The animation industry has grown exponentially in the last few years, and it has become increasingly difficult to be successful as an animator. There seems to be an infinite number of animators who want to make their mark on the industry.
Because of the high job demand, many animators have opted to become freelancers instead of working in an animation studio. This offers them more freedom as they get to dictate their working hours and the rate for their animation services.
For tips on how to work out the prices for your animation services, check out this blog outlining a comprehensive pricing guide for animators. The blog goes over different types of pricing, as well as the pros and cons of each type.
But becoming a freelance animator can be difficult as it requires you to grow your own freelance animation business from scratch.
If you're unsure about how to start a freelance animation business, check out our blog, which gives 6 tips for starting a freelance animation business. Some of these tips include developing an impressive portfolio and how to network with other freelance animators and studios.
It can be hard to attract clients in an industry where the same services are offered by many different people. For this reason, it’s important to develop a specialized skill set or operate in an animation niche to help you stand out in the animation industry.
In this blog, we share how to be a successful freelance animation specialist by discussing six industry secrets with you and explaining how becoming an animation specialist can benefit your career.
Get Familiar with the Animation Industry
Before you can become an animation specialist, you need to know everything there is to know about the animation industry. This typically starts with tertiary education that will give you the foundation for understanding what animation is, how to become an animator, how to use animation software, and so much more.
After that, your practical experience as an animator in the industry will also help you understand the different facets of the industry. Your practical experience will not only teach you about the extensive process of creating successful animations but also how to liaise with clients.
Getting to know the industry will allow you to identify potential gaps that need to be filled. These gaps may include a need for specialized job roles such as courtroom animators, crime scene animators, medical animators, sports recap animators, and so forth.
While these gaps may be directly affected by your immediate environment, such as the city or state you live in, they may also expand to include a wider environment. This is because, as a freelance animation specialist, you will most likely have a client base expanding across various countries.
Learning the ins and outs of the animation industry will give you a good foundation for helping you find your niche — the rob role, type of animation, or software you will specialize in.
Find Your Niche as an Animation Specialist
There are many different types of animations that range in style and technique, as well as many animation software for you to specialize in. The choice can be quite overwhelming because many people might find more than one of these fascinating or fun to do and use.
If you want to find your niche, it’s important to focus on one thing at a time. This will make it easier for you to become an expert on that one thing by perfecting your animation skills. Not only that, but you will also become an authority over that certain niche in the industry.
Your niche is typically the center point between your passion, expertise, and market need. If you can find this sweet spot, you’ve found your niche. All three of these facets are important as they play a role in developing a niche that not only suits your lifestyle and interests but also fulfills the need for a specific animation specialist in the industry.
“Passion” is related to what you find interesting or enjoyable. If you’re going to specialize in one thing for the foreseeable future of your animation career, you have to find that one thing enjoyable to do.
“Expertise” has to do with your particular animation skillset and what you are good at. Finding your niche is easier if you have a foundation to work from. It can be hard to develop a niche for something you have no experience in.
Finally, “market need” concerns what the animation industry is missing or where its lacking and how you can contribute to filling that gap.
An example of combining your skills, interests, and the market need for your animation environment might include becoming a courtroom animator. This would be ideal if you’re interested in true crime, are good at creating 2D or 3D animations, and the industry in your city or state is lacking such a unique animation job role.
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.
Animation Specialists Need to Practice Their Niche
Image via Pixabay
To become a freelance animation specialist, you have to become an expert and authority in what you choose as your niche.
In order to become an expert in any field, you must devote time and energy to gaining knowledge and practicing your skill. This takes a significant amount of time and commitment, and this means repeatedly practicing until you perfect your methods. Set aside time each day or on specific days during the week to practice your specialized animation skill.
Experts recommend practicing any skill you want to hone for one hour every day. This is a short enough time to fit in with whatever else you have scheduled for the day. It’s also consistent and easy to make a habit of. Once you’ve gotten used to setting aside time for practice, it will be so ingrained in your daily routine that it will feel strange not to do it.
To master any skill, start by identifying exactly what you want to improve and how you plan to improve it.
For example, if you’re good at 2D or 3D animations and you want to apply that skill to become a sports recap animator, you can practice animating human bodies and the movement that happens during sports. Watching different sports matches can help you visualize these movements and perfect your animations’ proportions.
It’s also a good idea to seek out other experts in the field to provide you with guidance and advice.
Define your Brand as an Animation Specialist
Once you’ve found your niche and feel confident enough in your ability to call yourself an expert and authority, it’s time to define your brand.
You can do this by building an impressive portfolio, showreel, and website. This will help your animation clients understand exactly what you do and how good you are at doing it. It basically acts as an information leaflet on your skills as an animator.
You should continuously improve your portfolio and demo reel so that you can present your latest and best work when you find work-related opportunities in animation.
Even when you’re not currently working on client projects, make time for personal animation projects. This will provide you with even more practice for perfecting your animations within the niche you developed.
To make sure you develop the brand you want, it’s a good idea to set goals for yourself. Identify the big goals you want to achieve, and then break them down into smaller milestones that you can complete in shorter periods of time.
For a guide on how to set and achieve goals, check out this blog explaining what goal setting is, how to achieve goal setting and the benefits of goal setting.
