GSG Live Cast – How to Make Money as A Motion Designer

August 6, 2010 - By 

In this episode of GSG Live, I talk more about the business side of Motion Design. I talk about and answer questions about freelance, getting paid what your worth, how to meet people in your industry that are hiring, and the future of outsourcing and the Motion Design and VFX industry. If you missed this live cast and want to join me for the next one, tune in to the Live Cast Page on Wednesdays at 2PM Central to hang out and ask questions. See you there?

  • Really happy about you doing this. I’m only 16 but im more than keen about getting into this industry.

    Thanks Nick, a fantastic inspiration.

    • Finish high-school first. Do you want to make good money? Think real hard before going in motion graphics. College is right there. I would consider what you really want to do for the rest of your life.

    • I disagree with Bobby. I’m about to graduate from a school with a “degree” in this stuff. I’ve learned nothing. Also as far as high school, screw that. The real world doesn’t need what they teach you in your last two years of high school unless you’re going into engineering or sciences. High-school is about making you a compliant worker bee for corporate amerika. Is that what you really want to be?

    • Cody, I’m sorry you had a bad experience with school. I wouldn’t rule out school all together though. It’s actually really awesome that Aidan knows what he wants to focus his attention on now. That way he can find a school with a great program with professors with industry connections. I think school is a great way to learn how to learn and a good way to make connections. Aidan…I would suggest that you focus on design theory first.

    • I am going to agree with Trione here. Before I was out of high school I knew that I wanted to be an artist. However, if I had not gone to art school, I would never have met the people and professors that I did that were in their own way responsible for me to go completely in the other direction by changing my major from fine art to graphic design and soon after motion graphics. A specialized degree allows for energetic, exhilarating, accelerated learning because of the critique you get from your industry hardened, professors that are teaching on their spare time between running their studio, and the ideas you can bounce around with your peers who are just as exited about all the stuff you are into and are facing the same dilemmas in technology and design practice. I also encourage becoming a member of the American Institute of Graphic Arts which is a big national organization of graphic designers helping graphic designers. Then start going to all the hundreds of lectures, parties, get togethers, socials, and panel discussions they have available in every city in the nation.

  • Cool live cast, tnx and big up from Bosnia ๐Ÿ˜‰

  • Thanks Nick! I allways get something when you talk even if it has nothing to do with the title, lots of little things like “right click show help” your time is appreciated!, thanks again!…….dave

  • Well the guy is 17 and im 12 man and im creating a 3d game with a group of guys i have like 5 months experience with c4d and other software so he can do small projects to show is progress

  • Great live cast dude, good to hear someone giving clear advice to the beginners and not just skirting around issues!

    Personally, I think the outsourcing of motion/3D work isn’t going to be picked up as quickly as other industries (for example, coding) due to the expense of the hardware require to render quickly and to a decent level.

  • Following up on Nicks comments about finding something that amazes you and then break it down and recreate it to learn from it. Here is my example of just that.
    Total respect for Hronogram who created this:
    By breaking it down and recreating this forced me to learn some great things that I had no idea about before I started. So like the gorilla says, it is the best thing you could be doing right now. Find something you like and try to recreate it and see what you learn from it to apply to your own projects!

  • Hey nick the end part of the talk is really an eye opening for us. We are in a fast phase industry and not all of us can keep up with the new hardware, software or plug ins and we are not getting any younger. hope you can give us more advice on the business side of the industry. thanks

  • Hi Nick, great tips. Could you please tell us the name of those books you were recommending so I can look for them in amazon? I didn’t catch the names correctly and for some reason if I tried to “rewind” the video it would freeze

  • Nick I gotta say: very cool that you are so transparent with your knowledge and so free to give it out.

    Keep up the good karma work, sir!

