Crossing Over pt 1: Hobbyist to Freelance

July.13.2009 · Posted By - Rex

Well, for my first blog entries here at Perfect Visualization, why not talk about the ‘entrance’ in to a business life in CG. That of crossing over from hobbyist to freelancer. The next segment will be the transition from a one man operation to a small studio. But for now, why not take a look at the challenge that many have, turning one’s passion in to an income one step at a time.

Going from having something you love to do as a hobby to making money from it, let alone liveable money at it, can be a daunting process. Here are some points.

  • Know what your strengths are and are not. Sizing yourself up and where you might fit against the competition is critical. Get outside opinions and be willing to take constructive criticism. Find a mentor for advice who has achieved what you want. You will find that the artist community is not overly protective and are willing to help.

  • Are you willing to work purely for experience? Whether that is working to produce ‘virtual’ experience on your reel, or working for free or very low rates to get professional experience? This is the most precious commodity at this stage.

  • Think big. Present yourself honestly yet present yourself as a business, even at this stage. Both your resume and your portfolio and reel are very important. Not everything you have done should be in your portfolio/reel, you should pare it down to the most impressive pieces that will grab the interest of your potential client.

  • Don’t be afraid to do work that may not be exactly what you want to do. You may want to model and texture game characters but the work before you is modeling a construction job that is being presented in a court case. Find a way to make the work interesting, it will therefore be reflected in the effectiveness in how it is used.

  • There are numerous sites dedicated to coupling companies and freelance work. Like ifreelance,, or many many forums and freelance posting sites. Frequent these sites and watch the chatter. Bid on anything you think you can do.

  • At this stage you are not going to demand a lot of compensation and also when making first time connections, there may be unscrupulous parties on the other end who will try to take advantage or maybe even not pay for services. Figure out how big a potential job is before you ask for a down payment for first time engagements.

  • Make a business plan and plan your identity. Five years from now, do you still want to be a freelance illustrator? Or do you want to journey in to other areas and have help at that point? Start to present yourself as a business even though your client list may have no names on it.

  • Make the most of your first jobs. Get testimonials and ask for permission to show professional work in your reel or portfolio.

  • Professional Development – Buy books and tutorials, or take classes in your area of interest. In fact you need to commit to doing this to stay alive in any technology driven discipline so you have to make this a permanent discipline.

  • Be patient. Re-evaluate what is working and what isn’t. You may be in this phase for quite a long time.

I worked at CG as a hobbyist for almost 10 years while working in Software Development. I entered competitions, worked on ‘for fun’ projects for quite some time before I did my first freelance work, doing business as PerspectX back in 2002. Not having specific art or graphic design credentials required that I develop, out of self interest, a portfolio of modeling, rendering, and animation materials.

Take care of your clients. Always make them feel like their deadline is important, and that quality matters. Let them know that you are an extension of their team and want to help them succeed.

Coming up in pt 2, Freelance to Small Studio.

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