Animation Specialists Should be Open to Feedback and Criticism
Continuous, specific, and accurate feedback is critical to continually improving and becoming a freelance animation specialist. When a mentor or another expert can give you quick and quality feedback, you can start making changes in your performance to improve your skills.
On that note, it’s important to find an animation mentor who can teach you all there is to know about your specific niche.
To find out how to find an outstanding animation mentor, check out our blog detailing the benefits of having an animation mentor. These benefits include networking opportunities, building client relationships, and learning how to improve your workflow.
An animation mentor will help you develop your style and fine-tune your skills and techniques. It's important to work with a mentor who has expertise in the niche you're learning or someone who has skills that are more advanced than your own.
Try looking for someone who is already an expert and is using their animation skills or knowledge on a regular basis. Find someone who genuinely cares about your performance and is invested in your success.
Being able to handle criticism is an important interpersonal skill every animator should learn. This skill is especially important if you’re planning on becoming a successful freelance animation specialist since you’ll be developing and becoming an authority on an entirely new niche within the industry.
Accepting criticism from your mentor and animation clients is important for developing your specialized animation skills even further.
You Have to Focus on Progression as an Animation Specialist
Good things can’t be rushed and it takes time to become an expert and authority on something.
It often takes even more time for others to realize your skills and for animation clients to realize the value in the animation services you provide.
Like other skills, learning how to become a freelance animation specialist doesn’t happen immediately. Rather, the true mastery of an animation niche comes after years of practice and hard work.
For this reason, it’s important to avoid comparing yourself to other experts, especially when you are just starting on your journey to becoming a freelance animation specialist. This is especially true if you’re in the process of developing a niche that doesn’t necessarily exist in your immediate environment yet.
Types of Freelance Animation Specialists
There are many types of freelance animation specialists depending on the industry in a specific area, what market needs there are in that area, and what animators find interesting.
Many animators have integrated unconventional themes and professions into their projects to create a personal niche in which they work and create animations.
Examples of animation specialists include crime scene animators, medical animators, courtroom animators, and even engineering animators, just to name a few. There are even entire animation businesses dedicated to creating these specialized reconstructions and simulations.
Eyewitness Animations and Evidence Room, for example, creates perfect animated reconstructions of crime scenes to aid in investigations and to serve as visual records. These reconstructions offer recreations of crime scenes and scenarios using 3D-graphic tools to help investigators solve crimes.
An example of a crime scene animation can be seen on the Eyewitness Animations website, where they have reconstructed a scenario in which police are confronting a suspect.
If crime scenes aren’t your thing but you still love true crime, then courtroom animation might be for you. This is another form of forensic animation that is used in courts to help convict criminals by visually reconstructing their crimes. This would be done in the same manner as crime scene animations which would then be presented to a judge and jury.
This specialized animation is used to create scientifically accurate and highly realistic 3D animations. Courtroom Animations is an animation studio whose visual exhibits have been used in thousands of cases and have helped their clients achieve favorable legal outcomes.
Medical animations are also popular as they help doctors and surgeons plan and explain complicated medical procedures. Medical animations are short explanation videos that are made by using 3D computer graphics in movement, for a scientific, medical, physiological, or pharmacologic topic.
Medical animation is regularly used as a method to describe complex medical science concepts simply and clearly. Cast Pharma and 3D Anatomica are two animation studios that specialize in this type of animation. 3D Anatomica even developed interactive 3D animations for the purpose of education.
An example of a medical animation can be seen on the 3D Anatomica website. This animation showcases the interactive potential of 3D Anatomica animations by demonstrating how their simulations and reconstructions work.
Another really interesting specialty is engineering animation. Engineering animation is used to design prototypes of buildings and test the structural integrity thereof with simulations. DE247 Digital Engineering is an animation studio that provides these services to architects, engineers, and contractors.
This video shows the potential to use animation in mechanical engineering in a 3D reconstructed version of a car.
These are just a few examples of animation specialists, and it’s important to note that there is no definitive number of types of animation specialists. It’s entirely up to the animator to find out what their own specialized niche is.
How Becoming a Freelance Animation Specialist Will Help Your Career
To recap, to become a freelance animation specialist, you have to first make sure you know all there is to know about the animation industry. This will allow you to know where there’s a gap in the industry and exactly how to fill that gap.
It is therefore important to develop a specific niche that you can use to carve your place in the animation industry. Developing a niche involves finding the sweet spot between your interests (passion), what you are good at (expertise), and what gaps you can identify within the animation industry (market need).
Once you have found your niche, you can define your specific animation brand to attract clients. It helps to find a skillful and experienced animation mentor to help you with this process. It’s even more helpful when that mentor has experience in or around the specific niche you have developed.
Becoming a freelance animation specialist is a long process that requires copious amounts of time, effort, and dedication. But once you have established yourself as an expert and authority on a specific niche within the animation industry, there are many benefits to becoming a specialist.
One of the main reasons to become a specialist is because specialized services are much easier to sell. In an industry where every animator has basically the same skills and can accomplish the same tasks, specializing in one specific animation niche can be extremely advantageous.
Being a specialist in a specific animation style or software assures your clients that you are the best animator for their specific needs. Being a specialist, therefore, attracts more clients and guarantees good reviews. It also guarantees client satisfaction since your clients will know exactly what the outcome of the project will be.
In addition to these reasons, you can also grow your skills faster, much faster than if you were to practice all your animation skills at once.
Focussing on one skill at a time means mastering that skill more quickly.