  • Thanks man, made me think about a lot of issues and im gonna check out that book, thanks ! ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Dear Nick,

    I am not sayin this for the first time, but I really thank you and all the great people that join the weekly live cast for sharing their thoughts, questions and experience! That means a lot to me and look forward to having a wonderful time with all you guys next week!!!!


    PS: I started saving my questions (answered or not) in a text file every week. It would be cool if you mention it before the next live cast and we may get a corpus of great questions for YOUR first Business Book ๐Ÿ˜‰

  • Thanks for addressing the age/hipness issue.
    It was a topic recently on mograph as well.

  • Hey gorilla I see you in mexico here are famous thanks for all tutorials bye

  • Great cast.

    One thing you mentioned about beating the crowdsourcers is being cool. I think of that in terms of networking. People like to buy from people they know and people they can trust. Come to think of it, that’s biologically hardwired into us from when humans still lived in small groups. People like to deal with people in their “tribe” and it’s hard to vouch for the guy halfway around the world who doesn’t speak the same language.

    And I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve seen great artists who just got passed by the wayside by people with lesser skills because they didn’t know how to network or put themselves out there. The Internet is great because you can stick your reel in front of everybody but the field of dreams only got this one slightly correct…. it should be “if you build it they won’t come unless you actively give them an invite.”

    • Great points. Knowing the right people is everything. Being great and unknown does no good. Get out there and meet people. Not just “Contacts” either. Go be cool and make friends.

  • great live cast… your work helps to build a new comunity… and that is a new social experience…ty nick..ey…what about the lens flares inside cinema 4d?…i think it will be a nice tutorial.

  • Was there live and here’s another Thanks. Keep up the great work

  • I work for an agency as lead motion+3D, and I’m telling you its scary. What they created is an alternative choice to a GFX house.

    Agency: we have a job due in 2 weeks can you do it mr. post GFX house?

    GFX house: no its way too short deadline for the complexity of the project.

    Agency: no worries we have “ninjas” in house that can take care of it.

    Agency: hi ninjas we have a really cool project due in 2 weeks. deadline 2 weeks and tons of 3D no storyboard or styleframes make em!.

    ninjas: ok i guess we have no other choice.

    something that’s currently happening lol…

  • Lol, “Don’t use Justice.” LMAO

  • Mr. Campbell thank you very much from all way from India.

    We have a young motion graphics studio, it is good time to get into post production business now. I want to thank you for your knowledge, very useful and has helped us out with most of our work.

    Question: Do you have any good techniques clone greenscreened people? We have several individuals filmed and now we want to create a big crowd. We are having a hard time in compositing to make everyone look like a real crowd. Thank you in advance Mr. Campbell!

  • Concerning the business and not getting paid your worth. Companies multiply their value by bringing together talents. A 3d modeller’s work is worth X. An animator’s another X. But by putting the two together you don’t just add but multiply.
    That way the “rip-off factor” might not be that bad after all.

    • True. I’m not down on companies though. Companies definitely add value by bringing a team together, owning space, and building relationships with clients. I’m not saying “Don’t work for a Company”. I’m just saying, try to get paid what your worth.

  • As usual Nick Great tuning in.

    To the guys from DC hit me up at I’m about an hour away it would be great to hook up with folks in the area.

  • Nick hi!I’ve missed live cast, but anyway it was great as always, thank you for a lot of important information you talked about.Best Regards to you.

  • Yo Nick! Awesome inspiring as always! The Linchpin book got me excited on getting it and learning more from it. Thanks for the great tips on stuff, can’t wait for the next cast.

  • Some excellent topics of discussion there man, very interesting viewpoints. Recently chatting with one of our freelancers who is moving halfway across the world and the discussion of outsourcing came up. Its an interesting topic, and will no doubt get an awful lot of airtime over the coming years as the tech catches up with the requirements needed to send huge files round the world. But it will happen. The question, as ever will relate to the work dynamic and the relationships built. The language barrier is another thing altogether. Whilst many companies will invariably go for the cheapest option, many, many others will be terrified to send work over to India, China, Russia (for example) without having the artists close to hand to meet or discuss feedback with face-to-face.

