Ep.204: Illustration for Motion Design with Sarah Beth Morgan

By Iva Mikles •  Updated: Oct 01, 2019 •  Interviews

Hey, guys! In this episode, I am chatting with Sarah Beth Morgan, a freelance art director, motion designer & illustrator based in Portland, Oregon. She is most known for her work with studios such as Gentleman Scholar and Oddfellows. Enjoy!!

Get in touch with Sarah

Special thanks to Sarah for joining me today. See you next time!

All artworks by Sarah Beth Morgan, used with permission

Episode Transcript

Iva Mikles  

Hello guys, before we get to the interview, I wanted to let you know that I created a new Skillshare class for you how to make money as an artist, and how to start a creative career you will love. And in this class, you will learn about 17 proven ways how to make money as an artist, and also possibilities how to grow if you combine them all. And if you’re not a member yet, you can get two months for free on Skillshare if you go through the link artsideoflife.com/skillshare. So again, artsideoflife.com/skillshare. And I’m looking forward to have you in the class. And now let’s get to the interview. So welcome everyone to the next episode of Art Side of Life. And I’m super happy to have Sarah here. Hi.

Sarah Beth Morgan  

Hello. Hi, everyone. Yeah, yes. Oh, this is bandit. Yes. It’s very cute. Yeah. And

Iva Mikles  

for people listening, we were talking about Sarah’s dog.

Sarah Beth Morgan  

Yes. Here he is. Yeah, if you’re doesn’t really want to be here. But it’s always more

Iva Mikles  

fun than with the pet at home, especially when you work from home, right?

Sarah Beth Morgan  

Oh, yes. He’s definitely just like my only coworkers.

Iva Mikles  

So before we actually started the daily routines and talking about that part, I would like to hear more about you. And what is your specialty for people who might not know yet?

Sarah Beth Morgan  

Yeah. My name is Sarah Morgan. And I am a freelance illustrator slash animation illustrator, and art director based in Portland, Oregon.

Iva Mikles  

Cool. Cool. So how did you get to these? You know, like, Did you always like know, like, Okay, I want to be illustrator, or I want to do animation. So what was that? Yeah.

Sarah Beth Morgan  

Oh, my gosh, yeah, I was really crazy. So, I mean, I always knew I wanted to be some kind of artists. But when I was younger, I thought, Oh, I’ll be a writer, because I really like telling stories. And then from there, when I was in high school, I liked photography. So I was just playing around with lots of different things growing up. And then when I went to college, I actually studied motion graphics at Savannah College of Art and Design. And I actually had started out in graphic design, but I didn’t, because I didn’t know what motion graphics was because I feel like it was kind of obscure and small. And like, I switched my major after my freshman year, because I saw like a real or something like a montage of what motion graphics was, and I was my whole eyes were open all my eyes, all of my eyes. My two eyes, were open to one motion graphics. Yeah, well, mind blown to what motion graphics is. And from there, I just kind of went down that rabbit hole, and I’m still working in that industry. But as I was working as a staff employee at a couple other companies, I started learning more about illustration, like style frames for motion design. And the rest is history. Now I do freelance illustration and also animation work. So I mean, I don’t I don’t animate myself, but I illustrate for motion.

Iva Mikles  

Oh, man. So if you kind of can explain it to people more than do you spend more time illustrating? Or do you work with, I guess, After Effects or somewhere? I also do you do the initial motion design? Are you more like explain to animator like, Oh, this is what I would like to tell the story by like, using these? Yeah.

Sarah Beth Morgan  

Yeah, great question. Because I do feel like people who I explained my job to are just like, wait, what you do like Pixar? No, yeah. So I basically, most of my day is usually spent illustrating, so even if I’m working for an animation job, I’m still like drawing all day. But there’s a huge difference between motion design like illustration, and illustration for editorial. For motion. A lot of times I’m thinking about the storyboard, I’m thinking about, like, how the client wants, like characters portrayed and motion, or potentially interesting transitions. So I’m thinking a lot more about the overall storytelling, between everything. And then on top of that, I also have to make sure I can communicate with an animator. And I also have to how do I say this? Like, I have to think be thinking more. Yeah, but how the motion How are all the images connect, rather than with an editorial illustration, I have to think about just the one image and it just stays still the whole time. So it has to look like perfect

Iva Mikles  

and you have to build the whole story with one image. Yeah, yeah.

Sarah Beth Morgan  

Which is a different totally different challenge. And then with Bush and like, a lot of times I also I mean, you almost always have to make sure your files really organized because you’re gonna be passing it off to an animator and it can’t like be flattened or anything. So there’s a lot there’s a lot that goes into it. So they’re very different, but I like doing both.

Iva Mikles  

And so if you think about now the process when you are working with these illustrations for animation, do you work in Photoshop with layers? Or do you have to do, like Illustrator version version with vectors? Or do you actually build the characters in After Effects with vector?

Sarah Beth Morgan  

Oh, gosh, yeah, so I actually pretty much just use Photoshop, because I just, I can’t get a hang of Illustrator for some reason. Or I just don’t prefer it. I think there’s a lot more flexibility in Photoshop, like, I can add texture, and I can mess with like, adjustment layers and all of that. But for the most part, yeah, I just I mainly work in Photoshop. And then for say, if I was going to do a character or something, I and I knew they were going to be animated with After Effects, I would probably, like break up that character, like separate their arms, separate their heads. So the animator can like take those elements and make them move instead of like a flattened character in Photoshop, which they would have to kind of like, completely recreate. So I do my best to stay in Photoshop, but make it really clean and organized.

