At no point while studying to animate gun-headed characters did I think I’d end up spending half my day hustling business development and marketing people.
I don’t know about you, but that’s not what my animation background trained me for, and I’ve had to learn on the job.
There’s a moment once you get everything set up, you look around the studio and think: right I’m ready for business. Then it slowly dawns on you that nobody’s going to come knocking on your door – you’re going to have to win business. To begin with I hated ringing people, I had to psych myself up for sales calls. It took ages, but I guess I got used to it. You’ve just got to bite the bullet, do it or don’t.
The most important first step was to get the right people to have a look at our work. This might sound obvious, but there are thousands of creative people wanting to do what we do, and some of them even have the talent for it, so it’s the people who make every effort to be seen that will get a break.
We knew that we had to show people what we could do. We looked through every directory and phoned every studio to see if they’d look at our work. We put ourselves out there each and every day and hustled every lead we could find. The rule we followed, and which I think probably applies to any industry, is that it is much easier to grab someone’s attention by placing a physical object in their hands. A lot of people send emails with a link to their YouTube show reel. Getting the right person’s name and email address is a great start, but emails can so easily be overlooked.
The other rule we followed is that we wanted to reflect ‘us’ – I don’t think we used the word – but we wanted to push a brand and distance ourselves from the hundreds of other show reels that every studio receives. We asked ourselves what is it we really like doing, and what is it these studios really do. The answer to both was telling stories and so it seemed obvious that our show reel should be an animated short story, meaning we’d have a product with some actual legs to it, something that could hold their interest.
This instantly helped us stand out. So many animation companies send show reels which are just abstract snippets of characters or scenery. Again, that’s all well and fine but if you’re sending it to a company which tells stories for a living it’s probably not going to rock their world.
Getting the right response was all about knowing our market and creating something for it. I mean, you’ve got to question people who send abstract snippets of animation to Aardman. Have they ever seen an Aardman animation? They’re certainly not abstract. The point is that our first foray in to the industry came because we created something a bit different, hustled it around mercilessly and fortunately got it front of some very nice people.
As we became that bit more established, ‘putting ourselves out there’ increasingly meant less time sending products to potential clients and instead attending networking events. What we soon found is that there’s an art form to those gigs all unto themselves.
Initially it seemed smart to attend networking events full of like-minded people – animators, illustrators and designers. However, it soon became apparent that the one person who’d actually get any attention was the lawyer in the room. All the animators would just look at each other and say: ‘I don’t really need anything from you to be honest’. The trick is going to networking events where your skill can fill a gap in the market. There are lots of events that go on for every profession and you should only be visiting the ones where either you can stand out or fill that gap.
What astounded me the most, whether at networking events or when phoning around the houses, is that people liked a chat. When you’re starting out it’s hard to imagine people will actually hear you out but we discovered that if you just get them outside of that pressurised, business environment then people love a natter. In fact, so many of our business deals have been done down the pub that it’s unreal!
Putting yourself out there really comes down to meeting like-minded people that could use your skills and then demonstrating to them why they should go with you. The most important thing we learnt was to take our time and treat that stage of our business with as much care as you would a piece of client work. It can be the difference between making it or not.
After catching the eye of CBBC and making clients of Adam and Joe with their leftfield animations, Evil Twin have recently turned their vision to the mobile apps market.
Illustrated by Jake Ivill
- One Thing I Know