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Do the Hustle with Nick Greenawalt

By Adam Korenman

Is it possible to make it as a motion designer without a side hustle?

When you're starting out as a freelancer, hoping to build a career off the work you love, the struggle is real. It's a shock to system to learn that your hopes, dreams, and even talent might not be enough to pay the bills (landlords are pretty strict about accepting exposure for rent). There comes a time when many artists decide to wade into the strange world...of the hustle.
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Nick Greenawalt ventured into the world of freelance motion design with eyes wide open. He knew he needed to stand out in a saturated field and really make a name for himself. His talent was apparent, but it was his work ethic and drive that separated him from the rest of his peers. He hasn't met a job he won't take...and crush.
He wanted to make a YouTube channel, so he did. He wanted to take on jobs from a variety of clients—of all shapes and sizes—so he did. Even when he had a full-time job and plenty of responsibility, Nick made time for side projects and gig work. He had such a varied experience over the past year, he was able to compile a wild progression video.
We're about to dive into gig culture like never before, and we've got a heck of a guide. If you've ever wanted to know how many side-jobs are too many, Nick has the answer. Just one look at his site and you'll see a man living the hustle. It's not for everyone, but he's here to show you it can be done.
Grab some drive-thru and keep that engine running. We're talking about the hustle with Nick Greenawalt!

Do The Hustle with Nick Greenawalt

Show Notes

Artist
Work
Resources

Transcript

Ryan:
Motioneers, you have probably heard this phrase till your ears start bleeding, but today we brought on somebody that probably has more experience than anyone I know to talk about that phrase of choice right now, side hustle. Today, we're going to talk to Nick Greenawalt and figure out what is a side hustle. Can you do one? How many can you handle the same time and how do you balance it all with your day to day life as an artist? Nick, thank you so much for coming on today. 
Nick:
Thank you for having me, great to be here.
Ryan:
So there's a lot of things we could talk about, but one of the things that when I was just exploring the work and looking through your website, everywhere, your kind of influenced spiderwebs outwards, you seem to have more things going on at the same time than anyone else I've ever met in motion design. You have your own products, you have classes you teach, a YouTube channel, I noticed that you have an email newsletter on your site. You have a whole section of freebies that you're just tossing out to people, all this on top of working as a motion designer. Where do you get the time, how do you find the motivation and just where does all your energy come from, dude?
Nick:
Yeah, I mean, that's a good question. I've just always been a maniac, I guess. I mean, I was even doing all this stuff too when I had a full-time job. I just feel like whenever I'm not working on something, I just have a weird feeling that I should be doing something. But all these things are just like you take them one step at a time. I remember when I first wanted to start doing any of this stuff, it was like, you just write down what the next step is. So it was like, okay, I really wanted to create a YouTube channel. So it was like, okay, well, how do you... When you think about starting a YouTube channel, it's like, that's a big lofty goal. But if you break it down into chunks about how you can start something like that, what is one step that you could do to get to that goal? It's like, okay, you can sign up to start the YouTube channel, or you can create one video, things like that, or ways that you can break things down every single day to help you towards these goals. 
And so all these stuff has evolved over now several years of me doing all of this stuff. And so just my mind is just racing all the time of just what's kind of the next thing that I can do and I'm just always experimenting, trying new things, failing most of the time, really failing a lot and just seeing what sticks.
Ryan:
I want to get into that. I definitely to get into the failing because I think that that's the thing that either stops people from even getting started or once they dip their toes in some of these extracurricular activities, if you want to call that, the first sense that they get that it's not working, they run away. So, I mean, to be totally honest, I ran into you just online because I was trying to figure out why everybody was using this plugin called Motion #. And I seriously think that Mt. Mograph probably owes you some money because that explanation, that run through of my favorite plugin on YouTube does a better explanation of what that whole thing does than the actual site for the product. But what got you... I'm trying to think of the best way to ask this. You're working day to day, right? You're a motion designer. What was the impetus to just try the first thing? So YouTube channel or whatever the first thing was. Was it just like total boredom or was it, oh man, I wonder if I could talk differently than people? What pushed you over the edge to actually doing that?
Nick:
I honestly, I can't really remember. I think I started making a ton of tutorials on YouTube and then I'm not going to lie, I really love attention. So I was like, well, I can put my voice and my face on YouTube. So that's [inaudible 00:03:57] a logical next step, like I want people to know who I am. So if I can start putting stuff on YouTube and people are going to know me more, I can get stuff out there more. And then it became a lot of fun. I am addicted to making YouTube videos. I really liked the feedback. It's fun, helping people, working through people's problems. There's really good feedback that people give when you get the comments from people that has helped solve their problems.
