5 Ways to Make Money with Blender
You might be an artist, but that doesn't mean you need to starve. Put your talent to a real world use and earn some dough!
1. Sell digital prints
Putting your work on the internet is great for publicity, but if you want to pay the bills, you're going to have to put something in people's hands. Back in the days of paint and canvas, the general public were snapping up art like it was going out of fashion... and it was. With most artists now using a mouse and keyboard, printed art is becoming a lot harder to find, leaving the general public with empty walls and thick wallets. The money is clearly out there, so why not use your Blender skills and tap into this already proven market?
Where to print:
Most of your local photo printing stores will offer a print-to-canvas service, but depending on your location, you might want to shop around.
ArtsCow - By far the cheapest, but it's based in China, so expect around 5-6 weeks shipping time.
Lulu - Very useful for getting a printed copy of your portfolio in book form
CafePress - Prodomediantly for clothing, but they also offer large poster prints.
Office Works (Australia)
In the past I've even had luck approaching universities. Most keep large industrial printers on campus for their photography classes, and quite a few of them offer their services to the public. They aren't in it for the money so their prices are considerably cheaper. This A2 glossy print for example, only cost me $10.
Where to sell:
If you're looking to sell online, your options are unfortunately limited. There currently aren't any dedicated websites to sell prints that I know of. eBay has a digital artists section, but it's mostly filled with crap. You might think this to be a good thing, but when a buyer leaves with this engrained in their memory (notice the price tag), they aren't likely to return. One option you might like to consider is selling art directly from your website. Nik Ainley gives viewers the option to buy a print of his work right off his portfolio. It's subtle, professional and effective.
Your best bet in my opinion however, is offline. I knew a girl at work that approached a library to see if they would display her art. Surprisingly, she was not only accepted, but became their featured artist of the month, earning her a spot in the main gallery and seen by hundreds. It sounds silly, but showing your art in a place like that can be far more profitable than getting 50,000 views on flickr. People are far more likely to buy if they know it was made by someone in the community. So take your printed portfolio and walk around your area looking for galleries, libraries, trade shows, markets or anything that displays art in their front window. You might be surprised.
2. Sell stock images
As much as you might despise the 3d clip art your boss includes in the monthly newsletter - stock images sell. In my opinion, selling stock imagery is one of the easiest ways for a 3d artist to make money online. They take you probably an hour to knock up and they require virtually no extra effort once you've uploaded them.
Where to start
There are a few websites out there that sell stock images but none are as good as iStockPhoto. It's well designed, has fair prices, a great quality content system and costs nothing to sell your work.
When trying to come up with a stock imagery concept, think back to your last meeting at work (the one you didn't sleep through) and remember something your boss said. "The business is tanking" might be appropriate. Now simply create an image that he might display during the slideshow.
Upload it to iStockPhoto and watch the money roll in. There are no placement or account keeping fees, so it doesn't cost you a cent to keep it there.
Here is the iStockPhoto pricing scheme for exclusive artists:
"Wait, what?!? 58c? How can I possibly pay the bills with that?"
Well that's the good thing about stock imagery. It's not like trying to sell art to collectors. You are dealing with thousands of wealthy businesses that need a picture to illustrate a point, and they need them NOW. The buyers come in droves.Case in point.
That's a $2436 earned from one render. And that's if every purchase was the smallest size.
3. Sell 3d models
This particular route involves marketing your 3d skills directly to studios. Not to get hired, but to help them save on costs. You see, when a studio starts production they have a deadline and a budget. If it is cheaper for them to buy a pre-made model of a car than to pay their existing staff to make one, they will.
The price range per model varies dramatically; you have your $13 swords and your $2000 steam engines. The more detailed the model, the more you can sell it for. But if you do go high detail, make sure you provide renders that show it, otherwise you're just wasting your time.
"But is this really a viable method for making money?"
I was skeptical at first myself, but a little research at CGSociety revealed that some users are earning upwards of $32 000 in one year alone.
Where to sell:
This is no doubt the most popular route of 3d artists today. I'm sure you're all familiar with the concept: pitch your skills to a business who need 3d work but don't want to pay an expensive studio. It's definately the fastest way to progress your 3d career. You get hands on experience and money in the bank whilst constantly adding to your portfolio.
The biggest hurdle in freelancing is obtaining business. Freelancers are a dime a dozen, and businesses know this. So you're going to need something to make yourself stand out from the crowd. To be more specific: you're going to need an impressive portfolio...
Creating a portfolio
Unless you're a skilled websites designer, I'd recommend not trying to create your own portfolio from scratch. As I write this, there are hundreds of freelancers not getting any work right now, because their website is awful to use, broken or just plain ugly. Don't stunt your potential before you start: stick with the basics and register yourself an account with any of these free services. They look fantastic and they're easy to use.
CGSociety - The CG hangout spot for industry professionals
Behance - Particularly useful for networking
Once you've created your portfolio you can either sit back and wait for the offers to roll in, or you can be proactive and look for work (I'd recommend the latter).
You might also like to check out the Monster list of freelancing job sites by Freelance Switch.
5. Sell Educational material
At the last blender conference, Ton Roosendaal said this: "It is now more evident that studios and professionals are adopting blender. I'm getting emails from all over the world from professionals, small studios, big studios and film studios that have ideas and plans to integrate blender in their pipeline... That means that those people need support, they need training, they need servicing... If you know how to do training, you really can get work easily being a trainer." Watch the whole 16 minute speech here.
It's not only the professionals that should be considering this either, because at what point does someone become a professional? Is it when they've been part of the blender community for 5+ years? Or perhaps when they've released a DVD? My point is, just because you don't know absolutely everything there is to know about blender, does not mean you don't have knowledge of value to others.
Try writing a few tutorials and see how the community responds to them. If your responses are positive, there is no reason you can't put it in an ebook and sell it.
Surprisingly some people have asked the question, "Is charging people to learn how to use a program that you got for free, morally right?" Of course it is. Consider a class on how to surf: The instructor was given the beach for free, yet he is now charging others on how to surf that beach. Do people frown and tell him how immoral it is? No, because they know that by taking the class they are saving themselves months of painful trial and error by trying to learn it on their own.
So don't feel guilty. The program may be free, but your skills are not. People are more than happy to pay for good training.
Where to sell:
Have you made money with Blender in the past? How did you make it? Leave a comment below!