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J-O-B SOS! advice, leads, feedback, anything!

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hey everyone,

 

I don't know why it's taken 6 months to post here, but I'm in a terrible rut and I need some help. Any feedback, leads, tips, advice, empathy, anecdotes, etc helps.

 

A few months back I moved to NY from california, right after finishing school: studying motion graphics — quite successfully (deans list, valedictorian, etc.). And since then it has been somewhat of a nightmare trying to freelance and find bookings. A friend of mine has helped me (a ton!) find at least two or three bookings, which have all been very successful. But other than a few sparse lucky chances, it's been dry. Too dry. I don't know where to look, whom to e-mail, or how to get my foot in the door.

 

So my question is, what piece am I missing here in finding work? I'm still super new, and obviously have a lot to learn and work to build up my portfolio, but I work really (really) hard and I have a great attitude. Those latter words don't have any weight, and I just don't know how to turn them into bookings, and portfolio pieces.

 

It's super super stressful not having any work — seriously, the stress and anxiety have begun to take their toll — but I'm just not ready to quit.

 

here's a link to my reel/portfolio site:

 

http://hellopatches.com/SPRING-REEEEEEEEEEEEEEL

 

thank you!!

 

 

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Coming from personal experience, my advice for graduating students wanting to freelance is always "don't". There have no doubt been tons of very successful freelancers who come straight from school and make it work, but in my experience there is SO much you learn at your first job out of school. Even if it's a shit job, you learn a lot about how the professional world works. Sometimes, if you're lucky, you find a mentor - someone in a senior role who can help show you the ropes and teach you things that you will take with you the rest of your career. Can you get those things freelancing? Sure. But when you freelance you also have to learn to be a business owner, account manager, producer, sales person, etc. You have to worry about insurance (maybe), taxes and where your next booking is coming from. Those are much easier to stomach when you've got a few years at a staff position under your belt, a bit of savings and many more contacts. Then you can focus on running a business.

 

So my advice is to look for a full-time job, even if it sucks. You're fresh out of school. Your reel is fine. There's no reason you shouldn't be able to find a solid staff position somewhere. Get your resume together and start calling up shops, look on job boards (motionographer has one with a few postings in the NYC area from time to time), go to the NYC Mograph Meetups and the AENY meetings, call networks, etc. There's a TON of work in the city. You just have to get your work in front of the right people and get the ball rolling.

 

Best of luck!

 

R

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...I should add that I am not happy freelancing — not that there is anything inherently to hate about freelancing — and would happily welcome any stable full-time position. How can I discover whether companies are hiring, after I've responded to motionographer posts?

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I think a lot of it comes from just establishing a relationship with someone at a company, or someone who knows someone. Basically, networking. But that's such an unhelpful, vague term. To give an example, when I first moved to the city (all of 6 months ago now) I art directed a short film for a producer friend of mine. The DP happened to do work for a small agency. We got to talking shop and I showed him my site. He liked it enough to send it along to his client who then called me up for work. They turned out to be a great resource and a solid client. But I never would have made that connection had I not met that DP on that dumb short film. NYC is full of that kind of thing - people who know other people who you want to know. It's just a matter of putting yourself in situations where there are a higher concentration of those people and then being sociable. Also get some business cards - super helpful.

 

To answer your question: you can't. That's part of the thing. The best you can (and absolutely should) do is follow up with an email to make sure they got your resume and reel. See if you can come in for a brief meeting, even if it doesn't lead to a job. People are much more likely to dismiss someone when the interaction is abstract (email, or worse, a job form) rather than in person. Sometimes that works, sometimes it doesn't, but it sure can't hurt.

 

R

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RVA8 is right on imho. The only thing I would add is, it takes a lot of time. If I could do it all over again, I would've tried a lot harder to get a job at a firm at first. You really gotta want to work for yourself to make it happen. It took me 10 years of freelancing before I could support myself on it. Not to scare you, but that's the truth. Might be quicker for you, especially with a good reel. Watch the boards, watch craigslist, or whatever, just keep putting yourself out there. One of the best things I did was to meet folks at a post house (at least, when I met them it was still called that) within two blocks of my office, and I now am basically their overflow guy, and I swear most of the time I think they only hire me because I'm nearby and I'll come over and pick up drives or whatever at the drop of a hat. I make it as easy as possible for them to hire me. And even that relationship took four years to get off the ground. I did a lot of underpriced work at first. I know we've all talked about what a no-no that is on this board, but honestly we've all done it early on, to meet people and get some experience. And honestly, it's not like any of those jobs would've gone to someone for more money, sometimes the client only had $5 and I was willing to do it. Then later when I could, I was able to turn stuff down. Now some other young guys can work on those hassles! Low paying gigs are always the worst, but that's sort of the way it works.

