Animation is your life, right?
You live, breathe, think, and see in pixels. Your movements are a series of brush strokes.
Your passion though, you can’t eat it.
Creating strong business networks and finding your first animation client is a challenge at first, but not one beyond you. And, as this network grows and your clients amass, this challenge gets easier and easier.
You just need to know where to start.
And, well, you should start right here.
Landing Your First Animation Client
Preparation and planning are your go-to’s when trying to convince someone to give you money for your animations. Give yourself the best chances at success by developing good business animation networks and curating a thoughtful portfolio to hand out to potential animation clients.
Create A Strong Animation Portfolio
Your animation portfolio is more than just your body of work, although it is that too.
Think of your portfolio as a living being, growing and evolving as you do.
Be consistent in updating your portfolio often, and be mindful of how you structure it.
This is a moment to be critical of minor details, clean up any spelling errors or stylistic inconsistencies.
Remember that your portfolio is an extension of your work ethic, and often is the first piece of work a potential client will see before they hire you. Sweat the small stuff here, it shows that you care about details and professionalism.
Think about how your portfolio presents you to a prospective client, and what you are hoping to convey. There is a toss-up here between specialization and variety.
You want to show that you have a well-defined style (you’ve worked on creating one after all, and it’s good!) and you want people to buy into this style for their work.
But, you also want to show that you are a well-rounded animator that can design a range of interesting and thought-provoking animations. If you can only draw Anime characters, there is a high likelihood that Pizza Hut may skip you by.
When you’re just starting out, it is a great idea to create a generalized portfolio of your work, highlighting how multi-faceted you are as an animator.
Spend time here, learning a variety of different animation styles and techniques, and put those on display!
Keep that Anime only portfolio handy though, and keep creating in the style that makes you excited, there will be time for that too. Read more about how to keep your creative juices flowing while managing your workday in our blog post, “How to best structure your freelance animation workday.”
Get good referrals and attach them to your portfolio. These can be from lecturers, peers, ad hoc work opportunities, any person that will positively explain your work and your ethic.
Now that you’ve done all that, share, share, share! A good portfolio that gets no notice is not a good portfolio. Distribute your work far and wide.
How do you get connections in the animation industry you ask? Read on a little.
The secret to networking with animators is not nearly as awkward as you might think!
How to Network in the Animation Industry
Are animators in demand? Is there enough work out there to go around? How do I get connections in the animation industry?
What even is business networking, and how do you network with animators?
Questions, so many questions! And so many answers to come!
Business networking is a way of creating mutually beneficial relationships between industry professionals and potential clients or customers. Animation networking is just the same. You are creating a pool of experts, potential clients, and suppliers around you, to share ideas and transfer skills and knowledge.
When you build an animation network, you are building the community you need to thrive in the industry.
These animation communities and animation networks are super important because it is much easier to hire an animator you know than it is to hire a stranger. Animation can be a fairly small, niche world, far different from corporate elitism you will find in other industries.
Your main aim when you network with other animators is to create meaningful relationships. Generally, the animators around you will have similar tastes and interests.
When you network, you stand the chance of creating good friendships and deep connections, which helps you learn more, become more in touch with the industry around you, and maybe even land a few jobs!
Inserting yourself into networks of animators and creatives can be stressful and tiring if you do not know where to start. A few tips to get you started before we talk about networking events.
- Be yourself!
Always be authentic when interacting with new people. Present yourself with confidence and back your capabilities. If there are any sweating introverts out there, have a small script of things you can say about yourself, just in case the nervousness kicks in.
- Be direct, but always polite.
Shoving a portfolio into a media execs face at 9 am on a Tuesday morning after waiting outside their office overnight is a great way to get your portfolio looked at -
For the ten seconds, it takes the exec to tell you to go away.
When we network for business, selling our work comes second to creating genuine relationships. The idea is that, once the exec gets to see how incredibly funny you were at the last animation trade show, they will be more willing to look at your comedy animation sketches.
- Back yourself, but not into a conversational corner.
