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Animation Pricing Guide For Freelance Animators

An Introduction On How Do You Price Animations

Pricing your animation work can be challenging. Figuring out how much to charge for freelance animation can be difficult in many ways and may at times seem either egotistical or demeaning. You need to learn to tread the line of accurate and fair charges effectively for pricing animation work.

In this article, we will talk about the best things to keep in mind when learning how to charge clients for your animation videos as a freelance animator.

First things first though. Let’s talk about some types of rates.

Types Of Pricing Schemes for Animation Videos

a man studying through books on the different types of animation rates for the cost of animation projects

Image by Monstera via Pexels

The first thing to consider is the number of different ways in which you could charge clients. There are many different ways you can charge for the work you put in. In general, those who prefer to work in animation studios will end up getting paid in the manner in which the studio pays (often wage or salary-based), but for freelancers, it becomes a little more complicated. 

You’re putting a price tag not only on the work you’re putting forward, but on the effort you put in to hone the skills that earned you that project in the first place - your marketing skills, people skills, portfolio management, and many more.

Considering the above, here are a few ways to charge clients, as well as a few pros and cons for each:

1) Charging Per Second Of Animation

This will usually take the form of a smaller piece of animating work, such as instructional or educational videos. For ideas on what styles of videos we’re talking about, be sure to check out Promoshin’s website.

In the current digital age of YouTube and streaming services like Twitch, animators can also find themselves in the business of creating gifs and emoticons of sorts for clients, where charging per second of the piece of work makes a lot of sense; the final project will be short and sweet.

Pros:
  • Smaller projects allow you to do many pieces of work in short amounts of time.
  • It allows you to charge fairly depending on the type of work you’re doing.
Cons:
  • In the case of shorter videos, you’re locked into following a client brief and creating a work of a certain length, regardless of any new creative ideas that surface during the process.
  • If the finished work goes either over or under the limit quoted by an extreme amount, the client may feel cheated in one way or another.

2) Pricing Animation Per Hour Of Work

Many animators who migrate from professional to freelance work environments often find themselves charging clients what they’re used to receiving from a company salary: a per hour rate for work.

The key to charging per hour, and locking yourself into working certain hours a day, is to think about the amount of money you need to survive, to take care of your various financial responsibilities.

Things to take into consideration include income tax, living expenses, and the amenities that allow you to work from home. 

Consider the amount of money that would make sense for you to earn from working exclusively as a freelance animator, and do some calculations, or find someone who can help you in that regard.

Pros:
  • Creating an hourly rate for yourself can help with keeping your daily routine consistent, especially if you’re still getting used to working freelance.
  • Having an hourly rate allows you to easily keep track of your earnings and expenditure, provided you are keeping up to date with how you’re living your life expenditure-wise.
  • The money is consistent and will often coincide with what professionals in the field are earning for full-time work.
Cons:
  • As you start to hone your craft, it will take significantly less time to do the work for the projects at hand. If you work less, you’ll end up getting paid less. You will end up doing yourself a disservice charging hourly rates for work that becomes easier to do over time.
  • This may create a mindset where you think you’ll need to source larger quantities of work and this can quickly lead to you feeling the symptoms of overworking and will probably burn out quite quickly.

3) Charging Animation Videos Per Project

Once you’ve solidified yourself in the animation industry, you can expect to have some understanding of what goes into making a piece of animated work.

With this knowledge should come a certain amount of wisdom in understanding the worth of each piece that makes up the project, whether it be storyboarding, sketching, or motion design.

Often animators who tend to charge per project will have a template for clients that can easily be modified based on the type of project. Using a template also allows for flexibility in the event of any unforeseen circumstances.

Pros:
  • You get to know how well you fare in certain situations. You may end up finishing your projects quickly and thus making space to do other work or take some well-deserved time off.
  • Charging per project helps you create a portfolio of work that clients can see in advance and understand what they’re getting themselves into by working with you.
Cons:
  • Many unforeseen circumstances in your life may lead to you taking longer than expected, leading to a possibility of a bad customer experience. This can potentially hurt your reputation in the freelance animation industry.
  • In the beginning, you may still lean towards charging per hour of work, adding in a few hours here or there based on upselling. If this is the case, you may as well just charge per hour.

You may tend to look to the masses and see what the going rate is for work in your field. This is often not recommended as one of the best things about working in the animation industry is the opportunity to express your uniqueness.

As such you should be thinking about what to charge for your work, as opposed to what someone else might charge for theirs.

