Tag: advice

MoChat 21 Transcript & Summary

Last night on #MoChat we talked about the business side of freelance. Some good questions were raised, as well as good tips:

  • Be weary of clients asking for pitches. If it’s necessary, put in the minimal amount of time you’re comfortable losing.
  • If moonlighting, make sure clients are completely clear about your schedule ahead of time.
  • Save up cash, especially when starting out. Paychecks are sporadic.
  • Work out payment schedules with clients. If they’re late, find out why and react accordingly.
  • Set aside some percentage of your paychecks for quarterly estimated taxes.
  • Insurance is expensive, but there’s some major changes coming with the Affordable Care Act.
  • Check the Freelancers Union.
  • Accountants can be a huge help. As can lawyers, but maybe less frequently.
  • Prioritize. You don’t need to be working 24/7.

[learn_more caption=”Transcript”]

Welcome to #mochat everyone! Tonight we’re talking the business end of freelance.8:59 PM ET Nov 27th, 2012

To start things off, what are some of your concerns as a freelancer? #mochat9:00 PM ET Nov 27th, 2012

competing on price against folks who live outside US. #mochat9:01 PM ET Nov 27th, 2012

My concerns are on becoming a part-time freelancer but honestly is there such a thing? #mochat9:02 PM ET Nov 27th, 2012

my concern with being a freelancer, if I did it exclusively, would be knowing when the next job is coming in. #mochat9:03 PM ET Nov 27th, 2012

There is as long as clients are clear that you’ll be mostly unavailable 9-5. #mochat9:03 PM ET Nov 27th, 2012

My biggest concern right now is how to stop thinking of income the same way as a fulltime gig. #mochat9:03 PM ET Nov 27th, 2012

that sounds like moonlighting. One way to get your feet wet #mochat9:04 PM ET Nov 27th, 2012

you can’t just do great work. You can’t win the race to the bottom #mochat9:04 PM ET Nov 27th, 2012

If you can, live as frugally as possible and hoard cash until you have a decent buffer. Then pay yourself. #mochat9:04 PM ET Nov 27th, 2012

true dat I need to get my feet wet… 8) #mochat9:05 PM ET Nov 27th, 2012

You also have an advantage in that you live in the culture you’re helping to create. You can’t offshore that. #mochat9:05 PM ET Nov 27th, 2012

the offshore thing is above our control, focus on being great here. #mochat9:06 PM ET Nov 27th, 2012

Yeah, there comes a time when the buffer is big enough you just stop being worried. #mochat9:06 PM ET Nov 27th, 2012

the cost of insurance was one of the big factors that deterred me and family from going full time freelance #mochat9:07 PM ET Nov 27th, 2012

It can just take a while. #mochat9:07 PM ET Nov 27th, 2012

I’d go as far to say, you don’t want to work for companies who send work offshore. They are hurting us all. #mochat9:07 PM ET Nov 27th, 2012

Insurance is a big issue for a lot of freelancers. How many of you are doing without? Do you have a family? #mochat9:08 PM ET Nov 27th, 2012

How much do people hate calling tech support? Language barriers aren’t always worth it #mochat9:08 PM ET Nov 27th, 2012

I hear that. Would love to hear what freelancers with and without families do for healthcare. #mochat9:08 PM ET Nov 27th, 2012

Also one thing to note, is does everyone understand how insurance is going to change after next year. #mochat9:09 PM ET Nov 27th, 2012

I’m a staff animator but occasionally freelance by night. How to convince potential clients I have enough time for them? #mochat9:09 PM ET Nov 27th, 2012

I’ll say no. please expand on that. #mochat9:09 PM ET Nov 27th, 2012

http://t.co/ktUQ0Rmo read that over, its changing for everyone, but it means even more to freelancers. #mochat9:10 PM ET Nov 27th, 2012

When I was fulltime freelance, I bought my own insurance for the family and paid through the nose… Even with an HSA plan. #mochat9:10 PM ET Nov 27th, 2012

, which insurance liability, medical? #mochat9:11 PM ET Nov 27th, 2012

Obama’s healthcare plan. http://t.co/ktUQ0Rmo #mochat9:11 PM ET Nov 27th, 2012

I have an llc and through that have my healthcare setup for my family but it is still $$$ #mochat9:11 PM ET Nov 27th, 2012

, yes required health care, also any luxury plans (what used to be good ones) will now be taxed as ordinary income. #mochat9:13 PM ET Nov 27th, 2012

what kind of plan? Who’s the provider? #mochat9:13 PM ET Nov 27th, 2012

As a small business and single freelancer it will benefit us, I cant speak to familys as I havent read into it. #mochat9:13 PM ET Nov 27th, 2012

By delivering on time, and for new clientes telling them that you did deliver on time every previous work #mochat9:13 PM ET Nov 27th, 2012

also for those who have day jobs to support their bills, you can expect the folks who are older to be tracked out. #mochat9:14 PM ET Nov 27th, 2012

