“Somewhere someone is looking for exactly what you have to offer.”Louise Hay, Author
Working freelance sounds like a dream, doesn’t it? You get to work your own hours, be your own boss, and work from literally anywhere in the world. Amazing!
When your typical day starts with you making coffee in your PJs, listening to the chirping of the birds, and listening to some tunes off your favorite playlist, you really can’t get much better than that.
For many, this certainly is the dream and is almost always a better work environment than the aging pastime of 9-5 cubicle-ness.
So let’s talk about it.
In this blog post, we’re going to cover the ins and outs of the freelance animator work environment. We’ll explain what being a freelance animator is all about, as well as list a bunch of positives and negatives to the fantasy.
Not only that, but we’ll also cover precisely what you need to be able to make the transition into a freelance animator and how you can make that transition much easier for yourself.
What Does A Freelance Animator Work Environment Entail?
When you think of the word "freelance," the key to understanding what that entails is in the first half of that word, “free.”
Freedom is arguably the most important characteristic of a freelance work environment. The freedom to choose the work you want to do, how much of it you want to do, and how often you do it.
The irony is in the duplicity of the word. “Free” is almost an oxymoron in and of itself, as you’re also forced to do so much more other types of work to make sure your freelance environment works for you.
What do we mean by that? Well, it’s simple, really.
You have to make sure the world knows you’re an animator, so your social media game must be up to snuff. You need to be consistently promoting yourself on freelancing sites such as Upwork or Fiverr.
You also need to ensure you’re capable of working on each stage of the animation production pipeline and effective at planning and managing your time, so you don’t get bogged down by whatever stages you’re not capable of. You see where we’re going with this.
Regardless, there is a lot to be gained from working in a freelance animator work environment, both as an individual animator as well as a studio owner looking to employ a bunch of freelancing animators.
So let’s delve into the key aspects of the freelance animator work environment.
Pros And Cons Of Working In A Freelance Animator Work Environment
There are pros and cons to any work environment, and it’s always good to have an honest view of the work environment into which you’re going to invest your life. There are a lot of both pros and cons to talk about, but we’ll just be giving you 5 of each.
Here we go!
Advantages Of Being In A Freelance Animator Work Environment
First, let’s talk about the nice parts of a freelance animator work environment.
- Flexible Work Schedule
If the years have taught us anything, it’s that mental health is far more important to our well-being than we previously thought. This much has become evident in the vast number of people moving towards a freelance animator work environment.
The best part about dealing with clients yourself is that they have no control over how you do your work. The only restrictions are the usual revisions that animators find themselves doing throughout the animation production pipeline.
- Remote Work Capabilities
Remote work is the newest working phenomenon that is here to stay because of just how much it gives back to the worker. As animators, we need a comfortable, relaxing place to work and be creative, and having the ability to find that space anywhere in the world is a blessing for many.
The world has changed to the point where most people are flat-out refusing jobs that don’t offer any options for remote work.
- Total Business Ownership
When working in a freelance animator work environment, you’re working for yourself, by yourself. You’re constantly working to create and retain your own business’s value, something lost in a fully corporate/studio setting.
While there’s no total guarantee of financial stability in a freelancing environment, the offer is there and more prevalent than outside the freelancing landscape.
- Uncapped Earning Potential
Quite possibly the most amazing, and equally most terrifying, benefit to a freelance animator work environment is the ability to scale your earnings to match your specific needs.
The convenience is unmatched, and you will find yourself capable of working and earning as much as you need on a month-to-month basis.
If you find yourself needing to save, you work and earn more. And if you find you need a break from the grind, you work and earn, less.
- Freedom Over Your Career
A freelance animator's work environment allows you to work for the sake of passion rather than necessity. Working freelance allows you to combine your skill sets, and learn new ones while pursuing the work you know you’re both interested in and qualified for.
The freedom of being able to make your own decisions far outmatched any benefits you might find working full-time in an animation studio. Wanna go for a walk instead of working to clear your head? The boss says yes. Hint, you’re the boss!
