Working as a freelancer is for many a very enticing thought.
It sure makes sense when you think of the benefits like working “your own personal hours”, and charging “whatever you want” for the work you put out, but before you decide to take a dive into the ocean of freelancing, there are some questions you should ask yourself.
The best way to confront the hurdles present before you in the freelancing race is to be prepared and make sure you’re ready for anything that might come your way.
In this blog post, we’re going to answer some of the most important and frequently asked questions by freelance animators.
Indeed, the questions we answer today might be questions you have already asked yourself, asked others, or have been asked by those in the freelance animator community.
So without further ado, let’s dive right in, shall we?
Let’s Answer Some Animation Questions
For this post, we’re going to break down these animation questions into different sections and focus on the journey of working as a freelance animator.
As such, the questions are going to range from the perspectives of a beginner freelance animator, an intermediate and more experienced freelance animator, to a professional, and full-time freelance animator.
Beginner Freelance Animator’s Questions:
1. What exactly is a freelance animator?
In short, freelancing is when you provide a product or service produced by you for clients without any middleman.
The contracts that freelancers work with are usually short-term, although that doesn’t always have to be the case.
In general, when dealing with a single client, you’re only going to be working on a single project, but since you’ll be the only one working on it, it will often take longer than if you had an entire team of animators working together.
If a freelancer does take on a bigger project that might take a lot of their time, they’re sacrificing other work that might come in, which is more money lost; freelancers need to know how to pick and choose their projects.
Freelance animators also need to manage themselves and their brand, sometimes providing other services besides their animations. This includes managing their own social media and online presence, their own finances (although not always), their own administration, and much, much more.
2. What are the advantages and disadvantages of working freelance?
Advantages Of Freelance Animation:
- Work your own hours and amounts
Freelancers get to pick and choose when they want to work, and how much work they plan to do in a day, in a week, and in a month. For many, this is one of life’s greatest treasures.
- Determine your own rates
While this can be both a blessing and a curse sometimes, it’s certainly more of the former for the most part of working as a freelance animator. Determining your own rates allows you to be more honest about the amount of work you’re capable of doing at any one time.
A bonus is that over the years, you can increase the rate as you see fit, as you improve as an animator and businessperson.
- You can work remotely
For most, working a job where you have to go into a physical workplace can become tiring very quickly. The benefit of working freelance is the freedom to work pretty much wherever you feel most comfortable; work at home, at a coffee shop, or even in an airport if you’re that way inclined!
Also, not having to constantly report to others can be a blessing!
Disadvantages Of Freelance Animation:
- Rather unstable work-life, searching for work all the time
When we say the word hustle, we don’t say it lightly. Starting out as a freelance animator often involves exhaustively searching for more work in the various corners of the animation market.
When you work as a freelance animator, the question (so many questions!) you have to ask yourself is: “Do I have the fortitude to build my brand and search for work?”. When you’re comfortably in the industry, it becomes a fair bit easier since people will start coming to you for work.
- Feelings of isolation
It can get pretty lonely working as a freelance animator. While some people might thrive in solitude, it isn’t for everyone, and it can be a little bit intense when you realize you don’t have anyone else to fall back on when you work in a studio.
- No paid time-off
Working as a freelance animator, a question you might need to keep asking yourself is if you’re still comfortable handling all your own finances. A lot of people outsource that sort of thing, which is often preferable, especially when you’re working 24/7 on projects.
The biggest problem with freelancing, however, is that when you’re not accepting work, you’re not earning. And when you take some time off, that’s a lot of time you’re not working, and subsequently not earning.
3. What animation services should I be offering to my clients?
When you work as a freelance animator, you’re not just providing the animation itself for your client, but you’re handling every interaction with the client as well, and that means a bunch of potential extra services that need to be considered.
There are a whole host of different animated services and different video types you can provide for clients, including anything from social media ads for products or entire brands, how-to videos, sales videos, and about us videos - the list of possibilities is almost endless!
