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A Guide to Acquiring Animation Experience for Freelancers

ben marvazi 2020

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“The critical thing is to not only have some experience but also ensure you stand out head and shoulder above the other applicants so you can land your dream role.”

experience as an animator helps you find success

GIF by Rick and Morty via Giphy

To become an animator – whether that be in a studio or a freelancer with your own freelance animation business – you will require some level of animation experience to get started. 

Getting any job or starting your own company in any profession can be difficult, and it, therefore, requires some level of industry experience. This is true for most other professions, and the challenge often lies with how you can acquire this experience. 

Most people aren’t willing to hire someone straight out of college because they lack the required work experience to fill the role successfully. And while it is possible to get a job as an animator with no experience,  many animators spend several years producing independent content and building up their portfolios before applying for an entry-level job in this industry.

This is also true for freelance animators, as animation clients are apprehensive about hiring someone with little to no animation experience. 

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

There are many different ways in which you can acquire 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.

In this blog, we discuss how you can acquire animation experience and why it is important for you to gain animation experience for your career. We also go over some potential jobs you can do to acquire animation experience. 

Why Animation Experience is Important

its important that you have animation experience in the industry

GIF by The Hills via Giphy

If you want to start a freelance animation business, you’ll need animation experience to ensure the right level of productivity to manage cash flow to keep your business afloat effectively. Your overall aim as a freelance animator is to be profitable and produce high-quality work for your animation clients. 

The same is true for animation studios which will want the freelancers they hire to have the right amount of experience to ensure they can do the work properly and on time. Experienced animators are seen as safer options to hire, especially if a project has an imminent deadline. 

Studios and clients often look for specific skills before they are willing to hire an animator to work on an animation project. Another reason why you might want to acquire animation experience is for personal development.

Animation experience often requires you to level up different skills, and this cannot only help you in finding animation clients, but you will also learn valuable life skills as well. 

How to Get Animation Experience

Getting animation experience can be difficult, especially when most studios look for at least one to three years of professional experience when hiring staff for junior roles not to mention the high expectations from animation clients when they are looking to hire a skilled animator for their very specific 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.

  • Low-Paid Animation Work
low paid work is always available and gives animation experience

GIF by Spiderbat36 via Tenor

Acquiring animation experience can start at the college level by completing animation internships to gain valuable, hands-on animation experience. That being said, you certainly don’t have to participate in internships to acquire animation experience, as you can just as easily get experience without animation internships

While animation internships can be valuable, doing jobs no one wants to do for minimal pay doesn’t sound all that enjoyable. Animation internships do offer you easy entry into the animation industry as well as an opportunity for immediate networking and experience with bigger animation studios. 

But internships also have their downsides. Inexperienced animators are often exploited, and they cannot grow in the styles of animation they enjoy. Not to mention the issues with building your portfolio since you’ll mostly be acting as a ghost artist. 

There are so many ways to jumpstart your career and develop your skills as an animator that don’t require you to enter into the animation internship world.

Your journey toward acquiring animation experience has to start with you accepting the fact that animators with little animation experience often aren’t paid very much for their work.

But this can be used to your advantage as low-paid work will help you build your animation portfolio and help you gain valuable animation experience. This experience includes learning how to work with animation clients, important time-management skills, people skills, and also how to price your work properly. 

Consider pitching for low-paid freelance work on one of the many freelancer websites such as Behance, Freelancer, Simply Hired, Envato Studios, Linkedin, Twine, Fiverr, and Upwork. This will help you build valuable animation experience, and it’s a great introduction to the world of paid animation work.

You can also volunteer with local non-profits or schools and contribute your animation skills for educational videos. These experiences will help you build your portfolio and boost your resume.

  • Personal Projects
animators can get experience by doing personal work

Image by Gaetano Sferrazza via Unsplash

An effective way to continue to develop your skills to find work for acquiring animation experience is to build up your portfolio of work for your showreel. To do this, you can spend time on personal projects, whether it’s a solo project or collaboration.

Having a project to focus on can be incredibly beneficial as it gives you something to work on, and it also instantly shows a potential employer that you’re an empowered individual with a real passion for creative work.

You can also enter your projects into competitions. This can also be something to highlight in your CV and help get the word out that you’re a talented new animator that should be picked up quickly by any studio. Again, allowing you to acquire animation experience working in the industry.

Personal projects are also important for keeping your passion alive. Constantly searching for paid work and getting rejected can be morally draining. Not only that, but doing personal projects will also help you develop extra skills, give you more control over your work, and give you the freedom to experiment with your art. 

Personal projects will allow you to practice managing more tasks, thereby granting you more animation experience. This is because you’re responsible for strategizing, storyboarding, animating, organizing, designing, post-producing, and more of every project you take on. 

You’ll learn more by doing personal projects because you see a project through from start to finish. In contrast, you don’t learn as much by just animating for part of someone else’s project.

You also have the freedom to experiment with different things, and the fear of failure isn’t a deterrent because there is no risk of losing money or animation clients if you do end up failing. 

Personal projects will most likely not allow you to earn money, but they allow you to experiment with different kinds of animation styles and also develop you animation experience. They can also help improve your animation skills if you make projects that are challenging enough to get you out of your comfort zone.

Personal projects also grant you the opportunity to improve your portfolio or showreel. By showcasing your animation in your showreel or portfolio, you might eventually find yourself in talks with one of your dream clients. Not only that, but it also grants you networking opportunities by being able to collaborate with other creative professionals. 

