll have more work to yourself. The disavantage is that there may not be enough work to sustain your business or you need to develop the demand somehow. Which leads us to angle 2): Is there a related niche that has lots of potential competitors in it? This shows there is indeed a market for that type of work. Then the question becomes, how much of that market could you gain with your skills and personality?

Then population enters into it. Of all the people in your area, what percentage or dollar amount does the industry generate? Perhaps 20% of that population may be interested in what you offer, maybe 2% of them have the money and want to work with you now. Perhaps 2% of that 2% can become your clients. Is that enough to sustain your business? Researching the market helps to test those 'maybes' and 'perhaps' with something more concrete. In my case it worked out to around $40-$50k in the least optimistic view. The research basically tests your ideas a bit.

This is partially why people make business plans. If the reel is good you get in the door and get a bit of time with potential clients, but the rest sheds light on whether overall it's a good bet to begin with. A good way to tackle this is an online business planner like http://smallbusinessbc.ca/ibp/index.php , and working with the people in the business section of your local library. Gov't keeps stats on how much a particular industry makes in a year, and on possible trends.

That's the prep work. In my case I was very fortunate to meet a previous client contact with interesting projects on the go, and our philosophies and skills were complimentary.

This is all a bit much if you're in your teens, but I hope it's food for thought! My business is doing well at the moment because I have clients, several contracts, a 'what if' biz plan and a group I meet with to stay connected and share the challenges and successes :) Good luck!

02-16-2004, 01:14 PM
Originally posted by SamuraiSlayer
thanks for the quick reply :)

so for the signed written agreement how do you get it signed by both parties...

i know i could write something out and scan it and send it to the client, have them sign it and scan it and send it back to me but then im kinda convinced that it wouldnt be very valid...

do you have to resort to snail mail?

Fax machine :D then sending/receiving a formal copy in the mail.