Getting freelance work as a new motion designer

Guest post by Austin Saylor

Getting freelance work as a new motion designer can feel like a daunting task. You see so many amazing motion designers in Motionographer articles and on Vimeo with staff picks. Not to mention, they have tens or hundreds of thousands of Instagram followers. 

How are you going to get gigs when it feels as if everyone is better than you?

This is exactly how I felt before leaving my job to try my hand at freelancing. 

I discovered one powerful metaphor and two steps to take that lead me do make way more money the first year freelancing than I did when I was full-time at a company.

 

The pool of motion designers 

 

Imagine an olympic size swimming pool. This represents all motion designers. 

Now imagine a pool boy siphones water from that pool into a hot tub. This represents all of the motion designers who are freelance. 

A talented heavyweight sumo wrestler walks through the pool gate, steps up to the edge of the hot tub and performs an impressive cannonball. More than half of the water splashes out, pissing off your mom because her romance book is now soaked. The little water that’s left represents freelance motion designers who are currently not booked (looking for work). 

Because of the epic cannonball, one of the filters got busted and lets a lot of water leak out. That water that just leaked out represents all the freelancers who specialize in skills that don't overlap with your skills. 

You are now in a small pool of freelancers who could even be considered for a project, but there are two things you’ll need to do to rise to the top of that small puddle.

Step 1 – Connect with other freelancers

 

If you don’t already have a strong network, this will do wonders for you. By getting connected with lots of other freelancers you increase the likelihood they will send you work. When projects come to them and they can't take it because, well, they are booked, they need somebody they know and trust to pass that project to. 

This takes us to the second step.

Step 2 – Stay top of mind

 

The freelancer who stays booked and gets product requests they can't take because they're booked will pass a project to the person who is top-of-mind. 

The best way to stay top-of-mind is to stay in communication with those freelancers (or potential clients for that matter). 

Here are some practical ways you can stay top-of-mind:

  • Commenting on their social media posts 
  • DMing them
  • Shooting them an email every once in a while
  • Meeting up for coffee
  • Setting up a video chat

“Dig the well before you’re thirsty.” This is a quote by Jordan Harbinger about the importance of connecting with people early and often. The time to start reaching out to people is not when you leave your job to go freelance. You want to do that months before. The same goes with wrapping up a freelance gig. Don’t wait for it to be over to connect with people and work on lining up the next project.

This should give you some hope if you've been nervous about not being “the best motion designer out there” and you’re scared to reach out to other freelancers or clients. 

The pool metaphor only works if you're actually out there connecting with people. So make it a habit to intentionally reach out to freelancers and potential clients, share your own journey as you go and be someone who others enjoy working with.

Pro tip: Start with people who are at about your skill level or a little above. If you’re just getting started, find a junior motion designer at a studio you really like. Ask them what it’s like to work at that studio or how they landed the job. This is a great way to make connections that might last a very long time. You can grow together and maybe even collaborate on projects.

Now that you know the pool isn’t as big as you thought, make sure you’re putting your best foot forward with your showreel and portfolio. There are small tweaks and changes you can make to your website that will help you get hired. 

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