There is also The Freelancers Union offering help and plans https://t.co/qR32I0lL #mochat9:15 PM ET Nov 27th, 2012

the biggest single reason that has always kept me away from full-time freelance is insurance #mochat9:15 PM ET Nov 27th, 2012

in your case, not paying, yes you will lose out…but for my plans its actually beneficial. #mochat9:16 PM ET Nov 27th, 2012

I think were talking american companies asking for lower pay by outsourcing motion. #mochat9:16 PM ET Nov 27th, 2012

there’s lots of people that have issues with the new healthcare stuff. i say, go to cananda like you threatened. WAIT #mochat9:17 PM ET Nov 27th, 2012

yes I am referring to american companies. #mochat9:18 PM ET Nov 27th, 2012

Hey man, multiple translations are where the money is! #mochat9:20 PM ET Nov 27th, 2012

Is anyone seeing any considerable amount of offshore farming? #mochat9:20 PM ET Nov 27th, 2012

there is tons!!!! It just isnt something anyone cares to actually watch. Farmed motion graphics sucks. #mochat9:21 PM ET Nov 27th, 2012

i always like the ‘wow you are english’ comments when i worked tech spt #mochat9:21 PM ET Nov 27th, 2012

On the issue of money, how do you handle taxes? Quarterly estimated taxes seem to surprise everyone. #mochat9:21 PM ET Nov 27th, 2012

Hahaha, gotcha. I’d been hearing the same in programming actually. #mochat9:22 PM ET Nov 27th, 2012

around where I live (washington state) there has been more work going to our neighbors (Canada) to the north because of price. #mochat9:22 PM ET Nov 27th, 2012

Going to do quarterly next year, but this year I have set aside almost double what I need so I will be ready for the hit #mochat9:22 PM ET Nov 27th, 2012

I recommend that everyone use an accountant for taxes when making quarterly payments. Worth it. #mochat9:23 PM ET Nov 27th, 2012

if there was a physical representation of ‘taxes’ it would look like a giant spider eating a fetus #mochat9:23 PM ET Nov 27th, 2012

I would take 30% of each paycheck and set it aside, pretended I didn’t even have it until tax time. #mochat9:23 PM ET Nov 27th, 2012

what do you usally end up paying? #mochat9:23 PM ET Nov 27th, 2012

RT : I would take 30% of each paycheck and set it aside, pretended I didn’t even have it until tax time. #mochat9:23 PM ET Nov 27th, 2012

how much cheaper is Canadian mograph work? #mochat9:23 PM ET Nov 27th, 2012

do even more, and you get to surprise yourself at the end of the year. #mochat9:24 PM ET Nov 27th, 2012

i say take out 1.5 to 2x what you need quarterly to be safe #mochat9:24 PM ET Nov 27th, 2012

~15% #mochat9:24 PM ET Nov 27th, 2012

I usually would anyway. We owned a house & had kids so had lots of deductions. #mochat9:24 PM ET Nov 27th, 2012

, re tax: B&O tax, state income tax (if applicable), federal income tax, social security & fica. #mochat9:27 PM ET Nov 27th, 2012

Taxes suck, but they pay for all of the things we need to freelance. #takingtheotherside #mochat9:29 PM ET Nov 27th, 2012

What do you do if clients are “untimely” with payments? #mochat9:29 PM ET Nov 27th, 2012

I do taxes on a monthly basis #mochat9:29 PM ET Nov 27th, 2012

Find out why they are untimely, its a bad economy give them the benefit of the doubt. #mochat9:30 PM ET Nov 27th, 2012

ditto on the insurance fear. Having cancer makes it worse! #mochat9:31 PM ET Nov 27th, 2012

the way I work with my clients is payment is due upon milestone completion. #mochat9:31 PM ET Nov 27th, 2012

but making things clear up front, with contracts or legal protection can be preventative care. #mochat9:31 PM ET Nov 27th, 2012

That’s a good point. How many of you have contracts or any agreements in writing when taking jobs? #mochat9:32 PM ET Nov 27th, 2012

– late fees/penalties/late deliveries, etc are discussed in contract. #mochat9:32 PM ET Nov 27th, 2012

best not to work with those who are “untimely” with payments more than once. #mochat9:33 PM ET Nov 27th, 2012

do you charge fees for rework or changes from original idea? #mochat9:33 PM ET Nov 27th, 2012

depending in the project, I require half up front based on an estimate. Then provide followup emails every two weeks #mochat9:34 PM ET Nov 27th, 2012

Off topic, but how many regular clients do you freelancers tend to have at once? #mochat9:34 PM ET Nov 27th, 2012

RT : if there was a physical representation of ‘taxes’ it would look like a giant spider eating a fetus #mochat9:34 PM ET Nov 27th, 2012

, depends if we agreed on work, then customer changes their mind I will charge them for the work. #mochat9:35 PM ET Nov 27th, 2012

