Wayne Carlisi has been working in the arts for over 35 years. He graduated from Brandes Art Institute in 1983 and his professional career has been in animation, illustration and fine art. As an animator, he has worked for every major studio in Los Angeles (Disney, Nickelodeon, DreamWorks, Fox etc.) Carlisi currently works as a freelance animator, illustrator and painter.

Wayne Carlisi, Freelance Animator

Tell us about your services as a freelance animator.

Most of the requests I get are for animation, character design and illustration. I have done freelance animation and character design for all the major studios in and around the Los Angeles area, as well as  for small production houses. I recently finished working with a private client doing character design and illustration for a project he is pitching.

When did working as a freelance animator become a viable business rather than just a side hustle?

I had always worked for studios in house as a 2D animator, since the early 80’s, but when computer animation started taking over and the studios started sending work to other countries, I made the choice to go independent with the help of platforms like Soply, Facebook, Instagram and so on.

 What kind of preparation did you need to shift to a freelance animator?

Not knowing how powerful the digital age was going to be, I found myself falling behind a bit, so I took some classes in CG animation around 2003. I started learning how to animate in Maya, and that was when I realized how much I like to draw. Nothing against CG, I just like the traditional way of working, even if I do it on the computer.

With that, I decided to find jobs that offered me drawing positions like character layout and character design. During this period, I taught myself PhotoShop, SketchBook Pro, and DigiCell Flipbook.

I’ve been painting on canvas since 1988. Somewhere around this time I discovered a couple of sites that I could post my paintings to and, to my surprise, I sold a couple prints. It was then I had a inkling of what the internet could do.

Was there a turning point moment for your freelance career?

I joined Facebook when an online gallery told me I had to create a Facebook page, so I signed up and started posting all my work there and slowly started getting some request for illustrations. This is when I realized the full potential of the internet, and started joining different social medias and platforms such as Soply, Vimeo, YouTube, Tumblr, Pinterest and Instagram.

From there I started getting freelance work for animation, illustrations and cartoons. The three platforms that have worked out the best for me are Instagram, Facebook and Soply.

I especially like Instagram because it’s a simple visual platform that doesn’t get caught up in personalities. Soply is great source for finding work. They serve as an online agent, helping to facilitate all communications and transactions, making their fee worthwhile.

What would you advise your younger self about growing a business as a freelance animator?

My younger self would have had no idea what we’re talking about as personal computers had yet to arrive. 🙂

Read more: Advice for My Younger Self: Independent Contractors Share What They Wish They Knew Starting Out

What are some factors that go into a good business relationship with clients?

Get the work done within the time frame your client asks for, and be willing to make changes as needed. Clients are paying you to do what they envision. But make sure that you understand everything very well before you take the job.

For example, let them know how many times they can ask for changes before additional fees will apply. Some artists say two, and others will give the client more. It’s up to you and the client, but make sure it’s understood in advance.

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Can you give an example of an ideal client project for you?

All jobs vary, but the last one I did was with a client who wanted me to design the characters and do the final illustrations in color. I really enjoyed working with him. He knew what he wanted, and he was clear with me about the first drafts. In our case we lived in different time zones, so good communication was important.

He was so enthusiastic about his project, I could feel his passion as we worked together, and as a result gave him more changes than we had originally agreed upon.




This profile was developed in partnership with Soply, which provides a virtual creative workforce, supplying job opportunities to animators, designers, illustrators, photographers, and videographers worldwide.