Iva Mikles 

Very nice. Yeah.

Iva Mikles  

So how do you then work with companies? How do they find you? Because that’s often what people ask.

Sarah Beth Morgan  

Yeah, oh, my gosh, I feel like I got pretty lucky. I so I started in the industry at a studio called gentleman scholar, like right out of school. And it was amazing as in Los Angeles, and just kind of like boot camp, because I just got out of school. And I was like, I’m ready, I’m super tight, like I had kind of a big head. And I was like, I know what I’m doing. And then I got there and was like, Wow, there’s so much I need to learn. So that was like a great learning experience. I was working with different clients through different agencies through there. And then I made connections, like a lot of freelancers would come in and out of the studio there. So I learned I met people through that. So like lots of just industry connections. And then I went to a couple festivals and conferences, which helped meet people. And then from there, I moved on to a company called Odd Fellows in Portland, Oregon. And yeah, there’s some amazing talented people there. So same thing, I was kind of like jumping around, I made connections through work. And since I was in the industry, as a staff employee for like, four years, I feel like that really helped me build those stronger connections between like friends and employees. And, and so that was like a big part of it, for creating connections. So when I left people who had moved on to new jobs from agencies or whatever they were, they could reach out to me be like, Oh, hey, I worked with you on this one project a long time ago at this other company. And I’m like, Oh, I remember you. So that helped. And then yeah, conferences and social media really helps. I think

Iva Mikles  

when you mentioned conferences, did you bring, you know, portfolio? Or did you go to just workshops and talk to people in the queue? Or how did you make connections there some feeds for people?

Sarah Beth Morgan  

Yeah. So I think the main part of for conferences for me was to kind of just go in with an open mind and not trying to like force my work on anyone. Not that like, that’s a bad thing, necessarily. But I just I didn’t bring any of my work. I think maybe the first conference I went to, I brought business cards, but I didn’t like I didn’t push it too hard. I just feel like creating a more genuine connection with people instead of being like, here’s my work has helped me a lot because it’s more like oh, I You’re someone I’d want to work with or collaborate with, because we’re just we connect as friends. So I think it was more about just going and socializing. And like having zero I mean, I had intentions but having zero expectations of it and just kind of trying to enjoy myself really helped and also made made me just like, more inspired by all the speakers. I was hearing and stuff. So I think yeah, just trying to be social helped.

Iva Mikles  

So can you also mention some conferences you can recommend or is that something you really love?

Sarah Beth Morgan  

Yeah, so Well, personally, I’m actually going to one next week. It’s called blend fest blend festival and it’s in Vancouver. And I think it’s really amazing for animators and motion artists and illustrators who work with motion. It’s very like geared towards that community. But this is the third time they’ve had it. And it’s crazy, like the first time there was only like 250 350, something like that people that could go there. There weren’t that many tickets. And it was such a success that the second year. They sold out I think in like five I’ve minutes and they had 500 tickets. And then this year, they were like, Okay, we’re gonna have three waves where people can register because we know there’s it’s in high demand. And I think they had maybe 750 or something tickets this year. And each, each wave sold out in like two seconds.

Iva Mikles

So, so people should plan ahead.

Sarah Beth Morgan  

Yes, if you’re gonna go to this festival, make sure to plan ahead and just set your alarms. But I, if you can go if you can get in, or if you can get a ticket through your company or something. It’s a super amazing conference. It’s very, like, intimate. It’s not too they try not to, it’s not too big. And they also don’t have like tiers of tickets, like I know at, like some Adobe conferences and stuff, it’s pretty standard practice to have like, a more expensive ticket where you can go to workshops and stuff. So this one’s like everyone does everything, which is kind of cool. And then yeah, it’s just, it’s chill. It’s like lots of speakers. There’s only one stage and after parties, it’s fun.

Iva Mikles  

So these conferences usually create contact more as, like, as you mentioned, like friendships or good connections as well, maybe for future collaboration, or did you have some, like big jobs from something like this as well.

Sarah Beth Morgan  

I don’t remember necessarily having big jobs from it. Because last time I went, I was actually staff at that company. Oddfellows. So I personally didn’t get much work from it. But I think I made a lot of friend connections through it, which I still have today. And we’ve been doing some passion projects together and stuff. I’m actually I’m in like a Slack channel with some freelancers. Who can last time Yeah, no, it’s really cool. And we’re making an animation actually, for this, this current current upcoming blend fest, and we’re gonna like, release it a couple days before the festival. So it is really cool, like very creative community. And we’re all kind of connecting and excited about it. So

Iva Mikles  

good. Yeah. Cool. I’m curious to see it. So I’m looking forward.

Sarah Beth Morgan  

Yeah, I’ll post it on my Instagram. I’ll send it to you,

Iva Mikles  

then we can share it. Yeah,

Sarah Beth Morgan  

that’d be awesome.

Iva Mikles  

When you also mentioned when you started in the company, right after school, was that you just apply through normal channels? Or was it someone recommended you?

