Press "Enter" to skip to content

Awesome advice from Ron Doucet: Setting Your Rates For Freelance Work

Setting Your Rates for Freelance Work

As I have been doing many freelance jobs from storyboards to design and animation over the past year for many clients both big and small. I’ve realized how difficult it can become to figure out what to charge clients for your services.  Here’s a small guide based upon by dealings.

Usually animation artists are paid in a variety of different ways. Some studios have flat rate that pay you a weekly salary. Others pay you by the amount of hours you work, or character animation footage you produce (the number of seconds or frames of rendered shots you’ve completed), or by the number of actual scenes you’ve finished.

You could be a 2D background painter, a 3D sets modeler, a prop designer, a 3D layout artist, or a Flash character animator, the list is endless.

I’ve found the best way to figure out how much to charge a client for a project when working freelance, is to work out a daily rate.

If the client wants to know what the final total would be, decide your flat rate based upon how many hours or days you think the job will take to complete.

If you are only moderately confident in your skills as a designer or animator, you may want to begin charging a daily rate of $70 per day. If you are extremely confident in your abilities and that you are competitive with other freelancers out there, charge $100+ per day for your services. Find a base number and go from there.

Lets’ put some scenarios to work…

Job: Design a 3D model of a 1965 Harley Davidson Panhead Motorcycle.

Questions to ask –
Do I also do the shading / texturing / lighting?
How much detail / low or high poly count?
Turntable animation or a series of still image renders?
Do they want hi-res JPGs or the original Maya file delivered?

Based upon the answers, visualize and determine the length of time you can dedicate to the job. If you estimate 3 days of work at 10 hours per day at $70/day (you don’t want to charge too much, you just graduated), then the total becomes $210 dollars. E-mail that client your price with a link to your online demo that showcases your mad skills (if the client hasn’t seen it already), and wait for the reply.

You may want to shave it down if you believe your skills are still not quite up to professional grade yet, maybe $180 or $160, just to get the gig and give your self some experience.

You may be confident that you can nail this project and do a sweet job, so bump it up to $100 per day (especially if you plan on working on it for 10 or 12 hours per day) then you would charge a total of $300.

The client may want it the very next day.
So you’ll be up all night sculpting and building that 3D model to the clients specifications, spend an hour or so just researching dozens of references photos for accuracy. Even though it will only take you a day (perhaps 20 hours of non-stop work) you may still charge $300.  But if you don’t want to scare the client off and the rent money is due this week, you may want to charge $200 to make sure YOU get the job. It’s often difficult to determine if a client (especially one you don’t know personally) is trying to get the better of you.

Don’t sell yourself too short. The more experience you get the better and faster you will become, the bigger your clientele becomes – the more you can charge for your services.

Job: Animate an e-card in Flash.

Questions to ask –
Do I design the characters myself?
Do I have a detailed script or a loose idea?
Do I have to run the storyboards / rough poses/ & timing by the client first?
Are there stages of deliverables?
Or just a hard deadline that I need to submit the final product by?

Once you know the answers to these you can formulate a strategy.
Let’s say you get a script and rough sketches of what they want the animal characters to look like in this Flash online e-card animation. You determine from the script notes that it is 15 seconds of fairly simple character animation. You will have to design, color, build, and animate the Flash character and create the one background art yourself, and they’ve given you 3 weeks to do it.

You determine that if you had nothing else to do that you could start and finish this whole thing in 3 days. However you said “yes” to some other project as well that will be taking up most of your time over the next month. So you cannot dedicate your full attention to this project, you estimate you can put 2 hours of your time every night over the course of several days to finish it.

So here’s where you have to break things down into hours.
Let’s go back to our formula, assuming you want to charge $100 / day (you’ve
been doing steady Flash work for a year, you’re confident in your skills).  You can’t charge a daily rate, you will only be picking away at this project over the few weeks. So if you estimate that if you were working 12 hours per day you could storyboard, design, animate, paint all this Flash character animation and backgrounds in 3 days. That means 12×3= 36 total hours. If you only have the time to put in 2 hours per day on this project, then 36 / 2 = 18 days. You have 3 weeks (21 days) to complete the project. That leaves you a little bit of a buffer incase it becomes more difficult to animate than you had realized.

$100 x 3 total days = $300
Now charging only $300 dollars  for nearly 3 week of work sounds crazy. But you are not working on it full time, only a bit every night.  There is always the factor of how difficult a project is, the more difficult the more skills you need to have in order to pull it off at the right quality, that is something more objective and abstract.

Factor in to your time management the overall difficulty of the project. Less challenging projects require less thinking and pre-planning.  The more challenging and difficult the project is the more you push your knowledge and experience both creatively and technically , therefore you must devise a buffer so you have to give yourself more room for error.