It's all very rewarding stuff, more so. YouTube is kind of more evergreen than a lot of the other platforms. You put stuff up on Instagram or Twitter and it's irrelevant in a few days, but the YouTube videos, you get comments on stuff months or years later-
Ryan:
Isn't that crazy? 
Nick:
[crosstalk 00:04:45] exactly [inaudible 00:04:46] like I'll get a comment on a video, like my first video that I put up and someone's like, "Oh my God, you solved my problem." And I'm like, this is from 2019, 2018. I don't know if my channel is actually that old. But stuff like that makes it so rewarding and that's why I think the YouTube channel is the best thing. And the YouTube is really fun because I think I can be a little more experimental with it. I started kind of doing the face cam and I want to try doing a little more skit stuff in it, doing tutorials my own way or trying to make them a little more fun. I think I'm going to keep getting a little more weirder as I can grow a little bit bigger, doing things a little bit more my own way, I guess.
Ryan:
I love the idea that you're creating... I hate this word, but it's such a true word is that there is a sense of you have your own brand, you have your own ethos. And even if you just flipped through all of your thumbnails, you can start seeing it build up from when you first started and you're trying out a bunch of different things. And then the last four or five really start feeling like you're coming into your own as like, "Oh, this is who I am. This is the way I'm going to teach you stuff, which is different than everybody else." I mean, this is also just like you hit my soft spot. Animating famous logo, starting off in the Mountain Dew logo, I immediately gravitated towards that and started watching it. But I love that you're finding the way you want to talk to people through all of these different mediums. Can you talk a little bit about some of the other stuff that you do? You've built your own products and I want to dive into one of them specifically on a little bit. But you have your own After Effects class, you have an email newsletter, you have all those freebies, how are you balancing all that stuff because you're not slowing down on your YouTube channel at all. You're putting stuff up all the time.
Nick:
Right. Yeah. So I mean, all these things, I just want to keep trying. So like the email newsletter, it's a totally a fraud. I just collect people's emails and I don't do anything with it. I email maybe once or twice a year, but eventually, I just collect the emails and then eventually I'll do something cool with it when I drop, like making another course that I hope will be out this year and then at that point I'll be able to email everyone. But I try to do something with it and then at some point maybe it'll be something useful, like a cool email newsletter. 
The products like my first course, I think it was really fun to make. People really liked it. I haven't even got one negative review. Let's keep it that way, everybody. And I think it was a really good learning experience, learned a lot from it. So going forward, I think my next ones will be just 10 times better. What to do, what not to do. I put out a Vector Visuals Product Pack, which I thought was pretty awesome. Spent a ton of time, a ton of money building it. And it was a complete bomb, a complete dud. Did not sell at all, but it's fine because a lot of these things are really an investment into yourself and it's okay if it doesn't go as planned because I learned a lot from it. I use that pack all the time. I use the Vector Visuals Pack all the time and it's not like, just because it didn't sell as I planned that it's like, okay, now I have to go sit in a corner and I got to refinance something because it didn't sell as planned. I lost so much money, it's fine. It's something that I planned for that if it didn't go as planned, it'll be okay.
Ryan:
I would love to tell people, listen to this Motion here is that the Vector Visuals is pretty cool for a couple of different reasons. It obviously is a great little toolkit of things to play with, but it also is a peek just into how someone works in After Effects that might be a little bit different than the way you work. I actually think whether or not it's actually made you the money that you'd like to make it back, probably the process of making it was pretty exciting. And I wouldn't be surprised if it actually opened up other ideas for products, but it really shows that people listening you probably have enough things in the work you've already done that you could put together in terms of like your workflow or those little go-to tricks you use all the time. There's gold in all of that. Where did the idea for Vector Visuals even come from?
Nick:
I had seen that there's tons of things on VideoHive, templated packs that people really like, or for Premiere Pro. But I hadn't really seen something that I would really buy. Like a professional for after effects that you could really get in and customize with really visually interesting stuff that if you wanted to, you could go in and edit the expressions, edit the sliders and so kind of... Because they always lock you out of the expressions, you know what I'm saying? Because I bought a [inaudible 00:09:52] template before for work that's a zoom in transition and they always lock you out of the good stuff, you can only replace the media. 
