With the many challenges freelance animators and animation studio owners face from day to day, they must be equipped with the business skills and proper know-how to build and sustain a successful animation career.
These skills are essential considering the fast-growing and competitive animation industry.
From general information to financial tips and tricks, some particular skills will help you stay on top of your game and secure the best opportunities as an animator.
They will come in handy whether you’re starting out in the field of animation or you’ve established yourself as a professional animator.
In this article, we’ve compiled the nine best business skills to learn as an animator.
The Importance of Animators Developing Business Skills
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Whether or not you prefer to pursue formal education, you should join online training courses or invest in reading business books. Take the initiative to learn about business education.
Investing substantive time and energy in expanding your skills will make you learn the basics of business and help you navigate your way in running an animation business whether as an individual freelance animator or an animation studio owner.
It automatically gives you access to a wide range of knowledge and serves as a training ground for you to learn from your mistakes and try out all sorts of techniques.
Additionally, Dragon Sutevski, founder and CEO of consulting website Sutevski Consulting, writes that pursuing an education in business improves productivity through its courses. It can turn anyone into a smart and skillful entrepreneur.
Learning about business also allows you to immerse yourself with other freelancers and business owners who share your ambitions. You can exchange ideas and establish meaningful connections to help you attract clients and make different kinds of opportunities for your animation career.
An article by Brand Minds shared that, “Through education, we can change our mindset and go from a fixed mindset to a growth mindset which leads to an improved quality of life.”
If you’re looking for a program to join that will increase your knowledge of animation and business, you can check out Animation Accelerator.
It’s an online program designed to help animators build successful freelance animation careers and studios.
The program consists of video training modules, monthly calls with Ben Marvazi (7-figure animation studio owner), support, sales email templates, leads, contracts, and other resources you'll need to fast-track your success.
These are the basic skills you need to know before entering into a business venture, such as your communication and organization skills. While they may not consist of business jargon and complicated steps, acquiring these skills is essential and will help your business grow.
1) Animator Organizational Skills
As a business owner, there will be so many things on your plate that might make you miss important deadlines and activities if you aren’t organized. Being organized helps you track your time, set your priorities, and limit distractions.
There are many ways to become organized and effectively sustain your animation career. One way is to establish working hours for yourself. A typical working day consists of 8 to 10 working hours, so you can set aside this amount of time every day for your animation projects.
This can also help you fight burnout or over exhaustion as it gives you the time to rest or focus on leisurely activities. You should also lay out your projects and resources in an accessible location where you can check on them every once in a while.
At the beginning of the week, list down every project or step you intend to complete and its respective deadlines. This will not only help you track your progress but ticking off your tasks can also give you the motivation to keep pushing.
You can also track down all your available digital resources (like websites and animation tools) so you can easily access them when working on an animation project.
Another way is to have all your digital files neatly arranged. Perhaps you can employ a file naming convention. This refers to getting into the habit of naming your folders or workspaces with specific files names.
2) Animator Communication Skills
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The ability to effectively relay ideas and information to your animation team and clients can be a great determinant of the success of your animation business.
In an article for Virtual Speech, writer and recruiter Gini Beqiri wrote that good communication skills are among the top skills of a successful entrepreneur. It helps career progression, establishes better rapport with clients, and enhances professional image.
On the other hand, poor communication skills will lead to misunderstandings, frustration, and an inability to maintain clients.
Communication skills go beyond expressing yourself concisely or dazzling people with your words; it also means listening and understanding the other person. As an animator, it’s about connecting with your clients through a shared understanding and a genuine relationship.
Practicing good communication skills can be done through responding to questions and addressing concerns efficiently, asking feedback and suggestions, and showing interest in their opinions.
You can also reach out to your clients regularly and offer them promos and loyalty discounts. This way, you can ensure that your clients will come straight back.
3) Animator Decision-Making Skills
It’s always admirable to have a business owner who’s very hands-on in running their business. While you may not always have the best judgments, going through any business situation thoroughly and methodically helps you look at various positions from an informed approach.
