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It’s hard for me to believe that a couple of years have passed since I last wrote the article on “Prices to Charge as a Freelance Artist“, but it has. At the time, it got the attention of several major artist-related websites and it gained a lot of traffic. I received an email in regards to it a couple of days ago. A reader named Adam wanted to know if the general pricing structure outlined has remained the same since time has passed. My answer would be “yes”, but I figured it might be worth copying and pasting our correspondence below as it might prove useful to others:

Here is the original correspondence below:

 I came across your blog about pricing as a freelance artist.  Price to Charge as a Freelancer or Artist.
It was extremely informative, but being that it is now close to a few years old, how much of that information still remains true – Has pricing become tighter within the past few years, or remained the same?

I would like to offer watercolor rendering, but have no clue about what to price, and I too feel that drastically undercutting is no good for the industry as a whole – but am at a loss of what to charge because I see so many ( likely foreign based) illustrators/renderers offering services for a few hundred dollars, and that seems completely unsustainable here in the US.

I chose to email you rather than reply to the blog because the last post was quite some time ago, so I was no sure if you were still watching it.  I hope you do not mind.

My reply:

Hi Adam,

Sorry for the late reply. I’ve been swamped with things to do. It was probably a good question for the blog, and if you wouldn’t mind, I might repost this:

To answer your question, the prices haven’t changed. Most of my estimates factor in just operating costs such as rent and other bills. And trust me, those haven’t changed. If anything cable and cellphone bills have increased. The only thing that has somewhat decreased are oil prices and they’re still high.

As for the market, it’s still competitive with China and India in the mix, however their prices have steadily increased. There might be fewer rendering freelancers out there due to the economy, but that’s not going to lower the bottom line any—it should help the survivors if anything. Also banks are still reluctant to make significant loans to developers without a significant amount down so there’s some cuts in that department.

So, the market is still hanging in there. I wouldn’t say as good as it was a few years ago but it will come back. One shouldn’t have to ask for lower than what I had posted unless a person is starting out for a few first sample projects or a company hits a major lull in work and needs to get temporary finances in order. If it continues to stay low, either an artist is going to crazy due to the amount of work and changes involved, or it’s just going to be unsustainable.

I’ve been told repeatedly by customers/clients that my prices are generally right in the middle, so I think that’s where we all should be (of course, who wouldn’t like more which really should be the case for the amount of work involved.)

As for outsourcing, I have written articles about that and will probably post something within the next day regarding the topic. The savings really aren’t that great due to all of the communication issues which can add weeks to a client’s project. Especially with China, they’ll make unlimited changes but always make dozens of errors, then there’s situations where they hit you up with hidden costs. I’ve had numerous people tell me that they’ve tried it but their time is more valuable in the end. It’s worth just spend a few hundred extra to get it done 3X faster without the headaches. The only time it’s worth it is if its an extremely complicated project and you have months to dedicate to fielding questions.

It’s important for many of us to recognize basic operating costs and try to profit somewhat accordingly, otherwise we are all doing each other a major disservice by undercutting one another. That’s the reason why I posted the article—mostly just to give everyone some basic business-sense to build our craft upon.

Let me know if that helps.



3D rendering, design, media, and technology news.

I just wanted to make a short announcement that LunarStudio website gallery, but I figure the added traffic and visibility cannot hurt. If you’re on Pinterest or just like to browse images, please feel free to visit us. Thanks!

Architectural Rendering Office of Lunarstudio

I wanted to officially mention that LunarStudio has changed office locations. The architectural rendering company moved back in June of 2012 from Medford, Massachusetts where I had started out over 14 years ago into a new place located in the Quincy, Massachusetts area of Hough’s Neck. It’s a much larger and scenic space located along the waterfront. The office is much better equipped to handle computers as well as hosting client meetings. The view  is also a great source of artistic inspiration.

Architectural Rendering Office of Lunarstudio

Lunarstudio’s Office

View from the dock near LunarStudio

A view from the dock near the new office.

A view of the bay from LunarStudio

A view of the bay looking out towards Nut Island.

If you happen to be in the neighborhood, please stop on by for a visit!

3D rendering, design, media, and technology news.

This year has been a crazy one for me and this blog had been neglected. Back in January, I ran into breathing difficulties due to allergies and was hospitalized. I also set about relocating the studio back in June to a new location in Hough’s Neck, Massachusetts. Last but not least, I’ve been juggling numerous projects in between all of these life events, and simply haven’t had too much spare time nor desire to keep things updated.

Anyways, it all turned out for the best. I’m feeling a lot better and I now have a wonderful place to live and work. Plus, I have a great group of neighbors – I couldn’t be luckier when it came to making new friends.

All that aside, I finally got around to updating this blog to the lastest WordPress and decided that it was a good time to start writing some posts. I noticed that the ranking for my LunarStudio website did take a ranking hit in certain search categories over the course of this past year (“Architectural Rendering” for example took my website from the top 10 Google spot and nearly dropped of the page of SERPs.) Part of me speculated that it was due to Google’s new search engine algorithms which are constantly evolving. I also speculated that it was in part due to my blogs falling behind in both posts and updates. Since they are outdated, it would make sense for them to lower the ranking for the links headed back out to other sites.

Google is tricky in that the company doesn’t release too much information as to what increases a site’s search engine rankings when it comes to keywords. If they did publicly release all of their tools, people would be able to “game” the system more than they currently are. The whole goal of Google is to return relevant searches full of useful information and to avoid simply posting results to the highest bidder (that’s what Google Adwords is meant for.) So anything I post regarding this is ultimately speculative, but one that I feel makes complete sense.