So I worked with a colleague of mine, his name is Devon Burgoyne. Brilliant, brilliant guy with expressions. And we wanted to just build something that if you just want to drop it in and you just want to tweak the sliders and that's it, you can, but if you want to, if you are good with expressions, it's all open to you. You can do whatever you want with it and we don't lock you out of anything. And so I thought that was a really cool premise and... But with all of this stuff, it might still be one day, maybe this will age well and in a year or two it'll blow up and people will appreciate it. And I'm okay with that. 
Ryan:
Maybe after this podcast, it blows up. Who knows? 
Nick:
Right. Yeah. 
Ryan:
Talking though about long tail, like that idea that you make something and it... I don't know what the effort it took to get there, to actually put it to market, but once it's there, it's there and it can grow and grow. There's also this other thing that we have to talk about a little bit. You make a lot of looping animations and it seemingly just for fun, but it feels like the world of anybody who's done that in the past has totally changed over the last six months. Can we talk a little bit about NFTs and how that fits into the whole spectrum of work you do?
Nick:
Yeah. For sure. You just lost half the audience, but we could go there. 
Ryan:
It's all right. 
Nick:
Yeah. So, I was for the past year or two, I've just been... I love making just looping animations just for fun. And then just to flex my art muscles, that's just something you got to do. And then what I would do too, is I would make them into mini tutorials. And then when I started doing YouTube, I could also kind of make them pull parts out of it that... So this is also, let me take a step back here, this is also all part of my experimentation process. I make an art piece that I like, and then I'll pull out of it for like a little Instagram tutorial and then I'll pay attention to the comments. What do people like there? What are the things they're calling out? Oh, that's really cool. How did you do this specific part? And then whatever people are really asking about, okay, well then that part can become a YouTube tutorial. So with one thing that I made for fun, now it's become a tutorial on Instagram, it's also become a tutorial on YouTube. 
And then a couple months later, a year later then, NFTs came around. I mean, they've been around for a long time, but they popularized. And now all of a sudden digital artists are able to sell digital art for a lot of money, which is really amazing. And so it was like these things that I was making for fun and just to share with people, to teach people now are like a really big reward. So I kind of saw that as an investment that I didn't really think that much of as an investment was paying myself back in a really big way. 
So it's kind of going back to what I was saying about the Vector Visuals, it's like all this stuff, if it's not immediately paying off, it's still can down the line. Someone might find it a year or two later and you never know how these things are going to pay off. You always just kind of, if you have an idea and you got to just get it out there.
Ryan:
I love that. I mean, I think take all the in quotes politics about NFTs aside and whether the right or the wrong, or they're a pyramid scheme or whatever, put that aside. We have a whole podcast. You can listen to us all argue and discuss that and if you want to go back and listen to it. But just as a mechanism for you being able to express yourself and have a platform that you can potentially be rewarded for and maybe rewarded multiple times, now as they trade hands, I really love the fact that NFTs exists in a way that for other creative industries, there's Kickstarter and there's Patreon and there's Gumroad. But for some reason, none of those have really, except for a couple of people who are doing some teaching, taken off for motion designers. So it feels like there was just this pent up need, this pent-up place that needed to serve motion designers better than those other platforms.
I love the fact that you're really proving that. From the outside, it really feels like, Nick, you had a master plan and he said, okay, three years ago, I'm going to make a YouTube channel. I'm going to build up this YouTube channel and I'm going to do this email newsletter. And then as I build up those names, I'm going to make a product. And like advertise that to my group of people that I have, the email newsletter. And then when everything's done, guess what? Here's my NFTs. You have your 20,000 fans on YouTube, here's the stuff to buy. And that can be really daunting if you think that's the way from the outside, this stuff gets built. But I think from what you're saying, it really just shows you've just been creatively curious and on top of the places you can be putting things and it's all snapped into place. And it sounds like you're still experimenting.
Nick:
Yeah. Well, I mean, you're really not wrong though. I did have a plan. A couple years ago, I was thinking if I just start sharing a lot of stuff and giving a lot of stuff away for free, people are going to like that. People are going to like me and good things will start to happen. That seriously was my plan. I was like, people will like this, I'll probably become more popular and eventually good things will come my way. It's not a scheme to do all that stuff, but if you're a good person and you share stuff with people for free, people like that. That's kind of how it goes.
Ryan:
Honestly, I feel like it fits the ethos of what makes motion design different than feature animation or VFX, or sometimes even the music industry. I've worked in all of those and people didn't share openly the way motion design for whatever reason seems to. It feels weird when someone doesn't want to share something. That feels totally outside of like the expectations of motion design. So I think you're tacking onto something. You're finding a nerve, I think that really fits and it's just great to see you can approach it any way. I don't know if you would, with what you know now, [inaudible 00:16:06] many years it's been since you started like your YouTube channel, would you change anything? If you could go back in time, would you give yourself like any advice? Would you change the way you do your thumbnails or would you change what you focused on? How would you mix the balance up now that you know where you're starting to find success? 
