How to be a Freelance Animator

Freelance Animator

The animation is a field that has been around for many years, ever since the start of print media. However, in the latter part of the 20th century and ever since the turn of the 21st, the field has branched out onto its own, with computer-aided design (CAD) techniques and other groundbreaking innovations that have led to the discovery of newer techniques. It is a growing field. One that definitely has a big future, and one that has come into its own in the past decade. Know how to become a freelance animator.

Thus, there are many reasons you should become an Animator; there is the allure of good pay, the allure of renown, and a lavish lifestyle. Moreover, it is one job, which you can undertake from the comfort of your home and still be handsomely remunerated, the gist is that it is a good freelance option.

Freelance Animator job Duties

You will have many job duties as an animator, sometimes more complex than simply changing the storyboard or the narrative. Most animators learn the generic basics of animation, like 2-D and 3-D animation, but many exclusively like to focus on specific sub-fields.

Some of the duties you would expect to perform as an animator include:

  • Understanding client needs and developing animation from their concepts
  • Creating storyboards that depict the script and narrative
  • Drawing in 2D to create sketches, artwork or illustrations
  • Designing models, backgrounds, characters, objects, and environment
  • Using clay, plaster, oil paints, watercolors, and acrylics
  • Working to deadlines and meet client’s expectations
  • Using technical software packages, such as Flash, 3d studio max, Maya, Lightwave, Softimage and Cinema 4D


Freelance Animators must develop certain skills to make a decent living. There are many websites and forums and blog posts that can help you develop and hone these skills. However, before you do find out where it is important to know what these skills are. Without ado, let us look at these skills in question:

As an animator, you should:

  • Be creative and artistic
  • Possess drawing skills (and sculpting skills for stop-frame animation using clay)
  • Have excellent IT skills
  • Have good concentration
  • Have an eye for detail
  • Observe and understand body language and expressions
  • Be a good communicator and negotiator
  • Be organized
  • Be innovative and resourceful
  • Be able to work well as a team player and take direction from senior animators, directors, and clients
  • Be interested in art & design, film, and television

You can develop and hone these skills needed online, or through animation course. Many platforms and websites can help you ‘animate’ a brilliant career, as an animator.

Animation Mentor, The Virtual Instructor, Lynda, and The AnimSchool offer both paid and free options, where you can learn animation online. (1)

Being Successful As A Freelance Animator

Maybe you will create the next Buzz Lightyear, Elsa, or even the next Batman. Who knows? However, what is apparent is that with the skills and talent in this field will give you many opportunities to create memorable characters. So, how can you become a successful animator?

There are many bumps along the way to becoming successful freelancers: no colleagues to moan to, no shared lunches, along with the instability of the absence of a weekly cheque. However, one can become successful, or indeed set off down the path to success, by following certain tips, as;

  • Being adept at drawing
  • Being a keen observer
  • Referring to and studying the works of better artists
  • Being able to produce a demonstration of your work, either a showcase or a demo reel
  • Learning to act, to bring the animated characters to life in believable environments
  • Learning continuously
  • Networking

Animator Salary

Have you ever wondered what the best animators for Frozen or Tangled earned for their projects? Well, whatever the details of those cheques were, they must have been ludicrous amounts, perhaps not but what about future paychecks now? Safe to say that they must be rolling in the money; in the world of freelancing though the average pay scale is based on the two types of work models.

As with other freelance opportunities, there are essentially two types of engagements offered, the fixed-price model and the hourly payment model. Therefore, what can you earn as a freelance animator?

Estimated budgets for fixed-price engagements range from $50- 500 for a project, while hourly jobs usually pay $5 – 30 an hour depending on how good and experienced you are.

There have been projects quoted at $1000, but as you can imagine the scale of the project and the scope of work will vary with amounts quoted. There are jobs that pay less on an hourly basis but provide ongoing work for sometimes months and even years together.

Average hourly payments for animators are around $21 an hour. At the beginning of your career, you may have to work for a slightly lower price than quoted, but such jobs will help you build your credibility and are equally important if you wish to make a name for yourself in the freelance market.

Finding Work

Finding work as a freelance animator can initially be a bit tough. However, once you have created a name for yourself then it becomes much easier.

One of the best ways to advertise your services is to create a Facebook page and invite your friends, family, and acquaintances to like it. You must remember that as an animator, your work will have visual appeal and social media platforms can help you leverage the fact.

Apart from creating a Facebook page and a blog, some popular websites that offer work for freelance animators include Elance, Freelancer, Peopleperhour, Odesk, and Guru.