How to get motion design clients using your personal work

An interview with Nick DenBoer AKA Smearballs
We motion designers all feel like weirdos at times. Don’t fight it! It’s time to embrace what makes you unique and sets you apart. In fact, your surreal side can create its own opportunities. Today’s guest is in high demand precisely because of his weirdness. We chat about how personal work can get you big motion design clients.

Nick DenBoer, AKA Smearballs, does a bit of everything. He’s a director, animator, editor, music producer, and remix artist. He’s worked on Conan and created unique music videos for deadmau5. Nick has worked on some very memorable projects for big brands and shows including Conan and Old Spice.

Personal work can get you big motion design clients

We chat about what inspires Nick to create his unique personal work. Aside from fulfilling his artistic need to create, Nick credits his personal work with landing him commercial jobs. He doesn’t necessarily do personal work with this in mind. In fact, he thinks it may scare away as many opportunities as it creates. However, it also has landed him the type of clients who really appreciate what he has to offer.

Setting client expectations in motion design

As someone who works with a wide range of clients, Nick honed his process of explaining what he does. Describing your creative process and timeline is important for setting client expectations. So is maintaining regular communication throughout the project so they know what you’ve been up to.

The value of creating a team of freelance motions designers

When it comes to large or complex projects, Nick finds that it’s helpful to bring in specialists. However, being too specialized can slow down the project if something unexpected comes up. With that in mind, we talk about the value of having a team with a wide range of knowledge as well as experts on something very specific. 

How can you use your personal work to get the attention of clients? Let’s talk about it in the comments on the episode page!

In this episode

  • Using your personal work to highlight what makes your work unique
  • Making the important distinction between personal work and client work
  • How personal work can get you big motion design clients
  • Creating passion projects to stay in control of your career
  • Effectively explaining what you can do for eager clients
  • How to expand your team when working on complex projects
  • The value of both generalists and specialists
  • Concerns about not infringing on brand copyrights


“I see my personal work as a business card…. People actually hire me because of that off-putting, weird, crazy stuff.” [6:32]

“If you literally are in a financial position where you have to take every job, you lose control over your own career.” [13:42]

“You need people who can put a whole project together and do everything from scratch and you also need specialists. So I think there’s shoes to fill in both realms. It’s not like one is better than the other.” [32:10]

Thanks for Listening!

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Podcast music licensed by Big Waves

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