If you’ve got a bit of a budget, hiring a freelance animator can be the perfect solution for your needs. But how do you know who’s the right fit for your project? Here’s our guide on hiring an amazing animator.
1. Have a realistic budget
Animation isn’t cheap and there’s a reason for that.
It’s really skilled work and takes a lot of practice to get it looking amazing. On top of that, it’s time consuming. You’ve got to get frame-by-frame illustrations (for 24 FPS work, that’s 1440 drawings for every minute!) and any voice work/sound you need on top of that. Just a minute of animation can take 4 weeks to be completed from pre to post production, and that will cost at least $1500 for a 2D animation. This will vary depending on the complexity of the artwork. Generally, if you want something more cartoony it will be cheaper, whilst really detailed art is going to drive the cost up. 3D animation is a whole other ball game – for that it’s going to be around $4000 per minute.
To put it simply, you’re going to need at least $1000-$2000 if you’re in the market for a freelance animator.
But all of this sounds like a bargain when you consider that Disney are budgeting a staggering $24,156 for every second of animation!
2. Have a clear purpose in mind.
People want animators for all sorts of projects – explainer videos, music videos, animated shorts…You’ll want to hire an animator who’s experienced in the work you want. Have an outline of the product or service ready for their perusal. If it’s for creative purposes, a storyboard or plot summary is helpful.
3. Know your timeline
When does the work need to be completed? Be realistic in this. As we said earlier, just a minute of animation can take 3-5 weeks to be completed. Both individuals and animation studios will put a premium on rush-work.
4. What style do you want?
The possibilities are endless. But not all animators can do the same thing – so think about what sort of animation you’re looking for. Here’s a summary of the three most common types:
- Classical 2D Animation. The poster-child for animation as a whole. Think old-school Disney, like Snow White and The Lion King.
- Digital 3D Animation. 3D animation produces more realistic models than 2D and it’s really popular in the movie industry right now, as seen in films like Frozen.
- Stop-motion. Frame-by-frame recordings of models which are then stitched together to give the impression of fluid movement. Think Wallace and Gromit.
But wait; there’s more. Read this article to learn about more types of animation.
5. Post a really good brief
If your brief is right, the right animators will select themselves. A vague brief, on the other hand, is just going to attract people who don’t have the right skills for your project. You’ll end up wasting time trawling through irrelevant show reels and interviewing the wrong candidates. Your project brief should cover all of the above, but here’s a quick reminder:
- What’s the animation for?
- Style of animation.
6. Look at reels
So your brief has got pitches flooding in and you’re feeling a bit overwhelmed. But as with any artist, you should ask to see their portfolio. An animator’s portfolio is called a ‘reel’. Looking at these helps to separate the wheat from the chaff.
7. How to know if an animator’s work is good
Okay, so you’re looking at reels but it’s not clearing anything up. After all, you’re not well versed in animation. As well as the normal ways of judging a freelancer’s abilities, here’s what you should be basing your judgements on:
1. Technical ability.
Are scenes well composed? Are transitions between frames smooth and seamless? Is the colour palette a good choice?
2. Past experience
Is their past experience relevant? Just because an animator’s work is fantastic doesn’t mean that they’re well suited for your project. You probably don’t want to hire a cartoon animator for a demo video, for example. Similarly, if you want 3D animation don’t hire someone who’s solely worked in stop motion before.
Again, if your brief is detailed, you should only get pitches off animators who do have the right experience.
8. Speak with candidates
You’ve reviewed reels and have got a pretty good shortlist. To make that final decision, it’s a good idea to arrange a chat with the animators you’re interested in. It doesn’t have to be a full blown job interview (although if that’s what you want to do, feel free!) – a quick chat on Skype works just as well.
9. Set it in stone with a contract
Once you’ve decided to hire someone, you can’t just wing it. Contracts are 100% necessary for any type of freelance work. We can’t emphasise this enough. Lay out the terms, the deliverables, deadlines and payment terms. When that’s done, you’re good to go!
10. Enjoy the finished product!
Congratulations! 3-5 weeks later, you’ll be done! You’ve navigated these treacherous waters and your dream animation is ready to be sent out into the world. So enjoy it!