Is it possible to make a living by freelancing in 3D modeling and animation?


I am doing some research, and would just like to know if any of you have any data or info related to freelancing in 3D industry.

Is it big enough to make a living freelancing?


no its much too small.



What about making a living selling 3D models online in 3D model stock agencies? Like turbosquid and the like?


Depends how you interpret ‘freelancing’ - in your case, you mean self employed at home in your own office making 3D… and for this scenario, its extremely hard work. There are a few who mix 3D work with illustration and do well, but just modelling can be hard. I know some folks who have worked for a company for x years, then decide to work from home and the company is happy to entrust them to take on work they can outsource to him/her… but it may not be steady.

The other ‘freelancing’ is going to a studio and working for a fixed contract period - this is very common and you will easily find work doing this. It favours the studios to work in this manner as they don’t have to employ when there is little work, but this is something you have to be wary of… will there be another job waiting at the end of your current contract. Not a nice situation to be in especially if you have a mortgage or what not, so I’d try and look for a permanent job - something that seems difficult to find sadly.


Sure you can live, I mean you should first consider priorities and what would you like to do.
One small anecdote, recently I met graduated director, he didn’t have proper job, so he started learning 3D and 2D, during a course of one year he finished one causual game using LW he learned on his own, and photoshop, not a huge hit and it doesn’t look amazing yet he managed to earn very nice money and start his own company, now he is working on another one.
Off course if you want to work on bigger projects that would be much tougher, but I believe that what is important at the end of the day is did you earn some money or not, and any project can be interesting enough to invest some time in it.


I’m afraid, if you’re asking that question, the answer for you is: No, most likely you wont be able to do that.


And why would that be?
Because I am sitting here in the forum and asking questions instead of practicing 3D modeling?
Or because I said that I am doing some research, and yet, I have not found the answer in other places and am asking it here?

If you elaborated, I might learn something useful. But if you simply state that the answer is no for me, then it would be very nice to get a reason too. Maybe, if I know the reason I can fix up the cause of it…


It’s a kinda ‘you’ll only know until you know from grizzled experience’ deal.

Basically a rookie with no contacts, no you wont be living off remote freelance.

Its like saying can I make money off the stock market,well yes and no. Really any answer we give is irrelevant and you should have to go find out for yourself.


Alright, I get it. I see that it was actually a stupid question. Sorry for taking your time.

I guess I will stop “researching” and wasting my time in other similar ways, and will simply fire up my 3Ds Max and start modeling and learning and experimenting, until I can submit some models and see how it goes. I guess it will take quite some time, as I am completely new to 3D world.

Thanks again!


After the small web/archviz company I was working for in 2001 hemorrhaged and me and a friend found ourselves jobless coupled with prospects in our region not being good for working elsewhere, we started our own gig. Hard to believe it’s been 10 years. There were a couple clients that came with us but aside from that we had to build our business from scratch. I’m not going to say it has been easy. You have to be prepared for some precarious financial situations if your going out on your own. Granted job security in our field doesn’t seem to be all that it’s cracked up to be either.

Anyway. Unless someone has an absolutely amazing portfolio and reputation or some connections with studios, producers, game management etc. it is unlikely they can expect much freelance work in film, TV, AAA games for a long time if ever. Surviving the 3D solo act means finding a niche you can fill well and that there is demand for. It doesn’t mean trying to be a “Modeler” for games, or “vfx artist” for film/tv, you’ll get hungry real quick boxing yourself in that way. The solo gig is mostly for generalists who can be versatile and work for many different industries. For example I have created 3D models, animations, rigs, lighting setups etc. for the education, medical, oceanographic, military, industrial design, architectural, visual arts, mobile marketing and book illustrations to name a few industries as well as broadcast work for Discover, History and National Geographic channels and various commercial campaigns.

The good news is the amount of 3D work is increasing all the time. More and more industries need this work done and often don’t know who to turn to. Find a way to build a diverse clientele that trusts and values your contribution and you’re golden. Also if you put all your eggs in one industry basket it makes you vulnerable to the ups and downs of that one industry. Not good. We’ve had our highs and lows but have mostly managed a decent living for ourselves and our families. It’s a hard but rewarding path.

