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The Secret to How to Get Into the Animation Industry

ben marvazi 2020

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“The animation industry is ripe with opportunity and it’s yours for the taking if you have the potential and are willing to put in the work.”

Osama Khabab, Animator & Writer

So, you went to a top animation school, and you have all the essential skills to become an animator. But have you ever wondered how to get into the animation industry? This blog will outline all the steps you need to take to get your foot in the door.

If you’re just starting in the animation industry, it can be daunting to figure out how to get enough work experience to work in an animation studio. Not only that, but there are many options when it comes to employment ranging from on-site animation studio work to having a freelance animation studio or working as a solo freelance animator.

If you’re struggling to choose between freelance animation or studio animation work, you can be assured that whatever you choose won’t be wrong. It’s completely up to you to decide if the freelance animation lifestyle suits your personality and current situation.

The unstable income of freelance animation work may make you worry a lot, and that may outweigh the freedoms. That being said, freelancing has turned out to be the best option for many animators, including several famous animators who started out as freelancers

While you have more responsibility when you’re a freelance animator, you also have more control of your working hours and rest days, your workload, and the type of projects you choose to do. 

You have the freedom to decide everything when it comes to running your animation business your way.  When you choose to freelance, you choose to have a great work-life balance with a flexible schedule.  Your work will always be interesting as it will vary based on the nature of your client. Freelancing also allows you to take on as much work as you feel comfortable with.

If you still have questions on how to get into the animation industry by starting a freelance animation career, check out our blog on everything you need to know before starting an animation business.  This breaks down all the details you need to consider before starting a freelance animation business. 

6 Easy Steps on How to Get into the Animation Industry

If being your own boss, working your own hours, and being open to many animation opportunities excites you, a freelance career will be your best option. In this blog, we discuss how to get into the animation industry by becoming a freelance animator by sharing six important steps for starting a freelance animation business. 

Step 1: Websites, Showreels, and Portfolios

an animation website can help get into the animation industry at large

Image by Hannah Jacobs via Wix

When thinking about how to get into the animation industry, every animator knows to create good-quality portfolios and showreels, but you also have to make an effort to keep these up to date.

Not only that, but it’s also important to create a website where your potential animation clients have access to all of the important information about you, your business, animation skills, and work experience. 

One of the most important tips from professional animators on how to get into the animation industry is to make sure your website, showreel, and portfolio are high-quality, outstanding, and up-to-date. 

This is the first impression that animation studios or potential animation clients will get from you when considering whether to hire you or not. An animation website is an essential part of your freelance animation business as it serves to help animation clients understand what services you offer. Your website also serves as a type of CV for animation clients.

You should include additional information on your animation website like the animation software you use and your skill level with that software, as well as any area of design, illustration, or animation you have studied.

The most important component of your animation website should be to have a page where you display your showreel and portfolio. Having a showreel on your website is especially important. 

As a freelance animator, you’ll probably consistently scout for animation projects and it’s important to have a showreel to show potential animation clients what projects you have done in the past. This helps them decide if your style matches what they want to be done in an animation project. 

Before animation clients work you, they will always want to check out your showreel or portfolio. If you don’t have any showreel or portfolio, they will hesitate to work you because they have no way of knowing what you are capable of.

A showreel provides an overview of your work experience, knowledge, and skills as an animator, and this will help animation clients decide if you have what it takes to work on a specific animation project. You can also post your showreel on a public platform, you increase your chance of being noticed and reached out to for animation work.

As you gain work experience and new skills, remember to keep your showreel, website, and portfolio up-to-date.

Here is a short list of tips to keep in mind when creating your showreel, website, and portfolio:

  • Limit your showreel to about 1 1/2 to 2 minutes and get your work out there. 
  • According to professional freelance animators, one of the most important freelance animation tips is to keep your showreel and portfolio up to date with your most recent animation projects. 
  • Constantly refreshing your portfolio and showreel sends the message that you are in demand and are following the latest animation trends.

Step 2: Find Your Animation Niche

the animation industry has many niches for you to get into

Image via Start a Studio

If you’re wondering how to get into the animation industry, finding an area to experiment with and specialize in is a great option.

There are many areas you can experiment with and specialize in. These range from 2D animation, 3D animation, whiteboard animation, motion graphics, storyboarding, and many more. Not only that, but there are far more specialized animation niches like medical animation, courtroom animation, crime scene animation, and many more. 

Finding an animation niche increases your chances of finding work in an ever-growing industry where it has become increasingly difficult to be successful as an animator. When you become specialized in an animation niche, you increase your chances of attracting animation clients in an industry where many different people offer the same services.

There are many different types of animations that range in style and technique, as well as many animation software for you to specialize in. Your niche is typically the center of your passion, expertise, and market need. If you can find this sweet spot, you’ve found your niche.  

However, finding your animation niche can be difficult, so here are some questions you can ask yourself to help identify your niche:

  • What are you interested in?
  • What are you good at?
  • Is there a gap in the industry?

For more questions to help you find your niche, check out this blog listing 7 questions to ask when trying to find your animation niche. The blog details the importance of carving a place for yourself in the animation industry and how you can go about it. This will also help you figure out how to get into the animation industry.