Sarah Beth Morgan  

That’s a good question. So I feel like the school I went to Savannah College of Art and Design is actually one of the leading schools for motion graphics in the US at least. So I think a lot of companies look to that school for students, which was, like I said, pretty lucky on my part. So I think I just reached out to them via email, or they reached out to me, I can’t remember. But from there, I didn’t like, instantly have a job. I had like an interview process. We had like, I think a phone call or a Skype call or something. And then from there, I actually visited their studio in Los Angeles to kind of get a feel for it and kind of like a mutual interview. Like they were like, do you like our studio? And do we like you kind of thing? And yeah, it ended up working out. They, I feel very grateful for getting that job. Because I do feel like looking back on my portfolio. It wasn’t anything close. I mean, obviously, I have more experienced out, but I wasn’t doing illustration. I was doing more stop motion. And I was trying my hand at after effects. It was like not very comfortable. And all the programs I was using. So yeah, I think they saw like potential in me. But I wasn’t like an all star out of school. That’s for sure.

Iva Mikles  

So what was the thing when you were like, Okay, I need to learn this, or what was this kind of like one of the bigger revelations like, oh, wow, I need to know this.

Sarah Beth Morgan  

Yeah. Well, first of all, so gentleman scholar, the company I worked at first, they did a lot of pitch work. So agencies would come to them and be like, Hey, we have this cool job for, I don’t know, like, Patagonia or something. And like, there’s three other agencies pitching on it, we need you to create some designs for it. And if we win it, then you can make it. So we would do these pitches, and they were only like one to two days long. So from there I was, I had to work really fast. I had to create these illustrations super fast. And that’s kind of when I was like, wow, I don’t have the skill level for this. But then over time, you know, doing them, like twice a week for two years. I kind of developed that skill. But in the beginning I was like, I don’t know what I’m doing and I would get frustrated. I would like cry. So not at work, but just

Iva Mikles  

like and how was it for you to develop like the specific style for a character design was it A lot influenced by the companies, or how did it come to you? Because of course, a lot of people talk about like, yeah, the practice and drawing what you like, but when you are actually thinking about it what you like, and what do you implement it in the art style development

Sarah Beth Morgan  

style? Yeah, so I mean, most of the time, like when I was doing a company where they would have like, very specific style directions, so honestly, that’s pretty amazing to start with, they’d be like, we want a character that looks pretty much like this style. And they should be doing this. So it was very clear from the beginning, which actually probably made we made it easier for me to learn. I think having that more like clear direction actually really helps rather than just being like, go do your own thing. Which can be so hard sometimes. So right when I started, that was kind of I was guided. But now with like character design, and all of that, I feel like more people will come to me for the work I’ve already created, because they like something that I’ve done, and given me more flexibility because of that, because they kind of trust my abilities. So now I get to have a lot more fun with it. I mean, obviously, I look to the usual sources of inspiration, like Pinterest and stuff, but I try to kind of expand that and play around with things I’ve seen in like vintage magazines, or, or just mess like a lot of times, I’ll just try to not look at any inspiration because I want to challenge myself. So I don’t know if I answered your question. But

Iva Mikles  

so maybe because sometimes people are like, Oh, should I be more like, you know, round shaves, or more geometric or using on the flat colors and textures and these eyes and that shape of head. And so did you think about something like these? Like, I want to have the look like little bit more geometric and then like,

Iva Mikles  

I don’t know, yeah, in space?

Sarah Beth Morgan  

Yeah. Okay. So I think most of the character design or color palettes or any of that, usually, for me, at least comes from a conceptual basis. So I always try to think I kind of tried to give myself that frame of reference that the studios would give me when I was there. So if they come to me, and they’re like, Yeah, this is an outer, this is an outer space, and we’re advertising toothpaste or something. And let’s see, and we want it to be playful. A lot of times, something like that, I would be like, okay, so toothpaste supposed to feel fresh and cool. So I’ll use cooler colors. From there, like we want it to be quirky. So maybe I will play around more with geometric shapes. So it feels more not realistic. And outer space. I don’t know, like I think I, I would probably come up with a conceptual thing for that too. But I don’t know if you can kind of see like, deductive reasoning with that kind of stuff is super helpful for me. But yeah, I think in general, like a rule that I love playing with four characters, and any any more abstracted look is to kind of use like an equal balance of curves and straights, because it’s pretty more, it’s pretty much the most aesthetically pleasing look you can go for if you kind of balance that out. Well.

Iva Mikles  

Yeah, that’s true. Yeah. Because he had like curves and straights, and then it’s just like, the composition is stronger. Yeah.

Sarah Beth Morgan  

Yeah. And also, like, make things feel more abstracted, I think, because if you’re using just all organic shapes for a character, they’re going to look a lot more realistic. But if you’re playing with a lot of like, really intense straight lines is going to immediately make them feel more stylized, I guess. Yeah. Yeah. And

Iva Mikles  

if you think about them, the overall art style, because as you said, depending also on the on the client work, and then a lot of starving artists are like, not only starving artists are struggling, like to keep the consistent style because we are creators, right? So we can do a lot of things when it’s sometimes hard to stay within one. So how do you keep the the overall consistency in your portfolio? Or how do you present yourself?

