“Most industries have a skills gap somewhere, and the animation industry is no exception.”Lucy Lee, Animation Author
Most creative industries have skill gaps and the animation industry is no exception. Animation skill gaps make it hard for animation studios and clients to hire suitable animators for the job.
Animation skills gaps can be your downfall if you’re a freelance animator as even the most experienced animators have trouble keeping up with the ever-changing animation landscape. For this reason, developing your skills to fill your animation skill gaps is essential to finding success as a freelance animator.
Whether you’re still trying to find your animation niche or if you’re well-established in the animation industry, diversifying your skill set and getting to know more about a different type of animation can boost your potential in the industry in meaningful ways.
As an animator, you never really know enough since animation is arguably one of the hardest things to master. There is always something out there to upskill that will make you a better animator. As an animator, you should constantly be learning, even if you think you know it all.
Being a freelance animator means staying at the top of your game to keep attracting clients in a highly competitive industry. One way you can do this is by making sure your animation skills are on par with current industry standards.
In this blog, we discuss which animation skill gaps are most prominent in the animation industry and what you can do to upskill these skills to be successful as a freelance animator.
Understanding Animation Skill Gaps
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There are many reasons for skills gaps in the animation industry. These animation skill gaps are influenced by factors such as animators who are new to the role, incomplete employee training, new technology, new products and services, and new working practices.
According to ScreenSkills, there is a 48% perceived skills gap in the animation industry. These skills mainly include soft skills, but there is also a considerable skill gap in animation software.
The main reason is that animators are taught to use certain software when they attend college, and animation studios and professionals often use different software for their work. For this reason, it’s very important to keep up to date with what animation software is preferred by industry professionals.
When looking at animation job roles with the most skill gaps, some particular problem areas include storyboard artists, 2D and 3D animators, business development/commercial roles, and producers. Considering these roles make up the majority of job roles in the animation industry, it’s important to know what skill gaps there are so you can fill them.
Evidence gathered by Animation UK suggests that a key issue in the industry is the expectation for animators to work across a range of software depending on the project. However, many animators are trained in only a few animation software, which presents a problem for the industry.
This organization also states that among the most important animation skill gaps to fill are creative training and training related to project development. Next is finance, business, or legal training, which are less of a priority but still valuable to animation clients.
This training is exactly why the Business of Animation blog was started and aims to help you in your journey to becoming a freelance animator. Our Animation Accelerator Program is the only program designed to help animators build successful freelance animation careers and studios.
The impact of animation skills on the wider creative sector is important to consider, especially because the most sought-after digital skill is animation. For this reason, it’s important to consider which animation skill gaps you need to upskill to be successful in the industry.
To do this, let’s take a look at some of the most common animation skill gaps you need to upskill:
Common Animation Skill Gaps
- Time Management and Meeting Deadlines
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As a freelance animator, you’ll often be working on multiple projects with tight deadlines and for long hours. For this reason, learning time management skills is essential if you want to succeed as a freelance animator.
As an animator, one of the skills you need to learn is how to be proficient at juggling a lot of work in a short time. Without effective time management, deadlines will be missed, and productivity will go down, negatively impacting your success and client relations.
For tips on time management, check out this video that explains 10 ways to manage your time more effectively to be more productive.
- Teamwork and Communication Skills
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Animators rarely work in complete isolation. Even when you work as a solo freelance animator, you must constantly collaborate with animation clients and IT support to ensure everything runs smoothly.
Collaboration ensures that your projects are completed to the fullest satisfaction of your animation clients, therefore building stronger client relations. Having good communication skills is, therefore, an integral animation skill to help you achieve success.
Communication skills entail more than just being able to talk to people; you have to learn how to resolve disagreements and explain your contributions to projects.
Reliable communication is an essential animation skill as you need to be able to explain your ideas or concerns to others clearly and succinctly.
Communication doesn’t only benefit animators in the workplace with their colleagues but with animation clients as well. Building strong client relations is essential to success as a freelance animator as you completely rely on client support.
To learn more about how to improve communication with animation clients, check out this blog outlining 6 ways to improve client relations. These range from verbal to visual communication, and this blog is a great place to start if you want to work on your animation skills!
