School of Motion

An Epic Q&A with Sander van Dijk

  • By School of Motion
  • Share

In this episode, Sander van Dijk answers questions from the School of Motion community. Get ready for some epic knowledge bombs.

Grab a notepad because you'll want to take some notes.
We are about to enter into the mind of Sander van Dijk. Sander has been regarded as one of the most elite artists in motion graphics. Not only has he worked with some of the best artists and studios in the biz (including Buck and Gmunk), but he's also helped author useful tools for After Effects such as Ray Dynamic Color, Ourobouros, and others.
He is also creates a ton of helpful education content including a course on freelancing and a brand new course called Advanced Motion Methods here at School of Motion.
In honor of the new class we thought it'd be fun to give you, the School of Motion community, the ability to ask this industry legend anything you want. The result is one of the longest and most dense podcast episode's we've ever published. We hope you enjoy this one!

Advanced Motion Methods

Like we said before, Sander has created a brand new course here on School of Motion called Advanced Motion Methods. The course is a deep-dive into the techniques and workflows of motion designers at the highest level of mograph. If you've ever dreamed of learning from some of the biggest motion designers in the world this is the course for you. You can learn more on the course page, or you can check out this trailer for the course. Also, the ending graphics were created by Gunner. Those folks are so dang talented...

Show Notes

ARTISTS/STUDIOS
PIECES
RESOURCES
MISCELLANEOUS

Sander van Dijk Transcript

Joey Korenman: Sander van Dijk is one of the most well known aftereffects animators in the world. Admittedly it's a pretty geeky thing to be famous for, but honestly he has earned the recognition. Sander has not only worked with some of the best studios and artists in the biz, Buck and [Jima 00:00:51] to name a couple, but he's also helped author really useful tools for aftereffects such as Ray Dynamic Color, Ray Dynamic Texture, and Ouroboros. He has created a freelancing class available on his site, and now he has even go ahead and made a class with us, School of Motion. The class is called Advanced Motion Methods, and if you would like to learn more about this animation master class head on over to shoolofmotion.com to find out more.
Joey Korenman: Now, in this episode Sander answers questions from you, the School of Motion community. We have collected tons of great questions and tried to pull out the ones that Sander could really dig into, and in this conversation he goes deep. This is a very long one and you might want to grab a notepad to take some notes.
Joey Korenman: So, here we go into the mind of Sander van Dijk.
Joey Korenman: Alright Sander. I have a gigantic list of questions from our audience and I'm going to throw them at you. You ready?
Sander van Dijk: I'm ready. Bring it on.
Joey Korenman: Alright. So, let's start with this, and I think this is a great question and I'm actually really curious what you're going to say is our answer.
Joey Korenman: So, you're definitely an in demand animator. You know, it's probably pretty hard to book you at this point. But this year in particular you've taken a lot of time actually to work on two courses. One for us, Advanced Motion Methods, and then one that's on your site called The Ultimate Freelance Guide, and I've noticed kind of a trend of a lot of top animators, and designers, and artists getting into the teaching game lately. So, what was your reasoning behind doing these classes?
Sander van Dijk: As far as the motivation, for me having mastery of both business and creative skills has really empowered me to choose the clients that I wish to work for, and to really design the life that I really want to live, and I'd like to see others be able to have that same opportunity that I had. So, I've developed these courses so that people can take advantage of what I've learned over the last 10 years and see if it makes sense to apply that to their own lives and the way that they work.
Sander van Dijk: And yeah, it sure has been a difficult thing to say no to a lot of very interesting projects coming in. I did take some projects that were just too good to say no to, but I've always wanted to teach my skills and this year just felt like the right timing for it because I love client work, but I also have a very big passion for empowering the motion design community and that expresses itself in many ways. Like I build tools for aftereffects, I help organize the Blend conference, and now it's teaching.
Sander van Dijk: And like you mentioned, a lot of people are getting into teaching nowadays and I think that's because of a couple of reasons. I think first of all there's just a really high demand for animation related work in all kinds of different areas. Like we don't just have a television screen anymore but we also have smartphones. So, there's just a lot more mediums out there where animation could be applied to, and I believe the future of communication is moving images. So, I think it will move more and more towards that.
Sander van Dijk: Now next to that there's also a lot more people who want to get into animation. Like I even see YouTube vloggers that are starting to play with animated titles and even teaching some basic aftereffects stuff of how to track a title to your shot and things like that. So, people really want to make cool animation stuff so I think that helps as well.
Sander van Dijk: And then we also have a lot of people who are freelance right? They don't really have the capacity to move to a big city and work at a studio or a big agency to learn the skills, so there's also a really big demand for learning at home.
Sander van Dijk: So, with all of these demands of more animation work, more people want to get into animation, people who want to learn online, you know, its made this market where you can start teaching your skills and also make a profit doing that so that you can make very high quality education content and also make a little bit of a living doing that. So, I think that's also a really big appeal for a lot of people moving into this education space.
Sander van Dijk: Like, when I got started there was no such thing like this. I had to leave my home country in order to be able to learn from people that were far more talented than me. And, you know, nowadays you just learn it online for the price that it would cost me to just fly out to the US. So, it's this incredible movement that eventually I believe is going to speed up the way that we're learning. If we're exposed to more high quality education we're going to become better designers in the end.
Joey Korenman: I love it man, and I have to say for everybody listening that I know Sander is telling the truth because the last time we spoke, I think last week, you were in Thailand or Bali traveling with your girlfriend and going around doing some filming for her YouTube channel, and it is pretty inspiring man to see someone like you really embracing that digital nomad-esque kind of life, and you're freelancing, and you're doing motion design from all over the world, and you're traveling, and then you're making a class, and, you know, the class that you've made you actually produced pieces of it I think in three different countries, and I know that your business skills and your creative skills have allowed you to do that, and I think you're right. I hope that what you're teaching and what other companies like School of Motion are helping students learn will enable people to do that.
Joey Korenman: Now, I do have a question about that though. You know, your class specifically, Advanced Motion Methods, I guess you're kind of like opening up your playbook and you're really teaching exactly how you do what you do.
Sander van Dijk: Right.
Joey Korenman: A lot of it having watched you make this class it's stuff I've never really seen before, and the techniques and the things you do are pretty unique, and are you worried at all about sharing that stuff? You know, not everybody is so open with their secrets so why do you think it's important to share yours?
Sander van Dijk: Well first of all I'm not scared at all to share what I know because I feel like there's enough work out there and there's enough need for very professional creatives, and I would hope that by empowering people with the knowledge that I have gained that they are able to create more opportunities for themselves. Other people have done that for me and I'm very thankful for that, and like I mentioned before, it just creates more choice on deciding who you work with and how you structure your life, and I believe that if people have more choice that they'll become healthier and just better people in general.
Sander van Dijk: I'm not afraid to share my knowledge because I guess, you know, back in the day you knew this specific trick, or you had the expensive camera and that's how you were able to get hired, but there's more and more people now that are going to have that access. So, it's kind of like in photography right? As soon as the DSLR came on the market everyone could make professional looking photographs.
Joey Korenman: Yeah.
Sander van Dijk: I mean, today you could even do that with your smartphone. What you see is that it's not just about the technical skills anymore, it's also about being able to find creative solutions to business problems, or it's about the story that you tell with your graphics.
Joey Korenman: That makes a lot of sense. You know, I think the photography metaphor really fits, and I get what you're saying. It's like with the resources that are out there today, you know, it's realistic that eventually the average aftereffects artist is going to know a decent amount of expressions, and get really technical with aftereffects, and maybe have some design chops and animation chops, and so then the differentiator is no longer the knowledge in your head it's your ability to use that knowledge, and on top of that the soft skills of working with other humans, and selling your business, and all of those things too.
Joey Korenman: And so, with that power comes responsibility, and this is a question that was actually from our audience and I think it's perfect because it fits in with a topic that you talk about in this class. When you're a motion designer and you can develop your craft to a certain level all of a sudden you have more opportunities than you have time to take, and you have this luxury of being able to pick and choose a little bit, and so you have to kind of figure out "Am I saying yes based on the dollar amount that I'm being offered or am I saying yes based on some other factor?"
Joey Korenman: So, here's the question. How responsible should we be for the messages we communicate with our work and the possible bad outcomes of these messages? And I think the obvious example just in the news lately is the stuff, I mean I hate to pick on Facebook, but I mean Facebook has just been in the news a lot and that's the easiest example to pull off the top of my head. You know, where there is a little bit of a moral gray area when it comes to "Should I use my motion design superpowers to help Facebook look better?" Just as an example. So how do you think about that?
Sander van Dijk: Right. Well, it's completely up to you to say yes or no to a project, and it really all depends on what your values and your needs are, and I can only really speak for myself but I've chosen to make my skills available to companies and individuals that I believe contribute in some positive way to society and the world.
Sander van Dijk: And I don't just work for anyone. I research the company or the people that I work with and I look at not their intentions but what their effect has been on the world. So, Facebook for example, they might have the intention to actually create a more open community or whatever, but what is the actual effect that they have on the world? Well, there is going to be a lot of positive effects, but also a lot of negative effects so you have to balance those out.
Sander van Dijk: You know, is this product empowering people or are they taking advantage of people? Is there something that you could do with this project that may tip the scale where the platform maybe becomes more of a platform where it empowers people? You know, I personally feel responsible to some degree. If I work on a big soda commercial I'm basically engineering desire in children and persuading them to consume something that I would never drink myself because it's very addictive and it's not very healthy. So, if I had the choice I would rather put my focus somewhere else.
Sander van Dijk: And, you know, early on in my career I wasn't really able to be so selective as I am now, and maybe I didn't really care as much either as I'm doing now. So, as I became more advanced and moved more towards freelance I was actually able to make those decisions for myself, and I think that actually building tools for the community, and creating courses like The Advanced Motion Methods, and even the freelance course, they're all very vital I think for helping people get that same power or freedom to be able to do the same thing.
Joey Korenman: Right. So, let me ask this a different way because you kind of talked about it. What I was going to ask you is is that a luxury for you because of the level that you have gotten to in your career? And you said when you were younger and earlier in your career you weren't able to be as picky, but, you know, I think that there's obvious times where I know how you feel about sustainable farming and stuff like that, so if Monsanto asked you to do a piece for them you'd probably say no.
Joey Korenman: But what if, you know, what if it's someone who is vegan and they're asked to make one of those "Got Milk?" Spots or something like that where there's nothing dastardly. It's not like something that's sort of "Wow, that feels gross. That feels kind of like an evil company." It just kind of goes against one aspect of their personality.
Sander van Dijk: Right.
Joey Korenman: At what point do you think you should just shut up and take the money?
Sander van Dijk: Well, you're never going to find a client that's 100% good. Like, say you have a charity that drills wells for poor people so they have drinking water. Well, you could say that that's a very good thing right? Because those people didn't have water, they had to walk for miles in order to get it, but you could also argue is it a good idea to just start poking some holes in the ground water layer in a very desert land area?
Sander van Dijk: Or, you might have a company that gives away free shoes when you buy one right? But what effect does that actually have on the local economy there and the people who are making shoes in that country?
Sander van Dijk: So, I'm not saying that these nonprofits are super evil, or there's some kind of weird conspiracy behind them, but I'm just showing that there's multiple sides to things. There's always a good or a bad thing and you just have to find the balance in that.
Sander van Dijk: You know, there's a lot more to it, and, again, it all depends on what your values and your needs are. If you're a vegan and you're absolutely disgusted by how our world treats animals, stay away from it, work on something else. But, do you need the money and you realize that if you take that job you can actually spend a month working on promoting vegan related food? That's great. Maybe that's an option.
Sander van Dijk: Now, milk these days is not really milk anymore. Like most food products are heavily modified with added aromas, thickeners, and preservatives.
Joey Korenman: Yeah.
