After deciding to specialize as a background painter, every animator will have to do a couple of things to ensure that their career is successful. First, they will have to complete additional training that makes them eligible for projects from this sector. That means taking some additional classes or undergoing on-the-job training to get familiar with the specific software and other requirements of background painting. They will also need to look into job opportunities that are available within their region. Although the demand for talented background animators continues to soar across a wide range of industries, finding a solid work opportunity may be harder than expected. This is why a lot of artists end up working for themselves after acquiring the necessary knowledge. So, how hard is it to become a background-painting freelancer?
Approaching Each Case Individually
As advantageous as it would be to have the ability to answer this question with a simple “yes” or “no,” doing so is not feasible. The reason why is the fact that multiple factors play a role when it comes to a background painter’s ability to work for themselves. Generally speaking, there are enough projects within the market to allow one to build a very lucrative career as a freelancer. To do so, however, they need to possess the right mix of education, experience, networking, and intangible skills accompanied by a solid demand within their local area.
Becoming a background painter almost always requires a bachelor’s degree in animation. Not having one will make it borderline impossible to get hired on large projects that are profitable enough to keep one’s freelancing career afloat. Having a graduate degree such as a master’s will only improve the odds of landing a solid gig. Most professionals stay away from doctorate studies, however, as the offering for animation-based Ph.D. programs is very slim. Also, animators that want to become academic professors are generally the only group of people that need such an advanced diploma.
Realistically speaking, it will be very hard for someone to build a freelancing career in background animation as soon as they get out of school. This is because employers who hire independent contracts still want to see that the animator has some experience in the industry. Spending some time holding a regular job is also very beneficial for the artist as it will teach them the ins and outs of common editing software, project management, and many intangible skills. After a while, they will build a track record that can be used as leverage during the negotiations for independent projects.
If a background painter lacks networking skills, it does not matter how amazing their credentials are. They could possess multiple degrees accompanied by a lot of noteworthy projects and still struggle to work for themselves. Why? Because companies and employers who seek their services will still mandate some type of pre-screening process that may include a formal interview, phone call, or similar. One’s understanding of professionalism or lack thereof could quite literally undermine everything else on their resume. This is why it is crucial to learn how to navigate the job market early on. That means developing an elevator speech, a solid portfolio, and a likable personality. Falling behind in any of those areas could make their self-employment career a nightmare.
Of course, not everything that relates to someone’s freelancing work will have to do with their qualities. There is also a lot of external factors that will play an influential role as well. The most obvious one is the current demand within the industry. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the job outlook for multimedia artists in 2016 was growing at an annual rate of eight percent. In other words, experts forecasted that the 73,700 active professionals from 2016 would turn into nearly 80,000 animators in 2017. Those figures meet the average standards for the entire U.S. and all other job markets. Thus, it is fair to say that most background painters will not face too many problems related to the economy. If anything, the fact that the demand is solid should make it easier for them to work independently.
The last set of skills that one must possess here revolve around informal or intangible talents. Unlike the ability to study and constantly improve knowledge of animation, intangible skills deal with things like kindness, capacity to motivate, work ethic, integrity, and similar. One of the greatest challenges of working as a freelancer in the field of animation boils down to communicating with clients and meeting tough deadlines. Hence why remaining transparent and reliable will help establish a solid book of business with many loyal customers.
Level of Patience
Ultimately, while this does not necessarily meet the definition of an actual “skill,” having patience will be extremely significant as well. Background painters who are hoping to get a dream project only days after starting to look for freelance work will usually end up very disappointed. Even though some of them may get lucky and find gigs very fast, most folks will need to dedicate a plethora of time to researching the market, signing up for various freelance websites, and bidding or sending job proposals. Given that the process could take anywhere from a few weeks to a year or more, having a lot of patience will help avoid the “burnout” effect. In translation, it will let the animator keep going even after many unsuccessful tries.
Based on all of the aforementioned, there is no way to gauge whether someone will find it easy or hard to work for themselves. The best way to approach the question is to take a look at some of the said qualities. Artists who are patient, experienced, trained, and understand how to network will probably find self-employed background painter work effortlessly.