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View Full Version : Is there a way to make money making "artistic" maps?



RjBeals
11-11-2010, 08:44 PM
Just curious - as most of the cartography positions I've seen deal with GIS and research. I see some of you make maps for role playing game books. Do any of you make money making maps for like, school text books? or brochures? or like web pages or anything? I mean, we all have a lot of talent - there's got to be a way to profit from it ! :)

mearrin69
11-11-2010, 09:24 PM
Beyond RPGs there are, of course, videogames and literature.

I've seen a couple of "pros" on here that have done things like visitor maps for theme parks and such. One guy posted a couple done in Illustrator along with videos showing the process (it was awesome to watch, BTW). I would think that sort of this would be pretty common - tourist maps, visitor maps, etc. Less artistic would be the folks that do escape plan diagrams, "you are here" maps, and that sort of thing.

I'm not immediately calling to mind other applications. Anybody else think of anything?
M

omaimon
11-11-2010, 10:31 PM
You might be able to offer custom world maps for Gamemasters running thier own campaigns. I'm ready toi pay $100 for one of Arsheesh's maps if I can ever get a hold of him. I just want the Photoshop vesion so I can change the names and alter the roads a bit.

RjBeals
11-11-2010, 10:44 PM
At least for me, i spend countless hours on a map, so I would need to charge like $1,000 bucks per map. I'm getting paid for the maps I create for the gaming site I'm working with - but I only produce like 1 map every 3 months or longer. It's more of a hobby with benefits I guess.

mearrin69
11-12-2010, 01:07 AM
Hah. Agreed. If I multiplied my "real-world" hourly rate by the number of hours it takes me to make a map...the price becomes somewhat unrealistic. My Haibianr map would likely be in the neighborhood of $4k. I like it well enough but I have serious doubts that anyone else would think it's worth that! :) I'm getting faster though. I think I could make minimum wage doing maps these days...
M

tilt
11-12-2010, 03:22 AM
normally if a company needs a map for a brochure or the like, they would just call their advertising agency - they wouldn't think of contacting a cartographer. So if you wanna do stuff like that, you should probably send samples to agencies. But I'm afraid that mearrin is right about the pricing, unless it was a very special product no-one will pay for all the hours that go into a map (unless of course you're a well known artist - then people will pay anything).

Aval Penworth
11-12-2010, 03:48 AM
I've mentioned this on other threads, but I think the tourist market is a viable way to make some extra cash from maps.

Gamerprinter
11-12-2010, 04:04 AM
As with anything I do, business wise, since I have to market my cartography skills now, is to be 'proactive' about it. I don't look for jobs where people are looking for my talent - I may never find anything if I do, since I don't do GIS, CAD or that kind of mapping.

I build me a website. I start contacting prospective clients RPG, board game, online/printed periodical - or tourism boards, ad agencies, department of natural resources, whoever it is I need to contact to see if I can fill a need, that might not realize they need until I tell them they do. Really, that's how I do anything. Now I do this in a friendly manner, but I am firm at what my offer is and offer quotes for specific work based on their response.

I either get the work, or I don't. If I don't try, I'll never know the work is available or not, and its often surprising who actually needs and wants the work, if only someone mentioned that you could do it at all. It takes both networking and sending Emails through those contact pages on the various websites out there, getting involved in their online communities.

Torstan (Jonathan Roberts) is very successful doing pro cartography commissions for Open Design Project and Rite Publishing, I see Sapiento agressively marketing himself on the various RPG forums out there. I've continued to do map commissions, while pursuing a direction more towards publication and game product printing/distribution. So we all pick our niche and pursue it. We don't wait for it to come to us - that will happen, but only after you let yourself be known in the industry, giving example after example.

You have to 'sell yourself', because you are afterall the cartographer and that is a unique and useful talent in the right hands. But they'll never know, unless you tell them...

GP

Jaxilon
11-12-2010, 09:52 PM
I agree with what GP is saying here. I think it really does come down to you making it happen. You could be the best ever but if you just sit in the corner and don't market yourself to the world, they may never know about you.

