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How to be Hireable as a Motion Designer

Sara Wade

Want to get hired as a Motion Designer? Here's a few tips for landing your next Motion Design job.

Building a successful motion design career is a real challenge. You have to juggle resumes, demo reels, interviews, phone calls, social media, and networking. It’s a lot to worry about. However, with a little prep, your search for work can be a (somewhat) smooth and painless process.

In honor of our brand new Motion Design jobs board, we thought it'd be fun to share a few tips to help you land your next Motion Design gig. While there is certainly no formula for building a successful career, there are many things you can do to maximize your chance of landing a great job. Grab your pen and paper, because we're giving away the answers for the test for free.

In short, the skills you need to develop are:

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Create a Killer Motion Graphics Demo Reel

The first rule of landing a Motion Design job is you have to put up a killer demo reel. This seems like a no-brainer, but so many motion graphics artists struggle to put together a 30-second clip of their best work. Think about it. This is a free taste of what your clients can expect from working with you. It is often the first thing potential employers look at when filling jobs. Heck, it's so important, we developed an entire course to help perfect yours!

Designing a great demo reel is one of many skills you need to develop as a freelancer, and it is key to sharing your art effectively. Keep your reel short and sweet. The reality is, most people who are looking for Motion Designers are pressed for time. They won’t spend more than a few seconds looking at your reel, so put your very best work first. You want to catch their attention before they move on to the next Motion Designer.  

If your reel still has that group project from Design 101 back at your university, it's time for an update. In fact, you need to schedule time every year to go through old jobs and pick out the best clips of the bunch. Find moments that showcase your skills and animation, then pair them with a score that matches your intensity. It's no easy task, but we know you can pull it off.

For more great show reels, check out this curated Vimeo page.

Impress Future Clients by Showing Your Work

Ian Hubert recently released a twenty-minute short that was almost entirely a solo endeavor. While the video itself is stunning—with a blend of motion graphics, VFX, and live-action—it's the behind the scenes videos that have helped him the most. Instead of just releasing a finished episode, Ian demonstrated to the entire community just how he pulled off the incredible effects.

Showing your work a way to make your art stand out from the crowd. Show not just what you do, but how you do it. Pick a project or two and make a case study page for your website. Mitch Meyers' site is a great place to go for case-study inspiration.

Show the steps that you took to arrive at that final awesome video. Show your style frames, storyboards, early animation, and detail work. Write a bit about your process. Show potential clients and employers that you didn’t just stumble on to good work by accident. Show them a clear, professional, repeatable system.  

And, of course, polish up that reel. The old saying “put your best foot forward” was talking about your demo reels. It is your number one tool for selling yourself as a Motion Designer. Feeling overwhelmed? Don’t worry, we have some tips and tricks to help your portfolio shine.  

Mitch Meyers Site.png
A case study from Mitch Meyers.

Getting Hired is about Who You Know...and Who Knows You

Everyone is more trusting of someone they know. At the very least, new clients want to hear positive experiences from your previous employers. If you are going for a gig, share some information about the people and places you've worked before. Motion Design is a small community, and reputations spread fast.

This isn't necessarily about securing references from old clients. Sometimes it's as simple as having done any job for a larger company. If I work at ABC Sprockets and I see that Groovy Gears Inc. (a sister company) hired you last year for a job, I’m much more likely to trust you...even if I've never met you. If you have some well-known clients, feature them to build trust.

Big Client Logos

To Become More Hireable, Take and Share Constructive Criticism

Clients and creative directors are going to have opinions about your work. They will ask you make changes, adjust things, and perhaps even switch directions entirely. This kind of criticism can be hard to take...but if you want to be the Motion Designer who gets hired, you need to take it with grace.

Part of being a professional artist is growth through criticism. You can't get better if you're unwilling to hear what people think about your work. Sure, there will be plenty of people providing unusable advice, but seek out experienced feedback whenever possible. Think of it as essential support on the your path toward to become a true motion design legend.

Eagerly seek feedback and happily adjust your work to match the client’s vision. After all, it’s their baby, not yours.

This philosophy is how we designed our courses here at School of Motion. In fact, Criticism is one of the three pillars for our successful interactive curriculums. In each course, students are assigned experienced Teaching Assistants to offer guidance and advice throughout the course. We also build individual forums for students in each class to use for peer-to-peer discussions and feedback.

Outside of classes, you should still seek reviews from your colleagues. School of Motion launched The Square, an alumni-only social media platform specifically designed to share and discuss projects, industry developments, and foster personal growth.

Be an Essential Part of the Motion Design Community Through Collaboration

In any creative industry, there are people that everyone wants on their team. They are easy to work around, positive, and collaborative. If you want to be hired often, you had better be a team player. No one wants to hire the motion designer who keeps to themselves, doesn't communicate with the team, and complains about everything.

This is true across the industry, from animation jobs to graphic design and everything else under the sun. Creative Directors often hire new artists that are good "culture fits." These might not necessarily be the best artists, but they are fun to work with and treat their team members with respect. Often, that is the difference between hiring one freelancer over another.

