Freelance Animation Work

The above 3D illustration was a collaborative project created on the Nimble Collective platform by:  Mack Bo Ross, Haley Kannel, Scott LaFleur, Jason Schleifer, Jason Marino, Brittany McGrath, Kathy McNeal, Joaquin Stewart-Soriano, and Nathania Vishnevsky. Woot!

Let’s make it happen!

In an effort to prove to all our parents that animation IS a valid career, we at Nimble Collective are committed to your success. In fact, creator success is what we founded this company on! This is the first of many articles focused on freelance creators and how they can achieve that success. We interviewed successful freelancers and found that their biggest source of anxiety isn’t the work itself, it’s establishing a constant flow of jobs!

“Early on I was worried about making it month to month,” said one of the animators about his early freelancing days. “It wasn’t until a couple years (into it) that I lost some of that fear.”

Drawing on those artists’ advice, and our own experience, here are some tips to help you get that steady stream of gigs.

1) Don’t be a jerkface! (don’t be the bunny)

For real though. You can be the most creative and talented animator in the world, but if you’re terrible to work with, don’t expect clients to return, much less recommend you to their friends.


baby rabbit animals being jerks thief steal GIF

Referrals and consistent clients are the lifeblood of freelance creators.

Be nice, be professional and be honest with every one of your clients. It’s the right thing to do, and they’ll remember you when they get that phone call from a friend who’s looking for a good artist.

Side note: PDI/Dreamworks would always choose to hire the better person vs. the better artist.

2) Keep them coming back

Most successful freelancers have a few really good clients that keep coming back. Identify customers who are likely to need animation in the future, and keep them happy. Always hit your deadlines and over deliver on quality!

Keep your regulars happy even if you can’t take on the job. Refer them to an animator you trust, and the client will remember that you made their life easier. This builds good will with both the customer and the animation freelance community. (We talk about this in point 6)

CAUTION: There’s a flipside to all this, however. Over-reliance on just a few customers can become your critical point of failure. A loyal client can suddenly go belly up or find a different animator. If you don’t have a robust list of customers, you can quickly find your project inbox empty.

A good ratio is probably a 70 / 30 split of regulars to new comers. Which leads us to our next point …

3) Appear and you shall be found!

New clients are a freelancer’s safety net.  They’ll keep you employed when jobs from regular customers hit a lull or dry up altogether.

To get a new customer, they first have to know you even exist. Help them out: Make it easy for them to find you!

Make sure you have a presence on multiple channels. Keep your website, LinkedIn account and other profiles up-to-date. Joining freelance marketplaces and communities is another great way to increase your visibility. Here are some good ones!

Don’t forget to tell people in real life what you do too. Like with your mouth and words and stuff. Or at least hand them good old fashioned business cards.

4) Be a tool (but like a cool one. like a swiss army knife.)

You don’t have to be a Jack-of-all-Trades to broaden the types of projects you can work on. Instead, take the skills you have and apply them to different mediums.

army knife sith GIF

If you’re a 3D animator, dig into something like After Effects for motion graphics. If you model characters, don’t be afraid to work on props and environments.  Know how to rig 3D characters? You would be surprised how those skills transfer to rigging 2D characters in tools like ToonBoom.

A true craftsman isn’t limited to working in one medium. Take what you know and build on that. Besides expanding your pool of potential jobs, learning new tools can reinvigorate your passion for animation and lead you to new avenues of creative expression.

5) Get ’em before you need ’em

New job offers don’t magically appear when you finish a project. You need to line up your next gig before your current one ends!

Start looking for a new job when you’re about halfway done with a project. You’ll need time to search potential jobs and, when you find one you like, some time to prepare your proposal and bid.

Plan ahead and save yourself the anxiety of having to look for work because you have none.

6) Refer and ye shall be referred (help a turtle out)

Get to know your fellow freelancers. The animation community is generous and can be a great source for job referrals.

When you’re building your network, remember that any relationship is a two-way street. Help fellow freelancers when you can, and be genuine. Not only can you forge real friendships, but you’ll end up with more job opportunities too.

turtle bro helping GIF

Successful freelancers are often working on multiple projects, which means they regularly turn down work. Instead of leaving a client out to dry, they’ll refer the job to animators they know and trust. Take the time to become part of the community, and that animator could be you!

Summary

Whew! That was a lot of words. Thanks for stickin with it! Here is the short list of the points.

  1. Don’t be a Jerk
  2. Build a core of repeat clients
  3. Be visible
  4. Be a versatile tool
  5. Overlap your jobs
  6. Referrals; give and get ’em.

Stay tuned for more articles on how you can find success as an animation creator.

Please share this article. Help spread the love!

If you would like to join the Nimble Collective creative talent pool, to get matched with great animation projects and the opportunity to work in our virtual studio platform, click here!

Here are some of the Artists we interviewed for this article:

Kevin Weber –  bluevisual.tv

Emily Sidler – www.esanimator.com

Mark Butler – You can find Mark on Upwork

 

Written by: Scott LaFleur and Bryce Druzin

Edited by: Bryce Druzin

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