4 Tips for Becoming a Successful Freelance Artist

Freelance Artist

How to be more successful as a freelance artist, and showcase your work to stand out from the crowd.

Being Successful as a Freelance Artist: A Guide to Getting Yourself Hired

According to Forbes, there were approximately 16 million freelancers in the United States in 2013. That number is expected to increase to 65 million by 2020 if the trend continues. Since freelancers do not have guaranteed monthly paychecks, they are under great pressure to keep the proverbial wolf from the door.

Three things to remember when you launch your freelance animation career are to always have a tight portfolio or demo reel that shows only your best work, make contacts in the industry, and always follow the application directions the studio or company provides.

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

Posting every single project you have ever worked on is not a good strategy. A strong portfolio should contain the examples of your best work. Ideally, there should be around 10 to 12 samples but if you only have five strong samples, then present only those. You want to also 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 is sometimes as important as your final work.
  • Your submission should represent your skill set and representative process samples such as sketches, gray scale models and/or works in progress.
  • Modelers should include wireframes and turnarounds.
  • Riggers should display tool sets.
  • Animators should include a variety of physical movements and actions, but must include facial animation.
  • Look Development artists should include texture paints, maps and the final look, if applicable.
  • Story and Visual Development Artists should 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 direction so pay attention to the fine print as others may not and this could help you stand out.

3. The important role Social Media plays for Freelance Artists

It’s commonplace nowadays to instinctively network and get your artwork out there. With channels like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Vimeo, etc. Artists are making a big name for themselves 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 favorite 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 times 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 skills 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.

And, no matter what, stay strong and keep pushing your art forward.  

About Artella Staff

Creative crusader, CEO, animato, director & producer.