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Animator's Job Outlook and State of Freelance Animation

“The animation industry is a competitive field with a wide variety of possibilities.”

Josie Myers, Writer

When deciding whether to enter into a new industry, you often have to consider the state of that industry and look at its potential future growth. It can be tough to weigh all of the factors such as potential industry and personal income, job availability, whether to work on-site or as a freelancer, and many more.

The animation industry is no different, with countless job opportunities and avenues for you to explore like freelance animation, animation niches, and on-site animation to choose from. Many people have a passion for art and animation, and the animation industry can be a very fruitful industry to enter into. 

But you have to consider your potential success in the industry by looking at its growth and potential income. Not only that, but the animation industry is very competitive and that’s why it’s important to consider whether it’s a good idea for you to enter into it or not. 

In this blog, we look at an animator's job outlook and the state of the industry for freelance animation. We’ll go over some statistics from previous years so you can decide whether it’s a good idea to enter the animation industry with its current growth, income, and the jobs available. 

The Growth of the Animation Industry - An Animator's Job Outlook

growth of the animation industry has boomed in recent years for those looking at an animators outlook

GIF by Tony Babel via Giphy

Film animation is an ever-growing industry – from special effects to completely CGI films. The potential for growth in the film animation industry is evident in the box office statistics from 2021.

According to Box Office Mojo, some of the top-grossing movies in 2021 were animated films. These films include “Sing 2” which has a box office of $411.7 million, “Tom and Jerry” with a total box office of $133.3 million, and “Raya and the Last Dragon” which has a total box office of $130.3 million.

The highest-grossing film of 2021 was “Spider-Man: No Way Home” which heavily relies on CGI and animation. The film has a staggering box office of $1.9 billion and should serve as evidence of the growing impact of the animation industry on the mainstream film industry.

Other films that show the impact of animation, especially when it comes to CGI effects include films such as “Godzilla vs. Kong,” “Cruella,” and “Black Widow,” all in the category of the top-grossing films of 2021.

From 2017 to 2020, the global animation market size grew from $254 billion to $270 billion. That’s a 6% increase over the span of four years. These numbers work in the favor of an animator's job outlook.

In 2021, the global animation market size was estimated to be $372.44 billion and it is predicted to reach over $587.1 billion by 2030. This means that the animation industry will grow at a CAGR (compound annual growth rate) of about 5.2% during the forecast period between 2022 and 2030. This is a major positive for the animators’ job outlook in the future. 

the global animation market size has increased for an animators job outlook in recent years

Image via Precedence Research

Important factors that play a crucial role in the animation market growth and an animator's job outlook include advancements and developments across the communications and technology sectors, a growing media and entertainment industry, and increased internet penetration across different regions.

Animated features often perform well at the box office, with films such as “Shrek,” “Finding Nemo,” and “Minions” proving to be big hits with children and adults alike across the globe. 

Between 1995 and 2019, the highest-grossing animated movie at the North American box office was Brad Bird’s “Incredibles 2,” earning around $200 million, which is more than other beloved Disney favorites such as “The Lion King” and “Frozen.”

Disney has had a profound effect on the animated film market. Not only do they release original films such as “Moana,” “Wreck-It Ralph,” and “Tangled,” but their repertoire also includes remakes of classic Disney films such as “The Lion King,” “Mulan,” and “Dumbo.” 

Disney’s impact on the animation industry can especially be seen in its use of CGI in most of its live-action remakes. However, the impressive CGI which creates photorealistic effects has sparked some debate about whether the films are live-action or animated.

Nonetheless, Disney’s use of CGI in its films has paved the way for a whole new breed of cinema. Animation has come a long way, and the 3D animation market in the U.S. has been growing steadily since 2014 with further increases predicted for the coming years. 

Interestingly, 2D animation is anticipated to contribute the highest growth rate as well as market share from 2021 to 2030. This growth is attributed to 2D animation’s increased use in various industries worldwide. These statistics help create a positive area of improvement for a 2D animator's job outlook.

North America is likely to be the largest market for animation in the world. Currently, the animation market is occupied by North America due to the increased use of animation in various industries, coupled with the presence of major animation companies and business plans that are executed by the chief players in the nations. 