Sander van Dijk: And those things are, again, those things are there for a specific reason. Not per se because they are super evil, but the question is, the real question is is that a world you want to live in? If not maybe you could do something about it with your skills.
Sander van Dijk: You know, if I am going to spend my time I'd rather be working on something that is meaningful to me, and preferably with people who have similar beliefs and that are also really fun to work with.
Sander van Dijk: And is that then a luxury? Well, I don't think so unless you're really born rich. Like, through hard work and your skills you get yourself in a financial stable position in order to make those choices based on your ethical beliefs. But even for me there might come a time where I have to take a job that I might not like as much but pays the bills, but before I can let it get that far how can I make sure that I can spend the majority of my time doing what I believe is best?
Joey Korenman: That's awesome.
Sander van Dijk: Like, you have to pay the bills. The reality is that we live in a world where most people measure success based on the amount of money they have. Like countries measure success based on GDP, gross domestic product, and unfortunately not based on natural resources or the quality of life of the people living in that country.
Sander van Dijk: Now, I believe in measuring success by the quality of life that I experience and the wealth of the people around me, and how the environment is, and money to me is just a tool that we can use to make that possible.
Joey Korenman: I love it. Dude, it reminds me a little bit of the idea of carbon credits where you're a politician and you fly around in a private jet, but then you sort of offset that by donating money or something like that.
Sander van Dijk: Right.
Joey Korenman: So, this is a whole podcast episode-
Sander van Dijk: I know.
Joey Korenman: Getting into the morality of this. So, I'm going to move us along but-
Sander van Dijk: Yeah, please do. I got pretty fired up on it too.
Joey Korenman: Yeah. Everyone listening we will be revisiting this for sure.
Joey Korenman: So, here's a nother question from the audience and it's a good one actually. I've often wondered this about you. How do you manage time to make plugins, make tutorials, work on client projects, make classes, travel the world, do all the various things you do. How do you have the bandwidth for that?
Sander van Dijk: I don't. I need more bandwidth. Yeah, I mean, that's a real struggle these days. I feel like it is a struggle for a lot of people in this world because it's moving faster and faster. And I'm not really proud of this, but I'm working really long days and weekends, up to the point where sometimes health issues start to arise, and that's very intense, and it's certainly not for everyone, but I just can't help but be passionate about these projects.
Sander van Dijk: If I have an idea in my mind for a specific tool, I just can't help it. I can't just sit on the couch. I just have to go and create it. And all of the things that are out there currently are just like scratching the surface of what I have in mind. I can fill many more lives with all of the things that I have in mind, but it's always going to be a balance of "Well, what is more important? How much time do I spend on social media? How much time do I spend replying to emails? What structures or systems can I invent so I can save time?"
Joey Korenman: Yeah, and I can tell also the person that asked this question, you know, having now worked with you Sander for months on this class, I can definitely vouch for the fact that you are one of the hardest working people I've ever met. And it reminds me, you know, we had Ash Thorp on the podcast recently and I kind of asked him the same question, and he gave me the same answer. He was like, "I just work a lot really, really hard."
Joey Korenman: And, you know, I've noticed I'm pretty lucky. I've gotten to meet over the last few years a lot of successful people, and this is a commonality. You know, this obsessive drive to finish things, and to start new things, and to have five things going at once, you know?
Sander van Dijk: Yeah. You know, there's just a limited time you have on this Earth, and there's only so much possible in that time, and that's why I also put a lot of importance on health and quality of life because if I'm feeling healthy that means that I don't get sick as often, I have more energy. So, what I do is basically I stopped drinking alcohol when I was like 23, I've never smoked, I quit drinking because I have a lot of energy already.
Joey Korenman: You don't need it.
Sander van Dijk: So, yeah, I mean, I just have these strategies for making as much of my time available with a clear mind so that I'm able to focus on what I value most.
Joey Korenman: Yeah. Awesome. Love it. Alright, well were going to go back in time now. This question ... Yeah. See, these are good questions. I'm going to do this more often, get our audience to suggest questions. It's easier. I don't have to come up with them.
Joey Korenman: Alright. So, how did you start your career in the Netherlands? And this person is actually from the Netherlands also. They said, "I am from the Netherlands and I wonder how you got to where you are now from here. What steps did you follow?" Yeah, that's a great question because Holland's a small country. I mean, there are some pretty world class well known studios there, but there's not 50 of them you know?
Sander van Dijk: Right. And those, there were only a couple when I got out of school and I started. So, I think obviously in the Netherlands I did a lot of internships because my school wasn't that good. It wasn't one of those fancy art schools. So, I went to a school where you had a lot of freedom and time for yourself. Lots of people were into gaming so they spent time on gaming. I really was into motion design so I spent all of my time learning about motion design, and instead of teaching you things at the school they thought it was a good idea to just send you on a lot of internships. So, I did internships at TV stations in the Netherlands learning how to edit. After that I did internships at visual effects companies. Actually, Filmmore in Amsterdam. I learned a lot there.
Sander van Dijk: And eventually I came back to school and a friend of mine was saying, "Oh, I've got this internship at this company called [Exopolis 00:21:52] in LA." And that's when it really clicked for me. I was like "Wait a second, you can get internships outside of the country?" And that's where I really started to realize, "Oh, wait a second, all of those motion design studios that I've been looking up to in the United States, I could go there and I could learn something from these people."
Sander van Dijk: So, that's when I started to put together a strategy of emailing just studios I loved, and eventually one studio came back to me with an opportunity, one out of the eight studios that I emailed, and that was King and Country so I went there for an internship. They were just starting up as a company, and yeah, that's how it all got started.
Sander van Dijk: So, it's really about knowing that it's possible and just trying, going after it, and see if it works, and if it works ... Like, I didn't even speak English back then, but a friend of mine was helping with email trying to write it in English, and it was super long. It was way too long and it's a miracle that it worked.
Joey Korenman: Yeah, but I love that, you know, so everyone listening, you sent eight emails, seven of them were no's right?
Sander van Dijk: Right.
Joey Korenman: So, one out of eight, and that's probably average right? And it was for an internship, it wasn't like, "Hey, you're going to start hiring me freelance. This Dutch kid you've never met and never worked with before." No, you were probably at like a very low paid internship and really scary.
Joey Korenman: So, I mean, to me what I like about that answer Sander is there is not really any magic there. You did something really scary, you got told no a lot until one person said yes and then your foot was in the door, and that's kind of the secret right?
Sander van Dijk: Right. Its got to be the right timing. Its also got to be ... Because like for the studio that ... Like, I only selected eight studios because I really made a personalized email to all of these studios because I knew if I just sent some random thing then it's not going to work. I would never want to reply to that. So, I told the studios why I liked what they did, and there were only eight that I really looked up to so I really wanted to just work for those.
Sander van Dijk: And Kind and Country was actually a starting studio. They were just starting out. They were a bunch of creative directors and producers from a company called ... Oh man. Maybe Believe Designs? I think it's Believe Designs. But, then they quit their job there to start their own studio. So, for them it made sense to have an intern, whereas maybe for all of the other studios they already had an intern, they maybe weren't interested.
Joey Korenman: Right.
Sander van Dijk: So, its really just I think it's really about timing and making sure that you're ... Making sure also that you're committed. Show that you're willing to learn. Like, it would be terrible for any studio I imagine to hire someone who is just not motivated. Show that you're eager to learn something new I think is what potentially made it happen in that email or whatever.
Joey Korenman: Yeah. That's all amazing advice.
Joey Korenman: So, another question I guess related to your origin story. The question is, you mentioned in another interview that you studied building and architecture. How did that influence or effect your animation career?
Sander van Dijk: Well, architecture is also design, but you're just designing with physical materials versus pixels I think right? And there's also a lot of problem solving in architecture, and I think a lot of geometric precision, and I like to put that in my work as well.
Sander van Dijk: So, I think it's also very ... Like, I'm very inspired by older architecture like before there were computers and stuff like that because back in the day. Like right now we have measurement. We have like, "Oh, this is 10 centimeters or 10 inches." But back in the day they would build and construct temples and whatever, like huge buildings, just using geometry. They would say like, "Well, let's put a circle down first, and then put a triangle inside, and then based on where this corner hits this other line that's where we'll start another square." They would just like design based on that, and what you get is this very harmonious architecture piece, and that's what I like to study, and I like to apply that in my own work. That's also some of the stuff that you'll learn about if you take the Advanced Motion Methods course.
Sander van Dijk: So, that's really how architecture inspires me, and it's just like, it's almost the same. I would say it's very closely related.
Joey Korenman: Dude, that is fascinating to me. I've never thought of it that way, and now that you've said that and I go look at a lot of your work, and, you know, I mean, if I was going to describe it geometric is a word I would use.
Sander van Dijk: Right.
Joey Korenman: That's really fascinating. And so, I can totally see how that influence has trickled into your animation.
Joey Korenman: So, lets talk a little bit more about your work. So, here's another good question. As a motion designer how do you define a goal when working on a project for a client and how do you know when the goal is achieved or not? And I guess the way I'm interpreting that question is if a client hires you saying, "Hey, we want you to animate this piece for us to tell people about our brand new product and get them excited." How do you know if you've achieved that goal?
Sander van Dijk: Right. Well, let me tell you a story because I have a process now that I use, but I didn't have the before and this is what made me realize that I need a process like that.
Sander van Dijk: So, I got hired to do this really cool teaser video for this tech company that was showing off their new tool and I was like, "Cool, let's do it." So, I just got started, and created this one minute video, and kind of along the way the CEO started to realize that all of the features that he wanted to explain and talk about in the video, it wasn't really going to be possible to fit that all in, and I just went straight into "Oh, this person wants a teaser. Let's make it."
Sander van Dijk: And what I realized then is that the client he didn't want to have a teaser video like he told me. He actually needed a longer video that was just explaining some of the features of his product. I did a really good job on their video, but it wasn't really what the client has asked for so I kind of missed the goal there, and what I realized then is that I need to really understand what the client wants. I usually ask a couple of questions that can help me figure out what that is.
Sander van Dijk: You know, one of the main questions would be like, "Well, what does success look like for you once this video is out?" And that person could have potentially said, or the client could have potentially said "Oh, well, people would know about these and these features." And I would be like, "Oh, wait a second. So, actually in order to talk about all of these features we may need a longer video, and we may need to use live action instead of animation to tell people about it. We may need to have voice over instead of a really cool music track."
Sander van Dijk: So, that's kind of my process for making sure I figure out what the goal of the client is.
Sander van Dijk: Another couple of interesting questions that you can always ask is like, well, because I'm always curious about this is like, "Well, what happened in your business that actually sparked the creation of this project?" Right? Because then if you ask that you know why you're brought in to do the job.
Sander van Dijk: And then you could also things like, "Well, how can I help to get you there?" Because they brought you in with certain expectations that maybe they saw something that you did before that they want you to do so then you also kind of understand, like, "Well, what is it that they want for me and is that actually going to solve their problem?"
Joey Korenman: Yeah. Dude, that is an amazing question to ask. "What made you call me to ask me to do this?"
Sander van Dijk: You need to know that, and you can't just come in and just follow orders because you're a freelancer now and if they need to hire someone that just follows orders they can just hire someone that has the skills, but remember we're moving towards an area right now where you're not being hired really anymore for just your skills. You need to know those, but you also need to come with solutions to specific problems, and your client can only think sometimes up to a certain point and that's where you have to potentially come in and show them the possibilities, or show them what could solve their problem.
Sander van Dijk: And, you know, to get back to how do you know when you've achieved your goal. You know when you've achieved your goal is when they hire you again again, you know?
Joey Korenman: I love it.
Sander van Dijk: Because then you have a guarantee that what you did last time is what they wanted you to do. And I have to say, that client that I worked for, and I created that teaser for, he hasn't called me back, and most clients, most clients call me back after I work for them.