Nick:
I always think about that kind of stuff and no, I don't think I would change anything. I've seen Butterfly Effect, the movie with... Was that with Ben Affleck? I can't remember. But no, you don't go back and change anything. Maybe just start earlier, but I'm happy with where things are. Just keep going. Just [crosstalk 00:16:40]-
Ryan:
Just chugging away. 
Nick:
Yeah.
Ryan:
I like it. So before we get into some specific pieces, I just would love to know, because I think this is something that people struggle with when they think about doing this like, "Oh man, Marty learning all these new software packages. I'm hustling on trying to find new clients or trying to level up to get to a bigger position in a staff situation." How do you balance. When you want to invest the time for yourself in this, what we're calling side hustle versus just working day to day as a motion designer. Do you do run in sprints? Do you have a bullet list, like plan of okay, I know my next 10 YouTube tutorials? Do you have a calendar? How do you just procedurally manage all these different things that you've got going on?
Nick:
Yeah. I'm honestly a terrible person to ask about this because I'm so unorganized and I've always been looking for ways to get better. Basically what I do is, and I'm going to talk about for now when I'm no longer working at a full-time job, because it was even more of a disaster when I was working full-time. But now basically what I do is I just keep a giant list, I call it my scratch pad on Google Docs and I have it synced on my phone, on my computer. And then I also keep notepads in every room. I even have a waterproof one in my shower, because that's when I get really good ideas when I'm showering. 
Ryan:
Nice. 
Nick:
And literally any idea that comes to me, no matter how bad it is, how dumb it is, how good it is, you just write it down and you just always keep all of these ideas written down because at any point in time, you can just come back to the idea. Sometimes I have an idea that I come back to a year later and it has finally materialized into something that I can actually make. 
I had a YouTube video that I didn't actually make until a couple of weeks ago. It was one about making like procedural fire, and ended up being one of my most popular videos now. But I had originally written that idea down over a year ago and I just couldn't figure out how to do it right and then finally, the other day, it just finally clicked and I was like, "Wait, I can just do it like this." But I wouldn't have really thought about that if I just never wrote it down. I wouldn't had [inaudible 00:18:59] seen it on the sidebar there. And then it just was like, wait, I can just do that and it just a year later, now it finally was the time. And so you just keep writing every single idea that pops into your head, you just write them all down. At least that's what works for me. That's just how I have every possible this... Whenever someone asks me, where do you get all your ideas from, I have the dumbest things written down on my scratch pad right now.
Ryan:
I mean, I love that. I think like that's something that's so easy to lose track of. Like having a healthy, almost constant conversation with yourself of like, oh man, what am I interested in? Or what did I just do? Can I use anything of that boring client project. Did I learn anything or did I try something that didn't work the way I thought it would. And just leaving those breadcrumbs for yourself to be like, oh man, when you have a half a day, this might be something that'd be worth exploring more. I don't think many of us really do that. So just that I know a lot of people who are like film writers and they always have that just sense of like a constant, healthy conversation with themselves that they're keeping track of what inspires them, what questions they have, what stuff troubles them. I think that's so cool that a year ago, something that you had an idea for, now it's provided this fruitful tutorial.
Nick:
Yeah. And I would say another thing that really helped me was if you have goals that you need to chip away at, you should write them down. Writing everything down hand to paper is huge. It makes a really big difference. So let's say you're working at a job and you really want to achieve something, but it's really hard because you work eight, 10 hours a day. Write these things down and just keep them in a place you can look at them all the time. So you're working a job, you want to start a YouTube channel, do one little thing every day that can help you take a step to achieving that goal. Let's say it's working on... Not working at a YouTube channel. Making a YouTube channel. So if you can do one little thing every day to just step towards that goal, eventually you will just chip away a little bit until you're there.
I really like the quote. It's like, "The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step." I think that's really powerful and just frames it. That's the way I always think about it. So what I do too, is I have a put post-it notes on a wall and it'll be like goals one day, one week, one year, and you can just write them out like that. And then when you're done with like the one day one, you can take it off, put a new one on, stuff like that. You just compartmentalize things.
Ryan:
And I love that. I think you found your next YouTube tutorial there. I think I want to see you actually film that a wall of post-it notes and see how that works for you.
