I‘m guessing you‘re an artist exploring your career options, and you want the inside scoop on freelancing for leading gaming companies like Riot Games. You likely want to know – how much can I really make creating concept art, illustrations or animations for Riot as a freelancer?
This is an excellent question, as Riot is one of the top game developers out there right now. I‘ll give you the full rundown based on average freelance artist rates and data on Riot salaries. Let‘s dive in!
The Short Answer: Freelance illustrators and concept artists typically earn $30,000 to $65,000 annually working with Riot Games and other AAA game studios. Those with specialized skills like character design or animation can earn up to $100 per hour.
But there‘s a whole lot more that impacts your potential freelance earnings…
Factors That Influence Your Freelance Rates
As a freelance artist looking to work in gaming, the hourly or project rates you can charge are influenced by these key factors:
Your Experience Level
Naturally, the more years you‘ve been honing your craft and building an impressive portfolio, the higher your rates can be.
- Entry or junior-level artists: $$30-50/hr or $25,000-$45,000/yr
- Mid-level artists: $50-$70/hr or $40,000-$60,000/yr
- Expert or senior-level artists: $70-$100+/hr or $60,000-$85,000+/yr
As streaming influencer Harris Heller says, "When you‘re starting out, it‘s all about building the skills and portfolio to back up those rates you want to charge. Put in the hours to level up."
The Quality of Your Portfolio
Your body of work and the pieces you have to showcase are a direct representation of your skills. A weak portfolio limits your rates, while an impressive one boosts them.
Gaming art director Michelle Hoefener notes, "I look for artists who have versatility in their book. Being able to tackle different styles while maintaining quality shows professionalism."
When your portfolio demonstrates your range and mastery of stylistic, technical and conceptual skills, you can justify higher fees.
Your Specialized Skills and Expertise
Certain artistic skills are in high demand right now at companies like Riot, especially:
- Character concept art
- Environment/scene illustrations
- Stylized "painterly" digital art
If you develop expertise in these sought-after disciplines, you‘ll have more bargaining power to charge premium rates.
While remote freelancing is now commonplace, being located near Riot‘s LA headquarters can provide a distinct advantage for landing gigs and collaborating directly with teams onsite. Their HQ resides in one of the most expensive metro areas, so local artists can justify higher rates.
However, artists based in lower cost-of-living areas shouldn‘t shortchange themselves either. Scope out the average rates for your region.
Current Industry Needs and Trends
The needs of gaming companies evolve quickly. If your style or skills align with rising trends, you can capitalize on that demand.
For example, Riot‘s recent games have featured a vibrant, painterly aesthetic. Artists able to emulate that style may see more work opportunities and can adapt their rates accordingly.
Artist Salary Ranges at Riot Games
To give you a better sense of what full-time artists make directly at Riot, here are some average salary ranges according to Glassdoor data:
|Animator||$86,000 – $152,000|
|Illustrator||$59,000 – $118,000|
|Concept Artist||$86,000 – $165,000|
|Art Director||$114,000 – $193,000|
Of course, as a freelancer you can earn comparable amounts, but your income will ebb and flow project to project rather than being a fixed salary with benefits.
Building Your Portfolio For Riot
If you want to catch the eye of Riot‘s talent acquisition team, you need a portfolio that screams "hire me!".
Here are tips for creating pieces tailored to Riot‘s needs:
Study their game art styles – Analyze the color palettes, textures, silhouettes, and overall artistic flavors of LoL, Valorant, etc. Reflect these aesthetics in your concepts.
Design original characters – Develop your own roster of characters that would inhabit a Riot game world. Vibrant, creative designs are a must.
Demonstrate environment art skills – Create vivid scenes and landscapes that capture a game‘s atmosphere. Mood is super important.
Showcase animation capabilities – If pursuing animator roles, have captivating character motions, attacks, and abilities in your reel.
Variety – Show you can shift between realism, stylization and different themes. Versatility is key.
Negotiating Your Worth and Landing Gigs
Once you‘ve built up your portfolio, you need to effectively sell yourself and negotiate fair rates for freelance gigs.
Streaming career coach Heather Loeffler advises:
"Do your research to determine the market rates for your skills and experience level. Figure out your minimum acceptable rate based on your financial needs. During interviews, emphasize the value you bring – this puts you in a stronger negotiating position."
Networking is also crucial. Connect with Riot artists on Twitter and LinkedIn. Attend gaming conferences and chat up studio reps.
When opportunity knocks, have your elevator pitch ready. Confidently communicate your passion for helping bring Riot‘s games to life.
Pros and Cons of Riot Freelancing
Freelancing gives artists flexibility and variety between multiple gaming clients. But going full-time at one company like Riot has some key advantages:
- Health/dental benefits
- Retirement savings plans
- Office perks like free meals
- Stability of a guaranteed salary
- Less control over schedule and workload
- Potentially less creativity or input
- Office politics to deal with
Ultimately, choose the path that best aligns with your lifestyle and creative needs.
I hope this info empowers you to unlock your maximum freelance potential with Riot Games. Remember to level up your skills, build an impressive portfolio tailored to their needs, effectively negotiate rates based on your experience, and get out there networking!
With the right preparation and business savvy, you can earn excellent compensation doing what you love – making great art for great games. Now get out there and start creating!