Joey Korenman: Some of the things you're saying, this is the kind of stuff that Chris Doe always talks about. He said something once, and I'm gonna totally butcher it, but it was something like, your value is related to the questions you ask or something like that. You're worth the questions you ask. And so, that question, if you asked the client, "So what made you figure out how much you want to spend and find me and contact me?" Because you're basically diagnosing their pain point, and you're taking your ego out of it, because what you want to do is making something cool to impress other motion designers, at least that's the way I used to operate. But that's not the goal, right?
Sander van Dijk: That's often not the client's goal. Sometimes it is, if they want it also be really cool. But most of the times, you're there to ... you're there for a shortcut. They're spending a lot of money on you, hopefully, and then you need to come in, solve a problem, and be out. And then they're like, "Whoa, our problem just got solved." Or, "We were able to communicate that so clearly because of this video."
Joey Korenman: Yeah, awesome. All right. So moving on, I have a question that I think it was probably asked by like 30 different people in various ways.
Sander van Dijk: Oh, okay, this is a very important question.
Joey Korenman: Yeah, but this is by far ... Well, I don't know how important it i, but it's definitely the most popular question, and I'm not surprised. The question is, what is your process for thinking up and creating a smooth transition between two scenes? Your work is kind of ... that's one of the features of it that I think people like about your work is that you're very good at coming up with these clever ... It's almost sometimes it's almost like an optical illusion how you get from one scene to another, like some interesting origami device at times. So how do you think about transitions and go about executing?
Sander van Dijk: All right. Well, first of all, you're already left out ... Like, it involves all the other frames of the animation, but just focusing on two of those frames, and just the transition between them, you've already left out the most important thing about the whole equation. So when I make a motion design piece, I consider all frames and how they move together. I see all the style frames and all the scenes just as like little moments captured in a continuous play. So I just look very long and play around with different ways that things could rotate, move, scale. To get something that is ... to find that continuous play that is hiding behind those style frames. And it doesn't mean we have to stop on every frame. Sometimes one of the style frames is just a continuous thing.
Sander van Dijk: And as far as the way I transition all the different things in the animation, I'm really trying to create this pulse. Life has a pulse, like your heartbeat has a pulse. Your lungs have a pulse. This pulse flows through everything, and it basically informs how my transitions move. And most often what I do is I look at every style frame, and I try to observe, well, what is the natural direction that this frame wants to move in? Like, how does it want to move?
Sander van Dijk: I ask myself that question, and then I put it into context with all the other frames and I try to find that pulse, that sine wave that runs through the entire animation, and that often then gives me clues about one thing needs to transition into another thing, because there's many ways you can go from one thing to other, but if you're following this sine wave pulse that goes through the entire animation, it actually feels continuous. That's how I approach transitioning between frames, and that's exactly also what I teach in the advance motion methods course as well.
Joey Korenman: Yeah, and I'll add to that too, because this was something I was really curious about too when you started making the class and then watching you put these lessons together and animating examples and things like that. One thing that stuck out and that it's obvious at all from the outside is how much planning, and how much of a process there is for everything you animate. Everyone who's a fan of your work, they just see the end result. They don't see the six or seven steps and failed experiments that it took to get there, and I think that leads nicely into the next question someone had.
Sander van Dijk: But before you go there, though, but like-
Joey Korenman: Okay.
Sander van Dijk: ... that's a thing that often happens. Like, people are always so surprised that when they see something, they're like, "Oh, that took a lot of work to make." Well, if you look at a building, that took a long time to put up. Like, if you look at just anything in life, it took a long ... sometimes it take us a long time to get there. Why would it be any different for motion design? Comparing motion design to some of the other things in life, like building a building, you have a lot more stuff to deal with when you're actually putting something physical in the world, a lot of rules and regulations. And motion design, you have a clean plate. You can do whatever you want. So, yeah, it takes a lot of work. Why would it be any different for motion design?
Joey Korenman: Yeah, and it's almost like the way I'm hearing what you're saying is that people see the end result, and if they're trying to imagine the number of hours it took literally just to create that end result. Like, if you just animated from start to finish with zero screw ups and everything went perfectly, well, it wouldn't take that much time. But what they're not accounting for is you sitting there with no ideas, banging your head against the wall for an hour trying to think up how the heck this could even work, trying five things, four of them are terrible. One kind of works, doing six versions of it. Finally, you start to get somewhere. Like, that process, that ends up with possibly something very simple looking, but there's a really complex that it takes to get there whether or not the end result is complex.
Sander van Dijk: And you need fast iteration for that too. You need your tools to be able to come with you when you're thinking. Thinking happens so fast, and if it takes five minutes to render out something, then you're out of your flow. So that's why I'm also so passionate about developing tools and ways to improve workflow, is because it's gonna help us think faster, iterate faster, come up with the right ... finally figure out the right way that these frames are meant to be put together. It all ties in together.
Joey Korenman: Love it. So, when you have ... So let's say you're animating something, you're given a set of boards, and you close your eyes and you can imagine the way it's gonna animate, right? How closely does the final result end up matching that initial vision? I guess one way to look at this is, are you animating by exploring and it feels like you're searching through a cave and you can't see what's right in front of you until you get there, or do you have a blueprint in your head, and you're just executing it?
Sander van Dijk: I use the animation process as an extension of my mind, and as an extension of my thinking. So, instead of thinking, like, "Would it be good to animate this in this way?" I just animate it, and see if it works. And I often don't really know until I actually try. I'll build an animatic in an hour, just really rough, put it together, don't name any layers, just like really rough, put everything together, see if things work, because once I know it works, I can just make it into the final piece. But it's very valuable to explore really fast and see the results of that exploration almost immediately, because otherwise it interrupts the thinking process.
Joey Korenman: Yeah, so it's almost like you're testing, and then you're iterating, and then you're polishing, right?
Sander van Dijk: Right, yeah. So often the first animatics that I make, they look horrible. But they show the ideas. They show what comes first and how that thing goes to the next thing, and then how that goes into the next thing. And when it happens, and if I can get that right, then after that, and I can get some kind of client approval on that, then I can proceed, but I know that it's going to work.
Joey Korenman: Yeah, I think the animatic process is one of the least understood things by artists at the beginning of their career, because it's the thing you don't ever see. You see the end result, and maybe you see some style frames, right? Like, if a studio puts it on their website. So you'll see the very beginning and the very end, but you don't see the middle, and the middle's where the magic is. That's one of the things I love about the class you put together, is that you show the messy middle, is what I like to call it. It's the part where you're almost embarrassed about how it looks.
Sander van Dijk: I am. It looks horrible.
Joey Korenman: But it's so essential, and without that you don't get that beautiful polished end result.
Sander van Dijk: Yeah, and it also ties back into architecture, right? I mean, you want to make sure that before you actually out the foundation in that you thought about every single part of your building. Once the foundation's in, and you start building this building, it's gonna be very hard to start changing it afterwards.
Joey Korenman: Exactly.
Sander van Dijk: So you better make a good plan in the beginning, because it's gonna just make your process a lot easier. And that's also often the metaphor that I use to describe this process to clients. I'll either try to find something in their business, because I've asked them questions about their business and things like that, so I understand their process. So I can kind of use that as a metaphor. Oh, so if they were a building company for example, to stick with our architecture example, I could be like, "Well, first, we need to figure out what it is you like, so we'll just pull a couple references." And that's just exactly the same as just pulling references for what kind of type of building you're gonna make. And then we'll need to make a blueprint, right?
Sander van Dijk: And the blueprint is then just the direct correlation to an animatic or a boardamatic, and then you keep going on that trend, where, once our first rough draft's starts, it's like putting the foundation in. So your client can now start to understand the further you progress into this process, the harder it's going to be to actually change things, because they know very well in their own business, that once that foundation is laid, it's gonna be really hard to change things afterwards.
Joey Korenman: Awesome. So let's shift gears a little bit, and talk about, I guess, some of your personal habits, personal hygiene, things like that. So the question is, what was it that propelled your skills to the high level that you now have? Are there any personal habits that you've developed to help you? And I know the answer to this question, because we've talked about it a lot. So, I'm gonna let you take it away.
Sander van Dijk: Okay, well, I believe there's two things. The first one is that I've been around other people that are more talented than me, and I've been able to learn from them and ask them questions. And I always like to say that you are the average of the five people that you hang out with the most. So if you make sure that you're always around five people that are better than you, eventually you'll start to move up the scale and become the average of that group, which is gonna be harder and harder, because some people that are really good, it's gonna be hard to be around for a long time. That's why I always like to collaborate with people, because then you actually ... you're not just sitting at a bar somewhere having a drink, you're just actually spending time with each other, finding solutions, problem solving.
Sander van Dijk: So I think that's the first one. I've bene really lucky when I got that internship at King And Country. When that studio started, they wanted to move up the scale as well. So what they did is they hired a lot of freelancers, some of the freelancers that I looked up to, and I was working with them on projects, and I was able to ask them questions. And that's what I believe is really valuable in moving really quickly with education. Like, I remember coming home and just being amazed by how much I've actually had learned in half a year, just comparing it to coming back to the situation that I was before. I think that's one. The other one is like ... and that's what I've been doing more now is that, it's just being really open and listening to how other people do their work, experts.
Sander van Dijk: So I often look over the shoulders of photographers, or directors. And when I do that, I just keep really silent, because I just want to really observe very carefully all the moves that they're doing, why they're doing specific things. And I might think in my mind, like, "Oh, I think I've got a better way of doing that." But even when I think that, I keep silent and I just look at ... and try to understand like, "Well, why are they doing it that specific way? What is the benefit of doing it that specific way?" And if I see that same benefit there, what I can do now, is I can start to learn from all these different people, take some of their best tricks, put those together, see if those work for me as well, and merge them with your own skills, and, yeah, become better yourself.
Joey Korenman: Yeah, I want to add something to that too that I've noticed about you. And that is, you are terrifyingly open to critique. Like, you invite critique in a way that would completely freak me, and probably most people, out. As artists, this is a skill we all have to learn, how to disconnect our ego from the work, so that we're able to accept criticism, and hopefully constructive criticism. But it's still very scary even for artists late in their career, and you're great at that. Like, you invite it, you know?
Sander van Dijk: The way I look at it, it's critique on my work. It's not critique on me. I've already moved on. I may have already learned from that experience, so I would not have made that same mistake again, if that was a mistake. So it's just critique on some work that I did in the past, whatever. Like, because I did that work, and because I got that critique, now I have an opportunity to actually notice that I'm getting better. And if I'm gonna be silent, or I'm gonna refuse critique and just hope that people will like it, then where am I? I'm just still stuck at where I was, and I have no confirmation that what I actually just created or made helps solve a problem, is actually good, or whatever. You should ask many people for feedback.
Sander van Dijk: And as far as habits, I would say, just like what we mentioned before, like putting lots of hours in really helps, because I can get a lot done. Up to a certain point though, because if you put too much hours in, you actually become less productive. Another thing that I always keep in the back of my mind is like, sometimes you work at a project and you're like, "Oh, my God, like, it's so much work, or it's so hard, it's so difficult." And you have this feeling of like, "Oh, man, I almost want to give up." But as soon as I've noticed that, I'm like, "No, this is where most people would give up. But what if I go one step further? What if I try one more time?" And that really ... I've really programmed my brain to be like that, when as soon as I'm at that moment where I'm about to give up on something, it's just like you're almost there.
Sander van Dijk: What if you go one step further than where other people would stop? You might be abl to make it. So, it's really that determination. I feel like that's been a really helpful habit for me. And another habit is like, "Well, what choices can I make right now that will bring me one step closer to where I need to be tomorrow?" And if I have a choice of like, well, spending time on Instagram, scrolling through my feed aimlessly, or working on my passion project, that becomes a very easy choice to make, because I know that in the future I want to have this passion project out. What's going to help me get there? Just working on the passion project right now, or scrolling aimlessly on Instagram? It just helps me. Those are just, I guess, two little habits that help me in my work as well.
