Tuesday, 19 April 2016

How To Be a Freelance Animator - Top Eight Rules For Survival

Lots of animators do freelance jobs. Even if you are working at a studio, you still have your evenings and weekends free, so why not expand your skillset by taking on freelance work?  Working with clients is not like working for an employer.  Things tend to be much less clearly defined, and you have to be much more proactive about giving the client what they want. Often, clients don't know themselves what they want. You have to lead, and also be led, which can be a tricky balance to strike.

But, when you're starting out on your animation career, taking on small freelance jobs can be a great way to get experience, build a client base, and earn some money doing what you love. Below are our Eight Rules for Freelance Success.

Rule 1 - Agree a schedule, and stick to it.
Clients want to know what is going to happen, and when. Set out the main milestones in advance, such as Script, Storyboard & Design, Animatic, Animation and Final render.

Explain to the client that meeting deadlines will depend on getting their timely approval at every stage, but that whatever happens you will do your level best to deliver on time.

Rule 2 - Get the script/story approved as early as possible. 
Your client may have a script already, or they may want you to write one. Often they will never have done this before and will need a lot of help to get the story right. What is the story they want to tell? Who is it for? Part of your job is to help guide them through this maze early, so you can get to work. Don't start work before the story is agreed, else you will waste a lot of time re-doing your work.

Rule 3 - Keep the client informed regularly about your progress.
Clients don't like to be kept in the dark. Don't make them chase you. Keep them informed, especially if there are delays. No-one likes nasty surprises.

Rule 4 - Don't make excuses for not delivering on time.
Clients don't care how busy you are with other things - they just want the work done on time, when you promised it. They don't care if other clients are keeping you busy, or your dog is ill, or your broadband went down, or your hard drive died. Make sure you back up your work, and if you run out of time, work through the night to get it done.  Do what it takes to deliver on time and be reliable.

Rule 5 - Take client notes with good grace
On many jobs, clients will give you notes which you do not agree with. Try not to disagree openly with the client. The best response to a dumb idea is to say "that's a great idea, why don't we try this..." and try to steer them in a less silly direction. Sometimes though you just have to do what you are told and make the best of it. Make it look as good as you can. Contrary to popular belief, you can polish a turd.

Rule 6 - Be positive
Clients want to feel that you are as excited about the project as they are. Even if you've just done an all-nighter and you feel like screaming, be upbeat and optimistic. Make them feel good about working with you - remember that they are taking a risk using your services for the first time.

Rule 7 -  Ask not what your client can do for you, ask what you can do for your client.

Clients like problem-solvers. Be the person who says "yes, I can do that". If you don't know the answer to something, say "I'll get back to you on that". Try not to say "no", or "I don't know".

Rule 8 - Double check your invoices.
No-one likes being invoiced incorrectly, or for the wrong amount. Always double-check every invoice you send out. And be patient - don't chase up your invoices too early. Try not to chase up payment less than two weeks after you have issued an invoice. And remember that lots of clients, especially big companies, pay at the end of the following month. 

The Escape Studios Animation Blog offers a personal view on the art of animation and visual effects. To apply for our new BA/MA starting in September 2016, follow this link.  

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