I usually underestimate projects.  As a rule I add 25{f2e86ea6af82e2bb048871abf045622abf0ed27fb513932dc1ee8c05a54cbefd} for time.
Example: Storyboarding a 30 sec. live action commercial.
The client wants rough poses, basic blocking, camera instructions and stage direction only. I read the very detailed script, there’s lots of action, very fast paced, I estimate 4 days to complete the storyboard. Then I add a buffer (4 days plus 25{f2e86ea6af82e2bb048871abf045622abf0ed27fb513932dc1ee8c05a54cbefd} = 5 days total) So I might charge $120/day, which comes to 120 x 5 days = $600.
It may only take 4 days, but it ALWAYS seems to take longer to do than predicted. Sometime you have a bad drawing day, the next day you might be caught up working that other job later than you thought you would, life itself always seems to get in the way when you work from home.

So find a daily rate for your services. Whether it’s design or animation, 2D or 3D, and then go fro there. Adjust your daily rate according to the deadline, the difficulty of the task at hand, and add in a small buffer for revision time or unforeseen obstacles that always tend to pop up.

Ron Doucet


  1. Chris Fram Chris Fram June 23, 2010

    These rates suggested are EXTREMELY low — $10/hour or less!! You’d be better off working as a waiter part-time and beefing up your portfolio in the remainder. If you plan on making a career out of this I would start @$20/hour minimum, even right out of school. That works out to $40000 a year if you can work those 10 hour days full-time, and that’s a BIG if. And then if you’re working at home you’re paying for hardware,software,heat,hydro,phones,internet,health insurance,rent on an office space (yes,even if it’s in your bedroom–it’s a tax writeoff), plus you don’t get sick days,vacation or holidays paid for. And if you’re charging your freelance time through a company (which you should be doing) you have to charge GST, and now HST in Ontario (5% off the top to the gov’t is now 13%!! Yikes!!) You worked many thousands of hours to finish school and build a portfolio, and your job requires a lot of skill. Don’t sell yourself short.

  2. Rob Anderson Rob Anderson June 23, 2010

    Hey Ron. Great read sir! Very good advice. 🙂
    Chris, I wouldn’t get caught up in the numbers given as an example here but they are well served as a thought exercise. I think the important thing is that so few people take the time to do a breakdown of what they think their time is worth before doing a bid. Doing this as an exercise is great to help you discover if you may be bidding too low or too high. If the client comes back and says you are too expensive you at least have some well thought out metrics to defend and then throw away because you need the gig!
    It’s a funny business we are in with no real set standards for rates, unlike if you were an Architect or something. Speaking of which if you were an Architect 40K would be your starting salary. That would be after 4 to 6 years of University and 2 years of exams but of course they climb pretty quick while cartoon rates shrink over time… People aren’t making now what they made ten years ago for the same work.
    That’s entertainment!
    Love this business!
    I would also say that another important part of Ron’s equation is deciding what your market can bear as far as rates. This too will fluctuate over time and with your experience.

  3. Kate Kate June 23, 2010

    I hope those numbers were just examples for the exercise because they are like… scary low. The part that really worries me recommending selling yourself for less because you ‘just graduated’. You are a professional, being paid to do what you do. Have confidence. Demand reasonable pay. All artists need to do this, we can’t undervalue our service as an industry.

    That said, this is a good exercise to put into practice (with some better numbers punched in). Gotta know where you stand when you are asked!

  4. Ron Doucet Ron Doucet June 23, 2010

    Good point Chris.
    I guess I found that many of the bids I would take off of freelance sites like Guru and many others would always get outbid if I charged more than $10/hr (usually by someone from India). But if one can find steady freelance work at $20/hr. instead of $10/hr than by all means, you’ve obviously have some great talent and speed, take advantage.

    I found that until I started building regular clients that kept coming back, that $10/hr. was better than aiming high and not getting any work at all. Once a solid reputation is built, getting enough contracts to fill your week at $20/hr, 12 hrs/day everyday amounts to a nice livable standard. But when you start out, it can be tough to get any jobs, and your grateful for any work at all.

    I guess what I should have added was:
    Up your daily rates according to the demand for your services.
    When you’re only working 3 days per week, ANY cash s better than no cash. When you’re getting swamped with work, THEN up your rates, and things balance out.

  5. Chris Fram Chris Fram June 23, 2010

    Good notes on breaking down estimates for jobs Ron, it’s something that needs to be addressed. Just didn’t want every aspiring animator out there to think that they need to take a vow of poverty for the rest of their life. Even $20/hour is a low rate of pay for almost any professional career, especially if its freelance work and not salary. Like I said, there’s alot of overhead involved when you’re an independant. Don’t be shy to ask for a reasonable wage, you’ll actually get more respect from clients. At $10/hour you’re actually better off waiting tables to get the bills paid and work on your own portfolio in the meantime so you can target that steady job or A-list client.