Joey Korenman: Yeah, I'm gonna recommend everyone listening go pick up The Dip by Seth Godin. It's a book about exactly one of those ideas that you just said, Sander, which is that moment that you feel the most pressure and the most ... you want to quit right at that moment. That's the moment right before you break through and succeed. And he gives a million examples in why human psychology works that way. But once you learn to recognize that feeling for what it is, as the final hurdle that you have to cross, then you can really lean into it. And this is something that I talk about in animation boot camp too.
Sander van Dijk: It's tricky though, because sometimes you are ... Like, don't just aimlessly keep ... If there's a hallway of doors and you just keep banging into the same door and it doesn't open, maybe it's a different door. So you have to sometimes at those moments you have to also think like, "Well, is it realistic to just keep trying, or like, should I try a different approach? What if I do this?" But then eventually you'll be able to figure it out. So it's not just like, "Oh, I'm just gonna aimlessly throw myself at this." It's more like, well, think about it as well.
Joey Korenman: Exactly, yeah. And one way that can be useful to look at that is if you're trying to do something that's never been done before, then that feeling may mislead you. But if you're trying to achieve some motion design effect that you've seen other people do, it's clearly possible, it's just a matter of learning and figuring out how and doing it. And so, that frustration of trying and failing, trying and failing, trying and failing. I found that a lot of times when I'm trying to do something that scares me, or that I feel like I'm probably gonna fail at, right before I succeed I get this burst of anxiety, and it makes me want to stop. And as long as I don't, I usually get it pretty quickly. It's a weird thing. So read the book, check it out. I learned a lot from it.
Sander van Dijk: Yeah, get that fix, because the result that you're after is way more important than you feeling a little down that it's not working out. So, just keep going at it. Don't give up so easily.
Joey Korenman: Love it. Yeah, you gotta be resilient. So let's talk about hard skills versus soft skills.
Sander van Dijk: All right.
Joey Korenman: So the question we got was, what has worked best for you in terms of achieving success? And I'm assuming that this person means in your career. Is it being technically savvy, or is it ... I love the term this person used, being a Pandora's box of ideas? And you've kind of already talked about this a little bit, but maybe you can elaborate. Is it your technical skills that have gotten you this far, or is it more than just that?
Sander van Dijk: I would say technical skills, because back in the day, it was a little bit about technical skills, or it was a lot about technical skills. If you knew how to do something ... Knowledge wasn't as available yet. It is also about, like what we talked about before. Like, your client can only think so far. You have to help them, at least that's what you're hired for. You have to help them figure out the correct solution to their problem. And often this can be difficult, because the client might not believe that or understand the solution that you have.
Sander van Dijk: I find that it's often better instead of explaining it, like, try to make a quick demo to show them how it works. Like, one example is a project that I've done with a friend of mine, Max Stossel, who's a poet, and he has a poem about stop making murderers famous. And if you want to check it out, you could just Google exactly that and you'll find a video on it. But this was a four minute long poem, and he wanted to really create animation on it, create visuals for it. So, he asked me, and my options were like, "Well, we could create four minutes of animation, or four minutes of live action stuff, but you know how much that is gonna cost. Like, this is gonna cost a lot of time, and we don't really have that for a passion project. You don't have the budget to hire a whole team of animators to create four minutes of animation based on this voiceover poem."
Sander van Dijk: So in option two was like, "Well, what if we tell the story through the Facebook feed?" And the whole poem is also very related to social media, so that's why I came up with that solution. And this ended up being like recreating the Facebook feed, turning it into an animation, and it was actually very fast to create, so now we have four minutes of animation. And I found effectively a solution for that problem that he had of wanting to find four minutes of animation, but still make it easy to complete.
Sander van Dijk: But when I told him this, when I told him the solution, he's like, "Hey, what if we create just the Facebook feed?" He didn't really understand it until I actually created a quick demo and showed it to him on his phone, be like, "Here, if we make the video full screen, it just looks like you're in your Facebook app, but the whole Facebook feed is telling you a story, and you're in it, like, voiceover-ing things, and you're also in it in video." Yeah, that's really what I would say this problem solving is about.
Joey Korenman: So, we're gonna link to that video in the show notes. And it's funny, Sander, I had never actually seen that. While you were talking about it, I pulled it up on my phone and I was watching it, and I was like, "Oh, that's really clever."
Sander van Dijk: Right. Make sure you watch the one that says, "Watch this on your phone." Because then if you make it full screen, it will actually look like you're in your Facebook app, at least that's what we tried to do.
Joey Korenman: And the thing is, like, it's such a simple execution technically, right? Which it's funny, because I know a lot of people listening, they associate you with the fancy expressions and the crazy thing, and you're capable of that. And I think that the point that you made earlier was that, that is almost the price of entry now. Like, you don't have to be at the level technically that you are, but you do need a certain level of technical chops even to play in the motion design game. But what people are gonna hire you for ... That used to be enough to get hired. That's not enough anymore. Now, people want to know what you can bring to the table besides that. And ideas are one way, your personality, and being easy to work with, it's another way. So, the way I would answer that, is you need both, but it's really interesting after seeing that example, Sander. It's cleat that what maybe got you success early was the technical skills, but that's not why you're successful now in my opinion.
Sander van Dijk: Right. I mean, just technical skills only get you so far, and if you're cool with that, that's great. I know many people who just want to do the technical stuff, and I've been there for a while. Like, I just wanted to focus on doing all the technical complex things in After Effects, and don't worry about all the client stuff. But I think it's important to keep in mind that like, the technical stuff is just the technical stuff. I mean, you always have work if you're really, really, really good at it, but there's gonna be a point where a lot of people know the technical stuffs as well, or there's another program that comes that allows you to do these things really easily. Maybe AI develops up to a point where a lot of this stuff is already automated. So what's left then? Then it's really about the business skills, the stories you tell, and the way you're able to communicate with these graphics. So a combination of business skills, communication skills, and the technical skills, I think, is what's gonna be really valuable in the future.
Joey Korenman: Cool. So now I want to ... I have a couple of questions here about just general workflow stuff. So, one question is, what does your animation process look like? And the question goes on. I don't mean the technical part, because I've already covered that. I mean, the mindset, mood, planning, evaluation, anything aside from the software talk. So the way I interpreted it was like, when you sit down with a brief, what happens leading up to opening After Effects?
Sander van Dijk: Right, that's a good question. For me, and I'm sure this is different for everyone, but for me, it means a lot of alone time, and a very, very deep focus, often with like noise canceling headphones and some music on, so I can just cancel out the world, because I really want to go to the deepest parts of my Brian to figure out what is there, how can I animate this. And if there's too much distractions then, I'm not gonna get there. I'm not gonna get to that place. So I need to have a lot of time to just go deep. And then looking at these frames, if I have style frames or a storyboard or a plan, I'm almost looking at them like I'm about to break into the Federal Reserve.
Sander van Dijk: I'm looking at them like this crazy technical thing that I need to solve, because I'm trying to, in my mind, I'm trying to figure out all the different ways that I can go from one thing to another, and why I would go that way versus the other way. If I go this way, what does it mean? Like, what does it signal? One other thing that I always try to do is I always try to make everything connect. When I draw my storyboards, the F5 logo animation is a really good example of that, because there's no moment in there where it just like, whoops, it's a different frame. Now, all of a sudden everything somehow connects to each other, and it's this huge puzzle that unfolds. And that's what I'm really passionate about figuring that out. But yeah, that's just my approach, and I think it's very much based on your personality. So, like, I think there's this personality test thing out there. So, yeah, you should really try to understand yourself and what allows you to get the most out of that pre planing evaluation process. Another weird thing for example, that works for me is sitting on trains.
Sander van Dijk: Like, I can work really well when I'm on a train for some reason. And I feel like it makes ... because I can cancel out the world with some music and everyone's just going about their own business, so they're not bothering me. And there's this progression of moving forward. Every time I look outside there's something new. So, if I would sit in a just a room, just look out of the window, everything just feels like sitting still. But when I'm in a train, the environment around me is moving, the music is moving, so it just really helps my mind progress and keep running forward versus stopping. So, yeah, I think that's my process.
Joey Korenman: That sounds like advice I've heard from a lot of creative directors and people like that, that the best way to create good work is to get away from the computer. What I always used to do is go for runs. So that's my version of being on a train, or putting on headphones. It's something that, it lets your conscious brain shut off for a little bit, and then you're unconscious Brian can takeover, and all of a sudden it just starts feeding you these weird ideas, and you're like, "Huh, I never would've thought of that if I sat down and tried to think of something." You know?
Sander van Dijk: Sure. I'm also one of those people who gets a lot of ideas in the shower, and I think it's just purely because I just can't bring my laptop when I'm in the shower, it's not gonna last very long. Until they start making these things waterproof. But it's just like you're by yourself in a room where no one bothers you, and you just have space to think no matter if you like it or not. And then all of a sudden ideas start popping in your head, at least for me. And then that's what really helps as well.
Joey Korenman: Awesome. Well, that was really good advice. So the next question is a very specific one, but I thought it would be good to include, because we actually talk about this concept a little bit in your class. How important is it to get a grasp of editing plain video ... so I guess just plain old editing as opposed to fancy motion design, in order to edit great motion? Like, how important is the idea of editorial in motion design?
Sander van Dijk: I think it's super important. Yeah, get a good feel of that. I started out as an editor. I think it's just good to get a good sense of timing, and I know a lot of other successful motion designers who were editors before. So, yeah, I think it's definitely valuable. It just goes a lot faster than motion design. With editing, you can get through a lot of stuff real quickly. You can experiment with a different kind of music. What happens when you put clips together differently? Yeah, so I would definitely try that out.
Joey Korenman: I would agree 100%.
Sander van Dijk: Go help someone on YouTube edit their videos or whatever, just to get a sense of good editing.
Joey Korenman: Yeah, I started as an editor too, and the thing about editing, I think you pointed out, is that it's just really fast, and you can get ideas from your brain onto the screen more or less instantly, and that is so useful in that messy middle phase, in that planning phase of animation. And also, what I also find too, is that as motion designers, we're attracted to the sexy seamless transition, two minute long piece with no seams and everything's very cleverly morphing from one thing to the next. But that takes a lot of work, and there's not always time for that. And sometimes you can just cut and it works really well.
Sander van Dijk: Right.
Joey Korenman: And it makes revisions a lot easier as you just swap out one shot for another. And so, I think it's incredibly handy.
Sander van Dijk: I think these techniques are very overlapping, and I think if you have some editing skills, it's gonna be a real benefit to you because, if you're ever in a situation with a client where time or budget is limited, you always have the option to just edit it instead of doing that really complex transition.
Sander van Dijk: And that's gonna save lots of time, and that's gonna allow you to go home early, and yeah, make changes really easily.
Sander van Dijk: So yeah, sometimes you wanna just opt for going that route.
Joey Korenman: Excellent. Excellent. All right. So, now we're gonna shift into some career advice and the first question. It's really interesting, actually.
Joey Korenman: So this person said, "This may sound dumb." This isn't ... It's not a good way to start a question by the way but I left it in.
Sander van Dijk: No questions are dumb.
Joey Korenman: I left it in. So, here's a question. It's, "I don't have a reel yet. I could have one but I'm just not satisfied with what it would be yet.
Joey Korenman: I know I could definitely find some work, would you think that it's more advisable to hustle for the reel or just go out and get client work that may not be as cool as I'd like it to be because of the fact that I don't have reel yet?"
Joey Korenman: And I guess, the way I'm kinda reading this is, this person's just starting out. They don't have a reel yet and they're asking, "Is it better to just go try and, you know, kick open some doors and scrounge up some work so that you can have a reel with professional work on it?
