Animation Freelancers: Protect yourself with these 3 SOW points.

Avoid the Mushy Yuck

In feature films, the worst directors were ones who couldn’t make up their minds. I would spend days making revisions and changes. Inevitably, the final product would be mushy, half-baked, and no one would be 100% happy. Yuck!
 food GIF

I would have killed to have a clear, mutual understanding between myself and my director of how we will work together. By setting expectations from the onset, lots of frustration can be avoided. Fortunately, this is a standard practice in freelance work. And it’s a HUGE protection for you as an artist. This is captured in what is called a SOW.

What is a SOW you ask? It’s not a female swine. Well, it is but that’s not what we are talking about here. A SOW is a document (“Statement Of Work”) that clearly outlines what services you are providing as a freelancer. It includes, at the minimum, these points:

  • Scope of Project (including timeline)
  • Tasks
  • Deliverables and Deadlines
  • Other requirements

We don’t need to go into all these here.  There are plenty of resources on generic SOWs.  I posted a link to a good one at the end of this article.  Let’s keep this focused on animation creators! So in addition to the things above, to make sure the S-O-W protects Y-O-U, include these three things:

1. Number of revisions:

Robert Ek animation art loop 3d GIFThe worst thing that causes a project to spin out of control is revision spiraling.  This is when the client can’t make up their mind and you get sucked into the black hole of their indecision.  Give the client a max number of revisions and clearly state that anything beyond the pre-agreed upon number of revisions costs extra.  We have found that 3 or 4 revisions are usually sufficient.  This animation by Robert Ek captures the danger nicely.

2. Length of final piece:

 drinking alcohol more tim and eric vodka GIFSimilar to revisions, this can get out of control quickly if it’s not clearly stated ahead of time.  Giving a range is totally acceptable. Stating that the final piece will be 30 – 45 secs for example.  For creations that aren’t time-based (character designs for example) make sure you quantify what you are making.  Number of drawings for a character.  Level of detail for a scene.  That sort of stuff.  You can even include example works to make sure everyone is thinking the same thing.  This will protect you from the “just a little more” syndrome.

3. Format of deliverables:

 fit GIFSuper simple best practice, but often overlooked.  Clearly stating the format of the final deliverable(s) should be front and center in the “deliverables” section of the SOW. This should include resolution(s), file types(s), and frame rates. If you don’t, you could render a whole clip in the wrong resolution.  Or you could create an entire CG character for a film when they wanted it for a game!  Making sure you have the format stated upfront can prevent rework or re-rendering which could be super costly.


A SOW makes sure everyone is literally on the same page. The page on which the SOW is written. And everyone signs it. Same page. Everybody. On it.
SOW got ur back if you remember to include:

  • Revisions
  • Length
  • Format

If you have found any other critical points to include, post ‘em here!

UPDATE: A great point that was suggested to me to include is that you should spell everything our clearly in a SOW even if you trust the person and are friends!! This will add clarity and potentially save friendships. Production is stressful and you don’t want misunderstandings about work to ruin your relationships.

Also, If you are interested in joining Nimble Collective’s creative community and working on paid gigs in the cloud, click here.

Good overview of generic SOWs found here

Scott LaFleur
Scott LaFleur
Head of Platform and co-founder of Nimble Collective, Scott's work as an animator at DreamWorks Animation cemented his belief that nothing should stand in the way of your story. Driven by experience in feature films and education, Scott focuses on making content creation a fantastic, empowering process.

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