5 Mins, Animation 7 years ago

James Wignall on finishing by 6pm.

We spoke to London based Director and lovely man James Wignall about what it means to work in freelance animation.

If you aren’t already familiar with James’s work he’s a ADC Young Guns winner, and has worked with clients such as Coca-Cola, MTV, Nickelodeon & Nike.

Freelance animation is a rocky road to navigate. James Wignall has been doing just that for 12 years, and we asked him how he’s got to where he is.

Want to know what he said? Ok then, ready? Then we shall begin…

Why animation? What excites you about it?

I’ve never thought about what is best suited, I just stuck with what I found fun!

Maybe I subconsciously built a career around it by accident!

I’m always excited about illustration and I don’t think that will ever change. It’s everywhere, all around us in some form or another. I love seeing how different illustrators interpret their ideas, or how they use ever changing technology, constantly evolving.

Illustration it’s also the basis of language. Look at cave paintings, hieroglyphics and even current languages such as Chinese characters.

How could all this history and constant evolution not be exciting?!

James Wignall Freelance AnimationJames Wignall Freelance Animation

How do you work and how you get your creative ideas done?

I normally get up early and check my emails. Then I check an ever imposing project to-do list and power through it until lunch.

It’s always nice to get away from the computer so I like to go for a little wonder to get some lunch. Clear the mind a little so I return with a refreshed pair of eyes (metaphorically, not physically as that would be gross)!

Work on through to around 6pm. Casually checking design blogs / websites throughout the day (unless the deadline is tight).

Finishing by 6pm…

I make sure I get all commercial work finished by 6pm. That means I have plenty of time to then work on my own personal projects. I think it’s pretty important to value spare-time, that’s when I can really experiment and develop my own ideas.

If there’s any time left, then reading or playing video games to relax a little before bed.

Ideas come from all over the place really.

The most obscure tiny memory from your childhood could come back to spark a great idea, you never know!

All I do know, is keep a little sketchbook with you at all time. I never know when I’ll want to jot something down or dive into it. The studio is full of old sketch pads filled with the most random ideas, but they’ve proven invaluable.

How do you attract new work?

In freelance animation, there are two main ways, your latest project or word of mouth.

I’ve been around long enough and lucky enough to establish a good list of repeat clients.

However they say you’re only as good as your last project! I find social media, (Instagram, Behance) is a great way to attract potential new clients.

Although, I have to admit I’ve not put any new work online for a while. I’ve been pretty busy redesigning my website so expect re-launch soon!

James Wignall Freelance Animation

How long have you worked in freelance animation? Would you say it’s your career?

It’s been longer than I care to remember!

It feels like only yesterday since I graduated, but looking at the date then it would appear I’ve been working in freelance animation for well over 12 years.

I would say illustration is a big part of my career. I work predominantly in animation, and illustration is a huge part of that.

What advice would you give to someone starting out?

I know it’s a bit of an in-thing at the moment to suggest this, but avoid free / spec work.

If you don’t get paid a fair rate for your time, then it’s not worth it. The arguments of “we’re a startup company” / “you’ll get exposure” / “we’ll give you more work after” are just lies to get something out of you for free.

James Wignall Freelance Animation James Wignall Freelance Animation

Remember that your time is valuable and exposure doesn’t pay the rent.

Would you happily give random people in the street hundreds of pounds because they ask for it (assuming you’re not a millionaire). Of course not!

You get work through projects, so spend the time on personal projects which you can truly own. Get work that way.

Of course there is an exception to every rule, a noble legit charity.


Check out more of James's work on his site



I'm co-founder of Crazy Animal Face, host of the CAF Podcast, and compere of our CAF events. My views are my own.

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