Joey Korenman: Or to take a little more time, do some spec stuff that maybe looks a little bit cooler in the hopes that then, when you get paid finally, it'll be to do something neater?
Sander van Dijk: Right. Well, that the question ... and this may be why this person thinks that might be a dumb question but I'd say, the question you wanna ask yourself before that is like, "Well, who are you trying to attract?"
Sander van Dijk: Like, "What kind of client are you trying to attract by making this reel or doing this work?"
Sander van Dijk: So, if I would want to attract like working for studio, it might, you know, another question that I should have really asked myself is like, "Well, how do studios these days determine like, who to hire.
Sander van Dijk: "Are they looking for reels? Are they going to schools to figure out, are they emailing school of motion, are they looking on Instagram?"
Sander van Dijk: So like, depending on who you'd like to attract as a client, you wanna go to where they are looking for creatives and then, make something there that maybe stands out.
Sander van Dijk: I would say the main reason why people have found my work is because they found a motion graphic piece that they could tell that someone was really ... That someone cared about it. Someone worked on it with a lot of passion.
Sander van Dijk: And like the whole ... Like, there is a point in time where you're a freelancer and you're constantly looking for work and then, at some point, it may flip then, people are trying to reach out to you asking you for work.
Sander van Dijk: And I feel like for me, the moment that that flipped, when people started to email me versus me trying to ... trying so hard to find work is when I created the POS fest animation.
Sander van Dijk: So what I did is, I just ... I was so fed up with working all the time that I saved up some money and I just decided to take half a year off.
Sander van Dijk: And in that half a year, like I wanted to create a project that really like I've made my reel intro by that time, which was this geometry thing and everyone really seemed to like it. So, I thought, "What if I do a whole animation based on that style?"
Sander van Dijk: So that's really what I set out to do so, I actually spend about four months working on this animation, POS fest.
Sander van Dijk: So, creating a project like that, that you really put a lot of time in is gonna make a much bigger dent on the internet than trying to do something every single like week. That's not good.
Sander van Dijk: Or, if you would focus on, you know, or if you would focus a lot of time working on projects that you don't really like doing because, guess what? Now people are gonna see those projects. The people that you've worked with are gonna recommend you and you'll probably just end up with a lot more projects that you don't like doing.
Sander van Dijk: So, why not take some time off and really spend time orienting yourself towards the things that you really love to do. Put a lot of effort into that and put that out.
Sander van Dijk: Not too much because my portfolio by that time probably had like three motion pieces on it. But they were pieces that I really worked on really hard, passionately and that's what ... That was the stuff that I really wanted to do.
Sander van Dijk: So, that's how I went through it and it doesn't mean that that's the one way there is because there's probably many other ways, but I would really ask yourself, who are you trying to attract? What kind of client are you trying to attract, and what can you do in order to get on that person's radar?
Joey Korenman: That is amazing advice and I guess, I would just sort of follow up by saying that, you know, if you're fortunate enough to have that bandwidth, you know, you can ...
Joey Korenman: Maybe you're living at home, or you have some savings, or you live very cheaply, or whatever and you can take the time to craft something that's actually meaningful and that is reflective of who you are as an animator then, that's going to pay a lot more dividends in your career than, just trying to get out and get client work six months earlier, you know.
Sander van Dijk: Right.
Joey Korenman: And I find it also so hard to imagine to just go get out and get client work. Like, it's not like, you can go to the hardware store and pick up some client's work.
Joey Korenman: It's like a, you know, it's like a process. It's like ... Yeah, if you don't have a reel and you don't have any work, you're not getting client work.
Joey Korenman: So, I don't know how you'd plan on doing it, you know, unless you mean like, you might get an internship or something.
Joey Korenman: But even now, I think like, even to get an internship as a motion designer, you need something. You can't have nothing and there's really no ... There's no excuse to have nothing, you know, it's like the tools are just available, you know.
Sander van Dijk: For sure, you can make something. There's someone out there that would love to have you make an animation for them. There's no shortage of that.
Sander van Dijk: So like, and I think it Instagram also is a very interesting platform right now where I think a lot of people are able to find, you know, designers and animators really quickly and easily.
Sander van Dijk: And if you look at what like Gunner is doing, for example, where they're bringing out all these little interesting shots of this guy on the rooftop of a building in New York, potentially, and he kicks a little can and it gets stuck in his like, saxophone player down on the street and it's just like ...
Sander van Dijk: It's just like a little animation that might not take you four months to make but, you know, if you put a bunch of those animations together, you could argue that your social media feed starts to become like, sort of a reel, right?
Sander van Dijk: But more like a reel that your client is actually able to select specific parts of, and watch them and, yeah?
Joey Korenman: Yeah.
Sander van Dijk: Maybe they'll find something that they are looking for and they'll contact you.
Joey Korenman: So, I think that this conversation leads nicely into the next question and you've talked ... You talked about this a little bit earlier, but I think now, you know ... So, the question is, what's the best way to network or get a job at a studio or an agency?
Joey Korenman: And let me kinda reframe it a little bit because the way that you got a job at a studio, you know, it worked for you but it was, you know, there was a little bit of luck involved in terms of the timing of King and Country, you know, just starting out and all that.
Joey Korenman: But I think that, you know, knowing what you know now and knowing the current state of things, if you were starting out right now, how would you try to get a job at a studio and agency?
Sander van Dijk: I've no idea and I have no idea actually how people do the whole networking event kind of thing either.
Sander van Dijk: Like, I've been to, like a lots of networking events, right? And you go there with your business cards.
Sander van Dijk: I actually had pretty interesting business card back in the day, like, what I would do is, I would take my animation, I would export an image sequence out of that and then, I would make sure that every business card had ... the front was the same but the back had like one frame of my animation.
Sander van Dijk: So, when I would go to the event, I would be like, "You want my business card?" And then, I pull out my business cards and I'm like, "Here, these are all the frames in my animation. You can pick one and you have my information."
Sander van Dijk: So like, I think that was like ... I was trying really hard to be very creative with that too but like, I don't know.
Sander van Dijk: Like, networking events are always kinda hard, especially if you're like an introvert or whatever. But like that, the reason how I feel like I got into a lot of studios and agencies is, just by starting somewhere.
Sander van Dijk: Like, so often we may be working at a studio that's not one of the top studios and we're kinda just bummed all day that we're like, "Well, you know, I'm not working at this super cool studio that I wanna work at," but your whole attitude right now is like super down when you work at the place that you're currently working.
Sander van Dijk: But if you were a little bit more up then, people could actually start to notice like that energy.
Sander van Dijk: What I'm trying to say and what I'm trying to go after is that, to me, it feels like it's a chain reaction. You could start anywhere.
Sander van Dijk: The things that I always pay attention to is, making sure that I help others, that I do favors and that I'd be very resourceful.
Sander van Dijk: Like, I wanna impress people with what I can do for them. If I can show that, I'm gonna be resourceful to them, and they wanna hire me and they're gonna tell their friends, "Oh my god, we've got this guy Sander, and he was able to solve these problems and, you know, you should work with him."
Sander van Dijk: And I think another thing too is, through recommendation and recommendations, you have to earn those.
Sander van Dijk: You have to show to the people that you're working with that you can be responsible for a project and that you can take that serious.
Sander van Dijk: If you can show that, I'm sure people will be able to recommend you a lot more than if you're walking around, and you're like kinda feeling down that you're not in the right place right now.
Sander van Dijk: You know, maybe you had a bad day like, figure out how you can become the most incredible asset to a company.
Sander van Dijk: A person that everyone wants to work with because like, if you're becoming an incredible asset to a company, you know, no one will ever let you go.They'll always wanna work with you because it's been so fun working with that person.
Sander van Dijk: So, and there's just a lot of techniques to that whereas, you know, instead of worrying so much about what's on your own plate.
Sander van Dijk: Like, what's on the plate of the people that you're working with right now and other things that you could do to alleviate some of those pains? Like, other things that you can do to take some of those things away.
Sander van Dijk: I think this whole like, attitude and behavior, no matter where you are working right now, or who you're working with, I think it just creates this effect of like, "Well, you know, whenever Sander comes into the room somehow, there's this magical thing.
Sander van Dijk: Projects start to propel forward, everyone has a good time working on it, you know, our deadlines are being met, there are solutions to the problems that we have.
Sander van Dijk: And that's the kind of effect that I wanna create when I'm working with a client. I wanna be there and have them notice that, once I'm there, that their project and their struggles are slowly disappearing, or that I'm there to actually help and provide solutions.
Sander van Dijk: Start where you are today 'cause I'm sure that if you put some really good attitude in to where you are today, there's gonna be other people who notice that and, what else? Maybe one day there could be this chain reaction that's gonna, you know, hopefully get you to a place where you'd rather than where you are now.
Joey Korenman: Yeah. So, I wanna add a few things to that.
Joey Korenman: So, everything you said is totally true and, you know, I think what's definitely helped me in my career, I've never ... I don't think I've ever been even in the top three most talented people in any room I've ever been in, right?
Joey Korenman: And so, that's not what's helped me. What's helped me is, being friendly and exactly what you said. Like, when I'm on a team doing a project, I will never leave my team hanging. I will always work the problem.
Sander van Dijk: Right.
Joey Korenman: I'm always upbeat, I'm never, you know, I'm never complaining, all that kind of stuff.
Joey Korenman: And so, I wanna get some tactical things. You know, if someone is just at the beginning of their career and they're trying to get into a studio, these are some things that I've seen work and that I've been told by studio owners they look for.
Joey Korenman: One is, try. Try it again, and you'd be surprised how often people, you know, complain about not working at a studio and they've never actually emailed the studio they wanna work at. They're waiting for the studio to discover them.
Joey Korenman: So, one is try, actually reach out to people. You'd be surprised how effective that can be. Also, you know, some people might disagree with this, but I firmly believe you should never have to hard sell yourself, right?
Joey Korenman: Like, I don't think I've ever sent an email saying, "Hi, I'm a motion designer, and I would love for you to hire me." You know, like ... or anything approaching that.
Joey Korenman: The way that I always reached out to people was, "Hey, I think you guys are awesome. I just wanted to reach out and say, hello, so we can be friends."
Joey Korenman: I mean, that was kind of ... and you just leave it there. And when you go to networking events ... First of all, the word networking, I feel like it's kinda ... It feels kinda gross. Really?
Joey Korenman: The way I look at it is like, for example, right? Go to Blend and your goal there is to make friends. That's it. You are not trying to get work and if that's ... If your goal is to go to Blend and get work, people are gonna smell that on you and you're not gonna have a very good time.
Joey Korenman: If you go there to just meet people, and to, you know, buy a couple of your, you know, favorite designers, and animators a beer and to just like have an opportunity to connect with people that are really talented. It will naturally come up, "Oh, so what's your story?" "Oh, well, I'm actually just out of school and I'm, you know, currently looking for my first opportunity. Thanks for asking," and just leave it.
Joey Korenman: Just leave that hanging, and I'll tell you what? Nine out of 10 people in this industry are gonna go like, "Huh, do you have a reel? Let me see your stuff." And that ... I mean, that's it, but if you ask for that, it gets uncomfortable and it doesn't work as well.
Joey Korenman: And then, the very last thing, you know, I would say is, differentiate yourself. I mean, the classic example is be grand and nerdy sending a song to Giant Ant.
Joey Korenman: That she animated this music video for like ...
Sander van Dijk: That's so cool.
Joey Korenman: .... let me be your tiny ant. It's ... You can google it. It's unbelievable. We will link to it in the show notes.
Joey Korenman: I mean, doing something like that I guarantee, no one does that. Who ... you know, who takes that effort.
Joey Korenman: That's gonna get you on their radar and, you know, it should be said that your work has to be good enough. If you're applying to work at Giant Ant, they don't hire, you know, C plus people, right?
Joey Korenman: You've got to be ... You've got to have the skills to back it up but if you just wanna get noticed ...