I have been wondering lately if there is more money in the typical art venue than cartography. While I do enjoy creating maps, I have seen folks who are not very talented artistically but can manipulate software and make incredibly awesome maps. They will tell you they can't draw to save their lives but here they have amazing maps to show you. I guess I wonder if I should just pursue maps as a hobby and go for the more typical artistic world because I can draw.

Either way, I believe you still have to work your butt off and advertise yourself if you want to really make serious money.

It's also good to look at the average salaries for the type of job you are seeking. I just did a quick search, which hopefully is wrong, but it showed a Fine artists/Graphics artists, including sculpture at an average hourly rate at $ 15.55 (in USA).........I'm thinking !@#(% that's way WORSE than what I make now. Then again, that's starting out which isn't so bad.

tilt
11-13-2010, 03:52 AM
I have no idea of what people earn i the US in an average job, but personally I'd "settle" for a little less if I could do what I love :)

when you look at the commision prices on DA (for those who list them) - there are some pretty talented people that charge 30-100 dollar for a drawing depending on color and details. The problem with both cartography and art in general is that its hard to make a name for yourself - there is lot of competition out there, especially if you go world wide.

I remember when I read in a "what can you be" book back in school. If you were lucky enough to get one of the very few spaces in the art school, you still knew that only about 5% of the students actually could live of their art afterwards - most ended up teaching art in schools or just doing something else completely.
But then again - just because the competition is hard, is no reason to give up before hand, just placing some facts on the table :)

mearrin69
11-13-2010, 11:26 AM
Self-promotion is important, agreed. I've only recently begun to "lightly" promote myself as a freelance cartographer. I know I'm not as good or as fast as many of the folks out there doing it but that's okay for now. I doubt it'll ever be my "day job" because, although I love it, I won't ever be able to make as much doing it as I do in my real career. I, like Tilt, would certainly consider making a little less to do something I love...but maybe not that much less. :)

I don't know about cartography but, after self-promotion, I'll wager that being successful in art is largely linked to being reliable. I think it was Woody Allen (whom I dislike greatly) that said something like eighty percent of success is just showing up. If my recent experience with trying to get art completed for my product is any gauge then I believe he was absolutely correct. I'vestarted working with a couple of folks and had money in hand to give them when they finished their bit...but they just evaporated on me. So, yeah, just friggin show up, finish, and get paid. :)

M

Jaxilon
11-13-2010, 11:19 PM
mearrin makes a good point. I think it's typical for artistic types to be temperamental and a bit flaky (none of the folks who read this obviously :) ). Having a good work ethic and following through is going to go a long way in helping your career. That's even come up here before in some of the threads on how to get published and so on.

RjBeals
11-14-2010, 08:18 PM
i hear ya guys. I was talking to a new friend lat night who is a professorial free lance artist (http://www.inkdoodles.blogspot.com/). He's damn good - but he makes several hundred US Dollars for a single magazine illustration, that he says he can produce in like an hour. That's awesome, but the difference is he just sits down and draws this thing out - without really having to spend time researching, or focusing on the fine details that come with maps. Maps are pretty technical. I just can't see ever making fair compensation for the amount of time and quality spent put into making a map. Not trying to complain though - you guys know the feeling. I'm just getting to the age now, where I want to make money for my talents ;)

tilt
11-15-2010, 05:30 AM
you're absolutely right, a lot of maps takes a level of details that a customer probably wont pay for. But if you want to make money making maps, perhaps you should think the other way around. The customer will pay x dollar - what can I make with that, how many hours can I use for that money - and then put out some reference maps to show to the client the kind of detail he'll get for that price. THEN you show him a nicer map and tell him what that would cost ;)
I tend to nit-pick and change minute details that no-one will notice when mapping and that takes a lot of time - also I like to draw my maps from scratch (or use own previous art/textures) which also makes it hard to churn out something fast. On the other hand I'm slowly building a portfolio of elements for my battlemaps :)

tilt
11-15-2010, 05:30 AM
you're absolutely right, a lot of maps takes a level of details that a customer probably wont pay for. But if you want to make money making maps, perhaps you should think the other way around. The customer will pay x dollar - what can I make with that, how many hours can I use for that money - and then put out some reference maps to show to the client the kind of detail he'll get for that price. THEN you show him a nicer map and tell him what that would cost ;)
I tend to nit-pick and change minute details that no-one will notice when mapping and that takes a lot of time - also I like to draw my maps from scratch (or use own previous art/textures) which also makes it hard to churn out something fast. On the other hand I'm slowly building a portfolio of elements for my battlemaps :)