Step 3: Business Networking in the Animation Industry

business networking in the animation industry is easy - you can even meet a cat!

GIF by Fran Solo via Giphy

Networking is essential when thinking about how to get into the animation industry. It helps get people to notice you as an animator and 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 can start networking by joining forums, going to conferences, or joining art clubs. There is even a range of ready-made animation communities out there that you can choose from, learn from, and integrate yourself into. You can try a bunch of different communities and find the ones that best suit your personality and style. 

Another way to network is by attending courses offered by major animation studios. 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 crucial 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 build the community you need to thrive in the industry. 

This will also help you find freelance work as people are more comfortable hiring someone they know and whose work they are familiar with than a stranger. 

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 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. 

In this digital era, there are many websites that freelance animators can use to attract clients and find animation work online. Professional networking websites like LinkedIn or animation-specific communities like The Society for Animation Studies (SAS) and The Animation Network (TAN) are great ways to connect with other animation professionals.

Step 4: Gain Work Experience 

gaining animation work experience can be done at home

GIF by Emmelinedraws via Giphy

Gaining animation industry experience is key to how to get into the animation industry. One of the top freelance animation tips agreed upon by professional animators is that gaining as much animation experience as possible and improving your animation skills is the best way to increase your chances of being hired by animation potential clients.

All animation studios, advertising agencies, marketing agencies, and businesses need experienced animators for their animation projects. To increase your chances of getting hired by clients as a freelance animator, you must gain animation industry experience and sharpen your skills. 

Having enough animation experience is especially important if you are a freelance animator as your potential to get hired for projects is dependent on your level of experience and skill. There are a few ways you can gain some industry experience.

Step 5: Improve Your Animation Skills

there are many ways to improve your animation skills to get into the industry easier

Image via Sharda University

To start, you can do freelance animation work on websites such as Fiverr and Upwork. This 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 animation services properly. 

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. But animation experience alone often isn’t enough to get you hired. You must also prove that you are skilled enough to do most animation work. 

Graduating from an animation school with a good set of foundational skills often isn’t enough for you to get into the animation industry and for animation clients to hire you. There will always be new skills for you to learn, especially with constant new trends and developments in the animation industry. 

If you’re unsure about how to get into the animation industry by improving your skills, here are a few animation tips:

  • Advance your drawing skills by watching films, shorts, TV series, or YouTube videos and practice the techniques that inspire and influence your animation style.
  • Try to avoid limiting yourself to 1 or 2 types of animation software. Instead, stay up to date on new animation software and take the time to learn how to use various popular and innovative animation software.
  • Take in-person or online animation software classes. Approach local universities and colleges to learn what animation software learning classes are on offer. Alternatively, the internet offers a wealth of online classes focusing on animation software.
  • 3D animators would benefit from learning Maya, while 2D animators should learn how to use Toon Boom Harmony or TVPaint. Storyboard illustrators should learn Photoshop, Procreate, and Boards.
  • If you’re interested in animation for businesses and marketing mastering Adobe Creative Cloud, After Effects, Element 3D, and Stardust would be particularly useful. As for computer game animation or VR animation, Unity and Unreal Engine are the way to go.
  • You can also sharpen your skills or learn new skills by earning more animation qualifications or taking a few online animation courses. 

Step 6: The Advantage of Social Media

social media can be the answer for some to get into the animation industry easily

Image by Catherine vanVonno via Business2Community

When thinking about how to get into the animation industry, social media should be one of your top priorities. Social media is essential for your freelance animation business, especially on image-centered platforms like Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, Pinterest, and TikTok.

You can spend time researching the best times for posting when you are most visible to potential animation clients. You can then schedule your social media posts for these times each day. 

While your content should primarily be centered on your past animation projects and skills, you can also share relatable animation industry memes or news to encourage engagement from your followers and prove that following you on social media is valuable.

Having a social media presence can help you network, as you can follow and be followed by other people within the animation industry. This can help you find clients, other opportunities, followers, and friends who can support and encourage you.

Also, be sure to research animation industry-related hashtags to ensure that your posts reach the right people.

One of the ways you can get animation clients is to be active on LinkedIn. There are so many groups and forums where you can share your work. You will also be able to search for jobs and take an online course through LinkedIn.

YouTube is the second most popular search engine in the world and it is therefore important for you to take advantage of this to promote yourself online. In addition to posting your works and sending messages to potential clients, you can also use paid advertisements when necessary or your budget allows.

Although paid advertising can be expensive, it’s a very effective way to make potential animation clients become aware of your personal brand and eventually get them to work with you.

How to Get Into the Animation Industry? Be a Freelance Animator!

Figuring out how to get into the animation industry can be a difficult choice to make. There are so many options available, but some offer more benefits than others. Although you’ll need animation industry experience to become a freelance animator, it’s still much easier than trying to get a job at a reputable animation studio. 

Becoming a freelance animator is the ideal way to get your foot into the animation industry door. It allows you to network with more people in different parts of the industry, and you get to dictate your workload and schedule.

If you want 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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