School of Motion

Freelancing Tips for Motion Designers

  • By Sara Wade
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It's time to land all the gigs. Here's a few professional freelancing tips for Motion Design.

Freelancing. For some, it’s the only way they can imagine working. For others, it’s the scariest most unknown place they can imagine. Like the dark dimension from Dr. Strange

Freelancing comes with all kinds of perks:

  • You get to work when you want.
  • You can work where you want and for whom you want.
  • You can potentially work on cooler projects and make more money than you can as a staffer.
  • You can even work from home in your pajamas all day with no one to judge your lack of fashion sense or personal hygiene.

These are some awesome perks. I mean who doesn’t want to work on the coolest, best paying project ever while wearing their pajamas?  

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Just setting some keyframes.

With great freedom comes great responsibility. All those responsibilities your employer took on? Once you become a freelancer, they are all yours. You no longer get benefits, vacations, equipment, software, or a steady paycheck. Of course, you can get all these things as a freelancer. It just takes a bit more effort from you on the business end of things.  

At a staff job, you get to go to an office and work on the mograph projects that are assigned to you. Someone else goes out to get and manage the clients, scope the projects, do the invoicing, pay the taxes, rent the office space, buy the software licenses, pay your benefits, deal with taxes, and so on. 

When you go freelance you have to become the whole business. Freelancing is a scary thing for the uninitiated. After all, where on earth can you get money if you don’t get a paycheck every two weeks?  

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Hey grandma, It's Paul. I know my birthday's not for a few weeks, but...

How Do I Find Motion Design Work?

This is the number one question we hear from students, new freelancers, and those considering making the jump to freelance. The answer? Hustle. 

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Donald Duck hustles

Most work comes to freelancers in one of four ways:

1. Online Freelance Sites 

There are boatloads of websites out there positioning themselves as freelance work marketplaces. These websites are generally terrible.

Most of these sites generally make freelancers bid on projects for a super patronizing amount like $5. Most freelancers on these sites use templates to make the process economically sustainable and it is generally not very creative work. Some of these sites use contests to incentivize people to create work for them, meaning if you don't win the contest you don't get paid. Yucky...

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How is this sustainable?!?

2. Referrals 

Referrals are huge. In my 12+ year of freelancing, the vast majority of my clients have come from referrals. This means so-and-so who worked with me on such-and-such recommended me to their producer or director. When they had overflow work, they contacted me directly. 

This is the best way to get work as it requires almost zero effort on your part, beyond doing great work and being easy to work with. The catch is, this kind of work comes with experience.

Pro Tip: To get more referrals, don't be a jerk!

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3. Sales 

Did you just read that word and think “WHAT? I’m a motion designer, not a business guy!” While that might be your gut reaction, you need to check it. If you are a freelancer, you are a business owner. Business owners do things like sales, proposals, invoicing and client/customer relationship management. 

If you want to be always booked as a freelancer, you need to get comfortable with selling yourself. Even if you get a referral, you still need to do a little selling.

Selling can be as simple as sending an email to video production houses letting people know that you are a Motion Designer in the area. Just get your name out there! Buying a producer some coffee goes a long way.

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And don't even think about asking for cream and sugar!

If you’re not sure where to start with selling yourself as a Motion Designer, check out The Freelance Manifesto: A Field Guide for the Modern Motion Designer by our very own Joey Korenman. 

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The Freelance Manifesto is your roadmap to finding work.

The Freelance Manifesto distills years of experience into an easy to read, easy to implement system for finding clients, making money, and achieving your freelance dreams.   

4. Social Media 

You hope I’m kidding right? If you have been shying away from social media, now is the time to cut it out and get posting. I'm not talking about pictures of latte art on Facebook. Start posting your work on Dribbble, Instagram, Behance, or Twitter

People spend more time on Social Media than actually talking to others, so if you want to reach more people get on at least one social channel. In the social media world, keep it professional. Start an account that is solely for your work. Post great work as often as you make it. People will see it and who knows, maybe even hire you to make more of it.

And for the love of all things MoGraph please keep the political posts on your private Facebook account. I've heard of multiple Motion Designers losing out on work because of controversial political posts.

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So which myspace theme should I choose?...

4. Motion Design Job Boards 

What? Job boards for motion designers? Is there such a thing? Yes! In fact, we have our very own School of Motion Job Board. Yes, you heard that right. Your very own trusted source for mograph education, news, and tips is now a source for work too. Neat!

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School of Motion Job Board for the Win!

We think the School of Motion job board is the bees knees, of course, a bit biased. We also like the job boards at Dribble and Motionographer.

Also, if all else fails you can Google Motion Design Jobs and get a healthy amount of MoGraph gigs. Most of them will be full-time, but there are freelance opportunities out there as well. 

Now, go find some work!