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Several sketches and studies of human eyes.

Desirée Scheper – Doing commissions while in Bootcamp


  • Student Journal
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  • Animation Production


University is expensive. It doesn’t matter where you go, or what you study, in the end getting a level of higher education costs money that those of us attending rarely have lying around. I don’t have to tell you that. As your parents and friends might urge, it’s an idea to get a small job alongside your coursework to help cover for the adventures you’re bound to have. Nothing beats doing some work in a café with friends, but someone has to pay for that tea. If you’re like me, and wouldn’t want to be dragged back to customer service by the ankles even if they begged, there is an alternative pot of gold by the rainbow – commissions.

Most of us will have heard of or done commissions before even getting to university. For those who haven’t, let me explain. Commissions are a delightful way to practise, have fun, and get a bit of cash. Whether online or in person, people can pay you to draw, animate, craft, (etc.) something for them. You get to set your own terms and conditions, set your prices, and decide what to take on and what to pass up. Granted, it is a little competitive and hard to get started without regulars, but it’s a great way to do paid work alongside your studies without delivering pizzas.

I’ll spare you the lecture of how to get them, there are plenty of people who know more about that online than me, but I will tell you about my experience doing them during my first year.

Year One of BA (Hons) Animation Production is affectionately nicknamed ‘Bootcamp’. If that brings up images of grizzled drill sergeants yelling at you as you climb over walls and crawl through mud pits, you are surprisingly close. Our tutors aren’t terrifying like that, thankfully, but the work is going to get you in shape faster than anything else. The tutors guide you through a series of exercises and assignments to get everyone up to speed and on the same level in record time, so that you can find out what you like to do as quickly as possible before you start learning how to specialise in Year Two. If you already know what you want to do – great! But you still have to learn how to do everything else too, just so you can be extra supportive and understanding of the other departments you’ll have to work with one day.

Anyone who has completed Year One can tell you this – Bootcamp is hard. Ask any Animation student about the flour sack exercise and you can actually see the light leaving their eyes in real time. However, if you follow it up with, ‘What did you think of Bootcamp? Did you improve?’ you’ll be in for the tangent of a lifetime as they whip out their Instagram and show you how they improved fast enough to get whiplash by the second month.

Bootcamp takes time, as does making sure you relax and unwind to avoid burnout. Doing commissions is a very laid-back way of making some money to pay for fun excursions with friends and nice takeaway meals for when you just don’t feel like cooking. Because you get to set your own deadlines for them, I found it very easy to run them alongside my university work. Usually, I’d just message my clients back between lectures or on my breaks, and work on their drawings in the evenings I’d have free or on a weekend. Depending on what kind of work you offer and how fast you work, you can make a decent amount as well.

Some people don’t like to talk about how much money they make on their commissions, but it is very important in my opinion to make sure everyone gets paid fairly for their work and to set realistic expectations for how much you can do and get alongside Bootcamp. While my price list is too long to put here, I recommend looking up artists you admire and look at their list. Copy their prices, don’t undersell yourself! In my busier weeks I made flat-out no money, but right after hand-ins, or when I was ahead of my university work, I made about £300 a month doing logo design, merch design, OC drawings, and a few animations for streamers. It was stressful at times when a client had a cool idea but a tight deadline that I suddenly had to fit alongside uni deadlines, but if anything, it has taught me a lot about time management. And don’t forget – you can add this experience in your cv!

Deciding if you want to do commissions alongside Bootcamp is everyone’s own choice, and it’s one you shouldn’t take lightly. It can be a lot to manage and add onto your workload if you aren’t careful. Bootcamp is a lot and my recommendation from experience would be to take the first term to just get settled; see how you find the workload and social balance before you even think of doing work on the side.

Commissions are a great way to get a bit of extra cash. But in the end, it is still a job and with Bootcamp being as intense as an obstacle course in the rain, it will be hard to do.

Something to think about

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