How to Display your Work as an Animator

It doesn’t matter if you’re a veteran freelance animation mercenary or a green as grass newbie going for a place on an animation course: everyone needs a good portfolio or demo reel. All it takes is adherence to these few simple tips and your portfolio will be making them swoon in no time.

Show off your talents in a range of key areas

Unless you’re going for a very specific position, showing that you have experience and understanding of a wide range of animation related areas is a big plus.

  • Be sure to stick in drawing which includes observational, life drawing, concept sketching, characters, cartoons and storyboards. 
  • A sequence of drawings that reveal the conception of an idea and how it develops can be really evocative here. It shows evidence of your ability to progress through the design process.
  • If you’re interested in stop-motion, take high quality photos of your models or sculptures. Bringing them in can be a good idea if they’re small enough but this isn’t necessary.
  • Show off your competency using different animation forms: 2D, 3D and motion graphics are the 3 basics every animator worth their tablet should have in their demo reel. Don’t neglect the basics too: mediums like pencils, charcoal, chalks, pastels, ink, paint, digital painting or mixed medium media can help you communicate a solid understanding of colour, shape and proportion.

Just don’t overload it, if an older or poorer quality project doesn’t hang with the rest of your portfolio, cut it loose. A handful of quality projects will look far better than a swollen whale of all your work since school. Especially since most interviewers will spend an insultingly short amount of time inspecting your brilliance (unfair, I know).

Make room for personal projects

It’s vital that you show your professional chops when you’re going for a paid job, but throwing in some of the projects that you’ve worked on in your own time is very important. During an interview, the least that’s expected of an animator is that they talk about their previous projects with confidence and enthusiasm.

What are you going to talk about with more excitement: the slick looking but sort of dry motion graphics project about information governance or the awesome claymation skit that you made one Halloween to freak out your housemates? The passion is infectious when you talk about a project you care about, don’t leave these out!

These types of projects are the best way to make sure your own individual style comes through too. Doesn’t matter if it’s character creation, cartoons or an animated infographic which you’re proud of – throw in anything that will help to differentiate you from the other chumps out there.

Put your most recent and relevant work at the front

One of the best tips I can give a freelancer is that you should always be creating for and adding to your portfolio. First impressions count so make sure that the projects you’ve been doing most recently are going on here because they’re likely to show the best of your skill. In the same way that personal projects are easier to get excited about, newer projects are fresh in your mind so you can go into detail about your process and the creative journey you took.

Even with the strong viewer engagement that animation offers, people watching your demo reel will still probably click away if their interest isn’t piqued quickly. Give them a reason to stick around.

So what do I do with it?

So you’ve got a tight looking demo reel with all your best and most recent projects just begging to be admired – now where do you put it? By all means jump on a WordPress site and start tooting your own horn, but your online presence needs to be a little bigger than that if you want to attract a decent number of clients.

For maximum exposure:

YouTube: Make sure your projects are on YouTube, this is the second most popular search engine on the whole internet, with many looking for answers here even before they head to Google itself.

Vimeo: Vimeo is like Google’s smaller, more cultured sibling. Animation is all over Vimeo and it has a lot of great tools for content creators. Most importantly: no ads, so you can link to your demo reel here knowing that there will be no distractions.

Dailymotion: A nice alternative to the other two which is a bigger deal in some countries – definitely worth an upload at any rate.

To show you’re active and social:

Animation freelancers are perfectly suited for social media because they can share their showreels or recent projects with ease. Get out there and get hashtagging too, even if your posts are ‘liked’ by a load of bots, this will make you more popular on other streams owned by real life humans.

So yes use Facebook, of course use Twitter, but there’s a decent chunk of less obvious social sites that you should be active on too. Just keep your branding consistent, your posts frequent and your contact information up to date.

Instagram: Insanely popular, a great choice for interacting with other animators and for sharing little snapshots of your own work.

Flickr: Image-heavy platforms are a must and Flickr has been around for ages. High quality uploads and beautifully presented.

Pinterest: We use this one for inspiration and reference all the time. You can advertise yourself on a profile page here very effectively too.

LinkedIn: There are countless social media groups and forums that you can spread your reputation in, search for jobs or even learn something new. Let your personality show here too! LinkedIn can be a bit of a personality desert because people confuse professionalism with showing no emotion. Just don’t be too goofy.

Time to bring that work in:

Now for the hard part – you have to sell yourself. Luckily, there’s a slew of decent options when it comes to advertising your skills online:

Any of these are decent options for creating a showcase of your work online, and which ones you choose to focus on is down to personal preference. Don’t forget to keep your contact information up to date, show some personality and keep your tone professional.

For more general portfolio tips, check out our post about how to make it as a freelancer, some really useful information on there for newer freelancers too!