Nick:
This is written down on the scratch pad. Seriously. It's great. That's a great idea.
Ryan:
Yeah. I mean just developing that habit. It's weird to think of yourself as an athlete, but like you said, even just mentally thinking okay, I'm going to do something and it's the working out to get to the thing that I want to be able to do, so many creative things are like that. Drawings is like that, writing is like that. Just doing this, being able to feel you're comfortable speaking publicly. You can slowly chip away at those things if you just do a little bit every day to the point where it just becomes a habit.
Nick:
Yep. Yep.
Ryan:
But I want to get into this one piece because you almost got me, Nick. I remember on April fool's day, the day before, I always gird myself for the onslaught of memes and fake commercials, but there was one from aescripts called plug intelligence that probably for the first third of it, I was leaning in and like, "Oh man, Lloyd's done it again. What is this? What's this script that he's selling us." And I realized probably two thirds away through that pulling my leg. But I'd love for you to just talk a little bit about how this whole fake promo came to be. And then I have some questions about the actual process of like how it got put together. But how did this happen? Did you go to Lloyd, did Lloyd come to you? Where did this whole thing start from?
Nick:
Yes. So we had worked on one the year before too, which was one for exposure where you can get paid in exposure. So then he approached me again for this year. And I really love working with Lloyd from aescripts. Our process is very loose. He's just like, "Hey, do you want to do another one?" "Yeah. What should it be about?" And we just talk for 15 minutes and we just spitball some ideas. And then we were like, well, what if it's a plug that you stick into head and then it thinks about the plugins for you. And that's really it. I mean, that's what it kind of came to. And then I was like, "Okay, let me write a script." And he's very...
The great thing about Lloyd is that he trusts everyone to make good stuff, that's why all of the aescripts promos are always so good because he just works with artists all the time and just trust them to make good stuff. So he just trusted me to write it all, which is shocking. He probably shouldn't just trust me to do that, but he did. So I just wrote it.
And then originally, it was going be a lot of like stock footage and stuff, like the one from the year before. But as I was storyboarding it, it just was like, this is way too absurd and I don't think that stock footage is going to... I don't think it's going to be right because we wanted to do some really crazy scenes. Yeah, so I found [inaudible 00:24:44] really fantastic illustrator Geraldin. And then I needed some animation help, so also we brought on Gino. And they did such a fantastic job. I was originally going to animate it with him, with Gino, but yeah, he started just doing such an amazing job that I was like, I think that I will actually be a detriment to this team if I do any animation here. So yeah, so they just did the entire thing and I'm so happy because it's really one of the best pieces I've ever seen.
Ryan:
They crushed it. I mean, just the quality of the design is like, when you first see it, it feels like it could be a promo for a TV show without a doubt. Character design, the amount of animation, sometimes when you do these explainers or do these advertisements, they're well-designed, but there's just not enough time to actually articulate and animated as well as you'd like, but there's a lot of detail in here. I feel a little bit triggered because there's a moment where the UI for what is like simple After Effects interface starts feeling way too close to my interface. And I know it's supposed to be a joke because it's super busy, but it starts getting close. There's a mini little butt camper and then there's... There's a bunch of different stuff and like, oh man, I don't know if somebody actually saw my interface and tried to make fun of it, but it felt really true. But the amount of detail here also, I have to wonder, there's these little tabs, like post-it notes sitting on top of the computer. Then now knowing how much you use post-it notes, it makes me wonder [crosstalk 00:26:13]
Nick:
I'm also in the video. There's a little Easter egg. Yeah. You can...
Ryan:
Oh, that's awesome.
Nick:
Yeah. 
Ryan:
Well, and I mean just the tiniest details, like urging emotion. If you're listening this, watch it because the character design is awesome, the amount of animation's insane. But there's just these little details, I think it's like 20, 24 seconds when the main character gets the plug actually plugged into his head, the iris. It just literally flashes through all the different key frames symbols and his eyeball. It's the tiniest little thing, but it's like everything feels like it's crafted with so love and attention to After Effects animators. It's really, really well done.
Nick:
Yeah. It's like unfair to even call me a director on this because they basically just carried the whole project. But yeah, they're just a dream team.
Ryan:
Yeah. You can tell that they're definitely people who have felt the pain of working After Effects at times too, because there's a good amount of, I wouldn't call it sarcasm. Well, maybe it is sarcasm, but there's a good amount of understanding what you go through when you try to make something move in After Effects. How did you find those two? 