- Multitasking, Prioritizing, and Project Management
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Juggling different projects and tasks takes discipline and organizational animation skills to stay on top of priorities. Many animators often overlook the importance of a strong organizational system, not realizing that it can make the daily tasks of animation much easier to manage.
Like time management, learning organization as an animator is crucial to increasing productivity and client satisfaction.
Keeping all relevant files for an animation project organized in different folders will decrease the time it may take to find a specific file. Staying organized is an essential animation skill if you want to be successful in a collaborative career with many moving parts.
This will also teach you how to effectively organize your schedule to stay ahead of deadlines and the projects you need to complete.
Check out our blog on tips for organizing your animation business which outlines how to reach success by organizing your animation business!
- Software Knowledge
Image by Bernadette Johnson via How Stuff Works
Animation UK’s report on skill gaps in the animation industry produced interesting results regarding software knowledge. Of all the animation studios that took part in the survey, most of them agreed that software knowledge is the biggest concern and the area with the most specific set of requirements for prospective animators.
Specific software requirements, competencies in the animation pipeline, and technical specifics were on the list regarding animation skill gaps.
While studios that produce 2D content have largely moved away from Adobe Animate (Adobe Flash) into Toon Boom Harmony packages, many studios use less common software such as Cel Action and Moho for their 2D content.
Studios creating CGI content largely use Autodesk Maya, with some now moving towards open access software such as Blender.
From this survey, it’s clear that animators, whether they work in a studio or as freelancers, need to be in the know about what software is being used.
What You Can Do to Upskill Your Animation Skills
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With all this said, you might wonder how to improve your animation skills. You can improve your animation skills on the side to ensure your animation portfolio stands out from all the rest.
Improving your animation skills and getting better at animation is a lifelong journey, so make sure you create a fun learning process that will keep you motivated.
- Take Online Animation Courses
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Adding to your animation skills while you work can be tough. But some great options can fit your schedule, budget, and professional goals. For freelance animators of every skill level, there are countless 2D and 3D animation courses and courses for everything in between to take advantage of.
Time might not always be on your side, and your financial situation might not allow for paid short courses at colleges. But because freelance animators are in high demand, many courses cater to the needs of freelance animators.
Several types of courses are available to expand your animation skill. Some of these include expert-led courses and courses that offer practical experience. Consider things like reviews, time and budget, and flexibility before signing up for anything.
Here is a list of some animation courses that can help you develop your animation skills and build on your résumé to succeed as a freelance animator:
- Maya For Beginners: Complete Guide To 3D Animation In Maya taught by Hollywood-renowned 3D animator Lucas Ridley.
- If you’re a stop-motion animator or want to learn about it, you can check out Stop Motion For Beginners: Create Expert Animations in Dragonframe taught by Dina Amin. Dina is an accomplished teacher and producer with a passion for animation.
- Mixed Media Animation in Procreate is an animation course that teaches you how to develop a video from start to finish on an iPad Pro. The creator, Caroline Kjellberg, also provides tips on developing your animation style within a real-world context.
- Borja Holke offers an online animation course, Animation for Typographic Compositions, which is one of the best online courses for motion graphics.
Another option for developing your animation skills is finding YouTube tutorials and guides. For example, Animation Mentor’s YouTube channel is a valuable free resource that tutorials on everything from 3D creature animation to 3D animation workflow tips. Other YouTube channels like Nation of Bricks, TipTut, and Michael Parks also offer tutorial videos on animation.
These courses aren’t just for beginners but can be used by experienced professional animators as refresher courses and to stay up to date with animation technology and software.
However, if you’re looking for something a bit more advanced, you can take a look at Digital Learning Solutions’ Advanced CGI/VFX Compositing online animation course. This is a top-rated advanced CGI master class that combines the organization's expertise in filmmaking, visual effects production, broadcast television, and motion graphics
Are you still wondering how to upskill your animation skill? Take a look at our blog for a comprehensive guide on what courses you can take.
- Be Receptive to Feedback and Criticism
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Criticism is important for any artist because it will make their work better, and animators also need some criticism from time to time.
Getting feedback from people more advanced than you will improve your animation skills. Criticism from a director or animation client might make you feel bad about your work, but this simply means that they think you can do better.
You should see criticism and feedback as an opportunity to push yourself further and improve your animation skill.
