How to get jobs as a Freelancer ( 3D artist)

For those who don’t know, this is how the process of hiring a freelancer goes. What follows is just my meandering experience and observation, your mileage may vary.

Pretend you have a project.

Lets say you need someone to design a Dinosaur character. First you will think if you know anyone. If you do, you will reach out to them. Then you will ask your friends, or freelancers that work for you if they know anyone. Then you’ll go to art station or some other portfolio site, or maybe straight to google and type in “Dinosaur character designer”, you will reach out to some of the people that you like, ask them their rates, and then if they are all too expensive you will go to fiver or upwork or freelancer.com or whatever other freelancing website exists. Nobody goes straight to a freelancing website, it’s usually a last resort. And it’s a last resort for people with small budgets. Because with the internet the way it is you can always find someone who does whatever it is you need to be done. Try it, try to hire someone who does what you do.

I remember when i was just starting out there was this guy at a studio i worked at who kept giving me After effects jobs. I could do them, i had the skills, but it wasn’t really my specialty, i was always a 3D guy. That’s what i did well, thats why i charged more. In after effects i worked slower than most people and really wasn’t that good. But yet this guy just kept giving me after effects jobs. So one day i asked him: “why do you keep giving me these jobs? I’ m sure there is someone who does this better than me, and cheaper” and his answer really changed the way i think about everything, he said “Because i like drinking with you, and if you have more jobs, we can go drink together more”. At first i was like: “awesome”, but then it dawned on me, how many jobs do i miss out on, because someone likes to drink with someone else, or plays golf with them, or has kids go to the same school. It has so much less to do with how good i am at what i do than i thought. To me it was a revelation.

So what do I do if I don’t know anyone who would hire me?

You get to know them or you get known. My career was largely built on alcoholism. Especially when i was in New York. People all over the place drinking making friends socializing, exchanging business cards inviting each other to other events. And there is no faster way to get to know a person than drinking with them ( if you want a guide on how to properly drink leave a comment, it’s also a skill that takes time to develop). Alternatively go to events that either related to your industry, or if they don’t have them in your area, go to networking events for other industries, you might find clients there. I knew people who bought shares in mining companies ( just whatever the minimal was) and then turned up to share holding meetings and made friends and then got jobs out of that.

Don’t like drinking? Get ready to do A LOT of work. Because building relationships with people is a very slow process if there is no alcohol involved, there are exceptional people which can make friends with anyone anywhere with everyone sober, but if you were one of those people you probably wouldn’t need help getting a job. So you have to start making a TONNE of work, and i mean a metric tonne. Start off with just volume, do a daily challenge. Post it on instagram, twitter, facebook, any platform that will let you. You have to get as many eyeballs on your work as possible. And it better be thematic, because people got to remember you for something specific. “oh i know a guy who makes dinosaurs” or “oh that guy who animates cars”. And you got to start posting it like CRAZY. For every 100 things you post, you might get one job out of it. This is not for the faint of heart. Which makes it even more important to pick a topic that you LOVE, because no matter what you pick, there will be people who LOVE doing that specific thing, and you will be competing with those people who will do it better and probably cheaper than you.

Then go onto forums/facebook groups and start helping people, start answering questions, start figuring out problems other people are having, giving advice where people ask for it. Join the community. But don’t just post random comments actually participate, this is yet another way for people to get to know you.

Also don’t forget to put together a proper website, you want a little piece of the Internet that is completely under you control. Go check out my article about small bussiness. It goes over how to set up a website rather quickly and what parts you need. Your website should convey to the visitor what you are good at and what kind of work you want to do as quickly as possible. Reels shouldn’t be longer than 1 minute, the shorter the better. Put your best work up top.

Freelancing websites are really the last resort in most cases, they have the lowest paying clients and the jobs that no one else wants to take on. I know programmers seem to do okay on them. But creative tasks are just terrible.

The most important thing to remember, that because this is hard to do, is the reason you will stand out. My favorite quote is “if it was easy everyone would do it”.

I hope this was interesting, what should i write next? How to figure out how much to charge? Let me know in the comments and have a good one!

Should i work for free?

This is a question that comes up a lot, and recently came up on a FUTUR livestream with Gary Vee.

