Have you ever wondered about the steps to become a freelance 3D artist or how to get freelance 3D work remotely?
3D modeling services and design come to the forefront of technology and is widely used to create movies, video games, animations, and more. For those who have both a love for technology and an artistic side, 3D modeling can be a fun career choice that allows for flexibility of when and where you work. For those who want to freelance, 3D modelers are in high demand, and you may find it easier to get work as compared to other jobs. A freelance 3D modeler has an average median income of $63,000 making it a desirable career choice for many aspiring professionals.
Table of contents
- 3D modeler salaries on Glassdoor.com
- 3D artist average pay on Indeed.com
- Average 3D artist salary on PayScale.com
- What is 3D modeling?
- How to become a freelance 3D modeler
- Getting hired as a freelance 3D modeler
- Common mistakes made by freelance 3D modelers
- Tips for being successful as a freelancer
- Cad Crowd has freelance 3D modelers and 3D artists
3D modeler salaries on Glassdoor.com
3D artist average pay on Indeed.com
Average 3D artist salary on PayScale.com
What is 3D modeling?
3D modeling involves the use of computer software to create images in 3D form. Artists create these detailed images by creating points in 3D space, helping show the computer how a model might move and act. The models can then be used in a variety of different ways, from printing them out using a 3D printer, to making 2D images with them, or seeing how a product might look before it is created.
3D modeling is used in a surprising number of fields. The medical industry uses 3D modeling to create a detailed image of human organs, the advertisement field uses them in much the same way the entertainment field does, and many designers use 3D modeling as a preview of future products.
How to become a freelance 3D modeler
3D modeling takes an understanding of the necessary software, as well as some artistic talent. If you are interested in learning how to become a desirable 3D modeler, there are several steps you can take to sharpen your skills.
☑ It’s not about education this time.
In most industries, an impressive array of certifications or a degree of some kind is required to land a job. This factor isn’t the case in the 3D modeling world. Those who are looking to hire a 3D modeler will instead be looking at your skill level, and with whom you have worked before.
Instead of spending your hard earned cash on a master’s degree in art, focus on simply taking the classes you need to learn the job and learn it well. A spectacular portfolio and a bachelor’s degree is worth a lot more to a potential employee than a master’s degree and a so-so portfolio. In many cases, you don’t need any formal education at all, as long as you have learned the software well and have a great portfolio. (Not sure on what software to focus? Maya and Zbrush are the most commonly used software.)
☑ Don’t have any job credits yet? Become a generalist.
Most people become a 3D modeler knowing in what field they want to work. Becoming a 3D modeler for games or movies is fun, but the competition is fierce. To improve your chances of getting your first few jobs, apply to any 3D modeling jobs available, even if they are not in the field you want. The more jobs you have available to apply for, the greater the chance you will have of getting hired.
When you have a large enough portfolio to start targeting in the field where you want to work, the fact that you have worked in a variety of different fields will only benefit you. A wide array of different model types shows the company that you are attempting to work for that you are adaptable and can handle anything they can throw at you.
☑ It’s all about your portfolio
With whom you have worked and the quality your portfolio defines the likelihood of your getting a job. If you are just getting started, creating a dazzling portfolio is very more important. Go through the models you have made in the past and choose the best 3 to be first in your portfolio. You only get one chance to make a great impression and having your very best work at the forefront makes sense.
If you don’t know how to create a top quality website, it is worth hiring someone to create one for your portfolio. 3D modeling is all about appearances, from the fine detail of the 3D model itself to the texturing that gives life to an otherwise flat surface. If the website you upload your portfolio to doesn’t hold up its own visual appeal, it may detract from the message of quality you are trying to send.
☑ Networking with prospects
Networking is almost as vital a skill for a 3D modeler as the actual modeling itself. The students you learn alongside may well be the people you work with tomorrow, so it is important to reach out and stay in contact with these people. Your professors may be a good reference when you are trying to land a job.
When you get hired by a company and create your first 3D model, keep reaching out to the people you worked with and adding them to your network. The more people you know, the more likely it is you can work with them to find you your next job.
Becoming a 3D modeler takes a combination of artistic talent, skill, and the ability to put yourself out there. Whether you choose to work at a company or strike it out on your own, you will need all of these factors in order to be successful at 3D modeling.
Getting hired as a freelance 3D modeler
Once you have all the skills you need to be successful, and a great portfolio, it’s time to start looking for jobs. As a freelancer, you won’t have a steady stream of projects sent your way like at an office job. You’ll have to go out and look for them. Your best bet is to start looking on sites that are geared toward freelance 3D modelers and applying to every job you think you can handle. In the beginning, you will probably be turned down a lot, but as you gain more credentials, you’ll be able to pick and choose.
There are some websites to help you find freelance jobs. Becoming familiar with these websites is a great first step to launching your career as a freelance 3D modeler.
Cad Crowd is an online community that helps clients confidentially hire 3D CAD designers, freelance engineers, and industrial modelers on demand. The platform allows you to create a freelancer profile, share insights with the design community and develop your skills with 3D modeling contests.
Freelancer allows you to both post your profile and hunt for jobs through their database. Bid on the jobs you would like to do, and if the person hiring likes your work, they can contact you for more information. Jobs are available ranging from small projects that are perfect to get your feet wet, all the way up to big projects that will give you a solid paycheck for some time.
You can post your profile on Upwork, and if businesses are interested in your skills, they can contact you. It is helpful to have a portfolio that speaks to potential employers because it’s a little harder to put yourself out there on Upwork. You can submit a proposal to businesses for jobs you are interested in, but that’s about it. Upwork shouldn’t be ignored as a potential place to earn income. However, it is one of the largest freelance websites out there.
