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How Animators Get Experience without Animation Internships

The life of an animator in the past goes something a little like this. 

Go to school and earn your degree. Next, find an unpaid internship at a major animation studio. Make coffee and draw fan art for a year or two. Leave the studio with great coffee-making skills. 

Not sounding as appealing as you thought, right? 

In this blog, we’ll be picking apart animation internships. We will understand the good and the bad of animation internships and learn why they have become the status quo for new animators. 

We’ll decide whether or not we want to buy into the animation internship world. And, if we decide we don’t want to become an intern, we’ll look at what steps we can take as a freelance animator to gain experience in the animation industry. 

Animation Internships, Why All The Hype? 

a confused lizard who doesn't get the hype of animation internships

GIF by Cheezburger via Giphy

This blog is not designed to discredit all animation internships, online or in-studio, they have credibility and can be somewhat valuable. But, let’s face it, the idea of doing grunt work for little-to-no pay is a bit antiquated. 

Animation internships have their place though, especially before the computers made work as accessible as it is now. 

Before the digital age, animation was an incredibly niche industry and was confined to mostly entertainment purposes. Animation studios used to be the only producers of animated content, and having an “in” at an animation studio would give you a huge advantage.

Getting a job in animation was exceedingly difficult because there really weren’t that many around. And learning the skills you needed to get a job as an animator was even harder, without the online masterclasses and courses we see today. 

utilizing your animation internships and resources for your freelance career is easy

GIF by Simpsons World via Giphy

Programs like the Business of Animation Masterclass are making it easier to be a successful animator, without the necessity for animation internships.

The idea of “getting your foot in the door” is one thing, but how much is being someone’s ghost artist helping you achieve your goals as an animator, especially if you are hoping to become a freelance animator?

This dogma has been carried by the animation industry until this day, although “intern” has become a very loosely used phrase. Let’s clear some things up quickly before we go any further. 

Being an intern does not, and should not, mean unpaid labor in exchange for exposure. Intern also does not mean coffee fetcher or errand-runner. Intern does not mean undercover fan artist to boost your company’s apparent social standings and believe me, it happens.

The world we find ourselves in today is vastly different from the one in the 50s and 60s. Heck, even the type of animations we make is different! 

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. 

But, if you’re still considering an internship as your next career step, there are some points that you should be aware of. 

Animation Internship Pros & Cons 

animation internships pros and cons aren't bad

GIF by HyperX via Giphy 

If you’re looking for some quick input into whether or not you should be signing up for an animation internship, look no further! 

We’ve got you covered! 

PROs CONs
- Easy entry into the animation industry 
- Capacity for immediate in-person networking 
- Experience of bigger animation studios 
- Potential for exploitation and time-wasting
- Inability to grow in the styles of animation you really enjoy 
- Issues with building a portfolio that really displays your truest interests 

Feeling good about your chances at an animation internship? Great! Good luck and make sure you’re not being exploited. Is anyone else feeling less-than-sure? 

Let’s take a look at what else we can do to get ourselves set up in the Animation Industry  industry. 

What You Can Do Instead Of An Animation Internship

You don’t learn to walk by following rules. You learn by doing, and by falling over.

Richard Branson

There are so many ways you can assert yourself in the animation industry, animation industry besides grinding it out at an animation internship. The best thing is, you get to choose! This is your animation journey, and you are now able to design it however you want to. 

Start Your Animation Freelancing Journey!

how to start your freelance animation career from animation internships

GIF by Rasendareza via Giphy

You can sit around with your coveted Studio Animation Internship, following orders and hoping that somewhere along the way you will gain the expertise you are looking for to kickstart your own career. 

But, chances are you will have a harder time developing your own style and building your own base if you are under the thumb of a studio, especially one that has dubbed you ‘intern”. You didn’t do all that work to make people coffee, did you?

If your plan was to freelance from the very beginning, why are you going into a studio or online animation internship? This choice will effectively move you further away from your real goal. 

Instead, spend that time creatively. Focus on your own skills and develop a style that will set you apart from others. 

Build a Solid Portfolio 

build an animation website

GIF by Alvaro Abrante via Giphy 

Animation is all about the real, tangible experience. Your portfolio is your social proof of the work you are capable of doing at a high level. 

In the time spent not interning for someone else, you can perfect your demo reel. Building a demo reel is intimidating at first, but with enough time and the correct tools, It is one of the most exciting things you can do as an animator. 

With a strong demo reel and portfolio, you can now build an interactive website that you can send potential clients to.  

Once you’ve laid the groundwork, and you have a demo reel and website you are proud of, share it far and wide! 

If you do decide on an animation internship though, you will still be able to gain the experiences you need to build a good portfolio. 

It is important to note though that this portfolio might not be of the exact style you’re looking for, as you will be completing someone else’s work and ideas.

Finding an animation studio with an animation internship that closely aligns with your goals is going to be a challenge, not impossible, but a challenge. 

While you are working for your animation internship, you are going to have some exciting opportunities to meet people and form strong networks. These networks are most likely the true advantage of an animation internship. 

But that does not mean your dreams of an animation internship-less life are over. On the contrary, there are many ways that you can meet animators, form business networks, and build animation communities without interning. 

Meet Other Animators and Build a Good Network 

your dream animation network can be built from animation internships

GIF by Build Your Dream Network via Giphy 

The animation industry is made of people, and it is through people that you will find the “in” you need. 

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. 

Each of these animation communities have a specific flavor, and not all of them are going to appeal to you. But, try them all out. Go to their online or in-person forums, get to know them, and remember, when we are networking, we are trying to form meaningful connections. 

You would much rather freelance with your friend than with a stranger right? Exactly! Make friends with people, and be open and honest about yourself. 

How is Networking Different From an Animation Internship? 

When you are animation business networking you are the master of the environment. You get to choose who and what you share with the people around you. Everything you do is completely for your benefit 

A major part of your networking should be to find a solid animation mentor. These animation mentors are your fast track to animation success and you should learn as much from them as you can. 

Not sure where to begin choosing a mentor? We’ve got you covered.  

Be Willing to Constantly Better Yourself 

work in hustle mode as a freelance animator after your animation internship

GIF by Raghav Bansal via Giphy

Becoming a freelance animator is an act that will empower you. But, it does not come without its prerequisites. 

For one, as a freelance animator and not an animation intern, you must ask for advice often, and listen especially well to any negative feedback you might receive. Your feedback is one of your closest allies if you know how to listen to it correctly. 

Take this feedback and do some self-reflection. Next, make a list of all the aspects of your animation that you really suck at. Now that you’ve done that, animate as many of these elements as often as you can.

As a freelancer, you need to be the sharpest pencil in that pencil case, and this is the sure-fire way to become that. 

Knowledge is everywhere, and as a freelance animator, you must be hungry for it. Do as many online courses as you can to teach yourself the ins and outs of the industry. 

Sites like the Business of Animation should be your first stop when building up your knowledge base. 

Animation Internships: It’s Your Turn, Not An Animation Intern… 

Animation internships, especially unpaid ones, are outdated and do not provide the same level of industry access as they once did. 

You have all the tools you need to start out as a freelance animator at your disposal online, in your community networks, and with your mentor. It is your responsibility as a freelance animator to utilize these tools and better yourself constantly. 

The Business Of Animation has three exciting tools for you to use to help you independently and successfully navigate your animation career.

You can watch the Business Of Animation Free Masterclass, download a copy of our free marketing handbook, and check out our blog on “How to Start an Animation Studio”!

The animation career you want is out there for you, you just need to go out there and get it!

And, let’s be honest, that is worth so much more than getting someone’s coffee, right?

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