How To Make A Living As a Character Designer

by: Brookes Eggleston - Character Design Forge

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hi this is Brooks with character design Forge there's a lot of information to cover in this video so I'm going to set up a little sidebar along here so you can follow along with what subtopic we're talking about now usually the focus of this channel is all things artistic and creative when it comes to character design and art but one of the most frequently asked questions I get from you is the title of this video so how do you become a character designer some people are even one step removed from that asking me personally saying well I see you talking about and making a lot of character design related things is it something you can actually make a living from well yes I do and you can as well making money and a respectable living from artwork is a very valid and real opportunity and on one hand it isn't necessarily easy by any means on the other it isn't necessary to resort to a starving artist cliche where you're working for free or for minimum wage so also in this video I want to talk a little bit about respecting yourself and valuing your work from a business standpoint when it comes to being a professional so there are several ways that you can make a living as an artist the first is as an employee with long term work at one company now usually you'll be reporting to an art director or someone else in charge will be providing you with work and direction and you might be working along with a team or on a specific project for a long period of time the second career is the position that I'm currently in which is as a freelance artist I am a freelance character designer you might also call this a temporary contractor so as a freelancer I receive work from someone from a client and I work with them on it for a day a few days maybe a few weeks depending on the scope of the project and afterwards we part ways I do have a lot of repeat clients who come back to me with more work but at the same time those clients are not responsible for providing me with work if they don't have a need for it because I'm not their employee now also because I'm not their employee I can dictate a lot more terms so as long as I'm delivering what I said I would at the time that I said I would they aren't really dictating the hours that I spend on the project or how I get it done now I guess the third is a little bit of a spinoff of the freelance artist this is the audience supported artist so instead of working for a client or a client base you have a large enough audience that's able to support you financially either through products through subscription services or even less likely these days through advertising revenue so how do you get one of these jobs well it isn't necessarily easy like we said and there's no real path of least resistance or a way to instantly get one of these careers it usually takes a few years but in this video we'll focus on those first two how to get work as an employee or a freelance artist now ideally you want clients or companies to be coming to you or your cold calling some agencies or studios that are reputable so in both of these cases they'll need to be aware of you you're going to need to be doing all of the legwork up front as far as marketing yourself so how do you market yourself well it's important to have a strong portfolio showcasing the kind of work that you want to be doing now this isn't hundreds of sketches and half-finished pieces this is a curated small collection of finished professional work this also means that as you improve and get better at your art you're going to want to cycle out the older pieces that maybe don't measure up to your current level of quality now generally speaking the work that you put in your portfolio is the kind of work that you're going to get so you kind of want to dress for the job that you want there's a lot of portfolio solutions online so I won't get into that too much but a simple portfolio page that you build yourself or a dribble mahants or art station page could make for a good portfolio I would avoid making a deviantART page your portfolio that's just because deviantART is kind of like the moss eisely Cantina in a lot of ways you also want to show that you're the kind of person that people want to work with so interacting online in a kind and professional manner goes a long way toward making people want to work with you on the other hand doing things like oversharing about life or complaining or having an overall negative attitude add some friction can you imagine someone wanting to work with you and then going to your Twitter page and seeing 30 tweets in a row complaining of being in line at the DMV or even worse can you imagine them see complaining about working with another client that adds a lot of friction and it pushes people away and even if you aren't sharing your real name or a picture of yourself online you still want to make it clear that you are a person and you aren't necessarily acting in character somehow again the aim here is to be professional the best way to stay relevant is to keep sharing new art now this might be personal work or a client project that you've either finished up or it's okay to post again if you're really serious about being an artist and a professional artist you're going to continue making new art no matter what now all of this time you're building up a portfolio and a presence either online or in person don't discount the effectiveness of marketing yourself in person there's a lot of local work and just because we live in the age of the internet doesn't mean there isn't a lot of work available offline now it's very likely that it will be a while before you get your first client and a while after that before you get your second so I would advise you to stick with a day job in the meantime of course it's frustrating you really want to get into work as an artist but you don't want to quit too early and maybe take on the wrong clients or starve to death as much as you