freelance helmet rates?

what’s up?

I’ve got a potential freelance job to help a certain action sport company redesign some of it’s helmets for the 06.07 season, but I’ve never freelanced this type of stuff before, and I’d like some help.

Here’s the process:
clay model
digitize and 3d modeling
SLA dilivery and sanding
interior design (cut and sew with possible sublimated pattern)
earpad design (compression molding and cut and sew with possible TPU/TPR pieces for flash)

This will generally take about 8 hours a day for 3 months or more. I know you’d think it wouldn’t, but I’ve been in the helmet industry for two years and it does with going back and forth on design and then adjusting for sizes.

Please base rates off of the above process.

Please don’t give me an hourly rate. I’ve had four offers from clients so far and none want an hourly rate for obvious reasons. My initial idea is to quote $15,000 for one helmet. I know that sounds high, but it’s low when you consider that I’ll be responsible for the CAD for all of the parts, the physical modeling, and it will consume me for 3 months. This will also have to pay for materials and my (cough) health insurance.

please let me know what you think.

I would try to break it out into bite size phases of $4800 a pop.
$2400 down with payment of the remainder within 7 days (hard to do).

Here’s why:

  1. This gives them the comfort of knowing they can stop work at any time.

  2. At certain increments a manager may have to go to a VP to approve the expenditure. You don’t know what those are. If your contact can approve expenditures up to a limit, you want to be under that limit. Example: A product manager you know from previous can approve any amount up to $10,000. You come in at $15,000. They have to go to a VP. You come in at $4,800 as 3 separate projects—Your contact can approve it.

  3. Make it known this is a bargain deal.

  4. Make sure your contact is aware of what is involved. If it’s a design manager then they know. If it’s a marketing manager, they might not know and think it’s expensive not knowing what you are exactly doing.

  5. It’s very important that you get payment promptly. Stress that the project stops if payment is not made on time. Clients can be slow in payment. You have to stress they have to get the checks cut. Otherwise you can get left out in the cold without being paid. It happens!


If it’s 3 months of work. This means you are paying yourself $60K on the basis of being fully employed with no downtime.

If you really want it bad then give them the deal, but try to get a mutual understanding–if they like what they see, they will feed you more at at higher rate.

If you explain it’s X numbers of hours.

To make it I would probably take what you want to make per hour and then double it. You likely won’t bill more than 1000 hours in a year at the beginning. There’s no way you will bill 2000 hours.

Sample: You want to make $75,000 a year----you bill at $75/hr x 1000 hours.

Having done some work in the helmet industry, I’ve found that it helps both myself and the client to break things down into actual physical parts. You can separate modeling for the outer shell, inner liner, comfort liner, and etc plastic parts.

Your estimate of $15K for a helmet sounds about right, maybe a touch low, if the design is new but uses proven assembly and construction features. It’s when you try to design new features like attachment points, etc that there is more time needed for R&D.

So as to not run yourself ragged in the process you can promise delivery of certain parts on a specific date, then get paid for that, then start the next part. Since an outer shell would probably be the longest lead time I’d start with that.

Also doing the different sizes isn’t usually as parametric and easy as it might seem, so give yourself extra time/money for that phase…I remember it almost always meant rebuilding the model (in ProE) when going from the medium size to the small, because things would crash. The damn marketing people always want the mediums first…

slippy is right:


  1. As you go from a small to a medium, the features will tend not to fail in Pro/E.

  2. As you go from a medium to a small, the features will fail.

  3. I’ve never seen Alias models go to Pro/E myself. I know some places do it all the time. I’ve always seen Pro/E cad masters always just model the item from scratch.

  4. I did once see at Specialized in Morgan Hill that they had patterns they built in synthetic wood from what I remember. I imagine they might have scanned them and tweek the surfaces, then cut a master pattern.
    I’m not sure but I would think a bike helmet would be next to impossible to model in Pro/E. I certainly would not want to model a bike helmet in Pro/E directly. It would be awful hard to get the curves just right and the fit just right on the screen. This is where the interplay of models is almost necessary. You send the file out and get a SLA or CNC’d pattern. Then modify the pattern (cutting or adding material). Then scanning it back in and modifying the curves. There are a bunch of proprietary scanning software packages and the good ones all tend to have been used for automotive surfaces. This is my take on it.

  5. $15K does seem low for this amount of work. I’d advise going fixed fee but break it into bite size stages. I can’t see them blinking at $4800 for a phase 1. Make sure you show outline all the stages and in the end you could land up more like $25-29K easily. It sounds like you got a lot of deliverables and it’s pretty complex in my opinion.

15k seems awfully low to me, but if you are a solo operation rates tend to be lower. Honestly 30k is closer to the ballpark but only the client knows what they want to pay. If this is a big name brand, your design is going to have a big role in their sales. Everyone is right in breaking it up into smaller chunks to reduce sticker shock, but from my experience if you can put together an outstanding proposal that really documents the schedule and process, they will feel better about giving you the money. I’d say 6k for each phase would be the sweet spot, its not making anyone uncomfortable.

If its either of the big firms on your portfolio you should be asking 10 per phase, that fee would be so minute a % of their product revenue.

The saying I was told when I started was to estimate your project and then double it because the reality is thats how much time you’ll be spending in reality.