As always the answer is: “it depends”. Some people think the answer should be a hard no. Others think it’s not such a bad thing.

I think the answer to this is pretty simple. If you want to do free work to get your name out there, pick the client yourself. Offer your services to a charity or any nonprofit organization that you care about. Or even if it’s a for profit organization, do it for them as a gift, but pick the company yourself and make like an homage to them. If someone comes to you and asks for work in exchange for “Exposure” that should definitely be a hard NO! That job is going to be hell, and going to drag on forever, and you are not going to get any exposure for it. So if you do free work, make sure it’s on your terms and you’ve picked something that will give you exposure. Make sure they have a large following on social media, and a large following that’s relevant to your potential clients. If you do character rigging, 13-18 year old fans of knitting won’t really help you.

For example recently I saw a Bee farming non-profit was asking on instagram about getting a character done, so they can educate children on the importance of Bee’s to the environment. I like the cause, i want to make a bee character for my portfolio, win win.

The other option is if you are doing something you have never done before and it’s something you want to figure out. Then perhaps thats a good deal for the both of you. BUT you got to remember the wider picture. If you agree to do free work, that means that company is 100% not going to pay someone to do that work. So you’re potentially either taking money away from your fellow workers, and maybe helping a business that has no business doing what it does ( since it can’t secure funds to pay you for your services).

There is also the option if you are working in an intern capacity, where you are not being paid, but you are actually learning valuable skills that you want to get. In these cases, remember you can always leave, don’t let them exploit you. Make sure you are still benefiting from this experience. If you’re just photo copying stuff and getting people coffee, you aren’t really learning. You might be building relationships for future work, but thats pretty hard to assess, so go with your gut.

So to summarize: Make sure you are benefiting from this free work. If you believe in the cause thats also great. DO NOT work for “exposure”.

Hope this was interesting for you. What do you think? Do you ever do free work?

Cheers,
Aleksey

Starting out as a freelancer in the 3D/VFX industry

More and more people are going freelance. Why? Well the simple reason is that there are more and more people who want to do the work, but the amount of full time jobs isn’t growing as fast. Also with the amount of different skill sets available, most studio’s don’t need a lot of these people full time. For example I mostly do character rigging these days. Most studios don’t need a character rigger full time. They need one just a couple of times a year perhaps, or maybe even just once ever. So freelancing in general a better distribution of labor.

There is a dark side to this trend though which everyone should be aware. A lot of studios hire freelancers because they know that most people are terrible at figuring out what they are worth and can be exploited, pressured and manipulated into doing waay more work for waay less money. Many studios will hire freelancers to avoid paying benefits or giving paid leave.

This is my advice to every budding freelancer. Don’t do it unless you have no choice. Freelancing is hard. Finding clients is hard, standing out from every other freelancer is hard. There are 2 real reasons anyone should be a freelancer. The first category is people who can’t get stable employment and simply have no choice, and the second category is people who simply HAVE to be able to manage their own time, their money, their projects etc. Take me for example, I’m a freelancer because i simply have no choice in the matter. There is no way i can go into an office every day. It’s simply not in my DNA. And i also love all the aspects around being a freelancer. As a kid i really enjoyed playing economic sim games, where you get to run your own business. Being a freelancer is pretty much just like that. Except you can’t always just pour more money into something, sometimes you just have to do the work. You have to build your brand, handle advertising and marketing, promote yourself, negotiate prices, manage expenses, plan for catastrophes and a whole bunch of other stuff.

So if you are thinking about being a freelancer, think about if you enjoy all this. Or does it stress you the fuck out. Because to lots of people it does. And if you just want to make animations or design characters, perhaps you are better off looking for employment where other people who are good at things like marketing and negotiations will take care of those things for you. Because remember there are only so many hours in a day. And you will be competing with people who really love what they do. If you want to go freelance, i always recommend teaming up with someone who complements your skills. So you can pull each other up. Or reach out to someone who is already freelancing and let them know what your special skills are.

This leads me to the next topic  Special Skills you need to have something that sets you apart. Being a generalist is important and as a freelancer it really helps if you are aware of the entire pipeline around you. BUT when you email someone or talk to someone, you need a hook, you need to be remembered for something. Some little piece of info, so when they are thinking “Damn i need someone to do this” They will instantly think of you. This kind of niche specialization also helps with google searches when people are looking for someone who does what you do. How many people are you competing with in your primary category? Know your competition and pivot so at least somewhere you come up at the top of the list.