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Decent reel, but the header on your site is annoying as fuck. I'd address that. It's dominating the work and it's ugly. I get it. It's supposed to be faux cool. But It's not. You might be losing work over that typography anyway. It's just not as hipster as maybe the intentions were. Clunky on purpose. I get it.

 

I'm even willing to bet that your own brand is shooting your reel in the foot. You're branding makes me scared to hire you for anything with type. Even if just a little.

 

I agree with the folks on here who say you need to get yourself out there. True. But never stop making stuff and showing it. Infect the net with it. Repeat those steps and it will get better for you. Work harder and smarter.

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I agree with BoArlander - that header is not helping your cause. Also what he says about making/showing stuff is a good suggestion. It goes back to the idea of getting your work in front of as many people as possible who can help you get work. You never know who knows who here - the most random connections can lead to work. The more people see your stuff and get to know you, the more work you will get.

 

R

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Compliments of Alex Grigg:

 

frick asked: Hi Alex! I came across your work recently and love it! I'm an animator from Chile and been recently thinking in making the move to London but not sure my work would be at that level yet, is there any advice you could give me? I don't know much about the industry there so anything could help

Hiya Fernanda! Thanks for getting touch :)

Your work is really great. I totally think that you would be able to find gigs around london.

My biggest piece of advice- before you come, do at least one project that you feel really strongly about. Make it short and lovely and pour yourself into it. Make it the sort of project you’d like to get paid for when you get here. Your dream job. Don’t make it and epic 3 minute film. 10-15 seconds would do fine. Just something with enough substance to make it memorable. If you’re not happy with your first attempt, try again!

While you’re doing that reach out to people who are here and whose work you like. Make genuine connections. Be part of the community. Contribute. Discuss. Absorb. Having a foot in the door will give you big leg up.

I dont have a great scope on the industry here. I’ve only been here for about a year. There is loads of work but its competitive. High end 3d VFX, 3D/2D commercial work are all staples but there are a lot more opportunities for entrepreneurial animation work than anywhere else I’ve been- Working direct with clients and creatives to make things.

Also, I managed to save some money before I moved here too which was important. London is massively expensive so having a cushion will save you a huge headache.

All the same applies to NY.

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There could be many many reasons why you are having trouble freelancing, but I would have to agree that the largest one is lack of experience. Freelancers are hired because they have put in time and know the ropes so to speak. They know the pitfalls of production techniques, the fastest most efficient way to get to the end result (or the ones employed do) and the really successful ones are those that are humble and awesome to work with. Your reel shows some interesting and well done work, but no much in the way of work that is actually being produced out there in the the commercial mograph scene. Not trying to be harsh at all, just honest... color and design is okay and animation is pretty good, but you really need something to stand out and make that memorable. This way out of the hundreds of other jr animators in NYC, you will have a better chance of being thought of for that job. So this leaves you with a couple of options...

 

1. Intern -- a great way to get your foot in the door and learn while you can still work another job or freelance small gigs at night. Work hard, listen, learn from those around you, ask questions and listen some more. This may or may not lead to a job or even a gig, it gets people to know who you are and what you are like.... networking.

 

2. Full time gig-- Obviously better since you get paid to do what you like, but be prepared to work your ass off with long hours and do all of the above. Hopefully after a little while, your experience and reel are better and you move somewhere else to a bigger and better position. Be open to the option that you may not be able to stay in NYC and get that first full-time job.... you may need to move and then move back to NYC once a bit more established, if that's what you really want.

 

3. Freelance -- Again not what I would recommend, but realize that if this is the option you go, you need to put yourself out there... everywhere you can to network. You will probably need to have a rate low enough that people will hire you based on that alone until you can raise it. This may even require working another job to keep that mograph habit alive, but hopefully not.