You could also consider offering additional client services like edits and revisions on your work, or charging for additional special effects that really make the animation ‘pop’.
The more flexible you are with your clients, the better a relationship you build and the more likely you are to get a repeat gig from them.
4. What animation styles are people looking for these days?
As animation questions go, this one might be met with a little bit of contention, as being a true professional creative means understanding what it is you are good at and how you can market that niche in the best way possible.
However, and bear with us quickly, sometimes when you’re new at something, you have to bite the bullet and do everything you can to learn as much about that new thing as possible.
For example, tattoo artists, in the early days of tattooing, more often than not, were forced to tattoo whatever it was that was on the wall of the shop, for whoever walked in the door. As part of their apprenticeships, they would need to make sure they could work on any style, and for most that helped them derive their own style and niche.
The same can be said for animators. It can never be a bad thing to, say when you’re new to freelancing, cover a range of styles and ask the question “What are the most popular styles right now?”.
When you have an above-ground-level knowledge of how the client industry evolves, then you can make sure to market your niche in the right places.
There are so many different ways of utilizing animation for content and each client might request a different animation style.
We just talked about the services you can offer, and having a variety of simplistic styles that cater to each type of content can really make getting more work from a variety of different clients easier.
Intermediate Freelance Animator's Questions:
5. How do I find more work as a freelance animator?
As you find yourself working more comfortably as a freelance animator, you will notice the hustle you have to adapt to, to be able to source enough work to keep yourself afloat.
Thanks to the internet, and the wonders of online digital marketing, putting your name and brand out into the world is so much easier, and there are a plethora of ways to source work that DON’T include word of mouth (although we certainly don’t discredit tradition!)
Consider using LinkedIn, Facebook groups, Instagram, and other social media platforms, as well as Reddit, UpWork, Fiverr, and more to market yourself and find work more effectively.
6. How do I overcome my fear of losing work as a freelancer?
It can be daunting working the hustle and bustle life of a freelance animator, and losing sleep over losing work is not uncommon. Rejection is a part of life that everyone needs to experience at least once. It’s what makes us stronger!
Maintaining a healthy schedule that includes time set aside for marketing yourself, can really assist in branching out into the digital world and finding work online much easier.
You should also take time to network in real life, and visit as many conventions, conferences, and talks as you can.
7. Why don’t I just work in a studio instead?
There’s nothing wrong with working in an animation studio - for many people it’s the dream. But for others, it can seem like you’re just another cog in a machine, which can feel claustrophobic.
Animation studio work is consistent (in terms of money and workload), community-based, and often for those wanting to further their career by climbing the corporate ladder.
But, freelance animators get a lot more credit for the work they do, work their own hours, and are their own bosses.
There are career options out there for freelancers who want to handle both freelancing and studio work at the same time, such as Project-based Freelancing and Permalancing.
If your animation questions are more about your actual job than the quality of your work, then perhaps you should sit down and answer some of these questions before continuing your career.
8. Where can I learn to be a better freelance animator?
There are a whole host of online sources to learn from, including us, The Business Of Animation, HubSpot, YouTube, forums, and more.
As a freelance animator, you have the luxury of setting aside time out of your day strictly for education and the betterment of your skills, and there are a bunch of programs and facilities that cater strictly to just that.
Professional Freelance Animator's Questions:
9. How do I appear more professional as a freelancer?
Appearing professional is truly in the eyes of the beholder and there are a number of things that what some may consider very professional, don’t really matter to others.
That being said, there are a few things that every freelancer should focus on and/or adhere to to ensure that they at least look the part of a professional freelance animator.
Here are a few examples of things you can do to appear more professional to prospective clients:
Have creative, but simple portfolio sheets, showreels, and websites, where clients can see and learn more about you, and see and choose from all your rates. Also, make sure you have a way for prospective clients to see your references and testimonials.
Upskill, upskill, upskill. Take some extra courses and learn the secrets of animation from the experts. It may not have a direct effect on your brand’s physical appearance, but it sure will indirectly make your work look a lot more professional.
