Career advice from a freelance 3D designer & animator

Bobby.M is a Freelance Designer & Animator working with studios and clients worldwide.
He studied design at university, secured internships, worked full-time and eventually went on to work independently. Bobby started freelancing for a better work-life balance, fast forward and the hours are now double, but he is more than happy with his choice.

"I love the variety it brings as I am responsible for the creative work, admin, marketing and everything down to being my own technical support. Most importantly, it has given me the opportunity to work with a variety of people that I would not have had the opportunity to work with at a staff position"

boutique furniture design 3D swirl
Boutique furniture design 3D swirl by Bobby M

Did you secure any work experience during or after your studies?

I secured a one-month internship between my first and second year at university. Although it was a motion-graphics studio, both founders had a background in traditional graphic design which is what drew me to their work. Knowing how traditionalists tend to long for tactile, printed work I decided instead of e-mailing them I’d stand out and apply via a stylized, laser-cut, physical application.

To my surprise they got back in touch offering me a month placement. It was an invaluable experience to see behind the scenes of all the work I had been looking up to and has informed the way I work to this day.

My second placement was shortly after graduation. I was tasked with developing code-based visual experiments, which wasn’t within my skillset. After a rough, laborious two months I produced several pieces which didn’t see the light of day. Fortunately, I learned a lot. I included those experiments in a short ‘learning reel’ which brought in a stream of freelance work with a new client.

What advice would you give to students who are currently seeking experience?

There’s nothing to be nervous about. People totally understand that you are still studying and are not going to throw you in the deep end. If you’re unsure where to intern or what direction you want to go in – don’t procrastinate, get stuck in.

This is the best time for exploration. Once you’re in there do not wait for them to hand you work, be active in asking your colleagues for tasks, keep notes of everything you find interesting and keep in touch once you leave.

How did you obtain your first job?

My first job out of university was a freelance gig. Doing work on a contractual basis is a great way for companies to test you out before deciding if they want you full-time. I obtained the job via a ‘cold e-mail’ to the owner and a follow up meet at their studio. This is how I have landed the majority of the jobs throughout my career.

"There’s nothing to be nervous about. People totally understand that you are still studying and are not going to throw you in the deep end"

What did you learn in your first few years of industry work?

Having jumped around several companies, I learned that every studio has its own way of working that is very much derived from the personality of the people in charge, from how the creative process is handled to their individual way of ‘doing business’, so to speak. If the founders have a long background in the creative industry and have been directly involved with the creative work, then that’s what you can expect to be doing once you are there.

If the owners are business-focused people, you are likely to be doing jobs which might not be the most enjoyable but earn the company a lot of money. I’ve never worked at the big multi-level studio’s but I find this to be true with smaller shops.

3D boutique furniture design
3D boutique furniture design by Bobby M

What do you wish you had known while studying?

I wish I had known that there was going to be even more studying to come. Whoever came up with the phrase ‘always a student’, was being serious.

What piece of advice would you give to your younger self?

I was very work-focused during my time in university and at my first several jobs. The gap between graduation and my first job was less than a month and I didn’t take my foot off the pedal for a few years until I ended up burning out right around the time I started working for myself, which is the wrong time! If I was to give my younger self advice it would be to take my time and enjoy myself.

For some people the latter comes easier but getting that balance is important because creative work is still work and it can be tiring both mentally and physically.

"Whoever came up with the phrase ‘always a student’, was being serious"

What do you look for in a junior team member?

I’ve only ever had to bring on additional help twice during my time freelancing.
On both occasions the first thing I considered is how reliable the person is. I recently read a survey asking a number of producers to list what they look for in someone when hiring – both punctuality and hygiene took priority over talent.

What skills do juniors need to have to break into the 3D animation industry?

In motion-graphics specifically, it depends on where you are heading to. Smaller studios tend to prefer generalists who have skills in various areas and can immediately be of value. However, at larger companies with corporate-like hierarchy you would be expected to specialise so they know exactly where to place you in their pipeline.

Nature study 3D mushrooms by Bobby M

What advice would you give to emerging creatives looking for experience?

My best piece of advice is to practice and share your work. Set self-initiated projects for yourself and send them to anyone who you think maybe interested. The bigger fishing net catches more fish.

What benefits do you think companies get from taking on interns and apprentices?

Some companies just like to do their part and give back, others really do have a lot of work that is only suitable for an intern. Either way, go in there and be opened minded, you never know – maybe you have skills that they didn’t even know they needed!

Guest Author:

Name: Bobby.M

Current Job title: Freelance Designer & Animator
Company name:  Bobby.M Design & Motion


Creative Sector: Design & Animation

University Attended: University for the Creative Arts (Epsom Campus)

Courses Studied: BA (Hons) Digital Communication Design

Find out more about Bobby’s work at:

Website – www.bobby-m.com
Vimeo – vimeo.com/bobbymdesign
Linkedin – linkedin.com/in/bobby-m
Twitter @bmdesignmotion
Instagram – @bobbym_designmotion
The Dots – the-dots.com/users/bobby-m-464191

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