A million possibilities and 1-2 current clients. #mochat9:35 PM ET Nov 27th, 2012

As in working on concurrent projects, or just in contact with? #mochat9:35 PM ET Nov 27th, 2012

treat it like a business. I can’t say it any other way. #mochat9:35 PM ET Nov 27th, 2012

good point, there are times if it is a good repeat customer you will give them a pass on some rework. #mochat9:36 PM ET Nov 27th, 2012

At a time. And also, how often do you have to call around asking for work? #mochat9:37 PM ET Nov 27th, 2012

I always feel like people do that when they know it will ultimately get them more work. If it makes sense do it. #mochat9:38 PM ET Nov 27th, 2012

curious how do you deal with customer untimely payments? #mochat9:39 PM ET Nov 27th, 2012

: I try to every time. 50% up front. (Not freelancing in traditional sense)” #mochat9:43 PM ET Nov 27th, 2012

We’re approaching the final minutes of #mochat. What about lawyers & accountants. Who has them? Worth it?9:45 PM ET Nov 27th, 2012

I never had either. But there were times I wish I did. #mochat9:47 PM ET Nov 27th, 2012

no? I guess its good that none of us have needed one. #mochat9:47 PM ET Nov 27th, 2012

I will admit to asking legal advice of a law friend when a client asked me to do some questionable work (copyright). #mochat9:48 PM ET Nov 27th, 2012

yes to both. Accountant worth it, Lawyer not so much, I use them for non-standard contracts. #mochat9:48 PM ET Nov 27th, 2012

Just getting in. Hoth battle and popcorn with kids = Priorities 🙂 #mochat9:49 PM ET Nov 27th, 2012

work-life balance. Definitely worth it. #mochat9:49 PM ET Nov 27th, 2012

Percentage-wise, how much of you income does having both cost? Is the lawyer on retainer? #mochat9:50 PM ET Nov 27th, 2012

I had a client like my work, but still asked for a sample motion to their project up front before discussing money. What to do? #mochat9:51 PM ET Nov 27th, 2012

Always 🙂 #mochat9:52 PM ET Nov 27th, 2012

A proposal is one thing, that’s a little questionable. #mochat9:52 PM ET Nov 27th, 2012

for accountant it < 1%, lawyer ~3-4%. #mochat9:53 PM ET Nov 27th, 2012

make a sample and watermark the hell out of it with travitacus all over it.. just kidding. #mochat9:53 PM ET Nov 27th, 2012

I wouldn’t unless you are ok with probably losing a bunch of time. #mochat9:53 PM ET Nov 27th, 2012

Yeah, just sayin’ that they trust my skills to their task already, why need an unpaid sample instead of doing business? #mochat9:54 PM ET Nov 27th, 2012

Right 🙂 I was planning on making it a smaller render and lowering the rez if I did it at all. #mochat9:56 PM ET Nov 27th, 2012

Actually, if you think getting the job is a non-issue, has a point about watermarking. #mochat9:56 PM ET Nov 27th, 2012

if client reside outside US then I’ll need to deal with lawyers to make sure contract is binding in their country. #mochat9:56 PM ET Nov 27th, 2012

Yeah, feels like I would waste time and effort. So I am probably going to decline the work. #mochat9:56 PM ET Nov 27th, 2012

Good advice. #mochat9:57 PM ET Nov 27th, 2012

I’ve done proposals and worked on style-frames for a bid, but only two hours on something like that. #mochat9:58 PM ET Nov 27th, 2012

How many use any of the programs out there for insurance and such as a freelancer, or are you covering yourself as part of the bid? #mochat9:59 PM ET Nov 27th, 2012

They sound like the sort who will go “This is so great! We can pay you $25 to finish it.” #mochat10:00 PM ET Nov 27th, 2012

We’re just about out of time. What’s one thing you wold tell others about the business of freelancing? #mochat10:00 PM ET Nov 27th, 2012

Good point, I don’t think I would loose a whole lot that way. Thanks 🙂 #mochat10:00 PM ET Nov 27th, 2012

🙂 It is starting to smell that way to me too. #mochat10:01 PM ET Nov 27th, 2012

, that is good advice. #mochat10:02 PM ET Nov 27th, 2012

Setting up a hangout here at the end of #mochat has some fun tips for us today. Come hangout out and tweet me for an invite10:04 PM ET Nov 27th, 2012

Thanks to everyone for their advice and time tonight. #mochat10:06 PM ET Nov 27th, 2012

That’s it for tonight everyone. Look for the transcript tomorrow. #mochat10:07 PM ET Nov 27th, 2012

I do, and make them sign it, but to some clients that doesn’t mean Shit #mochat10:07 PM ET Nov 27th, 2012

Join us next week for a #mochat on title design. Thanks for coming out everyone. And as always, #GoMakeSomething10:07 PM ET Nov 27th, 2012

[/learn_more]

MoChat 17 Transcript & Summary

Last night’s MoChat covered how to give & receive feedback. Client feedback predictively had more problems than peer or third party critique. Micromanaging and making changes simply to have input were the most common complaints. On the peer side, things were generally more positive. However, vague or overly subjective feedback didn’t seem to help anyone. On how to improve giving feedback, suggestions included identifying problems before offering solutions, explaining why you reacted to the piece the way you did, being honest but professional, making sure you understand the process and goals to that point, and that what your about to say is actually helpful—not just to say something. For receiving feedback, a few things seemed to resonate with everyone—don’t get too attached to the work, don’t take anything too personally, and remember that this is a job.

