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killkillakillyo

3 things you wish you knew before you started freelancing?

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True on all counts.

 

 

That is interesting to hear. But I guess every shop is different. So it is better to be staff? Would you say staff have more seniority in a shop than a freelancer? I always thought you hired freelancers to design and win the pitches then use staffers to see it through to production. So do you work over 10 hours a day as a freelancer?

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That is interesting to hear. But I guess every shop is different. So it is better to be staff? Would you say staff have more seniority in a shop than a freelancer? I always thought you hired freelancers to design and win the pitches then use staffers to see it through to production. So do you work over 10 hours a day as a freelancer?

 

Well as a freelancer I'm generally brought in to add something that the staff can't handle, so in that respect you can say freelancers are 'senior', but obviously companies are going to be more loyal to their staff. As for 'better', depends what you mean - clearly the staff have more reliable work, but they're probably getting much less in terms of pay, and they have to do whatever drudge work is foisted on them, whereas the 'rockstar' freelancer generally gets picked to take on the trickier/higher profile stuff in my experience. So it depends what you're looking for - security, regular income or something closer to artistic/professional 'fulfilment'...

 

If working over 10hours sounds scary then I'd say you'd be better off as a permanent staffer than a freelancer - it happens regularly. It depends on the job, if it's dull and the deadline allows then I'm out the door at the first opportunity. Buyt if it's interesting work and the job's going well then you have to drag me from my desk with my nails digging in... freelance isn't about 'putting in the hours', I've done plenty of that and that's one of the best things about freelance work - if you do it right it doesn't feel like work.

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That is interesting to hear. But I guess every shop is different. So it is better to be staff? Would you say staff have more seniority in a shop than a freelancer? I always thought you hired freelancers to design and win the pitches then use staffers to see it through to production. So do you work over 10 hours a day as a freelancer?

 

Almost every job I've freelanced for has required 10 hour days or more. But that's primarily due to my lack of experience (I'm slower), however I've been there with the more senior guys.

 

Some shops are set up so they only need to fill in the gaps on special projects. So they book rockstar designers to lock the job then bring in the necessary techs to deliver, and split the difference. The issue with that is these guys charge really high rates and the house has to budget against their current payroll, so some houses choose to stay small so there's no overhead until there's a generous enough profit margin. How efficiently a studio can balance talent vs. budget seems to fall on the lap of producers, and its ability to put a dollar-cost-value on its ideas/designs and subsequently pitch realistically is on the lap of the creative leads.

 

As with seniority, I think it all comes down to how well you can communicate with the clients. I've seen freelance designers take the lead on conference calls before and it's pretty amusing. Once you've established a good enough rapport with the client (real client, not the house), you've pretty much secured your position as liaison and can voice opinions in on the creative process. I think your ability to bridge the gap between the client and their "ideas" is your ticket to moving up the totem pole. Unfortunately this is also why the term "art director" is used so loosely these days. It seems to me that you can talk your way to becoming a director as long as your boards are semi-decent while the guys putting out sick ass boards but can't sell worth sh*t (exhibit A: http://www.youtube.c...?v=Toa9tgSzP78) will never get past the role of a jr./mid-level designer. I feel in order to be a true motion designer, you have to be able to pitch your ideas.

 

This is just my $0.02 and I'd love to hear everyone else's opinions.

 

 

1. Stop reading bulleted advice.

2. Get off the net and work.

3. No. Seriously.

 

Probably the best bulleted advice so far.

Edited by killkillakillyo

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That is interesting to hear. But I guess every shop is different. So it is better to be staff? Would you say staff have more seniority in a shop than a freelancer? I always thought you hired freelancers to design and win the pitches then use staffers to see it through to production. So do you work over 10 hours a day as a freelancer?

 

As far as working over ten hours a day, there are many top shops that run that way and running freelancers into the ground is the norm for them. They will only change when / if the labor board in your State decides to go after them.

 

Someone here made a point to mention the difference between freelancing for shops and freelancing directly with an end client. I think that's an important distinction to make because the two are totally different. Or rather, in my opinion they are totally different.

 

As far as it being better to be staff, it depends on who you ask and what kind of place you are staff at. If you are staff at a place that runs everyone into the ground 24/7, then it probably wouldn't be good to be staff or freelance at that place.

