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Ultimate Guide to a Freelance 2D Animation Career Path

ben marvazi 2020

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

Josie Myers, Writer

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.

Choosing to start a freelance 2D animation career can be exciting because of the various benefits it offers. You control your schedule, how much work you do, and what type of animation work you take on. 

Not only that, but you instantly have the upper hand in an extremely competitive industry that favors freelancers. 

But taking the first steps into your 2D animation career can be scary, especially if you don’t know where to start planning for your freelance business. 

The world of freelance animation can be overwhelming when it comes to starting your freelance 2D animation business. While freelance animation comes with perks, it does come with a set of challenges that can be easily maneuvered by following these freelance animation tips and tricks.

In this blog, we’ll provide a complete guide to starting a freelance 2D animation career by discussing everything from important skills to where you can find work. 

Skills Needed For a Freelance 2D Animation Career

In your freelance 2D animation career, you’ll face a lot of day-to-day challenges, which means that you’ll need to be equipped with the necessary skills and proper know-how to build and sustain a successful 2D animation career. 

You might know how to animate and have the skills to create jaw-dropping animations, but you’ll also need to learn essential business skills. 

These skills are essential considering the fast-growing and competitive animation industry. We have compiled a list of some of the most important skills to learn if you want to stay on top of your game and secure the best opportunities in your freelance 2D animation career.

They will come in handy whether you’re starting in the field of animation or you’ve established yourself as a professional 2D animator.

  1. Time Management and Organizational Skills
for a successful 2d animation career you need to learn proper time management skills

Image via Financial Tribune

Time-management skills are often overlooked by animators, but it is one of the most important skills to learn if you want to succeed in your 2D animation career. Learning how to manage your time effectively as an animator is an invaluable skill since you’ll likely work on multiple projects with tight deadlines. 

Without effective time management, deadlines will be missed, and productivity will decrease, negatively impacting your 2D animation career success. 

Another important skill is to stay organized, as this will aid in time management by cutting down on valuable time by keeping track of projects with different folders. Being organized helps you track your time, set your priorities, and limit distractions.

For tips on time management, check out this video that explains 10 ways in which you can manage your time more effectively to be more productive. 

  1. Financial Skills and Budgeting
financial literacy and budgeting is essential for a freelance 2d animation career

GIF by Spirulina Sims via Jillion Trinkets

Financial skills are essential if you’re embarking on a freelance 2D animation career because you’ll essentially be running your own business, which comes with a lot of financial responsibility. 

You’ll need to learn how to do basic accounting like balance sheets, cash flow statements, income statements, and much more. Keeping track of these records will allow you to see how well your 2D animation business is doing and keep you in the loop of the financial standing of your business. 

It’s also important to know how to budget your finances. Having a budget drives and determines key business decisions like purchasing new equipment or hiring more people.

Always track down how much money goes in and out of your business. You can also rely on your financial statements to help you, but there’s no harm in keeping a list for yourself. If you need extra help, you can use many accounting software to monitor your business expenses.

Mastering this skill will keep your business afloat, keep you out of debt, and prevent you from engaging in risky business ventures.

  1. Communication Skills
communication skills are essential for the creatives industry

GIF by Beemloop via Dribble

The ability to effectively relay ideas and information to your animation clients can be a great determinant of the success of your 2D animation career.

In an article for Virtual Speech, writer and recruiter Gini Beqiri wrote that good communication skills are among the top skills of a successful entrepreneur. It helps career progression, establishes better rapport with clients, and enhances professional image.

On the other hand, poor communication skills will lead to misunderstandings, frustration, and an inability to maintain clients. 

Communication skills also mean listening and understanding the other person. As an animator, it’s about connecting with your clients through a shared understanding and a genuine relationship.

How to Get Work Experience for a Freelance 2D Animation Career

freelance 2d animators can find experience working online

Image by Andy Agouridis via Career Addict

Animation clients might be apprehensive about hiring someone with little to no animation experience, so making sure you have enough experience before you embark on your freelance 2D animation career is essential. 

While there are a lot of experts giving tips on how to start a freelance animation business, you still need 2D animation experience to understand the ins and outs of every process that goes into running a freelance 2D animation business. 

There are many different ways in which you can acquire 2D animation experience. As long as you know what to look for, you will be able to gain experience quickly and in a variety of areas.

Getting 2D animation experience can be difficult, especially with high expectations from animation clients when they are looking to hire a skilled animator for their very specific 2D animation projects. Luckily, there are many ways you can gain animation experience, including practicing and gaining specific skills, working on different animation projects, and learning how to network.