  6. Ron Doucet Ron Doucet June 24, 2010

    Good point Chris.
    Even $20/hr. is low. But with all things considered, I didn’t want to aim unrealistically high. Perhaps standards are higher in other regions.

    I suppose in Canada (east cost especially for the last couple years) have been hit hard over this economy. But if I’m to speak truthfully, I find it’s rare for an animator to even clear $600/wk (no matter where they are), especially if they are at an entry level position. Junior 3D character/objects animator, or Flash assistant animator/symbols-pusher.
    The majority of the time in television 2D animation you’re on a per-scene or per-second system.

    Footage rate based salaries are inconsistent, and most of the time you have indecisive producers changing your shots, forcing you to do 3 retakes and a revision or two that makes you re-do your scene, so when the week is over, after you’ve worked 60 hours on your 4 scenes, you scrape by with $8/hr. IF you want to get down to the hourly thing.

    That’s why (for freelance) there’s not much point to figure out the hours, you’re working inconsistent hours at best. If you’re used to making $1500/wk or more than why are you doing freelance? This doesn’t apply to you, you’re a 15 year veteran you has experience and have built up your skills and knowledge to be that valuable in the studio environment.

    If you find yourself out of work for whatever reason, then to think you can pull of a steady $1500/wk by offering your services as a freelance art director, 3D modeler, concept artist, graphic designer, or whatever, than I’m just saying you may be in for a disappointment.

    Look at all the major broadcasters, they go to the lowest bidder, look at the dozens of productions Canada lost last year to China. Look at the rates studio heads have to pay their staff to stay afloat. Look at our own provincial labor tax credit systems, all aimed towards the lowest bidder, the cheapest way out.

    Don’t get me started about the provincial tax credit system for animation/television production and how it severely limits the talent pool for every studio big and small.

    I know we don’t want to “sell our selves short”. But when me and a dozen other fellow freelance story artists/animators/designers all get out bid by some guy in India on every commercial gig or little animation project… well, it makes me want to work on five $100/day jobs rather than just one $300/day job. Why? cause it amounts to more work.

    Yes we’re worth more than that. But only 1 out of 10 clients/producers actually recognize and respect you for aiming high for your rates, the rest only look for the lowest bidder. It’s not good, but it’s the truth.

    Yes I know we don’t want to tell people coming into this industry to undervalue their skills and to make the clients/producers/broadcasters (both on the large scale and the individual/independent level) to respect our skills and experience, but fact of the matter is, if you price yourself too high, the client simply goes somewhere else. One need only look at our own broadcasters here in our country, and how they sold out Canadian animation studios to sacrifice quality over cheaper labour by sending several animates series oversees in the last 28 months.

    Mr. W: We are not unionized, so “minimum wages” have never existed.
    This website is the closest thing to a ‘collective professional association’ that the animation industry has seen in this country.

    Times have changed, times have changed a lot in just the 12 years that I’ve been observing this crazy roller-coaster ride. The demand for quality (by an executive, broadcaster or client) has been gradually replaced by speed and the need to make it as inexpensive as possible, even though inflation and the cost of living continue to climb.

    My numbers are sort of irrelevant and shouldn’t be taken to heart. The purpose is to educate animators that they can pick whatever personal (and flexible) daily rate they want for themselves, $100,200,300 per day. Sometimes freelance projects are few and far between. But if you were making $1,500/week at your studio for supervising layout, you may be unrealistic in your efforts to charge $300/day for your freelance services of BG designer. I know of many freelance concept artists and illustrators who have reduced their rates here in Canada just in the last year from averaging $1,200/wk to $800 or $700 per week just to stay competitive and to keep the bills paid, yeah it sucks, but they do what they have to to get the work in.

    Don’t take my word for it, other similar visual arts industries have similar methods:

    Graphic Designers:



    General Freelancer tips here:

    and here:

    All I’m saying is, sometimes you have to check your ego when you’re planning to be doing freelance full time (or even part time).

    Figure out a daily rate, $100, $200, $300 per day…. depending on your niche and your experience. Plan out a buffer for time and other jobs/projects. Reputation builds up slowly but steadily once you go down the freelance road, stay consistent with the deadlines you are given.

  7. Sheldon Sheldon June 24, 2010

    Ron, I appreciate the time and effort it took to write this piece and your many other contributions to the site, and there is definitely some good advice in here.

    But I am very concerned about the rates you give. There seems to be a general misconception among many potential employers that artists are hobbyists at best, who can be paid extremely low wages because ‘we would do it for free otherwise’. Listing such low rates, even as vague examples, will surely perpetuate that idea.