 

Dont want to discourage at all and its great that you are asking these questions now. Work your ass off and meet people and figure out how to get in somewhere... it will happen.

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In regard to continuing to pump out work for practice / reel, start focusing on more commercial pieces for the little experiments you make without getting to spec-y about it. Be careful not to have a consistent look across your work. Even if it looks good, the lack of variety won't make you a candidate for very much. When looking for people to book or hire, producers tend to look for heavily branded pieces. Not because of stature or whatever, but more because it shows the artist can roll with direction that isn't necessarily their personal style.

 

I do feel your pain. I was living off whatever crap I could off craigslist and the like for a year or so while looking for work. It seemed every place shot me down. I ended up getting my first job at one of the larger adult video production companies as an after effects artist which sucked morally, didn't pay well, wasn't at all what I wanted to be doing, and definitely didn't help the reel but it gave me time to practice, observe the business side of things, and really push myself to get the hell up out of there. Point being, the first few years absolutely suck. You are constantly demoralized, shot down, and its always tempting to give in. But find yourself a shit job doing this stuff and squeeze out all you can with whatever opportunities it provides.

 

I wouldn't even think about freelancing right now. People tend to hire freelancers for well-rounded experience. The best thing that can happen is an opportunity to be an assistant or grunt-man at a larger shop so you can eventually prove your worth and get more into the mix of things.

 

Just keep at it with supreme gusto and everything will fall into place. You will eventually look back and view the memories of hard times as badges of honor. Even when on a project that seems to go nowhere, benefit nobody, and isn't making money, just keep in mind that things have an uncanny way of coming back in your favor years later, in totally unexpected ways.

 

Oh yeah, and keep being a pleasure to work with. You MUST maintain a thick skin and a smile.

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Great advice from everyone above. I'm probably just reiterating a lot of what's already been said but it's really about creating that first opportunity for yourself and sticking with it. Get involved with any company/group/club that is remotely related to what you want to do and milk it for everything you can. Become a hang-around/intern/minimum wage employee and be the guy who is always there.

 

If you're always around, you'll get opportunities by default. If people like you, which is way more important than talent, they'll bend over backwards to help you out because it makes them feel good about themselves to help out an up and comer who they also really like. If you see someone who's work you like, tell them, say I want to do what you want to do. Who wouldn't help out someone like that who is genuine and shows real ambition and passion? Be a nice guy and be around and it'll happen way faster than you expected.

 

You could do a lot to improve your brand/reel/website/image but that's the last thing you should be worrying about at this point, without real world experience you'll only make things marginally better than they already are. Get your foot in the door and then squeeze the rest of yourself in there behind it!

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yup, im just gonna re-iterate what sbmotion here said.

 

Be a nice guy :D So often jobs go to friends/aquaintences/drinking buddies rather than the best qualified that it is disheartening at times :))

 

once you get some real world experience and repuation for doing something really well it will be a lot less of an issue. But at the beginning people hire the people who are nice to be around. Because if you are working with someone all day, you want them to tolerable.

 

also once you get over this hurdle. Don't forget to do what you are told. There is NOTHING more annoying than a junior who starts doing things "his way" because he tried it at home and it worked. Learn the production pipeline it's built through experience. Not to say that you shouldn't try to improve it. But first do it the way that they do in the studio, and then if you have time (or on your own time, make an alternative and pitch it to them). Or atleast ask someone who is senior, before going off and doing it your way.

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I love that idea with the illustrated thumbnails on your site. It kind of makes me want to click them all to find out what they really look like not as a scribble.

 

You have a good eye for detail in the reel like the little flourishes here and there that really make a movement end with a pop. Cool!

 

Advice above is solid!

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I can vouch for Chris' site, I've gotten a few emails that say they reached me via c4dfreelancers!

 

Thanks Matt - glad to know it's doing the job. I get a fair few hits myself, and I've got the lamest web presence of anyone on there, so there's obviously plenty of opportunities sloshing around out there.

 

Freelance isn't anything to be afraid of, it's just a job in the end - as long as you're honest and up-front at the start it's a good way to stretch yourself and experience a stack of different working methods and cultures.

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