Other sites for freelance gigs
Other places to consider for finding 3D modeling gigs include Craigslist, LinkedIn Profinder, Guru.com, Hubstaff Talent, Thumbtack.com, CGtrader, and Truelancer.
3D Modeling Forums
Not only are forums a great place to learn more about the craft and get your questions answered, but they also often have a job listing page. Many 3D modelers get their start by applying to every single job listing available and offering their services at low prices (or even free) to get their first few customers.
Although offering low prices is effective, offering your services for free is not a recommended strategy. As you grow in ability and become more desirable, your customers may still expect free work. You can’t pay the rent with free labor; it is probably best to avoid this issue. It may take time to acquire your first few jobs, but once you’ve managed that, your credentials should be enough to help you get bigger and better jobs.
Common mistakes made by freelance 3D modelers
When you decide to become a freelance 3D modeler, mistakes made can be devastating. If you are consistently alienating your customers, word will quickly get around that you are not a desirable candidate for jobs. Eventually, work could be very difficult or impossible to find, so it is best to get your projects right the first time, every time. Here are some tips to help you achieve those goals.
✘ You weren’t very prompt
3D modeling is a competitive industry. Every minute you delay your response to an email or voicemail is a minute your competition has to get there first. While you don’t have to refresh your email every few seconds to make sure you didn’t miss correspondence, you do need to check your communication channels regularly and respond to them.
When you have a project in the works, taking deadlines seriously is also a critical part of your job. Your customers often can’t proceed with many other parts of the project until your work is finished. If you don’t take deadlines seriously, you can end up delaying an entire project. This situation can be awkward and embarrassing for both you and the customer. If you do think you won’t finish on time, let your customer know as early as possible, and take it seriously.
✘ You didn’t challenge yourself
When you are just starting, it is tempting to only apply to jobs you think you’ll get. The little tiny design jobs, companies no one has heard of, and jobs that pay very little. While it is true these jobs are great to start building your portfolio and get you in the door, you should also be applying to your dream jobs too. The bigger the job you can get, the easier it will be for you to get your next job.
You won’t know whether or not they will agree to hire you until you’ve tried, so apply for a dream job as often as you apply to the one that you think you will get.
✘ You didn’t network
We’ve talked a little bit about how important networking is, but the truth is that not networking can lose the majority of your business for you. Many great companies to work for never post a job listing at all. Instead, when they need to hire, they ask the people already working for them if they have anyone who they recommend. That artist you went to school with could be the next big name working at your dream job. If you stayed in contact with him or her, s/he might remember your name when making those recommendations.
Whenever you meet someone in the industry, make sure they have your contact information, to keep in touch with them. You never know when being friendly and professional with another person will lead to a great job.
✘ You stopped learning
Your portfolio is every bit as important as who you know. The moment you stop learning, you also stop improving. Don’t limit yourself and what you can do by deciding your education is over. Make a learning experience out of every model you create. Do your best to improve from project to project. The more you advance yourself, the more you’ll be able to handle. If you keep pushing your limits, the dream job that was out of your reach three projects ago could be attainable now.
Knowledge is a necessary tool for the industry. The more you have, the better off you’ll be. Even if you can’t afford to take classes or workshops with other professionals, you can still improve your skills. Watch YouTube videos, ask questions on forums, or even join Facebook groups that will help you continue learning.
Tips for being successful as a freelancer
Excellent skills, a spectacular portfolio, and a solid network aren’t the only things you need to succeed as a freelancer. You also need to be professional, have a good working attitude, and make a good impression every time you work with a customer. Here are a few tips for keeping your freelancing skills polished and shining.
☑ Adopt a great attitude
When given a choice between two people of comparable skill level, which one do you think a customer will choose? A person who is unpleasant to work with, or a charismatic person who brightens the workplace? A great attitude is worth a lot. This factor may play a large role in whether people are willing to hire you again. Always put your best foot forward. You will get better references and more repeat customers.
☑ Working from home? Set work hours.
There are a lot of wonderful benefits to working from home. Work attire can be your pajamas and a mug of coffee, and you can stop working to do whatever you need to do. Right? Unfortunately, this point is where many freelancers can fail. When you are working, you need to adopt a working attitude to finish a project on time.
Stick to your work hours and work all the way through them. Treat your freelance work like a ‘real’ job. This point also means when you are done working, be done. It is just as easy to go in the opposite direction and fail to balance your work life.
☑ Charge enough to pay the bills
While offering low prices to get your foot in the door is sometimes a strategy you need to use to launch yourself, you need to pay the rent too. Know how much you are worth by visiting glassdoor.com and seeing what other people with similar skill levels are getting. You don’t need to be a starving artist to be a freelancer.
☑ Follow your gut
Have a bad feeling about a job? There is probably a reason for it. If a job looks too good to be true, or if the people who message you about a job seem like a nightmare to work with—you are probably right. Sometimes saying no to a job is a better option than ignoring those gut instincts and taking the job anyway. It only takes one customer who seemed overly anxious about pricing (especially if they also want a guarantee their project will be successful because of your work) to make your life miserable for weeks. If someone makes you uncomfortable, politely decline the project.
Becoming a freelance 3D artist or 3D modeler is a gratifying career. Very few careers offer good pay while letting you be creative at the same time. If you’re hoping to make it as a freelance 3D modeler, follow these tips and you will be well on your way to a successful and happy career.
Cad Crowd has freelance 3D modelers and 3D artists
As a freelance 3D designer, you may run into situations when you may need some expert help. Cad Crowd’s pre-vetted and confidential freelance professionals offer a wide variety of different services. Check out how it works and take your freelancing business to a new level.