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Hot Georgia
10-03-2005, 11:34 PM
Hi, this is my first post on this site, please let me introduce myself.

I'm Steve and have been working to learn Lightwave since Jan 2003. I started with V7.0, then 7.5 and am now working in 8.0.
Ever since then LW has been my primary hobby and spend alot of time working in it....4-6 hours a day, almost every day.
I've worked through the book "Inside LW7" a couple of times and studied countless WWW tutorials but have had no formal training and consider myself an intermediate. I also know Photoshop.

Here's a crazy car I've been working on lately:
http://www.greenhybrid.com/share/files/2/0/2/Collage3.jpg
http://home.alltel.net/stevedez_00/car.mpg (3mb)
http://home.alltel.net/stevedez_00/engine.jpg

I'm also into Hybrid cars so I made this crazy funny animation:
http://home.alltel.net/stevedez_00/pj.wmv (3mb, crank up the volume!)

I've gotten pretty good at modeling and texturing, and animating mechanical things like engine parts etc but lack any real character animation skills.

This stuff is sooooo addicting and I'd love to find employment doing this but have no idea where to start.
It doesn't seem likely that an employer would just hire a "joe" off the street with no cridentials so I've considered a bachelor degree in multimedia.

Unfortunetly all the schools in my area work in Max, which I also have but found the transition difficult. Oh! How I hate those Max icons!
So far I haven't signed up for any classes, I'm wondering if they really help?

I'm 45 years old, with a family of 5 and spending all this time with this hobby seems to be a waste, and my wife grows tired of my dedication.

My friends, work colleagues and family think I'm really good at it and seems like I should be able to move forward.

Any ideas where to start to find employment? Newspaper ad pointing to a website? Working a portfolio and sending it to graphic and design businesses?
What has worked for the folks here?

Thanks in advance
-Steve

Surrealist.
10-04-2005, 12:20 AM
At your age and with the fact that you have a family, you might consider starting your own business. You know, start small, get some local accounts perhaps some comercials. You could do a short simple teaser. Promote to some video production places in your area, local government agencies anyplace that might have a need for 3D animation. Layers sometimes need reinactments for depositions etc. There is probably many opertunities to get accounts at the nearest metro area.

Now you don't have to charge much to start. You could start by even doing some work for free just to get a reel. No one needs to know you did it for free but if you build a reel of local places you did jobs for - rather than just inventing things that might look like they were and the credibility would build that way. Now you don't have to take the free part of the advice but hear me out on the concept. The idea is you can underbid all the people who have time and money invested in exuipment and or high end software - not to mention credentials.

That's the first part, the second part is if you are addicted to it, a great way to find out if you like working withing the restrictions, deadlines and so on of an actual job is to do it. No sense getting a job somplace only to find out it's not fun like it was as a hoby and now you hate it and your life. The other thing is just a basic priciple in business: the transition from hobby to working gigs should be natural. If you find you are hitting brick walls and catch 22 after catch 22 cut it back to a simpler level and work from there. Sometimes people try to force these things. Not saying that to work at Mc donalds you have to first sweep thje floor for free until they hire you. But you see where I am going. If you want to expand what you are doing, expand it. It does not have to be in leaps and bounds. It can be fun and easy. If you first put your attention on taking care of people's needs and give them way more than they ask for, before you know it you have more payiung gigs than you can handle and you find you are posting job listings for animators on forums. :)

Hot Georgia
10-04-2005, 02:10 AM
Thank you so much for the advice Surrealist.

That looks like a real plan to build on, I have a few ideas already.
The free idea to build a base is surely workable.

I'm lucky enough to have a good paying primary job already (Which I hate to the core) so immediate major income in CG isn't neccessary.
Of course we'd all like to be employed doing what we love to do and with luck perhaps someday I could achieve that and leave my real job....a goal anyway.

I've also considered the pressure of deadlines.
Up till now I've had none but have considered making some practice deadlines and see how quickly I can get it done....taking my camera out, photographing a detailed building and with keeping a time log, work as quickly as possible and maintian quality. I guess if I do that quite a few times I'd have an idea what to expect, and to better serve future employers more accurately.

Which buildings to model? Prospective employers of course!

Another question if you don't mind...
How are fees assessed?
Estimated time spent on the project? Complexity? Extra additional objects?

You see you've got it rolling.
Thanks! :thumbsup:

Wonderpup
10-04-2005, 02:45 AM
I'm not conviced this idea of doing work for free is a good one, for two reasons. First I think it undermines your credibility as a supplier- how much faith would you have in a product that someone offered to give you for free?

