When first coming to any industry we often lack the necessary reference point for when deciding on the quality level and price of a project. Don’t worry, in this article we will cover the factors that affect the costs when working with freelance artists.
It’s not shocking to see price as being the first thing people will look at. We are naturally tempted to pick the cheapest product. However, before that, it’s good to clarify a major misconception. It is often caused due to not having a reference for how much various things in the industry cost.
It is completely normal when first coming into the Computer Graphics industry to be amazed at how much everything costs. Even things we might consider as ‘looking quite simple’ can be quite costly.
A good example of this is the Fortnite style of characters. They might look quite simple with their ‘less’ complex shapes and more ‘flat’ textures, compared to a more realistic style of character like ‘Aloy’ from the ‘Horizon’ series. However, due to the stylised look of Fortnite, the amount of work required to create a seemingly ‘simple’ character can be just as much as a realistic one.
The key takeaway is that just because something looks relatively ‘simple’, does not mean it is cheap to make.
ALT: The main character Aloy from the Horizon video game series shooting a bow. Highly realistic image. Source: https://mashable.com/article/horizon-forbidden-west-reviews-roundup
ALT: Five characters from Fortnite video game. They are colourful and stylised in their look. Source: https://www.polygon.com/2020/11/2/21545855/fortnite-ps5-next-gen-upgrade-consoles-playstation-5-xbox-series-x-s-60-fps]
Another big aspect that affects the price is the experience of the artist. If you want the cheapest price then you should pick a junior artist who is trying to prove themselves in the industry. You might find some good talent for a good price there but they will likely be snatched up very quickly.
After junior level artists move up to mid-level, and then senior, and beyond into lead artist level. As expected this leads to increased costs and higher quality. The CG that we often see in day-to-day life like in movies is likely to have been made by a more senior artist team with a large budget, which can greatly skew the expectations when working with a single lower-level artist.
ALT: A simplified diagram of the main roles an artist might take in their career path. Source: https://www.fifteendesign.co.uk/blog/graphic-design-career-path-and-progression/
However, it is good to keep in mind that the cost also greatly depends on the specialisations of the artist and what software they use. A VFX artist who uses Houdini is likely to be much more expensive than an Unreal Engine VFX artist.
Plus, a more experienced artist will cost more than a generalist and any additional specialisations add more cost. For example, a technical artist will often charge extra due to them having to combine art with programming skills.
Summarised, more experienced artists with more niche specialisations will charge more, but produce much better results.
The other important factor to remember is the location of the artist as living costs vary greatly around the world, which significantly affects what an artist charges. This is why so many studios outsource to Asian and South American countries. The costs can be significantly cheaper.
However, there are potential issues if you wish to go for the cheapest artist in a faraway land. These are not only ethical concerns around worker exploitation, but also intellectual property theft, scams, and the risk of lower quality. When dealing with a sketchy-looking outsourcing studio please keep this in mind.
How to reduce risks when using cheaper artists?
Luckily, at CGHero all our artists are pre-vetted and we have many protections in place to prevent any such issues from arising. This allows talented artists from around the world to have the opportunity to work on projects they might not have ever had the chance to in their countries and earn a good living. A win-win for everyone.
With all these considerations it can be a bit intimidating on deciding who to work with. At CGHero we recommend typically going with the middle quote. So if you have 4 quotes you want to pick the one roughly in the middle. However, before that, it is important to check the artist’s portfolio to see if they have the necessary experience for the job.
We also encourage speaking with the artist in the chat to ensure they fully understand your requirements and iron out any details and negotiations. And, if you are still unsure then please feel free to speak with your project support member at CGHero who come from the industry and can suggest a good artist.
If you would like to discuss a potential project please message us at firstname.lastname@example.org.