How to Find Work and Succeed in Freelance Animation
If you’re an animator, time is on your side. As the entertainment and media industries advance technologically, demand for skilled animators and special effects artists continues to rise. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment of animators is projected to grow 16 percent by the year 2030, significantly faster than the average for all occupations. But that doesn’t mean finding work in freelance animation will be equally easy for everyone. The fast-paced evolution of the industry keeps the goalposts shifting, and the market is still highly competitive. However, there are many factors that can give you an edge when looking for freelance animation work. This guide will offer advice on how to market yourself effectively, find the best freelance animation jobs, and maximize your chances of getting hired.
Why Freelance Animation Rules
Pursuing freelance animation is an attractive option to those in the field for myriad reasons. You get to make your own hours, be your own boss, and take on the jobs that appeal to you most. The pay is also nothing to scoff at. ZipRecruiter pegs the average freelance animation salary at about $64,500 annually, or $31 per hour, with veteran animators easily cracking six figures. Remote animation jobs also make up the majority of freelance gigs, as opposed to corporate animation jobs, which don’t always offer work-from-home benefits.
What’s Your Gig?
You may be wondering what having a career in freelance animation looks like. Knowing what to expect (and what will be expected of you) is an important step in your path to success as a freelancer. So what kinds of jobs are clients offering? Which animation skills are in high demand? Predictably, some of the most common gigs are also the simplest: basic logo animations, intros and outros for YouTube videos, whiteboard animations, and 2D shorts, to name a few. However, if your skill set includes more advanced capabilities and knowledge, such as 3D animation, you’ll be more likely to snatch up some of the rarer, higher-paying jobs on offer.
Identifying your client base: niche or anything goes?
Early on, it’s important to think about your target market. Is there a certain type of client you’re especially interested in working with? If so, you’ll need to tailor your portfolio and your approach to maximize your appeal. Even if you’re open to any kind of freelance animation work out there, you shouldn’t market yourself identically to everyone. A company-based client seeking a professional animated logo won’t be impressed by the same demo reel as a YouTube gamer requesting a flashy video intro. That’s why it’s a good idea to keep multiple portfolios on hand if you’d rather not tie yourself to a particular niche.
Drawing in your freelance animation clients
How and where you promote your work is crucial to your success in freelance animation. Developing your online presence with an attractive website, regular social media or blog posts, and consistent customer engagement will increase the likelihood of people not only hiring you for your services, but of finding you in the first place. So stay relevant, keep your content fresh, and don’t be afraid to show off the projects you’re proudest of. Engage with your audience by asking questions and getting to know them. Reply promptly to inquiries and comments, and take the time to make your responses personalized and thoughtful. Putting real effort into the image and promotion of your brand is one of the most reliable ways to reach and secure clients.
Network to get work
What you know matters, but so does who you know. Making connections and building relationships with others in your field can lead to a wealth of opportunities as you search for freelance animation work. A good place to start is joining groups, whether in-person or online. Once you’ve found a community you gel with, don’t hesitate to introduce yourself and jump into discussions.
Everyone in the industry (including you) can add value by bringing their unique voice and perspective to the craft of animation. LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter and MeetUp are all popular places to spark new friendships. But if you plan on promoting yourself on these platforms, remember to give love to receive love. You’ll find that others who dream of healthy careers in freelance animation will be eager to comment, subscribe, and share your work if you offer them the same courtesy. So go for it! Put yourself out there. Be brave!
The art of building your freelance animation portfolio
If your talent is your product, your portfolio is your menu. Making sure your work is constantly improving and expanding is one of the best ways to turn new heads and keep your regulars coming back for more. So in the moments when you’re not actively networking, advertising or working on a gig, you should be creating new material. Yes, really. Hone your skills as often as possible, and look for ways to streamline your production process to turn out quality animations efficiently. A Skwigly Animation Magazine guide offers some valuable tips on how to do this. Maximize your APM (actions per minute) by using shortcuts and hotkeys. Recycle keyframes and animations where possible. Use a good rig.
You did the work so let people know!
There are many factors that can make landing animation jobs much easier, and one of the most obvious is formal education. But you don’t need it! Most often, clients are primarily concerned with your concrete abilities. That’s it. if you can prove you know how to complete the desired job, they’ll pay you to do it. Of course, the extra padding of certifications and degrees will look good on your resume and website. But what will help you just as much, if not more, is positive client reviews. If a client expresses satisfaction with your services, consider (humbly) requesting a written testimonial. Just ask! At worst, you’ll get feedback. Feedback that could help you grow. At best, you get raving reviews!
Hitting the “Apply Now” button
Some of the best websites to find listings for remote animation jobs include LinkedIn, Fiverr, Upwork, and Freelancer. There are also sites specifically geared towards animation, such as AnimatedJobs.com, where you can filter for freelance listings. Really. Check it out. While freelance animation salaries vary widely, these job listings include a rough estimate of how much you can expect to be paid for each gig. When polishing up your resume, be sure to include all of your qualifications, your educational and professional background, and any programs and animation tools you’re proficient in. Put together a demo reel that showcases your best work and fits with the needs of the client. Then, all you have to do is click “Apply!”