Well first of all, thank you for your service. I did not serve, but I did work at USAA for many years and had the chance to help many awesome men and women of the armed forces.
Anyway, I only occasionally freelance these days as I got sorta burnt out on it years back. So I’m probably not keeping up enough to give the most solid advice on where the market’s at now.
That said, I do want to touch on the aspect of “being a master” and judging the worth of your work.
I’m of the school of thought that you should fake it til you make it. Take, or bid on, a commission you feel confident in delivering on, don’t be shy about your price, and just do it. Any thoughts of “Maybe I’m not good enough”, or “Maybe I’m charging more than I’m worth.” is just going to hold you back. You need to get some small commissions under your belt to boost your confidence and get a feel for it. You might even fail, but that’s a learning tool as well, and you’ll have done it.
One of my first freelance gigs was when I was maybe ~16. It wasn’t 3D. It was a website design for a small pizza joint. Charged the guy 200 bucks and told him I knew exactly what I was doing… I had NO idea what I was doing. The site looked like crap. But I got paid, I learned some stuff, and I felt more prepared for the next gig. I think that pizza joint went out of business a few months later, though…
EDIT: And if ALL else fails, and you’re ever in a position to leave the area (or look at their work from home opportunities), try to get into USAA. It’s not as glamorous as design, but the pay and benefits are fantastic, they don’t discrminate vets, and they don’t expect prior experience in that industry. I don’t work there anymore for reasons not to do with the company, but I still recommend them to anyone looking for job opportunities, because the company is just bad ass! Many of my colleagues there took massive pay cuts in management positions to start over with them for the benefits alone.