[learn_more caption=”Transcript”]

Welcome tonight’s #mochat on giving & receiving criticism.9:00 PM EDT Oct 23rd, 2012

We’ve all had a bad experience with criticism, on both sides of the coin. What are some of the horror stories you have? #mochat9:00 PM EDT Oct 23rd, 2012

Make it pop. #mochat9:00 PM EDT Oct 23rd, 2012

Micromanaging on the pixel level, and on the other end, just “looks good”. #mochat9:02 PM EDT Oct 23rd, 2012

I think the worst, like said, is really non-descript and non-constructive criticism #mochat9:02 PM EDT Oct 23rd, 2012

2 pixels to the left please, no wait! Make it 1 pixel right…. >.< #mochat9:03 PM EDT Oct 23rd, 2012

RT : Make it pop. #mochat9:03 PM EDT Oct 23rd, 2012

How about any bit of client criticism/revision that requires many rounds of changes, to go full circle. #mochat9:04 PM EDT Oct 23rd, 2012

recreational bitching, where person doesn’t have a point to make or want any action done on the feedback. #mochat9:04 PM EDT Oct 23rd, 2012

“It’s too good.” #mochat9:05 PM EDT Oct 23rd, 2012

Oh man, yeah, when they feel the need to say something even if its unnecessary. #mochat9:05 PM EDT Oct 23rd, 2012

by not saying something they aren’t some how doing their job. #mochat9:05 PM EDT Oct 23rd, 2012

I think on the client side, it’s no good to start providing solutions when the problem you’re trying to fix is never communicated. #mochat9:06 PM EDT Oct 23rd, 2012

I’d much rather them say something for the sake of it, than make changes for the sake of being involved #mochat9:06 PM EDT Oct 23rd, 2012

Aside from clients, what is some bad feedback you’ve received from peers/other designers? #mochat9:07 PM EDT Oct 23rd, 2012

Anytime a peer says something subjective that has no basis besides their feelings. #mochat9:08 PM EDT Oct 23rd, 2012

“looks good” Sadly, I think even peers are afraid to push us to do better. I’m not offended if I can grow. #mochat9:08 PM EDT Oct 23rd, 2012

Trying to “fix” things without having any knowledge of the scope or reason for the way things are. (I’m guilty, too.) #mochat9:08 PM EDT Oct 23rd, 2012

I think the best feedback from peers should be very technical. #mochat9:08 PM EDT Oct 23rd, 2012

Peers generally give instructive feedback. At least the ones I ask. #mochat9:09 PM EDT Oct 23rd, 2012

Color design, based on preferences versus message. Unbelievable. #mochat9:09 PM EDT Oct 23rd, 2012

I get that sometimes, too. #mochat9:10 PM EDT Oct 23rd, 2012

Peers do tend to be so much more helpful though, knowing the process. #mochat9:10 PM EDT Oct 23rd, 2012

RT : Peers do tend to be so much more helpful though, knowing the process. #mochat9:11 PM EDT Oct 23rd, 2012

Anyone here been to school for design/art/film? Did they prepare you for how to give/receive criticism? #mochat9:11 PM EDT Oct 23rd, 2012

Went to school for film/mograph. Very little attention given to critiques. Friend thought it should be an entire class. #mochat9:12 PM EDT Oct 23rd, 2012

I think its hard as peers to separate ourselves from our preferences when giving feedback, but we should try. #mochat9:12 PM EDT Oct 23rd, 2012

I went for film… and some teachers really did. They didn’t sugarcoat. Others did and it was very unbalanced #mochat9:13 PM EDT Oct 23rd, 2012

Also enjoy feedback from people not knowledgeable of the process whatsoever, as it’s often the target audience. #mochat #mochat9:14 PM EDT Oct 23rd, 2012

Think the biggest thing is to say why you feel the way you do, or identify problems you’re trying to solve. #mochat9:14 PM EDT Oct 23rd, 2012

From teachers, it was alright. But there was little attention paid to how to give feedback. It would have been helpful. #mochat9:15 PM EDT Oct 23rd, 2012

Film school. No real post-mortum process. But the photography classes I took had great community portfolio reviews. #mochat9:15 PM EDT Oct 23rd, 2012

Teachers and fellows students were blunt but on point, usually. They’d a better background for describing the issues. #mochat9:16 PM EDT Oct 23rd, 2012

