Freelance animation experience

At the request of Alex I’d like to share some of the experiences that I have had doing freelance animation. I am still just in the beginning stages of making this my main freelance work as previously I had only done cartooning. So here goes!

I began doing animation with Toon Boom Studio which is a great program and really has just about everything you need. I started out just doing whatever projects or ideas I had as I learned how to do it. At first I posted everything on my YouTube channel just to show what I could do. I had no thoughts initially of selling any of my first endeavors.

After awhile I started to get some requests to do an animation here and there. One of my clients for cartoons asked me to animate a song, “I’ll Shine,” which I did in a couple of weeks. They loved it! However, they still were more interested in my just doing cartooning for them as animation was such a time consuming thing and less predictable as for how much I could produce in X amount of time.

I also got some work from another client which I had previously done cartoon work for. One of those is the “Careful What I Do” song. Since then I have done 5 or 6 animations for them.

There have also been a few requests here and there by people who have seen my YouTube channel. Most of these have not panned out especially when I get around to telling them how much it will cost–ha! My goal is to charge $1500 per minute of animation which includes storyboards, character and background designs, animation and compositing. If they need a script, voice overs, music, etc., I have to enlist the help of others and the cost goes up.

In general, I haven’t had much success with this goal price but have made it up to $800 per minute which, for now, I am happy with. Another way to look at it is to calculate how much you need to make per hour to pay your bills. When a job comes in you estimate the time it will take and make an estimate from there. Most clients want a flat fee and are scared of paying by the hour for obvious reasons.

A little over a year ago I entered the animation contest. My main goal was to win a copy of Animate Pro as well as get exposure for my work. By a miracle I came in 5th and got Animate Pro 2! Now I had the tools I needed to make my animations even better. I may not use everything it has in it but I have it there in case I ever need it. (I have since upgraded to Harmony and am very happy to have all the new features!)

In the meantime, I got the idea from another animator to try to sell my animations on Which I have begun doing. I figured I wasn’t doing anything with those first animations, so why not. So I am now slowly but surely beginning to bring in something month by month from there.

I have also created 2 DVDs of compilations of animations which I have done. A producer friend of mine will be hosting mini-film festivals around Texas and he wants to show some of my work and offer the DVDs. We’ll see how that goes.

I figure the more I get my work out there eventually somebody is going to see it and I may land a new customer. So far, it’s been slow but I have had a steady flow of work. My dream is to someday discontinue doing animation for other people and concentrate on my own animation projects. That would be cool. Until then, I’m happy and challenged with tackling whatever comes my way.

I was thinking how much animation is similar to mountain climbing. It’s a heck of a lot of work but once you reach the summit and finish your clip there is nothing like it!

That’s about it for now. I hope this has been a help or at least an interesting read for anybody out there who is looking for ideas on how to get started in animation.

very insightful. Thanks for the honesty on what you try to charge and charge.

I found it super interesting. I don’t think I could ever do it, I often feel bad charging/over charging etc. Which leads me to helping people for free. So in other words I suck at buisness.

Thanks for sharing your experience!


Thank you for so generously sharing your experience.


Very interesting Zeb, thanks for sharing. It is very scary to make the decision to go the Freelance route and I am really contemplating on doing so. I have been taking small Storyboard gigs here and there but I am not sure if I have the guts to go full throttle, so reading this is a bit inspiring, thanks again!

Very nicely stated Zeb. Have you thought of entering into some film festivals to get your name out there like the 168 Hour Film Project?

Never heard of the 168 Project. Sounds interesting although I’m not sure they accept animation nor if I’d have one full free week to devote to it. But, who knows? Film festivals are a good idea and I’ve looked into it briefly but need to investigate it more. Thanks for the tip!

thanks for this post Zeb :slight_smile:

Yep, they have an animation catagory too and like the documentery catagory they give you extra time since they know it takes longer to complete

Thanks for the advice, Lilly! I’ll certainly look into it. I’ve joined some groups on Linkedin but nothing has really happened yet as a result. But it would be fun to meet other animators face to face and talk shop and get to know others and be known. is also a good place, you may wanna check it out, it’s competitive though, freelancers place their bids with time and cost estimates and the client then chooses. you get paid through Paypal as far as i remember.

Thanks for the suggestion, Amin! But I tried it and it was a lot of work with stiff competition and many people who work for cheap. Then it’s up to the whim of the guy asking for the work as to which one fits his fancy and gets the job and the payment. So it didn’t work out for me.

This is really cool! As a side note, another thing that helps when you’re a freelancer is to become a member of some animation groups, either locally, through schools, or through the web. Sharing your work with other people will not only get your name out there, but it will encourage people to seek you out when they have a project that they need an extra pair of hands on.