Also you have to want it as bad as this guy. If you don’t, all the advice in the world won’t help.


I’m not sure why there have been so many negative posts so far. It is definitely possible, I know a lot of people who have freelanced for a long time.

In my experience, it helps tremendously to be a jack of all trades and not turn any type of work away. If you want to only do one specific thing, than it will be a lot harder. But if you can do a bit of everything like motion graphics, design, 3d, even editing, etc, then there is plenty of work out there. Especially in the corporate world, businesses always need some crap little video for a presentation and they usually pay the best. There’s a saying among freelancers - some for the reel, some for the meal. Meaning the boring corporate work pays the best, looks the worst. The cool projects that look great on your reel, pay the least. You’re probably going to be doing a mix of both types. Even major design and animation studios will do work that may not be the most creatively fulfilling, but pays well. They just don’t highlight those jobs as much as the high-end ones.

And don’t forget you need to have some pretty decent business skills as well. Bidding, invoicing, networking, dealing with clients, collecting payments, presentations, advertising, marketing, etc.


Everything th3ta said is very true, ignore the discouraging posts. It’s certainly not an easy life to live, but it can certainly be done.

I’ve been freelancing since I graduated two years ago, and if you check my portfolio you’ll see, I’m really not some spectacular 3D artist or anything. Your goal should be finding a niche market and catering to that, for me, it has been doing animations for tech companies when they go to trade shows. I’ve picked up a few small 1-2 month long jobs to tide me over during slow periods, but for the most part all my work has been created directly for clients. The key to success is definitely being able to do a wide range of jobs because strictly modeling & animation just isn’t going to happen. On any given day I could be doing web development, Flash development, motion graphics, animation, print design, visual effects shots, etc… I’m only really interested in doing VFX / animation work, but I have to do these others things in order to make ends meet.

So in response to your original question, no, you cannot make a living freelancing only through modeling & animation. You’ll need to learn a wider range of skill sets to better ensure you can meet client demands and be able to pay your bills.


Dude, chill!
The secret of forums is to get reactions. Where developing your work goes they are invaluable. You will hear/read things you don’t want to but in my experience everyone is trying to help.

A good book about freelancing and ‘Getting a job in Computer Animation’ Lays down a couple of points.

Freelancing you will be spending 80% of your time looking for work and doing things that are necessary to keep going as a small business that are not related to your task.

Generally freelancers have 15 weeks a year they are working full time. That one shocked me. Calculate your hour price based on that. The calculation isn’t difficult, keeping your price attractive for prospective clients is very difficult unless you can score a regular perennial gig. What these guys are saying about doing a bit of everything could not be truer. I have the local college as a client and do instruction for them to keep doing what I want atm.

Get a good book keeper, they are worth their weight in gold because often they are plugged right into all sorts of money saving tricks (legal). Never work for free. Fifteen percent of all clients are dying to cheat you, seventy percent are shopping and the other fifteen percent are the ones you want. These ones appreciate what you do, trust you and value a good business relationship because they know good communication saves and makes money. You have to somehow make sure you are not holding the bag as a freelancer. Payment up front is ideal, if that is not possible payment and work in stages. Never be in the situation where you are performing acrobatic corrections because you have let the bill build to such an extent you cant afford to walk away from a job.

You have to network a lot. I don’t really like that aspect but once you are going it can even be fun. I would say an incredible folio would be 20% of the struggle and contacts 80%. How I know this is that I see some really low quality work selling and that must be due to networking. You have to have an effective folio but the second aspect is more vital. I am proud of what I have learned but from my student days to now I never received work without having a contact, no matter how good I think I am.

Good luck and have fun and remember every response you get in any forum anywhere is positive, sometimes the especially crappy ones are the most important in disguise so thank the people who took time out to help you and thank them without sarcasm.


I make a living freelancing, but by freelance I mean working onsite at studios in the area.

New York has an especially large freelance community, and there are other cities that are the same. If you want to freelance on site then you’ll have to settle into a place that has multiple options.

If you move somewhere with two studios and hope to freelance, it could be rather tricky. But find a good hub, work hard to break into that industry/community, and it is certainly possible.