As an animation business owner, you must be skilled in the steps of the decision-making process.
This means that you’re able to navigate every possible challenge, option, and situation by comparing their pros and cons and making smart and informed decisions whether it be with your team, your client, or your overall business standing.
First, you must be able to define the problem and classify whether it’s about your finances, staff, or clients.
Second, come up with a range of possible responses and analyze their respective consequences. Here you must look at all sides and identify your business losses and gains. What are the compromises you’ll have to make? Who will be involved in this choice? What are the costs and benefits?
Third, choose the response that best serves the growth of your business. And last, implement the response, evaluate its effectiveness, and assess whether further action is needed.
A common mistake is that other business owners sometimes skip a step altogether or choose what’s most convenient. But this would often lead to poor choices, unexpected problems, and unwanted outcomes.
To make smart and effective decisions means you know a great way to solve business problems, implement and inspire action, think logically, manage unwanted emotions, and improve overall collaboration.
Becoming financially literate is of utmost importance when it comes to running your animation business. This means understanding the value of money in your business and knowing the best way to manage and invest it.
4) Animator Financial Skills
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Financial statements are records of your animation business’ financial position and activities.
Without understanding these records, you wouldn’t be able to know how well your business is doing. Keep yourself in the loop of the financial standing of your business by reading these core sheets and understanding what they mean in sustaining your business.
Balance sheet. This presents the overall financial position of your business and reveals its assets, liabilities, and shareholders’ equity.
Cash flow statement. This is a report of the cash made by your business from operations, investment, and financing. More specifically, it shows the increases and decreases in your cash.
Income statement. This is also known as a profit and loss statement. It shows the performance of your business and is used to assess its profitability by showing your revenues and profits over a period of time.
5) Animator Budgeting Skills
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Whether you’re a freelance animator or studio owner, it’s important you know how to budget your finances. Having a budget also drives and determines key business decisions like whether purchasing new equipment or hiring more people.
To track your expenses, you can list down the fixed costs of your business every month, such as your digital software and tools, location, promotion, electricity, the salary of your team if you have one, and miscellaneous fees. From there, you can set a specific budget that covers operational fees.
You can also look at your current spending habits and see what you can cut down or cancel.
Always track down how much money goes out from your business. You can also rely on your financial statements to help you but there’s no harm in keeping a list for yourself. If you need extra help, you can use many accounting software to monitor your business expenses.
Mastering this skill will keep your business afloat, keep you out of debt, and prevent you from engaging in risky business ventures.
6) Animator Taxation Skills
As a business owner, it’s your responsibility to register your company, file for taxes, register for insurance, and compute how much is needed overall. Business taxes are unavoidable in operating a business, so it’s a valuable skill to understand how to file, save, and pay for them.
Once you’ve registered your business, always set aside a substantial amount of money for taxes and different kinds of insurance such as health, dental, and liability.
Along with this, don’t forget to save for emergencies as well. This is especially helpful for fighting off debt and various unforeseen expenses like broken equipment or even unemployment.
You can start with a small amount and eventually work your way up, but the right amount will always depend on the financial position of your business.
Finance writer Candice Elliot at Listen Money Matters writes, “Having an emergency fund is one of the most important things you can do. Your savings should be able to cover your major expenses for three to six months.”
To set up an emergency fund for your animation business, first, open a savings account for your business and determine your total expenses for six months. Second, set a monthly goal that will add up to it and get yourself in the habit of automatically moving the money to your savings account.
Once you’ve reached your goal, keep going and make adjustments accordingly – whether you’d want to add more monthly or invest elsewhere.
Obtaining the right marketing skills means you’re able to empower your clients and raise the profitability of your animation business. This skill is about building brand awareness and promoting your work and its unique offers and features so potential animation clients can understand its value.
7) Animator Networking Skills
Business networking helps you attract more clients and even enter a new marketplace. This refers to maintaining contact with certain people to help you expand your animation business and gain opportunities you might not have discovered on your own.