Secondly it also undermines the percived value of the work we do a in more general sense. I have been an artist of sorts all my working life, firstly a 'traditional' artist and latterly a CG artist, and one of the main problems I run into is the idea that 'art' is something done for pleasure not profit. People often seem surprised that I expect to make a living from doing something as 'frivolous' as making 'art'.
I used to visit gallerys with my paintings and the first question I would be asked is " Are you the artist?" and when I admitted I was, was treated in many cases with barely concealed contempt. The reason for this, I belive, is that art galleries are constantly being approached by aspiring artists who are willing to practicaly give work away just to place it in a gallery, and so the gallery owners come to percive artists as sad, desperate and pathetic. These days, when I am asked " are you the artist" I say no. I say I represent the artist, that I am the artist's agent. You would be amazed at the difference this deception makes to the way myself and my paintings are percived. The work is the same- but the perception is different.

So I would say no- do not give your work away, treat it with respect and others will do the same.

In terms of Freelance work I think people are less interested in what you have done for others and more interested in what you can do for them- so it's probably more important to understand the market you are trying to supply than to have a list of credentials that may be less relevent to your prospective clients.

newsvixen8
10-04-2005, 05:02 AM
I agree that giving your work away undervalues it... unless you give it to organizations that traditionally get stuff for free, and those are non-profit groups. I started out by "donating" my work in this way; they were thrilled to get a professional job done, I got a chance to have clients and portfolio work. Many of the people who sit on the board of non-profits make great contacts for future "real" work.

Surrealist.
10-04-2005, 10:44 AM
You guys are missing something. I knew I would get this response by sayng this and I was fully prepared. Better to set the trap and wait than to show all my cards. :D

You have both forgotten what it took to get to the place where you could charge money for your art. You did not just spring from the womb, were instantly dashing off comercial or even successful fine art.

I have expeirince not only as an artist, I have created and sold over 200 peices of my original art in less than a year, but as a musicisan, a working musician, and actor, a filmaker and the list goes on.

Each one of these things I do in life I am honest about where I am on the scale of charging for my services. And yes there is a scale.

Take the oboe for instance. I don't play that instrument but I would sure like to be in New York working on a live Broadway show. That would be nice. Well, that would take a plan - actually I have no such asprirations I am just making a over-the-top-example. You see? You can fill in the blanks.

There is a big difference between operating a professional business and consulting for one.

As an example if someone was to ask me "Should I charge for my services as a professional musician or should I just play for free?"

There could never be one aswer to that question. My asnweer - as a musician - would be no. From professional musician to professional musician the answr would be no, always charge for your services, never take gigs for no money.

But that is because I worked my tail off to get to the point that I could actually first even get a gig paid or not. I got my first gig as a drummer at the age of 14. I had only been playing for 3 months - everyday 5 hours a day 7 days a week. By the time I was 18 I had played many free gigs and finally got my first paying gig. It did ot have to be that way, but that's how it worked out for me. Then as time went on I continued to improve my skills and eventually I was a full time working musician. Now talk about a field that people expect for free. If you think art is this way, try being a musican.

So my answer to a person from a consultantant point of view would be different. I would ask them to assess honestly where they are on this scale of work for free to work for money.

It is not just one day you wake up and decide to start charging money because that is the right thing to do. I have never seen that work.

This is not like just opening up as sign shop on the blvd. and then saying well the first costomers will get signs for free then after a while we'll start charging. No that is missing something. By the time you get to the point of opening up the sign shop you had better be well prepared to deliver a professional product or you will go out of business for sure.

How many times have you heard the sucess story of the guy who worked in some field for many years and has the realization he could do it as a business himself? Then he opens up his own shop and is very successful.

If he just one day decided - never having working in that field - that he wanted to do it. What do you think the bank would say when he asked for a business loan? Depends on his credit right? :D OK but you see my point.

There is a scale.

Doing a few freebees to get going in the business isn't going to hurt anyone's credibility becase thee isn't any creditbility to hurt. He's just starting for god's sake! Give the guy a break. Let him spread his wings and fly. It is not like that would last forever. There are no absolutes either. Niot like it has to take this long or that long. It only takes as long as it takes and the transition will be smooth. It could happen tomorrow. Doesn't matter what the time frame is. Just make it happen one step at a time.

I have seen more people successful by deciding that they will do something because they love it and will just keep doing it until they are good enough to get paid and then keep getting better pay than I have seen people who decide they are going to do anything unless there is money involved. Sure you do get to that point and if you are at that point and you do things for free, yes it hurts your creditbilty.


