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How to Find an Outstanding Animation Mentor

I am a good animator, why am I not getting the clients I am looking for? 

Sound familiar? 

You’re not alone in this sentiment. The ability to animate is only one small part of what makes a successful animator. Beyond your technical skills, animation is about networking, client relations, and business sense. 

It feels like you’re lost in a foreign country without speaking the language.  You have plenty of innovative ideas but no way to communicate them. 

And, often what’s worse is that you don’t even know what’s missing from your animation skill set. How do we improve, if we don’t even know where we need to improve? (Hint: lying awake at 3 AM with the anxiety-sweats is not the answer) 

What you need to find is the Mr. Miyagi to our Daniel LaRusso, The Yoda to your Luke Skywalker, the Genie to our Aladdin. 

What you need to find are (Insert drum roll here) Mentors for Animation!

And, surprisingly, they’re easier to find than you think, you don’t even need to get beaten up by your neighborhood bully first! 

Animation Mentors will help you with:

  • Networking with industry professionals 
  • Navigating client relations 
  • Developing a well-rounded style & fine-tuning our skills and techniques 
  • Creating an epic demo reel
  • Developing good workflow and meeting deadlines 
  • Helping us feel less lost in translation and giving you the language to effectively communicate your ideas

What is a mentor?
A mentor is a skilled person in a field, who acts as an experienced and trusted advisor. 
It also refers to the act of teaching and instructing on a particular topic or skill set. 

Is an Animation Mentor Worth it?

Animation is about so much more than what they teach you in animation school. A successful animator understands the animation industry entirely and is able to navigate through it effectively. 

And it’s impossible to learn it all by yourself. An animation mentorship program is often the difference between a great animator becoming successful in the industry and not. 

Learning more about these skills is almost as vital as learning the difference between 2D and 3D. 

Networking through your Animation Mentor

animators networking with others through their mentorship program

Photo by Product School on Unsplash

Ah yes, networking, the introverts horror story. Animation mentors make networking more streamlined and less chaotic, for the most part, because they already have a stable network set up. 

Mentors will guide you and your work towards potential clients in their circles and will be chock-full of useful information regarding how to prepare for an animation networking event. 

Some mentors will even be present at the networking events you attend, giving you the help you need to expand your professional animation circles. 

The Guide to Animation Business Networking for Animators is packed with interesting notes on how best to network in the Animation industry. 

It explains how to create a strong portfolio and then use that portfolio to attract the interest of potential networks. It also gives a few tantalizing tips on how to network with confidence and ensure you have the best possible chance at making the networks you need to succeed.

Animation Mentors Experience with Client Relations

animation clients will be happy to know you've learned from the best

Photo by krakenimages on Unsplash

Happy client, happy life! (Or something like that at least) 

However, navigating these relationships is an entire set of skills in itself, and each client is going to have unique and potentially changing needs. 

Animation mentors have dealt with all of this before though, thankfully. 

They will be equipped to show you how to negotiate pay, stick to your guns, and price yourself correctly. 

A good animation mentor will also be there to assist you with reading, dissecting, and responding to difficult emails and correspondence with clients. 

They are also going to help you see when perhaps it is you that has fallen short with any animation client communications, and give you feedback on how you have presented yourself and your work to a client.

Feeling like you’re still learning how to speak Animation? Our blog on 6 ways to improve communication with animation clients is full of enlightening tips and tricks for getting your point across, and getting the responses you need. 

What tips do you ask? 

It’ll teach you how to onboard clients, keep them happy and give them the updates they need to stay happy and informed. The article explains how to emotionally connect with your clients, and gives you informed techniques for managing difficult clients. 

Developing a Well-Rounded Style and Fine-Tuning your Skills and Techniques

an animator's example of developing  their style thanks to their animation mentor

Photo by Matt Moloney on Unsplash

In a world as specialized and nuanced as animation, an easily identifiable style sets you apart from others in your field. Knowing what your specific style could be is one thing, developing a well-rounded style is another. 

And that’s where your mentor comes in. 

Start by choosing a specific aspect of animation that excites you and learn as much as you can.

If you’re struggling to decide on a style, or are unsure of why a specialized style is important, our blog post 6 Reasons why Developing an Animation Style is Important has some great insights for you. 

A specific animation style shows potential clients and animation mentors your growth and development as an animator. Your mentor will also be able to assist you with your stylistic branding, which comes with the development of a strong style.

There is a sense of authenticity and professionality that you and your animation mentor will develop through your specific style. 

This authenticity will prove highly fruitful in finding a niche in the animation industry for you. 

Once you have a style in formation, find an animation mentor that has a style you aspire to and reach out to them asking for support. 

Creating an Epic Animation Demo Reel

a literal demo reel of animation

Photo by Jeremy Bezanger on Unsplash

You need to have pride in your Demo Reel, it is your best piece of marketing and should be one of your better works of animation.

But, while you might think your demo reel is all that, there are more than likely scores of edits you have missed in the process. 

Your mentor has seen so many in their time, they will have a long list of dos and don'ts for yours.

Developing Good Workflow and Meeting Deadlines 

The pressure of the animation industry is intense to navigate at first, especially as a freelancer. Many great young animators fall flat on their first big jobs, not because of lack of talent, but because they cannot keep up with the pace of the work environment. 

(Let’s think back to those anxiety-sweats we spoke about earlier)

A good mentor teaches you not just about the animation itself, but how to structure your workday to allow you enough time to meet your deadlines.

Animation mentors are well-versed in the animation industry and are likely full of tricks to teach you how to work smart so that you do not need to work hard. 

How to Find an Animation Mentor

Finding your perfect animation mentor is like finding a needle in a haystack if that haystack was made entirely of needles. 