So a few days ago, I updated my blogs and almost immediately noticed that I was getting feedback on articles that I wrote a while ago.  Also, a few of my other blogs brought in sales where it had been stagnant for most of this year. It appears that Google actually looks at the WordPress version that one is using. Where it’s pulling that information from, I don’t know. It might simply be that Google is seeing an updated Sitemap as that stores time-stamps  WordPress can also automatically ping Google upon updates if you’re using the Google XML Sitemaps plugin. If you’re using the latest WP, it probably signals that you are serious about security (Google doesn’t want to link to sites that are malicious), code readability, updates, and that you’re content is fresh.

In  summary, what I’m suggesting to readers and blog owners is that it’s probably in their best interest to keep their blogs updated if SEO (search engine optimization) and your reader-base is a concern to you. It doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to pen new articles every time, but at least take a few moments to keep your systems updated. I’m definitely experiencing a traffic increase on all of my sites even prior to writing these past two articles. Hopefully this article serves as a helpful reminder.

3D rendering, design, media, and technology news.

A week ago, my company LunarStudio was contacted on a late Friday evening by a Los Angeles-based property firm. This company wanted to have realistic renderings created from multiple sketches. The owner informed me that she had “gone through three different people before finding a sketch artist that [they] could work with.” She complained about “missing deadlines” due to the artist’s “inability” to interpret what she wanted to see drawn out. After months of trials, they had finally nailed down their sketches then they proceeded to try to find a photorealistic rendering company or artist that could develop a 3D rendering based upon those sketches. The owner went through an additional person (person #4), stating that the renderings looked nothing like her originals.

Now, she presented the renderings to me and we spent over an hour on the phone. I’d be first to admit that there were a decent amount of differences from the sketch and things that could have been done better. But keep in mind, they did not have plans and elevations which tends to make the process much easier because there’s a lot less guessing when it comes to dimensions. Having those construction drawings can actually cut a project’s development time half. Secondly, she did not mention how much she offered to pay this artist. The problems with the artwork in her mind were numerous – from colors (the original sketches didn’t have any colors) to people being placed in slightly different locations, etc.

I could easily see this artist pulling out their hairs trying to perform both a bit of magical mind-reading and having to bend 3D software in directions that it’s not intended to be bent in. In a nutshell, this client was extremely demanding.

A week later, I tried contacting her to see what her status was on her project – if they came to any determinations as to who they would use for their renderings. Personally, I don’t really need the extra work although it might have been decent money – it was more for my own scheduling purposes as my schedule can be really hectic at times. She said that she wanted to take an entirely different approach and find someone that could work internally and that it had nothing to do with pricing as everyone was in-line with one another.

I told her at that point that I was no longer trying to sell myself, but actually trying to help her. I said quite honestly, “any artist that is really good is probably not going to work full-time with someone standing over their shoulders. Secondly, if you do find that person, it’s going to cost a lot of money.” I think she realized my point then mentioned “hiring a contractor instead.”  I stated that hiring a contractor was probably more of a realistic expectation but that it wasn’t going to be easy. I could tell that she didn’t like the fact that I was questioning her decisions, although I was merely trying to help solve her problem. She excused herself and our conversation ended.

The main issue that I see here is one of being picky, bordering on what I would think falls under the medical definition of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. Everyone wants something for nothing – they want the impression that they are getting a good deal. There comes a point where obsessing over the smallest details can be counter-productive as it can add weeks or even months to a schedule and drive up costs. These types of clients that are hiring the artists often do not understand our process and how much work is involved in producing a sketch, let alone a 3D rendering. In other situations, a client may be absolutely in the right when it comes to the finer details, but are unwilling to pay a higher premium for quality. At that point, friction develops. I know personally that I’m willing to make just about any change as long as a client is willing to compensate for my time. The problem is that in many people’s minds, they might think something takes a few minutes when in reality it can take a few hours or even days.

I personally don’t think this person is going to obtain a good outcome in a timely fashion. Her main complaint and frustration involved timing and quality. She went through three sketch artists before finding one that she liked. She went through another 3D artist as well. Now, she is several months in the hole. How much do you think that cost her? She’s probably looking close to $15,000 wasted – possibly more. And that’s not factoring in their own time. The owner and their employees have to be spending their own time in meetings, emails, approvals, back-and-forth with their clients, etc. So at the end of the day, she just wasted $30 grand of her own client’s money and is STILL not any further ahead. By the time she is done, her company is going to have run up a $50,000 bill and clock.

And by some chance she does obtain a good outcome, whatever artist that she hires is probably not going to want to work for her in the future unless she learns the meaning of working together. Sometimes I see these types of overly-picky clients coming and no matter how much money they throw at me, I want to run in the other direction because I know they are going to make my life a living hell.

I suppose the moral of the story is that if you wanted it done right and you’re going to be picky in the first place, don’t be cheap. You have to pay for it. There’s really no shortcuts. Secondly, find someone that knows what they are doing – make sure that they have a good portfolio and a decent list of clients. She was much better off spending extra money in the beginning – $5,000-$10,0000, and would have had the illustrations done properly in a few weeks or less compared to several months down the road. Her employees would have been freed-up to work on other projects and generate income that way. Next, don’t expect any artist to be a mind-reader – that only happens over time with freak-accident bands like the Grateful Dead and The Beatles. You have no idea how many times someone says that they hired me because they liked my work or style, then they sit there and try to micromanage every aspect. They almost invariably get cra*p results because the artwork turns into half of what they wanted and half of the expectations I’m trying to meet. The art becomes muddied. You have no idea how many times I’ve wanted to tell someone, “hey you think it’s easy? Do it yourself.” Lastly, if you are going to be cheap or lack funds, at least try to understand the process better so that you’re not driving other people crazy.