Sarah Beth Morgan  

Yeah, no, I that’s such a hard question. Because I do feel like a lot of times my work isn’t consistent. Like I think, maybe it’s just what I post on my Instagram or my my website is more consistent, because that’s the work I like. So for me, maybe it’s less about staying consistent every day and more about just posting the work that feels consistent. Because I do get a lot of clients asking me for things that are like a collage II or more corporate looking and I won’t I probably won’t post that on my website because I don’t want people to hire me for it. But I think it just kind of like the actual style itself came over time. I kind of realized like, oh, this works for me, these curves in the streets are working out. So I’m going to kind of implement that technique a lot moving forward. I don’t think it’ll Come immediately, like in school, I don’t think it’s necessary to have that strict style and then kind of pigeon holing yourself into that one style to begin with, because you want to have room to explore. So I try not to stick necessarily to a very strict style because I, if I want to develop it over time, like I gotta be more flexible.

Iva Mikles  

Yeah, for sure. And do you have some artworks, which clients always like, go through, like, Oh, I really like this one, or what is the thing they point out? Is it like the eyes or the color palette?

Sarah Beth Morgan  

That’s a real question. Yeah. I think like, especially with corporate people, or people who want like more tech companies, they always look at this project and good for Google. And it’s like Google Privacy is on my website, I think. And honestly, like I was art directing that. So I didn’t actually draw a lot of the characters. So sometimes they point to it. They’re like, we love this style. You did. And I’m like, I did help a lot with it. But there were a lot of other artists helping with this. So it’s not just me. But they tend to love that like clean vector style with like little dot eyes and really simplify it. Yeah, very simplified and played like the animation is playful. So it kind of goes a little bit more life. But that’s one that people point to a lot for sure.

Iva Mikles  

Yeah. And so what type of client works? Do you do mostly so people can understand that the scope of your work?

Sarah Beth Morgan  

Yeah. So when I was a student studios, I did a lot more like corporate stuff, because bigger clients will go to a studio. But now that I’m freelance, a lot of the projects I do, I actually usually will get hired by us another animation studio. And they’ll be working on a product like last couple weeks, I was working on a project for a bank, but it was very, like playful, fun, like lots of prospective characters playing sports and stuff like that. But for the most part, yeah, my clients are animation studios who will hire me for like two weeks at a time or something. And then now I’m kind of moving into like some more editorial stuff. So what did I did, I did a couple things for like, Instagram posts for different companies, which has been fun, because I love that square format. And yeah, I have like a mixed bag of clients, because then I also just did a, like a long term 12 week course I just created. So just all types of types of things. Editorial animation, school stuff. Yeah. So yeah, and

Iva Mikles  

if you kind of compare the the percentage split in, like your works and income stream, so how do you split your time and money coming in? Basically? Where is?

Sarah Beth Morgan  

Yeah, um, well, I would say like animation studio? Well, first of all, I have been working on that course for like nine months, and I’ve only been freelance for like, a year and a half. So I haven’t I if I were going to split it up percentage wise, it would be like mostly creating a course. But I think moving forward, my percentage would be more like, probably 70% animation studio work, because a lot of people in the industry know me for that. So they’re gonna hire me on a day rate for that. And then since editorial doesn’t pay very well, I don’t take a lot of them unless they’re really good. So maybe more like 30%. That. So? Yeah, and

Iva Mikles  

most of your clients are from us or around the world, like the animation studios, as you said, the contacts are usually in us, right?

Sarah Beth Morgan  

Yeah, most Yeah. Most of them in the US. I actually just I work with one in Canada a lot. And then I’ve gotten some inquiries from some places in like London, but I haven’t actually worked with them yet. So I do get a few requests. But I have yet to do that. I don’t actually know how that would work. Like, money wise, tax wise, money wise, you probably know better than me. So I have to ask you some questions about that.

Iva Mikles  

It’s possible to do you can definitely do the cross country things. And yeah,

Sarah Beth Morgan  

yeah, it would be really cool to work with some more international companies, because I just, I feel like they’re probably totally different projects. Yeah, maybe

Iva Mikles  

not. Well, it depends. Probably when you want to have they want to hire you. They want you do what you do. So

Sarah Beth Morgan  

that’s true. So yeah, but yeah,

Iva Mikles  

but if you actually like now, talking about the your daily routines or weekly routines, how does your normal day look like or you know,

Sarah Beth Morgan  

yeah, no, it’s actually been so funny because I ever since leaving my job back in, I guess it was like a little over a year now. My days have been kind of totally different. Like when I’m working at an animation studio. It’s more like I get up, have my coffee. maybe walk my dogs or my husband will do it. And then I will just start working around like nine and work have like an hour lunch break finish around five, that’s my day. It’s very, it’s more like strict, I can’t go anywhere because I have a big, like 22 inch Cintiq that’s behind my computer right now. I can’t really take that anywhere with me, so I have to stay home. But if I’m doing like an editorial job, I can grab my iPad, I won’t have like a strict day random on I’ll grab my iPad, I’ll go to like a co working space or a coffee shop and like sketch out my ideas. And I actually, I mean, I love working for animation studios, but being able to switch up my schedule like that is super nice. It’s a little harder to stay motivated sometimes. But yeah, like, this week, I’ve been more chill because I’m working on an editorial project. And I can have like, a dentist appointment in the middle of the day. And it’s not a big deal, you know, or go to lunch with a friend. But lately I’ve been using to stay organized. I use Google Calendar, like all the time, but then I also got this like, like, just like a little calendar, it’s like has like it’s like a sticky note, basically. And I can just put it on the top of my computer so I can see my schedule and cross things out. Or something nice about just like having it

Iva Mikles  

just like physical like, check the list. I’m like I don’t have to do list but I finish it. there so I can check. It’s better. I like walk dog. Yeah. Like, at least hit done something. That’s good. Yeah.