While the temptation is sky-high to rattle off a list of every animation you have ever done upon first meeting a potential network, keep it casual.
Ask people about themselves and make a concerted effort to listen and understand what the other person is saying to you. Ask lots of questions and keep the conversation flowing as naturally as possible.
A business network is a relationship just like any other, getting to know people is what this is all about!
- Meet people!
Shake hands with the person sitting next to you in your first semester Maya class, and the person sitting behind you.
Find as many different ways to meet people in the animation industry as you can and go for it!
Besides what is listed below, going to animation classes is a great way to meet fellow animation professionals and start your personal networking journey.
A few don’ts before we dive into the juicy networking details:
- Don’t be afraid to put yourself out there, the worst that can happen is that the network does not prove fruitful.
- Don’t lie about yourself, your abilities, or the things that make you uncomfortable
- Don’t sell yourself short
- Don’t forget to rest - Meeting people can be exhausting. Give yourself time to recuperate and reflect on what you have learned thus far.
Even today, finding this community of animators is easy enough if you know where to look. Below are some examples of business networking you can use to build your animation networks.
Business Networking Through Animation Forums
Online forums are a great way to connect with like-minded animators without having to leave your home. Join as many as you can.
Avoid the temptation to mute yourself and sit quietly, networking is all about getting yourself noticed and building good relationships. Make yourself seen!
Sites like Reddit and Quora are great places to start.
Follow Animation Blogs
Animation blogs are a great source of information, inspiration, and entertainment.
You cut research time in half if you have a list of reputable animation blogs that you follow on a regular basis. Take this one step further and reach out to the curator of your favorite blogs, asking them for their advice on getting clients and building business networks.
Attend Animation Conferences
Conferences, the in-person forums your grandparents loved!
And with good reason.
Meeting with other animators face to face is a sure-fire way to get new ideas and grow your circle of creatives. Connect with familiar faces at these conferences, and be assertive in meeting and connecting with new animators around you.
Trade shows will introduce you to potential clients too and give you plenty of opportunities to hand out portfolios and sell yourself.
Stay Updated With Animation News
These sites keep you in the know about conferences, forums, and gatherings.
They also keep you informed on developments, ideas, and new strategies.
Cold Calling Animation Clients
Winter is coming… About as ominous-sounding as cold calling.
But, professional industry networking needs some bravery.
Modern cold calling doesn’t necessarily mean sitting on a phone, it also means sending emails with your portfolio. It means arriving at animation houses with a flash drive of your work and not leaving until someone takes it.
Cold calling is about creating an animation network outside of your usual circles and has a high capacity for vastly broadening your animation networking horizons.
Deep breath, take the plunge.
Gaining Animation Clients Through Business Networking
Know Your Worth:
Use your newly formed business networks to develop a wage rate that is compatible with the industry and your current expertise.
Be careful not to sell yourself short with your first few clients, as it is difficult to raise your prices thereafter. Selling yourself short is also selling the expertise of your peers short. Under-selling is not a good look on anyone, use your network here to create a decent industry standard.
Be Adaptable And Consistent:
Be understanding of your animation client's needs, and be willing to adapt to them.
A happy customer is a return customer, and return customers are what your networks are made of.
Get yourself excited for feedback from clients, and be timeous in how you respond to their requests. Many freelance animators or animation studios started out as word-of-mouth alone, keeping your early clients as happy as possible without going against your morals or values is going to be the make or break for your future success.
Start Animation Business Networking Today!
Animation Business Networking is a pretty scary-sounding set of words. However, once unpacked, we see that a network is nothing more than a meaningful connection between two like-minded people within the animation industry. These connections and relationships are organic and mutually beneficial.
You never know when the friendliness you gave a fellow animator will return its good fortune to you!
Get out there and meet people! One of the people you meet is, without even knowing it, is going to become your very first animation client!
To learn more about the business side of animation and how to better price your work, be sure to join Business of Animation’s Accelerator Program. Finally, don’t forget to take a look at our free masterclass and download our free marketing handbook.