View Full Version : Considering going freelance...any advice?

CC Rider
04-13-2009, 06:45 AM
Any advice regarding smart first steps transitioning from full time to freelance? Besides networking, how do you guys find new work/advertise yourselves?

04-13-2009, 07:11 AM
Don't go freelance if you don't already have contacts with clients. They don't come instantly.

I know freelancers (including a good friend in NY) who landed some jobs from linkedin.

04-13-2009, 08:07 AM
I haven't tried it but elancing.com looks promising

Get out the local phone book, go through the yellow pages and look at their ads. See anyone who's graphics look like they can benefit from your work? Give them a call and tell them what you do. Ask them if they might need your services. Treat the secretary like they are the CEO. Be prepared for alot of rejection but your pitch will get better each call and eventually you'll get someone who is interested.

In the long run your best strategy is to do really good work and take care of your customers. They will give you more business and recommend people to you. Let them know you appreciate it by giving them something extra. Sometimes I'll take a small percentage off of their next bill and mention (at that time) that it was because they referred other business to me.

Don't work for too cheap. It's a rut that's hard to get out of.

Good Luck.

04-13-2009, 08:32 AM
If you have a full-time job doing CG I wouldn't quit to go freelance. You'll be kicking yourself over that one.

04-13-2009, 09:06 AM
It's a huge decision that must be based on your personal financial situation, and only you know those details. The best time to "go freelance" is when the economy is booming, a lot of companies are flush and looking to expand their communications/marketing efforts, and you have a six-month financial cushion built up to fall back on. At present, none of those elements probably exist for you!

Best advice I could offer would be to stick with your present full-time situation to ride out the recession, while at the same time upgrading your own equipment/software to be in the best possible position when the economy turns around. If you're not presently employed under a "non-compete" contract, you might seek out a project you could work at "on the side" (meaning nights and weekends) to further develop your marketing skills and fine tune your client relation techniques. Hard to believe, but these skills will actually prove be more important in your long term success as a freelancer than your CG skills.

04-13-2009, 09:09 AM
You'll need a great reel already, as no one will want to pay you without seeing your work and really without you already having done paid work.

It's like the chicken and the egg... you need to have done work to get work, but you need to get work to have done work. So coming up with sample shots for your reel that "look" like paid work will do you well. And if you have a job, get all of this "setup" work done before you leave your job. Have your reel, website, business cards, all setup and paid for... then go freelance. Don't waste time doing these things while not getting paid.

Take care of your customers, as you'll get repeat business from them if you do a good job. Spam the different ad, graphic, and marketing agencies around you.

Forget Craiglist and most online sites, they're usually don't want to pay much and it's really tough working remotely with someone when it's the first time working for them.

It also helps living in a city where there's a lot of marketing or industry related to 3D. I live in Dayton, Ohio and there isn't much going on here. Most of the work is in Columbus or Cincy and there's still not much in those cities.

Best bet is to get a job then take your clients with you, if you can. It's pretty tough right now.

04-13-2009, 09:27 AM
I freelance in the northeastern part of Ohio myself, but right now, most of my work has been from other states. Recommendations from other clients is key for sure.

BTW, I've been freelancing since 1986!!

04-13-2009, 11:00 AM
Here is my 2 cents worth and my perspecitve !
im new to the animtion industry and in all honesty im not good enough not for the UK market esp being a LW users plus im 25 and only been using the software for less than 2 years , granted i can create some nice visuals there just not strong enought to compete with the likes of yourself and others ..
I want to freelance , well i want to sit on my *** and make loads of cash but that aint ever going to work , ive started networking alot , hence why im here posting every 5 fecken seconds , also with my band ive been hitting the pubs alot , networking with potential clients " ps best one i had was a stripper that started a pole dancing fit club ,built her website , best photoshot ive ever done was in all my glory " anyway !

when people ask im torn between 3D animation and visual effects "to be honest im pretty damn good camera man / director ." and that would probably suite me better . but i wanna make it as game animator which is why i feel LW is becomming more of a curse ,although i love the GUI and render capabilites im drowning with the software .

If you have a job keep it , esp in todays economy , jobs will be far and few , if you have the morgage covered for the next year or so , go and freelance but make it in your spare time "if any " . ive started creating games for xbox on xna platform , ok its not the best but its a start . atm im making another website for yet another friend " on the cheap " its a difficult balance , if your an exeptional artist example Proton , you should get work easy , theres always some company that need theres 1990's website or logo or whatever needed .

you need to pimp yourself like a two dollar whore , even if it means taking on project that you may not agree with IE COKE or whatever .

goodluck ,hope everything goes well and you make it big .

04-13-2009, 11:22 AM
I actually combined the two. After 8 years of freelancing, I've got the first full time job. Was pretty sick and tired of sitting 9-5 monday to friday. So I landed a easier going day time job, some 5-6 hours, sometimes less a day and I'm freelancing and teaching. Good deal, I never get bored and I hit two salaries.

Just a hint for you!

04-13-2009, 11:35 AM
Thanks! Saved me a lot of typing.

Get a job that you can enjoy and can mold to your will. Freelance on the side.
Teaching licenses fit this really well. And three months off! (At least here.)

(Secretly, I wanted to scream the following advice:
If you have to ask ANYONE what you ought to do, Freelancing ain't for you.
Hell, if you have to ask someone anything like this, how will you ask someone for $15,000 when the job calls for it?

Do it and do it hard and without heitation, reservation. Otherwise...Be planning your next life.
A thought.