Sarah Beth Morgan  

Yeah, no, I really like that like something about like writing it down. And actually crossing it out is so nice. I do I use them for like a long list or to do list that I can have anywhere with me. I use Dropbox Paper. I don’t know if you’ve ever used that.

Iva Mikles  

That’s one I don’t use I use Asana or Oh, yeah, or these type of things. So yeah, or Google Drive for other stuff like document. Yeah. Yep. So you can cross it over there.

Sarah Beth Morgan  

Yeah, I know. It’s like the same kind of thing as like a Google document, basically. So Dropbox Paper I really like because it doesn’t look like a page. It’s just like an endless stream of thought. And it has like checkboxes you can add in, and it will like connect with other accounts. So if you want to drop your Google Drive thing in there, it’ll like preview it for you. And it’s, it’s really handy. But for the most part, I just like have a long list of things I can check off. And then I have the app on my phone too. So if I’m walking around, I can still check things off. I have my work stuff on there. But I also have like a document for watering my plants like oh, did I water my rubber plant today? Yes. Yes. Well, yeah, those are like my favorite tools. I I also sometimes use Have you heard of toggle?

Iva Mikles   

Yeah, I use? Yeah, every day. Yeah. Yeah, I

Sarah Beth Morgan  

use toggle for. If a client’s like, we need your hours, so I use that sometimes. Not all the time. But yeah, you probably know more about it than I do. Like, yeah, that’s playing, I’m done.

Iva Mikles  

Yeah, for me, it’s also like, so I know how much I spend on I don’t know, editing videos, or you know, so you can actually think like, what do you want to outsource if you’re building your own project? Or you know, if this doesn’t make sense, because you spent so much time on it? So maybe this project is not the right thing or where you can? Yeah, yeah. Or procrastinating when you’re like, I’m like playing and drawing forever. And it’s like, okay, I should be like, really? Finished.

Sarah Beth Morgan  

That’s, that’s impressive that you like are recording even you’re like playtime on it. Like, I should do that.

Iva Mikles  

I know. I mean, that’s like the playtime but when you’re working on an illustration, sometimes, you know, it’s hard to say when it’s done right. When you’re like just let it be.

Sarah Beth Morgan  

Yeah, you’re like, wait, I have spent 10 hours on this today. What I should probably stop.

Unknown Speaker  

Yeah, so that happens.

Sarah Beth Morgan  

So many good tools out there. Yeah, yeah, that’s

Iva Mikles  

true. So it’s like what can help us in our daily life? That’s always good. Because when you’re in a big company, then it’s just different you schedule meetings or you just work with other people. But when you are by yourself, you have to be more disciplined by mistake.

Sarah Beth Morgan  

Yeah, definitely. Yeah, it is. I do feel like if I had a different personality this will be so much harder for me but I’m very like Type A I want to make listen organize everything and I haven’t had Yeah, it’s been nice. I haven’t had as much trouble like focusing as I thought, but I almost that’s almost like bad to a point where I’m like working at night now. So I should probably get a handle on that I should use toggle more.

Iva Mikles  

So you would know like how much because then you can charge your clients more if you are like spending a lot of time on the project if it is big project and

Sarah Beth Morgan  

yeah, yeah, definitely.

Iva Mikles  

So do you take weekends off or do you also work during the weekend?

Sarah Beth Morgan  

I really tried to like, especially now, when I was making that online course, it was different because I was I’m not getting paid like it’s I’m getting paid royalties when it’s done. But I wasn’t really getting paid like hourly for while I was doing it. So I wasn’t maybe as efficient with my time, or I had way more to do than I expected. So I would be like, trying to hit deadlines on weekends. And it was very exhausting, a little bit burnt out, but I’m excited. Yay. But now like, with my normal, like, especially if I’m working on a day rate with animation clients, I definitely wouldn’t work the weekends unless I charged them. You know, overtime. Yeah. So

Iva Mikles  

do you have some tips about like, calculating how much to charge? Or do you ask the clients? Like, what is your budget? Or, you know, some tips for people who are like, I don’t know, it’s too hard?

Sarah Beth Morgan  

Yeah. That’s a great question. Because it is hard for me. When I, especially with editorial stuff, like the usage rights, and all of that I’m still learning, I usually try to think about the client, when they if it like an editorial job comes to me if it’s like a big company, like I don’t know, like McDonald’s or something. I don’t know, just as an example, you know, they have a lot of money. I will think more about like, the usage rights, like, oh, this could be seen all over the world. And here’s how much I’m gonna charge I think about like, what their budget could potentially be. But if it’s like a startup coming to me, obviously, I’m going to try to be a little more lenient, I’ll tell them like, this is what I probably charge, but like, I can negotiate, or I, but typically, I will ask their budget beforehand, just because you never know, like, maybe a startup has like a huge investor and

Iva Mikles  

funny seeds of investments. And they’re like, Yeah, we have big budget for days. And yeah.

