Animation is booming, and as technology advances at lightning-fast speed and more companies recognize the value of an animator’s unique skills, individuals are finding that pursuing some freelance opportunities is a great career move. As a successful freelancer, animators can be choosy about the projects they take on, set their own schedules, and eventually expand into larger endeavors and hire a few employees.
It’s an exciting time to be in the field, but freelance animators also have their own set of challenges to face. It’s important to stay on top of small-business trends, as well as master finances and stay creative. Here are a few tips to help you succeed as a freelance animator.
1. Create an Impressive Portfolio.
Even if business is pouring in, or you’ve found a few regular customers who keep you working hard, it’s vital for an animator to keep their portfolio and reel up to date. Remember, your portfolio is not only a depiction of you as an artist, but it also represents you as a business professional.
Place new work on your site regularly, and be professional about it. Of course, new clients will be looking for high-quality animation and illustration work, but typos in a Contact section are a major turnoff to potential customers who value professionalism just as much as aesthetics. Something you consider a minor error or unimportant to your work may be the reason you miss out on a job. Clients want to see an animator be able to excel in every aspect of work, from animation to email interactions.
2. Make Cold Calls.
Cold calling potential customers may be one of the most dreaded tasks facing freelancers. Many freelancers hate the idea of this practice—it can be nerve-racking, and you would prefer not to be a nuisance to anyone. However, animators not hitting the phones are missing out on a valuable way to bring in new business.
If you’re uncomfortable calling businesses out of the blue, try beginning with references. After you’ve delivered an animation that a customer is pleased with, don’t be shy to let them know that you’d appreciate them recommending you to some of their colleagues or friends. This allows you to gather names of people to get in contact with and a definitive starting point. But if referrals aren’t forthcoming, it’s still best practice to call prospective customers and let them know what companies you’ve worked with in the past. This will boost your reputation and increase the likelihood of getting a return call.
Some people love networking, and others hate it. If you’re in the latter camp, brace yourself, because this practice isn’t going anywhere. Not only is networking here to stay, it’s vital to staying in business as a freelance animator. Attend networking events, talks, and conferences. You’ll have a great chance of coming in contact with new business opportunities, and you will continue to get your name out there to others in the field.
There’s no excuse not to network, even if you’re a shut-in animator. You can also network online using animation forums and LinkedIn as a starting ground to find new clients. Another option is to keep up with old classmates and colleagues who worked on animation projects with you. These connections are a great place to begin as you venture into networking—you already know the people you’re dealing with, and they’ll be sure to keep you in mind if they hear of anyone needing an animator. Rather than thinking of networking as a pain, think of it as an interpersonal small-business marketing strategy—one that will help you thrive.
4. Stay Up to Date With Social Media.
Being that you’re an animator, it’s probably a safe bet to guess that you’re tech-savvy. With that in mind, as an entrepreneur, there’s really no excuse not to have a strong online presence. It’s important to use social media—such as Facebook, Twitter, and image-heavy platforms like Pinterest and Instagram—to brand yourself any chance you get.
Spend a few minutes each day in the social-media sphere getting your name out there. You don’t have to update every account several times a day, but it’s vital to maintain a dependable presence. As an animator, you’re expected to be creative. As such, feel free to use these platforms to let some of your own personality show—not just your company. After all, this is a space where people want to find funny or entertaining news. Go ahead and post a link to an article or video that made you laugh.
5. Adapt to Changes.
One of the best parts of working freelance is the ability to create your own schedule, choose your own projects, and overall enjoy workplace flexibility. In that same vein, it’s important to adapt to unexpected changes you may encounter. For example, a client may give you feedback you disagree with or request changes in the middle of a project. Unfortunately, you may have to give up some control—this is hard for many (after all, they’ve hired you for your expertise), but remember that customers are the ones keeping you in business.
For more advice on securing animation work, check out Creative Bloq’s “How to Get a Job at Pixar Studios” article.