Therefore, if you’re looking to start a career in the animation industry, you may want to consider working in North America to increase your chances of employment. Furthermore, it seems that 2D animation is the most popular and contributes to the highest industry growth, so specializing in 2D animation might also be a great way to get your foot in the door quickly and easily.

It’s clear to see that the animation industry shows no signs of stopping in terms of global growth any time soon. This makes it a safe bet if you’re unsure about the success of the industry in the long run.

But what about the number of jobs available in the animation industry and how does this impact an animator’s job outlook?

Jobs Available in the Animation Industry

animation jobs in the industry are opportunities for animators

Image via 8bitplay

When looking at the statistics, the employment of multimedia artists and animators is projected to grow by 10% from 2016 to 2026. And the employment of special effects artists and animators is projected to grow by 16% by 2030.

About 7,800 openings for special effects artists and animators are projected each year, on average, over the decade and many of those openings are expected to result from the need to replace animators who transfer to different occupations or who exit the labor force, such as to retire.

The estimated growth for the animation industry is much faster than the average for all occupations. This projected growth will be due to increased demand for animation and visual effects in video games, films, and television. 

Additionally, animation work will be needed in website development, computer graphics, mobile technologies, design services, and scientific research. However, this job growth may be slowed in certain countries, especially in North America, because of companies hiring animators and artists who work overseas. 

Some animation studios may see the benefit in using lower-paid workers outside of the United States to save money. This might be a golden opportunity for an animator’s job outlook, however, since you can look for work outside your country and expand your portfolio and resume. 

Job opportunities in film animation and other sectors of the animation job market are also on the rise. But this doesn't mean you won't face tough competition in your job search. 

Despite positive job growth, there will be competition for job openings because many recent graduates will be interested in entering the occupation. That being said, the number of qualified and experienced animators generally exceeds the number of available job openings. 

In addition to having a well-rounded portfolio, animators who specialize in a specific type of animation or a specific skill, such as drawing or computer programming, should have the best opportunities when it comes to finding job opportunities.

Therefore, being highly specialized in animation or having special effects skills could help you stand out from the competition. Some of the specialized career options for animators might include:

  • Storyboard or layout artists
  • Visual development artists
  • Modelers
  • Character animators or riggers
  • Effects animators
  • Motion capture or motion graphics artists
  • Lighting artists
  • Game artists

According to the U.S. BLS’s (Bureau of Labor Statistics) current Occupational Outlook Handbook, there were about 62,400 multimedia artists and animators in 2020. Not only that but employment is expected to reach 72,300 through 2030. There is a projected employment growth of 4% by 2029 with over 2,800 new jobs for animators. Employment is a detrimental factor that contributes to any animator's job outlook.

Another important factor in the growth and development of the animation industry is consumer demand. With the advancement in animation techniques that produce increasingly realistic animations for video games and films, consumers will continue to demand more realistic animated content.

video game animation is a lucrative industry for animators

GIF via Giphy

Video games, films, television special effects, and 3D films have become exceptionally realistic and animators are continually developing their skills to be able to work for some of the biggest animation studios in the industry today. 

This demand for realism will, in turn, create demand for newer animation computer software and hardware, which will enhance the complexity of animation and visual effects. Additional multimedia artists and animators will be required to meet this increased demand, therefore creating more jobs for aspiring animators and improving the animators’ job outlook.

Furthermore, the increased demand for computer graphics for mobile devices, such as smartphones, will lead to more job opportunities. Multimedia artists will be needed to create animation for games and applications for mobile devices.

Animators now have opportunities to work in video game design, special effects, web animation, advertising, and e-learning, in addition to opportunities in traditional film animation for any animator's job outlook. In fact, the BLS predicts video games, films, and television will be the three biggest career growth industries, as well as increased demand for animation on mobile devices and tablets. 

Statistics compiled by the Entertainment Software Association are extremely positive, with no sign of slowing down in the future since Americans spent $43.4 billion on video games, hardware, and accessories in 2019; digital content, mobile apps and social networking games accounted for 53% of those game purchases.

Therefore, the overall demand for animators is increasing. This is because animation has moved way beyond just television cartoons and motion pictures.

The Expanding Applications of Animation

animation and its applications have expanded in recent years

Image via Buzzflick

Animation is no longer used exclusively for film and television in the entertainment industry. There exist many animation niches that fall outside the general understanding of what animation is and what it is used for. 

