Is there a difference between a cheap and expensive Motion Design artist? Let’s find out!
Editor’s Note: This article talks about an experiment we ran in “getting what you pay for.” As Motion Designers, we’re obviously concerned with the trend of smaller budgets and clients asking for more than they can afford, but we’re also aware that there are (and will always be) low-budget options out there. We wanted to see what those options were like, and to find out if there’s anything to worry about from sites like Fiverr and Upwork. We don’t endorse either site, and always recommend “professional” Motion Designers to companies who have the budget and need for the ‘real thing’… but the reality is that you can get an animated logo for $7 these days. Should we, as an industry, be worried? Read on and find out.
20 years ago it was incredibly hard to find a Motion Designer. Not only did you need to find someone with a copy of After Effects on a Windows 95 machine, you also had to deal with the inevitable dystopian apocalypse that would result from Y2K.
As time, and Justin Timberlake, evolved the availability of Motion Design tools and education have made it possible for just about anybody to create a Motion Design project. Inevitably, as more and more Motion Designers enter the market the base price point for a project has dipped considerably, leading many people to speculate about the viability of the future of Motion Design.
So is modern Motion Design a race to the bottom? Is cheap labor harming our industry? Can you even tell the difference between a cheap project and an expensive one? Well my friends, it’s time to do an experiment…
The Experiment: Comparing Motion Design Work at Different Price Points
To find some answers we created a fictitious company, a space-themed Ice Cream shop called Telescoops (get it?)
Side Note: We also went into too much detail about the types of ice cream that would be sold there. Popular flavors would include Nebula Nutella, Milky Whey, Rocket Pops, Apollo Marshmallow, Hershey We Have a Problem. Cones would be either little or big dipper size. There would be planets hanging from the ceiling. We’d even figure out how to create a ring around the Ice Cream scoops out of waffle cones. We could do this all day… back to the important stuff.
We created a logo with a nice little backstory.
Here’s the pitch:
I own Telescoops an ice-cream company in southern California. We've been growing out here for a few years and we’re looking to get into the video world.
We're interested in creating a YouTube channel all about our unique ice-cream and perhaps even do some ice-cream ‘cooking’ demonstrations in the future. As such, we are looking for a Motion Design intro for our YouTube channel that will really set the tone of our videos.
Our brand is fun, quirky, and kinda nerdy. We'd love for our animated logo to have those same qualities. A 5-second intro would be great, but I suppose it doesn't HAVE to be that exact duration.
We're kinda new to this process so let us know if you need anything else. Attached is our logo. My artsy cousin designed it. It's in a PNG format. I hope that's ok.
We sent this pitch to Motion Designers at 3 different price points:
The results were, needless to say, fascinating and we’re super excited to share them with you here. I even provided the artists with a PNG file instead of a vector file to see if they would say anything. Let’s take a look at the results.
- Time to Completion: 24 Hours
- Things We Liked: Price and Turnaround Time
Our first step was to find the cheapest Motion Designer possible. And what better place to find cheap talent than Fiverr? Fiverr’s been around for a while now and it prides itself in pairing people up with artists who are willing to do a creative service for $5 (Plus a $2 service fee).
The site is full of people using templates and other less-than-creative techniques to create work, but at a price point under $10 who can complain?
Finding the right person was a bit of a challenge as many of the ‘Motion Designers’ use templated After Effects projects. I wanted something custom. After about 10 minutes of searching I found a person who would do “Any Photoshop, Motion Graphics, Video Editing For You” for $5. What a deal!
After a very quick account setup process I sent the pitch and received a completed video in only 6 hours! That is probably the fastest turnaround time in history. Here was the first cut:
Not bad for $7, but would the Motion Designer be willing to do revisions? Let’s see…
This is amazing. Great work. I just have three things that I'd like to change and that'll be it.
- Could you slow down the shimmer at the end of the video? I think it's a little fast.
- Could you do something with the cherry on top? Perhaps it could just bounce on top at the end or something?
- Can you change the shimmer sound effect or turn it down? love the idea of adding sound effects, but the shimmer is kinda whimsical and our brand is more sci-fi and quirky. Hope that makes sense.
Great work so far
After explaining that he can’t add in new sound effects (but I should look on YouTube) the Designer gave me a new revision in 12 hours. So to put that in perspective, I received an entire project with a revision in less than 24 hours. Holy mole!
Here was the final result:
We’re not going to win any Motion Awards with this one, but for $7 it’s not too shabby… Our experiment is off to an interesting start.