The last part of this post i want to bring up something very important and that is: “Love what you do” . Because if you are doing something you are not passionate about you will lose. Why? Because you are competing with people who LOVE what they do. Especially in the creative industry. So always think long and hard about how you are presenting yourself and what kind of jobs you are attracting.

If you enjoyed this article, make sure to follow me. I got a whole series lined up. Next i’m thinking of writing an article on how to set prices and charge for your work. What do you think?

Cheers,
Aleksey

5 things i wish i knew when i was starting out as a 3D artist

People often ask where to start and what to do to become a 3D artist like me.

Im not sure i’m the right person to ask, since i just kinda stumbled into this by accident. But there are some very important things i learnt, which i wish somebody told me earlier, so i will share them here.

1. This is not a stable, predictable or lucrative career. If you need money, if you have to support your family, this is really not the career for you. It’s super unpredictable, skills you need shift yearly. You might spend a year learning something, just to have a piece of software come out that renders all those things you learnt obsolete.

You really got to love what you do, because it’s gonna be hard. It’s like the story of people who go to Hollywood to become actors. It’s kinda like that, but you add global outsourcing to that.

Now if you’re still here i have some useful info for you.

2: EVERYTHING is a remix. Everything you see made is rehashes and reworks of the work made before by other artists, thinkers etc. Current copyright laws kinda throw a spanner in the works, but it just means you have to be more creative in your efforts. This is something that no one ever told me, and i always tried to come up with everything myself. That is a mistake. Copy, transform, combine is the secret to success.

The reason for this is simple: There is nothing truly original you can come up with. All the things you imagine and create are influenced by things you have seen/read/used before. Invention is an iterative process, hitting things with your fist, turned into rocks, turns into hammers, jackhammers etc.. So you might as well take a good analytical look at the things that are inspiring you and figure out what it is that you like about them and implement that into your work.

Watch this video it goes into more details with a stunning amount of examples: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nJPERZDfyWc

Also this is fun to watch: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hjmaOj3_sKk

And you can see this pattern not only in Disney movies, you can see it throughout Hollywood. And throughout human history in architecture, art, stories, books, myths etc.. It’s all an iterative “small steps” process.

3: Getting good takes time. Developing your own style takes lots of work. Just keep doing it. If you can tell your work sucks that is the most important thing. Because if you can see it sucks, it means you will be able to see when it stops sucking. The biggest problem is people who think their work is awesome. Because they can’t improve. They can’t take criticism. So if you think your work sucks, congratulations! You might become a worthy artist.

Ira glass the gap, is a great speech to listen to, nice and short too: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nfA9OH6dAQ8

The missing chapter is a great video which talks about all the work that great artists made that no one has ever heard about: https://vimeo.com/87448006

4: Find people who inspire you and copy them, and try to get your work to be like their work. It’s the fastest way to grow. Don’t pass it off as your work, be clear that you are just recreating work that you find inspirational. This is very important, the internet has made everything very small and searchable. You will be exposed and no one will work with you. But while you copy you will learn and start to understand what it is exactly that makes the work you admire great.

This is something more specific to mograph and tv commercials, but nevertheless this guy makes amazing videos explaining concept development and the thinking that goes into creating cool stuff: http://www.division05.com/#episodes

5: Color theory is a topic which can hugely affect your work. Once again, grab color combinations from other places, photos, works of art, nature etc, and use them. Then slightly adjust them as you need. This is the best way to start out while picking colors. But also try to figure out why certain color combinations work and others don’t pay attention to what you associate certain colors with and then try and figure out why. It’s all about observation. 

Great color theory video right here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Qj1FK8n7WgY

Bonus tips:

I’ve found a great way to judge your own work, or try to figure out what’s missing. Is put it up side by side with the gallery of an artist you admire and see if your work looks like it belongs there.