Very true. They often completely different requirements, don’t they? #mochat9:16 PM EDT Oct 23rd, 2012

Agreed! And knowing that I’ll be teaching in 12 weeks, being able to give feedback to students is going to be critical. #mochat9:17 PM EDT Oct 23rd, 2012

What do you think is the best way to give feedback to other designers? #mochat9:18 PM EDT Oct 23rd, 2012

No formal training here, but I work in the church, so I’m experienced with criticism :). #mochat9:19 PM EDT Oct 23rd, 2012

Before giving any, ask yourself “is it helpful? is it necessary? will they gain something from it?” #mochat9:20 PM EDT Oct 23rd, 2012

I love scene by scene feedback from different people #mochat9:20 PM EDT Oct 23rd, 2012

First ask, “Is there anything you would like to change?” #mochat9:20 PM EDT Oct 23rd, 2012

I think i’d decline to answer that. I’d much rather hear feedback unbiased by my opinion. #mochat9:21 PM EDT Oct 23rd, 2012

This RT : Before giving any, ask yourself “is it helpful? is it necessary? will they gain something from it?” #mochat9:21 PM EDT Oct 23rd, 2012

I think applies more if one of you are doing paid work for me specifically. #mochat9:22 PM EDT Oct 23rd, 2012

I ask the goal and suggest alternatives that might help move in that direction, if it’s off. #mochat9:22 PM EDT Oct 23rd, 2012

In my mind, both parties have a list at the ready. Where there are commonalties, you might be on to something. #mochat9:23 PM EDT Oct 23rd, 2012

This Oatmeal comic pretty much nails why designers don’t like criticism http://t.co/Jd2pkK9o #mochat9:23 PM EDT Oct 23rd, 2012

Right, but I think I’d compare lists after hearing the feedback, not before. #mochat9:24 PM EDT Oct 23rd, 2012

if possible, get the context under which something was designed before giving critique. Nothing happens in a vacuum #mochat9:24 PM EDT Oct 23rd, 2012

RT : This Oatmeal comic pretty much nails why designers don’t like criticism http://t.co/Jd2pkK9o #mochat9:25 PM EDT Oct 23rd, 2012

Haha, been there. It sucks!! // RT 2 pixels to the left please, no wait! Make it 1 pixel right…. >.< #mochat9:25 PM EDT Oct 23rd, 2012

RT : What do you think is the best way to give feedback to other designers? #mochat9:25 PM EDT Oct 23rd, 2012

re:feedback, I find it useful to follow the 3 C’s, Don’t Criticize Condem or Complain, feedback should be in terms their interests. #mochat9:26 PM EDT Oct 23rd, 2012

RT : This Oatmeal comic pretty much nails why designers don’t like criticism http://t.co/Jd2pkK9o #mochat9:26 PM EDT Oct 23rd, 2012

The first frame should have been “Just make something cool. I trust you.” #mochat9:26 PM EDT Oct 23rd, 2012

This is so true! #mochat9:26 PM EDT Oct 23rd, 2012

Sure. #mochat9:27 PM EDT Oct 23rd, 2012

So true. “: This Oatmeal comic pretty much nails why designers don’t like criticism http://t.co/lbYHzUrf #mochat9:27 PM EDT Oct 23rd, 2012

RT : This Oatmeal comic pretty much nails why designers don’t like criticism http://t.co/Jd2pkK9o #mochat9:28 PM EDT Oct 23rd, 2012

re feedback (con’d) be precise in your feedback don’t use unactionable words. make the feedback short to respect their time. #mochat9:28 PM EDT Oct 23rd, 2012

I try not to be too attached to a design/edit/project. Pick an choose your battles and always save your version for the reel. #mochat9:29 PM EDT Oct 23rd, 2012

I do the same. You can only defend your designs/animations to a certain point. Then it becomes unproductive. #MoChat9:31 PM EDT Oct 23rd, 2012

So true. Think it’s also important to realize client feedback is comes from somewhere… might just need to dig a little. #mochat9:31 PM EDT Oct 23rd, 2012

getting in here late, hope I’m not out of place, but u have to accept what the client want and not what u want #mochat9:33 PM EDT Oct 23rd, 2012

What about receiving feedback. What are some ways you think you could improve? #mochat9:33 PM EDT Oct 23rd, 2012

I struggle to find such a balance. #mochat9:34 PM EDT Oct 23rd, 2012

I think from clients, it’s understanding that the feedback comes from somewhere, and it can be valid. #mochat9:35 PM EDT Oct 23rd, 2012

active listening, provide them feedback in terms a summary to ensure you understand what they are saying. #mochat9:35 PM EDT Oct 23rd, 2012

From designers, it’s understanding that brutal honesty is important and not any kind of personal attack. #mochat9:35 PM EDT Oct 23rd, 2012

hopefully what you bring to the party aligns with what serves the project/message best. Client should do the same #mochat9:36 PM EDT Oct 23rd, 2012

