4 Tips for Becoming a Successful Freelance Artist

OCTOBER 07, 2019

Three things to remember when launching a freelance animation career, one should always have a tight portfolio or demo reel to show only your best work, make contacts in the industry and always follow the application directions the studio or company provides.

According to Forbes, there were approximately 57 million freelancers in the United States in 2019. That number is expected to increase to 65 million by 2020 if the trend continues. Since freelancers do not have guaranteed monthly pay checks, they are under great pressure to keep the pace.

1. Make Sure Your Demo Reel and Portfolio Show Your Best Work

Posting every single project, you have ever worked on is not at all a good strategy. A strong portfolio should contain examples of one's best work. Ideally, there should be around 10 to 15 samples but if you only have five to six strong samples, then present only those. Make sure that your samples are cohesive and relevant to the client you are applying to. Note that most studios will only view the first 10 seconds of your demo reel.

2. Show that You Know How to Take and Follow Direction

Walt Disney’s Application Guidelines include the following tips:

    ●   Keep in mind that we have seconds to evaluate your work so put your best work first. Eliminate weaker work and always give credit where credit is due. The organization and thoughtfulness represented in your application are sometimes as important as your final work.

    ●   Your submission should represent your skillset and representative process samples such as sketches, grayscale models and/or works in progress.

    ●   Modelers should include wireframes and turnarounds.

    ●   Riggers should display toolsets.

    ●   Animators should include a variety of physical actions and movements but must include facial animation.

    ●   Look Development artists should include maps, texture paints, and the final look, if applicable.

    ●   Story and Visual Development Artists must present sketchbook samples as well as finished compositions.

Be sure to format your work to the prospective client/studio specifications and be prepared to deliver files to them in the electronic or hard copy formats that they require. Part of your application is showing that you can follow directions so pay attention to the fine print as others may not and this could help you stand out.

3. The importance of Social Media for Freelance Artists

It’s commonplace nowadays to instinctively network and gets your artwork out there with channels like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Vimeo, etc. Artists are making a big name just by posting up their work regularly. The best part is that you can be the most introverted person and still have a BIG voice in the social landscape. Even if you’re just starting out, we recommend setting up an account at one or two of your favourite social platforms and post regularly (ideally once per week). You will make connections and you’ll get more and more comfortable putting your work out there as you go.

Oh, and many people get jobs by posting their work regularly as most artists tend to be down on their own work and often others think it’s outstanding. We’re our own worst critic.

4. Get to Know Other Artists in the Industry

When you land the gig, even if it’s a remote gig, get to know your team and co-workers and learn more about the organization and how it works. You’d be surprised how many other jobs may be brewing inside and out of the studio that you may get insights to. By being in their network, you can be the first to know about these upcoming opportunities.

As your freelance gig starts to ramp down a key tip is to ASK your boss or supervisor if there are other gigs coming up that you’d be a fit for at their studio. This may sound simple but as artists, we tend to have a hard time “selling ourselves.” It’s important to know that many people have gotten asked to stay on or received the next gig BECAUSE they asked. So put yourself out there and give it a try, the worst they could say is, “not right now” or better yet, “not right now, but I know someone looking that I think you’d be a great fit for.”

It’s also a great idea to reach out to people you know who have complementary skill sets who may be working on similar types of projects who can help you broaden your network of connections in their companies and organizations.

Join meetups, go to conferences and/or work on passion projects to develop your skill sets and meet even more people.

Traditional classrooms are confined to rooms and schools. Students have to attend the classes for fixed time irrespective of whether they learned and understood the topic or not. With animated learning modules, topics can be published online allowing students to learn as their own comfort and pace.

And, no matter what keep pushing your art forward.

For more assistance, please get in touch!