Animation has many applications and now, more than ever, we can observe why animation is important and how it helps to develop other industries that have nothing to do with the visual arts. This fortifies the trend of an animator's job outlook improving as the industry evolves.

Animation is used in and plays an important role in industries such as education, advertisement and marketing, scientific developments, the retail industry, architecture and engineering, and the medical industry. 

Animation can be effectively utilized for educational purposes to enhance the reception levels of the students, trainees, and even teachers. Animated videos bring exceptional changes to the academic capabilities of students.

Graphics, motion videos, and dynamic presentations are being used by several education portals and organizations to teach complex and difficult concepts to students in an easy and understandable approach. 

Students can go through the content at their own pace and any number of times to understand the complex topics.

In advertising, an animation plays an equally important role. Animation plays an important role in making effective commercials to easily capture the imagination of the audience and lure the audience to purchase the product being advertised.

Although animation has been used in television marketing for years, the rapidly growing use of the internet has given birth to a new platform where animated advertisements are used extensively to target audiences of all age groups.

Technological advancements in the communications and technology sectors worldwide are a major factor driving the growth of the animation industry. 

an animators job outlook is expanding due to technological advancements

GIF by Milton Melvin Croissant III via Giphy

The emergence of virtual reality animation and artificial intelligence technologies is expected to generate new opportunities for market players operating in the global animation market. 

Various existing XR (Extended Reality) technology such as Virtual Reality and Artificial Intelligence Technologies are becoming more advanced in terms of creative use and application in the animation industry. 

AI will have a massive and profound effect on industrial growth and have a transformative effect on the animation industry which is offering potential opportunities for the key players in the market. 

In scientific visualization, for example, the animation is widely used to create accurate and representative scientific visualization. Animation can be used for the purpose of research as well as analytical studies. It can be effectively used to create and demonstrate 3D models for a wide variety of objects for realistic visualizations.

The rising use of visual effects technology in movies is another factor that is expected to boost the growth of the animation industry between 2021 and 2030. This is another positive for the animator's job outlook. 

Is Freelance Animation a Viable Option?

freelance animators are able to work their animation job anywhere, anytime

GIF by Emmelinedraws via Giphy

As an animator, there are many ways you can be employed. You can work on-staff with a company, or you can freelance, and there are many different types of freelancing regardless of an animator's job outlook.

Freelancing is generally the best option when considering the animators’ job outlook, however, especially since the animation industry is so competitive when it comes to on-site work in animation studios.

As the world of animation expands and the importance of animation in business increases, it should come as no surprise that the demand for quality freelance animators has escalated too. 

In recent years freelance animation has become a very popular practice among the modern workforce. Currently, 57 million Americans have selected freelance work as their primary source of income, with 25% of freelancers able to find work in less than 24 hours. 

Since 2019, 71% of freelancers have noted a major growth in online work. With stats like these, it should come as no shock that freelance animation is one of the most sought-after online jobs out there.

As a freelance animator, you are spoiled for choice in terms of areas of specialization and expertise from 2D animation and 3D animation to motion graphics, storyboarding, and whiteboard animation.

However, the world of freelance animation can be overwhelming insofar as starting your freelance animation business is concerned. Fortunately, professional freelance animators are open to sharing their freelance animation tips that can assist you in running a successful freelance animation business.

While freelance animation comes with perks like managing your schedule and professional freedom, it does come with a set of challenges that can be easily maneuvered by following these freelance animation tips and tricks.

An Animator's Job Outlook - Freelance is King

When looking at the statistics, an animator's job outlook is generally very positive. Experts predict exceptional growth in the future in terms of industry income and job creation. 

With employment options for animators opening up in many different areas and with the animators’ job outlook being as positive as it is, this is a great time to start your career.

As an animator looking to get into the animation industry, these odds are stacked in your favor. But it’s important to keep in mind that because the industry is growing by the day, competition for work is extremely tough.

That’s why becoming a freelance animator will probably be your best option for finding work and exercising your passion for animation on a daily basis. You can check out some of our many blogs explaining some helpful tips for getting started as a freelance animator and how to start a freelance animation business

If you’re looking to grow your animation skills, check out our free masterclass, download a copy of our free marketing handbook, and check out our blog on “How to Start an Animation Studio”!

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