What if I want to be a part-time animator?

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What if I want to be a part-time animator?

Postby Jkoseattle » Thu Jan 05, 2017 6:23 am

I'm really enjoying Moho after about two months, and while I will probably never be in a position to animate as my full-time gig (I have a career already), I would love to do little paid projects on a part-time freelance-ish basis. Is that something I could reasonably expect to achieve? I'm 55 come Wednesday, work in tech, write a lot of music and release records (unpaid, sigh) and am brand new to animation. Is this the kind of business where there is a surplus of people who want to do the work, or a surplus of people wishing they could find people to do it? Is it a matter of "there's no money in it", or more on the order of "most people are flaky and/or not very good"? I guess I'm asking, brand new to this whole thing, what the "short little little business/YouTube/animations" landscape looks like?

If my goal was to have regular but very part-time paid work (not through my own business - I have no interest in that) doing animations for people, how would I begin to go about such a thing?
Most of the time I'm doing music stuff. Check me out at http://www.jimofseattle.com/music.

Here is my first and so far only Moho video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IBEsOZF9Ogg
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Re: What if I want to be a part-time animator?

Postby Greenlaw » Thu Jan 05, 2017 8:39 am

It's all about having a compelling demo reel. Clients need to see what you can do. If the work they see on your reel is what they're looking for, they may give you a call.

But, you may ask, "If I haven't done any 'pro' work yet, how can I have a reel to show?" Well to start off, forget about what you think clients want to see. Think about what you want to do. Develop some personal animation projects and just start animating. Clips, short films, music videos--whatever sounds like fun to you. 'Fun' is the key here. Animation can be incredibly tedious and difficult work, so if you're not passionate about your subject matter, the process can make you miserable. If you love and enjoy what you're doing, that will show through in the work.

If your first demo reel features nothing but personal work, that's totally fine. It's really more about the quality of the work. Obviously, it's easier to get work when the reel showcases professional productions but you can't let that discourage you. We all have to start somewhere, and once you've successfully finished that first paid gig, it does get easier.

It goes without saying that you shouldn't put anything on the reel that you don't enjoy doing because what they see is what they'll be hiring your for.

As for making animation work as a 'part-time' job, that may depend how efficiently you can animate and the market you're targeting. If you have an appealing visual style that you can work quickly in, and it's what your clients want, it could work.

The important thing is being able to complete a job on schedule, which may become more physically and mentally challenging if you're doing this as a second job. Not impossible but, having been there myself, it's definitely more challenging.
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Re: What if I want to be a part-time animator?

Postby Jkoseattle » Thu Jan 05, 2017 7:57 pm

Thanks. Respecting deadlines and all the professionalism that goes with it is second nature, that's not really an issue for me. So is most animation work done by freelancers dealing directly with clients? If the work would usually come as a result of my figuratively pounding the pavement, I know myself well enough to know it won't happen. Are there established companies who have a bench of freelance consultants they call on when work comes in?
Most of the time I'm doing music stuff. Check me out at http://www.jimofseattle.com/music.

Here is my first and so far only Moho video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IBEsOZF9Ogg
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Re: What if I want to be a part-time animator?

Postby SuperSGL » Thu Jan 05, 2017 8:49 pm

Lately I've been submitting animations for contests over at AnimieStudioTutor.com The first of the month they give you a subject and you have till the last day of the month to submit. Your free to create any style, all though they want a PG rating and at least 10 seconds or more. As long as it has something to do with the subject or Theme. This will certainly test your skills and patients, as Greenlaw say's it's very tedious. I start with ideas and a bit of a storyboard (usually in Moho on a separate layer) create everything from scratch including backgrounds objects in the scene and then of course a character or two, I try and get an idea of the movements I want and only create bones and actions to suit the animation. Like you, I also create my own music and try to incorporate that with other sounds for the animation. My name at that site is TheDirector if you want to check it out. The real fun part of this whole project is your final animation it's a great feeling,
Good luck in your endeavors create constantly and post all your best work and query anyone and everyone who creates animations.
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Re: What if I want to be a part-time animator?

Postby Jkoseattle » Thu Jan 05, 2017 9:32 pm

Oh sure, that's a great idea, thanks for the suggestion. At this point I still am a long way off from feeling any semblance of competence, much less whether it's something I would want to do ongoing, I'm just trying to determine if it's something I should even think about someday maybe being a possibility. I spent years doing a songwriting contest very similar to the one you're talking about, and it was indeed terrific experience.
Most of the time I'm doing music stuff. Check me out at http://www.jimofseattle.com/music.

Here is my first and so far only Moho video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IBEsOZF9Ogg
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Re: What if I want to be a part-time animator?

Postby Greenlaw » Sat Jan 07, 2017 8:41 pm

Jkoseattle wrote:Thanks. Respecting deadlines and all the professionalism that goes with it is second nature, that's not really an issue for me.

Oh, sure. Sorry, I didn’t mean to imply otherwise. I just meant that animation is very time-consuming and it’s even harder to do as an ‘after hours’ thing, if you're already working full-time. (At least I think so. But that shouldn't stop you.) :)

Are there established companies who have a bench of freelance consultants they call on when work comes in?

