Personal Development

Camera Person Illustration

The most successful freelancers are motivated and disciplined. It is up to you to sustain your own career and maintain your reputation. For that reason it is important that you invest in your own personal development.

As a freelancer, you will be running your own business so it’s important that you possess both Hard Skills and Soft Skills.

Hard Skills

Hard Skills are competencies such as numeracy, literacy, bookkeeping, and specific job-related technical abilities like camera operating, make-up application or software proficiencies, depending on your specific area of work. Hard Skills are teachable, measurable abilities that can be clearly defined and are often learned rather than possessed naturally.

Soft Skills

Soft Skills (sometimes called people skills or interpersonal skills) are competencies that are associated with activities such as communication, problem-solving, and teamwork. These are the skills that define your relationships with other people, your life and your work. Examples of important soft skills include: communication, adaptability and problem solving, leadership, teamwork, time management, emotional intelligence, organisation, creativity, stress management, active listening and empathy.

Proactive Learning

Having a proactive approach to learning as a freelancer means that you are always seeking to improve your skills. The proactive approach i.e. enthusiastically seeking out knowledge in an area that interests you, as opposed to ‘reactive learning’ where you are doing so out of necessity, means that you will be naturally more engaged in the training.

In Ireland we have a number of government supported training organisations in the screen and animation sectors.

Animation Skillnet supports the growth of Ireland’s animation, games and VFX sectors through the provision of cutting edge training in digital animation, games, VFX, media and post production.

Immersive Technologies Skillnet provides subsidised skills development solutions to the Immersive Technology sectors (Games, VR/AR/MR etc.) in Ireland through high-end, bespoke training courses that are designed and delivered by industry specialists.

Screen Skillnet provides subsidised training solutions to the film, television and post production sectors in Ireland through high-end, bespoke training courses, both publicly and in-company that are designed and delivered by industry specialists.

Fís Éireann/Screen Ireland. As the national agency for the Irish film, television drama, animation and documentary industry, Fís Éireann/Screen Ireland is the creative partner to the sector, investing in talent, creativity and enterprise. They are inspired by original storytelling that will emotionally move audiences at home and abroad. Through a wide range of practical funding supports across development, production, distribution, promotion and skills development, Screen Ireland supports the sector at every stage. They support filmmakers in their creative pursuit to share valuable artistic, cultural and commercial stories on screen.

Gréasán na Meán Skillnet is a Media training network that provides subsidised high-end training to employers, employees, freelancers, and jobseekers. It runs regular courses, in both practical and business skills. It also supports networking events and conferences for the media sector.


Networking is the process of interacting with others to exchange information and develop professional or social contacts. Networking is especially important in the screen and animation industries where, as a freelancer, you are constantly forging your own career path.

Networking can happen formally or informally. Formal networking includes job interviews and introductory meetings.

Informal networking can happen at festivals, social meet-ups and training events.You can also network online. Join the Facebook groups and LinkedIn groups that reflect your interests. Follow the organisations on Twitter. Play an active role in discussions and you will get to know people who can help you.

Screen Ireland is currently developing a crew database that will be an important resource for productions of all different production types looking for crew and services in the Irish screen industry. All freelancers should sign up to this database as it will also advertise upcoming productions and facilitate crew calls and job vacancies. A link to the database will be available on this site as soon as it is available.

Check out the Industry Links page to find out what events are happening across the many animation and screen organisations listed there.

Below are some tips on effective networking:

  1. Have a plan
    Set yourself a goal for the meeting so you know what you want to get out of it.
  2. Do your homework
    Take time to research the person you are meeting with so you have a good sense of the type of work they do.
  3. Prepare your elevator pitch
    Be prepared to market yourself on the spot to demonstrate why you would be an asset to their company/production, highlighting your skills and experience in similar roles.
  4. Ask questions and listen
    Networking is about building relationships. Perhaps you are not right for the role on offer right now but forming a strong connection today means that you may be considered for another role tomorrow.
  5. Follow Up
    Always follow up with your newly formed contact to thank them for taking the time to meet with you.

Screen Ireland is currently developing a crew database that will be an important resource for productions of all different production types looking for crew and services in the Irish screen industry. All freelancers should sign up to this database as it will also advertise upcoming productions and facilitate crew calls and job vacancies. A link to the database will be available on this site as soon as it is available.

First of all, you need to go to places where you will meet industry professionals. A great place to start is to find your relevant Guild to your chosen profession, then link up with them at their next meet up. A directory of guilds, organisations and Networking groups can be found on our Industry Links page here.