- Time to Completion: 7 Days
- Things We Liked: Price, Custom Branding, Number of Options,
Now let’s move on to a middle-of-the-road project. Over the last few years some sites have come online that pair clients with artists at different price points. Essentially, you publically pitch a project and its budget online, and artists compete to win the bid. We decided to use Upwork as it is one of the most popular services for hiring freelancers in the world.
The process was actually pretty cool. Instead of seeking out a designer I just filled out a simple form with the project details and within just a few minutes I had custom pitches from a few MoGraph artists around the world. After reviewing portfolios I decided to hire a MoGraph artist that had a good reel and a lot of 5 star reviews.
The Upwork artist asked various questions about the deadline, my vision for the project, and delivery formats. I was delighted to see the follow-up questions and I sent over responses in as much detail as possible.
After a three day wait our Upwork Designer sent over three different MoGraph sequences that were all pretty unique. Here are the results:
I was asked to pick my favorite and I chose the longer white project. I also sent over some minor feedback:
Hey, This is awesome. You did a killer job.
Do you have any sound effects that we can add to it? Also the part where the 'cherry' spins around the ring at the end feels just a little harsh. Is there a way we can smooth it out a bit? Or maybe it'd be best to just cut that thing.
It should also be noted that there was an annoying payment process where funds needed to be ‘verified’ or the project would be cut-off. Our designer was very concerned that our payment wasn’t verified in Upwork for a few days. Perhaps this is insight into an issues designers face on Upwork?
After waiting another 3 days our designer sent over the final result.
With the final version completed, we paid our designer and rated their performance. Easy peasy lemon squeezy. For $150 I’m a happy camper, but I think I’m in the mood for something a little fancier...
Professional Freelancer - $1000
- Time to Completion: 6 Days
- Things We Like: Visual Language, Storytelling, Brand Reinforcement, Kind Personality
For the final test I wanted to hire a professional freelance Motion Designer, but how am I supposed to find one of those?! Using a referral from my good friend Joey Korenman I contacted Patrick Butler, a Motion Designer based in San Diego. As expected, Patrick passed the PNG test and asked for a vector logo file. After negotiating the budget and asking a few questions Patrick was off to create the project. I now sit back and wait as a professional Motion Designer works on a $1000 project for a fake company…
After two days Patrick returned with this video:
Wowzer! This project instantly felt like it was in a different league from the others. It was clear that the vid was full of visual language and storytelling. But of course, there are some things we’d like to change. So, I gave Patrick some feedback…
Whoa! Great work on this Patrick. It is super cool. Is there any way to sharpen up the beginning. It seems like it takes a little while to hop into the 'lightspeed' part. Other than that it is great!
Patrick complimented my suggestion and promptly sent back a revision the same day. This is the final result:
Definitely a job well done. And to think we could have bought 235 pumpkin spice lattes for this price?...
So with the creative part of the experiment out of the way it was time to analyze the results. Here are the thoughts that came to my head with each project.
The Fiverr work is incredibly utilitarian. I needed a logo that moved and that’s exactly what I received. Nothing else. There was no concept or custom design that reinforced the branding. There was no space or ice-cream theme. Instead, the project was simple, and in turn, kinda forgettable. While I don't’ think anyone would stop watching if they saw that intro, there’s nothing about the intro that adds to the storytelling process. However, for $7 it’s definitely better than a static logo.
The Upwork project was interesting because it brought the space theme into the project. I was also shocked that I received three different versions of the project. Curious enough, this is a tactic that Joey talks about in the Freelance Manifesto where you inadvertently convince the client to ‘select’ a favorite project rather than nitpick a single version.
However, there definitely seemed to be a lack of refinement in the intro. It felt like the designer hopped right into After Effects without taking the time to draw inspiration or storyboard the piece. The extra elements like the spaceship felt clip-art-ish… they didn’t fit the vibe of the logo. But again, for $150 it’s pretty darn good.
Without a doubt the work done by the professional freelancer is more thoughtful and effective. The quality of the animation is (pun intended) light-years beyond the other 2. The animation and added elements actually fit the concept of our brand, a sci-fi / geeky ice cream shop. The design reinforces the brand and it was a delight to work with Patrick. At $1000 the project is still worth it to me, but do I prefer this project because we paid more for it?
Well I’m not making the Dom Perignon mistake. It’s time to bring in some outside help.
What Did the School of Motion Team Think?
I decided to send the projects to the School of Motion team. Across the board everyone liked Patrick’s work the best.
That’s a good sign so far, but let’s expand this experiment...
