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!
All these options can be confusing, so here, we’ve summarized 9 differences between freelance and on-staff animation work, so you can decide which path best suits your needs and schedule.
As a freelance animator, you will be booked on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis, depending on the needs of your client. Animation studios, businesses, marketing agencies, advertising agencies, and other potential clients will contact you, showing their interest in working with you for future animation projects.
You will need to set and know your daily rate based on your previous experience and skills. Your potential client will either agree to pay for your asking rate or negotiate a lower rate to stay within their budget.
Once you both agree on your daily rate, your animation client will put you on a hold, meaning they will have first dibs on the right to use your animation services for a specific amount of time.
Make sure you keep a detailed record of your holds. Every time an animation client is ready to book you, you will have to check the order of your other holds to decide who you are ready to work with.
Unfortunately, many companies put freelancers on long holds and don’t end up working with them. This especially happens to freelance animators who are just starting out and don’t have enough experience and skills.
However, if you do get booked, you’ll work for the number of days in your agreement and get paid according to your negotiated rate.
Image by Domenico Loia via Unsplash
According to Bloop Animation, with project-based freelancing, you charge a flat fee for your animation projects, no matter how many days and how much effort it takes to finish your project.
Project-based freelancing is more common when you work with small companies than when you work with big animation studios, businesses, or agencies.
Some examples of potential project-based animation jobs include designing a logo, making a short explainer video for a startup company, etc. In this kind of freelancing, the individual freelancer will work on almost all aspects of the animation project alone.
Having a wide range of animation and software skills will help you get more animation clients and will also allow you to negotiate a higher fee.
Bloop Animation says that in permalancing, you can work for a studio, agency, business, etc., for years, but you still operate as a freelancer. As a permanent freelance animator, you have a more stable source of income than a project-based freelancer.
As a permalancer, you will have more control over your time than regular full-time employees do; you won’t have to take sick leave or request a vacation day. However, you also won’t have access to company benefits like insurance, paid leave, etc.
Differences Between Freelance and On-Staff Animation Work
1) Working Hours
Image by Iryna Tysiak via Unsplash
Working hours and working days vary between freelance and full-time animation jobs.
As a freelancer, you won’t have to go to work every day. You can find more time for yourself, for your loved ones, and to do errands.
When you’re a freelance animator, your work can be inconsistent. You may have days, weeks, and sometimes months when you won’t receive any clients. This can be either fun or scary, depending on your personality and financial situation.
If you have a family of your own, you may need a job with a stable income. But if you live alone, don’t have many expenses, and prioritize rest and your social life, then you might enjoy freelancing and the times when you don’t have many animation projects.
Just like what Bloop Animation says, when you work as a freelance animator, financial planning is imperative, especially for the times you lack work, so that you can maintain your lifestyle.
There are many stories of newbie freelancers who realized that they always need to put away a percentage of their income to pay taxes at the end of the year.
For freelancers who don't realize this or know about the freelance tax, tax season, and the resulting bill would be a huge shock. Making sure to set aside a percentage of your taxable income will ensure you don’t get stuck with a large, unexpected bill.
Full-time animators get a specific amount of paid vacation leave and sick days per year.
They also receive other company benefits, such as health insurance and retirement plans. Some animation marketing agencies, advertising agencies, and animation studios even have extra benefits like free registration for art classes, company retreats, and free gym memberships.
If you’re a freelancer, you won’t have access to these benefits. Not having insurance may be one of the most significant benefits you could lose. Health insurance is expensive in some countries, and without insurance, it will be hard to afford medical care.
3) Control of Your Schedule
As a full-time animator, you might struggle with having very little control over your schedule on workdays.
You have only a certain number of days when you can take sick leave or vacation leave. Also, if you have other commitments or work best in the early morning or late at night, a fixed schedule (e.g., 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.) may not be ideal.
If you want more control over your schedule and how you allot your time, then freelance animation might be more suitable for you.
4) No Micromanagers
Aside from having control over their own schedule, freelance animators can also have more control over when and how much they want to work in a day.
In contrast with full-time animators, freelance animators get to be their own boss (aside from their animation clients, of course). They don’t have anyone watching them work and telling them how to do things the whole day.
You can do things your way. If you don’t like working with a team or having someone micromanage you, then being a freelance animator is for you.
5) Community of Animators
GIF by Jessica Gremmell via GIPHY
According to Howard Wimshurst, when an animation studio has a great work environment and culture, it can feel like a family who cares for each other and help each other out.
You can encourage each other when you’re feeling down and give or receive animation tips for free. It’s a wonderful thing to have, which unfortunately freelance animators aren’t able to have.
If you feel lonely working alone or feel like you can’t manage all aspects of freelance animation by yourself, it would be good for you to work as a full-time animator.
6) Earn More Money
GIF by Hannah Witton via GIPHY
As a full-time animator, you will have a steady income each month and won’t have to worry about where to get it.
Your income will always have a ceiling unless it’s part of your job description to look for animation clients. You will still receive a salary whether you underperform or overperform.
If you work as a freelance animator, you won’t always know how and where to get your income, but you won’t have any limitations when it comes to the money you can earn.
You can raise your rate when you want and earn as much money as you want, depending on your efforts to promote yourself on social media and look for animation clients.
7) Work From Anywhere In The World
On-staff animation work requires you to go to an office to work every day. That means you have to wake up early to beat the morning rush hour and be surrounded by coworkers who might dislike you and spread bad office gossip about you.
However, if you work as a freelance animator, you can work in peace in your home, in a cozy cafe, or even while on vacation with your loved ones. All you need to have a good internet connection, sockets, a laptop, and a drawing tablet.
8) Progressing Your Career
Image via Wikimedia Commons
Full-time senior staff members and creative directors are the brains behind a project’s direction and output.
You can only become a creative director if you’ve been working for an animation studio, marketing agency, or business for several years. Most people who become creative directors make it to that position by getting promoted every few years after getting enough training and experience.
If you’re a freelance animator, in comparison with working on-staff, you mostly work alone and aren’t given a chance to lead a team or come up with a comprehensive strategy. You’re also hired for only a specific amount of time when your skills and services are needed.
However, being a freelance animator also has its advantages. You can make more time to pursue what you’re interested in: You can take classes, learn from different kinds of animators, and try different animation styles, which full-time animators may not be able to make time for.
Being a freelancer also allows you to encounter diverse themes and learn how to make different types of videos for a variety of businesses. At the same time, full-time employees may be limited to rudimentary themes or limited animation types depending on their company’s clients and strategy.
9) More Animation Credit
GIF by GIPHY News via GIPHY
If you work for an animation studio, agency, or business, you may feel like you’re not getting the appreciation you deserve. Most of the time, it’s your whole team or higher-ups that get recognized for an accomplishment.
Working as a freelancer will allow you to be personally credited and valued by your animation clients. This not only gives you more motivation to keep making good animation but also it makes more people aware of you and your animation services.
It’s ultimately up to you to decide which kind of animation career you want to pursue.
It’s essential that you consider your personality type, financial situation, what kind of work experience you want to have, your ideal lifestyle, and any other important factors.
There’s no right or wrong choice between on-staff and freelance animation, and you’re not stuck in either career path; you can ultimately switch how you’re employed if your needs and priorities change.
What’s important is that you make a living, enjoy what you do, and continue learning all about animation while meeting your animation clients’ needs.
If you’re looking for resources that will help develop your business and animation skills as a freelance animator, you came to the right place! Download our free marketing handbook and join our free masterclass.