As far as working from home and completing the project by yourself, that isn’t something I know much about. I do know however that many of the people who do that had experience prior to it, so they already had a network built up. It could be very hard to do without that, but again, I’m not sure.

Best of luck!


Thanks a ton everybody! :slight_smile:

I really appreciate all the time you put into helping me out.
Nice of you all.

I learned a lot today!
And I love this site!

Now all I got to do is choose the software to buy, and learn it. :wink: (can’t decide between Max and Maya, both are great, and both can do almost same things… but I guess it doesn’t matter much, does it?).
And after a year or two of dedicated study, I guess I will be ready! (I already know Photoshop, After Effects, Premier Pro, and some other stuff).

Will keep you updated on my progress. If anyone cares of course.


You can’t reach the level of professionalism that’s required in this industry by staying in your bedroom, sitting in front of your computer and doing stuff with 3d software.
Many people like to think about themselves that they are somewhat special and talented, but even if that’s true, you need a lot of experience to be able to create something that really matters.
Trying to make money on the internet is nonsense. There are always people telling you that it’s possible. The guy who invented facebook did well, but that doesn’t mean anyone else should try the same.
Everyone needs to go out and connect with people and businesses, doing small steps, getting a real job, etc. You don’t put the cart before the horse.


There’s nothing wrong with him getting the software and learning. He’s going to have a hell of a time finding a studio willing to hire him without any knowledge in cg whatsoever. Everyone has to start somewhere, and telling someone to start by looking for a job is poor advice in my opinion.

Studios don’t expect you to be making professional level work when applying for your first job, but they want to see something of value. Telling him to find work before even opening a cg software is exactly what putting the cart before the horse would be.

Connecting with people and businesses, small steps, getting a real job, all those things sound nice and pretty but are meaningless if someone doesn’t even know how to make a cube.

And as far a making money on the internet, or referencing facebook, are you even reading the thread? Who is even talking about that? (other than a small, side remark about selling models online)


Thanks for an honest post!

Your statement about facebook is a bit out of place. I know quite a few people personally who make considerable money online. Not in 3D world (if they were in 3D industry, I wouldn’t be asking the OP question in the first place), but in freelancing in other fields. So money online IS possible. That I am sure of. But I was asking about freelancing as a 3D artist in particular.
Well, I am not saying, in any way, that I am better than anyone else, but I know one thing, and I know it well: I can do it if I put enough effort and time.

Why would I not reach the required level of professionalism on my own? Whats wrong with my bed room? I got a nice little blackwood rhino statue in my bed room. And it looks really cool on my desk. I learned Photoshop in my bedroom by books and doing work for people from all around the world by freelancing - for almost nothing. Maybe I have not reached a high level of professionalism, but at least I reached a good enough level to get work online. I also learned After Effects in my bedroom. Am I great at it? No. But I am good enough to do some work online and get paid something. Do I make much money? Definitely not. There are other things I have learned in this same bedroom I am typing this post in. Whats the difference with 3D modeling and animation? It is just a skill. Nothing special. Let me rephrase that. It is special, but just as special as any other skill in this world. It is a form of art. Art that you create digitally. It is not magic. You simply have to train your creativity. No. Not train it. Unleash and manage it. With practice, lots of it, everything can be learned and mastered. Whether it takes a year, two, or ten. Any condition from a studio can be emulated in my bedroom. I can learn to work efficiently by setting my self time limits to do a model or an animation. I can learn to work in a team by teaming up with a few friends who are doing the same thing as I am. I believe I can learn it. I can do it. Why? Because I want it bad enough. Yes, as bad as that guy in sconlogue’s post.

Only future will show…

I do appreciate your post plastic, and your advice, I will remember it. But, I will not give up my plan. I have no reason to. The info I gathered in this and some other threads was enough to show that indeed it is possible to earn money freelancing. I already know some other things, so I would not rely on 3D alone. I will go for it. Whether I get a 3D job or have to work as a freelancer, I am doing this.


I think he was trying to say learning in a bubble (closed environment) does not lead to growth, at all or slowly. I tend to agree with him, the advantage of doing a degree you will mingle with other students gain life long contacts and maybe learn some life lessons along the way.


If you know after effects, you can already make a living in motion design. If you want to model only, or animate characters only, go work at some studio.