Disadvantages Of Being In A Freelance Animator Work Environment
And now, some of the not-so-nice parts of a freelance animator work environment.
- Lack Of Assurance And Insurance
Probably one of the biggest concerns with working in a freelance animator work environment is a complete lack of provided benefits. Being forced to both source and pay for a reliable healthcare plan for both you and your loved ones can be terrifying, and oft times we end up paying more for healthcare this way.
There’s also no disability and vision/dental care insurance provided, something else you need to keep in mind.
- Instability In Income And Workload
To reiterate some of the points above, and to add to the increase in instability within a freelance animator work environment, your workload and the income that follows are directly related to the amount of time you spend looking for work.
It is, of course, both a pro and con in most cases, but you need to understand that some months simply won’t bring in as much work as others.
- High-Risk / High-Stress Environment
Similarly, the risk and stress involved in owning, running, and financing your own business are, for some, just too much to handle. And that’s perfectly fine! A freelance animator's work environment is not for everyone.
You might very well find yourself in a more secure environment working as a freelance animator, but you will never have just one client financing your freelance venture, so make sure to constantly be on the lookout for more work in every direction.
- Isolated Work Environment
The challenges that you will face working by yourself, for yourself, will ever be present and looming, and the isolation you might feel in such challenging situations might be too much to handle.
For some, a solitary work environment is all they want and need, and you will almost certainly learn so many new skills and talents working by yourself. As you can expect, there’s no handholding in a freelance animator work environment.
- Business Developmental Burden
On top of the workload you as an animator will expect from your job, you will also have to spend equally as much time marketing yourself as a business.
You need to be constantly pushing yourself into the digital work sphere to make sure that your clients still know you exist and to make sure that you don’t fall under and start losing work. And yes, that can be taxing.
Why Do Some Freelance Animators Fail?
It’s no secret that just knowing how to make it big is not nearly as important as putting in the work. Sometimes, we just don’t make it. And that’s okay!
Knowing how to pick yourself up and dust yourself off is a skill many freelancers fail to learn, so let’s look at how and why some freelance animators simply fall short of succeeding in a freelance animator work environment.
There’s nothing a client hates more than having their time wasted, and there’s no worse feeling in a work environment than feeling as though time is being wasted.
Organization is the key to your success. Being used to working under other people’s workflow can be a crutch to get rid of when migrating to a freelance animator work environment, and learning to organize your very own workflow should be your top priority.
Thankfully, there’s always an app for it. Here are a few.
- Freshbooks and Wave are fantastic invoicing management tools.
- RescueTime is a great app for making sure you’re not wasting time looking at things you shouldn’t be, like social media.
- Notion is an amazing app that you can use on your desktop or phone that replaces all your to-do lists, spreadsheets, you name it.
Sticking To One Client
Gif via Giphy
Look, comfort is nice. It’s comfortable, obviously, but regular well-paid work is only as good as it lasts and nothing lasts forever.
Much like most things in life, clients come and go.
One of the biggest concerns as well with a single client is the lack of leverage you have to negotiate. If you have more than one client, you have the ability to haggle better terms and conditions from both, or all of them.
In fact, we recommend utilizing your daily workflow to incorporate time spent searching for new clients and updating your online profiles.
Undercharging For Hours
I know a guy who can do it for cheaper. Does that sound familiar?
We know how daunting it can be trying to figure out how much you’re worth, but that’s probably the most important part of working as a freelance animator. You need to be acutely self-aware of your self-worth and charge accordingly.
The most successful freelancers recognize their worth from day one and plan out their rates immediately.
Here’s a quick calculation to get you started.
- Total your estimated monthly business expenses, as well as any savings and profit you need. E.g., $250 running costs + $500 savings and profit = $750 per month.
- Now estimate how many hours per month you plan on working. Let’s say 180.
- Divide 750 by 180 = $4.17 per hour before you earn a wage.
Now you can add the average hourly rate for animators at your experience level, and that’s what you will need to stay alive.
And don’t worry, there’s an app for this too!