 

If you are staff at a place where you get along great with everyone and everyone goes in at 10 am, leaves by 7 pm or 7:30 pm at the latest, most of the time and you have a great salary with great benefits, then in my opinion, yes that would be better than dealing with the instability of working freelance for various design shops; especially when labor and overtime abuses are so rampant in this industry.

 

As far as hiring freelancers to design and win pitches versus using staff to design and win pitches, I've seen it go both ways. However, I think Mete's assessment of how things usually go, is pretty correct, including the part about generalizations.

Edited by tvp

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Someone here made a point to mention the difference between freelancing for shops and freelancing directly with an end client. I think that's an important distinction to make because the two are totally different. Or rather, in my opinion they are totally different.

 

 

freelancing for end client as in working for chefboyardee's mktg people, or working directly with their agency? both are a bit more direct than working for whatever Mograph house in NYC doing production/animation for the agency...

 

i agree though. the trick is those long hours often end up being better looking work because its a fire that burns hotter, and the bosses at say psyop or whereever probably are picker with their mograph refinement than how hard one would push oneself when working directly.

 

that said, working directly is cool because you can design a look and workflow that makes sense based on your desire not to kill yourself in the process, and if you're creative enough, make it satisfying for everybody. vs. the big shops seem like they are well aware of the mograph arms race and need it to be satisfactory for everyone, and be technically impressive, which is a 3rd criterion that adds extra time

 

am i talking out of my ass on that last one? i dont know...

 

hmm... i feel like i was made for freelancing.. but what i didnt know was..

 

1. get as much in writing as possible

2. start saving early, you will enjoy the flexibility and peace of mind some savings afford

3. avoid doing only one man band stuff, and try to work in collaborative environments in your market, if only to have more allies out in the world.

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1. Save the 20% for taxes in a high-interest savings account and do accounts monthly.

 

2. Don't worry about fucking up jobs. Everyone makes mistakes, and you can't please everyone, even yourself at times.

 

3. You'll learn far, far more as a full-time staffer at a studio, and this mitigates the fact that you'll earn less. Also staffers do not have to consider #1.

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1. Save the 20% for taxes in a high-interest savings account and do accounts monthly.

 

More like 35% with the combination of corporate tax + self-employment tax, but after write-offs it usually gets to be right at 30%.

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More like 35% with the combination of corporate tax + self-employment tax, but after write-offs it usually gets to be right at 30%.

 

Probably right and sensible and all, but I'm talking about the UK, where income tax below £35k is at 20%, and healthcare is free. Plus, after deducting your personal allowance and allowable expenses the surplus is all yours, baby.

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Ah, my apologies, didn't even think about that.

 

But wait..... I was under the impression you guys were paying higher taxes than us, to pay for healthcare. Upwards of 50%. In the healthcare reform debate over here, this significantly higher tax has been one of the main arguments coming from those against following the European method of healthcare.

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i know, isnt that a bitch

 

OT - i'm as liberal as they come, but the amount i throw into the black hole of federal taxes is appalling compared with the disproportionate amount of services that come from state taxes which are way less

 

thats an interesting point about being FT and what you learn. that said, having a little freelance under my belt helped me act more like a freelancer in not taking anything for granted when i went to FT at 26 after a few years of freelancing.. now im 30 and back to freelancing, and am in a much different situation (better) than the first time around, so its all very relative as well.

 

my other 2 pieces of wisdom are

 

not to try to sugar coat things, and just always be straightforward about the work, timeframe, and your compensation. my other tip is gold. if you are like me, and maybe a people pleaser/friendly person, and you are asked over the phone to agree to something that is a bit of a compromise. you can always say you will call them back - you dont have to have an answer that very minute. then you can formulate a good explanation of why something should cost X or compromise and decide to agree to those terms - but not get sucked into saying yes on the phone because saying no is harder in the spur of the moment with someone you want to like you etc

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Ah, my apologies, didn't even think about that.

 

But wait..... I was under the impression you guys were paying higher taxes than us, to pay for healthcare. Upwards of 50%. In the healthcare reform debate over here, this significantly higher tax has been one of the main arguments coming from those against following the European method of healthcare.

 

What polititions are lying to you? never...

in the uk £37,000-150,000 its 40%

150,000+ its 50%

So you get hit more the more you earn...

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this book that was just posted on motionographer "Win Without Pitching" (http://www.winwithoutpitching.com) has been possibly the most informative and useful thing ive ever gotten from that site.

 

even though its aimed mainly at companies, i think that a lot of it applies to freelancers too since we are basically just one-person companies.