Sander van Dijk: What if it's not the right time for them to hire [crosstalk 01:17:32], you know?
Joey Korenman: Exactly, yeah. That happens too. Yeah, but to get on someone's radar is not that hard these days.
Joey Korenman: So, let's get a little more tactical too. This is a question about pricing. So, how do you price your work? What is your daily rate or what's the price per second if you do it that way?
Joey Korenman: Do you have a pricing formula and how has your pricing sort of changed over the years? Thank you.
Sander van Dijk: A second of animation or a second of me being there?
Joey Korenman: Right.
Sander van Dijk: That'll be a ... You know, when you hire Sander, he comes with a stopwatch and ... All right. So, rate. Like I don't have a fixed rate.
Sander van Dijk: What I have is a rate range and that rate range is a combination of different factors that eventually determine the price.
Sander van Dijk: And I talk about this in great depth in the freelance course, and how I structured it, but it's basically structured based on having a base rate which is like the rate that you would need to make at least to, you know, to be able to support yourself and there's also like, well, you may wanna double that so, you know, because you're not working full time. You're working as a freelancer.
Sander van Dijk: Then, there's a something like the market rate where that's kind of the rate that you know, people are hiring motion designers for and then there's a lot of factors that way in like, there's this client who need their project over the weekend, or is it something that's gonna happen in the new year?
Sander van Dijk: Or, you know, 'cause like, why would I be charging the same fixed rate for a project that I have lots of time for and that's not gonna start until three weeks from now, and a project that's like, needs to be delivered over the weekend and I need to like rush to get it done?
Sander van Dijk: So out of that, like soup of all these different factors, I basically determine a range and then, it just like really depends on who the client is. I just make a rate based on their project and their situation that they're in.
Joey Korenman: So, let me try and make this a little more concrete 'cause I get what you're saying, and, you know, I think you're right that pricing, it.... There is not like one set price really for anything. Pricing it's a formula, right?
Sander van Dijk: Yeah. Yeah, for me, at least it is. Like, you know how there's like value based pricing and hourly. Well, having a rate range is kind of in the middle of that.
Sander van Dijk: Now, value based pricing is a bit hard to do with motion design, especially like direct to client work because, it's often very hard to determine what the return on the investment ...
Joey Korenman: Right.
Sander van Dijk: ... is for the client based on the work that you created. Like, if I created a logo animation for a company, it's gonna be really hard to measure, you know, the return on investment on that.
Sander van Dijk: It's more like, considered so called brand marketing. Just marketing that just benefits the brand in general and it's really hard to measure return on the investment on that.
Sander van Dijk: But it's much easier to do that if you're like a web developer because you have all kinds of analytics and you just measure clicks.
Sander van Dijk: So, should we then just like start charging hourly and have our skills be a commodity?
Sander van Dijk: Well, not really, because like with motion design, you can still evaluate the situation of your client and then determine, you know, what your work should cost for that client.
Sander van Dijk: So, using that formula that includes, like, what you need to make, what the market rates are so you have some point of reference and then, some factors that play in like, you know, what risk is involved here, and what's the delivery time like?
Sander van Dijk: From there, you can start to estimate like, how much time you need in order to complete this project and then, assign your hourly rate to eventually get to like a project price.
Sander van Dijk: And most of the time with my clients like ... Clients like a project price, because they know that you can get the work done for that price. If you're charging hourly, they're gonna be like, "Well, you know, what if we go over time?"
Sander van Dijk: So, I like to set a fixed scope with a fixed price and then, that's what you get for that price if you're working direct to client at least.
Sander van Dijk: It's a different story if you're working for studios and stuff like that because they manage a lot of the client aspects of it.
Sander van Dijk: But if you're freelance, that .... It's, you know, it's really up to you to find a price that is profitable for you and is also a fair deal for your client based on, you know, the value your work provides to them.
Sander van Dijk: Like, don't just charge what you charge because your friend is charging the same rate that he got from his friend.
Sander van Dijk: You know, determine and do research on, you know, how your services stack up against other services out there in the market.
Sander van Dijk: And, you know, if the client needs to have something done over the weekend, you know, I doubt they're going to be able to find someone in time that's available.
Sander van Dijk: So, you know, that means you might be able to charge a little bit more because you are available or if you really need that gig, you know, you can charge less.
Sander van Dijk: You know, it's all up to you, but it's all based on, what my work is worth to that client in that specific situation.
Joey Korenman: Yeah. So, and that all makes a lot of sense. So ... but, you know, do you ever find like ... I'm sure you get asked all the time like to lower your rate.
Joey Korenman: Do ... You know, does it ever make sense to you if you're doing a project for a client that, you know, you kind of align with their cars, would you, you know, cut your rate in to half ever or things like that?
Sander van Dijk: I never lower my rate 'cause I'm not a charity. Like, whenever I work for someone, there needs to be a very clear win win situation.
Sander van Dijk: So, and this is not a ... And it is not a question about like being nice to your client. It's doing business and that there needs to be a value exchange otherwise, at somewhere down the line, you're not going to be able to support yourself.
Sander van Dijk: So, it also has nothing to do with like being greedy because like, I could take a lot of money from a big tech company or whatever, but I could decide to like, donate all of that directly to a charity if I wanted to.
Sander van Dijk: So, it's not really about either like being nice or being too greedy, which is something sometimes the association with what you get when you were asked for your rate so personally.
Sander van Dijk: It's more about like trying to get the maximum out of what you can get, you know, like from a job because it's going to allow you to either take some time off to do what you wanna do. You know, it's gonna create more opportunities for yourself.
Sander van Dijk: If you're constantly, you know, giving your work away for such a low rate, you're constantly trying to keep up, and it's gonna get really tiring at some point and, you know, you're not gonna be able to sustain yourself, because here is the problem with reducing your rate. Clients talk to clients.
Sander van Dijk: If you needed to get your car fixed and your friend just got his car fixed, what are you gonna do? You're gonna ask where your friend got his car fixed and how much that actually cost.
Sander van Dijk: If that person gave your friend a deal then, you're gonna go to that same repair company and, you know, expect to be paying a certain price.
Sander van Dijk: So, if I'm giving a reduced rate to a client then, I might get another client that is a referral that's gonna ask for that same rate, and when I then bump my rate up to my normal rate, that person is gonna be like, "Wait a second, I thought you sold your services for like this amount ...
Joey Korenman: Right
Sander van Dijk: .... for my friend. Like, why is it so expensive all the sudden?" And now you have to explain yourself.
Sander van Dijk: And another reason is, you're also ... When you reduce down your rate, you're also lowering the rate of everyone else.
Sander van Dijk: And what I mean by that is that, if you work for an agency and you sell, like, say, motion design costs $100 per hour or whatever, and you decide to bump that down to 50 bucks an hour.
Sander van Dijk: Now, that agency ... There in that agency, there's an entire department that's just focused on finances.
Sander van Dijk: They just have a big spreadsheet that just has all the things that they buy and it just has a price tag behind it.
Sander van Dijk: So, for motion design they go, like, "Oh, motion designer per hour, 50 bucks." So you do your project but then when the next project rolls around, they look on their spreadsheet when they're trying to make a budget, and they're looking at it like, "Oh, motion designers are gonna be 50 bucks per hour."
Sander van Dijk: And then, they're gonna reach out to people, and they're gonna expect to be paying 50 bucks per hour but, guess what?
Sander van Dijk: Like, you know, it's gonna create, you know, a problem there because they'll probably find that the rates are gonna be a lot higher than they had expected. You're almost lowering everyone else's rate if you're really reducing your own rate.
Sander van Dijk: You know, I do understand that this sounds really hard and I actually do a lot of work for free but here's the difference. I work with discounts or in exchange for something else.
Sander van Dijk: So now, it's a whole different story because, my client knows what my rate is but he may not have to pay that rate because he's getting a discount and it's very clear why he's getting a discount. Like maybe, I really like that brand.
Sander van Dijk: I've worked with lots of startup companies that they didn't just have the funds yet so, they got a discount. And you can also get really creative with this.
Sander van Dijk: So like, you know, maybe instead of working 100% for free with a discount, you can give a certain percentage. So, maybe you say, like, you know what? I'll work for 100% free and I'll give you a 75% discount because, you know what? The only thing that's left the 25% is just to cover my operation costs.
Sander van Dijk: So now, you can actually give away your time for free but you can still kind of cover your costs.
Sander van Dijk: The difference is that, you maintain your value. The client needs to know the real value of what you're offering.
Joey Korenman: Got it. Okay. So that, I was gonna ask you but now it makes sense. So, it's you ... So, if your rate say is 750 bucks a day, you will never tell a client, "I will work for 650 bucks a day."
Joey Korenman: You may actually only get that but you will phrase it as, "This is my rate but I'm willing to give you a discount," and you'll put that on the invoice so it's clear that you did not lower your rate, you gave them a discount.
Sander van Dijk: Right.
Joey Korenman: And I know it's the same ... The result is the same but psychologically, it feels a little different.
Sander van Dijk: Right. The psychological difference there is that, your work still maintains the value and that's something that you should always protect. And when you just cut your own rate and you're just putting that out there, people might not know why you cut your rate.
Sander van Dijk: People might not know that your rate was higher before. So like, you gotta find like a reason and this is also where negotiation can start because, if you're offering a discount, you're now being generous.
Sander van Dijk: What is it that the client can do to kind of deserve that discount, if you will? Can they maybe loosen up on how much revisions they wanna have in there?
Sander van Dijk: You know, can they give you a little bit more creative freedom for the discount that you're offering? So, it becomes a whole different story now.
Sander van Dijk: You're recognizing that your work has value and you're making it easier for yourself to work with that client because you're lowering your rate whereas otherwise, you would just lower it and you would still do whatever that client expected for the higher value, if that makes sense.
Joey Korenman: Right. Yeah. Now, that's an interesting way of looking at it and it does make sense.
Joey Korenman: I mean, I've done sort of similar strategies in my career, you know, like, one example is, you know, you sort of ... When you get to the level of doing bids as opposed to like, "Here is my day rate," you know, which typically, I'm sure you're doing that all the time when you do freelance work now.
Joey Korenman: You know, there's opportunities to make your profit margins and kind of itemize it in a way where, you know, for example, I used to charge, you know, like a sort of a render fee.
Joey Korenman: Like [inaudible 01:29:38] to use a render farm or something like that, right? And it might be a $2,000 fee and it's not that like, I'm not actually using a render farm. I'm just trying to get more money, but it's sort of a way of taking profit on the job but given myself an out.
Joey Korenman: If the budget needs to have 2000 bucks come off, I can say, "Okay, I'm gonna waive the render fee this time."
Joey Korenman: And it's just kind of a magic trick where now technically, my hourly rate has gone down but it doesn't appear that way to the client and then, that protects my image ...
Sander van Dijk: Right.
Joey Korenman: ... to them, as you know, in ... as it pertains to my value. So, yeah, man. I think that's good advice.
Sander van Dijk: You're biding in risk. Like, I think, I'm not sure what it's called, again, on a bid but you just ... Some companies would just put at the bottom there. They would just put like, "Oh, this much percent on top." Maybe 10 or 15%.
Joey Korenman: Right.
Sander van Dijk: Just for a risk. You know, whenever something goes wrong or whatever, sometimes you pay that back to the client after.
Sander van Dijk: It's like little insurance money or whatever that at least you got money from the client for if something goes wrong, that you refund that after projects done ...
Joey Korenman: Right.
Sander van Dijk: ... and everything went okay.
Joey Korenman: Oh, it's like a down payment or something like that. Yeah.
Sander van Dijk: Down payment, right. Yeah. So something like that.
Joey Korenman: That's [inaudible 01:30:53], yeah. That's interesting.
Sander van Dijk: There's lots of different ways. There's lots of different ways that you can go about it and ...
