How Do Concept Artists Make Money?

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How Do Concept Artists Make Money

Written by Juha

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Concept artists can make money in various ways, but the following three methods are the best ones: freelance work, studio work, or selling their knowledge and art resources online for others. Above all else, whether working for others or for yourself, you have to have put in the hours to hone your skill.

But there are other things you may need to know before deciding which path is right for you. Below, we’ll look at each of the key ways in more detail.

Ways To Make Money As A Concept Artist

Freelance

Freelance work is becoming increasingly popular in creative industries, but especially so for concept artists. As a freelance concept artist, you must be adaptable with your artistic style, so you can suit the client’s needs.

Perhaps you’ll be completing concept art for comic books, video games, or animated tv shows or movies, all of which have wildly different styles anyway, but then even more nuanced genres within those broader categories with their own styles too.

As well as a willingness to be adaptable, you’ll also need a thick skin for rejections and revisions because you won’t always get it right the first time. 

Freelance work isn’t as predictable as studio work because you will need to adapt to the client’s needs, which will vary more than if you were working in a studio for the same Lead Artist every time.

You’ll also need all the usual skills and experience:

  • Understanding of human anatomy
  • Great spacial awareness
  • A high degree of artistic skill
  • Ability to communicate ideas
  • Proficiency in technical drawing, i.e., graphics tablets
  • Ability to create spectacular work based on the client’s vision

The list goes on, but the point is, you still must be experienced, driven, and passionate about art. There are several great places for you to look for freelance work. Any of the places below offer lots of different freelance gigs for concept artists, so signing up to some or all of these might be a good way for you to cast a wider net:

  • Upwork
  • Guru
  • Peopleperhour
  • Fiverr

Studio Work

Studio work for concept artists can look slightly different depending on which studio you work for, so we obviously can’t cover _everything _here. There are two paths you might go down, either working in movie production or a game studio.

Whichever path you decide is right for you, it’ll likely involve long hours, especially as deadlines approach. Long hours are often a hazard of any concept artist’s job, though, no matter how they make their money.

Working in a studio environment is often very helpful. Not only will you have steady work and steady hours (something that isn’t always the case with freelance work), but like-minded people will surround you, meaning you’ve got other people nearby that you can bounce ideas off of. 

Freelance work is often a lonely place, with the only chance for creative discussion is between you (the artist) and the client. Studio work often fosters an environment of creative ideas, and it’s an excellent place to learn new skills or pick up new ideas from your fellow artists.

If you decide studio work is for you, then you must make sure that your portfolio is not only great but outstanding.

Studio work for concept artists can be difficult to find in both the movie production and game industry, so you have to make sure that the work you are putting out there for these studios to consider is the very best it can be.

This portfolio should showcase a few things:

  • Sketches – so studios know how your work looks at the earlier stages
  • Characters – so studios can see that you understand human anatomy
  • Environment – so studios know you can create entire worlds too
  • Complete Projects – so studios can see everything all at once, from multiple characters to the world they inhabit

Finally, the best way to find work for studios is often to reach out to them first. Keep an eye out for studios that are hiring and apply for those jobs too, but if you have a portfolio that really impresses, the likelihood is a studio will find room for you in some capacity.

Selling Knowledge And Art Resources

The final, most overlooked way to make money as a concept artist is to sell your knowledge or resources online. You have expertise and knowledge in an area many people find fascinating.

Many people also want to understand the steps they need to take to become like you – so monetize it. Never underestimate your value as a teacher.

Don’t be tempted to give advice away for free because you’ve worked hard to get where you are, and sharing your skills with others shouldn’t be a gift.

Run online courses for people to join and learn more about how to draw in the style of a concept artist. Often your skills are unique, and concept art is too.

These skills are skills that can be taught, so what better way is there for you to make money than to teach the next generation of aspiring concept artists how to do what you do!

Likewise, some people who are trying to get into the field might require a reference point from which to start. Think about what would have been helpful for you as you were starting out and create those resources for someone else.

Perhaps an almost complete project on a digital file, or resources providing ideas, or even step-by-step guides on how to create different things. The point is, you can help the next generation of concept artists by providing them with a service that will benefit them.

Art doesn’t have to just be about art itself. Sure, you can sell finished products, but you can also sell the process to others too. People want to learn, and your skills as a concept artist are in demand.

Sometimes you just need to think creatively to earn money as a concept artist, and selling your knowledge and art resources is a great place to start!

Do Concept Artists Make Good Money?

In short, yes. The longer version of that answer is, it depends. It depends on the path you take (studio work is the best paid, but again, it offers some constraints that freelance work does not).

It depends on the amount of hours you’re willing to put in to earn the money. And it depends on how much of a passion concept art is of yours. Seeing any kind of creative work as merely a job will mean you won’t be willing to put in the work to make the money.

As a very general guide, here is what you might expect to earn:

  • Freelance ~ $22 an hour
  • Studio ~ $35,000-$60,000 per year (depending on experience and skill)
  • Selling knowledge and resources online ~ You would set it, and you would base it on your experience and skill and how much you think you’re worth. While this path could earn you limitless money, it’s also super hard to walk one.

Conclusion

The three paths you might take as a concept artist depends on a lot of things. First, which one sounds more attractive to you as an option. Second, the availability of work at the time of your search (remember, you can always change the path if you find one isn’t working for you).

Finally, which one do you think you are better equipped for. Answer those three questions, decide on the path you want to take, and you can make money as a concept artist with the right attitude and skills!

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