With unemployment on the rise and increasing public interest in entrepreneurship, freelance work is becoming a more and more enticing and viable route for professionals of all kinds (Hence Freelance Animators rocking the scenes). Although freelancing comes with the perk of creating your own schedule and not having to answer to “the man” (well, except for tax season), there are a few struggles that go along with this career path.

Top 5 survival tips for freelance animators

These struggles may take time to resolve. As a helpful survival guide for freelancers who specialize in animation, the following tips can be your ticket to freedom and profit while doing what you love.

1. Frequently update your portfolio and reel

If you had to choose between hiring someone with several recent and well-done animation projects or someone with just a few dated projects, which one would you choose? Since the competition in the freelance world has grown significantly with the advent of social media, those looking to hire professionals for an animation project will likely have plenty of candidates to choose from. Keeping your profile and reel updated helps to make a better impression on these job providers, which equals more projects and more money.

2. Attend networking events

When a business wants to expand its outreach, one of the first things it does is expand its network. Fortunately, in today’s digital world, networking can be done both online and offline. This ensures you’ll have the opportunity to reach out to individuals all across the country, which naturally increases your chances of landing a job. Although online networking opportunities are certainly effective, you should aim for in-person events and look to develop stronger, more personal connections with potential clients.

3. Never underestimate the power of tax deductions

The IRS likes to hit freelance workers with heavy taxes because the process of paying taxes for freelancers is often much less organized. However, the initial amount that shows up after you file your earnings shouldn’t give you a heart attack just yet. You can deduct a lot more than you think as a business expense. Some animators even deduct the money spent on their Internet and television packages because these mediums actually provide legitimate resources for their professional development. If you work from home, a portion of your rent, utility bills and any furniture purchased for your work space may also be deducted from your taxes.

4. Continue to create personal projects

If you create animation projects professionally, there’s a good chance you also compose a few projects personally as a hobby or form of expression. Although you won’t technically be getting paid for continuing to make these personal projects, having these featured on your portfolio offers insight into your personality, creativity skills and unique talents.

Moreover, these projects can even be submitted to the festival circuit, which could gain your work even greater recognition.

5. Take out a cash advance in between projects

One of the disadvantages of freelance work is that it can often be inconsistent. This can be good for your schedule, but it might mean that some months you’ll come up shorter on cash than others. Whether you’re working on a big project that withholds payment until completion or just haven’t had any luck landing a job recently, a loan or cash advance can help you get through the dry periods without resorting to desperate measures. If you know you’ll see an influx of work in a particular season, a payday loan can get you through a dry spell while you still have the peace of mind that future work is coming. Although you’ll want to keep this option in mind, try to build your savings account when work is steady to maintain security during these work droughts.

Surviving as a freelance animator can sometimes be a challenge, but these small sacrifices seem miniscule in the context of getting paid to do what you love. This challenge can also be dramatically minimized when you integrate the above essential tips into your day-to-day work life. Hard work combined with drive, persistence, and true talent will lead you to a fulfilling lifelong career in animation.

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Ruan Smit started Pixelsmithstudios with the vision of creating a new design orientated environment of sharing, learning and expertise development amongst local Animators,Illustrators and VFX artists.