    As I’m sure you know, most people in this industry are highly trained and specialized professionals who have paid a great deal of money to receive training in their relative areas of expertise. Personally, I paid over 20,000 for my training, not counting living expenses. The software/hardware required to work independently is very expensive, and the work itself is very time consuming and involving. Contracts, unfortunately, are few and far between. A rate of 10 dollars an hour is less money than most of us could make flipping burgers or mowing lawns. At such a low rate, we would actually be losing money to continue to work in this industry, as we would be losing out on higher salaries offered in full-time positions requiring minimal training. Obviously, we all have to be willing to make some sacrifices to be employed as artists. But many of those sacrifices are needless, and come about due to a lack of respect or understanding of just what it is we do and how much skill/effort is required. For an adult with student loans to repay and a life to live to place a value of 10 dollars an hour or lower on their time, is to literally starve oneself for the sake of this industry.

    I understand that your post was meant only as a vague recommendation, and as I said, there is definitely some good advice in there. But if even one graduate or potential employer takes what you are saying literally, it hurts the rest of us. Rather than severely undervaluing your own work for the sake of landing an occasional contract, it would be more profitable to take a part time job at a call center or fast food joint. If you lose that contract to someone working in a third world country, than so what? At least you can afford to pay the rent. And you’ll be sending a much-needed message that our work is more valuable than can be afforded on a fast-food salary.

  8. Sheldon Sheldon June 24, 2010

    I should also add that I have no idea who would be capable of modeling a realistic looking motorcycle in 30 hours. That would surely require some sort of caffeine injection directly into the brain-stem 🙂 Sure, I’ve seen speed-modeling videos on Youtube. But to model something like that with a good UV layout, a reasonable poly-count, and to set up textures and rendering, would take days, if not weeks. Again, I realize that you aren’t providing accurate quotes for time/rates. But I’m concerned that potential employers and grads might see this and get the wrong idea.

  9. Ron Doucet Ron Doucet June 24, 2010

    I see your point Sheldon, and thank you.

    Again, I want to stress “daily rates”.
    Whatever those rates may be.
    Most clients have a budget to spend, and it’s up to them (in this freelance world) to find the highest quality talent that fits within their budget. If you don’t fit within their budget, then, yes, too bad for them, and they move on. So I doubt they’ll get the wrong idea from this little post, they have a budget no matter what, so the results and the process of ‘client finding the adequate freelancer for their project’ remains the same.

    Clients expecting to get lots of work out of an individual for a ridiculously low price has been around long before this article. It just happens, budgets are budgets, often that’s all they have to work with, along with the time frame. I doubt people have to fear that clients will suddenly get the wrong idea. The cheap-fast-good triangle rule bends for no one.

    Have you seen the crazy stuff on Guru?
    I saw one this week:
    “Looking for a 90 min. Pixar-quality 3DCG film to be fully designed, animated and produced by end of summer.”

    I’ve seen a ’71 realistic mustang modeled in Maya in 36 hours, but yeah the guy was nearly dead after wards. 🙂

    I realize there’s student loans to pay for some, and that’s exactly why I made this post. I’m an animation instructor and the two things that kill the students’ chances the most (that I’ve seen so far) are:
    – Expectations the studios to come to them.
    – Expectations that the money will fall from
    the skies and the contracts to land on their laps.

    I’m sure there would have been plenty of comments about how unrealistically-high my numbers are if I would have went with $30/hr. But I always found breaking stuff down into hours (unless you’re working on multiple projects) is silly, how many facebook and youtube breaks does one take during that 12 hour work period?

    I’m just offering advice for those that look for work to pay the bills.
    When you first start out, “I” believe (no matter how much your tuition was) that you can’t start off high and expect the clients to roll in when your resume is void of any industry experience.

    I’ve been struggling with it myself, finding the right balance is tough, estimating the time it will take for something to get done from concept to completion, and then juggling multiple things with it, and gambling with your own sanity of “how low will I go” some money is better than none at all.

    But I totally see your point.
    Sorry for the long rants.

  10. Sheldon Sheldon June 24, 2010

    NP, and thanks for the clarification, Ron. I definitely agree that it’s best to break things down to a per day basis, as there is definitely a lot of start and stop throughout the course of the day, particularly if we are working from home.

    Lol, yes I imagine that modeling gig must have been hard on your friend. That’s a tremendous amount of work in a short time, and definitely something to be proud of. And that 90 minute Pixar style film anecodote is priceless 🙂

  11. Grant Moore Grant Moore June 25, 2010

    I absolutely agree with setting a price target for each day of work, I personally was floundering around trying to think of quotes off the top of my head when talking with clients and more often than not came up with a price that was either way too much or way too low. The day I sat down and figured out that having a number to quote for a day’s worth of work, everything became so much easier when negotiating contracts. Given the type of work that I do (full animations as opposed to specialized work), I am now trying to push that quoting process into full week blocks with a set price for a week. It’s all about figuring out what the most common segment of time you find yourself working (days, weeks, months) and have a number which is reasonable and fair for both you and the client.