Nick:
I think it was just on Discord. I was like, I need a really great illustrator and then Geraldin DMed me. I'm pretty sure that's how it went. And then I saw her portfolio in Behance and I was like, "Oh yeah. Oh yeah. This is it."
Ryan:
And had they ever worked before together? 
Nick:
Yes. Yeah. I believe they live together. They are... I don't know if I-
Ryan:
Oh, that's awesome.
Nick:
Yeah. I believe they lived together. 
Ryan:
That's great. So you got a two for one special by finding Geraldin and you just didn't [inaudible 00:27:41] an amazing editor.
Nick:
Yes, exactly. Exactly. That's why our calls were very fun.
Ryan:
That's awesome. You mentioned it earlier, but I want to just double back to it because this is a role that you don't see very often, at least highlighted even if people are actually doing it, but you list yourself as director, but even before that, you say writer. That's so rare to find in motion design. Can you just talk a little bit about how, I don't know if this is the first time or if you feel like you've done it a lot, but how is writing part of your toolkit as a motion designer?
Nick:
Yeah. I'm just trying to give myself credit because I want to be attached to the project, but I wrote the script for it so what the voice over artist was going to be saying, and then storyboarded out the frames for it. And then Geraldin, the illustrator re-storyboarded, because my storyboards are terrible. They look-
Ryan:
Are your storyboards the one that you have on your site.
Nick:
Yeah. If you go on my site, you can see my storyboards. They're comically bad. And then you go on Geraldin's Behance and you can see her cleaned up storyboards and you should do it because it's very comical, the difference. But yeah, so I wrote out the script of how it should all read and then this storyboard frames of the actual visual story. 
Writing actually comes with like pretty easy to me. I wrote it out all pretty fast. I guess I'm an idea guy. Stuff just comes kind of pretty naturally to me. I was cracking myself up writing this and to the point where I don't want to sound cocky, but I'm like, is this actually good because it was like easy to write and me and Lloyd are cracking up when we were reading over it. And this is basically like the first draft. This one, same with the exposure one. But the thing about this one was that this one was much, was I guess, more low pressure because last year it was like at the height of COVID, so there was kind of more... We're like, is this a good time for a joke and all that stuff? This one, it was just like, yeah everyone-
Ryan:
We need it.
Nick:
Yeah.
Ryan:
Desperately need it.
Nick:
You are right. Much easier to put it out.
Ryan:
No, I think it's a great... I'm so happy that you actually share it on your site because I've always said that there as a motion designer, I always feel like you have three super powers that you very rarely tap into. I think it's what we're doing right now, talking, drawing, which I think a lot of people would be really good at it once they just put a little bit of time to get past their fear. But even more so than that, I really feel like writing is something that a lot of motion designers could spend more time doing just to be able to be comfortable with the fact that their ideas, there's a lot of quality and there's a lot of gold in their ideas. But if they don't take the time to learn how to write them down, like you're saying quickly just to get out of their head and into something physical, I wish more people would do what you've done because I actually think the storyboards take away like the visual fidelity of it away. The storytelling is right there. I can very quickly if I never saw the final piece, understand what the story is and then the writing is just complimenting that.
I think it's something that people don't give themselves the chance to just do and learn that it can be fun. And maybe sometimes it just needs a project like this that it's inherently fun in the first place like sticking a plug on your head, connected your computer is genius, that's already funny in itself. But that's stuff, after you do two or three projects like this, you realize you have a whole other value besides just how fast can you work in After Effects or [inaudible 00:31:11]
Nick:
Yes. So I always write scripts first with all words. So I'll write out the script and then I think it's valuable to read movie scripts a little bit and see how they write them because they'll write stuff like you write the dialogue and then it'll be italics, going to be like, "John walks into the room. John opens the drawer." And so that's how I write out the script first. It'll say that the dialogue and then it'll be like [inaudible 00:31:41] scene of a guy with a computer plug in his head. And that's how I'll write out the script first. And I write everything like that too, for anything that I'm making. I'll write out the bullet points of my tutorials that way. 
A lot of my stuff is all written first, and I think it's really important for people to try to write more and also learn how to write less, because writing less when you're writing is really important because people don't like to read. People do like to read, but they like to read less stuff, they like to read smaller paragraphs, simpler English, especially when you're on the internet, people are from all over the world and they might not [inaudible 00:32:22] English first language. So learning how to write less complicated or simpler stuff is really important. So I'd yeah. What you're saying is true. Just learning how to write is very, very important, I think.
