How to Start an Animation Studio – Step by Step Guide

Are you about to venture into a new business and want to know how to start an animation studio? If your heart and mind are set on entering the market, then you are on the right track. Animation has been a strong industry leader and is projected to continue growing. With tons of resources and technology available and high demand for the craft, you can definitely say that you have chosen the right industry to invest in.

As an animator, starting your own studio can be challenging. You have the creativity and skill to produce sellable works, and now, you must also have the passion and courage to start the business. Don’t worry; with the proper guides and tips, you can do this!

black and white animation studio with man working on computer. posters on walls

How to Start an Animation Studio: The Checklist

Having an animation studio does not only mean getting a physical place—a “studio.” Starting an animation studio means creating your career, your name, and your business. It means establishing yourself as one of the industry experts. Sounds good to hear, right? So check out the step-by-step guide on how to start an animation studio:

Step 1: Know The Industry

Before anything else, you should learn and understand the animation industry. Know how it works.

Have you worked in an animation company before? Do you know how an animation business runs? If you are already familiar with the industry, then good for you. Starting up the business will be less challenging. Having a background and hands-on experience in the industry is surely a bonus. Knowing the system, technology, and client behavior will make the process very easy and familiar like it’s the back of your hand.

Have you ever been inside an animation studio? You should know what it feels like inside. The space each team member needs to work in comfortably, who the key players are, the necessary equipment and software, the room temperature vital to the machines, and the lighting in the room—you need to know these.

Know how much time a project needs to be completed. Learn the quirks of both animators and clients. Understand the market. Remember that you cannot go into a huge business like animation if you are not familiar with the industry. Why do you need this familiarity? Because first and foremost, you need to know how much capital is needed to start the studio. You have to be ready with the resources: the money, the technology, and the people.

Step 2: Decide on an Expertise

There are different types of animations, as you would know. And with all the animation studios and other freelance animators out there, you need to find your niche so you know where to excel and stand out. Remember, clients do not go with the first animator they find. Instead, what they look for is the best producer in the market because they want their money’s worth.

Knowing the type of animation you would focus on will also determine the team of animators, equipment type, and software that you will invest in. Of course, you can still do other animation jobs, but your money-maker is your animation expertise. For instance, you intend to be known for 3D animation. 3D animation works will then be your major project. But you can also accept small gigs in 2D animation or stop motion.

It would be best if you also familiarize yourself with where animations are used. Animations are common in explainer videos and corporation materials. The marketing and advertising industries are also heavy on animation requirements. And, of course, there are full-length and short films.

This is where your knowledge of the industry will come in handy. Before deciding on your target specialization and market, know what’s in demand, see the market value, understand the audience, and know the craft. This way, you can start strong in the right direction.

Step 3: To Team or Not to Team

game piece and a group of game pieces

You have to decide whether you will build a team or not. Now that you are learning to know how to start an animation studio, you need to determine if you can do it all on your own. If you have limited funds, it might be best to start smart and do it yourself first. Then, see how your business will progress and take it from there.

If you are going solo, starting may be trickier. Remember that you will have to do everything by yourself. You are drawing the elements and layouts, doing music production, and the actual animation. Not to mention the client management, marketing, and admin duties. Truly, you will be wearing a lot of hats. So, set your expectations. You will definitely be doing fewer projects because it will take more time to complete with only you working on them.

However, if you have enough budget and want to hire people, why not? Just remember that in building a team, there are many things to consider too. Will they be a partner? Meaning they will invest with you and have a share of profit and a say in every decision? Will they be purely employees?

When building a team, think not only of getting the coolest animators but the best fit for the entire group. While getting animators with different specializations may be practical, you have to consider the group dynamics too. Remember that these people will be working together on visual arts projects, and one common problem is when creative people have different styles and opinions. So be careful when building your team.

Basically, this is the step where you decide on how small or big your business will be. During this time, you will know if you need a big studio space for working with a team. Or if you can work in an area at your home since you are not yet expanding your business.

