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Freelance Animator Austin Pinckney: Storyteller for all

Written by Amanda Saber on June 15, 2022

Jumping from full-time employment into the freelance world can be scary. Animator Austin Pinckney shares how he did it and why he’s so happy he did.

Austin Pinckney is an animator, storyboard artist, and character designer based out of Columbus, Ohio. Since he was a child, he’s had a passion for creating and sharing unique stories, which makes him a great fit for his role as a storyteller at his local library. Read on to learn more about how he’s writing his next chapter as a freelancer and storyteller for all.

We’re intrigued by this “library storyteller” part of who you are. Can you tell us about that?

My first job after college was as a teen service specialist at the Columbus Metropolitan Library. I taught film, music, art, and a little coding to teens. I transitioned to another position where I was a storytime teller. That was my bread and butter. I found a dynamic experience of sharing stories with the kids. They can express themselves and practice their social-emotional skills. I would have never thought I’d end up here, but I am happy to be. It’s such a true joy in my life.

Tell us about your journey to freelancing.

I studied animation and art in college, but while I was working full time at the library, I had done only a handful of sketches over several months, which was not normal for me. I was hungry to move forward in my art career. Through some connections with friends and people I’ve met along the way, including Uncompany, I decided to update my portfolio and take online classes to brush up on my skills. I am now a part time library worker and a freelance artist and animator.

What is something surprising you’ve learned since you’ve been freelancing?

As long as you have the capacity to do it, to learn, to be coachable, and to adapt, what’s more important is how you interact with other people. Animation is a collaborative field. All of these people are coming together to create a single product, so if you have the ability to be above that level to where you can make it AND you can work with people, that will take you farther than being a masterful animator but nobody likes to be around you. 

What was terrifying about taking this leap?

That it is on me. At the library, I can have days where I can mentally check out and still get things done, but with this, I have to be on it. The power is in my hand. 

Tell us about a recent project that was exciting to work on. 

I was doing an animation for a local artist group that included script writing, storyboard, character design, and animation. At first I was incredibly nervous because the timeline was a little bit of a crunch, but once I finished up the storyboard and looked at it, instead of finding fear of like “I’m going to have to animate all this,” my mind said, “I GET to animate all this.” Being able to get excited about the little components reminded me why I like animations so much.

What advice do you have for soon-to-be or wish-to-be freelancers? 

Do it. You can spend countless hours – and I have – thinking of this really cool idea, but until you put the pencil to paper and have it out there, it is only just a good idea. Finished is always better than perfect. That is something that in the past 6 months has really changed my trajectory. I was tired of saying, “Man this would be a cool idea.” Just do it! 

Price your art higher than your day job. If you really want to be a freelancer, when times get hard, I want to be able to fall back on my art. If my price can be this for somebody else’s dream, I gotta give myself this price for my own. 

What is your favorite thing about being a freelancer? 

Other than being able to draw, of course, is the fact that I get to challenge myself in how I make art. As a freelancer, this is somebody else’s vision that we’re collaborating on, so I get to push myself in a way that expands what I can do. I am artistically working out my muscles. Because of this continuous pushing and stretching and growing, now my capacity to do art has grown exponentially. 

How do you ensure you get a break from work?

Boundaries are necessary for your passions as well. I’m very much against the hustle culture, the grind culture. I set expectations with my clients. They have access to me at different times during my hours of operation. That’s protecting you, but because you’re well rested and you’ve created separation, it’s beneficial for the client as well. 

Another thing I did was move my office space. My workstation used to be in my bedroom, a place for rest and relaxation. It was easy for me to say, “Let me go work on something real quick,” and that became an unhealthy habit. By changing where I put my station and creating that separation, I’m able to compartmentalize it. 

Even though this is my passion, work itself is not ME. I am more than just what I can draw or what I can do. I’m a human with full experiences and so giving yourself that respect and that love is important. 

We are so excited for Austin to be entering into his freelance chapter. To learn more about Austin and see some of his work samples, download his bio sheet here.

Click here to watch his full interview on our YouTube channel.