Sarah Beth Morgan  

And then I if I didn’t ask their budget to begin with, I probably would be like, Oh, I’ll charge them a low amount, you know, because they’re a startup, but then really, they have a lot of money. So I, I usually try to ask them their budget. Like, even if they don’t come to me with a budget, they’re like, they will ask, like, even if someone’s sorry, let me start over. If someone’s initial email is, hey, like, we love your work. Here’s our project. Will you tell us your fee? Usually I respond with what’s your budget, instead of telling them my fee first, because I, I definitely want to just like see if I can get some information out of them before I budget. So yeah,

Iva Mikles  

because I mean, it’s also really much depends on how it’s going to be used, as you said, like if it is going to be I don’t know, illustration on a product which brings them profit, or is it big advertising campaign, which again, brings them profit to sell their product? Or if it is just something small? In the I don’t know, presentation page that is probably different. So yeah, all of these like the rights and use and how much value are you actually bringing to the company, then a lot of people don’t think about?

Sarah Beth Morgan  

Yeah, no, it’s so true. And I didn’t think about that until I went freelance. And then I was getting like some inquiries for bigger things that I then I expected, I was like, What do I do? So I definitely reached out to some other artists in my industry, who I like branched out into different, like editorial work. Because for motion stuff, there’s just like a standard of like a certain, like a day rate for eight hours. And it’s very, like, there’s a very, I wouldn’t say like set rule or set number for people, but they’re like, there’s a standard like 350 to 500 a day like or 350 to 450 day you’re more beginner. And then from there, it’s it moves up to like, if you’re working for a bigger corporate company like Google, you can. I’m not saying that people should charge like 1000 or 1200 a day, but I’ve know people who do.

Iva Mikles  

Because of course, it depends on your experience as well, like how long were in the industry. And so there are many factors. Also the location. Yeah, because if you have a company from a country, maybe they don’t have such a high prices, that it’s also just totally different to work with the client. But I think it’s always good, as you mentioned, to say, some amount, you know, so you kind of know that it’s not $20. But also people have the vision like yeah, it should be at least around 300, you know, per day, because you are bringing the value and stuff.

Sarah Beth Morgan  

Yeah, no, it definitely like having some reference from other people like what they’re doing to and then from the client is super helpful, because it’s just too much work on my end to like, calculate this budget without any knowledge. So, yeah,

Iva Mikles  

so do you have an agent now or no, you don’t work with an agent.

Sarah Beth Morgan  

I don’t right now. I’m talking I’ve talked to a couple places about potentially working with them or I don’t even know what it’s called, like being I’m, like, wrapped by them. Yeah. Is that the word? Yeah. But I haven’t done that yet. Because I feel like I’ve been doing all these weirder projects like the school of motion course, and Skillshare class, like, I don’t know if I would need to be wrapped for something like that. So I’m trying to decide if that’s something I want to do. But I am not quite sure if like the full benefit of it for me, besides maybe just a big project,

Iva Mikles  

maybe you just different projects, you know, because the projects you bring by yourself, then it’s kind of yours. And then whatever, the agent would bring them usefully, the percentage there.

Sarah Beth Morgan  

Yeah,

Iva Mikles  

I mean, it might be bigger. Yeah, that might be the thing, or just like a different area of the industry. You know, if you have a background in motion design, maybe they will bring you I don’t know, to textiles.

Sarah Beth Morgan  

Yeah, no, that’s so true. And also like different countries. So I one thing I have been thinking about is like getting a rep in, like the UK or Europe or something so that they have more connections there because I don’t really, I think I have like my US market. Kind of like I know what I want to do here. But I wouldn’t have any idea who to talk to and Europe or the UK. Yeah,

Iva Mikles 

yeah, exactly. Plus, then you have to have an agent probably in each area, because you have different languages in Europe. So yeah, that’s so true. Much easier in the US. You know, it’s so big. You just have the same language. You can go anywhere. And yeah, like your move one hour and different.

Sarah Beth Morgan  

Like, wait. Yeah, do you? Do you do a lot of work in the US?

Iva Mikles  

Yeah, yeah, I work with some clients, from us. And then I work with sponsorships and affiliate deals from us. But yeah, then I have the local clients here in Switzerland, too. It’s different. But that’s what I said. Like, you can definitely work cross country, but they also No, Agent yet. And I was thinking that maybe might be interesting, because just to branch out different areas, because right now, with the clients around like startups and the corporate and yeah,

Sarah Beth Morgan  

yeah. And I feel like, especially with agents, they can get you bigger editorial jobs, because I feel like all the little edits, like the jobs that I’m getting for editorial are like $800, or something like they’re not in there, like for like a week. I mean, I’m not like a week of work, but I’m like, working on it slowly over a week. And then it’s like, not even, I mean, it’s 800. Still good. But I think you could get like a usage rate job where they’re using it all across the country or all across the world. And then you get that extra boost, which I don’t know how to negotiate that stuff. I feel like having an agent for that would be really super helpful.

