The chronicles of finding a remote career path continues in this next instalment of the How To series. This month, we’re featuring the profession of 3D Design, lead by Johan, who is still in the beginning stages of being a 100% remote worker, but has been succeeding in the online industry for a few years now. I’m excited to get into it with Johan and share some insight he provided on his particular journey.
Disclaimer: Being your own boss and being an entrepreneur is no easy fret. It takes long hours and a lot of hard work to establish your business, clients and reputation before that minuscule feeling of success comes. It’s a never ending journey of managing projects, timelines and constant communication with clients in order to fully thrive. Some days are amazing, some days are easy and stress free, while others are super difficult, questionable and discouraging. The difference between starting a remote career path and maintaining one is never giving up. Sticking to what you have set out to do, determined not to quit. This beginning stage is honestly SO fulfilling, and a time in your life that is truly unlike anything you’ll ever experience.
Position | Functional Role:
My background is being a character artist for the video games industry. In February I quit my job and started my own business that focuses on creating, educating and consulting companies and individual artists on making hair for games. I’m a teacher at CG Master Academy, an online school tailored towards the games and film industry where I hold an 8-week course quarterly on these topics. I realize that working with digital hair is quite a quirky niche, but I’ve come to terms with being the only hairdresser that can’t cut actual hair and I enjoy it quite a bit. The best part about cutting hair on the computer turned out to be that I can do it from anywhere in the world!
Hours | Pay Scale | Benefits:
As an artist, inspiration comes in waves. I’ve learned that I need to ride these waves to reach a result I’m happy with while enjoying the process and most importantly – meeting deadlines. This typically means that the start of a project, I work somewhat regular hours but spend a great deal of time thinking about the task at hand and how I’m going to approach it, potential roadblocks and what would be the defining aspects that makes this asset unique. I call this the ‘grubblar-fasen’ (Swedish for the phase of pondering).
As I get further into the project and things on screen start looking pretty, I usually switch my Spotify playlist and work long hours. 12-16 hour workdays are not abnormal during these phases for me, and I feel great doing it. After a project is done and client is happy, I usually take a few days or weeks off to recoup and get the urge back to work on a new project.
As a freelancing artist, day rates vary depending on experience, how many people can do what you can do and projects. Seeing as I’m heavily niched in an area that is not explored by many artists, regular freelance work varies between 6-800 USD per day and shorter consulting gigs are usually paid more but on a hourly basis. My course at CGMA costs 750USD with 32 students, of which I receive a percentage.
My company is based in Sweden and is an equivalent of an LLC. Taxes are very high compared to most countries, but there are a number of things you are allowed to put as business expenses which ends up being beneficial to you and this type of lifestyle. For instance, any co-working space can be put as a business expense.
Attributes for Success:
I think discipline; not being distracted too much by your ever changing surroundings will get you by, but a drive for growth and high expectations of yourself will make your experience more rewarding and ultimately make your business flourish. I love what I do, and I get motivation from knowing I’m doing what I can to continuously be a better artist. When the day comes that I lose that and my quality stagnates, I’ll probably look into other professional opportunities.
I mainly have vocational education as a background and countless hours of practicing in my cave at home. Degrees and papers won’t get you far in the gaming industry as it usually comes down to experience and portfolio. The best education I’ve had was going to Guerrilla Games in Amsterdam and quickly realizing that I had so much more to learn.
How did you get to where you are now?
I’ve always been a gamer. Some of my fondest memories come from it as a child and I figured at a young age that I one day wanted to be in that industry. But competition is hard, especially for character artists, and seeing as my artistic abilities as a teen were lacklustre at best, it took me nearly 4.5 years to land my first internship at Guerrilla Games in Amsterdam. I worked long hours for about 6 months there to get up to speed, but I honestly felt that I wasn’t good enough. I think my art director saw my dedication and asked me if I wanted to focus on hair for our new project, and so I landed my first job in the industry without knowing the first thing about hair.
I spent 2.5 years teaching myself with the help of my peers the ins and outs of hair creation. When the game eventually shipped and I posted my works online, the payoff was greater than expected. My works became the 2nd most popular artwork amongst more than a million submissions during 2017 on Artstation, the biggest forum in my industry. I was contacted by Guinness Book of World Records, had features on some major sites but nothing came close to when Hideo Kojima, a legendary designer in my industry, called out my work in an interview on YouTube. With these overwhelming responses in mind, I decided it was time for me to start my own business and see where it takes me. So far it’s been one heck of a learning process but a success. I feel blessed to be in a position where I love what I do while supporting a lifestyle that makes me happy. I’ve always had the aspiration of combining work with vacation, and I can finally say I’m on permanent workation.
Resources + Tips:
As Johan mentioned earlier, the 3D gaming industry is more about experience vs. a college degree, so:
- Do your research on vocational educational courses you can take online in your spare time. Both Lynda and Skillshare offer a massive amount of crash course videos to make your mind explode into its own 3D graphic.
- Stay connected to online forums within the 3D gaming/design community. This is where you will be able to network with other designers, become notified of opportunities, stay updated on design news, showcase your newest work and find out about other techniques that may benefit both you and your craft. Check out Hubs, CG Trader and Artstation to start.
- Know your industry — Always try to grow your network with others in the industry. Getting your foot in the door can a lot of times come from the connections you’ve made while learning and honing in on your craft. Take internships, small gigs, apprenticeships, etc. Attend conferences surrounding new findings in the 3D design realm. Shadow other professionals in the industry to see how they work day-to-day and figure out how you can implement some of that into what you do, but make it your own.
- Keep learning. Today, the main programs used for 3D design are Solid Works, AutoCAD, 3DS Max and SketchUp. Tomorrow, who knows what new software will be the leading product in 3D design? Perfect these softwares and then perfect the new ones that hit the market a few years from now; then, repeat.