Thought Experiment: Flame Veterans Career Speedrun - Building from Scratch to $100K

I totally disagree, I think you got the wrong idea, wrong expectations, living in a false economy, and this attptutde can only cause damage to the craft of flame. It’s a skill, and talent, not factory work unless you want to just re-version stuff, then maybe…

I once wanted to learn Houdini, whilst being a senior flame guy, …I was willing to work cheap or even free to learn becos I respected the craft and the users I wanted to learn from. But I was too busy.

Im starting wonder whether this website is encouraging unhealthy aptitudes to new users?

We’ll just have to disagree then. No harm.

The tensions of working in a field that lives in the triangle of art, commerce and technology.

@allklier would you call yourself a new user?

Wow. I feel like I could save on my winter heating bills just by reading this thread.


If you mean new to Flame - I’ve been working in Flame for 2+ years. I’m very upfront about that.

If you mean new to Flame type of work? No. I’ve been around this type of work for many more years and have a long list of happy clients that pay me well.

If you mean new to art & commerce? No, been around that for 30 years.

If you mean new to business? Not all. I’ve been around a lot of very senior folks over the years. I’ve managed a $4B demand channel for a very well known company, among other things.

Clearly you take a lot of pride in your Flame experience. Respect for that.

For me me Flame is a very practical tool that lets me deliver work to clients that they appreciate and value. And gives me a premium income opportunity. I respect Flame as an excellent software package with a rich history and a well respected community that has pushed boundaries for 30 years.

And I think this will be the end of the conversation for me. Clearly we have different views, this is not about a competition or convincing one or the other. We have one thing in common, we use Flame, we enjoy it, and it makes us successful in our own ways.



Ed Edd N Eddy GIF by Cartoon Network

oh stop it…

You’d be much better served as a junior to be in an environment in which you are in physical proximity to other more senior flame artists. Literally looking over people’s shoulders is an invaluable experience. This is my opinion of course, but you’ll learn much more quickly and efficiently. And yes I think it would improve your chances of steady work.

I think the thing getting people’s feathers ruffled is the “speed run” component of your post. There’s an aspect of your post that reads like looking for the life hacks that can take you from zero to 100k in just twelve months! And I don’t think that exists in this field. It’s a combination of aptitude, attitude, right place right time, and the people you know. Just like anything else really.

At the end of the day, once your foot is in the door, your skills are what’s important and there aren’t a lot of questions about that in your post. Like your cart seems miles ahead of your horse. Need to kick ass to get paid. Can’t kick ass if can’t do. Can’t do if haven’t learned. You have to devour every piece of information. And beyond that, really try to understand what that information is and how you can really apply it beyond rote memorization of which buttons to click. This is a problem solving field. And the more problems you’ve solved, and the deeper knowledge of how you solved those problems and how to translate that into future problems is paramount to being good at this. Talking about social platforms and booking clients without being able to crush a flame booking seems premature.


Exactly, and charging less doesn’t even land you more work. In my experience, raising my rates has always made it easier to find work. If you err on the side of being overpriced, you’ll know quite soon because it’s hard to find work. If you err on the lower side, your rates could be locked in for months at a time while signaling a race to the bottom. We should all be discouraging this kind of signaling.

Testing out a 50% increase in your rate every quarter should be seen like eating your vegetables. I’m seeing people from India with healthier rates and hoping the overseas crowd keeps testing the waters. Since this career path has uniquely inherent risks, what our clients pay for is not just the deliverable. Our compensation today should reflect the risk of obsolescence 10-20 years down the road.

When people say things like “I just charge what I think is fair,” they often don’t realize what fairness means in a world where AI (among many things) can spoil the whole pot. ‘Fair’ would be more like $1000/hr so you could save a nest egg in 2 years. That’s really what I think a person competent with Nuke, Houdini, or Flame deserves. And the closer the AI threat looms, the higher the value, all the way to the point of obsolescence.

Do I think the freelance VFX community knows their own value enough to stand for this? I don’t know, but the Flame community seems like the harbinger of sensibility. If we signal a race to the bottom, others hear it, and before long we all get robbed. And just because our rates have been normalized, it doesn’t mean they represent our actual value.

I agree that my rate of $80/hr. is relatively low. My excuse is that when you see the majority of ‘Senior’ VFX artists on Upwork charging $80/hr, it just looks like the thing to do. Almost no Houdini artists have as high as $150/hr on their profile. I’m going to make amends by doubling my rate while working on my website for the next couple of months. I’m prepared for 1-2 years of no new clients, but have a feeling I won’t have trouble landing work through LinkedIn or my website.

If a platform has a culture of racing to the bottom, the best you can do is leave it on read while sending a strong message. I won’t waste my time sending proposals anymore on Upwork until I see hourly rates in the hundreds per hour normalized. It would benefit the entire VFX community if everyone who doesn’t have an Upwork account (especially Flame Artists), makes one, sets a rate in the hundreds on their profile, and leaves it. I’m seeing more people wise up to the fact that you don’t have to (nor should you) start low. My very first Houdini job paid $3K for a few hours of work. I didn’t even start getting responses from potential clients until I raised my rate to $80/hr.

My strategy for the rest of 2024 is to set the price to upper extremes, work on inbound marketing (regularly posted promo shorts on LinkedIn), and let them come to me. If Adobe wants to make prompt ‘artists’ out of marketing execs, then any VFX artist worth their salt will need to upgrade their title to Founder & Creative Director of their own production house. Every client of mine that ever had a substantial budget contacted me out of the blue. Anyone with over $10K to spend is actively headhunting for talent, not waiting to be approached.

1 Like

Maybe speedrun wasn’t the best word for me to use in the title :sweat_smile:

I was looking more for a re-enactment of someone doing all the right career moves and allocating time to optimal priorities on a clean slate. I do think if something is worth doing, it doesn’t matter how long it takes – I’m all in.

1 Like

@Retopo001 - good work and a good contribution.

For perspective, when the software gods are on your side, you can get a blessed configuration up and running within 45 minutes.

My limited experience of cloud instances was between 5-15 minutes.

1 Like