As for how to assess fees you do it based on the market. The way you assess that is by survey of the market. One way is you can call up places that do this work and pose as a costomer. You can ask for pricing sheets - if any - or any other rates. Make note of all of this. Also make note of the different level of clientel these firms do work with. It can range from a Hollywood effects house to a guy doing logos out of his garage. But get an idea of two things 1) the costomer base and 2) the level and qualkity of service. Be honest about both as far as your skills and ability to get clients.

Will a New York Marketing firm give you the work over a graphics house Manhattan? Or do they do it all in house? These are the things you would learn by working in the business, but you can also do it by survey of the business that is being conducted in your area. After all, this is your competition.

The way I was successful as an artist was I first surveyed the market found out what people would buy and for how much and honestly assessed my ability to get it to THAT market and then worked out how to poduce what they would want.

At first when I figured my pay scale it was rediculous. After a few months I was doing them much faster. So my point is, there is a scale no matter what. If I insisted I was worth x amount per hour from the start I never would have sold any.

Wonderpup
10-05-2005, 02:54 AM
Hi Surrealist.

I do understand what you are saying and yes, when you are starting out, it can seem like a way to get going. The problem is that you end up creating an image of yourself and your product that is negative, and very soon what seemed like a good idea becomes a serious liability to progress.

When I first approached galleries with my paintings I chose to sell them very cheaply, in the hope that the gallery would be persuaded to hang them. And to a degree this worked-BUT when I gained the confidence to begin asking a more realistic price for my work, the galleries to whom I had sold cheaply refused to hang my work at the higher price, even though they knew my work sold well to the public. And the reason for this was simple- they belived that my work was not high quality work. Why did they belive this? Because I myself had told them so!

When I walked into their gallery and sold them my work for a cheap price, the message they recived was that this work was not very good and thats why I was selling it cheaply.

The point you are missing, I belive, is that very often the buyers of our products are themselves not that confident in their own judgment as to what is and is not good or bad. So if you, as the creator of the product, tell them it's really not worth very much- they will belive you! Conversely, if you approach them with confidence and project the idea that your product is a good and valuable one, they will also belive you.

So my advice to anyone starting out in a creative field is never, ever, sell youself short. By all means be realistic about what you charge, but always be aware that to a remarkable extent in this world you are who you say you are.

Hot Georgia
10-05-2005, 03:10 AM
Thanks for all the responses, I have allot of things to consider.

I was thinking I could work up a nice portfolio of various renders of assorted objects and just be honest with perspective clients that I'm just starting out and looking to build a base. They'd know that if I'm still in business after a given while and create a solid base of known clients the fee would go up.

For now I need to get the job, complete the project with quality before the deadline with extras if possible.
I'm sure many businesses would appreciate the offer, a win-win.

I think my first step would be to assess my capabilities so I plan to take my camera around town this weekend. I live in rural N. Ga and many businesses renovate and occupy those old, large plantation houses. Many are used for weddings, etc. These structures are rich in detail...large, wrap around 2-story porches and just begging to be modeled.

In fact a graphics art company has opened in one last month. I'm not sure exactly what their primary market is but it does get me thinking.

I really love old architecture, so much history behind it.
The communities where I live are torn between modernization and preserving the past...many modern structures are being built in the old, early 1900's style, many are duplicates of what once stood there years ago.
I wonder if our city planning board might be interested in nice, large volumetric renders based in the 1920's? Perhaps I could include a nice DVD based fly-by? (Just to get my foot in)
The entire town square is only about 7 brick and wood structures.
In the center of our town is an old renovated passenger train station.
Simple to model, the track has long gone and replaced by an ugly parking lot.
I've made a steam locomotive last year.....hmmm gives me another idea.
Many of the +100 year old buildings in my area are not yet renovated. Old, dilapidated....just a former shell what they used to be.
I could show them their former beauty.
Since they are planning alot of construction I could offer examples based on their current plans to show how their ideas would look before breaking ground?

Ok, I'm getting carried away but thank you all for the great advice. :caffeine:

newsvixen8
10-05-2005, 04:40 AM
Again, donating your services to non-profits (like an historical society) is a good idea for getting your work out before people, and no one devalues it for being "free" if it's a bona fide donation. (I help the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, and meet lots of good contacts at the black-tie fund-raisers.) It sounds as though you've found a cause you believe in, and could justifiably offer your services while you hone your craft. Win-win.

Surrealist.
10-05-2005, 01:11 PM
:) Good things are rollong. You have more than enough information now to start acting. I think all points that have been brought up so far are valid in thier own right and applicable in their own situation. I do like the idea of going after something you are passionate about.