    I think the biggest problem with the advice offered is not necessarily the numbers you are quoting, but the reasoning behind them. You shouldn’t EVER think that just because you are working in this field or have minimal “experience” by having just graduate, or any other reason, that you should undercharge for your skills. Think of yourself as being a skilled tradesperson, you know how to do something that others do not and have put in the hard work to be able to do it. You wouldn’t see a plumber going around begging to snake your drain for minimum wage, so why should you? Just because you enjoy your job doesn’t mean it’s any less difficult or demanding.

    If you find you cannot get any contracts due to your suggest rate and find yourself lowering it to the point where you are earning minimum wage after operational expenses (mentioned above, hardware, software, hydro, etc…). Then go find yourself a job, and try to identify the problem. Perhaps you need to work on your portfolio, maybe you are going after the wrong clients, maybe you need to convey more confidence in your abilities. The solution is NEVER to sell yourself short. Rather, identify a solution that will allow you to do the work you love while making a reasonable living.

    The first number that I used as a basis for what to charge was after using this Freelance Calculator. If you enter values truthfully, it will give you a pretty reasonable number as an hourly rate and from there you can decide what to do from there.

  12. Phil Mag Phil Mag June 25, 2010

    I understand where Ron is coming from with these rates.

    If you’re only limiting your searches to freelance bid sites you’re most likely to lose out to the ChinDiaUkraine underbidders – not hard to figure out, just visit those sites and see what rate is winning commissions.

    For beginners and students, who just need some pocket money without necessarily having the need to commit long hours to a project (gotta do those homeworks and prep for tests, right?) I think these rates are better than doing spec work or even interning for nothing.

    If you’ve got pride and think you’re skill and folio deserves top dollar, I recommend improving on your job hunting and personal finance management skills.

    Good luck

  13. Leisl Leisl June 26, 2010

    I totally understand what Ron is saying here, and his long comment above has some good clarification for anyone who is confused by his rates.

    In a perfect world we’d all make the amount we deserve, but in the real world this is just the way it is. Your rates will depend on experience, the market, and your location. I’ve lived in Halifax, and Ottawa, and I can tell you since I’ve come to Ottawa I’ve been a lot busier and therefore able to charge a bit more.

    No, we shouldn’t be abused, and we shouldn’t sell ourselves out, but one also learns that negotiation and compromise is part of the job.

    I also use the Graphic Artist’s Guild Handbook as a starting point for rates, and those rates are pretty high. Take either number, Ron’s or the Guild’s, and adjust it as you see fit.

  14. Ron Doucet Ron Doucet June 26, 2010

    Good points, and that’s a great website.
    My reasoning wasn’t to blatantly say “you must undercharge for your skills”. In fact the numbers posted (as scenarios) are just that scenarios. I think it’s unrealistic to think you should charge as much as a 10 year veteran, but by all means adjust the numbers according to what you think your skill level and experience is.
    And most of the examples were under the part-time work model (how else would it work, even if the rates were 3 times higher, the work can be scarce).

    If you are actually factoring in the services of an accountant, legal fees, office supplies, operational costs, hardware/software costs… then hell yeah you need to up your rates, you’re doing this long term and full time.

    I should have specified that this is more suited for between contracts, or while you have time to spare on evenings and weekends outside of your production work at the studio. Still, I know, it’s no excuse to undercharge yourself, but again, I stress, what value you place on your skills is up to you. After punching in my own numbers in that
    website, I was surprised that the suggested hourly rate was lower than what I usually charge, still maintaining a nice annual profit margin, with the fact that I teach 35 hours per week on top of that. Working fast and efficiently is key.

    One thing I learned managing an animation studio was that you can have one animator capable of 50 seconds per week, while another (given the same scenes) can only produce 25 seconds. Some people are just plain physically faster than others. Pushing yourself to click that mouse faster and push that tablet pen quicker can mean a big difference. Take a break between contracts and freelance gigs, it’s worth it.

    Remember, it’s all relative. Supply and demand, if you’re in high demand, you up your rates until you can start to pick and choose the projects you like, work at a full time level and make a comfortable living. That’s the goal for every freelancer, but it’s a hard balance to maintain, sustain, and keep consistent. Plus you run the risk of cabin fever.

    I hope to elaborate and clarify more in a future article.
    Stay tuned it will be epic.

