1. There is no shortcut to quality
There is no amount of tutorial watching or plug-in purchasing that will give you a direct line to quality work. All of those amazing pieces of work that you drool over on Vimeo, you know the secret behind all of them? People worked really hard on them. They didn’t follow a tutorial or buy a plug-in that created it for them. There was no easy button that they tapped then grabbed a cup of coffee.
They put their experience, intellect and passion into it, and it probably still fell short of where they wanted it to. They struggled through the bumps in the road (of producing it) and didn’t settle for V2, usually something more like V22.
There is no shortcut because quality is often about depth of concept and execution. It takes time, effort and thought.
2. If you get a client project (even a small one) go above and beyond
No matter how small the client, or the paycheck, it’s still an opportunity to create. It’s an opportunity to build your portfolio, your reputation and your skill set. These are NOT throw away jobs. These early gigs shouldn’t be overlooked, while you wait for Apple and Google to come calling.
In today’s environment, everything you produce has the potential to gain traction online and open doors for new opportunities. Don’t overlook the early jobs while dreaming about the big ones that may or may not come.
3. You control the path of your career
Make the work you want to get paid for. If your website is full of explainer videos; guess what new clients are going to ask you to make? If it’s full of logo animations; guess what type of emails will be hitting your inbox? If it’s full of render tests from tutorials, frankly, don’t expect client emails to be coming in.
New clients will judge what they can see of your existing body of work. So if you want to be commissioned to do a bad-ass cell animation spot, then it might help to have really strong cell animation examples in your portfolio.
Clients will mostly say, “Love that spot you did for X, we want one too.” This means that you control how your career plays out.
If you want to do a certain type of work, then do it.
4. The top studios in the world, place a premium on originality
Then do your best to be original. Making work that looks like everyone else’s on Vimeo is not going to get you there. Studios that can afford top talent and produce work of the highest quality don’t need to grab every motion designer who followed a tutorial online. They know what good and interesting work really is; after all, they’re leading the charge in creating it.
So don’t fool yourself into believing that a few more plexus tutorials will get them knocking on your door.
They’re looking for strong visual artists and talented animators. Not people who can use an animation expression to deliver bouncy text, but someone who actually applies a knowledge of animation principles.
For studios that are trying to push their own creative limits, they’re going to fill their offices with people who are trying to push their own. So if it’s your goal to go work in these hallowed mo-graph halls, then don’t shy away from pushing the boundaries and moving past the easy and obvious.
5. This career is all about the journey, not the destination
There is no “I’ve made it moment,” when it comes to being a visual artist and animator. If you don’t love creating the work, and everything that comes with that process, then stop now. Go into finance or international business, because those jobs pay a hell of a lot better.
This work can mean late nights, deflating client feedback and a perpetual cycle of limited budgets. If you don’t really love it when you’re starting out, then turn back.
There is no mountaintop that will instantly make you love it. There is no million dollar bonus awaiting you after you produce that great piece. There are no amount of Vimeo staff picks that will make the work fulfilling. You either love it, or you don’t. It’s the internal that matters. The external factors won’t be enough to carry you through the tough times.
This work is all about the process. And if you truly love and find joy in that process, then it’s the best job in the world.