Advice on how you could work full time from After Effects etc.

Enthusiast ,
Feb 08, 2017 Feb 08, 2017

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If you wanted to work full time on online jobs using After Effects and related programs, what is the best way of doing this? How achievable is this? I've done online jobs (not many) but I was wondering if there was a way of turning it into a reasonably paying full time job. I was also wondering about the best machine for this (eg. I have Windows 7, 32GB, i73930K 3.2 GHz), eg. updating the RAM to at least 64GB, a better processor, Windows 10, etc. to make working on projects faster, easier than before, it would also help working on higher resolution projects eg. 4K.

I was thinking of work such as: animated explainer/promotional type, whiteboard, kinetic typography. Maybe rotoscoping/editing/general compositing?. What are your thoughts on the best types of online jobs that can be done so that you earn a reasonable amount?

I was also thinking of upgrading my monitor - I currently have a 1080p 120Hz one (3d capable) and was wondering if you have any comments about that (eg. 2560 x 1440 - (those go high refresh rate eg. up to 165Hz) rather than 4K - maybe connect to a "4K" TV for previewing "4K" footage.

So I was wondering if you have any advice on this?

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Adobe Community Professional ,
Feb 08, 2017 Feb 08, 2017

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You are contemplating an incredibly difficult way to make a living. There is very little money available for the kind of work that you are describing. If you live in a city where the average selling price of a modest 3 bedroom home is $250,000 or so you'll have to be:

  • Incredibly good at managing your time
  • Incredibly good at finding new clients
  • Find enough work to have the equivalent of about 1000 billable hours a year which means that at least half of your working hours will have to be paid for by clients - an extremely difficult goal for any freelancer
  • Bill at least $95/per hour on average and save 10% of everything you earn for a rainy day, 10% of everything you earn to keep up with technology, and about 40% of what you earn to pay your taxes
  • Be incredibly good at what you do

Sorry to break the bad news. This is a very tough business. The head of the production department at a major studio recently said "If I don't put at least one of my subcontractors out of business when I'm making a film I'm not doing my job." The incredibly talented group of people that did the visual effects for "Life of Pi" filed for bankruptcy before they received their Academy award.

You should read this article by my friend Richard Harrington Why Video and Film Have Lost Their Value.

There are all kinds of folks offering templates for opens and graphic. You can get explainer videos done or buy specialized software for just a few dollars that do that kind of thing for next to nothing. There are Rotoscope houses all over the world that do work for just a few dollars an hour. This is a really tough way to make a living.

If you still want to pursue working full time in visual effects start by getting a really good education in how to run a business. Add to that a really good understanding of art, story, psychology, writing, and civics (yes, how society works). Then practice your AE skills and be so creative that your work will stand out and people will come to you. Just knowing how to do dynamic text animations in AE will not get you very far for very long. Understanding the software is the least important part of your education and preparation.

I hope this helps. If I had it all to do over again, and I've been working full time in the motion picture and television industry since 1969, I would have chosen a different path in about 1990. I'd still be working in film but I would have run my life and managed my business a lot differently.

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Enthusiast ,
Feb 08, 2017 Feb 08, 2017

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Thanks for your info.

You can get explainer videos done or buy specialized software for just a few dollars that do that kind of thing for next to nothing

I have a cheap whiteboard anim program that I can use for whiteboard videos but it's a bit limited. I could use After Effects after it for anything required that can't be done in it.

I haven't seen any good Explainer video creation programs available "for just a few dollars". Most of the ones I've seen, especially those that allow commercial use, have a recurring monthly charge and would work out quite a lot per year, and you'd never actually own it. If you know of any desktop PC programs that are a one-off reasonable fee (especially if under £100) that would make producing animated explainer videos very easy, fast but also professional looking could you tell me the names of any?

I was mostly thinking about the simpler 2D anim type (animated explainer, promotion, whiteboard, etc.) rather than full visual effects. Anything that can hopefully be done reasonably easily, reasonably fast, etc. I looked at buyer requests and, though I can't see any right now I thought I saw some before with budgets >$100. But even with the lesser paying gigs I was thinking if I could do enough of them it might be possible to make a full time living, even if it's not the best paying job (I don't have the best paying job now).

About the visual effects company(s) going bankrupt. I thought I read about one where one reason I think was that they weren't getting paid any extra for every revision they had to do or something. Maybe if the only gigs that are done are those (believed to be) cost effective ones and you only allow a certain number of revisions before you charge extra for each revision, you may be able to make an okay income.

--

Any other advice would be welcome. Including names of software that are cheap ("just a few dollars") and has a one-off cost and allows commercial use for professional looking explainer videos. Any other advice on the best sites for this (only using one site currently). edit: I'll start a different thread for the PC upgrade question.

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Adobe Employee ,
Feb 08, 2017 Feb 08, 2017

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Hi A.I.1,

Thanks for your post. I think I will move it to the Video Lounge, though, since this isn't really a troubleshooting question.

I look at my own After Effects skills, which I have used throughout my career in animation, broadcast, web, and corporate video. Knowing it has opened up plenty of opportunities for me and has given me an edge in the editing field.

It is more difficult to be a pure freelance motion designer these days, however, as Rick says. So much overhead and not enough work is the bottom line.

However, I do think that there are opportunities outside of broadcast in the field of animation and design. Though the advice given was very good, and is a cold slap of reality, I would look outside the traditional channels of opportunity for motion design for employment, or additional employment for side jobs.

For example, one of my favorite motion designers has moved his company out of the ad agency and commercials space and into the product design, UI/UX,  prototyping, and pre-visualization business. Here in San Francisco, creatives at such design firms do this work for nearby Silicon Valley companies. My friend has found quite a nice business for himself in this regard, extending the life of his career and growing his company.

Cheers,

Kevin

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