Ryan:
I love that tip that I... My screenwriting friends always are like, you have to get the puke pass out. Whatever it takes, just to get the idea out, if it's super long, if it only makes sense to you, just get it out because otherwise it lives in your head for a long time. And then the real act of writing is the rewriting. It's the simplification, like you said, it's the reduction. It's the eliminating two thirds of what you wrote just to get to the heart of the true part of it. That's a great advice.
Nick:
Exactly.
Ryan:
So what I loved about that though, is that you're talking about as you're writing, you're trying to express something for yourself. You have this idea in your head, but it sounds like you almost as fast as you write it, you're also being very mindful of the audience. And in our pre-talk before this, you have this really interesting thing about talking about very similarly, how you talk with clients or how you work with clients, that you don't just work exclusively for yourself, but you also have, let me see if I'm saying it right, you have an art of making sure that they love you. Can you talk a little bit about that, like working as a motion designer. All the side hustle stuff aside, how do you express the same way you just talked about how you write with the way you work with your clients?
Nick:
Yeah. So I think it's important to understand it's really cool that clients want to pay you to basically make art. And they're putting a lot of trust in you to do something like that. They're not looking at your portfolio and all that stuff the same way that you do. So if they're going to pay you a lot of money to do something, they don't immediately have all the trust that you have in yourself. So you have to do the right things ahead of time to build that trust, make them feel good, make them feel heard, make them feel valued. And so there's a lot of things I think have taken me a decent amount of time to learn. It hasn't always been smooth to have... Definitely have not always been loved by the clients. But yeah, I think you have to do the right amount of leg work and not just expect them to like you or respect you immediately, just because you have the title of designer.
Ryan:
Yeah. I think it's one of the hardest things to balance as you mature or get older in the industry is that we all got into it because we wanted to make cool stuff. And I think sometimes you never even get past that. You're just trying to work at the coolest studio to get access to the coolest projects, but when you actually get closer, whether it's because you end up in a studio where someone's like, "Hey, we want to get on the phone to clients. Sit with me," or you become an art director or even a creative director and you realize that you have to balance your needs versus their needs. 
One of the things I think you said that more people could learn from is the idea of making sure that whoever it is you're working with feels like they're a participant. You said that they should feel like they should be heard. I think you could even take it further to almost make them feel like they're part of the team. I mean, I've run into so many clients that they're either failed artists. They tried, or they thought they could be an artist and they didn't make it as far as we did or they at least have, I hate this word too, but they have a taste level high enough that they're just interested in how you do what you do, because to them, it looks like magic. It doesn't make sense. They can talk to you and then days later this thing just shows up. The more you can let them in on that process and feel they have just a touch of making it, I feel like a lot of times, I don't know if you've felt this way, but a lot of times I work with people and they're very protective. Like, "Okay, cool. You hired me. Now, I'm going to just go and do it. Now leave me alone." 
But if you can find a way to just let them into that process a little bit and feel like they're like, oh, maybe there's a color they like, or maybe there's a song they love, or maybe there's just something they do when you're in the room with them that you can bring into the piece. And do you have any tactics like that or anything, any moments in your career where you're like, oh man, that's how you do it. That's how I brought someone closer?
Nick:
Yeah. There's a couple of things. The biggest thing is definitely communication. You always respond. When you're first sitting on the project, you got to ask the right questions. You got to ask a million questions about whatever you make [inaudible 00:36:55] if you're asking them. If you're making a logo for them, Google questions to ask about like for clients, when making a logo and get 50 questions to ask them when you're designing their logo. It's just simple stuff like that will make them feel you are doing the right groundwork ahead of time. And underpromise, overdeliver is huge. Don't tell them that you're going to deliver something in three days and then email them at three days and say, actually, it's going to take five. Tell them it's going to take 10 days and then deliver it in five and then there'll be blown away. Things like that I think are really important. 
Also, a huge one that I really like, I think it's called the hairy arms technique. And Nick, do you know what I'm talking about? 
Ryan:
I've never heard it called this, but I have an idea. 
Nick:
Yeah. From what I understand, it was from old, maybe it's not old, but animation techniques where they would make a character have really hairy arms and then when they show the client, the client says, the characters arms are too hairy. And then they say, "Okay, we'll make them less hairy." And so basically what the idea is that you give something that's obviously wrong, so the client has something to pick apart so that they feel like they can give criticism.
Ryan:
I love that. Yeah. 
Nick:
So they're not looking for little tiny things. It's just kind of something like, not saying that you purposely make something bad, but you just throw in something that you know that they'll go for to give them something to give criticism for. And then you say, okay, we can definitely take care of that. That's a really good suggestion. It's brilliant. 