  15. brad brad June 28, 2010

    Hey Ron. First of all, this was a good post regarding all the questions that you must address when approaching freelance work. In my experience, I’ve charged a wide range just based on the type of work that someone is asking for. Difficulty within the work is huge. Say if I was doing some animation on a show that just asked for basic animation, I could charge less knowing that I’d fill my quota easily…especially if it was on top of other jobs that I was doing and it didn’t require much creative thought. However if the job was design or even just more complicated animation, I’d charge a bit more say because it’s asking a lot out of me to finish this work in which I’d have to push aside other jobs. It’s tough to gage these things and it takes tons of experience to really get to a level even where you can be trusted as a freelance artist to begin with. It’s not a best case scenereo for kids coming out of school to be a freelance artist right away though. In many parts of the country, they will end up lacking proper mentorship and the quality of work will die out fast. It may be more cost effective for studios to take that approach especially in places like the maritimes where it’s struggling quite a bit, but in the end a good portion of the industry starts to sink if there is less mentorship and lower wages. Even just a regular wage here in ontario for animators isn’t all that great. The biggest problem that I’ve seen around with certain schools was to get kids to learn to get a job, rather than to hone a skill. To me there are a few points to doing freelance work. The two biggest ones I have are that it’s great extra money that you can stow away for things like retirement, savings, child expenses and such and it’s the only job that you can really control yourself. Secondly, all animtion jobs are temporary. Freelance fits the bill time and time again for the gaps and the truth is, aniamtion studios owe me nothing…They don’t owe me full time work and so there’s always a juggling act in which us animators have to be looking out for ourselves. If I’m charging some measly money when I feel I’m qualified for more and on top of that I’m constantly asked to up my software, it’s tough to put up a price that won’t feed my family. I’ve done a lot of time slaving away endlessly on projects both for just myself or for others that didn’t pay well, but I willed it with my heart. However, the outcome is that you see people asking you to do it with your heart and so that’s where I agree with Chris Fran, I believe, in saying that one starts to lose respect or just never gain any respect by working cheap. What it turns out to be is if I charge less and barely get by, maybe I’m getting something out of it but then other studios start to close down or other people aren’t able to survive properly because people choose me just because I’m cheap. If I get a contract in Vancouver and work cheaper than the artists there, they lose work. I don’t want to take work away from others…doesn’t make sense. Best to figure out a proper rate to convince companies or clients that this is something to take seriously all around.

    Anyways, I did appreciate the points you made regarding the notes one should make prior to handling a freelance contract. It’s important to be a professional and be aware of what is being asked of you because sometimes it can be vague. The only reason I am a little wary of the rates though (and your right that it is up to us to determine our own) is that I’ve watched some places really underpay their artists quite significantly and demand the best out of them based on it being a good lesson for them. So discussing rates as a freelance artist or in studio artist is a bit touchy. In my life, I think I’ve been treated well enough by the places I worked for…copernicus was great. However, the general feeling of animation on the east coast outside of them is that the wages will land you somewhere below the poverty line come years end. The result comes from people grossly under budgeting on shows and such. I know it’s hard times and sometimes it’s good to take what you can get, but at the same time there is a down side to all of that in that from there on, you will be expected to only be paid a minimum and then others will have lose work to that unless we all start to feel like it’s ok to not be able to get by either. I think there should be a ballpark minimum. For christ’s sake, bus drivers get paid more than that. Anyways, just my thoughts on freelance and such. Sounds like you are doing well though, Ron…and that’s a great sign that at least there are some still left arond there that are pulling up their socks somehow.

  16. James Stewart James Stewart June 28, 2010

    It’s been my experience, working on both sides of this country, that any Flash Animator can expect between $20-25 a second for their work, with an average quota of 8-10 seconds per day plus unpaid revisions with the compensation increasing to $30 a second or so, depending on whether or not they also have to build or design the assets themselves, have a good reputation and experience, or are working on a rushed project.

    So, let’s say you’re making $24 a second and you finish 9 seconds in an eight hour day, that’s $216 for your work. At the end of a two week period that’s a $2,160 paycheque, $4320 for the month or an annual revenue of $51,840 (or about $38-40,000 after you’ve put enough away for the tax man).

    Not exactly a royal sum, but not too shabby, lessened only by having no job security, no benefits, no overtime, no paid vacations, and all the joys of being an independent contractor under the law.

    It only really gets lucrative once you’re fast enough to go over quota, or capable of handling multiple contracts at a time.

  17. Mark C. Mark C. June 29, 2010

    Hey Brad, I agree with almost everything you said, but I do take issue with your statement “the general feeling of animation on the east coast outside of them (Copernicus) is that the wages will land you somewhere below the poverty line come years end”.