As a freelance animator running their business, criticism and feedback can be what helps you turn it into a success because it will push you always to do even better than you think you can.
- Learn New Animation Skills From the Experts
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Learning from people with years of experience in the animation industry is a great way to upskill your animation skills. Looking up to amazing animators and learning from their styles, how they run their businesses, or how they come up with original ideas is a great way to get started on your journey to success as a freelance animator.
Pluralsight also recommends you pick up some of the most-loved animation books to help you improve your animation skills.
These books include “The Illusion of Life” by Frank Thomas and Ollie Johnston and “The Animator’s Survival Kit” by Richard Williams. These are seminal texts in the world of animation and lay the foundation for all animators looking to succeed in the industry.
These books provide a treasure trove of information on how to improve your animation skills and are vital to any freelance animator running their own animation business.
- Continue to Work on Your Drawing Skills
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Continually working on your drawing skills is important, even if you primarily work as a 3D animator where software is mainly used.
Being able to draw well is an animation skill that will serve you throughout your animation career, and you’ll find that it helps you understand the anatomy of your characters much better. In turn, you will better understand how these characters and creatures move.
Utilizing this animation skill will help you improve the quality of your 3D animations even more, which will help you stand out from other freelance animators.
- Find Sources of Inspiration to Keep You Motivated
Image by Matt Ellis via 99 Designs
One of the most essential things to keep in mind when filling in your animation skill gaps is that you need to stay motivated. Staying motivated and excited about your animation requires you to find sources of inspiration that can continue to push you to do your best and try new things when you’re feeling unmotivated.
You can find inspiration to improve your animation skills by following other animators you admire on social media and YouTube. Keeping up with what they are doing is a great way to stay inspired, and it might even give you that extra little push to try new animation techniques and styles yourself.
You can also list your favorite animated movies and rewatch some of them whenever you need inspiration. Being reminded of what you aspire to be able to do as a freelance animator will give you that extra push and hopefully help you to feel motivated to improve your animation skills with renewed enthusiasm.
Watching these movies frame by frame can also help you identify great animated moments. Pay closer attention to the shots that stand out to you, and use your animation skills to figure out how certain animated sequences were created.
This is a great way to learn new animation skills you can practice and implement in your work.
- Keep Up With New Animation Trends and Technology
GIF by Aslan Almukhambetov via Medium
As a freelance animator, it’s essential to keep up with animation trends and new technological developments to make sure you stay in the loop and know what your animation clients want. Knowing what’s new in the animation industry is crucial for taking steps to improve your animation skills.
Animation changes as frequently as technology, so make sure you’re constantly plugged into the world of animation via social media, YouTube, and your favorite websites, so you don’t fall behind.
Keeping up with animation trends is an invaluable animation skill that will ensure you always deliver work that is fresh and fun, utilizing the latest trends, and animation technology and techniques.
- Never Stop Practicing Your Animation Skills
Every animator will come to a point in their career where they feel like they’ve learned all there is to learn and developed all the necessary skills to succeed, but this simply isn’t true. Once you reach that point, you need to keep practicing.
The beauty of animation is that it will always continue to evolve, and your animation skills need to follow suit. As an animator, you can never stop learning and developing your animation skills.
No matter how good an animator you are, there will always be something new to learn. If you fail to keep up with the changes and new developments in the animation industry, you will fall behind at some point. Other animators who keep up with the new techniques and trends will snag your animation clients because of their fresh knowledge and techniques.
Always continue to practice your animation skills and allow them to evolve as new technology and trends emerge. This way, you will always have something fresh and new to present to your animation clients, and you’ll continually become a better animator as your animation skills continue to advance.
Identifying Animation Skill Gaps and Finding Success as a Freelance Animator
Like in any other industry, there are skill gaps in the animation industry that you need to be aware of so you can work on how to fill them.
Continually developing and practicing your animation skills must stay on top of trends and new developments. But you should also pay attention to what animation studios and clients want and what they consider major animation skill gaps in the industry.
Paying close attention to these trends will allow you to stay ahead of the pack in a competitive and ever-evolving industry.
For advice on what animation skill gaps to look out for, check out this blog by NaturalFront exploring the gaps in the animation industry.
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.