Basically, I need to work on detaching myself from the work. It’s not “art” necessarily, it’s commissioned design. #mochat9:36 PM EDT Oct 23rd, 2012

RT : From designers, it’s understanding that brutal honesty is important and not any kind of personal attack. #mochat9:37 PM EDT Oct 23rd, 2012

: I remind myself that I’m being paid for projects & am fortunate to do what I do. Minimize the negativity of criticism #mochat9:38 PM EDT Oct 23rd, 2012

I feel very lucky to have a job doing something I truly like. Perspective is important. #mochat9:38 PM EDT Oct 23rd, 2012

great. Where are you teaching and which subject? #mochat9:38 PM EDT Oct 23rd, 2012

RT Before giving any, ask yourself “is it helpful? is it necessary? will they gain something from it?” #mochat9:39 PM EDT Oct 23rd, 2012

I try & remember it’s not personal. #mochat9:39 PM EDT Oct 23rd, 2012

How many of you try to get feedback from a completely separated third party with no connection to the project? How has it worked? #mochat9:40 PM EDT Oct 23rd, 2012

additionally, it’s up to us to educate the client that this thing is more than shiny spheres. We bring value #mochat9:41 PM EDT Oct 23rd, 2012

as long as you walk away from the day still loving what we do. Strike the balance between feedback and our “art”. #mochat9:41 PM EDT Oct 23rd, 2012

That can be pretty effective. They see things with fresh, usually unbiased eyes. #mochat9:41 PM EDT Oct 23rd, 2012

Sometimes that works well. Other times feedback is neutral. Never had a bad experience with it, though. #mochat9:42 PM EDT Oct 23rd, 2012

That’s hit or miss unless the person understands a bit about the process or about design. Usually, I don’t. #MoChat9:43 PM EDT Oct 23rd, 2012

re 3rd party: Not really on a project, but n organization health. It really depends on the receptiveness of the decision makers. #mochat9:44 PM EDT Oct 23rd, 2012

good advice #mochat9:45 PM EDT Oct 23rd, 2012

Sometimes it can be helpful. If nothing else, you can watch the reaction from a fresh set of eyes. #mochat9:47 PM EDT Oct 23rd, 2012

If many different people give feedback to a project, the quality of it really suffers. #mochat9:48 PM EDT Oct 23rd, 2012

if its a stalemate among clients themselves or if we need fresh eyes. Justify bringing in opinions outside of the gig. #mochat9:48 PM EDT Oct 23rd, 2012

Yes,at the end . they’re paying and it’s there product. But it’s very difficult to be on terms with that. #mochat9:49 PM EDT Oct 23rd, 2012

Specially if what they’re asking again and again is making it look really ugly haha #mochat9:49 PM EDT Oct 23rd, 2012

the worst thing that can happen by opening that can of worms: design/ edit by committee. #mochat9:50 PM EDT Oct 23rd, 2012

Very true of an organization, but what about just your personal circle? EG a trusted non-designer friend? #mochat9:51 PM EDT Oct 23rd, 2012

sometimes it works great. As that someone can give advice on something one hasn’t event think about doing #mochat9:51 PM EDT Oct 23rd, 2012

In the final minutes of #mochat, what would be some advice you’d give to someone who has to give feedback (clients or peers)?9:53 PM EDT Oct 23rd, 2012

sure, if only to serve as a litmus test of how something reads to the general public/ target audience. #mochat9:53 PM EDT Oct 23rd, 2012

How do you feel when a really small budget client gives “pixel feedback” again and again and again? (not paying extra revisions) #mochat9:55 PM EDT Oct 23rd, 2012

Identify the problems before offering solutions. Make sure you understand the process & reasons for the design. #mochat9:56 PM EDT Oct 23rd, 2012

At some point let them know that they hired you for a reason beyond being a button pusher… in kinder terms. #mochat9:56 PM EDT Oct 23rd, 2012

try to be very honest giving feedback but without being hurtful (like those YouTube comments) #mochat9:56 PM EDT Oct 23rd, 2012

But that can be rough. #mochat9:57 PM EDT Oct 23rd, 2012

relieved… knowing it’ll be the last gig with them. But follow thru and do your best. #mochat9:58 PM EDT Oct 23rd, 2012

Be sincere when giving feedback and put yourself in their shoes on how you would receive. #mochat9:58 PM EDT Oct 23rd, 2012

conigs you can be honest without being cruel, that speaks of ur professionalism #mochat8:59 PM EDT Oct 23rd, 2012

Well, that about does it for tonight’s #mochat on giving/receiving criticism.10:01 PM EDT Oct 23rd, 2012

thanks /all have a good night #mochat10:02 PM EDT Oct 23rd, 2012

Be sure to come back next week for a #MoChat on starting with Expressions in .10:02 PM EDT Oct 23rd, 2012

Thanks for coming out everyone. Look for the #mochat transcript tomorrow. And as always, #GoMakeSomething10:02 PM EDT Oct 23rd, 2012

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MoChat 14 Transcript & Summary

Last night’s MoChat focussed on staying creative. Unsurprisingly, lots of people have times when they hit a rut, or just seem stuck in the same cycle. The reasons varied from person to person. Some of the more common reasons seemed to be lack of sleep (or health), deadline pressure, self-doubt, and getting stuck comparing yourself to others.