I've worked at a number of studios and they're all a bit different when it comes to hiring freelancers and working part-time.

This is going to be another super-long post but FWIW:

I’ve been fortunate enough to hold staff positions for most of my career but many artists and animators I know and have worked with are freelancers. I have freelanced between my staff positions though.

The first time I was a freelance artist and illustrator was back in the late 90’s when I arrived to Los Angeles. The jobs came sporadically--sometimes way too often and sometimes not often enough--but usually clients would contact me. Most of my calls came from having an online portfolio and physical ads taken in artist directories. (At the time, I occasionally had to send a physical portfolio through the mail--thank goodness nobody asks for that anymore because it got expensive.) I would also send illustrated post cards and other self-promotional material to companies I was interested in doing work for. Networking with other artists I met along the way helped a lot too. I think any of this (except mailing a physical portfolio,) still works for many artists.

For a short time, I also used an artist rep. The rep was pretty good in my first year, especially when I was starting out in L.A. and had no contacts--they got me gigs at studios like Disney and Klasky-Csupo (my first character design job!) but I dropped them when they started sending too much ‘inappropriate’ work my way...by that, I mean work I wasn’t interested in or felt unsuitably trained for. This made me feel the rep just didn't 'get me' as an artist. I also dropped them because I learned from a client that the rep was taking about 40% of my pay instead of the 25% we had agreed on, but that’s another story. The quality and trustworthiness of a rep will vary of of course. If you go that route, it would be good if you can talk to other artists who use a rep, and get recommendations.

When I was freelancing as an illustrator, I usually worked from home. I had one ad agency client who insisted I come in and work on-site for them. After doing a few jobs there, I told them I had better equipment and software at home and that I could work more efficiently there, so they agreed to let me work from home. I worked off and on for that agency for almost two years.

When I decided to go into the animation biz, I made a demo reel of personal work and sent that out to various animation and vfx studios around Los Angeles. The reel was mostly made up of 3D animations based on scenes from a handful of personal projects I storyboarded. I never made those films but the animation clips served their purpose--the variety of scenes and characters on my reel made it appear I had worked on several professional productions already.

After I sent out the reel, I had expected to continue freelancing as an illustrator for a while, but the first serious offer I got turned into a staff position as an artist and animator at a small movie studio that specialized in action and science-fiction movies. That job was fun but it took a lot of time and energy, and I had to drop all my freelance work.

Three years later, I left that movie studio and went back to freelancing for a few months for various clients. After that I was offered a staff position as a digital artist and animator at Rhythm & Hues, which lasted for the next 12 years.

While I was at Rhythm, I often participated in hiring decisions for the crew in our department. Except for one other staff artist in our department, our department typically staffed up with freelancers. Depending on the production (usually commercials and video game cinematics,) the crew size requirement could fluctuate from two to 20 artists. (One video game trailer job we did had almost 40 artists!) We tended to hire the same artists from job-to-job as much as possible. In our department, we really prized collaboration and being able to respect and work well with teammates. The feature film side of the studio also mostly hired freelancers--several hundreds of artists at peak production. With very few exceptions, every artist at the studio, freelance or staff, worked full-time on-site though, not part-time. I think this is typical at bigger studios. (I think I mentioned some exceptions in an earlier post.)

After Rhythm, I went back to freelancing for awhile. Even though I was a freelancer again, I worked continuously for 18 months as a visual fx artist and animator at an independent movie studio that specialized in monster movies, so it was practically a staff position. In that situation, the vfx supervisor was a friend who learned I was available and asked me to come work with him. So personal contact and networking is definitely an important factor in getting regular freelance work. That studio had about 5 animators on staff, and 5 or more freelancers working full-time or part-time depending on how busy they were.

So, being able to work full-time or part-time, on-site or off-site, varies from company to company, but there's probably a lot more flexibility at smaller studios and companies. At big and small studios, word-of-mouth plays a big part in getting hired--many artists have worked with each other at many different studios before.

But I think the most important point of entry is always going to be your reel. If you can't show what you can do, you're not going to get hired. Nowadays, I don't think it's necessary to make a physical DVD though. Most vfx artists and animators put their reels on Vimeo or YouTube since anybody can access those services easily. (That reminds me, I need to cut a new reel myself. I'm not looking for work right now but it's fun to show your stuff in public.)

Hope this info helps.
Last edited by Greenlaw on Mon Jan 09, 2017 7:12 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: What if I want to be a part-time animator?

Postby dueyftw » Sun Jan 08, 2017 4:31 am

I live 90 mi north of NYC. The animation bis is tough. The best animator I know is a realtor in NYC. With 2 BFA's she sell real estate instead of doing animation. Why? There is not enough money in it for everyone. The market is over saturated with talent.
But on the bright side I gave her a lead on a house for sale. Having friends is important no matter what you do.

The studios in the city know each other. Jobs for them come and go. They will help each out sometimes with helping animators that they know with going from one studio to another.