Iva Mikles  

Exactly. Because they can’t advise you like about the USB drives? Because yeah, we kind of when you are talking about these, you’re like, Okay, so how much do they charge? How much other people are charging? And I think the agent can kind of, yeah, think about, like, what type of it is, what is your background? What is the location and all of that? I think that will help.

Sarah Beth Morgan  

That’s so true. And also like, do they? Like, I think companies will go to the rep and be like, Do you have anyone for this? So they know already that they’re gonna be probably paying a higher amount. So they don’t try to like lowball them or anything, which would be nice.

Iva Mikles  

Because sometimes that’s hard. So yeah, so guys who are listening right? Or watching this video? Yeah, check out maybe some agent would be good. And maybe do have some recommendation about portfolio building, as you mentioned that the when you were building stuff on the on the website or on Instagram, how did you decide what to put together? And do you also put together I don’t know, PDF? For companies, when they ask you like, can you send something over? Or do you just send them to your website?

Sarah Beth Morgan  

Yeah, that’s a great question. Ah, I when I first started, like, especially if you’re right out of school, I would say put work up that you’re proud of. But if you don’t have like a super large amount of work, maybe do a side project to put on there. Because when I did come out of school, I was only posting student work that I had done in class. And I feel that it didn’t necessarily represent the kind of work I wanted to do. It was like, bumper like for motion graphics, like bumpers for dunkin donuts or something. And I, I just that wasn’t like my style or anything. So maybe putting that work up. But then also putting up a case study project of like a passion project you did with your friends would be a really good suggestion. And then when you get further into your career, kind of making sure to go back on your website and getting rid of those projects that you don’t want to do anymore. Because I had like stop motion projects and stuff up on my website for so long. And then I was like, I like stop motion, but I’m not going to become a stop motion director so I don’t need this on my site. And so kind of just curating it a bit more. Trying to show work that fits your personality. Like if you wanting to be something more humorous and funny. Try to post that kind of work. I don’t know if this is helping, but just Yeah, curating.

Iva Mikles  

So it’s kind of like commissioning yourself as well. What do you want to do when you, as you mentioned, like, for example, editorial illustration. So taking an article and really what it’s about, and then like, okay, how can I communicate the the Wii? Yeah, image, and then you can make, I don’t know, three of them or so. And then you have a little bit of portfolio there.

Sarah Beth Morgan  

Yeah. And even showing that process, like, what were your sketches? What was your concepting phase? Like? What did it look like? Because that can give clients a little peek into, like, what they’re gonna get from you to, instead of just sending them? Oh, here’s the final thing, like you can’t make comments on it. And you’re, you’re sending them rounds of sketches and like your ideation. So it’s more of a collaboration, which is nice. And then, yeah, I don’t know, just just being more transparent about your process is really helpful. Yeah, yeah, definitely.

Iva Mikles  

I would also this catches on your website, if people haven’t seen your website yet.

Sarah Beth Morgan  

I have some pages with sketches on it, especially like for the motion projects that are directed, I’ll also have like animated gifts of process from the animators, and I always credit other people who are working on it. But then a lot of my process is through my Instagram too, because I just feel like that’s where more people are looking like, they people, like clients will look at my website, probably. But if just the everyday like person who works at an agency, they’re going to be looking at my Instagram, probably. So putting a lot of that out there has been really helpful for me. So.

Iva Mikles  

So your marketing is we talked about a little bit social media. So you had some contacts from the conferences, the agencies, then you have website, Instagram, are you also on the other social media, like more active because everyone has almost everything, but we are usually active somewhere, like mostly like Instagram, I guess.

Sarah Beth Morgan  

Yeah, mainly Instagram. But then I do have a Twitter that I don’t use super often, but I do. It’s more conversational with people in my industry. So like keeping those connections alive through there is really helpful. And then, just to kind of add to this, like, the passion project, things really, really help. My husband and I collaborated on an animation piece for this guy, Dan Stevens like Bori, no, three years ago, or something called cocoon. And it was so hard. It was like the hardest thing because we had jobs, we had full time jobs. And it was a two minute animation, which is pretty long for our industry. And it was just us too. But when we released it, I got so much great feedback that people were coming to us for that style. They wanted to work with us together. And we don’t we haven’t really done projects together since then. But just having our name out there together and like getting some awards for it has been super helpful, like advancing both of our careers. So passion projects, people.

Iva Mikles  

Yeah,

Iva Mikles  

they have some personal project as well. So for the portfolio, and how do you then do it with time when you are thinking like, Okay, I have a client work, but I also want to do my own stuff, because that’s not paid, but then it might get something in the future. So how do you kind of manage the time here?

Sarah Beth Morgan  

Yeah, it’s super hard. So I think, well, after I did cocoon, which was, I think the best thing about that was that there was someone we had to send updates to. So if it was just Tyler and I working on it together, we probably would have never finished it. But there was like this external pressure of like someone who was producing it, who was like, Hey, guys, just checking in. So having kind of some accountability is really helpful. But ever since then, I’ve kind of been focusing more on smaller passion projects, because I know I’ll actually get them done. So a lot of times like now that I’m freelance, I’ll set aside like a morning like a Friday morning to just do like my own personal illustrations for a couple hours, which is really therapeutic, but also helpful for my portfolio. And yeah, so kind of just actually scheduling those times in during my work day has been great, because if I full time staff somewhere, I have to do it on the weekend, which I still did, but it makes you a little more tired. So just kind of Yeah, like scheduling it in as a chunk of time rather than just having it on the backburner is gonna help so much.

