So, you’re here because you’re either wondering how much to charge a client or, you are the client and you’re wondering if what you have been quoted is justifiable.

An experienced 3D modeler with more than 3 years of experience can charge on average $40/hour. This price might vary according to what is being modeled, how complex it is, the artist’s portfolio, and the deadline.

ExampleModelTexturingRiggingGame OptimizationTotal Fee
Simple Geometric Shape (<1k polygons)
Low Poly Model (1k – 5k polygons)
Medium Detail Model (5k – 20k)
High Detail Model (20k – 70k)
Extreme Detail Model (70k +)

In this article, we’re going to look at what determines how much a 3D modeler can charge and go into detail about what might influence the price. Over or underestimating the price of a digital service can very well be the make or break of a deal, so let’s make sure we can all understand what it’s really worth.

3D Modeling as a Freelance Skill

If you have a look around sites like Upwork or Fiverr, or if you’ve ever tried to create a freelancing profile yourself – you’ll quickly realize that 3D modeling is a fairly saturated and competitive skill.

Because of this, a lot of 3D modelers have resorted to dropping their prices way below what we suggest. But the truth is, although the market is saturated, there really aren’t many good, meticulous or reliable freelancers out there. As a 3D modeler, it will be important to understand and be confident in what your time is worth in order to make a good living.

3D modeling is a quick skill to learn, but one that can take years to master. The difference in quality that a 3D modeler is able to produce will be a huge differentiating factor when it comes to pricing. The more years a person spends learning 3D modeling, the more acquainted they become with their tool. 

They will learn how to use complex deformers to speed up and enhance their workflows and they will build up a library that they can make reference to and use in future projects. In short, the longer a 3D modeler has spent learning how to model, the quicker and more expensive the job might become.

Currency & Exchange Rates

The advantage of working in a country with cheap living expenses like Thailand or South Africa is that you could be working for clients overseas who will pay you in dollars or pounds. If the situation is reversed, however, you will have a huge GDB downfall in your pricing that you might have to manipulate in order to get by.

What Do 3D Modelers Earn on Average

We’ve come to our conclusion on how much a 3D modeler can charge as a freelancer by looking at surveys like the Freelance Rate Index, the Developer UK Salary Survey of 2013, and the MCV Develop Salary Survey of 2016. We also looked at the per-hour rates that are currently being held by experienced 3D modelers on Upwork. 

On average, combining our statistics we find that 3D modelers earn $44 500.00 a year. Which translates into $3 710.00 a month or $180.00 a day, with an average of 4 to 5 working hours a day.

How Busy Is The Average 3D Model Freelancer?

There is a lot of romanticism around what it means to freelance. You might think that this newfound freedom means that you can now work on your own terms instead of on someone else’s – but never have you been so wrong.

Freelancing, especially beginner freelancers, means grabbing every opportunity you get to work because there is no guarantee the opportunity will come again tomorrow (unless you have landed yourself a big fancy long term contract).

The hard pill to swallow is that as a 3D model freelancer, you will be busy for about 4 or 5 hours of your day – if you’re lucky enough. Other more experienced and established 3D modelers might be lucky enough to have built recurring clients and will earn more than average.

The Purpose of the Model

A huge factor in determining how much time a freelancer will spend on a model and therefore how much they might charge is what the model is, how complex it is to 3D model and what it is going to be used for.

Pretty much anything can be modeled in 3D these days. Furniture, cars, houses, characters, or even more organic objects like trees or landscapes. The level of complexity in all these objects vary. More square and geometric objects like boxes or houses will be easier to model than curvy organic objects like trees or complex pieces of furniture.

The complexity of an object can be determined by the face count or polycount. In other words, the more faces a mesh has, the more complex it will be. Artists might increase their hourly rate for extremely complex objects and might cut down on ‘hard-surface’ models like a simple square or rectangular shaped objects.

The third factor in determining how long an artist might spend on a particular model is what the model is going to be used for. Models can be used for games, realistic picture renderings, Building Information Models like for architecture or engineering or they can be used in animations that are used in films for entertainment.

Models need to be created in specific ways in accordance with their use. Games, for example, require models to be optimized in a certain way to make sure the game runs as quickly as it can. Game models need to be relatively low poly and have a unified baked texture. 

Other models, like models for rendering, can be high poly and complex. Materials do not always have to be baked, but, they can be procedural.

Some models need to be optimized for animations. Characters in a movie need to be rigged so that the animator can move the ‘bones’ of the model easily enough for the animation. Artists will charge more for tailored services like these. In fact, Riggins can be so complex it can be considered an art on its own.

The Artist’s Portfolio

Unfortunately, time and talent don’t always correlate. It’s not enough to state how many years of experience you have. Today, your artist’s portfolio will be more valuable than any educational certificate or degree. What your client sees from your portfolio is what they will expect you to produce.

The better and more advanced the portfolio is, the more the artist will be able to charge for their models.

The Deadline

Some projects have tight deadlines. Very tight deadlines. If you book a project with an artist and you need your model back in 3 hours, chances are they’re going to charge you a penalty fee for the short warning and the haste they have to make to complete the job. 

Although you might not always be in control of the deadline, it will be important to give your artist as much notice as you possibly can, so that they don’t end up charging you a surge fee.

If your artist is hired last minute, they will typically not charge you per hour. Instead, they will charge you a flat rate fee with a revision charge.

Leah van der Walt

Leah van der Walt

Leah is a 3D Artist & VR / AR Developer with 8 years of experience. Based in South Africa, she is a passionate teacher and loves to listen to drum and bass in her spare time.

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