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I just did a little quick math and came to the conclusion that you need to make at least 25% more as a freelancer in the U.S. to make the equivalent to a full time employee. This is something I didn't really understand when I started freelancing.

 

- self employment tax = 7.5%

- no paid 2 week vacation means you're making 4% less (or working 4% longer for the same pay)

- health care costs about 14% more*

 

But that's not including any other benefits (retirement, sick days, etc), other expenses (equipment, etc.), or other tax breaks (writing off the extra healthcare expenses, equipment, etc). Still 25% seems like a good rule of thumb to me.

 

Or to put it another way, if you went from being a full time employee with benefits at one company, and became a full time contractor on a 1099 at another company for the same salary, you would be taking roughly a 25% pay cut.

 

* "A middle-income family with individual coverage spends on average 22 percent of household income on health care... A similar middle-income family with employer based coverage spends 8% percent of their income on health care costs." http://www.healthreform.gov/reports/hiddencosts/index.html

So that's about a 14% difference between individual and employer coverage.

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One thing I was naive about was the fact being a sole trader means you're everybody's cash cow. Looking at the posts above it seems our governments are the same in screwing individual traders, who are essentially voiceless when it comes to contributing to debates.

 

The other is software companies seeming indifference to the issues sole traders face. The way software products are licensed mean sole traders are effectively being victimised for their own ingenuity and willing to work and are being prevented from competing with even slightly bigger competition. For example, I have four machines I work on - a main workstation, a secondary workstation used for rendering and working on if the main one is working, a third used for emails and prepping assets and a laptop which I use on site. Adobe's farcical licensing system means I cannot work seamlessly across the four machines on my chosen software as I am constantly activation/deactivating the damn things. On top of that, the phone activation doesn't work if the internet is down (as I found to my cost) and the customer service is utter shite (as is the UK pricing policy). There are two ways around the system: buy another copy of the software (not really an option due to cost) or pirate the software. Unfortunately I don't pirate software due to my holier-than-thou morality so I'm stuck with juggling around licenses or working my tits off to buy another licence to operate the same software on machines on the same desk.

 

Now I was not realistic about this when I started and thought "I am responsible for buying tens of thousands of pounds of software from these people over the last twenty-five years - these people will understand that! They're my friends!", but of course they don't give a fuck. So one piece of advice would be - treat big corporations with the contempt they deserve, pay for as little as you can get away with and never, ever agree to anything which furthers their cause or helps them, including bug reports etc as they DO NOT CARE ABOUT YOU. I'm not slating individuals like Todd here, who help people as part of his job and not all corporations are the same, I've discussed this and other matters with a well-known 3D firm and found them to be very helpful and understanding (even talking to senior management), but the general rule is GOVERNMENTS AND CORPORATIONS WANT YOUR MONEY AND DO NOT GIVE A SHIT ABOUT YOU OR YOUR WORK.

 

However, we can learn from everyone and I have learnt never to treat my own customers and fellow freelancers with whom I partner up with the disdain and contempt many software companies treat theirs, and I think my customers appreciate the honesty and candour with which I discuss my own abilities and the work I do for them.

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3 things I wish I knew:

 

- Freelancing is easy in a big city

- If a studio calls you in to discuss a project, be prepared to stay there all day. You'll probably start as soon as you're done talking.

- If you take on too many small projects, you might miss out on a really good big one. This requires a little faith, but turning down questionable projects has always paid off in the end for me.

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Too me the biggest advantage of freelancing , when its not in studio ( really not a big fan of those jobs). Is if i do a job quickly i get paid more. Coz it's a per project rate.

 

Which is something i can't do in a studios. They just pile on more work and keep paying me the same rate. To me that's just unfair. Also unfair if im failing to do something ( not that that ever happens) but lets say i did fail at something, the employer would still be stuck at paying me by the hour.

 

And when I freelance my hourly can easily be 200% higher than what i get paid in as studio, sometimes even 1000% higher.

 

re: winwithoutpitching.com Kind of a "duh" thing so far, but all very correct stuff.

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@AromaKat:

 

Nope. I earn fuck all so my tax band is only 20% and as a freelancer more or less everything except recreational drugs is reclaimable expenses (don't quote me on that, I've yet to employ an accountant) and state healthcare is paid for by all taxes combined, not just income tax. The European model you're talking about is more like Germany's - Germany has private insurance for health which is now compulsory as of Jan 2010, and I think this is what the refuseniks in your Senate are referring to. You can only get free healthcare in Deutschland if you're on welfare, just saying you're poor or having a crappy job doesn't cut it. Which is shit because it forces less scrupulous employers to only employ people on freelance contracts and fire them after 6 months to avoid healthcare and pension liability.

