After a few years of being on the books i tried my hand at freelancing (or as a collegue put it to me, Wacom pen for hire) and subsequently really enjoyed it. I was fortunate enough to get back to back work over a fairly long period of time and gained an experience completely different from contracted work. It's still animating, but there is a certain level of freedom and personal responsibility, or isolation for lack of a better word. Not isolation in a depressing Howard Hues way, rather, more Rambo.
In a job were you have a week to block and final you don't really have time to learn the pipe, your very much reliant on what you can bring to the table. Some of the smaller studios don't have an in house animator. They have cohorts of 3D artist so they had surprisingly good pipelines for there company size, there was a lack of any substantial animation focused tools which makes sense considering these companies don't employ permanent animators.
Autodesk's maya has gotten better over the years but still it's greatly enriched by the vast number of scripts and tools created by the community, some of which are fantastic and free. I realised more than ever that my everyday bag of maya scripts and tools is a life saver. The time it takes me to set up my scripts/tools and copy them into the correct folders (something that sounds so simple and yet there is always some new issue that prolongs the process agonisingly) far outweighs the time that is saved by me using my tools. If i could advise anyone who starts there first freelance job, it would be to make sure you have your tools with you and ready to use, nothing is more daunting than a bare bones maya and a few days to block and final a shot.
Now First blood is over i look forward to my future freelance jobs whenever that will be. For now it’s contracted work on an amazing project, Disney's Jungles Book.