Clockify is a simple but effective tool for calculating what others in your field of work would usually charge for their work, and they provide an even better way of calculating it on their site.
The world of freelance may be expanding, but it’s still small. There’s a lot of competition out there, especially in the field of animation.
The number one mistake you can make is getting too comfortable (we just spoke about this) and taking your foot off the gas. Don’t make that mistake because it might very well be the end of you.
Once again we reiterate the importance of an organized workflow.
You need to be ensuring that you’re making the most of your time and that you’re not flying by your goals, waving as you pass them by, but rather shaking their hands as you come to meet them.
Every client experience must be the best you can provide, never forget that!
Failing To Perfect Branding
Once again, the world is small. Despite this, every human is unique. And you, as a creative, need to make sure that you are unique on the outside as you are on the inside. The outside, in this sense, is the digital outside.
With better branding, comes a greater awareness and ensures that when clients come to you, they know what they’re getting themselves into and that they want to work with you.
You’re going to need a website, a recognizable logo, and the right colors to make sure that everything matches not just your niche but your personality too.
And don’t forget to show your face! People want to know who they’re working for, and living that anonymous lifestyle doesn’t work that well for us.
Last, but certainly not least, learn to take some breaks!
Don’t underestimate just how quickly you can burn out from overstimulation. Freelancers are almost certainly all perfectionists and can and will spend far too much time making sure every single little detail is just. Perfect.
But since you’re going to be spending a heck of a lot of time on not just animating but financing, branding, and marketing as well, you need to make sure that you’re putting your best foot forwards at all times.
So seriously, take a break every now and then.
How To Make The Transition Into A Freelance Animator Work Environment
Sort Your Finances Out
First things first. Money.
Suppose you’re switching from a full-time studio to a freelance animator work environment. In that case, you need to ensure that you have some sort of emergency savings fund to back up the unpredictable starting point you will find yourself in.
Set your savings target to make sure you have three to six months to get yourself comfortable in your new environment.
There’s no harm in having a second source of income as well, just in case.
Create Your Online Presence
Before you even think of migrating to a freelance environment, you need to make sure you have a clean and professional online presence. Not only do you have to be visible to your prospective clients, but you need to be attractive as well. And no, not physically attractive, but professionally attractive.
Make sure you’re not putting all your eggs in one basket and make use of LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram, and any other niche sites like Fiverr, Upwork, and DeviantArt.
Network Network Network
Despite the digital age we now find ourselves in, it’s important also to physically network by attending conferences, going to Animation Festivals, and even Game Jams - although a lot of Game Jams these days can be found online.
Networking in the animation industry to make friends with other animators will also open doors to finding clients in the industry. Not only will you learn from the best in the business, but you’ll meet the right people you need to propel your freelancing career forward.
Finally, and probably the most important thing you need to get used to is setting professional and personal boundaries for yourself.
Boundaries can refer to keeping professional relations with your clients, but it can also mean creating physical boundaries for yourself within your workspace.
If you’re going to be sitting at a desk all day long, you’re going to get bored, guaranteed. The worst thing you can do is constantly get distracted by things around you, such as social media (unless it’s time you’ve set aside for social media purposes), watching movies or series, playing games, or even just staring at the wall. You must learn how to manage your time effectively and be serious in your freelance environment.
The Freelance Animator Work Environment Is Best
The freelance animator work environment is arguably the future of the animation industry. In some cases, there are more pros than cons, and the comfort that animators find in being fully freelance is, at times, unmatched.
From better hours and control of your schedule to the freedom to work anywhere and earn whatever you think you deserve, working in a freelance animator work environment is definitely the dream for most.
While making the transition can be scary, sometimes dipping your toe in the pool of solo work is less beneficial than diving head-first into the ocean.
For more info about the animation industry and being a freelance animator, working in a freelance animator work environment, as well as answers to any other questions you might have, be sure to follow our blogs, check out our free masterclass, and our Animation Business Accelerator Program, download a copy of our free marketing handbook, and check out our blog on “How to Start an Animation Studio”!