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How to become a freelance animator

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Since the beginnings of print media, animation has been in existence – but it started to become an industry in the mid-20th Century, thanks to the introduction and development of television. The last 20 years have also aided its development because of the introduction of CAD (computer aided design) techniques, which have transformed the techniques that animators were using before.

However, as with most jobs in the 21st Century, you can decide to become a freelance animator. There are many reasons for this, such as wanting good pay, a good lifestyle, and being known for your artistic skill. In order to succeed at it though, there are things you need to know in order to get the best chances at making money and attracting clients.

What are some of the duties to expect?

As an animator, there are many work duties to expect, and many will be more complex than just changing the narrative of a story or adjusting storyboard details. Many animators will start off in the field learning animation basics, such as 3D and 2D animation, although they will tend to focus their attention on specific areas.

Some of the jobs you will be expected to perform as a freelance animator will include:

  • Meeting the expectations of the client and their deadlines
  • Understanding the needs of the client and forming animations from the concepts
  • Creating illustrations, sketches and artwork using 2D styles
  • Use of acrylics, watercolors, oil paints, plaster, and clay
  • Designing characters, environments, objects, backgrounds, and models
  • Creating storyboards that depict the narrative of the concept or story
  • Working extensively with technical software, which includes Cinema 4D, Softimage, Flash, Lightwave, Maya, and 3D Studio Max

Depending on the specific jobs you get, you will need to take on different responsibilities and approaches. For instance, you might work to create animation for a television program, computer game, advertisement, or website, and the approach might be different in each case.

How to be a good freelance animator

Develop your skills

good freelance animator

Before even considering animation as a career, you need to have certain skillsets unique to the field. These include:

  • Being artistic and creative
  • Having an eye for details
  • Have very good sculpting skills (to handle stop-frame animation) and drawing skills
  • High level of IT skills
  • Good concentration span
  • Understand and observe body expressions and language
  • Resourcefulness and innovativeness
  • Be a good communicator
  • Can work well in a team and take directions from clients, directors, and senior animators
  • Have a strong interest in television, film, and art & design

Even though you might not have all these skills, you can still hone them through online animation courses. You can also use these tips to improve your skill:

  • Being willing to learn
  • Studying the work of other artists, especially those who have worked in the field for a long time
  • Observing things keenly
  • Improving your drawing skill
  • Learning to produce demonstrations of your work like demo reels
  • Networking

Salary to expect

Salary to expect

The salary really depends on your experience and negotiation skills, especially as a freelancer.  You should expect 2 payment models when you get into the freelancing world: the hourly model (where you get paid per hour) and the fixed pricing (where you get payment depending on the nature of the project).

The estimations in terms of the fixed price system range from $50 to $500 for each project, and the hourly jobs have an estimated payment of $5 and $30, depending on your own experience.

Note that you are likely to get lower paying jobs when you are starting out, although the advantage is that these jobs will gain you more experience and increase your credibility when you want to make a name for yourself.

How do you find work?

It can be hard to find work initially as a freelance animator – but it becomes easier as you gain experience. 

Among the best and most effective methods of advertising the service you offer is through Facebook – you create a page, and invite people to like it. This is particularly important because animation is a visual-impacted field, and social media is one of the best ways to leverage it to find new work. In addition, you can also use freelancer websites to find work, including Guru, Freelancer, and Elance.

In order to become a freelance animator, there are a number of skills you need to have, and you also need to create a portfolio to help clients see your previous work.