One thing I can not stress enough is the concept of finding out what is needed and wanted. This along with surveying the market. It is really important to know this. Know what kind of business is being conducted by who and for what price. Yep. This takes legg work. But it sounds like time is on your side. It will really help when you get into the situation where competition is an issue or when bidding for a governent contract.

Don't just assume if you make an animation of somthing that people are going to be interested. Find out what they are interested in and why they might be interested in it. As an example the local goernments are always trying to promote one thing or another - like you say - preserving the herritage etc. Find out from them what programs they have going and find out from them how what you do might fit in then you can sell them on it.

Follow your gut, charge money when it is appropriate. Don't undersell yourself short when that is the wrong thing to do and know your market.

Good Luck. :)

AbnRanger
10-05-2005, 10:10 PM
There's a handy book that you may want to snag from someplace like Amazon.com, called "The Graphic Designer's Guide to Pricing, Estimating, and Budgeting" by Theo Stephen Williams. The principles and forms you find in the book will apply to freelance or studio Animation as well.
Years of practice/experience CANNOT be bought at a flea market for a quarter....so, by NO means should you even consider doing anything for free (except as was previously mentioned, for a charity...like I do for my Church).

Regardless of your experience level, or rational for doing so...the end result will be the perception that those types of services aren't worth much, and that you are just doing this for the "coolness factor." You WILL hurt other artists who rightfully deserve what they earn, and YOU WILL hurt yourself in the process, as as been discussed in previous posts.

Years of practice has brought you out of the ranks of being a novice. The whole reason you brought this issue up serves to show that you KNOW you now possess a valuable skill (that will sharpen over time), and feel confident that you are ready to perform commercial level work. Create yourself a business card (get some good quality ones at Office Max or Staples and you can print them at home or just have one of those retailers print them for you), and approach some Ad agencies in your area (ALL of them..not just one or two), and ask them to consider you for any current or future projects that may make good use of 3D Design...whether it be a still for a print ad, or a brief animation for a TV commercial. I wouldn't devulge that you are a rookie
in the marketplace. Give them as little info about where you are as you can. After all, you are NOT trying to sell them on the fact that you are new to the market, but that YOU ARE CAPABLE and AFFORDABLE. If they ask what companies you have done work for in the past (this is where the charity work can save you), then you would simply state that you have years of experience with programs like Lightwave and Photoshop, but you have recently begun working as a freelance artist.
If they seem uninterested at this point, you could counter that you will do the preliminary sketches and pre-viz free of charge (which many artists do charge for). However, MAKE SURE you somehow recover a chunk of the hourly cost by adding those into you overall estimate (ie,adding a few extra dollars to your hourly rate). That's not a dishonest scheme any more than grocery stores selling a few items at cut rate prices...yet they make it up by charging higher costs on most other goods they presume you will purchase while you are there.You do have to eat after all...and the formative, preliminary stage can be among the most time and energy consuming.

It's good to have a diverse set of skills and abilities, but I would choose one or two aspects of 3D Animation and devote yourself to becoming EXCEPTIONAL in that arena. After all, it's far better to excel in one thing than to be mediocre in a lot of things.

Fraust
10-06-2005, 12:06 AM
I agree with most of the info above... even if you do work for free, workup how much it would cost and add a discount section for the total... then they can see what it would normally cost but they get the special friends and family discount, charity, etc...

I have run into situations where I did work for free then they and their friends all expect the same favors! Don't get stuck in that situation, it gets ugly fast and you will need to find creative solutions to saying no politely... believe it or not I've had school projects end up doing that to me because in school we were asked to deal with real clients and projects for our class credit.

PS. make sure you have a rock solid contract written up... without it and you will be in project scope ****!!!

mkiii
10-06-2005, 05:31 AM
Just in case it hasn't been mentioned in the reams of advice already given. I urge you to get a few models with some nice preview renders on a commercial site such as Turbosquid.com or one of its rivals.

They do all the work, (for a 50% cut of course), and you get a neat way of showcasing your models with the minimum amount of work.

You can offer stuff for free on there if you so wish, but getting paid something is much more satisfying, even if it is just for confidence building.

If you use their forums to promote your stuff, and include contact details with the writeup for each model, you will gradually start to build up a list of contacts.

This is a good thing & can lead to many jobs.


Like you, I do a full time job, and freelance work. I am also of a similar (hem hem) age.
My paltry TS collection. Earns enough pocketmoney to keep me in smokes, and software upgrades.
http://www.turbosquid.com/Search/Index.cfm/FuseAction/ProcessSmartSearch/istIncAuthor/mkiii/blAuthorExact/y