Iva Mikles  

Yeah, that’s so true. Yeah. But because we need to have that in the portfolio. And over the years, you just build more and more. So of course at the beginning is harder, and then it gets easier later on because you just have a big pile of artwork.

Sarah Beth Morgan  

And so yeah, I feel like in the beginning, like especially when I was at gentleman scholar, the first company I worked at, and I was doing those pitches all the time. It was really hard for me to create all these side projects. But I think kind of like you said, you’re doing with this, this video series, I started doing it, I was like, I need to post, like one illustration every day during the week. And that was really hard because I would I would say, like maybe an hour after work because I was stuff and just kind of knock something out or, or use something old that I did and kind of repurpose it, and then post that to Instagram. And that really helped kind of build a following and also get people to notice me. So yeah,

Iva Mikles  

for sure. And will these the thing maybe you wish you knew before you started or kind of like advice to young self?

Sarah Beth Morgan  

Yeah, oh, gosh, I think just telling myself that. I have no idea. Like, you have no idea where you’re going to be that probably sounds pessimistic, but just when I left school, I thought, Oh, I’m gonna be an animator, I’m gonna be a motion graphics artists. That’s my career when that’s like where it’s going to end. But I had no idea that I was going to be like, fluctuating so much. And I would become an illustrator, I had no idea. So I guess just kind of telling myself be patient, your career is gonna look so much different than you expected. But in a good way. Wouldn’t be would be cool, because I think I just got so frustrated, because right out of school, I wasn’t like the best I could be. But you’re just just know that you’re going to keep improving over time, you’re going to mess up and you’re going to fail, but you’re going to get somewhere better. Because you just inevitably get better over time. So

Iva Mikles  

because I think at the beginning is also a little bit hard in the way that you might not have like the finances to kind of support yourself to take time to actually develop the portfolio. So would you have advice there like either to save up or to live with your parents for a while, or have a part time job when you’re building up the portfolio?

Sarah Beth Morgan  

Yeah, um, I think if you have a creative job already keeping that job and or having that job. Well, I guess if you’re right out of school, it doesn’t make sense. But if you can get some kind of creative job to start that will kind of be like your boot camp, because you’re pushing yourself to do projects that you might not have otherwise done, which I think helped me because if I had gotten out of school, and I had been freelance right away, I probably would never become an illustrator. Because I, I was basically like, forced to do that kind of work at my job, which helped a lot. So kind of maybe if you can get a job, or you’re even if it’s a job that you’re not 100% Like, this isn’t your dream job, kind of sticking with it and seeing where it takes you can be really helpful, because you might surprise yourself. But then on top of that, like if, if it’s if you can get one that’s more part time, and then do your own portfolio work. That’s amazing, too. But I don’t know, I think having that time where I was struggling in the beginning actually really helped me like I wasn’t making that much money. I was living in a gross apartment, and I was working really long hours. Like, I don’t think that everyone should have to do that. But it did. It was a learning experience for me and pushed me part further. So I think that helped.

Iva Mikles  

Yeah, because then you know, what do you want?

Iva Mikles  

What you don’t want? Yeah, exactly. Yeah.

Iva Mikles  

And then one of the last questions, right? If you think about the future, what would you want to do? Or like the scenario in five to 10 years, your dream project or dream scenario?

Sarah Beth Morgan  

Yeah, gotcha. Um, that’s a great question. Oh, I used to think that I wanted to, like own a studio or be like an art director. But now that I’m freelance, and I’m really enjoying just drawing all the time. One of my goals is to do a mural at some point. I’ve never done one of those. And I don’t even know if I’d want to like paint it fully by myself. That sounds really hard. But designing more for like a large scale would be really cool. Or, I don’t know, maybe I think I would love to in the next five to 10 years, do more conferences, like be more of a voice for women in the industry? Because there’s not, I mean, there, obviously there are but there could be more. So just kind of putting myself out there more and do a bit more advocating and have it be less about only my art and kind of do something with my art for the greater good would be really nice.

Iva Mikles  

For the community. Yeah.

Iva Mikles 

So yeah,

Iva Mikles  

I think that sounds great. So yeah, I’m looking forward to see some of your murals in the future and told you

Sarah Beth Morgan  

so thank you so much. So thank

Iva Mikles  

you so much for being here. It was super fun. Yay. Thanks

Sarah Beth Morgan  

so much for having me. Oh, it

Iva Mikles  

was super nice. And thanks everyone who was watching or listening and see you guys in the next episode. Bye. So hope you guys enjoy the interview. And don’t forget to check out the Skillshare class, which I mentioned before, to help you grow your creative career and if you’re Not a member yet. You can get two months for free if you go through the link artsideoflife.com/skillshare. Until next time, thank you and bye

Hi, I am Iva (rhymes with “viva”). I am an artist, illustrator, founder of Art Side of Life®, and Top Teacher on Skillshare. Since 2009 I've worked as an illustrator, character designer, art director, and branding specialist focusing on illustration, storytelling, concepts, and animation. I believe that we are all creative in infinite numbers of ways, so I've made it my mission to teach you everything I know and help either wake up or develop your creative genius. Learn more about me.

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