    Even with webcams and skype, I cannot help but feel that one will never completely rule over the other. I can easily foresee that the norm would be for established groups of freelancers to get connected online, effectively building worldwide workshops that you can send your projects to and have them, theoretically, worked on for 24 hours a day, for, as one timezone clocks off, another begins.

    However, to even attain the level of trust and skills to succeed, I would almost guarantee that these artists & designers will still need to have been schooled in their trade, be it at a local company, large corporation or freelancing – to learn client demands and quirks, to learn how to deal with producers, clients, account managers and most importantly, other artists. To take criticism and deal with challenges that get thrown up at the last minute.

    Like anything new, this stuff can be quite scary, as we all assume the big companies will simply exist to rip off the little man – but I expect things won’t change too much in that sense. In fact its the way it works at the moment anyway! I, and most of my contemporaries, have all worked on shitty wages for many years whilst friends went and earned a decent salary in high paid corporate jobs. We artists & designers did our shift as runners, library assistants, machine room workers and all the other jobs which were terribly paid, but still gave you the chance to see the post houses up close and learn from experienced pros. It was those years that led up to allowing us to work in a job we love, doing cool shit (as much as possible) and getting paid.

    Ultimately it comes down to the old adage that you get what you pay for. People will always try to save money on their commercials, music videos, films, promos and branding. But if the work is shoddy, those brands will soon not be around to continue paying under the odds. If the film fx are laughable then the film will suffer from bad reviews and word-of-mouth. And so on and so on.

    As you say, be the best you can be, be cool to work with, be hard working.

    Will check out the books, and thanks for the great advice. Oh, and the Justice comment was classic!

  • Easily your best. The business part has always been a secondary aspect of my situation. Now I will not be. I too just got married, 30. Where the fuck is the diaper money going to come from.

  • dont use a justice track! haha just laughed so hard everybody in the office is staring @ me

  • Great talk Nick, agree 100%, I participate in some lectures and tried to force younger people to see the big picture. It might be great when your 20s living with your parents having software for free to do work at incredable rates, but watch out, thereยดs another wave coming soon from schools and in ten years you are “obsolete”.
    Try not to be “the cheapest kid in town”…

  • are these podcasted? I looked for them with no luck. I would love to watch/listen to these on my morning commute.


  • Yo Nick,

    i have great hopes.
    that this world is getting rid off all those dickheads with ties playing safe while the world goes down.

    there’s a new generation rising and i pledge to everyone: DON’T MAKE MONEY BEING A PART OF YOUR DECISIONS!

    Fight for your earnings if you do creative wor, but please (for your own sake of being) DON’T, JUST DON’T let fucked up cash be your definitive motor to succeed!

    nuff said

  • Great stuff! I agree talking about it is important, most people in this industry seem to be going blindly “I’m gona make cool shit” and ignore the money aspect of it all together. Which really is part of the problem because they are driving the price of this work down further than it should be.

    Totally agree with your whole ” be indespensible” thing, only way to go.

    keep these coming, the community needs them.

  • In many cases it’s not about the money , but in the fun creating the stuff. I really like your 5 sec concept because it gives a designer a target to work on as if there were a client.
    Yesterday a vimeo mail surprised me , because my 5sec countdown from a while ago was used in a music clip. No money but honoured. That’s how it starts i guess.

  • Nick, I’ve been in the industry nearly 7 years now think I’ve reached the stage were I’m looking to begin freelance work, after 7 years with the same company.
    Can you give any advice how to go about doing freelance without stepping on anyones toes, in an industry were everyone seems to know everyone.

    • I think really it’s just about being honest and up front with your employer. Tell them you’re going to freelance, and make sure not to hit up any of their clients of course.