Pricing Animation Videos Based On Animation Styles

Depending on the complexity of the style you’re working with, or are used to working with, you should be thinking about how much effort is going into what it is you’re creating.

Think about the amount of time it takes to get from each phase of work to the next, and how long it took you to shorten that time as a professional animator.

Think about the number of characters you’re working on within your animated story. More characters to worry about will force you into spending more time in the production phase and this should subsequently cost your client more.

You should also be taking into consideration the length of your animated work. Depending on the type of work, whether it be a single project of any length or a series of animated pieces, you can think about the amount to charge accordingly. You should always consider writing a proposal for your client beforehand, regardless of the project.

Doing a single project for a client often requires every detail to be unique to the situation. Paying such intense detail into the work should mean you are requesting more from your clients. 

Doing a series of any kind allows you the opportunity to reuse assets amongst other things, allowing you more time to work on other parts of the animation. By this logic, charging excessive amounts to the client doesn’t seem fair.

Upselling Through An Animation Pricing Guide

whiteboard drawing of the word "more" so you can offer more through upselling when pricing your animation projects

Image by Malte Luk via Pexels

If the client is insistent on extra details or effects to be put in or used, consider making a chart of what you will charge for those extras. Having a list that you can send to a client of the fee for extra effects, design aspects, etc. will not only show a level of commitment to your craft but a keen understanding of your financial worth as a freelancer that will garner a level of respect between you and your client.

Consider having an animation pricing guide for both the client who is unsure how much their animation project will cost, as well as the repeat client who already knows what they want. Remember, your work is unique to you, and so your animation prices should reflect that.

Extra features mean more time spent on that project, and as we all well know, time is money!

Communication With Animation Clients In Pricing Animation Videos

two women communicating the cost of their animation project

Image by Christina Morillo via Pexels

If you’re freelancing, two very important things to consider are negotiation and empathy. These are two invaluable skills for everyone, but especially if you’re freelancing in animation.

Having good and effective negotiation skills allow you to not only learn some valuable soft skills, especially when dealing with picky clients. 

A level of empathy for whom you’re doing work is also often important as it allows you to glimpse into the mind of whomever you’re communicating with; they are people after all.

Revisions should also be a part of the negotiation process with all clients, as no project is perfect at the beginning; new ideas may change the direction of the project and how the process finishes. Some freelancers may offer an unlimited number of revisions and will have to plan their rates accordingly.

You do, however, need to be honest with things like timing and workload (if of course, that information is relevant) and be willing to have honest and realistic conversations with clients about project prices and animation rates. An intense brief with a heavy workload may have repercussions on perhaps the number of proposed revisions for the work.

Often clients who are unfamiliar with how much things animations cost will look to the cheapest animation price tag attached to an animator. Let prospective clients know what they’re paying for; it’s not just the finished project, but the years it took for you to get to where you are in the first place.

Also, don’t be afraid to upsell and create a relationship with your client. Good client relationships are the key to effective freelancing; nobody wants bad press.

Keep Track Of Your Work And Pricing

The last thing you want is to find out that you’re not progressing or evolving as an animator. Have a look at your portfolio at the end of every year and see how far you’ve come. Self-reflection is incredibly important as a freelance animator.

If you’re charging the same amount for work you’re now better at doing, you need to be evaluating how much you’re charging for your animations and what pricing scheme works for your business. Compare how long it takes you to complete tasks, increase or decrease your prices accordingly, and don’t be afraid to try different methods of pricing your animation work. Again, stay true to what you’ve accomplished; honesty will get you far.

Remember to develop yourself by upskilling and evolving your craft, as well as adjusting your rates as a freelance animator. You don’t want to be sitting on the same branch your whole career. Learn to climb the tree of knowledge and you’ll be successful in no time!

Conclusion To Animation Pricing

There is a lot to think about when it comes to animation pricing or animation cost, but a great piece of wisdom to remember is that every client and every situation is different, and every piece of work will be different too. 

Pricing your animation work is a continuous process, much like any other. As you develop your animation business over time, you will eventually find out what pricing model works best for you.

Consider also having a look at what regular contracts and minimum wage situations are for the area in which you find yourself living and working. This can help a great deal in determining accurate and fair rates to charge clients.

To learn more about the business side of animation and how to better price your work, be sure to join Business of Animation’s Accelerator Programme. Finally, don’t forget to take a look at our free masterclass and download our free marketing handbook.

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