Gamerprinter
11-15-2010, 12:58 PM
Well I measure everything that I map in an hourly rate, though I may vary what that hourly rate is, though its definitely no less than $20 / hour (which I still feel is very poor for what my talent is worth.) So generally I don't create maps that are less than $30, sometimes going as high as $150 - still I should be earning $500 a map, but nobody is going to pay me that.

Which is a great part of the reason I am going forward as a publisher rather than a cartographer. Doing that isn't obvious track even for a cartographer. I also happen to have skills in writing, editing, page layout, graphic design, and to a much lesser degree: game development, in addition to the skills to be a commercial cartographer. Only because of these additional talents do I even feel qualified to try to be a publisher.

Finally because I am digital printer is why I became Gamer Printshop in the first place. I have the equipment, supplies and training to create large format map graphics. Combining this idea with knowledge gained in working the industry, I am soon to be operating as Free RPG Maps.com dedicated to producing monthly Map Tile sets.

Believe me, while I love creating maps, I need substantially more money to continue in this career choice, so I expand my horizons by being a publisher and digital printer, in addition to being a cartographer. Its the niche that will pay best, while primarily working as a fantasy cartographer.

GP

FrancoisGoulet
11-15-2010, 02:11 PM
Charging by the hour can be tricky. As you gain experience, you draw faster so does it means that you would charge less? Personally, it always ends somewhat charging by the hour, but I estimate the time it's gonna take me, then multiply by the hourly rate I'd like and then give that number to the client as a "package" price for the project. I always change it a bit according that I find it too low or even too high for what I'd estimate the market price for what I'm doing. Charging to low and your client could think it's gonna be cheap, ugly work. Charging too high and he could run away. It's difficult.

I've read an article recently written by a web designer, but the principles could easily be applied to fantasy mapping.
Charging Per Hour vs. Per Project (http://www.webdesignerdepot.com/2010/10/charging-per-hour-vs-per-project/)

Gamerprinter
11-15-2010, 02:30 PM
True, but when I started, that's exactly how I quoted it - if I was better at this, it should take me X hours to create, so I bid this job based on X hours, not actual hours. But I am rather fast at this cartography stuff...

I have actually bid on jobs, was told by the publisher I was the highest bid, but I still got the job - it was based on quality and meeting a deadline.

Of course you can ask anyone on this site, who is the fastest mapper of all. The answer is "me." So my bids for hourly rate is actually fairly accurate.

GP

jbgibson
11-15-2010, 11:08 PM
My daughter the Awesome Artist is meticulous, and those details cost a lot of time. She wants to do art for a living. I've noticed lately she's been doing some "time trial" drawings. Like Tilt noted, the question might be whether you can do a "good enough" map in a short time. With of course a couple of the $500 - $5000 maps in view :-). ... Her <20 minute sketches are so far beyond me that I'm impressed and pleased nonetheless.

In my (non-map) work, I find we're often forced to do about a "grade-C" job... I hate that, but it's what the customer wants, and will pay for <shrug>.

Jaxilon
11-16-2010, 02:00 PM
Seems to come down to, do you want to do what you love or make money? You might make money doing what you love but there are no guarantees.

jetfx
11-20-2010, 07:46 PM
I see some of you make maps for role playing game books. Do any of you make money making maps for like, school text books? or brochures? or like web pages or anything?

I have, but I have GIS and cartography training. I'm currently finishing the last year of my program, and I've worked jobs making maps. Last summer I worked for Parks Canada making maps of national parks and historic sites for print and web. To be honest, the easiest way to get a job making maps, albeit of the real world, is to get GIS and cartography training. You can, like others here, carve out a niche making fantasy maps on commission, but there are plenty of well paying cartography jobs all over the world if you've got the training.