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  • Lee McRae

Agencies Vs Freelancers – Animated videos

Updated: Jan 31, 2019


I have experience working at a ‘budget’ animation agency for over two years – I created ‘budget’ animated videos and by ‘budget’, I mean affordable for small businesses with a budget of approximately £2000. I have six years' working experience within the retail industry in an animation and design capacity; three years of which has been spent at one of the UK’s biggest online retailers.

My aim in this post is to advise how I would go about getting the most ‘bang for my buck’ when buying animated videos on a budget. Generally, there are two budget options: source your video to an agency or a freelancer.

With an agency, you will benefit from their streamlined process and investment in project management. You will typically receive 'expert' advice at each stage of your video production from an assigned employee. Your video will progress from stage to stage and a new ‘expert’ will be assigned at every stage. The stages typically are broken down into script, storyboard and animation. Larger agencies often have art directors and voiceovers are generally outsourced. I quote the ‘expert’ because it gets flippantly thrown around and I have been surprised on a number of occasions by the lack of expertise of experts even at large and profitable agencies. So I give little credence to the labelling of ‘expert’. Individuals at agencies aren’t necessarily experts in their field but they have probably been repetitively delivering the same service for a long time and that’s got to be worth something.

When dealing with agencies, there is often a lack of control for the customer when deciding which agency employees will be working on their video. There may be a very talented animator at the agency. It is probably their work that features most prominently in the agency’s reel, but if that individual isn't working on your video, then their talent doesn't benefit you. I would recommend vetting some of the individuals who work at the agency--most creative talents use social channels to promote the latest work to which they have contributed--and try to cherry pick the team you want. The agency will probably push back on your request, but I would recommend you persevere and negotiate a team that you're happy with.

A ‘budget’ agency will typically turn over a large number of projects. Working on a large number of projects is a good thing. A good agency will have a vast collaborative wealth of experience, more than a freelancer could ever hope to have; however, large project turnovers mean employees are probably working on upwards of 6 projects at a time. Commitments to other projects and a need to hit deadlines inevitably affect how much of an employee’s time is available to work on your video. No matter how talented the individual – at any agency – if they’re limited by the time available to turn your video around, it will limit the quality. The restrictions on time can also affect creativity; the time for research and brainstorming is often squeezed into a matter of hours, sometimes minutes. I know this is a sweeping statement and freelancers suffer from their own set of pressures but I would argue the pressure from employers to hit deadlines is more stringent than the self-imposed pressures applied by freelancers; even if it is at their own detriment, which I guess we would be exploiting.

Because freelancers have fewer overheads than agencies, you may find that there are cheap options available; however, there are some limitations to freelancers and in my opinion, good freelancers are harder to find than good agencies. The advice you will receive from a freelancer will be limited to that of the individual and how broadly they spread their knowledge and development of their trade. You will have to determine whether you’re dealing with a master of a single trade, or a jack-of-all-trades and master of none. For the sake of creating a video at the optimal ‘bang for you buck’, I would recommend you go for a jack-of-all-trades; however, it is unlikely that your jack-of-all-trades freelancer will offer the same level of expertise as a team of employees at an agency. The greatest perk of a jack-of-all-trades freelancer, is the control you have as a consumer. You will have the same contact throughout the video production process and you will be able to decide who is creating your video.

As an individual, there is only so much work a freelancer can accommodate. This isn’t great if you need multiple projects turned around very quickly. A single professional won’t be able to cope; however, a perk of using freelancers can be their reduced commitments. Fewer commitments allow freelancers to focus on a select number of projects and so they are more likely to become personally invested in your video. The additional time spent on projects can manifest itself in subtle additions in your animated video; perhaps the trees in a background sway in the wind when they otherwise wouldn’t have or additional and varied conceptual ideas are considered during the script stage. If you have researched animated explainer videos, you may have encountered what I refer to as the ‘Classic Budget Agency Script’ template which goes a little something like this: “Meet Bob. Bob struggles to manage all of his daily tasks and can’t find time to meet with his team. Bob needs Team Daily Task Manager.” I am not saying this is wrong but I am saying very little creativity is required to write this kind of script and if you want a unique video, then perhaps a freelancer is the way to go; although, they too can easily fall into the habit of tedious script writing.

Good freelancers are generally hard to find because they can be buried in a fog of mediocre and cheaper talent and don’t feature on the first page of Google. If you can find an affordable professional with an impressive reel and a good understanding of what is needed to make an animated video, then you should make an effort to get in their good graces--you will have found a very beneficial commodity.

Here are some additional pointers to consider when making your decision:

• Use agencies and freelancers who work to fixed prices and offer unlimited revisions. You want to avoid being stung by a hefty fee after your second round of text amends.

• Choose an inclusive service. You will need a script, storyboard, animation, music and a voiceover included in the price you pay so one-stop shops are advisable and readily available.

• Paying more doesn’t necessarily mean you will get more. Two companies offering the same service will provide very different videos. Look at previous projects the agency or freelancer has completed. Consistency is key when deciding who will create your video.

• Your video will involve your input too so be prepared to invest your own time and ideas (you get back what you put in).

Lastly, please don’t forget: this post is based entirely upon my point of view--it’s not gospel.

So, should you turn to an agency or a freelancer to create your video? Well, conveniently, there is no right answer and even if there was, who’s to say the agency or freelancer you use wouldn’t turn out to be rubbish? This is the point at which my seemingly unbiased point of view becomes heavily biased. If I were in the market for a wonderful animated video, I would be looking for the commitment and control of a freelancer and the structured processes of an agency. In short, I would want a freelancer who understands the process of creating a quality video, has the freedom to be creative, desire to create something unique and offers an inclusive service with unlimited amends at fixed affordable prices. ‪Wondar.co.uk‬ provides such a service and you know who will be writing, illustrating and animating your video because I am the only employee who works there!

**DISCLAIMER** My point of view is based upon my experience and is purely founded upon my own anecdotal evidence. No time has been spent on research and so please take my post with a pinch of salt.

Visit ‪Wondar.co.uk‬ and let me create a wonderful animated video on your behalf.


'Wondar make bespoke animated explainer videos.

On brand, on budget & delivered in style.'

#animationadvice #agency #freelance #wondar

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