Our top tip for gaining animation work experience is to invest time doing low-paid 2D animation work and personal projects. Low-paid work is hard to accept, but it will grant you valuable animation work experience to include in your resume, and personal projects help bulk up your portfolio and demo reel.

Important Equipment and Software For a Freelance 2D Animation Career

2d animation careers have different tools for online and traditional art

Image via Maryville University

With a vast array of 2D animation equipment, software, and hardware now available online or at specialty stores, it can be difficult to know where to begin.

You’ll need to equip yourself with the proper tools of the trade to bring certain ideas or visions to life. You also want to create a comfortable, efficient working environment in your office or studio, which will help boost your productivity.  

Having access to quality animation equipment and tools is key to having a successful freelance 2D animation career because it will ensure high-quality animations.

Besides desks, tables, and comfortable animation chairs, there is a lot of equipment you can invest in to make your life as a 2D animator a bit easier.

  • Non-photo blue pencils: This is an essential tool to include in your animator’s toolkit since they enable you to put together a visual guide to the project and make quick alterations to it before production can begin.
  • Punched copy paper: This is essential for creating high-quality animations and for creating duplicates to retrace and correct mistakes. 
  • Peg bar: These are great for holding your papers in place when you put together your animation as they help line them up so that your drawings or sketches remain in the correct place. 
  • Stylus pen and graphics tablet: Investing in a stylus pen and a good quality graphics tablet will allow you to draw, sketch and paint your animations either on a graphics tablet or a computer screen which will save you time and money in the long run. 
interface of a 2d animation program

Image via Files Win

Moving on to software, there are countless options available to create your 2D animations, and choosing which to use is simply a matter of preference and industry standard. 

You need to ensure that the 2D animation software you choose caters to your specific style, has a wide range of effective features, has a great user-experience design that works for you, and is compatible with you and your workspace.

Here is our top 10 list of the best animation software on the market:

  1. Adobe Animate
  2. Adobe Character Animator
  3. Autodesk Maya 
  4. Blender 
  5. CelAction 2D
  6. Houdini 
  7. Moho Pro
  8. Pencil2D
  9. Procreate
  10. Visme

How to Get Noticed as a Freelance 2D Animator

Because the animation industry is so competitive, it’s important to ensure you’re getting noticed by clients and other industry professionals. If you want to attract more clients and make more money, you need to take on some challenges to level up your work as an animator.

You will need a lot of experience and connections to get better. Even animators with 15-20 years under their belts are still continually looking for new experiences and ways to improve their animation. Fortunately, there are many ways you can do this. 

  1. Creating a Portfolio, Demo Reel, and Website
an animation website is essential for freelance 2d animators

GIF by Yukai Du via Wix Creative

The first thing you need to do is make sure your demo reel, portfolio, and website are all up to date and of impeccable quality to impress your animation clients. 

Every animator knows to create good-quality portfolios and showreels, but you also have to make an effort to keep these up to date. Not only that, but it’s also important to create a website where your potential animation clients have access to all of the important information about you, your business, your 2D animation skills, and your work experience. 

This is the first impression that animation clients will get from you when considering whether to hire you or not. 

Before animation clients work with you, they will always want to check out your showreel or portfolio. If you don’t have any showreel or portfolio, they will hesitate to work with you because they have no way of knowing what you are capable of.

Here is a short list of tips to keep in mind when creating your showreel, website, and portfolio:

  • Limit your showreel to about 1 1/2 to 2 minutes, and get your work out there. 
  • According to professional freelance animators, one of the most important freelance animation tips is to keep your showreel and portfolio up to date with your most recent 2D animation projects. 
  • Constantly refreshing your portfolio and showreel sends the message that you are in demand and are following the latest 2D animation trends.
  1. Networking and Social Media
networking is required for a freelance 2d animation career

GIF via Examples

If you want to get noticed in your freelance 2D animation career, you should attend animation events and conferences to find other animators and create business opportunities.

You should also be active on social media platforms such as LinkedIn and Facebook. Social media platforms are like digital resumes and portfolios where animation clients can see what you’re all about. Make sure that you regularly update your profile and upload your best work.

Laura Price, a visual development artist, says that you need to make a social media account where you can post your 2D animation, and other animators can follow you in addition to your professional portfolio.

You should also engage with your followers online because this will show the algorithm that what you’re posting is effective and makes an impact on your followers. To boost engagement, reply to your followers’ comments and look for conversations where you can add knowledge and connect with your followers.

How to Price Your 2D Animation Services and Negotiate With Clients 

how to price your 2d animation services

Image via Sastrify

Many 2D animators have a hard time deciding how to price their services and also complain that their clients pay them poorly.