    Copernicus is a great place to work, and they pay their artists fairly and in line with any other Canadian region, but there were and are a number of other studios in NS that did/do the same thing. Collideascope paid the same or more than Copernicus and it was salaried work. Helix Digital paid per piece or on a footage rate that was equal to or higher than Copernicus’ footage rate, and most recently Cartoon Conrad paid the same as Copernicus but the difference was that Cartoon Conrad employees were on a salary not freelancing. HFX Film currently pays slightly better than any of these places, with benefits, on salary, with vacation time.

    I know of one or two ‘stand out’ places here on the East Coast that paid/pay shamefully low but I feel that is the exception rather than the rule. I’m sure those are the places you’re referring to in your comment but unfortunately your statement sort of makes it sound as though “the general feeling of animation on the east coast outside of them is that the wages will land you somewhere below the poverty line come years end”.

    That sort of sounds like everybody but ONE studio on the whole East Coast is trustworthy and in line with a living wage. There is simply no truth to this statement, and frankly it’s a damaging statement.

  18. brad c brad c July 2, 2010

    Hey Mark. I didn’t mean it to be damaging. You are right that the comment is more directed towards a few standout places that haven’t really pushed the envelope, per se, in their wages. I guess what I was aiming at is that even if pay is decent for what is there at the time, projects have been short term or at least don’t neccessarily last a full year. Yes, this is the norm for animation that your contract will almost never last more than a year, but then it’s difficult as an animator to get a freelance gig within the province due to the tax credit situation. Collideascope I’m sure paid it’s people decently, but unfortunately it’s no longer there. There are a few studios operating fairly well, although many of them aren’t really all that close to eachother and so you spend a lot of money on transportation or just end up moving a lot to follow the work. Wages may seem ok, but then real estate and rent closer to Halifax is almost similar to what you’d find in Ottawa even. It’s strange, but rent in Halifax was getting to be a shade high considering that wages overall (not just animation but as an entire economy) were astonishingly low and job security overall was very poor. Many people would look to picking up retail jobs to fill the gaps rather than animation because animation wasn’t so readily available to them. I might be more savvy and so might yourself or ron for that matter as we are more seasoned, but then younger people, especially those just fresh out of school don’t have those skills and likely need more guidnce in such. What Ron wrote was great, but not everyone in the maritimes is ready to even do freelance work to a high degree. Many of the people there left are quite young and inexperienced…especially if there are still schools there not teaching a skill, but rather just about the tools to use.

    I know the rest of you out there are working diligently to bring animation back to the forefront there in the Maritimes, but because of the circumstances surrounding even the best of studios there, it’s a hard draw and it seems as though it’s even hard for anyone to be able to promise any lengthy work under a steady wage. As an animator in the maritimes, I guess I was more dependant on animation studios rather than freelance work to fill the gaps, but at times because many studios were doing work at the same time…everyone shared the same gap and thus salary come years end was quite low. It’s hard to get by in this industry anyways. I should’ve made note that there are a few other studios that do pull their socks up as best they can, but there are notable ones that did not and their policies have been somewhat running the animation industry into the ground – which is why i’m wary of underbidding myself as a freelance artist because the ripple effect can hurt more people outside than bring us any gain. Hell, Halifax was a wonderful place to live just by it’s nature. However, rough times really hit hard there and a large people left because there was no work left. I do hope that the talent sharpens out of the schools there to make for more hire-able folks and that the reputation of those few places fades a bit so that maybe more projects can come in to the maritimes without people low-balling so much. I hear rumblings here all the time of the bad reputation of those places preceeding themselves or that giving work to places on the east coast because of those places was easy because of the limited budget that they’re forced to work with due to the misinterpretation of the cost of living as reported by some companies located in more distant markets. The only two places that I can think of that are in Halifax are Copernicus and Hfx film. I had a great time at Copernicus and I know they work hard to keep quality stuff going. HFX Film is also great but many of their workers are not 2d animators. So if an animator is looking for work at a place like that, it’s slim pickins. Board artists, designers, stop motion animators and maybe some 3d guys – yes…but for the most part there isn’t a school around there that really thoroughly teaches any of those things properly enough and even then, when there’s work to be had, funnel in everyoe without a job into one place? not likely. I’m all for the cream of the crop rising to the top, but should you be somewhere in the middle, it’s not easy to get by there. It’s totally not a matter of being trustworthy as a studio…I don’t imagine any of the good places lying to just get people to work for them because I know you and Ron and Murray, etc…you are all straight shooters. But circumstance is, work is just not readily available because there are only a few studios around and many of them are spread out so much. I guess in Ontario or anywhere else it’s not all that great, but the market stretches out to advetising, video games, illustration, etc. a bit more so there are more options to make a decent living or at least an average living. I think the biggest issue with animation in the maritimes isn’t even animation itself, but the attitude from people looking to market themselves in the maritimes by not paying artists to do work. I don’t mean that for the animation studios, but rather other companies that are looking to hire those studios for work or freelancers. Illustrators have a hard time not having to do something for free or for a half decent price because other companies struggle thoroughly there and can’t afford to pay proper rates for an illustrator. There aren’t a lot of broadcasters there looking to bring work to those studios either. I know there were many times I was asked to do work for free from other companies and when I gave them any rate at all, then the project was given elsewhere to someone that would do it for free. Just gets frustrating that the environment hurts you like that sometimes and you end up doing a lot of work for literally nothing other than maybe a portfolio piece if you would want to call it that.