      Old relationships you have that no longer affiliate with your company are generally okay to drop a line just to tell them you’re freelancing and send a reel.

      Post the previous employment on your website and grab beers with them once and a while if you end up quitting.

      Good luck!

  • Hey Nick,

    I just recently started getting interested in Motion Graphics and Visual Effects and I have to say, you’re truly inspiring. All these great tips and tricks that provide – insight, all down to the nitty gritty – leaving out all the BS. I love it. So thank you for that.

    I do have a question that you may have answered before, but I didn’t hear it on this particular cast…

    My background is in 3D Modeling/Animation, I went to school for a year at the art institute in fort lauderdale, self-taught myself Maya, 3DS Max, etc… before going to school and even some semesters online at a Character Animation school. My problem that I always seem to run into is I’m not a traditionally skilled artist… I haven’t been drawing since I was 3 or any of that and it’s haulted me in my progress to becoming a professional 3D artist.

    Now my question to you is, for someone whose very interested in studying motion graphics and doing this as a professional career.. would it be better to go directly to school for it, or be more fluent in say graphic design before embarking on this Motion Graphics journey?

    I appreciate your help and I’m looking forward to reading your reply. Thanks.


  • Thanks Nick, really opened my eyes to several self-questions I’ve been doing lately. A true blessing and again thank you but for taking the time to teach these wonderful knowledge you have acquired throughout the years and experience that are invaluable to people like me who does not have the opportunity to study in their own country or hang out with people from the this industry.

    Blessings from Paraguay.

  • A great book I want to add, which I consider invaluable especially to those getting started and wondering what to charge is a book produced and written by the Graphic Artists Guild called “The Graphic Artists Guild Handbook of Pricing and Ethical Guidelines”. It talks all about the business of design tips on how to handle clients, the importance of contracts, how to charge for different kinds of work, and even has contracts and invoices in the back for you to copy. It is very good stuff and really well written.

  • I have the exact same HOLGA camera you have ther in the background!!!!!
    What a great cam.

    Great blog. I’ve become addicted to it. I’m learning a lot.


  • I hear you about the client telling you how to do your job and not getting out of the way. I had a client do this to me today on an illustration.

    Since you’ve brought this up, I think I’ve come up with a useful way to think about this today but I’ve not yet expressed this to a client.

    Our job as visual communicators is almost entirely non-verbal. For example, today I’m trying to nail the color, value and form relationships to emote something striking. These things can’t be solved with words or symbolic thoughts. They have to be made into something real by doing it. “Just Do It”, as Nike says it really talking about non-verbal expression.

    So what happens with the non-artist client is they get up each morning and say in words to themselves they’ve got to get to work and do something. They look at my stuff and all these words and ideas come to them and they feel compelled to say them. Because they’re thinking in words they have little chance of framing the solution correctly. They are just getting in the way because they are clogging the path to the solution with words. If they wanted to help they should as Nike says, “Just Do It”. They could sketch or find visual reference but likely they’re not good at this nor have the time.

    Has anyone had any experience expressing this to their client? I’m looking for a time when I can try.

    As for the future of remote outsourcing, There needs to be a system to get paid incrementally and instantly. Paypal takes a 3% cut. There must be a better way. I have Paypal set up with my checking account but the client needs to have this too. I’m not completely sure how to make it work seamlessly since I don’t get paid this way often. I believe it must become standard procedure to get paid this way. Net 30, now-a-days is arcane and a likely form of corporate hazing. Not that I need the money in 30 days, but I personally need to have trust to engage even partially with who I work with. From neuroscience and psychology, I have the facts on how completely flawed the human mind functions regarding any sort of complexity. It’s unrealistic to expect humans to trust one another at the pace we’re functioning. Trust is based on reciprocity. The reciprocity is the instant and incremental payment.

  • “You need to put on your reel what you want to do…. go home and do five seconds a month of something you like.”
    I think this statement might just have changed my life. =)

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