Often one of the most difficult parts of being a freelance sculptor in a industry where many of the companies have very little regard for the artist is getting paid. Add the fact that there are a lot of amateurs who are willing to work for next to nothing just to get their work out, and the end result is that those of us who do the job for a living often get undercut by people who don't depend on sculpting to feed their family and make money. Recently, the arrival of cut rate sculpting services from China has made the situation even worse. Some artists are independently wealthy or have spouses with high paying jobs and have sub-par rates as a result.
Often companies expect the artist to work for free and have the opinion that they are doing the artist a favour by giving them exposure. When you do ask for proper compensation they end up turning to one of the above mentioned cheaper sources. Often companies just don't pay their bills on time or put off paying for months on end. I don't know how many times I've had a company with long outstanding debts just leave for weeks on end without paying their bill. It's usually at times where you need the money like Christmas; the convention season is also a time when this is a common occurrence. I've often wondered what some of these people would say to their boss who left town the day before payday and said "oh by the way, I'll be off at Gencon this week so I'm not going to give you a paycheck".
What any artist should realize when they undercharge or low ball a price is that they are taking food from the mouths of my children, not just my own but every other professional sculptor out there who depend on their trade to pay the bills. Any new sculptors who low ball are really only hurting themselves because once you charge a company one price they will never, ever, give you a higher rate; you are just locking yourself into a low wage. There is always another desperate artist waiting to give them what they want for next to nothing.
The sad part of this environment means that there will be fewer and fewer professional sculptors in the gaming industry as it becomes more and more impossible to make a decent living from sculpting. The death of the metal miniature, and rise of the cheap, pre-painted mini sculpted by a cut rate, sub par artist from China will also drive many of the great sculptors into other lines of work.
My wife is a writer and unfortunately the writing Field is afflicted with the same rot that plagues the gaming industry. She found this video on one of the writing sites that she visits, which is an interview with Harlan Ellison and he eloquently sums up how I have felt for many years. My first reaction after seeing it was "Amen to That," then I wrote this rant. Here it is, he is talking about writers but if you swap the word writer for sculptor it is the same situation. I'm sure my peers will truly appreciate this.
One word of caution, this isn't a video to listen to at work or if you have your kids present.
James Van Schaik