This is also where your equipment and software requirements rely on. Of course, if there will be more than one person working, you will need more equipment and software as compared to if you are alone.

Step 4: Brand Name

Now, this is exciting. As a creative person, this is where you will have the most fun. What will be your studio’s name? Have a list of your choices. If you have a business partner, you can work on this together. As you go through your list, think of a logo for it and maybe a tagline. Remember that this name will be your brand. This name will appear in all your works, letterhead, invoices, and calling cards. It will be prominent on your website and social media pages. So take time in choosing your animation studio name. And it should be catchy and unique.

Step 5: The Business Plan

Now that you have established the basics for your studio, the next thing you do is make your business plan. This is important whether you are doing it solo or starting with a team. Do not be scared of how formal this sounds. This is, plain and simple, your roadmap. Think of it as your ultimate guide to success. Yes, your map to success! So what are the basic components of your roadmap?

  • Concept: Going solo or jumping in with a team? What is your specialization? Describe your business. A sample concept may be like this: A startup animation studio specializing in traditional animation for marketing and advertising.
  • Finances: How much is your capital? How much are you willing to invest? You can list down your estimated expenses here, such as business registration fees, equipment, and gadgets, software, rentals, if any, salaries, and so on.
  • Legal: Write down the legalities for the business. Registrations and permits, contracts needed, royalties to be paid, if any, etc. Know the tax implications of your animation studio too.
  • Marketing Plan: List down job opportunities available to you and how you intend to drive your business in the market. Do you already have a client pool or a list of potential clients? Will you use job boards and social media platforms? Explore ways how to land clients.
  • Goal: Set your goal. Will your goal be profit-centered, like, earning this much in two years? Or will your goal be like being the most sought-after animation studio?

Having a roadmap will keep you on track at all times.

Step 6: Legalize It

hand signing a document

You now have a solid plan and doable plan. It is time to register your studio. Know the necessary business registrations and permits to establish a legitimate business. Do not forget to visit your intellectual property rights office to know how your logo could be protected!

Step 7: Demo Time

While waiting on the paperwork, set up your studio space and equipment. Then go and start creating your portfolio. Make demo reels. If you are working with a team, start on tasking delegations and try it out with a sample project to see if there is anything you need to work on. See your chemistry and how you harmonize your work.

If you are doing this on your own, time your work process. Make a demo reel and see how long it would take you. This can be your standard production time. This is also the best time to see if there is any more software you need or configurations in your equipment that you have to do. It’s like having a dry run. Get a feel of what it’s going to be like when projects start coming in.

Step 8: Have Online Presence

Create your website. Set up your social media pages. Maximize the online platforms available to you. This is where you can showcase your work and post your portfolio.

The best marketing tool in this generation is online presence. Every client will be looking for producers online because it is easy and efficient. That said, make sure you are available to answer queries through calls or messages. Have a professional email address too, separate from your personal one. Be available online at all times possible. Be available to potential clients.

Step 9: Admin Matters

Yes, your administrative duties matter. You cannot simply focus on animation alone. This is a business, after all. Keep in mind that there are tasks like sending proposals and signing contracts. You also need to generate invoices and track payments. You need a record of all your documents too.

So how are you going to attend to admin concerns? Invest in a complete project management software like Kosmo. Project management programs offer proposal and contract templates, time-tracking, invoice issuances, and payment modes. With time-consuming work like animating, you might get caught up with projects and fail to do other tasks like drafting your contract for a client or tracking payments. So make sure that you have a good project management software.

As you venture into this new and exciting business, administrative duties should be the least of your worries. Resources are available, so make use of them.

The Grand Launch

celebration. toasting of glasses

Congratulations! You now have an animation studio! Make this an event to remember. One for the books! No matter what your budget is, there is always a way to create a buzz with your launch.

This step-by-step guide provides you with a strong and sound way on how to start an animation studio. You will be okay. Now go have a blast with your new business!

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