  • Build Essential Animator Business Skills
you can get essential skills through animation experience

GIF via Giphy

Becoming a freelance animator is an ideal choice for most animators as this offers you creative freedom and control over your work. But there are a few things to keep in mind before becoming a freelancer and starting your own freelance animation business. 

For one, you have to constantly be thinking about how to better yourself and your animator skills as well as how to acquire enough animation experience. One of the easiest ways to do this is to ask for advice from more experienced animators and also listen especially well to any negative feedback you might receive from animation clients.

By taking this feedback and doing some self-reflection, you can make a list of all the aspects of your animation that you aren’t as good at. You can then move on to animating as many of these elements as possible to develop your skills and to ensure you’re as well-rounded as you can be by building up animation experience. 

This will also improve your portfolio and showreel by demonstrating your diverse skillset. As a freelancer, you need to be the sharpest pencil in that pencil case, and this is the sure-fire way to become that. 

Developing your skills is only one element of gaining animation experience. You also have to learn as much as you can from mentors, other freelance animators, and experienced experts in the industry. You can also do as many online courses as you can to teach yourself the ins and outs of the industry.

While basic animator skills like software knowledge, design, and illustration are important to know as a freelance animator, there are other essential skills you can add to your repertoire to give you an edge over the competition.

It's valuable for you to research what animation software is in demand in the industry. While you may have been taught one or two animation software while studying, it’s good to expand your knowledge to not limit your overall value and opportunity for finding freelance animation jobs. 

Another good skill to have is finance. The discipline and knowledge it takes to manage your finances as a freelance animator is not easy. Animation is a life-long journey, and handling your finances well will ensure you are in it for the long haul. 

Together with finances, business skills are also essential if you want to acquire animation experience, as this will give you a head start on finding work. 

Business is what makes the world go around. If you learn some of the basic principles of business, your whole life and your life as an animator will be better. 

Besides business and finance skills, knowing how to advertise your skills is essential to acquiring clients and keeping an animation business afloat. 

  • Advertise Your Animation Skills
advertise your animation skills through digital marketing

GIF by White Paper Communications via Giphy

To effectively advertise your services to get jobs that enable you to acquire animation experience, you can build a showreel and put together a portfolio of your work. This will allow potential animation clients to see what you can do.

A demo reel will showcase the best sequences you have animated in your career and demonstrate your animation experience to potential clients. You can link to your demo reel on your website and even create different demo reels for different types of animation for your job search since many employers look at demo reels as part of an application.

Your portfolio should include your best work from internships and volunteer opportunities and reflect the kind of work you want to do. Many freelance animators have online portfolios, so they can easily share their work.

With a strong demo reel and portfolio, you can now build an interactive animation website that you can send potential clients to. Here, they can see all of the animation experience you have and be confident that you are the right person for the job.

You also have to learn how to market yourself and your skills, and there are many ways to do this. This is where marketing and sales skills come in. 

It’s essential for you as a freelance animator to develop marketing and sales skills, as this is important for acquiring animation clients and keeping an animation business afloat. Marketing your freelance animation business as well as your animation experience and skills can be done in a few different ways. 

These include paid marketing, organic marketing, cold calling, and email marketing, and you can even use social media as an affordable yet effective marketing tool. If you want more information on these marketing strategies, you can view the blogs on our website. 

You can advertise your services on different social media platforms such as Instagram and Linkedin. Affiliate marketing is also a great option if you have a website.

If you’re interested in learning about different marketing techniques, the Business of Animation blog has many blogs covering these different techniques. One of the most helpful blogs teaches you how to run profitable animation ads. Some of the tips include knowing your target audience, thinking of effective solutions, and testing your headline and thumbnail. 

Some of the most helpful blogs include how to make an animation marketing framework, which gives you a step-by-step guide on how to create an effective marketing framework for your freelance animation business. 

  • Networking in the Animation Industry
networking in the animation industry

GIF via Tenor

Networking is essential for getting people to notice you as an animator and to get some animation experience. This is especially important in the animation industry as it is comprised of people. You, therefore, also need the necessary people skills to start networking and get your foot in the door. 

You will find potential networks by joining forums, going to conferences, or joining art clubs. There are ready-made animation communities out there that you can choose from, learn from, and integrate yourself into.

Not all of these animation communities will fit your personality as each of them have its own style and attract different crowds. It’s helpful to try out a bunch of different online communities to see what you like and if there are people who you can connect with.

Many animators attend courses offered by major animation studios, as performing well in these can help you make connections in the industry. You can also start approaching the companies you’d like to work for or who may at least be able to provide some much-needed animation experience.

Business networking is just as important to 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. After all, it’s much easier to hire someone you know than a stranger.

When you network, you create opportunities for forming friendships and deep connections that will help you learn, get to know the industry around you, and even stand a chance of finding a job. 

When networking, it’s important to remember a few things to make sure you meet the right people at the right time. Always be yourself, try to be as direct as possible while still remaining polite, don’t be afraid to subtly brag about your skills and achievements, and most importantly, make an active effort to go out and meet people.   

How to Acquire Animation Experience as a Freelancer

Having animation experience will ensure a consistent flow of work as you will be able to demonstrate your skills and where you have successfully applied those skills in the industry. 

Remember to develop the necessary skills to stand out among the sea of freelance animators. Taking an effective approach to advertising your services will also ensure you get work to gain experience.

Acquiring animation experience is tough, but it can be done if you know what to do and how to do it.

If you’re looking to grow your animation skills, check out our free masterclass, download a copy of our free marketing handbook, and check out our blog on “How to Start an Animation Studio”!

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