Don’t be the negative nelly in the room. Be the happy person who is excited about the possibilities of the work. Be the one who is eager to hear other people’s ideas. Truly believe that two (or three or four) heads are better than one. Be the person with whom you would want to work.  

A Good Motion Designer is Always Eager to Learn

In Motion Design, change is constant. Software changes. Styles change. Work flows change. Technology changes. If you want to keep up with this ever-evolving industry, you need to be a lifelong learner.

When you're around other artists and you see a new skill, ask questions. Be curious. Most people in this community are immediately willing to share tips to help out others, and it always feels good to have a new trick to demonstrate. As you progress, be ready to pay back that favor to the next generation.

This also means continuing your education. While you may be able to pick up a lot on your own, or through some helpful YouTube tutorials, the best way to learn is with an interactive curriculum guessed it...constructive feedback.

Seek out new knowledge. Improve your skills. Take classes. Do personal projects. Don't know where to start? We have some pretty killer bootcamps and advanced programs here at School of Motion.

Work hard to get better at what you do. A wise and famous animator once told me, "The day you stop learning is the day you get left behind."

Professional Artists Take Responsibility

Get ready for some free tough love. This is one of those character building things your grandparents probably told you about when you were too young to “get it.”

Mistakes happen. When they happen because of you, take responsibility.

Failure is a learning opportunity. When something goes badly, take the time to reflect on it. What could have been done differently? How could the debacle have been prevented? What could you have done to make things go smoother for everyone involved?

You can bet that you will be asked about past failures or challenges in just about every interview you ever have. If you can demonstrate that you've learned from past mistakes, you can show potential employers that you can be counted on to take responsibility in the future, no matter what comes your way.  

Remember, leaders take the blame but share the credit.

To Impress Your Boss, Be a Proactive Problem Solver

You know what every creative director hates? The person who has to be told what to do every step of the way. You know what every creative director loves? You guessed it…the proactive problem solver.

Early in your career, you'll most likely be reactive to problems. Something will "break" and you'll have to quickly find a workaround. If your boss knows that you're still learning, they'll forgive whatever mistake caused the issue because you quickly stepped in to find a solution.

As you advanced in your career and your skills improve, you'll recognize the signs of a coming issue before it happens. You might catch a junior artist about to wreck a render, or some newbie designer throwing half-baked expressions into your carefully sourced code. By stopping the problem before it begins, you become an invaluable member of the team...and you demonstrate real leadership.

If you see a potential problem coming, take the steps now to prevent it or solve it. Anticipate. Take action. Be the person everyone can count on.  

Love What You Do

This is probably an easy one for most of us in the Motion Design business. We get to create incredible animation, work with talented teams, and live on the forefront of an ever-growing industry. If this isn’t the case for you right now, take some time to think about why that is.

Are you not loving the style you have been working in? Try creating a personal animation in an art style you enjoy. Not loving your 3D software package? Learn a new one and see if it’s a better fit.

Maybe you’re just burned out. It happens to all of us. If that’s the case, find a way to get your mojo back. Go see a kick-ass animated film. Spend 30 minutes on Wine After Coffee or Motionographer finding things that excite you. Better yet, read one of the many articles on the School of Motion blog dedicated to inspiration.

Get away from your desk and go to a museum. People-watch in a coffee shop...and then draw that scene. Watch animals locomote at the zoo. Whatever it takes, you need to rekindle your love for the game.

Honestly, creative industries can be tough. If you need a break, or just need help finding your groove again, reach out to the community. We all want to see you succeed.

Being a Reliable Freelance Artist Means Communicating Clearly

If I had to pick one quality that is most important on every job I have ever worked on, it’s communication. I cannot stress enough how critical this skill is to your future success. If you're unable to succinctly describe an idea, whether in person or in writing, you won't be able to move forward with your career.

Communication is as essential a part of your career as your motion design skills. It's like trying to animate in After Effects using only your mouse...and the mouse only has one button...and that's really just the scroll wheel. Sure, I'll bet some of you can pull it off, but it's not going to be your best work.

In the same way, it's going to be incredibly challenging to sell your ideas when you don't know how to set up the story, how to clearly explain the process, or how to answer feedback in a professional manner.

Learn to communicate well visually, verbally, and in writing. The better you can communicate your ideas, the more hireable you will be.

If You Want to be Hireable, Don’t be a Prima Donna!

No one wants to work with a person who believes they are the best Motion Designer in the world and won’t hear anything else about it.

I have been lucky enough to meet and work with some of the best character animators on the planet. You know what they all had in common? None of them would tell you that they were the best animators on the planet. Rather, they would tell you about the amazing work that others were doing, and how much they respected the people on their teams.

If you think you are the best and stop learning from others, you will stop improving and very quickly be surpassed. Be humble. Lose the ego. It’s something that all the truly great animators have in common.  

Now Go Land that Gig!


Hopefully you've found this post to be helpful. With a lot of practice, patience, and Red Bull, you'll become a killer Motion Designer. Once you're ready to land your next Motion Design gig check out the Jobs Board here at School of Motion. It's an easy way to find and apply for your next MoGraph job.

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