Every so often someone asks if this is possible, how hard this is, and how to do it. I'm writing this journal entry so I can just link them back to it instead of typing the same post or forum PM repeatedly.
I'm putting these down in the order they are usually asked, not in the order I think they should be asked. This was updated last on 7/1/2015 to reflect a common question I get via note and comments on Iray and Poser.
Q: How much money can I make?
A: I make a good living for a single person in the Western USA selling in the DAZ market. I also sell at Renderosity, but I would describe that as a "hobby" or "bonus" income; it would be hard to do without it, but it's not what pays the rent every month, either. For the most part you will make back according to the time you put in. Only a few top artists get into six figures in American dollars in our market, and they are the biggest names who sell the biggest products.
Q: Can I do it in my spare time?
A: Not if you want to make a living. We do have hobbyist artists at DAZ3D, for whom this is a second income. They don't do it full time. They don't make a full-time income, either. This is my job, and I do it for around 35-40 hours a week, jumping to 50 or so if I've got a big project deadline coming up. These deadlines are entirely self-imposed, but they can still be very important because they determine when a product gets out, and timing of product releases affects income very directly.
If you'd like to quit an existing job to work at DAZ3D, it's best to start out doing both. You'll put in some long hours between two jobs at first, but you will be secure until your store is big enough to support you.
Q: Is my product good enough for DAZ?
A: This one is tougher.
To really answer this, you need to be able to evaluate your own work objectively, and that is difficult for most people. If you catch yourself saying, "it's good enough," "I think it's as good as X's work," "I really need this to succeed," or "I don't see why they wouldn't take it," you may be rationalizing something you know isn't really up to par.
DAZ chooses new artists based mostly on their renders. If you don't have access to a computer that can do good promotional images, you will never get on at DAZ3D. If your product is good enough to look fabulous in renders, it's probably good enough for DAZ. Things like features and certain types of functionality are things the testers will work with you on - you may have a product in testing much longer, getting it to a DAZ level of quality, but it can still make it to the market eventually if your images were just drop-dead gorgeous.
So the question is not just, is my product good enough? But: Are my renders good enough? How are you at lighting? The reason this is so important is that customers decide to buy your product based on your renders. It doesn't matter how good it is if you can't convince anyone to buy it.
I've dealt with the concept of postwork elsewhere.
Q: I work with Maya, 3ds Max, or another large mainstream application. I've noticed people can make money with the inferior programs with which you work. I, too, would like to make money. What's the trick to getting in on this?
A: Good luck. If you inherently believe the program and engine to be inferior, you'll never do the work required to master it.
While many of us use a variety of programs for creating geometry and textures, DS formats are rigged and packed in the program itself. Not only that, but you will need to master making the best possible shaders and renders within DAZ Studio.
You'll find other artists very ready to help you out with your learning process if you have a good attitude. This is especially important because, owing to factors discussed below, documentation tends to be spotty and outdated, and directly asking how to do something is sometimes the fastest way to learn it.
Q: How can I learn how to rig clothing, make props, or create new figures and shaders in DAZ Studio?
A: Start with a search for "DAZ3D" on YouTube and go from there. Google is also your friend, since it can be more effective at finding tutorials on the forum than the daz3d forum search is.
You will need to have mastery of your modeling and texturing software in order to generate .obj and .jpg files for import and packing. I use Blender, 3dCoat, Zbrush, and the GIMP. Modo, Wings3d, Mudbox, Photoshop, RealityPaint, Marvelous Designer, and others are common for various uses. Results matter. "Software pedigree" does not. It all has to be imported to DAZ Studio at some point.
I do some tutorials on this journal, too. You can find them by the [Tutorial] bracketed title.
Q: I only want to work with Poser and Poser formats. Can I still sell at DAZ?
A: If your product and its renders look good enough, absolutely. You won't make as much money as artists that support DAZ Studio or both platforms, but if you do good work, you can probably make it work for you.
The less flexible you are about learning new interfaces and techniques, the worse your chances in general. DAZ Studio changes constantly, with new features and options being added all the time; two or three versions may be released in the same period of time as one version of Poser and Poser Pro. This is because DAZ is a company dedicated to this platform and program, whereas Smith Micro owns Poser in addition to many other projects and applications that they sell (have a look at their web site sometime).
It's not surprising that Poser artists sometimes find dealing with DAZ Studio to be overwhelming. Just be aware of the facts and your options. Also consider selling at Renderosity, RuntimeDNA, and HiveWire3d, all very Poser-heavy markets compared to DAZ3D.
Q: Do I have to support Poser? Do I have to support Iray?
You don't have to support Poser. DAZ has moved away from that requirement with Generation 3. Right now they really want to see support for 3Delight and Iray both if you can possibly manage it. Do your renders wherever you can make them look the best.
Q: I offered DAZ my first product via email, but it's been two weeks and I haven't heard anything back. Has my product been rejected?
I'm afraid it probably has. If they really like something, they will usually jump on it in a couple of days at most. If they decide they don't want it, they may just never respond. They are humans like other humans, some people can't take rejection, and nobody likes being yelled at.
Don't give up. My first two offerings to DAZ were rejected, too. I asked on the forum how to get accepted, and a veteran artist took me under her wing and showed me how to do better lighting and composition. I've gotten much better since then, but I wouldn't have gotten a chance without that advice! If you want critique of your renders that is intended to help you succeed, I'm always available for that via note.
Additional questions you should ask, but most people don't:
Q: Am I too old to get into this?