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Re: What if I want to be a part-time animator?

Postby Jkoseattle » Mon Jan 09, 2017 5:22 pm

dueyftw wrote:I live 90 mi north of NYC. The animation bis is tough. The best animator I know is a realtor in NYC. With 2 BFA's she sell real estate instead of doing animation. Why? There is not enough money in it for everyone. The market is over saturated with talent.


OK, that's what I kind of suspected. I've lived my whole life swimming in over-saturated waters (music/theatre). Honestly, at this stage I'm more interested in doing the work than I am making a living out of it. I can always do my own stuff for fun, but more it's more fulfilling to do work for clients.
Most of the time I'm doing music stuff. Check me out at http://www.jimofseattle.com/music.

Here is my first and so far only Moho video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IBEsOZF9Ogg
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Re: What if I want to be a part-time animator?

Postby jahnocli » Mon Jan 09, 2017 5:38 pm

Jkoseattle wrote:...I can always do my own stuff for fun, but more it's more fulfilling to do work for clients.

It's a double-edged sword. I've done a lot of work for clients over the years, and three-quarters of them were a complete nightmare (you know who you are!).
Clients provide a combination of money (good), deadlines (well, ya gotta have 'em), and criteria and feedback (which is where the nightmare begins). Maybe I've just been unlucky or something, but most of the clients I've worked for were big on opinions and short on knowledge and experience.
You can't have everything. Where would you put it?
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Re: What if I want to be a part-time animator?

Postby Jkoseattle » Mon Jan 09, 2017 5:41 pm

Greenlaw wrote:Buncha stuff.


OK, yeah. So I lived in LA for a few years. I worked for the Department of Water & Power for a living, but was heavily involved in the music and theatre biz while I was there, and your story makes it sound like the animation biz is pretty much an offshoot of the film industry at large. My time down there made me really certain it's not my scene. I suppose it's like anything though - get connected to the right people and you can do things you like. My guess is Seattle is just as saturated, what with Xbox and Nintendo and DigiPen all right here. I am very not interested in that kind of competitive landscape. Guess I'll just plug along for now and see what happens.
Most of the time I'm doing music stuff. Check me out at http://www.jimofseattle.com/music.

Here is my first and so far only Moho video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IBEsOZF9Ogg
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Re: What if I want to be a part-time animator?

Postby ernpchan » Mon Jan 09, 2017 6:05 pm

Jkoseattle wrote:Is this the kind of business where there is a surplus of people who want to do the work, or a surplus of people wishing they could find people to do it?

There's a surplus of people. Every year there are new graduates, projects end or get canceled so artists are then looking for the next gig. There's always gonna be more artists than open positions. The challenge for you will be to put together an impressive reel that can compete with everyone else. Good luck.
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Re: What if I want to be a part-time animator?

Postby SimplSam » Fri Jan 20, 2017 9:56 pm

Purely out of interest....

Do the studios / agencies place any constraints / demands on what software & tools that you use?
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Re: What if I want to be a part-time animator?

Postby Greenlaw » Fri Jan 20, 2017 11:08 pm

SimplSam wrote:Purely out of interest....

Do the studios / agencies place any constraints / demands on what software & tools that you use?


In my experience, it depends on the studio and the terms of your contract.

Back when I freelanced from home, obviously I used the software and hardware I owned. The only requirement from the client was the file format of the final output.

When I work at studios, sometimes I'm given latitude about using my own gear and software for special projects but I think that's pretty unusual. Most studios will require that you to use only the software/hardware the company owns on-site, but at some places I've been able to influence what gets purchased and used by the studio.

There are many reasons for why most studios are strict about using what they own, mostly legal, some practical. For example, the studio may not want to risk that you don't own a license of the software your using, and they don't want to get sued if you don't. Or maybe they just want to make sure everybody on the production is using same version of the software so files can be shared without issues. In some cases, the studio may have custom tools or other in-studio modifications to the program that a native version will not have. And some studios may even be contractually bound to use specific software.

In, short, there's no 'standard' answer to that question, but I think most studios that require you to work on-site, whether as a freelancer or staff artist, will want you to use their tools, and if you're freelancing from a home studio using your own tools, you just need to be able to give the client the output they're asking for.
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Re: What if I want to be a part-time animator?

Postby SimplSam » Sat Jan 21, 2017 3:42 am

Thanks.

Then I guess in order to be an effective part-timer / freelancer - 'one' must also be familiar (or proficient) with the Industry standard tools.
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Re: What if I want to be a part-time animator?

Postby Greenlaw » Sun Jan 22, 2017 12:43 am

Yes, that should be a given. Unless the studio uses proprietary tools developed in-house, you shouldn't expect them to take the time to train you. Many studios, will expect you to know already your stuff and hit the ground running.

I've been fortunate to work at places that allow me time to learn new tools and techniques but I do an awful lot of self-training and R&D at my home studio too. For example, the personal films my wife and I create for our website are basically research projects for us. Posting the finished films online then attracts work for us, so the effort usually pays for itself. :)
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