From what I’ve learned after being a part of 3d modeling industry for long, challenges in selling 3D models online aren't just limited to creating dreamy designs using fancy software and then putting them up for sale.
Making matters worse is the fact that there aren’t many credible beginners’ guides to 3D modeling either out there to help you chart a commercially viable career in 3d modeling.
So, the process of creating an eye-catching and viable design that could stand out from the crowd becomes tedious one, to say the least. And that’s not even the hardest part.
The hardest part, for many 3D modelers including the top ones, is to meet buyers willing to buy their 3D models for the right price. Not having the right 3d model buyers’ list in your back pocket could spoil your dreams of having even a decent payday.
But it’s kind of surprising, isn’t it? Because both designers and buyers that I've worked with treat 3D modeling as an art — and science — that has found a major purpose in some of the leading industries of the world.
From designing medical science apparatus to animation, and jewelry to automobiles; 3D modeling has found buyers — and turned itself into an inseparable part of — in all leading next-gen design and manufacturing domains.
And still, I see 3D modelers googling: “How to Sell 3D Models Online?”, “Where can I sell my 3D models Online?”, “Is selling 3d models profitable?” or “Which 3D Models sell the best?”. This underlines the massive gap between a genuine skillset and a practical marketing strategy.
A sad turn of events in an otherwise excellent and passionate tale of passion and art, I’d say.
So, knowing what you — a skillful 3D modeler aiming to make money — go through during this entire process, today I intend to answer:
Almost all the leading industries, including automobile, jewelry, video gaming, product development, etc. need 3D models. But neither every field pays you the same, nor do they all ask for freelancer 3D modelers.
For example, video games and movie production houses have their tools and in-house developers to look after their supply of 3d models. And the fact that most of their 3D models are made keeping their special needs in mind is one factor that rules out taking help from the outside professionals. Similar behavior is observed in leading automobile companies when to comes to seeking help in 3d modeling from outside.
So, the question now is: Which industries require freelance 3D models and which 3D models sell best online? This is not an easy one to answer, as no 3D modeler, that I know of, will be happy about giving up their secrets that easily.
That’s why we have to rely on the trends observed on some of the leading 3D stock model platforms (like CGTrader or TurboSquid).
According to Dalia Lasaite, Co-founder & CEO at CGTrader:
Stand out in the 3D marketplace. So, the takers (industries willing to buy 3d models) would include cosplay manufacturers, décor and home furnishers, and architectural designers.
With the rise of online gaming, gaming geeks-new and old-are getting too much interested in cosplay. And that’s why the demand for 3D printed outfits of bestselling comic and TV, and video game characters are picking up.
And while big-time clients require models with extreme complexity, the demand for low-poly models (3D models that need a lesser number of polygons to make) is picking up too. Mobile gaming and digital artistry are a few of the many domains that seek to employ low-poly models for various purposes.
Around the period 2016-2018, the demand for low-poly registered a whopping 300% increase. As 3D printing gets more visibility, manufacturing and product modeling are two fields that are believed to warm up big time big to the skills of 3D modeling.
There are more platforms that you would care to count on when it comes to selling your 3D models online; all with their positives and negatives. So not just the domain authority but factors such as popularity, the royalty paid, trustworthy clients, dispute settlement, etc., should also play an important role when choosing the right 3D model marketplace.
Just to give you an idea of the most sorted ones, here is a list that includes the top 5 3d model marketplaces where you can become a member to put your 3D models for display and sale.
Founded in 2000, headquartered in New Orleans, and now owned by Shutterstock; TurboSquid is one of the oldest and top websites for buying and selling 3D models online. The royalty structure of TurboSquid is not an easy choice to fall in love with, but somewhat improves if you sell exclusively on this platform.
A well-designed network of sites that TurboSquid owns (Free3D, CG Studio, and PixelSquid) and has partnered with (Pond5, Adobe Stock, Unity Asset Store) give your designs more visibility.
TurboSquid’s StemCell submission feature allows designers to submit designs in any format they want and receive perfect conversions to multiple formats.
Giving tough completion to TurboSquid in making selling 3d models profitable is CGTrader; another top 3D model marketplace that offers better royalties (around 70% to 80%). This 3D model marketplace is relatively younger than TurboSquid but boasts of 5,00,000 artists.
Many designers who had a fallout with TurboSquid in the past are said to have moved to this platform with a mandate that it is the best place to sell 3D models online.
Somewhat smaller than the two above, Cult3D—founded in 2014 and based in Paris—mainly deals in 3D printable and e-commerce. It specializes in fashion accessories, jewelry, furniture, gadgets, games, and tools. The platform rewards sellers’ exclusivity by featuring and promoting them on their social media platforms, homepage, and newsletters.
Originally launched in 2011, Sketchfab deals in buying and selling 3D printable, VR, and AR. This 3D model marketplace deals in various (and quite creative) categories, ranging from architecture to politics and fashion to weapons (mock-ups).
The user base is 5,000,000 strong. Sketchfab is considered—by many—to be more appropriate for people who are into buying 3D printed products (like toys or printed guns). From a 3D modeler's point of view, the platform is still growing, but the opportunities are endless.
With 2,50,939 3D Models and 6,97,428 members, 3DExport could be the marketplace where you might find your next best-selling 3D model for 2021. Some industry experts rank it fourth (after TurboSquid, CG Trader, and Sketchfab). The royalty rates are differentiated based on exclusivity and non-exclusivity, and can easily go up to 85% per model.
