Whether you’re new to the world of freelance animation or not, there will always be basic principles that you should remember to do and not do to please animation studios, businesses, marketing agencies, advertising agencies, etc.
Below are the top 15 dos and don’ts for freelance animators.
Dos of Freelance Animation
1) Do Prepare Your Showreel/Portfolio
Before animation studios, businesses, marketing agencies, etc. hire you, they will always want to check out your showreel or portfolio. If they see that you don’t have any showreel or portfolio, they will hesitate to book you.
Seeing your showreel will help your animation clients 1) have an overview of your work experience, knowledge, and skills as an animator, and 2) decide if you have what it takes to work on a specific animation project.
Keep your reel under 90 seconds displaying your best work that you made using updated software.
Always double-check your website or video just in case it has spelling errors. Make sure that your website looks professional and has your contact information.
2) Do Network
Some people don’t like networking and spending so much time with people, but this is one of the best ways to make yourself stand out as an animator in the animation industry.
Attend networking events, talks, and conferences in-person and online. These are places where you can most likely find animation clients who want to hire you.
Also, if you take the time to keep in touch with your old friends and colleagues, they just might help you succeed in your animation career.
3) Do Use Social Media
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.
Aside from being active on LinkedIn, make sure that your animation clients can see you and what you do on image and video-heavy platforms such as YouTube, Instagram, and Pinterest.
YouTube is the second most popular search engine in the world. It is very beneficial for you to promote yourself online, where you will have a big opportunity to be seen by many people.
Remember to upload posts on the days and time slots when your target audience is most active.
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.
You can use Twitter Ads, YouTube Ads, Facebook Ads, Google Ads, and LinkedIn Ads to advertise your works at a specific amount of time to a certain group of people in a country or city of your choice.
4) Do Stay Punctual
If you are working in an animation studio, marketing agency, advertising agency, etc. and have a meeting with your team members, make sure you get there on time or several minutes earlier. This shows that you respect people’s time and have a good work ethic.
The absence of team members will always affect how a team works on an animation project. If you will be running late or can’t come to work due to sickness, immediately inform the head of the studio or agency.
If you have a deadline for an animation project, create a timeline and make it a point to submit your work on the given date. When many delays happen, this can affect deadlines, cause problems with your client, and damage your team dynamic.
You can impress the company that hired you by submitting a project a day earlier than expected.
5) Do Stay Organized
Be professional when naming your files. You can ask the animation studio, agency, business, etc. about their naming conventions and what they look for in the subjects of their emails. Naming folders and media files correctly will make it easier to find your works.
6) Do Listen
When animation clients explain something to you about a project, be attentive and ask questions to make clarifications when necessary.
You should listen not only to your client but also to your coworkers’ advice on how you can improve your work. Everything you do and hear will always contribute to who you are as an animator in the future.
Understand what the client wants, even the ones they don’t verbally tell you. Learn from their existing or past videos, vision, mission, core values, etc.
7) Do Take Down Notes and Reminders
Some people believe that they have a good memory, but there are times when they forget things. To avoid missing out on your client’s instructions, write down what they tell you or email you.
If you don’t have paper and a pen with you, you can always use your phone’s notes application to remind yourself of what you have to remember. If the client asks for it or allows it, recording a meeting will be best for both parties.
8) Do Show Kindness
It’s easy to trust individuals when they have a good attitude. If you show kindness, maturity, and enthusiasm as you work, your client will definitely want to hire you again.
When under pressure, don’t take it out on the people around you. Persistent complaints and negative comments can quickly bring down a team.
Try to understand the situation, issue, or complaint first before reacting. Impulsive reactions may be detrimental to any working relationship. Take a break and go for a walk to get fresh air as well as a fresh perspective.
9) Do Show Commitment to Your Animation Project
Your animation clients love whenever they see their employees and freelance animators committed to their animation project.
Your clients can sense when you’re giving your all for a project and not just checking off tasks on a list. Impress your animation clients by collaborating well with your team members and thinking about how to improve your project in every way possible.
10) Do Take Breaks When Necessary
Animators and any individual will need to take breaks while doing something for a long time.
If you’ve been staring at your screen for too long and can’t figure out how to work on a specific scene, it's best for you to take a break by going for a walk or having a cup of coffee. Your brain won’t work at maximum capacity every hour of every workday.
Some animation clients don’t give too much attention to how long freelance animators take their breaks as long as they get the job done at the expected time.
However, don’t abuse your break time by scrolling on your phone or being out for a long time. You’re being paid to work, not to take breaks.
Don’ts of Freelance Animation
11) Don’t Work for Too Many Animation Clients
Be honest with yourself and admit that you can’t do it all. If you are currently working on a big animation project that needs a lot of time and effort, you have to give 100% attention to that.
If you really need to work on more projects and have committed to it, let your animation client know and make sure they are okay with it.
Yes, you will earn more by working on 2-3 projects simultaneously, but it will affect your work quality. Remember that being an animator is not just about the number of projects you have; it’s also about the quality of your animation projects.
12) Don’t Overpromise
If you promise your clients that you can finish a project under a tight deadline, make sure you submit only high-quality work.
You may want to impress your client and start working on more animation projects, but if you fail to meet your deadline or fail to submit a work that meets your client’s expectations, it will be hard both for your client and you.
It is better to under-promise and over-deliver to minimize frustration and problems.
Animation studio producers, agency heads, and other animation clients would rather have an animator work slowly and have only one to two revisions than have them work quickly and have six revisions.
However, you shouldn’t also ask for an unreasonable amount of time to extend your deadline if it’s not necessary.
Remember that your animation clients pay you per hour or a flat fee for a specific amount of time because they would like to maximize their money and investment.
Animation studios, marketing agencies, advertising agencies, etc. seek honesty from their employees. If you think that a deadline is unrealistic, then don’t be afraid to speak up.
Every animator works at their own pace. You can’t compare yourself to the person next to you, especially if you don’t have the same amount of work experience and personality.
Always provide accurate time estimates. From the beginning of the animation project, let them know how quickly you work.
13) Don’t Dishonor Holds
When a client puts you on a hold, they rely on you to be there for them when a job for you gets confirmed. It will disappoint your client when they find out or hear that you have accepted a booking without letting them know.
They might not want to put a hold on you next time and even tell other animation clients in the animation industry about what you did. You should avoid doing this if you wouldn’t want to have fewer opportunities to work on animation projects.
14) Don’t Take Feedback Personally
Animation clients appreciate it when you know how to separate the quality of your work from who you are as a person. It is definitely hard to receive negative feedback, especially if you put a lot of heart and effort into it.
Remember that when your clients or team members critique your work, it is not to embarrass you, but it is to make sure that you and your team will produce high-quality work. If you cannot process good and bad feedback well, some animation clients will not want to work with you again.
15) Don’t Be Afraid to Let Go of a Client
It’s alright to let go of a client, especially if they constantly stress you and give you anxiety. Some clients demand more than what you agreed on in your contract, while some don’t communicate with you in a professional way.
Aim to build long term relationships with clients who respect and appreciate you as an animator and a person.
Being a freelance animator will give you more control over your time and who you work with, but you should be responsible enough to always remember to work on your projects as if they were your own.
It’s important to have a good attitude and make it a point to meet the deadlines given to you, but if it is unrealistic for you, immediately inform your animation producer or client about it.
If you liked the dos and don'ts we listed above, feel free to share the blog post with a colleague who you think might benefit from reading it. It will surely help them, and you, level up your work ethic and climb your way up to the top of the animation industry.