Surveying the Community
I put together a blind survey and asked people what they thought about each project without mentioning the price or who created it. Over 100 people chimed in with their opinions. While this is not the biggest sample size, we can definitely draw some conclusions from the results.
I asked everyone to watch the following video with the projects in a random order. Those being surveyed didn’t know where the projects came from. Here’s what the surveyors (surveyees?) saw.
The results were very interesting, but not incredibly surprising:
Which Intro Was your Favorite?
- Professional Freelancer - 84.5%
- Upwork - 12.6%
- Fiverr - 2.9%
Why was this project your favorite? (Selected Answers)
- It was the most visually appealing and it was a well thought out concept.
- It feels fun and quirky, while being evocative of space. It's quick and concise; clean.
- It felt like it had more depth, was visually organized, had good sound design, and got to the point quickly.
- Seemed the most custom built to the brand
- I liked the overall graphics and sound. It seems really fun and playful.
- Thinking back it's the only one that's really left an impression on me. (interesting…)
- Simple and conveys the message
- The others felt cluttered. This project was simple, but clean.
Which Intro was your LEAST Favorite?
- Fiverr - 57.8%
- Upwork - 38.2%
- Professional Freelancer - 3.9%
Why was this project your least favorite? (Selected Answers)
- The sound was not my favorite and the beginning graphics felt really heavy.
- It felt like the artist was throwing mud at the wall and seeing what stuck.
- Too much going on, things moving everywhere.
- The random letters floating around at the beginning looked messy and jumbled.
- Scattered, slow start.
- It was just sparkle engineering. Very standard and stiff. Didn’t add any personality to it.
- It was very generic and boring. It felt like a template.
- It wasn't much related to the brand. There was a rich concept to play with (space) and I feel it wasn't there in the animation.
If you owned this hypothetical Ice Cream shop how much money (in USD$) would you be willing to spend on a new logo for your upcoming YouTube channel?
$1,267 - Average Price
What Lessons Can We Learn?
With the survey results in-hand, the School of Motion team began to think about some of the implications of these results. Below are some things (we think) we learned from this experiment.
1. There will always be cheaper solutions
It’s not very pleasant to think about the fact that someone on Fiverr thinks they can offer essentially the same services as a top Motion Designer for pennies on the dollar… however the fact of the matter is that services like Fiverr aren’t going anywhere, so it’s darn important that you view yourself more as a storyteller than a button masher. Great Motion Designers distinguish themselves not only with their skills, but also with their ability to meet their clients needs and exceed expectations.
Every project that we commissioned was worth the money we paid for it, but only one project effectively reinforced the brand. It’s your job as a Motion Designer to unlock the hidden visual story in every project.
The fact that you’re on School of Motion right now means that you are likely a higher-level Motion Designer (or aspire to be one) than the majority of Fiverr and Upwork artists. You can’t compete with them on price, but you can win on quality all day, and in the end that’s what clients remember.
2. You Need to Be GOOD at Motion Design
There is undoubtedly a difference between the quality and effectiveness of the three projects. However, the project that people prefered was also the one that featured a cohesive concept, a concise message, and beautifully done animation.
This is absolutely a testament to the importance of Motion Design mastery. You’re a Motion Designer not an After Effects artist. Was that a little too close to home? Sorry…
There are actual Motion Design principles and techniques that professional artists use in their everyday workflows. Here at School of Motion we try to help you learn these tried-and-true techniques though our bootcamps.
Think of this experiment as an exploration into effective design vs ineffective design. Design is an intersection of art and function, Patrick’s project shows the wonderful blending of these two concepts.
3. Networking is Key for Freelance Success
Patrick landed this $1000 gig because he has made a name for himself within my circle of business. You need to do the same in your network.
In the age of SEO and consumer targeting, it’s unlikely that you will land gigs from people searching ‘Motion Designers Near Me’ in Google. Rather, if someone is going to spend serious money to hire a MoGraph artist they are going to ask around in their sphere of influence.
We talk about it all the time, but the key to landing more gigs is to get your name out there. Go to events, meet friends, and be a kind person. You never know what work may come from a random friend. At the very least, you can email business owners in your area and let them know that you are available for hire as a Motion Designer. For more info on growing your network check out the Freelance Manifesto.
It’d be awesome to do more projects like this in the future. I always find it helpful to take a step back and think about the state of Motion Design in the world. It can be easy to live in a MoGraph echo-chamber, but experiments like this can really help create a context for understanding the value of our services in a world full of solutions at various price-points.
Now go out there and network with the folks at your local ice cream shop!