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How to Launch Your Animation Startup as a Freelancer

ben marvazi 2020

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Why Your Animation Startup Matters

The animation industry is thriving. With advancements in technology, animation skills are prized in various sectors - from movies to video games, digital marketing, or even educational content. 

The global market is hungry for high-quality animation, and the industry is expected to continue its upward trajectory for years to come. But what does this mean for you, especially if you're a freelancer in the animation field?

It means opportunity—opportunity to scale, to innovate, and to carve out your own space in the animation industry.

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Maybe you've been freelancing for a while, honing your skills on various projects and pondering the next step in your career. Or perhaps you're fresh out of animation school, armed with a reel of your best work and wondering how to make your mark. Either way, you might be contemplating the idea of starting your own animation startup.

If that's the case, you've landed in the perfect spot. This blog is designed to be your roadmap for launching your very own animation startup. We'll delve into the nitty-gritty details, from the initial stages of business planning to the complexities of client acquisition. 

Whether you're a seasoned freelancer or a newbie animator, this guide aims to equip you with the knowledge and strategies you need to transition from a solo venture to a full-fledged animation startup.

Business Planning: Crafting the Blueprint for Your Animation Startup Success

Create a Business Model
colored bars in a bar graph moving up and down


The first and arguably most crucial step in launching your animation startup is to decide on a business model that aligns with your skills, interests, and market demand. Are you passionate about 2D animation, or does the world of 3D animation excite you more? 

Maybe you have a knack for creating compelling explainer videos that can help businesses simplify complex ideas. Or perhaps, you're interested in character design for video games, a sector that has seen exponential growth in recent years.

Your chosen business model will serve as the cornerstone of your animation startup. It will dictate not just the kind of projects you'll work on but also the types of clients you'll serve. 

This decision will influence your marketing strategies, the talent you'll need to hire, and even the equipment and software you'll need to invest in. So, take your time to research, evaluate your own strengths and weaknesses, and choose a business model that you can excel in.

Financial Planning
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Once you've zeroed in on a business model, the next step is to get down to the brass tacks of financial planning. This involves a deep dive into the numbers that will make or break your animation startup. 

Start by creating a comprehensive budget that outlines all the possible expenses you'll incur. This should include startup costs like equipment and software, operational expenses such as salaries and utilities, and marketing budgets for promoting your services.

But a budget isn't just about listing expenses; it's also about projecting potential revenue streams. Will you have one primary source of income, such as client projects, or will you diversify with things like animation courses or merchandise? 

a hand bouncing yellow coins

GIF by JustStartInvesting via GIPHY

Understanding your potential earnings will not only give you a clearer picture of your animation startup's financial viability but also make it significantly easier to secure funding, whether it's through loans, grants, or investors.

Financial planning is the backbone of your animation startup. It provides a clear roadmap for your business journey, helping you navigate through financial challenges and opportunities that come your way. 

A well-thought-out financial plan can be the difference between a startup that struggles and one that soars.

Funding Your Animation Startup

Self-Funding vs. Outside Investment

When it comes to securing the capital for your animation venture, you essentially have two avenues: self-funding, commonly known as bootstrapping, or pursuing external investment. 

If you opt for self-funding, you'll be using your personal savings or the income from your freelance work to finance your startup operations. Alternatively, external investment can be sourced from various places.  Consider angel investors, venture capital firms, or even specialized grants.

a Simpsons character in a hot tub with a cigar saying, "hello, American investor."


Specialized Grants and Business Loans

Should you decide to go the route of external investment, you might want to look into grants and loans that are tailored for new businesses or those in the creative sector. These financial resources can offer the additional capital you require without necessitating the surrender of company ownership.

How to Set Up Your Studio

Invest In Equipment and Software

Your animation startup will need the right tools to produce high-quality work. This includes powerful computers, specialized animation software, and possibly even a studio space. Make sure to budget for these essentials in your financial planning.

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Hire Your Team

As a freelancer, you might be used to doing everything yourself. However, as your animation startup grows, you'll need to hire a team to help manage the workload. Whether it's additional animators, a marketing team, or administrative support, plan for these hires in your business model.

How to Land Your First Animation Startup Client

Finding Your First Animation Client

Landing your first client is more than just a milestone; it's a rite of passage for your animation startup. It's the moment where theory meets practice, and your business plan is put to the test. But how do you go about finding this all-important first client?

Start by tapping into your existing network. Reach out to former colleagues, classmates, and even friends and family to let them know about your new venture. Personal connections can often lead to your first project, and there's an added level of trust when working with someone you know.

Don't underestimate the power of industry events, either. Conferences, workshops, and trade shows provide a golden opportunity to meet potential clients face-to-face. Prepare a compelling elevator pitch and bring along some business cards and a portfolio to showcase your work.

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Freelance platforms are another avenue worth exploring. Websites like Upwork, Freelancer, and Toptal can be a good starting point to find clients who are already looking for animation services. While these platforms do take a commission, they offer a straightforward way to get your first project.

Remember, the first client is often the hardest to secure, but they pave the way for future opportunities. They give you not just revenue but also a case study, a testimonial, and potentially, a long-term relationship that can lead to more work.

Building Your Animation Client Base

After you've successfully onboarded your inaugural client, your immediate focus should shift to exceeding their expectations. A content client can serve multiple roles: they can vouch for your services through testimonials, introduce you to new opportunities, and even become a repeat customer.

While personal recommendations are invaluable, they shouldn't be your sole method for attracting new business. As your animation venture expands, you'll need to cultivate a varied clientele to guarantee a consistent inflow of projects. This is where your marketing acumen comes into the picture.

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GIF by Kyocera via GIPHY

Platforms such as LinkedIn, Twitter, and Instagram offer excellent avenues for displaying your portfolio and interacting with both current and potential clients. 

You might also consider implementing targeted advertising campaigns to connect with prospects who aren't already in your network and doing some research into SEO (Search Engine Optimization) for a website or blog.

Networking and Mentorship: Your Animation Startup's Secret Weapons

The Value of Industry Connections

Networking is crucial in any industry, but it's especially vital to network in the animation sector. Building strong industry connections can lead to more client referrals, collaboration opportunities, and even potential funding sources.

purple shapes expanding to represent the expanse of your network

GIF by Krepling via GIPHY

How to Find a Mentor

A mentor can provide invaluable advice, offer constructive criticism, and help you navigate the challenges of running an animation startup. 

Look for mentors in industry events, online forums, among your existing contacts, or through programs like the Animation Business Accelerator.

Your Animation Startup Journey Awaits

Starting an animation startup as a freelancer is no small feat, but with careful planning, funding, and a strong network, it's more than possible. You've got the skills and the passion—now all you need is the business acumen to bring your animation startup to life.

If you’re ready to take your animation career to the next level, remember that your first steps don’t have to be difficult. Our Animation Business Accelerator Program provides insights, resources, and a supportive community to help professionals navigate the evolving landscape. 

If you’re an animator who’s looking to start your own studio or grow your career, check out our blog on How to Start an Animation Studio to kickstart your animation career today, or give our free Masterclass a try first if you’re curious.

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