Working Directly with a Client VS a VFX Studio

In the past few years I did some freelance VFX work both for clients and some studios which made me realize some differences/pros/cons.

First and foremost, when I say a client I mean a person or a company that is not involved in CG, visual effects, motion graphics or something similar. These kind of people mostly find the artist when they need computer generated images or animation to show and tell about their product, logo, website etc. My experience showed me that this type of a job often finds you instead of you looking for it. Generally these clients look for artworks on social media platforms and send a message to the artist that does what they want. What I observed most of the time is this kind of a client usually does not know how things will go, how much the job will cost or how long it can take.

When we look at the VFX studio, they handle the client side of things. They explain the process, educate them and handle the business side. VFX studios sometimes look for freelancers, where the artist can apply to their job offers. Or they can search for the freelancers where I again and again saw that they prefer to work with the same artist they worked with before and trust or got recommended by another studio. They generally talk with multiple freelancers to find the best possible artist for their needs; which basically is the equilibrium guy that is cheap and can deliver best results in the shortest amount of time. When you compare this with a client job, the studio knows exactly what they need and do not require any instructions about the job.

Pros and Cons

  • When working with a client you have to teach and educate them about what you are going to do, explain them the little details, how things will go and when to expect results. (You can read more about the reasons on my story HERE)
  • For the VFX Studio, you do not need anything like that. Whenever the contract is signed you are ready to start your work without the need to explain what the process is. Although, I still prefer to talk about the direction I am going to take with the job to be on the same page and to fix potential problems/issues that can arise as the work progresses.
  • You set your own price working with a client. They usually do not know what the prices are for CG or VFX works. They can of course ask more that one freelancer about the price and get an estimate but they are generally more focused on getting the job done instead of money, at least that is what I experienced and observed.
  • VFX Studios know the price of freelancers, maybe even better than the freelancer himself. I mostly was not able to negotiate a price with a studio, they tend to have a price in their mind from prior experiences with artists and try to stay pretty close to that number.
  • Client works are a bit easier to manage in my opinion. Their expectations are not as high as VFX Studios. Most of the time they like a work you showcased and get in touch with you because need something similar. And that is the quality they expect from you.
  • Studios have their own quality levels in their minds. They tend to stick very close to references and require the best possible quality (or even better) and examine your work much closely.
  • The client asks the final product from you. This means that they for the most part are looking for generalists.
  • Studios sometimes asks for a piece of the work from you, both to save money and maintain quality. What I am trying to say is, they pay less for the part of the work instead of making the freelancer do all the job by himself. So they pass the remaining work to their in house artists. And can make the freelancer focus on the part where she can show her best which is key for achieving quality. The problem here is sometimes if the freelancer is not in the workflow loop, then it can become painful for the artist to fulfill the requests. The reason is she won’t know what the studio has in mind and might not know how to deliver the final piece for the rest of the team to finish it. This can create unwanted revisions and feedbacks.
  • Getting paid is a bit risky with the client side. Especially if the client is just a single person and does not represent a company. They might just disappear and not pay you. To overcome it, my advice is, if possible to not send the final render to the client before getting paid or at least delay it as much as you can. In addition always do some research about the client, is their mail address legit, do they have social media accounts, etc.
  • Studios are easier with payments. They are more open to paying a fraction of your money before the work starts. They are also less prone to paying late. However, you can not delay the delivery of your work or you might lose all the money.
  • If you are like me and want to focus on being an artist then client jobs are not going to be so much fun for you. The business side of the job is all on you, which goes from educating the client to marketing yourself, from payments to negotiations and many more. While at the same time you need to take care of the artistic side.
  • A big advantage of working with a studio is the business side is all taken care of. You often do not even talk with the client. However, you still can use your business skills to market yourself for further jobs or negotiate on the price.
  • Clients sometimes do not really know what they want from the artist. Some even have the mindset to change and finish the idea on the way which should sound horrifying for artists. Therefore, in the beginning setting up certain number of revisions and getting as much information from the client as possible is key.
  • Studios know exactly what they need and want the less amount of revisions. They are often very specific about what they want and would prefer a specific number of revisions to be set.
  • When you are stuck with your work, which is like a technical issue on your side, obviously you can not get any help or advice from the client.
  • Since a studio has a lot of artists, technical issues will be easier to solve. For example you are stuck with a shader not working on your render, maybe someone else in the studio can give you a hand with the issue or maybe even take care of it.
  • It is generally more possible and easier to change the deadline days of the job with a client. I know that it is mostly dependent on the type of work but still since the client is probably going to ask for the final render from you, negotiating a few more days usually won’t be a big issue.
  • Studios try to manage their times based on their current works at hand, artists, freelancers and the client. Especially if they are asking for a portion of the work from the freelancer they add time for their in house team to finish the job. The deadlines are often times set before talking with the freelancer and is extremely difficult to change.

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Berk Erdag

Berk Erdag

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VFX artist writing about mostly the business side and a bit about the artistic side and some technical experiments of the VFX and CG Sector.