We recently sat down with motion designer and freelancer Owen Chikazawa, also known as We Wander, to find out some of the in’s and out’s of becoming a successful motion graphic freelancer. Here’s what he had to say.
Interview with Owen Chikazawa of We Wander
Getting Started as a Motion Graphic Freelancer
First off, you don’t have to jump in with both feet. Owen says his freelance career started slow, “I got started freelancing by doing a few jobs here and there with friends in my free time. That work continued to grow and my desire for more freedom did as well.”
Many artists don’t realize that they can take on a few extra jobs during the evenings or weekends in order to build a strong client base and a portfolio of work. At the same time, it’s important to make sure that if you are an employee of another company, that you don’t have any sort of non-compete clause that would prevent you from freelance work. Every situation is different, but in many cases, a little extra weekend work is a great start.
Going Freelance Full Time
After Owen put in his time as a weekend warrior for a while he says, “At a certain point I felt like I had enough saved to take the plunge into the world of freelance and I haven’t looked back.” One thing that is important when jumping into the freelance pool full time is making sure that you have enough money to keep you going through lean times. A common mistake is feeling like you will always be busy and not being financially prepared for downturns.
Owen explains his biggest reason for making the shift this way, “I enjoy connecting with people, and being a freelancer you get to do that a lot more than being on staff at one place.” This is great information because freelancing is about connecting with people as much as doing great work. It’s also about wearing many hats and being comfortable doing so.
How to Get Work & Stay Busy
Since going to full-time freelance, Owen has been able to stay busier than ever and create some of his best work to date. We asked him for some tips on how he does it.
“If you are looking to make the move to freelance it is important that you know people that will send work your way,” says Owen. This can be really helpful as you enter into the market. It’s like moving to a new city and having a friend there. Knowing that you can rely on some work to get the ball rolling is huge.
So how do you do this? Owen adds, “Go to creative meetups and network.” This might seem like common sense, but a lot of people miss this one. They don’t realize the power of networking. Even meeting other artists can lead to work as they may recommend you if they are too busy for a job. Let everyone know what you do and find events that are more likely to bring you work or connections.
Additionally, Owen says, “Posting your work and being social on sites and networks like Vimeo, Dribbble, and Instagram can help a lot too.” Putting up great work samples goes a long way. Producers and creatives are always looking for inspiration, and if they come across something they like from your portfolio, they may just hire you.
Also, adding samples to social sites may cause you to get your work shared and spread around even more. And don’t be afraid to take part in the communities. Commenting on social sites can have the same effect as going to networking events. It lets people know you are out there and interested in what’s happening in your industry.
Be Personable & Positive
Going a little deeper, Owen expands on his earlier point about connections. “I have found being personable always gives you a leg up. You want to be someone that is easy and enjoyable to work with.” It’s not just important to meet people. It’s important to get along with people.
In fact, getting along with the people that can hire you is a bigger selling point than your work in some cases. No matter how good you are, if you don’t take direction well, or you are hard to work with, you won’t be getting calls back for future jobs. On the other hand, if you are a pleasure to work with, and you leave a client happy, they are more likely to refer you to colleagues who are looking for your motion graphics skillset on projects.
Continuously Develop Your Craft
But of course, you must continue to practice your craft and grow your skills. After all, you still have to produce for your clients. As Owen says at the end of our talk, “Of course it all comes down to doing great work.” It’s a very simple fact. Do great work. Then pair it with networking, personality, and good planning in order to make your way as a freelancer.
Thanks to Owen Chikazawa for his time and insight. To see a little more of what We Wander is up to, check out wewander.tv.