Old 01-20-2006, 06:10 PM
SparrowHawk SparrowHawk is offline
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Salary question

Mods Disclaimer: I would like actual answers to this query, but I realize the material may verge into the subjective. If it gets very Humbly Opinionated, please move around as seems good to you.

I have a shot at a job doing short-term contract work for a video game developer, painting finished concept art from rough storyboards. This looks like fun work, and I would like it, though it's a bit daunting, as they want very detailed stuff done very quickly. My illustration work is good (one of the guys even murmured "wow" in an unguarded moment) and I have a passion and a facility for detail. But I have no "game industry experience" and I think I tend to work slowly, though I didn't exactly come out and say that in so many words. Some of it's the media I prefer to use (oils and egg tempera) but I would be doing this with gouache and I'm pretty sure I could bust up the chops to work a heap faster.

Anyhow, they're thinking it over and I'm trying to come up with numbers for "salary: negotiable." I have NO idea what the going rate is for this kind of thing. Monster.com helps a tad, coughing up median yearly salaries for painter/illustrator in my area (Honolulu), but that's for a permanent position, presumably with benefits, in an unspecified industry (I don't even know if this makes a difference). I can break it down into an hourly wage, but how do I factor in the differences for me being a contracted worker (paying self-employment tax, providing materials, etc.) rather than an employee and balance them against the quality of my work and my lack of "industry" experience?

I'd be grateful for any input, including how to go about researching this sort of info (beyond the aforementioned monster.com), so I can put together my strengths and weaknesses with the job requirements and working terms to come up with a realistic number that will neither sell me short nor astound them with my breathtakingly naive presumption.
Old 01-20-2006, 06:21 PM
psycat90 psycat90 is offline
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Location: Santa Rosa, CA
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salary.com should be able to help.
Old 01-20-2006, 06:34 PM
Shagnasty Shagnasty is offline
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I know some about this. I am a contractor/consultant and these calculations are something you have to know cold if you are comparing offers or evaluating what is fair.

Fortunately, it is pretty easy.

1) Find out the salaried rate for that position. You are going to have to do that on your own with salary.com or through asking around.

2) Convert that to a 40 hour work week rate. This is easy. Say the salaried rate is $100,000. You just divide by 2 and then divide by 1000 (this converts a salary to hourly based on 2000 hours a year).

$100,000 = $50 hr $30,000 = $15 hr. etc. $40,000 = $20 hr

3) Then you just add at least 33% to that to get a minumum contract rate. 50% or maybe much more wouldn't be unheard of. You get what you can but the rate should be well over the salary conversion.

The extra 33% is meant to compensate you for benefits (that you don't get), tax hassles, job insecurity, and the fact that contractors typically work harder than many salaried employees because of the project-based nature of the work.
Old 01-20-2006, 06:39 PM
Shagnasty Shagnasty is offline
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I should add. My contracting is usually through one of the many consulting agencies here in Boston. They do all of taxes and things like that and they charge the clients for it.

If you are going independent, you may need to charge more and you are advised to do some research on the tax implications of doing it that way. You may have to pay quarterly estimated taxes for example.

I have heard this type of thing can get hairy if you don't know what you are doing. I have heard that independents should definitely hire and accountant as soon as they begin.

You charge them for actual materials. There shouldn't be an issue there.
Old 01-20-2006, 06:53 PM
Gaudere Gaudere is offline
Join Date: Jul 1999
Posts: 6,140
this is supposed to be a good book on freelancing for artists: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/093...lance&n=283155

Me, I generally just lop the "000" off the salary to get the hourly (50k yr==50/hr), and don't bill them for paint/materials/etc. The consulting companies I know charge about 90 - 125/hr for a designer; illustrators are generally cheaper, I think, but I've not worked with one.
Old 01-20-2006, 07:00 PM
SparrowHawk SparrowHawk is offline
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Thank you, folks, that helps immensely. I've done some contract work, and have paid estimated tax and so forth, but it was minor stuff and I handled it on my own and felt I pretty much made a hash of it. I'm hoping I can do better this time around.
Old 01-20-2006, 07:06 PM
tiltypig tiltypig is offline
Join Date: Apr 2005
Posts: 470
Somewhere on the Gamasutra website you should be able to find something from an issue of Game Developer magazine called the Annual Salary Survey. This is specific to the industry you're looking in, so it will probably be more helpful than salary.com. Check the job offers on the site as well to get an idea of how much concept artists are making.

Also, try asking on conceptart.org.


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