The 3D modeling business is competitive already. Add to that the people who are ready to sell their 3D models online for dirt cheap price, and you have an industry where all your creativity and commitment to the job can for a toss.
Product pricing higher or lower can be a two-edged sword. List them lower, and you might get a seller's attention or risk being perceived as a low-quality designer. Price them higher, and you are either someone who spends hours on perfection or risks losing all your clients to your relatively cheaper competition.
That’s why I always advise budding 3d modelers that they have to build their client base first using a simple technique: Not being overly greedy when it comes to pricing your 3d models. I have seen a few smart ones among them selling their models for free too; a task done for the sole reason of building good will.
But that won’t take you too far, and soon you have to price them right. The best way to come out a victor in such a situation is to look at the price tags of fellow modelers, volume and quality of clients buying from them, number of hours spent, level of complexity, and then put the right price tag, and then charging a few dollars less you think you deserve.
That’s just to make sure that neither your ego nor jealousy for competitor comes between you and your potential clients buying your precious 3d models.
You might find customers who are interested in buying your 3D model but do not have the right know-how (or the resource) of every factor associated with it. In that case, chances are that they don’t have a third-party renderer. So, it’s a good practice to develop models both with and without external plugins.
Even if you’re someone who makes money selling low-poly 3d models online, creating your “just-for-fun" high-spec models without external plug-ins is a good practice, in case your repeat customers chose to steal a quick look of your better work.
Some 3D modelers are good at everything but more interested in designing for a particular category. Because that’s where their creative demons wake up. You should pick one from architecture, jewelry, gaming, automobile, and million other options, and stick to it to hone your expertise.
The other part of picking up a 3d modeling niche is to simplify your online marketing efforts. Because even if you’re a modeler who knows how to get even the most complex designs right, running, say, email marketing campaigns or landing pages targeting all customers won’t be a wise business decision.
Customers need information to make decisions. More information, lesser the doubt, and quicker the decisions. Check all the 3D marketplaces listed above and see what specifications they ask for and in what categories to know how you can up your game.
Some marketplaces make mentioning the number of polygons and vertices mandatory. Including renders from every angle and the wireframes are considered good practices.
3D models created using StemCell specification can be used across multiple formats, including real-time engines, AR/VR. This translates into tapping into more sources of profit generations. You can use TurboSquid for the job, which repackages your content using the above specification automatically.
In case you haven’t been designing for the AR/VR thing yet, I think now is the time to push your limits. And just to give you that little motivational push from my side, how’s this market prediction that says that the “Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR) Market to grow by USD 162.71 Billion” by 2025?
3D modeling, a domain once limited to animation and video games, has now evolved to fit the taste of medical practitioners to cosplay enthusiasts. How is that not a better and more interesting evolution story than the ones shown in Pokemon?
This evolution screams of drastic development that’s sometimes is harder to track; even for those who are forever in touch with tech updates. So, it’s important that you keep yourself updated by following top blogs of the 3D modeling industry, magazines, and expos to enrich yourself with all market trends.
I hope by now you have a mind map ready to get yourself started with selling your 3D models online. But you can’t just limit yourself to the sources listed above. Given the competitiveness of this modeling domain, you have to do something extra, to get something extra.
And in today’s ever-evolving digital scenario, nothing would place you ahead of fellow modelers like digital marketing. No small field, by the way, and good deal hard to master.
That’s why here is a short 3-pointer to give your 3D modeling business the extra edge it always deserved.
You must- in these times- have a website/Portfolio of your own. Not only do they give you space where you can showcase your skills the way you want, but this is also the place where you get to decide your price, without having to pay a royalty to anyone — yes, I’m talking about the above-listed 3d marketplaces.
So, get yourself a website. Put your nice 3D Models on it. You can use image sliders or carousels to show your best work. And if you are worried about having to learn code, then don’t.
There are enough drag-and-drop website/portfolio builders to help you bring your idea online without making you write a single line of code. With DotcomPal you can start your website for free; in less than 1 hour.
And, if you are not interested in even using the drag-and-drop editor, then you can just use DotcomPal’s conversion-oriented templates and go live within minutes.
Once you have a website, you can have separate landing pages for different 3D model categories. That way you can give your visitors a zeroed-in purchasing target. Like, if you are a builder of 3D models for automobiles, architecture, and action figures, then you can have a dedicated landing page for each one of them.
Everyone knows how powerful social media is. You post a picture online, and people like, share and comment, and you get the reach. But consider social media user engagement from a purely business point of view. Have a posting schedule and frequency in place.
You can also research a bit about paid Instagram and Facebook advertising. Once you start getting the right results, you can direct that traffic to your website and milk it.
Email marketing is another powerful tool that companies, big and small, have been using for a long time now. All you need is an email list of potential buyers. You start mailing them your designs, with deals and discounts that are hard to ignore.
But you might ask: Where will I get an email list from? And that’s a reasonable question. And that’s where your landing pages, portfolio, or website comes in. They help capture leads by offering your visitors free 3D models or referral codes for the discounted ones in exchange for their email addresses.
Selling 3D models online was never an easy business. Increasing awareness, expanding scope, ease of creating 3D models with the rise of sophisticated software, and people adopting this as an art form to express more of their creative side are making it more competitive.
But the above points are enough to give a head start to give your 3D modeling business. Still, you have to discover more opportunities and challenges in the world of 3d modeling that can help you to conquer this domain.
What tools or tricks do you guys use to promote your 3D modeling business online? Comment below and I’ll add those to the list. You can also check out our digital business templates to take your 3D modeling business online for free.