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Studio vs freelance: The pros and cons

Careers are constantly marked by forks in the road, and digital art is no exception. Whether it’s settling on a niche in the industry, or opting to pursue further education instead of paid work, or figuring out the right step to bolster your creative resume, there are plenty of big questions artists have to ask themselves. One of the toughest choices to make is deciding whether to go freelance or work in a studio.

Going freelance has the lure of flexibility, whereas studio life offers security and human contact, so how is an artist meant to pick a route? Personal finances, current skill level and career aspirations are all key factors to consider. We spoke to professional digital artists of all types to find out their thoughts on the pros and cons of working freelance or going in-house. Here’s what they had to say.

Studio benefits

The fear of not having enough paid work prevents a lot of artists from going freelance. But for Naughty Dog lighting artist Boon Cotter, the hassle of time management proved too much. “I was always ‘on’, and that drained me,” says Cotter. “Working freelance, in a way, felt like 24/7 crunch to me. I’ve always enjoyed studio work in part due to the social aspect; being in the trenches so to speak. I feel much more connected with a project when I’m on the ground with the team. Much of my inspiration comes from the people around me, watching them do really cool work, and wanting to help make it even better.”

Bjorn Hurri weighs up the benefits of freelance life: “You’re disconnected from the studio, but able to work on multiple titles and scales” (Image credit: Bjorn Hurri)

“An artist should ideally experience both studio and freelance work,” says lead artist at Opus Artz and former freelancer, Bjorn Hurri. A lot of the choice depends on an artist’s character and preferences, which includes an attitude to money.

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