Have a consistent and buzzing social media that looks good. Ensuring your digital brand is consistently putting out content will make prospective clients find you faster, and making sure you are consistent with the quality of your content is equally important.
10. How do I become a more efficient freelancer?
Be able to adapt. When you’re working as a freelance animator, you’re constantly receiving a variety of different projects and you need to make sure you’re capable of adapting to everything you receive.
Of course, when you have a certain established style that clients are looking for, the question isn’t can I adapt to give them the style they want, but can I adapt to the idea they want.
You’re going to consistently see deadlines being moved, ideas being changed at the last minute and you need to be able to be flexible with your client’s needs.
Adding to this, learning to use more than one piece of animation software is crucial to ensuring you’re capable of adapting to certain situations.
Being able to make the choice to use simpler software because the deadline is short, or beefier software because the project demands a more realistic look, is a very good skill to have.
Make sure to manage your time well and don’t take on more than you can chew. Plan your days around your personal schedule and your weeks around your projects, and you’ll be able to more efficiently work on your projects.
And finally, keep working on personal projects. Work on bettering your craft and your future self will certainly thank you for it. Your clients will too!
11. How much should I realistically be charging for my work?
This question of deciding your fee as a freelancer is always fairly tough for people because it’s rating, not just the work you put out, but also your time and experience as well.
There are of course different ways to charge as well; some are better suited to a freelancer animator’s lifestyle than others, such as charging per second for smaller projects.
You need to pay bills. We all do. Naturally, you’re going to want to make sure you can earn enough from each project you do.
On the other hand, you need to make sure you’re being honest with yourself and making sure you’re not overselling your work, or selling yourself short.
At the end of the day, consulting and communicating with other freelancers is probably the best way of figuring out how much to charge clients for your work.
A More General Freelance Animator’s Question:
And finally, a more general freelance animator’s question that every freelancer should be asking themselves at one point or another.
12. Can I see myself having a stable career as a freelancer?
It can be a difficult playing field for some and not everyone is cut out for the freelance life. It’s certainly clear that it’s a plausible work prospect, but it does take a tremendous amount of time and effort to be a freelance animator.
In order to answer this generally vague question, you need to make sure you understand how much money you need to survive comfortably, how much time you’re willing to work on your career and your reputation, and how comfortable you are with working by yourself for the better half of your life as a freelance animator.
Some Additional Points From Freelance Animator’s Questions
Be Able To Find Inspiration Wherever You Can
Inspiration can literally come from anywhere, but sometimes you need to be a little creative (or not so creative) with your soul searching!
- Take extra drawing classes, either for free or through institutions
- Follow as many animators as you can on as many different platforms as you can
- Branch out and work on different styles, or work on finding your own niche style
Remember To Follow The News
Following reputable news sources will help you keep up to date with the latest in animation trends. It’ll also help you with the next point of upgrading your hardware.
Upgrade When You Can
Gif via Newcastle Online
Keep both your eyes and ears open for new specials on both hardware and software that could improve your work.
When you notice your hardware starting to deteriorate, or you simply notice the next generation iPad that would take your drawing to the next level, consider upgrading as soon as there’s an opportune moment to.
Freelancing can become a taxing activity, both physically and mentally, so remember to take some extended time for yourself, and take a holiday every now and then.
Make sure as well to have a proper daily schedule that allows for breaks in-between, perhaps a rest or a walk, and/or some regular exercise.
Take Some Time To Answer The Animation Questions We All Have
Freelance animation is an exciting work prospect for many, and those who have made it their full-time career can tell you just how rewarding it is.
There are a great many questions that one should answer, before becoming a freelancer, as well as during one’s freelancing career and there are a great deal more things to consider besides these existential questions that come with being a freelancer in general.
For more info about the animation industry and being a freelance animator, as well as answers to any other questions you might have, be sure to follow our blogs, 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”!