Joey Korenman: Cool. Well, okay. So, let's go to another kind of specific question here and this question comes up all the time in our school of motion alumni group.
Sander van Dijk: Right.
Joey Korenman: And I've never heard a definitive answer for it. I don't know if you have one but the question is ...
Sander van Dijk: Okay.
Joey Korenman: ... what do you do when the client requests the project files? Do you have some sort of [crosstalk 01:31:17]?
Sander van Dijk: Oh, [crosstalk 01:31:17].
Joey Korenman: Do you have like ... And let's just ... So, let's .... I had to take two scenarios. In one scenario that, you know, going in that they're gonna want the project files.
Joey Korenman: They're asking you to design an animator toolkit or a spot that then they're gonna take in version, right? But that's one scenario.
Joey Korenman: But then, the more common scenario is, the client who doesn't know any better, right? They ... You do the work and then they say, "Hey, can you send those project files over?"
Sander van Dijk: Yeah.
Joey Korenman: How do you respond in those two situations?
Sander van Dijk: Okay, situation one, I would say, well, if you know from the start that you're going into it, that you need to be delivering those project files then, you have to do that, and if you're not comfortable with that, you may wanna charge some extra, you know, or work it in and put your render fees on their tip from Joey.
Sander van Dijk: So, like, you know, like put some other fee on there that justifies that you were able to give them the project files.
Sander van Dijk: Situation two is a definitely a situation that I've run into where, you know, you've done the job, you delivered everything and then, you get that emails like, "Oh, where's the project files here?"
Sander van Dijk: And you're like, "I forgot to put that into the agreement. How are we gonna talk about this? How are we going to solve this?"
Sander van Dijk: It can be a very uncomfortable topic, especially at the end of a project when something, you know something just got delivered, client's happy, you're happy and now there's this like, "Uh, he doesn't want to give me the project files or whatever."
Sander van Dijk: So like, what I've done is, I've turned that second scenario. I've turned the project files into an extra service.
Sander van Dijk: Like, "Do you want extra catch up with your potato chips?" That kind of stuff.
Sander van Dijk: So, what I do is, I ask up front just like, "You know, would you like to be able to make changes to the work afterwards? So I'm basically just asking him, "Do you need the project files?" And most time I get the answer, like we obviously have the scenario in our head where the client runs away with the project files and then hires a bunch of cheaper animators to do the project, right? And that might happen, but most of the times what I found is that the client just wants sometimes to make a bunch of simple tweaks like maybe some texts changes, and they don't want to just hire you again to do all those changes, because they're just small changes. So that scenario I have actually found a really good solution for, and I've recently done this with a client that had a very text heavy animation, and it was also in a lot of different languages.
Sander van Dijk: What I've done is I made sure all the texts that I was using ... Well first of all, I made sure that up front, before the job starts I ask my client that question, right? "Would you want to make changes to the work afterwards?" If so, I have this extra service that we can put on top that just gives you the project file, so you can make changes very easily. I'll do a little tutorial on it, showing you how it works, and from that moment on you can change the text, you don't need me anymore, but it costs this much to do that. So what I do is I basically put all the texts that I use in Illustrator. It's a program that's very simple to use. The designers at that company knew how to use Illustrator. I import those Illustrator assets and then I basically render all the other animation stuff. I render it down afterwards in the project, like I bake it. And so what you just get is you get a very simple animation that has like a background layer baked, all the text and then a foreground layer.
Sander van Dijk: If the client wants to make a change, they can open up the Illustrator file, make the change, then open up After Effects, and it immediately updates because there's this really quick connection between After Effects and the file. So as soon as the files reload, that change is made, and all they have to do is go through the render queue and turn on the render again, and now they have their updated animation. When uncomfortable things like this pop up, I try to turn it into a service or solution. How can I turn this into something that we talk about up front, so it's very clear that by the end of the project, the project files are not included.
Joey Korenman: Yeah, I love that idea too of turning it into a service and turning something that normally motion designers feel like it's bad form, it's like a faux pas to ask for the project files, but now you're just being upfront about it, like, "Okay, yeah. You can have them, it's going to cost this much." And so I guess the big question is, how do you determine the cost of that? If you're doing a $10,000 project, do you charge less than if it's a $20,000 project?
Sander van Dijk: Well, how ever much you want to charge. It's really up to you. You're freelance now. You're your own boss, so you decide how much that is. I would say usually maybe between like 25% or 30%, whatever, but it really depends on the project. You can't really set it, it's really up to you to determine that percentage, that value. And that's why every time people are asking for, "Hey, what's your rate? Because I'm going to charge the same rate." It's not that question. It's like, "Do you know why you charge what you charge?" If you don't, What are you charging for? You need to be able to stand behind why you charge what you charge. If the client comes to and is like, "Wow, 25%. Why does that cost 25%?" You want to have an explanation of why that is 25%, you don't just want to make up a number just because the rest of the world is using that number too.
Sander van Dijk: And you could even say, "Usually it's 25%, but I'm charging you 50% because it's a lot more difficult." It's the mindset that is different versus knowing all the numbers, because those numbers are going to change. So what would you rather have? The number or the mindset to be able to figure it out every time?
Joey Korenman: So when it comes to determining that number in this particular case, are you factoring it ... The thing that I think most people in their minds are factoring in is, "If I give you the project files, you're not going to hire me again." So I have to factor in the future cost of missed work, missed opportunities, is that the primary thing you're thinking about? Or are you mostly just thinking about what's going to take this much time to organize it and make it easy for people to change and it's more, "I'm just accounting for the time it's going to take."
Sander van Dijk: If you're working with this client a lot, and all of a sudden, they're starting to ask for all your project files and they're trying to get you to stop working with them and have a cheaper animator or whatever, then think about it, what would it cost for you to potentially find another client like that? Or maybe it costs like a month of living expenses to just figure out for a month how to find a different client, so maybe that's something that you can charge towards. Figure out what it's going to cost you, and if that's something that they're not going to be able to ... It's a discussion. It really depends on your situation too, but yeah, just think about the cost that you're going to have because of it, and that's really why I want to ask it up front. "Do you want to make changes to this work afterwards?"
Sander van Dijk: You just need to know before because it's a really ugly situation if you do it afterwards, and I've been there and those clients haven't called back either.
Joey Korenman: That's really, really good advice. So I've got a couple more questions on sort of this business stuff. So another common question, I think probably a dozen people ask this one. How do you deal with rounds of revisions or clients changing their minds or being indecisive? So I guess specifically in terms of how do you factor this in when you're bidding or doing contracts? Do you have specific rounds, like you only get three rounds of revisions? Or do you do a different way?
Sander van Dijk: Right. Well, we know one trick already from the discounts. If you're offering a discount to your client, you can negotiate back saying, "Well I'm giving you a discount, maybe we limit the amount of revisions or more creative freedom or something." Another thing that I actually learned from Ann Skopas at Buck with the beauty of charging hourly is that I always make sure that I tell my clients that everything is possible, it's just going to cost more. So if you're working with a client that constantly changes their mind and is very indecisive, then you really want to be charging hourly, because it's going to be a benefit to you, because your client's going to probably change their mind, but if they do, they also understand that there's going to be costs associated with that.
Joey Korenman: That is amazing quote. Everything is possible, it's just going to cost money.
Sander van Dijk: Yeah, and dude, like I'm currently applying for another United States visa, so I'm working with a lawyer, right? Because he takes care of all the paperwork. There's also fees there, so you could pay a fee to have your visa application being processed a lot faster. So do you think if I asked that lawyer to put that emotion that he's going to just do it? No, he's gonna reply and say, "Oh, let me get you in touch with our financial department, who will update the invoice for you, and as soon as it's paid, I'll put in that request." So it's like you could protect yourself by this agreement that you have, because hopefully you've had some form of agreement where you mentioned what you would deliver for specific hours of work, and as soon as they go outside of that, you either create another agreement, or you've specifically described the process, "What happens when changes are made that are outside the scope of work."
Sander van Dijk: There's just tricks to help you with that. And the beauty of that is I like to spend my time animating, I love doing some of the business stuff and the contract stuff, but you know what, I'm not a guy that comes in and starts negotiating with the client and starts working on price, and this and that. I want to do creative work, and it's really nice when there's a couple of tricks and techniques that I can implement that allow me to do most of that creative work, and there's just a process for when things happen like this. There's a process when your client wants the project files, you ask that upfront. So if you've used that process over and over again, you start to be able to spend a lot more time on the things that you actually want to spend your time on, and you're able to deal with ...
Sander van Dijk: Because most of the questions like that, like, "What do I do when my client is asking me for my project files? What do I do?" Most times these questions come from not having a process in place. In these days, I would never be able to arrive at that situation anymore, because I had a process in place.
Joey Korenman: I'll add one more thing to that, and it's kind of similar to what you said in the quote from Ann at Buck. The way that I always did it, which worked really well was when I would bid things and come up with a budget, I would always do it in terms of a deadline. This is the number of days this project will last, and there were terms in my deal memo that would say, "And if this project goes past that date, then there will be overages assessed." So if a client comes to me the day before we're supposed to deliver and asks for a bunch of changes, it's, "Yes, but ... Yeah, anything possible, however, that's going to require three more days of animation, which means we've got to revisit the bid."
Joey Korenman: The reason I did it that way is because it's just a little bit more comfortable for most people to talk in terms of, "Oh, well that's just going to cost more time," instead of telling their client, "That's going to cost you more money," because money is a little bit more difficult to talk about. So that's one way to abstract that out a little bit.
Sander van Dijk: And you never want to tell your client that something's not possible, because they come to you because things are possible. If you just tell them that it's going to need more resources, they might be able to find some more resources, if you're able to do that, great, you have more work. So you actually mentioned timeframe, which is actually one of my most favorite parts of an agreement. I think I learned this from Jake Sergeant, is that you want to just put down a timeframe before the project, when it's actually over, because then after that date, you're not available anymore, and the client knows that. And this is going to really help you because sometimes you start a project and you just don't know when it's going to end.
Sander van Dijk: So you better make sure that, oh, the client gave you a deadline, well maybe two to three days after that, you put the end date for the time period of work. And then your client might contact you after that period, and might be a nice gesture to reply to your client with maybe a request to format the animation for Instagram, or whatever they need if it's something small. But the situation has changed, now making that change is like a little gift to the client, it's like a ... Can't find the word. But it's not an obligation anymore, it's not like something you agreed to.
Joey Korenman: It's a favor.
Sander van Dijk: Yeah, it's a favor. There you go. Now, it's a favor versus a actual thing that you refused to do. "Oh my God, we hired you, but you refused to do this thing." So your client might say, "Well, that's great. We hired you for doing these weeks of work, but even a week after, if we ask you something, you were kind enough to send us a little tweak. Thanks for that." Versus not mentioning a timeframe, and all of a sudden they just expect infinite deliveries from you, or who knows what. Who knows what their expectations are. You need to set those expectations from the start, because the worst thing that you can do is just jump into a project right away, because you're too excited about it and not thinking about all the things that could potentially go wrong.
Joey Korenman: So the next question, this one's kind of a tricky one. How do I find freelance work to build a client base while still working full time at an agency? It's possible. I mean, it is possible, right?
Sander van Dijk: For some people, it's possible. I mean, you have a couple options, right? I would advise before you go freelance, I'd make sure you have ... First of all I'd say, if you go freelance, make sure that before you actually pull the trigger on quitting your full time job, you have some kind of sign or hint that people want to hire you for freelance stuff, a starting point. And then I think from there you have a couple options where you could say, "Well, who knows, maybe I can do it on the side." You take on a client job and try working for them on the side when you get home from your full time job. But there's a risk with that because you need to put all your attention in your full time job, but also all your attention in your freelance work, and the last thing you want to do is make your freelance client feel like they're not getting your time, because that would be a really bad start for going freelance.