When you start your freelance 2D animation career, you’ll notice how important it is to determine your rate and ensure you’re getting paid fairly for your work. Many clients will try to take advantage of you, but there are ways to guarantee you get paid fairly and on time. 

Pricing your animation work can be challenging. Figuring out how much to charge for freelance 2D animation can be difficult in many ways and may sometimes seem either egotistical or demeaning. You need to learn to tread the line of accurate and fair charges effectively for pricing 2D animation work.

The first thing to consider is the number of different ways you could charge clients. There are many different ways you can charge for the work you put in. 

It’s important to remember that you’re not only putting a price on the work you’re delivering but also on the effort you put in to develop your skills. 

There are three main ways you can price your 2D animations, and each has its own set of pros and cons. You can choose to charge per second of animation, per hour of work, or a project. The choice is completely up to you, and if you’d like to weigh the pros and cons of each of these, you can check out our blog, which gives a pricing guide for freelance animators.

To help you determine the price you should charge for your 2D animations, you should start by considering the animation style you work in. 

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

You should think about the amount of time it takes to get from each phase of work to the next, the number of characters you’re working on within your animated story, the length of your animated work, and so on. 

You should always consider writing a proposal for your client, 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 request more from your clients. 

Doing a series of any kind allows you the opportunity to reuse assets, among 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.

client negotiation is a vital skill for anyone who plans on a freelance 2d animation career

Image via Daylite

You can also consider upselling your animation services if a client insists on extra details or effects to be put in or used. You can make a chart of what you will charge for those extras that you can send to a client if they make this request. 

This 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.

You should also consider increasing your prices yearly based on your progress as an artist. Self-reflection is incredibly important for your freelance 2D animation career, as this will allow you to see your progress. 

Compare how long it takes to complete tasks, increase or decrease your prices accordingly, and don’t be afraid to try different methods of pricing your 2D animation work. Again, stay true to what you’ve accomplished.

  1. The Art of Negotiation

GIF via Central Capital Fund

The key to negotiating with your animation clients is to let them know what you can do for them. The focus shouldn’t be on you and your 2D animation skills but your potential client and their needs. 

Ask them about their goals and objectives for the video. Then let them know how you can meet their needs and the impact your animated video can have on their business. 

To aid in your negotiation with a client, you can research other 2D animators’ rates to give you a comparison to show the client. This will show them you know what your work is worth and what they should pay.

Your animation clients will most likely negotiate with you to lower your prices, so aim to agree with your client on a price in the middle. If you ask for 20% to 30% more money than what you want or need for your services, this can ensure you are still paid for your value even after negotiations.

  1. Setting Up a Contract
an animation contract is essential for 2d animation freelance contract

GIF by Molae - via Behance

Creating an animation contract is essential to protect yourself and your freelance 2D animation business. 

Whether you or the client provide the freelance animation contract, it is essential to clarify the terms as the contract is meant to provide surety and security for both parties involved. 

A great way to ensure this is for the animation contract to be straightforward regarding the payment terms, dates, usage rights, and ownership of any originals. 

While setting up a contract may seem overwhelming, you don’t necessarily need a lawyer’s help to do so. There are many websites with downloadable templates to make the process easier. Here is a list of a few we recommend:

While these websites provide helpful tips and templates for your 2D animation contract, it’s still advisable to enlist the help of a lawyer to make sure you cover all the basics and don’t have any loopholes for your clients to exploit. 

For the ultimate guide on creating an animation contract, you can check out our blog, which gives a comprehensive guide to animation contracts, what makes them viable, and what to include. 

Where to Find Online 2D Animation Work

2d animation work is plentiful online

Image by Anthony Wood via Creative Boom

Now that you know the top tips for pursuing your freelance 2D animation career, you’ll probably want to know where to find work. 

The best option as a freelancer is to advertise your services on job websites. Luckily, there are a lot of websites where freelance 2D animators can find work. Here are some of the best websites to advertise your 2D animation services to clients:

It’s important to mention that some of these websites have high competition, low-quality clients, commissions deducted from your pay, limits to growing your brand, and provide an unstable source of income. For this reason, it’s important to do your research for the best website that will suit your needs. 

Following Your Freelance 2D Animation Career Path

Following your dream of pursuing a 2D animation career can be daunting, but it’s not as bad as it seems. If you follow the tips provided in this blog, the process should be much easier. 

For an extra boost in your freelance 2D animation career, you can consider enrolling in our Animation Accelerator Program. This is the only program designed to help animators build successful freelance animation careers and studios. 

You can also check out our free marketing handbook and master class, as well as our blog post on how to start your own animation studio.

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