I'm a freelance 3D artist, and recently I've been looking into getting a full-time job as a character/environment artist (character prefered) and up until now I've only been doing unpaid commissions with two small paid jobs along with my current paid commission, a cinematic for a modding company.
My issue is this: nearly every game artist job, no matter how large or small the studio is, requires at least two years experience in the field before most will even consider looking at your portfolio. Only recently have I gotten out of college, and I'd like to think that I'm extremely competent and self-motivated, but it's impossible to find any serious companies who won't consider me a risk for having such a limited amount of real-world experience. I've been doing free commissions to expand my portfolio for nearly 3 years to the date, but I'm fairly certain this doesn't qualify as "experience" in the eyes of employers.
So the question stands. How do employers define experience, and how do I go about gaining that 2 years of required paid experience, or do employers care once they see your portfolio?
Any help would be greatly appreciated.