Ryan:
How do we not see that? Yeah. And you just have it as a layer to turn off in After Effects. I've heard it called the purple cow tactic where you just basically make something so obvious that, hey, they don't fall in love with it somehow and it ends up staying in. But you make something so obvious that just opens up room for them to feel like they're a participant-
Nick:
Exactly.
Ryan:
... and you know how to bring it back or take it away if you can. I have one question and tell me if you can talk about this or not, but you said that you have this art of making them love you, but you kind of proved yourself because you've only been sued once. I need to hear more about this idea that you got sued. What happened?
Nick:
Yeah. I guess it wasn't sued per se, but I should say legally threatened. But this was early on in my career and this is what I'm saying, where I didn't do the right things upfront, didn't do the right groundwork. And it's easy to be like, okay, I had a crazy client. It was all on them. And at the time, I was like, this person was a nightmare. They were terrible. But I looked back on some of the stuff, went through some emails, they were definitely slightly unhinged. They wanted me to make a logo of their face, which is a really definitely questionable decision.
But I do like working with crazy people. I'm crazy. That can be a really good relationship if you do the right things. But I was also pretty amateur, didn't understand the things that they were looking for. And I think that if we did a do over, maybe it could have gone better if I, like I said before, asked the right questions upfront and really understood things. But also maybe not because if you want a vector logo of your face, it was probably never going to go right in the first place. 
Ryan:
That's to be a hard one to make sure it passes all of the approval process.
Nick:
And [inaudible 00:40:35] another thing [inaudible 00:40:36] they really wanted the... they were demanding like the project files. And at the time I was like, [inaudible 00:40:45]. It was one of my first freelance gigs and I had read online you never give them the working files. And I was like, "No, you can't have them." Nowadays, like I give everyone. If you're the client and you want my working files, yeah you're paying me and I've already accounted for that now, because I've done this enough. I've accounted for that way ahead of time. You can have the project, sure. You want the project file? Sure. Go ahead. You can have my notes. You can have whatever you want. I love you. You're paying me for this? Of course. You're paying me to make art for you, you can have whatever you want. I'll make you lunch, whatever.
Ryan:
Breakfast, lunch, dinner. I mean, I think that's one of those pieces of advice that's trickled down from the historic nature of motions design being like, you worked for a studio. You created a whole tool kit, and so you can make stuff faster internally. And then some gigantic corporate client with tons of money said I want the files. And you're like, "Oh cool. That'll just be a 10% add on to whatever your fee was." But when it comes to like personal relationships with smaller clients, that's literally something you can use as a jujitsu, Kung Fu move where it's like, "Oh, do you want the files? I have the files. I can just give you the files," without them ever even asking the fact that you're even literally offering them up. It's like catch-as-catch-can. You use it with the right clients. It's a tool. But yeah, I love the idea of just like being able to say like, "Oh, here's this thing that you normally think you wouldn't even want to ask for, because it would be an additional cost. But here. We're working together. Come back to me. No problem. I trust you." That's great advice.
Nick:
Right. And easy to work with.
Ryan:
Exactly.
Nick:
Yeah.
Ryan:
Well, Nick, I loved spending time with you. I could sit here and ask you tons of questions. You're a side hustle master. You're a writer, director, animator extraordinaire. But one thing, I got to just put you on the spot before we go, you do a lot of YouTube videos about effects in After Effects, but I would love to know what's the number one effect you think no one uses, but they should know about?
Nick:
Oh, man. I mean, okay, the number one effect is easily fractal noise, but I think everyone... Does everyone use that? I think everyone uses that. 
Ryan:
[inaudible 00:42:46] us they're not already?
Nick:
Okay, I'm going to say something controversial. 
Ryan:
Nice.
Nick:
I think Mr Mercury-
Ryan:
Whoa, what?
Nick:
... is super underrated and I use it a lot actually to make weird particles and it's so janky. And if you have particular or a plugin, there's no reason you should ever use it, but I got by for a very long time, even in professional settings using Mr. Mercury so it has a very special place in my heart. So that's my answer and I'm going to stick with it.
Ryan:
That's it. Ladies and gentlemen Motion here. Nick just dropped a phrase, a word, a tool that I guarantee has never been uttered on the School of Motion Podcast. As soon as he finished this, rush off to figure out what the heck does Mr. Mercury do. Nick, thank you so much for your time. I really, really appreciate it. This was great.
Nick:
Thank you very much. I very much enjoyed this. Pleasure talking with you.