Building Your Talent Pool
Finding people you can reliably delegate tasks to is essential because there is just no way you can do it all by yourself.
Now that you’ve committed to starting your own animation business, budgeted your six- to 12-month ramp-up period, developed your niche and prepared your essentials, it’s time to start building your team.
Keep in mind, being independent doesn’t necessarily mean working alone. In fact, if you want to truly enjoy the independent lifestyle, it is necessary to complement your own skill set with additional team members so that you can produce and earn far beyond your own capacity and keep the machine running while you’re on vacation.
Operating as a one-person army is fine for the initial, short-term launch of your company, because it gives you first-person perspective and invaluable insight on all aspects of your business. However, being the butcher, baker and candlestick maker 24-7-365 will burn you out and set you up for a financial roller-coaster ride.
For example, to acquire paid projects you must market, which may be the single most important element to any business’s success — see future columns for more on this. However, when you’re marketing, you’re not billable and are not earning money because you’re not doing production. So, you market until you land a project then slam on the marketing brakes and immediately shift into production mode. Then, you work around the clock for weeks or even months to finish the project. However, when the gig is complete there is no more work waiting for you because you haven’t been marketing. So, you go back to marketing until you find another project and in the mean time you are not producing which means you are not earning. Repeat ad nauseam.
Keep the Work Flowing
To remedy this, you will need to find about three to four dependable animation subcontractors you can call upon as needed. This will allow you to keep marketing while they focus on production. These subs will more than likely work from home, have their own hardware and software, and will negotiate fees with you on a project-by-project basis. These team members will work remotely, thereby eliminating salary, insurance and direct overhead costs associated with hiring employees. There is a good chance you may not ever meet some of your subs face to face. They may even be in a different coun- try. As long as they take direction well, are responsive, produce consistent, quality content and deliver on time, they’re keepers. Be sure to show your appreciation with a sincere thank you and a nice fee for their work every time.
As much as we love to entertain the concept of hiring students to produce work on the cheap, this more often than not can lead to headaches. A student is already swamped with stress, class workload, homework, parties and a part-time job or two. Even with the best intentions, it is very easy for students to be forced to put your work second or third, thereby causing delays, inconsistent quality and unhappy clients.
Where to Find Help
Instead, scout for team members on trade websites, online job forums, from referrals or even on Craigslist. Remember, you are not hiring these production artists full time or even offering work at this point, but rather building your talent pool so that when work comes in beyond your capacity to handle you have the necessary resources available. As work comes in, simply reach out to one of your subs to check their availability. If they are unavailable, move on to the next one in your list.
But why should your subs have all the fun? For those of you who still wish to get your hands dirty with animation production, fear not. As the founding member and owner of your company, you have the right to cherry pick any of the projects upon which you would like to keep your creative animation juices flowing.
Since you are literally building a brand-new business from the ground up and are responsible for all aspects of this new venture, you will undoubtedly engage in activities that may not necessarily be your cup of tea. Rest assured, however, that what you are actually doing is creating reproducible systems that you can ultimately delegate to others so you can go on that much needed vacation. Martin Grebing is an award-winning animation director and producer who focuses on smaller studios and alternative markets. Today, he provides creative consulting and is the owner-operator of Funnybone Animation, a boutique studio that produces animation for a wide range of clients and industries. He can be reached via www.funnyboneanimation.com.