Because, the fact of the matter is, finding the animation mentor for you is easy if you know what you’re looking for! 

What to Look for in an Animation Mentor?

an animator looking for an animation mentor

Photo by Marten Newhall on Unsplash

Look for a mentor who has excelled in the field and niche you are interested in. The old saying that those who cannot do, teach, do not apply here. Find someone whose work speaks for their experience and expertise.

It’s also highly important that you get along with the mentor you choose. If your communication or learning styles are too different, you are going to have an extremely difficult time learning from them. 

Along with this, you will be a better animation mentor student if you choose an animation mentor that you aspire to and who respects your process of discovery. 

Lastly, choose a mentor who has the time and capacity to give you the types of mentorship you are looking for. 

What type of mentorship are you after? 
Not all mentorships are created equal, and finding the right animation mentorship program starts with you understanding what you are looking for. 
Are you looking for weekly meet-ups, or are you happy with a few emails spread over the month? Do you want an animation mentor to meet with you alone, or do group mentorship workshops suit you better? 
Remember, a mentorship is only as successful as you make it. Listen to your mentor’s advice, ask questions often and test the methods your animation mentors teach you. 

Where Do We Find Animation Mentors? 

Animation Mentors from School

a school where you can find an animation mentor during your time there

Photo by Erika Fletcher on Unsplash

Take note of potential mentors in your school while you’re studying. Ask old college professors or lecturers whose work you trust and admire. 

This can be a struggle as many bigger schools just don’t have the capacity to give you the personal attention you are looking for. Mentor circles are also valuable from these big institutions, where students get together and learn from each other. 

Animation Mentors from your Network

a web of networks that are full of potential animation mentors

Photo by Alina Grubnyak on Unsplash

Find events that link you to potential mentors and make yourself known to them at these events. Meet as many people as you can and present your demo reels often at these events. 

There are also networking events designed specifically as mentorship networking events. Find these and attend as many as you can. 

Four notable events to look out for are the THU Career Camp, the WIA Mentorship Program Q&A, the Kaboom Animation Festival, and the Hiroshima Animation Season

The THU Career Camp is one of the biggest online animation conferences currently in existence. Its development comes on the heels of the pandemic, with its hope being to connect the animation industry to itself, even when it cannot meet in person. 

The THU Career Camp is designed with animators of all genres and styles in mind and will be a perfect chance for you to present yourself, find what inspires you, and connect with an animation mentor that will help you achieve your goals. 

There are also workshops and presentations from some of the biggest names in the game (think Lucas films and Nickelodeon) explaining the animation industry and specific animation techniques. 

The WIA (Women in Animation) Mentorship Program Q&A is a preliminary discussion to clarify any queries and finer details before their next mentorship program begins. 

It’s important to note here that this animation mentorship program is designed for women, nonbinary and transgender people of all skill and experience levels who want to connect to an animation mentor.

Looking to rub (literal) shoulders with animation professionals? 

The Kaboom Animation Festival is just that! 

An annual event held in the Netherlands, this multi-day animation festival is filled to the rafters with animation industry knowledge, mentorship opportunities, technical skill development, and quite a lot of fun. 

The Hiroshima Animation season is a slightly different kind of networking opportunity, but no less fascinating. 

What the people at the Hiroshima Festival have done is create a three-pillared learning and celebratory experience. 

First off, the Academy Project creates a nurturing and learning environment. Attached to this is the Artists-In-Residence program, which gives animators from around the world an opportunity to create animation works in Hiroshima city. 

Secondly, there is an animation-specific film festival that will be held. This festival has a competition style and leads us to our next pillar, the Awards. 

Besides the Artists-In-Residence program, other awards will be presented at the end of the festival. 

Animation Mentors Available Online

an image of a laptop showing that you can get animation mentors online

Photo by Samantha Borges on Unsplash

Your online network is your number one point of reference for finding an inspiring animation mentor. 

Don’t be afraid of cold calling! Send your Demo Reels and Letters of Motivation to as many animation studios as possible. Present yourself with confidence in these emails and be persistent. 

You can also look at websites like Animator Island and Animation Mentor. These sites, and sites like them, offer a wide variety of animation mentorship programs and mentors to choose from, getting you closer to finding your perfect mentorship match. 

Businesses like Intuitive Surgical have annual mentorship programs you should apply for.  Many of these have special criteria for acceptance and may be less personal than finding a person of your own accord. 

It’s no secret that animation houses look for skill and talent, not pieces of paper attached to your name. As an online or self-taught animator, you are actually at an advantage in finding a good animation mentor. 

Take Business of Animation as an example. We have done everything in our power to create incredible spaces for finding high-quality instruction and personalized help. 

We specialize in the people who sit behind the animation and are all-in when it comes to your personal business development. 

Look into our Animation Accelerator Program as a way to help you build a successful freelance animation career. We want to watch you succeed, and we have the tools to help you get there. 

Why Mentors for Animation Works

the trust you build with an animation mentor can be more powerful than you think

GIF via GIPHY

Animation mentorships are as valuable a tool to your future success as an animator as a digital artboard. 

Animation mentors assist not only with technical skills and know-how but offer a helping hand when navigating client relations. You can expect an animation mentor to be highly skilled and successful in their field, and share the secrets of their success with you. 

And, if nothing else, your animation mentor will give you the reassurance you need to put yourself out there and make the big decisions to progress in your career. 

Your animation mentor is a guiding star in the high seas of the animation industry. 

And, thankfully, this animation mentorship is not isolated to those who attended mainstream animation schools. 

Even as a self-taught animator, you can find mentorship by doing online courses like the free masterclass hosted by Business of Animation, and downloading a copy of the free marketing handbook.

Wax on, wax off, and charge forth towards the animator you were born to be! 

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