Regardless of your age, the answer is no. Only a handful of my coworkers are younger than I am, and most are older. I was born in 1981. What matters is your flexibility and willingness to learn.
You won't be competing with the latest group of animation school graduates. Degrees, resumes and portfolios have no direct value here, so people with a big investment in those things tend to go elsewhere. Only the product you have in hand and your renders for it matter. Everyone has to start with DAZ Studio, so in that sense the playing field is level. If you have training in traditional art or photography techniques that can apply, of course that doesn't hurt. I started out without any (my Bachelors degrees are in Biology and Chemistry!) and taught myself as I went along. It's not easy, but it can be done.
You don't have to be older, either, as long as you're legally an adult in your home country. People with a good work ethic, who can make good art and good renders, can do well regardless of age, education or national origin.
Q: How will I get paid, and when?
A: Via Paypal or direct deposit for those in Europe or the USA, twice monthly. I'm not sure how people who are in Russia, Africa or India get paid, so you would need to address that with DAZ once you are accepted as a PA. Don't bet on a consistent 1st or 2nd of the month payday; it varies from the 1st through the 5th or so. You will need to plan ahead and save out for bills rather than plan on being paid on a given date.
Q: How will I manage my taxes? (Americans only; check your country's tax laws)
A: You need to file quarterly estimated tax payments once you're earning enough to tip over that threshold. Every year the IRS releases Publication 501, which tells you if you need to file and how (look under "filing status"). Look at the tax tables at irs.gov to find out what percentage and how to file your 1040-ES and 1040 ES-V. This is easier than you think; I always eyeball it on the quarterlies and try to err on the side of overpaying, and I almost never have to pay more at the end of the year as a result.
It does mean you need to save out probably 15-25% of each paycheck for this purpose (again, check for the specific number), because DAZ will not withhold taxes for you; they are your broker, not your employer. They will send you a 1099 form at the end of the year indicating how much you were paid, but it's smartest not to depend on waiting for it, just use it as a double-check to your own figures. I write these amounts out of the check when I enter it in my checkbook so I don't accidentally spend it. Careful accounting is important.
Q: Is it hard to work from home?
A: It depends on your living situation and how motivated you are. I spend a lot of time surfing the web, updating this deviantart page, etc., while I'm rendering or running scripts. I also put down the laptop and put in the time on my main when I need to. You will need to manage your time effectively and be disciplined. How fast you can produce a good product and get it into testing is more important than the exact number of hours you put in, and only time will tell what your turnover is going to be (and it will change over time).
On a more personal note, plan time to get away from the computer and exercise. It will improve your health and morale, and that is an important investment in your productivity.
Q: What's the overhead?
A: Moderate to high. First there is your computer. Don't try to get into this with less than a quad core; it's not worth the hassle and you really need more than that, as much CPU power and as many graphics card CUDA cores as you can get depending on whether you want to stick to 3Delight or branch out into Iray and other unbiased renderers. Iray can render with just the CPU, but it's slower than either 3Delight or Iray with 2048+ CUDA cores on an Nvidia GPU.
If you live in an apartment or other small space, where your computer will have to share a circuit with hair dryers, vacuum cleaners or space heaters, you also need an uninterruptible power supply, or UPS. This $250 box that weighs 45 lbs. is completely and totally worth it because it will stop you from losing work every time the circuit blows out. Mine has saved me a lot of stress. Your computer will eventually raise your power bill if you get into doing this full-time, and you may need to buy an additional fan or portable air conditioner depending on your climate and comfort zone.
Then there are your modeling and texturing programs. I started out with Blender and the GIMP, but not everyone is able to learn those. Ones that aren't free, aren't cheap.
Finally, DAZ Studio and the base figures are free. Products to fill your library are not. You can make do with fewer items starting out, and join the Platinum Club if you're not a Published Artist yet to get more for less money. Shop sales and prioritize carefully what you need and what you will use most.
Some artists offer good free items on ShareCG as well, but you will have to prune carefully through mounds of low-quality items to find them. If you have more time than money, this can be worth it. Always check the license carefully, since you cannot use a "non-commercial use only" item in your professional promos (it's better not to download them).
Q: What type of product makes the most money?
A: Full architecture sets and vehicles, I've heard, partly because they don't need to be updated for each new figure that comes out. They're also difficult and time-consuming. Plan accordingly.
Q: What type of product makes the least money?
A: Pose sets. Your products mostly cannot command a high price, you're competing with a lot of other good artists and also with freebies, and you have a high degree of obsolescence when new figures come out. It's very hard to make a living doing nothing but these, although many artists do well combining selling them with selling prop sets.
Q: What type of product has the most competition in the existing market?
A: Female clothing and female character sets, followed by poses. DAZ is going to look very closely at anything like this that they're offered because they're constantly being offered more of it at a high level of quality.
Many people new to the market incorrectly believe they can make a quick buck with a substandard pose set, and DAZ is just going to refuse those. If you want to do poses, you'd better be prepared to have the figure solidly in contact with the ground, props or other figures in a realistic way. Offering something where figures are flying or floating as your first product is an instant giveaway that you don't know what you're doing.
I wouldn't discourage you from offering any product you know is good with renders you know are fantastic. Just be aware that, while there's huge customer demand, there are also a lot of other artists ready to fill it.
I make my living on utilities and massive bone rigs, a smidgen from character sets and only rarely a clothing outfit. So I always want to say it's better to carve out a niche than to compete heavily with others.
Feel free to contact me here or at DAZ via the PM system with specific technical questions and issues if you have them.