 

In good old England, there is no such thing as paying for healthcare unless you want the luxury of a private hospital (these fall way short of a hospital in the States, so I'm told, but better than the free ones) - if you fall ill or hurt yourself (more likely, you'll get glassed in the face on a Friday night for looking funny/wearing shoes/being in the wrong place) you get taken to hospital, fixed up, and sent home. It's a good idea to send the nurses in the ward a card to say thanks, but it better be written in several languages, because English is a second language to literally all of them.

 

Freelancing is therefore fairly easy over here, but the mograph industry itself, as I keep saying, is miniscule.

Edited by iline

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3 more things:

 

1. When a client/agent calls your mobile first thing in the morning (or even 11am sometimes, that's why I freelance, duh) and wakes you from a deep sleep, sit up in bed so your throat is straight. That way you'll sound like you just haven't had your first coffee, rather than having been unconsciously chasing squirrels through an elysian park.

 

2. When dealing with producers, directors, rich clients and other horrible people with an innate sense of superiority, try to remember that being a creative is fighting the good fight and that you're not a poor, worthless grub under their boot. Deal with them in the same shouty, assertive manner they do you, and always look them in the eye, under-promise and over-deliver. There is no danger in being a pain in the ass once you've made yourself invaluable to the project.

 

3. Steal things for your reel that you're under contract not to take home. If you don't stick your Quicktime renders onto a USB thumb drive (smuggled into the studio in the lid of a Thermos flask, no doubt) then like myself you'll have no commercial work to show for four years of freelancing for major clients. The majority of my showreel is homemade personal work and it looks like I have no commercial experience. This is why I have such a pretentious-looking clients list in the middle of my CV. In the States this practice is protected by law but you're more likely to have assigned copyright to the client or studio. It might be the same in England but if my agency sees my clients work on my reel I will get dropped like a hot stone.

 

ah fuck it, 4: Overtime is an assumption on the part of the studios, not an exception, and getting paid for overtime is only really likely when it's totally unwelcome encroachment on your life outside of work. If I had kids I guess I'd use them as a reason to leave earlier. I hear you Yanks saying that you stipulate an 8-hour day as payable working hours and that you expect to be paid overtime past 10 hours, but in practice if I tried to implement this my agency would refuse to back me up, I might not get the gig due to half the population of London knowing how to use After Effects, it seldom happens. Only when the client is forcing you to stay (i.e. because their client has a meeting on Monday morning), only then could you argue that the overtime was mandatory and therefore payable.

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ah fuck it, 4

 

Loved all 4 of these. I'd like to add:

 

It's all just motion graphics.

 

There are guys out there working on solving the energy crisis, bringing peace to war torn nations, engineering space shuttles, building large Hadron Colliders, re-attaching donor arms on war vets, etc...

 

Don't let anyone (yourself included) pop veins or lose sleep over motion design.

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It's all just motion graphics.

 

There are guys out there working on solving the energy crisis, bringing peace to war torn nations, engineering space shuttles, building large Hadron Colliders, re-attaching donor arms on war vets, etc...

 

Don't let anyone (yourself included) pop veins or lose sleep over motion design.

 

 

 

Interestingly I overheard a heart surgeon once chortle to his anesthesiologist to not sweat over that days surgery as it wasn't like "they were animating motion graphics for a deadline".

 

Also, the phrase that warms the cockles of my heart whenever I can pull it out is "Lack of planning on your (producer/client) part does not constitute an emergency on my part".

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Asking people with more experience for advice while reaming out others who do the same... interesting.

 

its usually very collegial around here - except with a slight difference in tone between those who like being anonymous - are often more brutally honest or go off on tangents - and those who are not anonymous ream out less and keep it more like they are in real life. I personally think the anonymous element keeps things interesting, short of when people lose their cool and get into nuclear war with people. traditionally this board has had kind of a jaded sense of humor, which is why many people use this to ask more general questions and ask more specific personal questions to people they know in the real world. i thought this thread and the one you started were both interesting as a frequenter of mograph. hopefully people still got something out of them despite the expected snarkiness

 

or should mograph go more the way of cgtalk and be more sober and literal?

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