CC Rider
04-13-2009, 02:19 PM
some good comments here...of course, I'm not considering just quitting without having my next steps in place. Not much chance of me leaving a steady paycheck until the economy recovers, but I'm beginning to pick out fav video clips to put together a reel and prepare for a possible departure from the corp world.
Mostly just curious how some of you go about getting your gigs, whether it's cold calling, networking, internet sites etc...
I'm not asking because I don't know where to begin, that's not it at all...but if someone has a brilliant approach that I never considered I'm all ears!
I guess there's no magic bullet that substitutes the tried and true method of starting small and building a client base before cutting the cord.

I produce video projects from start to finish. Scripting, shooting (film or video) editing, voice over, etc. 3D is actually a small part of my overall skill set, but I'm working on expanding that is quickly as I can. I doubt I could ever bill myself out as a 3D artist like many of you guys (I'm constantly amazed by the work I see here!) but it could be a nice asset to help tilt the scale in my direction when it comes time for a bidding war. Considering either starting a small production company or going freelance.
Both bad upstart ideas in this economy, but I'm hoping that will change by the time I get a business plan together.
Wish me luck!!


04-13-2009, 02:28 PM
but I'm hoping that will change by the time I get a business plan together.
Wish me luck!!


GL and all the best
" that's going to be the hardest part ,read read read and then read more .if your business plans weak , say bi bi to freelance and hello 9 -5 . plan for everything if you make video's you'll know exactly how deep it can go , calculate for silly factor like sick days , no work days ,deprecation on software value .


no honest goodluck , you stick in there take the rough with the smooth you'll always survive , remember family "if any " comes first . ...

04-13-2009, 05:47 PM
Don’t..... What has already been said.

If you do, first learn as many skills as possible where you are working, plagiarise! Accounting, time management, administration, networking & managing computer systems , archiving & off site storage & backup, advertising, tax & depreciation on new software & equipment, etc....... Sadly all these skills are going to be just as important as your real work.

I build both physical & 3d architectural models, at the end of the day about one third of my time is real work, the rest is all the crap associated with it.

I enjoy what I do but I do sometimes wish for a job that I could just concentrate on actual model making.

04-13-2009, 06:01 PM
I jumped ship in 1996. The economy was doing well and I had this idea that I could use this new 'internet' thing as a way to communicate with my clients that nobody else was doing yet.

I had a great job, but never saw my kids. So I began freelancing on the side, built a small client base, bought all the hardware and software I thought I'd need. I saved up almost a year's income and only jumped ship when I had several big projects coming in.

And I never looked back.

The key (for me) is to always maintain a buffer in your savings account. I like a 3-month buffer in my fluid savings (money I move to my checking account like a regular paycheck)...and of course always build up your regular savings. I put at LEAST ten percent in my regular savings, and I put all incoming funds into my fluid savings and then pay myself monthly. And, of course, have a tax savings account to move 20-25% of your incoming payment into. This your really need to do with EVERY check that comes in, otherwise you get bitten at some point. Regardless of your financial needs, mail off that 1040-ES every quarter.

I find 1:1 marketing the only way to go. Find who you want to work with and contact them directly. I spend 100% of my marketing money on fruit baskets (I live in Florida), sub sandwiches, amazon.com (shipping gift books to new parents and such) and things like that. I have gotten on planes to meet somebody for lunch. In this almost-anonymous world, things like this make a difference. At least I've found they do, I've been doing this for over 12 years and have no shortage of work...95% of which is from regular clients, most of whom I've been working with for 8 or more years.

Mind you, a lot of my 'marketing' is with current clients. Once I have them, I fight to keep them. If the creative team is pulling an all-nighter in NY, it takes a couple minutes online to send a couple/few pizzas or a 6-foot sub sandwich. I may be in Florida when it arrives, but they treat me like I'm in the next office.

But the bottom line is your portfolio. Have one. Pick your best 20 pieces...and then remove the worst 5. Seriously. Your worst piece in your portfolio says more about you, often, than your best piece does (when you're starting out). I say this as a past art-director who knows when you're hiring freelance that you don't want to see a 'range' of talent...just the best of what you can do. Anything short of that looks like art-school portfolio (I had one once too... and didn't get 'the job'). After 12+ years my online portfolio has about 100 images and that gives prospective clients a solid lock on my work. Granted, I've been in the art industry for over 25 years, so I drew off some experience. But to start out with, it's key to have your 'look' and make it something others want. I believe in finding a 'niche' market and then being the best that you can be in that field.

And when you do get the job, if you're invoicing the individual who gave you the job, include a personal note thanking them. I did this for many years early on, just to find out later that it did make a difference as the years passed and these folks became my friends.

Just some random thoughts,

GATOR (2008 National Champs!)

CC Rider
04-13-2009, 07:50 PM
Thanks Gator!
That is precisely the kind of advice I was hoping to get. Your words are helpful but not preachy.
Much appreciated!

04-13-2009, 10:10 PM
my advice is...don't...it's really hard for the freelancer right now...depending on what niche you wanna get into, of course...
I'm a freelancer, but now I'm looking for a steady paycheck...

04-13-2009, 10:40 PM
i second that advise. not now as the global economy is crap.
Or why not have a day job and do freelance on your free time.
The perks to that, steady income, bonuses(just got my mid-year bonus today), insurance, pension, etc.
and ofcourse the perks to doing freelance after work, focus on select projects you enjoy, more income, no pressure.