To get past these creative blocks, lots of suggestions were made. In no particular order:

  • Take a walk
  • Read
  • Exercise
  • Visit a gallery
  • Sketch/doodle
  • Play video games
  • Listen to music

There were also several suggestions for what to do to avoid ruts in the first place:

  • Have hobbies
  • Do creative warm-ups or challenges in the morning
  • Have personal projects
  • If possible, take vacations or day-trips
  • Get out of your comfort zone often
  • Take classes
  • Reverse engineer work

There were also a few things people didn’t entirely agree on. Some liked watching videos on Vimeo or looking at other motion design work. Others argued it leads to too much comparison and subconscious mimicking. TV can be a distraction or research depending on who you ask. Social media shares a similar split, though most people recognize it can be too distracting if you’re already stuck.

But overall, one of the main points that came up over and over throughout the chat in various forms was simply this: Walk away from your computer. There’s a lot to experience around you, and much of it can help you creatively in ways you wouldn’t expect.

– Read More –

a tangled mess of wires
Avoid communication issues like this

Workflow and delivery

I felt compelled to write this piece because of an experience I had recently.

Chastening doesn’t come close. It had all the classic ingredients of failure: spec creep, bad communication, unfamiliar equipment, poor decision-making and software crashes. Hopefully the following tips can help you avoid the same issues I had.

a tangled mess of wires

  • Spec creep: get everything in writing and make sure that you communicate as swiftly and reasonably as possible; by email. Cover Your Arse.
  • Bad communication : be vocal in meetings, listen and ask questions if things are unclear. If the shit hits the fan 2 weeks down the line it’s no good referring to a half-remembered conversation.
  • Unfamiliar equipment: generally other people should take care of this for you, but if you want to be ahead of the game, you need to know how your work is going to be delivered. If it’s live playback; how is the video ingested? What codecs won’t break? Will you have time to render and ingest 20gb per uncompressed file?
  • Poor decision-making: Make sure you’re on the ball. Keep a clear head and get decent sleep. Don’t overdo the coffee!
  • Software crashes: Work sensibly. Don’t run source files over the network. Just because you CAN render C4D, After Effects and AME at the same time doesn’t mean you should. Keep your drives as clean as you can.

And finally some general tips:

  • Never assume – there’s no such thing as a stupid question, especially at the start of a project. Classic questions like “Who is the project lead” and “what’s the final delivery format” are overlooked suprisingly often. There’s nothing worse than trying to cajole someone who has no previous experience with the project into signing it off.
  • Test, test and test again: So you’ve got a broadcast monitor and you’re RAM previewing the whole comp at the end of each day. Fine if you’re delivering to tape, but if it’s for a live event, you need to test as early and accurately as possible. If this means finding a projector and screen to run the styleframes on then so be it.
  • Scalability: how smart are you working right now? There’s often a lot of talk about how it’s only the end result that matters, but if you don’t plan for at least some flexibility in your pipeline then you may not get there.
  • Know your hardware: if you’re delivering files over a network, know how long it takes to get 100mb over the slowest connection, because due to Sod’s Law that’s the best you’ll get when you need it the most. If you’re outputting to tape you’ve got ingest plus playback. With larger projects these extra factors can break a deadline unless you factor them in.

Have you got any nightmare experiences to share? How did you overcome them?

 

Weekly Animation

Over in Unite, League member Zickar posted about completing one animation a week and posting it for the world to see on Monday. It’s extremely important to continue honing your skills on your own time in any profession, but design especially.

Sometimes we just don’t get a chance to work on the projects we really want to, or we need an excuse to try out some new technique we’ve been hearing about. A weekly animation is a great way to do just that. Even if it’s just an hour  like odd_enough limits himself to, it’s enough to push you further and become a better designer.

So take it to the extreme and complete 30 animations in 30 days, or try and get one thing done a week. But give yourself the opportunity to practice outside of your paying work. You’ll be a better designer for it.

[Photo by Leo Reynolds.]

Recharge Creativity

Note: This article talks about working as a motion designer for reference. The following subject matter applies to anyone in a creative position.


It’s a dreaded fear for every motion designer. It’s kryptonite to our yellow sun. It’s just as inevitable as running low on system resources. Chances are you’ve experienced it more than you care to recall, and the unfortunate truth is that eventually it’s going to rear it’s ugly head again. Of course, I’m talking about being “creatively” tapped out. Whether it happens to you once a year or after a few very demanding projects, it can be a terrible experience that, at its worst, can leave you debating if you should toss in the towel on your career.  But don’t give in just yet; there some things you can do to help get yourself out of this creative rut or prevent one from occurring all together. You just need to give your mind a reboot.

