Since I’ve been freelancing for the past six months, there is one question that I’ve routinely been asked over and over: how much is it going to cost? Well, my knee-jerk, snarky answer tends to be some variant of “it depends.” After all, quantifying all the motion graphic work I do into a single lump figure is sort of impossible, not to mention it also fails to take into account other unrelated aspects of the video production process—from shooting live footage to video editing to sound mixing.
But, I’m a pragmatist, and I realize that the answer “it depends” or “it varies” really doesn’t help people—especially small corporate clients—looking to have motion design pieces made for their companies. Well, I’m going to do my best to briefly explain, generally, how much a freelance motion graphic artist will cost. And, while I can guarantee that there is no magic figure that covers all video types or circumstances, hopefully this will provide at least some sort of transparency into the subject.
The Cold Hard Numbers
Okay, now for some numbers. In general, as of January 2013, my day rate ranges from $350 — $700 a day. While I am willing to work hourly, I prefer to work under a day rate for a couple of reasons. First, it’s just plain easier. Instead of having to track my working time in hours, I can simply track my time in large chunks. Second—and perhaps more important—it allows me to quickly conceptualize how much a project should cost. For example, if a client gives me a set of requirements, I can easily think to myself—”Hmm…that project should take me around 3 days to complete, and thus, my quote should be somewhere around $1500.00.” Now my range is just that—my range. I’m fully aware that there are those far more talented than me who would charge more per day (and deservedly so). But, that difference in scale just feeds into a much larger point…
Not All Motion Design is Created Equal
Remember when I said that the cost of motion design varies depending on the project? Well, I wasn’t lying. Without delving into “designer jargon” or mentioning the programs I use, lets just suffice it to say that certain motion design techniques are easier than others. Specifically, I’m talking about the difference between 2D and 3D animation. This is the stuff that separates the men from the boys—the casual video editor who delves into motion graphics and the the design superstar making national television spots. That’s not to say good 2D motion design is easy—it’s not. I just want to establish that there is a difference between animating in a 2D infographic style versus building a Pixar-quality animation in 3D. For some perspective, of those two examples I just linked to, the first was created by a single individual while the second was created by a team of artists working for one of the top design houses in the entire industry (this is me just spitballing here, but I would hazard to guess that since it was a major national campaign, the latter spot probably probably cost somewhere upward of $100 grand). But, despite the inherent differences between those two videos, it goes to illustrate an overarching point—the cost of a video varies greatly depending on the visuals you are seeking to create. Frankly, it’s a lot harder and requires a lot more technical resources and expertise to pull off a “salt” video then it does a video with just 2D motion design. There are other cost factors to consider as well. Additional elements such as original illustrations (not every motion designer is a first rate illustrator) and character animation (not every motion designer can fluidly animate characters) can all significantly alter cost. I could literally list hundreds of miscellaneous factors that could affect a project price. So, in turn, as a humble content creator, I ask you—my potential client—to…
Know What You Want
I honestly don’t think I can stress this enough. In order to get an accurate quote when you contact me or another freelancer, be specific. Explain exactly what you want. Better yet, provide visual examples of the sort of thing you’re hoping to create. By getting this sort of reference, it’s much easier for me (or any other designer for that matter) to accurately present how much something will cost or, in all honestly, if it’s even something within my skill set. Not only will knowing what you want make my life easier, it will, in turn, make your life easier. With a general understanding that bigger, more complex things cost more, you won’t inadvertently suffer from false expectations, or even worse, sticker shock. Being a knowledgeable consumer allows your designer to better serve you as a producer.
Obviously, there’s much more to say on this subject than will fit in a brief blog post (I haven’t even talked about how market and geographical location could effect cost!). But, to risk boring everyone to tears, I guess I’ll quit while I’m ahead. The motion graphic field has increased exponentially in the past few years—transforming from niche to it’s own veritable artform—so I am fully aware of its power. Let’s harness that power and make some awesome stuff together!
And, as a final small piece of friendly advice, please pay your freelancers promptly. Otherwise, my friends and I may write about you here.