Once you’re used to networking, you’ll find that you can network with tons of people such as professors, coworkers, acquaintances, or even the people you meet at parties.
If you find that you are having trouble networking, there are things you can do to network your skills and business more effectively:
You must identify and reach out to the people who are involved or interested in your field – That means connecting with animators, producers, digital designers, people who are interested in honing their artistic skills, and business owners who might become your animation clients.
You must leverage your social media accounts. One of the most convenient ways to connect with people is through the internet especially with lots of social media platforms catering to businessmen and content creators.
Attend all sorts of events related to business and animation. These events may include corporate events or even parties with friends. You never know who you might find.
Always remember to share your own experiences and successes concisely. People are drawn to interesting stories and through sharing yours, you can strike up a conversation and even exchange advice. Don’t make your stories too long lest you risk coming across as boring.
8) Establishing Your Payment Terms as an Animator
There are many different payment methods you can use in your projects, but each has its advantages and disadvantages. Very rarely will you find clients dictating the terms of payment, so this makes it your responsibility to set them before launching your animation business.
Setting a payment term means taking into account the payment deposits, deadlines, and late payment penalties. This will also help you pay off your bills or debts as quickly as possible, allowing you to work worry-free and giving you a cash-flow positive business.
If you inform your clients of your payment terms from the start, you can also reach a shared understanding of how urgent payment for a project is needed.
There are different types of payment terms you can consider. But in the end, it’s up to you to weigh in their benefits and decide which type of payment would best serve your animation business.
Pay Per Project. This is when you set a one-time fee for the entire duration of your project with the client. It takes into consideration all the revisions and resources needed to complete your project.
Milestone or Progress Payment. This payment term is when you agree on a fixed price within a specific time frame (thus “milestone”). Committing to a milestone payment term will help you maintain a cash flow positive business and help you better budget your finances as the money comes in at certain intervals rather than all at once.
Hourly Payment. This is considered the most straightforward way to charge your animation clients, as you can simply come up with your rates based on the number of hours you’ve agreed to work on the project.
9) Animator Negotiation Skills
Whether or not you are an expert at sales, it’s a crucial business skill that you know how to reach your clients and navigate the negotiation process so you develop better techniques on your own.
Knowing how to negotiate is a valuable skill that’s sometimes overlooked. You must be adept at capitalizing on opportunities and making the most out of deals.
The truth is, being skilled in negotiation goes beyond attaining the rates and benefits you deserve. It means you know how to drive your business to long-term success.
This consists of attaining the best tools in animation and business, working with a skilled set of people, and landing the most fitting deals with your clients.
In negotiating, you must always be prepared for different outcomes. You must be able to think fast and coherently on your feet.
According to Forbes Council Member, Ellicia Romo, “Negotiating takes tenacity and preparation. Know what objections you may face and have questions prepared to overcome them.”
Additionally, you must always listen more and determine where the person is coming from. This helps you come up with more realistic responses, which will lead to great outcomes more often than not.
There are lots of skills to consider in building a business. You can’t simply go into it because you want to. You need to be prepared, learn how to ask the important questions, attract the right people, and navigate through complex circumstances.
To do so requires a handful of the best skills that people in business continuously hone and employ and which we’ve compiled for you to use as an animation business owner.
First, you must obtain the top general skills. This refers to your organizational skills, communication skills, and your decision-making skills. be invested in education or a training program.
Next, you must possess a keen understanding of your finances. This is about understanding all your financial statements, managing your business expenses, being able to deal with taxes and particular emergencies.
You must especially be well-versed in the field of marketing. This means you know how to network your business effectively, establish your business’ payment terms with your animation clients, and become a skilled negotiator.
Once you are equipped with all those skills and well-versed in the successful operation of a business, you’ll find yourself aware of flaws or future problems you may not have noticed in the past. This can better sustain your animation company and direct it toward opportunities you never thought possible.
For more tips on developing your business skills as a freelance animator or animation studio owner, take part in our informative free masterclass and download a copy of our free marketing handbook.