    Anyways, I didn’t mean to really bring down the entire east coast. Some of what I wrote was poorly phrased earlier. The east coast is a wonderful place that I think all animators should experience at one time or another. In the end though, I think that low balling budgets overall needs to be simply eliminated. I know part of it comes from inexperience of some, some of the low-balling comes because the gov’t provides the second 50% of the budget. Whatever it is, the minimum that I’ve worked for before or what some call the industry standard, was hard enough to really get by on. It’s not that we should be breaking the bank unless we’ve really earned it…something that I don’t believe I’ve done, but the bare minimum shouldn’t ever mean that I work 60 hours a week for minimum wages. That makes no sense to me. I do hope that you’re doing well out there…all of you on the east coast though. Keeping it alive is important…but strive for more too. That’s more admirable than anything else…to not only keep it alive, but to aim high and make it a place that where people set their goals to be.

  19. Mark C. Mark C. July 3, 2010

    Hey Brad, the East Coast is an interesting place to do business, it is VERY different than the rest of Canada.

    You are right that the opportunity to pick up non-animation freelance is not as strong here as it is in a larger market, so I think you’re right that an experienced artist ends up feeling the gaps in work here a little more than in a more metropolitan centre. However, I’ve found the gaps here to be no different in length or severity than they are anywhere else (albeit this current stretch is really long while other areas are finally bouncing back), a number of artists worked steadily for years in a row between the companies in the region and generally I found it unremarkable from any other area (it was no better or worse)in terms of gapping.

    We are trying to hold it down out here and I know you were not trying to slag the east coast. There is a lot of talent still here, and a lot of desire to maintain the unique industry that exists in this region. As you know a lot of innovative things have been done out here and I think you’re right that if we truly want to rebound strong we have to strive to do something more. Cheers Brad.

  20. Dustin Brown Dustin Brown July 4, 2010

    Regarding the point of being forced to underbid due to pressures from outsourcing (India), I think Phil may have hit the nail on the head. and it’s ilk may very well be a breading ground for the lowest common denominator, both in terms of tradespeople and clients. To be clear though, I’m not saying there aren’t talented artists or great clients there. I’m speaking generally, and I’m surmising.

  21. Murray B. Murray B. July 7, 2010

    to be fair, we are holding on because we’re crazy, Brad.

    Collideascope got out while the getting out was good.
    I’m still holding on for that “5 yr production slate” Curtis Crawford promised me, eh Mark?

  22. Mark C. Mark C. July 9, 2010

    Hahaha, Murray you and I will never forget that promise! It could still happen, hold on a little longer…

  23. Ron Doucet Ron Doucet July 12, 2010

    James and Dustin made great points.
    Wow, Brad… lots of info, all good and accurate from my point of view. is mostly degrading and low-budget stuff, it’s sick the amount of work that goes through there for large amounts of work to be made for no money. Usually I bid something at $150 per day, but sometimes I go lower just to see if I can get the small and simple gigs, and I almost always get outbid by someone from India, I don’t know what their secret is to be able to work for $50/ U.S. per day, but they do it every time.
    I’ve gotten maybe 30% of my freelance work through it the site, but it’s usually small related animation work that’s quick and simple, and I do feel like I’m whore-ing myself around afterwards, I take several showers after a standard two-day project through Guru.

    My rates were low, and I apologize, I do recognize the fact that students often aren’t experienced enough to do any major freelance work, but I’ve been showing some students whee to find freelance online, and those that I can find the time to try it out, seem to be doing well, it’s nothing huge, granted it’s only the odd Flash internet animation or digital illustrations/graphics for websites here and there, simple and quick, but it gets the job done, nothing that’s taking work away from any experienced professional doing work between studio gigs.

    Maybe I have been bidding too low even in comparison to the market and how low the budgets are for freelancers. Sometimes one can get desperate just to get the work and survive, all this talk has changed my outlook slightly to think about ballpark minimums and how to better communicate that to clients and producers that are only looking for the lowest bidder, and to try and push harder for those standards, and educating that to students as well.

    Thanks a lot Brad.


Leave a Reply