Use pinterest to collect work that inspired you, you can sort it into boards and turn to it when you need references. Also its a great place to put your own work and see how to feels on a board full of works that inspire you.
Some good pinners to follow:
https://www.pinterest.com/bixorama/
https://pinterest.com/em404p/boards/
https://www.pinterest.com/characterdesigh/boards/
https://www.pinterest.es/raoul1983/

So there you have it, a quick list of stuff i wish i knew when i was starting out. If you have any stuff you think would be helpful to beginners and professionals alike post it in the comments. Im sure there are lots of things i wish i knew that i do not know yet 🙂

Media for Small business

Introduction

I do 3D animation for tv commercials, museums etc.. as a result i have friends and relatives regularly ask me to help with logo design and other graphic related stuff. I’m not good at making those types of graphics. But over the years i have built up lots of knowledge about starting small businesses and handling the graphic related aspects of them. So here i will summarize what is a good way to deal with starting a small Business. logo’s, business cards, websites, hosting etc…

 

Remember you’re starting a business because there is a problem that you know how to fix and are probably good or better than average at fixing that problem. If not, you should reconsider your business 🙂 So if the problem you are trying to fix isn’t designing logos or websites, let someone who is good at fixing those problems fix them for you.

 

Throughout this article the links are referral links, so when you click them and then buy something I get a bit of money. If you don’t want that to happen, just plug in the url’s manually into your browser 🙂 if you google the same sites, then google will get the small amounts of money.

LOGO

Click here to find the logos in this banner

Click on the image find the logos in this banner

So let’s start with Logo’s. Don’t design it yourself. Don’t get your cousin/nephew/relative  to design your logo. At least get them to read this article first 🙂 Most likely they are going to do a poor job, and your business will suffer.

 

With logos there are 2 reactions you can get from the public:

 

  1. “Eugh that’s ugly”
    .
    logos ugly
  1. They don’t notice it, but with enough impressions they associate it with your brand.
    .
    logo - big brands

 

No one sees a logo and goes: “oh my god! What an amazing logo let’s do business with these people!!!”

 

But many will see a bad logo and choose not to do business with a company. So all you have to do is avoid reaction one. Notice most big brands have very simple unimpressive logos. There is nothing amazingly creative about them. They are just well balanced, and nicely designed. And that’s the most important thing. 

 

So go to //graphicriver.net/category/logo-templates use the search and find yourself a nice logo. Then ask your cousin/nephew to change the text and the colors to fit your needs and get a result you are happy with.

 

if you are really strapped for cash, there are some free places to search too.

Freepic being one of them: //www.freepik.com/index.php?goto=2&searchform=1&k=logo

 

But $30 is generally not a lot to pay for a logo. Be nice and support someone trying to achieve their dream through designing graphics for people like you, on the other end of that transaction there is a human who is just trying to make it in this world too. ( it’s good for your karma)

 

Business cards

business cards

Click on the image to find the templates for these business cards and more!

Same thing people, please don’t design them yourself. Most likely, they will be ugly, and people are going to see them and go “ew..”

 

Now unlike Logo’s, business cards make a much larger impression if you rely on getting your business face to face. If someone meets multiple people offering similar services at similar prices. A nice business card is a big deal. Sometimes even if your prices are higher, a nice business card will just reinforce the fact that you pay attention to detail. Your business partners will remember you with warmer memories after your meeting.

 

So firstly get a nice design from //graphicriver.net/category/print-templates/business-cards . Maybe ask one of your artistic friends or relatives for advice on which ones look more proffesional appropriate for your brand. And then don’t cheap out on the printer. Cheap looking/feeling business cards get discarded in less than 12 hours. Whereas pretty attractive “valuable feeling” business cards can sit in drawers and wallets for years. I still get messages on facebook from people who found my business card that I gave to them many years ago, back when I was still getting jobs from face to face contact. Quite often they take a photo of it and include it in the message.

my old business cards

When someone is emptying their pockets after a networking event you want them to think twice before throwing out your card. Ideally you want them to feel bad about throwing out your card.

 

So either find a nice local printer or go to moo.com – they have a great selection and you can print a variety of them. For example, if you are a photographer you can print a different photo on each card, while keeping the name side consistent. Their quality is always top notch.

moo cards

All of the points above also apply to menus for restaurants, stationaries etc.. GraphicRiver has plenty of well designed resources for very reasonable prices.

stationary

Click on the image to get these templates and more!