may not like your day job it is fueling your artwork which we've talked about before and it's fueling your stomach and paying your rent and doing a lot of good and if you go into this with an attitude of well I'm an artist I'm too good for work you're going to have a bad time when you realize that making art work professionally is hard work even if the difficulty is mental and not physical so developing a good work ethic as soon as you can is always a good idea now you've been improving you have the best pieces in your portfolio and finally someone reaches out to you with work so if this is a long-term position or as an employee you're obviously going to to consider this with the amount of weight that that kind of decision has but there are a lot of things that you need to keep in mind to value yourself and protect yourself if this is client work or work as a freelancer now the first thing that you aren't going to do is go diving on freelancing sites where clients post job listings and then artists bid on those listings now a lot of people defend these sites and say well you just have to weed through the bad projects to get to the good ones the problem with this is that 99% of the time the client is going to go with the lowest bidder now that means that overall you've lowered the value of your work and the industries as a whole by saying this is all it costs to make this art work the other reality is especially if you're in North America or Europe is that we generally just have a higher cost of living than in other parts of the world so on these job sites it's a global economy which means someone can compete with you for the work at a far lower price because for them that might be an entire day's wage for you it might be less than minimum wage so enough about those sites feel free to form your own opinions about them for me personally I've only had negative and extremely negative experiences with them so if you want to say it can't possibly be as bad as as it seems you want to try it out for yourself just proceed at your own risk the second thing and I think this is the most important is to stay wary and protective of yourself while remaining friendly kind and professional unfortunately when you're screening new clients a few bad people ruin it for the rest of the otherwise great clients so it's almost like you have to treat it like you're walking alone in New York City at 3 a.m. my personal policy is to receive at least some form of payment upfront so this is 25% to a hundred percent of the total cost you also need to make sure that you are paid in full by the client before you deliver them the final artwork now obviously you want to give them proof that you've done the work so generally what I'll do is provide a small screen shot of the work at a low resolution maybe with a watermark over it and send that as proof along with the final invoice and then once they've paid in full you can send them the finished work this isn't you being distrustful of the client at all it's simply a policy that you put in place to protect yourself all businesses have policies I've made the mistake of not being careful in this area before and it's cost me I'll probably talk about it the video you also want to make it clear if it isn't already that your time is valuable and your work has value so the client isn't just paying you for your time but also your experience and expertise so you may want to lay out for them what's involved with your work and how time intensive it is it also means that upfront you should be deciding whether or not there will be changes or iterations made to the work that you're doing and build that into the price sometimes when I'm collaborating with a client and not simply doing the work for them or I'm working with an art director who has some pre-existing ideas will plot out ahead of time how many iterations or changes I'm planning on making and that way I can charge them accordingly what you don't want is to not do this and then have a client who's continuing to make little changes and saying it would look better like this and then change it back because that can be a real drain on your time and really that client isn't trusting you to be a designer it's different for each situation but more often than not I'm actually able to say to the client you know you're bringing me on as the character designer we'll talk extensively up front about what this needs to be what this work should be you know make sure you've communicated a lot but after I've done the work there will be no iterations or changes what I make is what I make that might surprise you to know that you can do that it just depends on the situation well this is a ton of material and there's still a lot more that goes into an art career or making a living as a freelancer so I'll likely talk about those more in an upcoming video one idea that I have is the 5 biggest mistakes that I've made in my career so stay tuned for that of course again the focus of this channel isn't on careers or money or anything like that it's on the creativity and the artistic side of things but I wanted to show you and talk about some of the realities that come with a career that's it for me today I'm making new videos every week at character design forge subscribing on YouTube like over like over 25,000 of you have done my goodness thank you that will let you know when new videos are made available my course designing game characters will be released in the next few months and this will actually be a free update for the learn character design course which is a comprehensive character design curriculum head over to learn character design comm and sign up to be notified when designing game characters becomes available thank you

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One of your most frequently asked questions, how do you make a living doing this? We're talking about the kind of work, how to get the work, and how to value and protect yourself doing the work, all in this jam packed video. On Social:

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