How did you decide your current rates? How did you end up there?

Moving from just learning to phase of still learning, but getting some clients.
But, still a bit stuck on rates for projects.
If it’s like a drawing to modelling it’s not as complex to calculate, but how about when offered a totally new design.
How did you pros go about making your estimates?

I’m thinking there’s five parts.
The brainstorming/idea/concept part.
Then there’s some sketching, maybe this is included in the concept part…
And then the 3D.
Then rendering.

The brainstorming part maybe really time consuming, but depends if it comes to you or not. But, this part seems to be the unseen part of the workload.
Some understand and some not so much, or not at all. Offer high rates at the time of estimate if coming up with idea seems complex? Charge by the hr?

Any tips are welcome!

Different rates for 3D+Render or Just Render? Though basically you already have 3D when you render?
That kinda things. But anything is welcome!

I find that part very hard - for all of the 25 years I’m freelancing… :wink:
What I try is to get as much information beforehand and an as complete picture as possible.
Especially with new clients.

And it depends a lot who you are working with:

An agency may have a budget planned already and sometimes I just ask how long they want me on the project (daily rate). In some cases I would have guessed much lower but the agency knew their client and knew that it would take several iterations and how they planed to go about the job. In many such cases you could do something more quickly, but if the budget is there, you may be able to go into more detail or improve the design over a longer time.
Some agencies are cool like that, others get a dozen estimates and take the cheapest. I usually can live without those :wink:

A small company with less experience on the other hand may not know anything about the work process itself (I see that rather often) and may not calculate “Design” and “Ideas” as real things or “work”. So sometimes it is about education of the customer (“If you think of Apple products, do you think the design quality makes a difference?”).

I once had a request many years ago about what “10 minutes of animation” would cost (they did not know the content yet, but they liked the then hot early Pixar movies…) :wink:

If you did similar things in the past, you may be able to take that as a measure stick, but I personally love to do new things I never did before, so that usually does not work too well and one client may be extremely different from the next…
So I sometimes take my personal learning experience out of the calculation, since somebody else may be much faster.
In other cases when there simply is nobody else to do it and finding out how to do something is actually part of the job, it’s the other way around.

So I adapt my rates to the customer at hand (a big car company pays more than a small startup), to the length of the job (short/fast jobs are more expensive than longer ones), if it’s tricky or simple, if it includes programming or not…
And then there is also a part gut feeling. If the first contact is rather complicated or arrogant or bean-counterish or otherwise not supportive, then the work will probably be the same which translates into higher rates.
If on the other hand I know somebody is very clear and straightforward, fun to work with and pays quickly then I may reduce my rate.
I may also take on a job that I’m personally interested in that I otherwise would not consider financially.

3D rendering is no longer as much of a deal as it used to be. With a renderer like Thea Studio and good CPUs & GPUs, things that used to render for hours or days now render in just some minutes and realistic materials are much easier to do than in the early days of 3D, so it depends on what you do, how large the renderings are and if you are doing animation (still much more effort than stills if it’s more than a turntable).

I sometimes deliver just renderings, then that is the actual thing I sell and the customer does not get the 3D data (which is a value in itself and not automatically included - you don’t get the recipe if you buy a bun at a bakery), at other times I use renderings more for communication and the main thing is the 3D file for manufacturing, then the rendering is not extra and I don’t spend much time on it. And sometimes it’s both, high quality renderings for pitches and customer communication plus the final 3D data for manufacturing…

Really depends on the job and customer at hand.

If you just start out, you probably will make some mistakes, some project will take a loooot longer than expected, some customers may turn out much uglier than you thought and some things will be much harder to do than they originally looked, but that’s how we learn…

A famous banker was asked how he got so successful: “Good decisions”.
But how do you make good decisions? “Experience”.
And how do you get experience? “Bad decisions”.





Nice well thought out reply Tom. Thanks for taking the time.

A big thanks from me too Tom for your great explanation.

Hi Tom,

All great tips to keep in mind. =)
Bakery, buns and recipe. great analogy.

25yrs, that’s a pretty long time!

Yeah, I came up with that bakery/recipe explanation when one especially insistent client simply did not understand why he could not get the 3D-data for free (only pictures were asked for initially) - “you have it already anyway”.

When I do imagery for people, giving them the data is often not as straight forward anyway. They may not have the software I use, or the renderer, or the HDRIs or the object libraries - none of those I’m allowed to give to a client.

On the other hand, it really depends on the situation. If an agency pays me really really well, I do not belabor the point if they want the data and I know they are more concerned about being able to serve their customer in the future in case I would not be available instead of cheating me out of my income.

I was more concerned about giving away my intellectual property in the past when I was starting out. Nowadays I try to be as relaxed about it as possible. People who want to cheat me by using my work for their own purposes are usually clients I don’t hang onto too strongly anyway :wink:
The really good clients understand that it is a partnership where both sides win if both sides win.
And I never was at a loss of new ideas ever…

Cheers and good luck!



Thanks Tom,

Yeah I should relax some more and if things takes more time than expected, I’ll be honest and tell the client I need to change the rate om following projects.
Well, at start, getting a client and adding experiences, good and bad, seems the way to go.

Thanks for taking time for the reply!
Hope some day I can be on your side.


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