Sander van Dijk: Another thing to do, and something that I would advise is to just create a buffer, whatever, like rent your apartment on Airbnb for two months, eat pasta for three months, whatever, save money, build a buffer, save up, and then take some time off after you've quit your job to just allow for new projects to naturally come in, and you can also have your full attention on trying to get those new projects. When I quit my full time job, I had a buffer of like three to six months. Another thing that a buffer will allow you to do is it will allow you to wait for the right job to come in. So there were jobs that were coming in right after I quit my job, but it doesn't mean that you need to take those immediately. If you have a bit of a buffer, you can also kind of wait for the right one to come in, because otherwise when the right one comes in, you might be busy on the other one.
Sander van Dijk: So yeah, find freelance work when you're still working full time, it's challenging, but I hope those options may give you an idea. Take vacation time off, I don't know.
Joey Korenman: One other thing I would say that, I feel like for some people they don't want to hear this and it's kind of an unpopular thing to say sometimes but if you have a full time job, you're thinking of going freelancing and you don't have the portfolio that you think you're going to need to get booked, you have no contacts, you've only worked at one job your whole career, you are going to have to invest something, you're going to have to sacrifice something initially, and that might be sleep. Maybe you need to sleep two to three hours less every day for six months, and I know it's kind of like, "Well that sucks, I'm going to be burnt out at work and my creativity is going to suffer."
Joey Korenman: Yes, do it anyway, because if you don't, it's just going to take a lot longer. It's gonna be a lot harder to build up that momentum that you need. I mean freelancing the way it was for me, the way it's been for everyone I've ever talked to who does it is there's momentum to it. When you get into it, you're this boulder that's just sitting there, right? And it takes all this effort to get it moving, but once it gets moving, it's actually not that hard to keep it going. And so if you're willing to just be tired for six months, tell your significant other, "Sorry honey, I'm gonna be a lot less fun to be around for six months. It's going to be worth it." But then you have the rest of your life to kind of reap those dividends. So I would say, at the risk of sounding cliche I'd say maybe grind a little bit, stay up late, get up early, instead of watching Game of Thrones, do a spec piece, work on your portfolio.
Sander van Dijk: I agree with you. This is not a very popular thing that many people want to hear, but I get a lot of these questions actually. These things take time, and it's also the same with education, like we just built this course, advanced motion methods. Having advanced motion skills is not something you're going to pick up over the weekend, and that's actually why I really wanted to collaborate with school of motion. First of all, I keep hearing from a lot of people that you guys are doing a really good job at teaching, and another reason is that there's this whole over-time process. It's this transformation that happens over a couple of weeks that you actually need to make time for in order to do specific exercises to be able to let all the new skills sink in, and apply them to real work, because if you're just going to kind of watch the videos, you might just kind of watch them as entertainment, but then you forget about them or something like that.
Sander van Dijk: It's like, "Wait a second, if I'm going to really pour all my creative energy into making a course, and communicating all the skills that I have, that I have gained over 10 years working in the industry, I better make sure that this is going to be done on a platform where people are going to be able to actually absorb those skills. And yeah, you need to make time for that sometimes. Things like this take time. It took me time.
Joey Korenman: Yeah, it reminds me, I think there's a quote from Oprah, I think actually said this, that you can have everything you want, just not all at once. And so I think that's kind of what we're saying here.
Sander van Dijk: And here's the thing, it's going to take time. You know what, it took me really long to get all these skills, and what I'm hoping by putting this course together is that it's only really going to take a couple months, couple of weeks for you to get these same skills. And that's really what I think is so incredible about building a course like this is that it's this engineered piece of learning that you can just observe for a couple weeks and you can go through this transformation if you're willing to dedicate the time and put in the effort. You also have to consider is like, well, maybe 10 years ago, it would have been even more effort. Think about how much time it would have taken years ago to learn something like that.
Joey Korenman: Yeah, and I think that transfers through to freelancing too. I mean, it's easier now than it's ever been to reach stakeholders and find people to contact.
Sander van Dijk: Yeah, there's more startups everywhere, more ideas, social media, more different types of work.
Joey Korenman: There's more clients.
Sander van Dijk: It's not just commercials anymore. Yeah, it can be very dynamic.
Joey Korenman: So we've covered the gamut. We've covered so many things in this Q and A. This is gonna be a long podcast episode. If you're still with us, thank you. I only have two questions left Sander, we've reached the end. However, this first one ... Actually, they're both doozies. The first question is kind of a doozy, and I'm really curious to hear your thoughts on this. So the question is, do you think After Effects will stay at the top of the MoGraph toolset? And are you using any other tools in addition to After Effects these days? Go.
Sander van Dijk: Yes, it will. And I think that sometimes we've gotten really used to how amazing of a tool After Effects really is. With our so rapidly evolving world, we're kind of expecting everything else to also rapidly evolve. But yeah, it's still to this day a really, really nice, well working, capable piece of software. And even if something would come out today that would even get close to being able to do what After Effects could do, I think it would take years for everyone else to get up to speed with it, and for it to become the standard that is accepted in all the other studios, and for it to really be integrated really deeply. Even if it's easy to use, because if you make it easy to use you get something like Final Cut Pro X, that all the editors are like, "Ah, What's this? This is like Movie Maker for editing. We're not going to get that."
Sander van Dijk: So I mean you can kind of see this story play out in the design world. We have some cool programs now called Figma, which is completely online. You have Affinity Designer, which is a more direct competitor I guess to Photoshop and Illustrator. You also have Sketch, which has found kind of its own market for UI designers and stuff like that. My question would be like, are you using any of these programs yourself? Or are you still using the Adobe seed for the [inaudible 01:54:32]? How long ago did those programs come out? And how long will it still take for those to kind of like take a bigger chunk of the market in a way. I think that we're going to be stuck with After Effects for a little longer too, because the longer we're going to have it, more people will know how it works, there's going to be more tools, there's going to be more businesses around it, more people who are really invested and depend on the tool like that for their business.
Sander van Dijk: So I think it's going to be around for a couple more years.
Joey Korenman: Yeah, I agree. I think too, After Effects has the network effect going for it. The more people that use After Effects, the more kind of locked in you get with it. I think that you see this in the 3D industry, right? You've got Cinema 4D is obviously amazing, and everybody uses it in motion design, but it's not the only 3D software out there, there's other ones that have strengths that Cinema 4D doesn't have, Right. Modo from what I've been told, Modo is stronger in certain types of modeling and things like that. So there's no reason, say that Modo couldn't have been the industry standard, but one of the things that Cinema 4D has going for it is that everyone uses Cinema 4D, which means everyone wants to learn Cinema 4D, which means studios buy Cinema 4D, and it's very hard to break that.
Joey Korenman: And by the way, I should just go on the record saying I think Cinema 4D deserves to be the industry standard, as does After Effects. Sometimes I think people get, I guess, frustrated with the pace of development of certain tools and things like that, but don't realize just what a Herculean effort it is to build something like After Effects, and to have it work and be integrated with Photoshop and Illustrator. What an amazing sort of tool we have to actually be able to use it. It's not like you could snap your fingers and have something that works just as well with even like 50% of the features. You're talking, it would take five to 10 years to make that.
Sander van Dijk: My brain automatically wants to figure out how to do things better. I know how a lot of animators work, I know what kind of tools they want to use, and I see potential. When I see a program like After Effects, I can think of what the next feature might be, and how useful that might be to a person to use. The tool we use to create motion design, the tool itself is sometimes more complicated than the thing you actually want to make, and that's a problem. And I think you can see this happening in editing programs right now. I collaborate with some YouTube people who make videos for their own channel, and I tried to teach them Premiere Pro, but it's a nightmare, because the technical difficulties of the program are so difficult that you need to spend full time learning how to use them if you're not tech savvy person.
Sander van Dijk: But I can teach them how Final Cut Pro X works, because that's really easy, and you can almost get the same result. So that's very interesting, right? So even though it's still the highest power in the industry, and the most powerful tool that we can have, it doesn't take away that we can start thinking of like, "How could it be better? What could we do to make a tool that's going to allow the average day person to do the same things that you can do in After Effects?" And that's what I'm really [inaudible 01:58:25]. I can't help it. My brain wants to figure out those things, and it's not just After Effects, because there's other programs I use too. I use a lot of Screen Flow, which is what we use to record the tutorials with, stuff like that. You can record your screen. I've used Final Cut Pro X, but I have a huge list of feature updates for Final Cut Pro X as well.
Sander van Dijk: Things that I see that could have been done better, that I've seen done really well in other programs like Screen Flow. One of the things that Screen Flow for example has is you can smash two audio layers together, and it will automatically create a crossfade, now how handy is that? That would be something great to have in Final Cut Pro X. Because in Final Cut Pro X you can't really overlap those clips, because it's got a magnetic timeline and every time you try to smash two clips into each other, they dodge each other really cleverly and create all this fades, which is going to make your timeline look really messy. So I just see a lot of opportunity, but it doesn't necessarily mean that the tools are crappy, they are still really amazing tools. And you know what, in the end of the day, it's just about making stuff, and whatever tool is going to allow you to do that.
Joey Korenman: Yeah, and I think really the trend that I've seen and heard from people is that you used to be able to get by being a "After Effects artist" and really just knowing After Effects and not knowing or ever touching Photoshop and Illustrator or vice versa. You could just know how to design in Photoshop and Illustrator and not have a clue how After Effects works, and now the sort of modern motion designer is expected to know at the very least how all three of those apps work in addition to probably a little bit of 3D. And I think that in five years you may also be expected that you understand a little bit of Unity because real time is going to be a much bigger deal as we get more motion designers into the UI and sort of UI animation field, apps like Haiku. You mentioned Sketch already, I mean it may be expected that you know Illustrator and sketch.
Joey Korenman: So I think that the answer at this point is it's not enough to just know After Effects anyway. You know what I mean? You can get by still just knowing it but I think not for much longer and not if you want to have options. So I think that learn more tools is the answer.
Sander van Dijk: True, and I think it's just like investing in anything. You don't want to invest just in one thing, you want to make sure you diversify a little bit. So you want to make sure that once one tool fails to do something that you really like to do, you can jump to another tool, because After Effects fail sometimes, and sometimes it's easy to do things as Cinema 4D. You just do it over there, and you bring it back to After Effects, so you want to diversify there. And it doesn't really matter what program you use, right now it'd be best to use After Effects, but maybe five years from now it might be best to use a different program.
Joey Korenman: Yeah, there's a lot of examples of that in different industries. Yeah, we're seeing some of that in motion design, but I think you hit the nail on the head, it's not about the software in the end anyway, it's about the principles behind what you're doing. So that brings us to the final question of the Sander Q and A. And the question is, what is your biggest challenge right now regarding ... Well, I'm going to just end it there. Because the question was about your career, and you can talk about that, but I'm curious, what's your biggest challenge right now?
Sander van Dijk: I would say that I think that's always been the same challenge. We all grow up in this society where you go get a job, right? And getting a job and working for someone else is basically, yeah, working for someone else. So whose dreams are you working on? Your own or the other person's dreams? So I think one of the biggest challenges in my life, and it's like a continuous challenge, how do I always make sure that I buy my own time back? So that I can decide what I want to spend my time on and what projects I work on and what people I choose to empower with the skills that I have. Who am I going to support with the knowledge and the tools that I have? Yeah, buying my own time back is, I would say, the infinite challenge living in this specific society at least.
Joey Korenman: I don't know about you, but I am exhausted and fired up at the same time after that conversation. Everything we mentioned will be in the show notes for this episode at schoolofmotion.com, and check out advanced motion methods on our site. It's the most advanced class that we've made yet, and Sander has really outdone himself with the production and the quality of the lessons in this class, we are extremely proud of it. And that's it for this episode. Thank you so much for tuning in and sticking with us through this marathon podcast, and I will see you on the next one.