One of the easiest and most accessible ways to start earning money as a 3D modeler is to begin selling 3D stock models from an online marketplace.
If you're looking to transition into freelance work, this can be a great way to start building a client base, and the nature of the work means you'll learn a lot about how to build an online presence, market yourself, and leverage your connections to gain exposure.
Even if you're more interested in building a portfolio you can use to apply for studio jobs, successfully selling 3D stock will show potential employers that you have the ability to create quality work with high efficiency.
Like anything worth doing, it takes a lot of time and effort to build up a steady income stream from selling stock models online, but the advantage is that once you've built a network the income is relatively passive.
There are a lot of things that can help you succeed as a 3D stock seller, but before we delve into anything else, let's take a look at the ten best places to sell your models online.
These are the marketplaces with the most traffic, the strongest reputations, and the best royalties:
Let's get to the elephant in the room right off the bat. Yes, Turbosquid is huge. Yes, they have an impressive list of high-profile clients. But is it really the best place to sell your models?
If you're somehow able to set yourself apart there, then Turbosquid's massive user-base offers huge upside, but don't expect to upload your models and watch the dollars roll in. Success here will most likely require a significant amount of active marketing, and in all honesty—if you're good enough to stand out at Turbosquid, you're probably good enough to start looking for legitimate freelance contracts (that will pay you a heck of a lot better).
Despite its somewhat antiquated site design and interface, The 3D Studio is the preferred marketplace for a lot of serious sellers, and probably the site that gets my own endorsement.
They're the oldest 3D marketplace on the web, and overall, the ownership seems committed to customer service and artist's rights. They guarantee they'll never lower royalty rates or ask for exclusivity from an artist, and in a way, they've actively positioned themselves as the family-owned antithesis to the Turbosquid monolith.
Royalty rate: Artist receives 60% of all sales.
Licensing FAQ: Selling at The 3D Studio
If it weren't for the emergence of on-demand 3D printing services like Shapeways, this list would actually be significantly shorter.
Shapeways (and similar sites) have opened up an entirely new market segment, offering the ability for modelers to upload their work and sell physical copies of their 3D models through a process known as 3D printing. The ability to print in numerous different material types makes 3D printing a versatile and attractive option for jewelry, decorative items, and small character statues.
The idea of physically printing a digital model might sound like science fiction if you're just hearing about it for the first time, but the tech has arrived and could potentially revolutionize the way we think about manufacturing as printers continue to advance.
If you'd like to sell your models as 3D prints, keep in mind that there are additional steps/conversions that must be completed to make a model "print-ready." Read here for more information.
Royalty rate: Flexible. Shapeways sets a price based on the volume and material of your print, and you determine how much of a markup you'd like to charge.
Licensing FAQ: Selling at Shapeways
4. Daz 3D
Daz 3D is a huge marketplace, but it's also very self-contained.
I'm know there's quite a bit of potential here, but I honestly can't see it being an option for you unless you're familiar with Daz Studio and Poser. They've also got a pretty specific list of requirements and a manual vetting process, so if you're looking for a quick and easy upload look elsewhere. The upside is that DAZ is a marketplace aimed at people who need to make CG but typically don't know how to model, which makes them more likely to buy their assets.
Royalty rate: Artist receives 50% on non-exclusive sales, up to 65% with exclusivity.
Licensing FAQ: Selling at Daz 3D
Renderosity has been around forever, which unfortunately is reflected in their aging site design. They've got high quality standards and a gigantic user-base, but relatively low royalty rates means that there are better options available for 3D artists using traditional modeling packages like Maya, Max, and Lightwave.
However, Renderosity has successfully positioned itself as a leading marketplace for Daz Studio and Poser models, so if that's your thing you'll definitely want to set up shop here (in addition to Daz 3D). The two are pretty equivalent in traffic, so make sure you give them both some attention.
Royalty rate: Artist receives 50% on non-exclusive sales, up to 70% with exclusivity.
Licensing FAQ: Selling at Renderosity
3Docean is part of the enormous Envato network, which comprises the entire Tuts+ empire and boasts more than 1.4 million registered members. Although the 3Docean user-base is most likely a fraction of that, there's also a lot less competition here than somewhere like Turbosquid or The 3D Studio.
Envato products are pretty solid, so 3Docean is definitely worth looking into to supplement what you're doing at one of the larger marketplaces, but definitely don't rely on them as your primary storefront—the non-exclusive licensing rate they offer is downright offensive.
Royalty rate: Artist receives 33% on non-exclusive sales, 50-70% with exclusivity contract.
Licensing FAQ: Selling at 3Docean
With over 130,000 members, there's plenty of opportunity to go around, and 3DExport has one of the most user friendly (and attractive) site designs in the industry. They were founded way back in 2004, but you can tell everything has been modernized and brought up to date. Their non-exclusive licensing rate is competitive with industry leader, The 3D Studio.
Royalty rate: Artist receives 60% for non-exclusive sales, up to 70% with exclusivity contract.
Licensing FAQ: Selling at 3DExport
CreativeCrash is a 3D marketplace that sprung from the ashes of the now defunct asset sharing network, Highend3D. The site gets quite a bit of foot traffic, but their license fee is slightly higher than some of the competition.
Another potential issue is that for the past decade Highend was always the place to go for free 3D models. Assuming the majority of CreativeCrash's traffic has carried over from Highend3D, it might be a bit harder to make sales when the user-base is used to getting things for free.
Royalty rate: Artist recieves 55% on non-exclusive sales.
Licensing FAQ: Selling at CreativeCrash
Falling Pixel is a UK based vendor with a sizable offering and a decent amount of traffic. They're notable for aligning themselves with Turbosquid last year, allowing members to sell under the Squid Guild aggreement. Their non-exclusive rate is absolute garbage, so if you don't have any interest in the Squid Guild then don't bother with Falling Pixel. If you do decide to sell through the Guild, then it's probabbly worth it to at least give them a try and see how you fare.
Royalty rate: Artist receives 40% for non-exclusive sales, 50-60% with exclusivity contract.
Licensing FAQ: Selling at Falling Pixel
Sculpteo is another 3D print vendor based out of France. Although they haven't received as much press in the United States, Sculpteo has a similar business model to Shapeways, and despite a few disadvantages it's certainly worth a look.
Sculpteo offers fewer material & color choices, and compared to Shapeways the same model tends to be more expensive to print. Having said that, the marketplace is also less crowded, so you may have more success making sales. If you're looking to sell your models as prints, my advice is to poke around both sites to see which one you prefer.
Royalty rate: Flexible. Sculpteo sets a price based on the volume and material of your print, and you determine how much of a markup you'd like to charge.
Licensing FAQ: Selling at Sculpteo
So Which Marketplace is Best?
Knowing your options is only half the battle. In the second part of this series, we explore traffic, competition, and royalties to determine which 3D marketplace will give you the highest chance for success. Read More >>