 

Websites

websites banner

Use wordpress, get hosting from namecheap.com and templates from themeforest. I prefer enfold because it has a really nice visual layout builder. And a lot of page templates to learn from.

Namecheap.com, provide great customer service. One of the most helpful web hosts i’ve dealt with. And their prices are great too. The provide both Domain names and website hosting.  It also has a very simple wordpress installer built into it.

WordPress is a content management systems. It is very user friendly, and contrary to popular belief its not just for blogs. My whole website runs on it.

Enfold is by far my favorite wordpress theme. It is incredibly easy to get started. There is no coding required, everything is drag and drop, and its all very customizable. It puts content front and center and then just gets out of the way. And supports woocommerce, if you decide to sell stuff through your website.

 

A quick summary of what a good website should look like nowadays. Firstly the front page should have:

 

  1. intro – preferably video, 30 – 45 seconds about what you do.
  2. examples – what you provide
  3. who we are. – about your team, personal info
  4. contact us email form and email address because a lot of people don’t like email forms.

 

Intro:

This should preferably be a video, A combination of some explanation animations and videos of people ( real videos, not stock) doing what it is your provide. Depending on your budget the amount of animations will be limited, but that’s ok. Just keep it as short as possible. What problem you fix, why you are good at fixing it, and why you love doing what you do.

 

Examples:

Small, short examples of the companies you work with and what you did for them, or portfolio items, training programs, whatever it is you made/solve and how it helps people. 5 is a good number.

 

About:

This section should have photos of your team members/company founders. a bit about them where they are from who they are, what they do.. etc. So visitors understand they are dealing with actual humans and not a faceless corporations/ scam website. Maybe links to existing blogs, LinkedIn profiles, anything public facing that can back up your reputation or where people can maybe find people they know in common with you. People who can verify who you are are much more likely to do business with you.

 

Contact us:

A contact us email form. with very few fields. don’t make like 20 fields. Just email and message body is generally enough. People hate filling out forms. Also include maybe a skype or phone number. If you live in america or are planning to have american contacts. Get yourself a google number and set it to only ring your computer. It’s free and very convenient.

 

All of the above should be on one page.

 

The next parts are optional depending on what kind of business you are doing. And should have their own page. 

 

Blog:

A blog is a great way to show website visitors that you are actually interested in what you are doing and do it not only for the money, but actually do this in your free time.

 

DO NOT START A BLOG IF YOU DO NOT UPDATE IT AT LEAST ONCE A MONTH

blogpost

There is nothing worse than a blog that hasn’t been updated in 2 years. It makes the impression that your company is dead. Also don’t populate your blog with clickbait articles. It has to be about things you personally care about. You can’t outsource this it has to be written by someone who is actually doing the real work. If you are thinking of hiring a blog writer for your business, just don’t make a blog. It’s not going to help.

 

If you produce visual things ( this includes food, boats, toasters, sailes anything that can produce nice photos. ) consider using tumblr or instagram instead of the built in wordpress blog. WordPress has plugins to display those beautifully on your website and you get the added benefit of being on a social network and potentially attracting new clients through those channels.

 

Projects:

If you think you will be able to write at length about various projects you have done ( ie you are not limited by legal agreements with clients and you are motivated enough). You should get a projects page. Only make this page public when you have at least 5 projects. Here you should write about what you did for your client, how you did it, what challenges you faced how you overcame them. So people who are interested in what you do ( because the first page captured their attention) Can go on further and explore what you do in more detail. Whether you are photographer covering events. A training company providing events for businesses. Or anything else that lends itself to this type or narrative. But remember it’s a story. Someone had a problem, you had a solution they were happy with it.

 

Assistance

If you need help customizing your website, there are plenty of available wordpress guys who do just that. This here is a friend of mine: www.eskovares.com

esko pic

 

Conclusion

So there you have it. A short guide to dealing with graphics and online presence of your business. In future articles i may handle Social media. But there are plenty of resources about that as it, so im not sure i can add anything valuable, but if you would like to hear from my on that, don’t hesitate to leave a comment.

Here are all the links again, in one place:

Logos: //graphicriver.net/category/logo-templates

Business cards: //graphicriver.net/category/print-templates/business-cards
Printing: moo.com

Webhosting: namecheap.com
Wordpress: //wordpress.org
Enfold Theme: enfold