Here are some things to try: – Read More –

Beyond the Tutorial

We live in a great time. The Internet has made learning much easier than it ever has been. Sites like Twitter & Facebook allow us to converse and share thoughts and links in real time. Tutorials are abundant. Just about everyone can open up a browser, head over to a few choice sites, and learn programs like After Effects and Cinema 4D.

Unfortunately, that’s becoming a problem. Not that just about everyone can do it—on the contrary, that’s a great thing! No, the problem is that just about everyone does it the same way. Having had the opportunity to look at reels for job applicants, it becomes quite apparent who’s been following along with Andrew Kramer or Nick Campbell. At times entire reels are built of nothing more than the end product of those tutorials.1

Now, tutorials are an important part of online learning. They are a great resource for picking up tips or tricks that you may not have otherwise known, learning techniques to make life easier as a designer, or even figuring out how to accomplish a certain aesthetic you’ve always wanted to learn. What they should not be, however, is a simple recipe to accomplish an end product. That turns it into stock footage… and stock footage is generic by nature. The last thing a reel should be is generic.

So how should you approach a tutorial? There’s no universally correct way, but there are a few things to try.

 

Learn Techniques, Not Effects

One of the best ways to get the most out of a tutorial is to focus on the techniques used. It’s the whole “teach a person to fish” philosophy. If you are picking up techniques, you can apply them to other projects very easily. Take one of the more recent tutorials on Video Copilot, Galactic Orb. Most people will walk away from that tutorial knowing how to zoom out of a shiny orb. That will have its uses, but if you instead realize you’re learning the importance of pre-composing, how to use the Turbulent Displace plugin, using simple expressions to drive animation over time, pre-rendering (even touching on “Set Proxy”), and other techniques, you can build so much more than a simple orb.

 

Build Something Different

This can be a bit more difficult if you’re just starting out, but the benefits are great. Put simply, from the start, set out to create a completely different result than what the tutorial ends up with, but utilizing the same (or similar) techniques. This is difficult because you can’t just follow a tutorial step by step; it forces you to think about what’s really being taught and applying it to something different. In the end, you’ll have a better handle on what you’ve learned and be able to apply that to other projects in the future with much less effort.

 

Work Backwards

Sometimes, you can learn more by looking at the result of a tutorial first, then trying to figure out how it was made. This is another way to force your brain into actively learning instead of just mirroring what the tutorial is doing. In many ways, this is really how motion design works in general. You have an end goal in mind and you must figure out how to get there. You might learn new ways of working, or better hone your current abilities. Either way, you’re getting more than just a new render.

 

Watch the Right Tutorials

There are so many tutorials out there which are just bad. While it’s not always easy to spot them right away, there are a few tells.

  • No audio. A good tutorial will have the instructor narrating along and describing what they’re doing.
  • Constant stalling, searching for files, and generally not knowing what they’re going to do next. If a tutorial instructor is unprepared, it will be much more difficult to learn from them. That said, there’s nothing wrong with an instructor making a mistake, then using it as a teachable moment to describe what went wrong and how they fixed it.
  • Blatant rip-offs of other tutorials. It seems like everyone is searching out Internet fame, especially by attempting to be a source for tutorials. Sometimes, they will just lift tutorials from major sources like Video Copilot, Motionworks, or Greyscale Gorilla.
  • It’s on YouTube. Now, not all tutorials on YouTube are bad, but many are. In general, it’s a good idea to go to sources you trust for instruction, or at least places like Vimeo where there is a more dedicated (and often more civil) community.2

 

This advice won’t necessarily apply to every tutorial out there, nor will it apply every time you are viewing a tutorial. Sometimes you just need a refresher on a certain look or technique. Sometimes the tutorial itself is very broad in its application, teaching techniques that can apply to many things. But if you are searching out tutorials for general learning and to improve your skill set, you need to approach them with a broader mind and learn more than just the end result.

If after completing a tutorial, you think back and realize all you have to show for it is a new render and nothing else, you should try something different. Remember that everyone else can watch, and is watching these same tutorials. In order to improve your reel, your craft, and your chances of landing that next job, you need to do more than passively follow step-by-step. In the end, you will learn more, have some new unique pieces for your reel, and perhaps most importantly, be proud of what you’ve accomplished.

  1. One time I caught a decent particular tutorial and people were posting their results in the comment thread. One user had a video which was identical to the tutorial with the exception of being longer and having different text. I approached him about that via a YouTube message, and indicated the importance of moving beyond the steps in the tutorial. He got very defensive and said he did change it… by changing the words in the type treatment. []
  2. I don’t mean to insult anyone on YouTube. I realize broad, general stereotyping can do that. But in general, the signal-noise ratio on YouTube seems to be quite low. There’s some gems in there, but there’s a lot to wade through in order to find them. []