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Generalist or Specialist?

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Hi Everyone - Happy new year and decade!

I want to pose this question/conundrum to everyone here to hear there thoughts since it keeps being thrown at me time and time again: should you be a specialist or a generalist?

I have now been working as a freelance artist for the past 10 years and whilst I originally started out wanting to be a character animator (having studied at Animation Mentor) I have worked as a modeller, rigger, motion graphics artist, compositor, 2D animator and various others roles on projects ranging from film, TV shows, advertising, corporate presentation, music videos, fly-throughs, product visualisation and various other things.

This has all been great but as I said I still get people saying you have too much diversity of work on your website and you should specialise. Well I tried this ten years ago doing just character animation and found that one minute I would be working and then doing nothing so I started accepting other types of work and this is how I have progressed. I think it's a similar thing in nature where you get creatures that specialise and then when their speciality no longer works they become extinct. Whereas those that can adapt seem to survive.

I think the speciaility scenario is only valid for the big film studios who only hire character animators or compositors who do only that whereas the smaller studios tend to have people who are more generalist.

Anyway I would love to hear people's thoughts/experiences on this conundrum. For now I just say I am a 3D artist with character animation skills.

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it's actually quite simple: if you want to make it as a freelancer while being specialized, you need to be really good in your field to get gigs constantly.

that's why i'm a generalist 😉


the other important question you'll have to ask yourself is what is more fun to you. for instance my personality doesn't really allow for being too specialized, i get bored too quickly. i would hate doing just character animation each and every day, even though i love doing it. so diversity in gigs is important to me in order to keep my sanity (sort of).


i've been freelancing for 18 years now, and to me variation in jobs is the best thing about it. if i would want to do the same thing every day i could as well be employed.


edit: happy new year to you, too 😉

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Everfresh basically summed up my experiences as well.

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  • LOL! Yes I guess I did think this way back in 2009 when I actually worked on a character animation project - could I do this all day, all week, all month, all year around and I thought - no!

    So I guess that I am like you everfresh I like the diversity and should ignore people who say specialise unless I want to do just one thing constantly which as you say might mean taking a full time job anyway. Mind you I don't think I could ever take on a full time job again. I worked for several companies on a permanent basis and found that they were all rather dire… Had much more fun being a freelance operative 🙂

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