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Freelance Advice with Jordan Bergren

By Ryan Plummer

Going freelance can be a nerve-wracking decision. That's why we're asking a panel of incredibly talented freelancers for their tips on how—and when—to take the leap

Jordan Bergren took his passion for film and pursued it in all aspects for more than a decade. Along the way, he found a new love of motion design, adding a number of tools to his belt and becoming a more well-rounded creator. As a Motion Design Generalist, Jordan can take a project from concept to completion, putting individual care at each point along the way.
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We were fortunate to talk with Jordan before our live panel this week, so grab some popcorn and dive right in!

Interview with Jordan Bergren

Tell us a little bit about yourself! How long have you been freelancing, and what are your future goals?

I’m a remote freelance designer and animator based out of the midwest. I’ve been freelancing for two years but have been in the video industry for 14 years now.
There’s multiple goals I’m working toward.
On the freelance side: I set a personal goal for myself to figure out some way (while living in my hometown of Cedar Rapids, IA) to be able to watch my work on a streaming service while my wife and I have our nightly “ramp down TV time” together…
In the larger scheme: To build and grow Simplate into a thriving creative marketplace in which animators and designers around the world are able to develop a solid flow of passive income by selling quality video templates for ANYONE to use.

Who should freelance?

While I TRULY believe almost anyone can learn the skills needed to become a successful freelancer, I think it’s particularly enticing for those that have a touch of entrepreneurial interest. To me that simply means having the desire to be a self-sufficient professional that’s in control of their creative and financial future.

Who shouldn’t freelance?

Without a doubt, those that are just starting out in motion design should hold off or look at other alternatives. In particular, finding a studio is ideal. However, like myself, I did not have access to any animation studios. So, even working with a video production company that needs some supplemental motion design is a great place to be, especially if it’s small. You might not get the hands on, one-on-one time with seasoned animators and designers, but that’s ok because you get to learn the process of creating video from the ground up. And of course, there are AMAZING resources online to learn the craft… you know like, what is it… School of Motion??

Three positive things found from long-term freelancing.

This is hard to speak to, as I’m really just a baby in the freelance world; two years isn’t a very long “professional” time. However, I could try my hand at it.
  • This isn’t sexy in creative and artistic terms, but having time to explore the business side of things has been super rewarding for me so far. To loop back around to the first answer—being able to confidently “guide your own ship” financially and strategically—is the number one positive that has come from my time freelancing so far. That’s knowledge and skills you can take with you the rest of your life, and are particularly handy when you, say… start your own company.
  • It’s been very interesting working with many amazing animators and studios. One of the things that has fascinated me is how everyone has their own production style and approach to creating a piece. There’s little nuggets you can take away from almost any booking you have. It really fills your creative arsenal with approaches and techniques, allowing you to (over time) figure out what works FOR YOU.
  • Again this is a business facing answer. Learning how to navigate, and network in this crazy virtual world we live in has been absolutely invaluable for me professionally. To think that you can go after your dream clients and work with your heroes without living in a major metropolitan hub is absolutely AMAZING, and quite frankly was not possible for a remote artist to accomplish not even a decade ago. This is another general skill that’s applicable to the rest of your professional career… whatever industry you might find yourself in.

Can you talk about the market issues you’re trying to solve for with Simplate?

Much of what has sustained me financially during my freelance tenure has been creating social media marketing videos for businesses. After many long, monotonous hours of making tiny minute tweaks and addressing change orders for clients, I thought there’s got to be a better way! So, I wanted to create an online platform where anyone (particularly non-video professionals) could easily create, iterate, and automate video online without sacrificing quality. This has all evolved into a plan for a full blown marketplace where motion designers, like myself could create expansive and well designed work to sell DIRECTLY to businesses, which would generate a stream of passive income. Yet another thing that I would have fully embraced when I first jumped into the freelance pool.

Three struggles that are making hiring freelancers and working freelance hard.

  • Number one issue - Balance: Balancing professional and personal life, paid work vs personal projects, creative vs business, and—in my situation—building a business in tandem with furthering my freelance career. I’m not sure optimal balance is ever attainable for ANYONE, but I do believe it’s possible to minimize the tilt in either direction. Balancing the scales when it skews too far in either direction is difficult enough, but keeping it up in perpetuity...THAT’S the toughest part.
  • This might seem silly if you haven’t spent any time freelancing, but one of the more difficult things I’ve had to adjust to is actually saying NO to work. While that is an AWESOME problem to have (when it happens), there’s definitely the constant nagging thought, “I shouldn’t turn this down, who knows if things will dry up in a month or two?” While some more seasoned freelancers than myself say that feeling never goes away, it has been a real challenge for me to tuck my worry hat in a drawer. In short: worrying and overthinking… it’s a b***h.
  • Being vigilant in always keeping your mind set on the future. This has historically been an issue for me as I tend to stew on past failures, but it for sure falls into the “constant and never changing category” of challenges.

If there was a golden freelance tip that you could pass along, what would it be?

Personal Projects. Personal Projects. Personal Projects.
Strive to find a balance that works for YOU on juggling personal and paid work. Out of all the things I’ve learned from Joey Korenman, I have found this to be the most empowering... you cannot wait for the perfect client.
If you dedicate your time to progressing your creative and artistic boundaries, it will come back to you tenfold as your career progresses. Many of the amazing opportunities I’ve been fortunate enough to fall into, have been a direct result of me either putting in extra hours (when money is tight) or pushing off client projects to follow through on a personal project that’s in line with the kind of work I want to be getting paid to create.

Freelance Panel

At the end of this week, on June 19 2020, we will be hosting a Freelance Panel with all of our incredible freelance guests: Jazeel Gayle, Hayley Akins, Leigh Williamson, and Jordan Bergren. If you'd like to submit questions for our panel, take this quick survey here!