Meeting people in the screen industries

Go to talks, festivals, meet-ups or training events, to meet people who work in your chosen area.

You can also network online. Join the Facebook groups and LinkedIn groups that reflect your interests. Follow the organisations on Twitter. Play an active role in discussions and you will get to know people who can help you.


Mentoring can be a fantastic way to benefit from the experience and knowledge of others, as well as helping you focus on your career. Mentoring can help you:

  • Build your network
  • Increase your confidence
  • Improve your communication skills
  • Reflect on your achievements and goals
  • Reflect on the experience and perspectives of others

Career mentor vs a production mentor

A career mentor is someone who mentors you throughout your career. Helping you to navigate your options and career choices. By helping you to reflect on your previous experiences, assess your skills gaps and recognise and acknowledge your achievements.

A production mentor is project specific and they should help you identify your goals during the project and skills gaps you need to address to achieve these. They should also help you find appropriate ways of learning during the project you are working on to achieve these goals. Helping you to review your time on the project once it has been completed.

You can find a mentor informally by identifying the person you would like to be your mentor, and approaching them with your ‘ask’ i.e. why you want a mentor, why them, and the time commitment required.

You can also apply for a more structured mentorship through Screen Ireland’s Screen Mentoring programme which features mentors from across the animation and screen industry in Ireland.

Managing your Health and Wellbeing

Being a freelancer can give you the freedom and flexibility to follow your passion. But it can also come with a lot of uncertainty and pressure. When YOU are your most important business asset, it’s vital that you look after your physical and mental health.

Managing your wellbeing is not a “nice to do”, it’s a NECESSITY.

When you are working for yourself and selling your services you have a finite capacity on what you can deliver. There are only 24 hours in a day and you do need to sleep and eat. Being careful not to overload yourself with work is a form of self care. It’s better to do a small number of projects with full energy and a clear head, than a large number of projects with not enough attention. You run the risk of losing clients if you don’t do your work to the standards expected. It’s ok to turn down a project, no matter your reasons. A simple “I’m fully booked at the moment” can go a long way and that’s ok.

Here are some of the creative industry’s work-related risk factors that can affect your physical and mental health. Are there any that sound familiar to you?

  • Working long hours – It has an impact on our sleep, eating and drinking habits, and how regularly we exercise
  • Insecure work
  • Money worries – at home and at work
  • Isolation – whether it’s working without a team, working remotely or in periods of unemployment
  • Lack of access to HR or similar support
  • Experiencing bullying, racism or harassment
  • Difficulty balancing work with caring responsibilities
  • Feeling unable to ask for support with mental health problems – tight budgets and deadlines can mean there’s pressure not to take sick days
  • Living with a disability or long-term ill health – in film and TV it can be hard to take time to rest and there can be pressure to work the same hours as your peers. You might feel unsupported or unable to ask for time to attend hospital or other medical appointments
  • Repetitive strain injury, eyesight issues and migraines due to long hours in front of a screen, hunched over drawings, stop-motion assets or props in a closed, dark environment

Strategies for Managing your health

When you are busy in the thick of a big project it’s easy to lose track of time. This is a quick route to damaging your health – both mental and physical. Look after yourself by making sure you eat well and get regular exercise and fresh air. While everyone is different, boundaries that keep you focused and maintain your work-life balance are important. Some helpful pointers are:

  • Set a work schedule – you can always adjust the times later to suit your own habit.
    Turn off email alerts when you’re not “at work”
  • Manage your time between clients, friends and family – they all value your attention
  • Take some time out for you to do something that relaxes you
  • If possible, separate your workspace and living space to help you focus
  • Set an alarm for dedicated breaks during the day to get some fresh air, stretch and give your eyes a rest for those working in front of a screen.
  • Freelancers often work alone. This is where building a support network  of like-minded creatives will stand you in good stead. Not only can you look after each other – if you are struggling to deliver a job you’ve got an in-built network of great people who can likely step into the breach also.

Some simple tips to help manage your energy and time:

As freelancers it is easy to forget that there are only 24hrs in the day and we often feel the pressure to push through, to get the job done. Setting positive boundaries and really thinking about how to manage your time and energy can enable you to work more productively whilst supporting your physical and mental wellbeing. Here are some helpful tips on how to find that balance:

  • Make sure you and your client are clear on what you are expected to do, over how long, and for how much before you get started. This should be in writing – ideally on a contract or purchase order, but at the very least on an email.
  • To Do Lists should consist of tasks for home life and work. That way you can create a balance between home and work without feeling like you are neglecting one for the other.
  • Plan your day, do the task you procrastinate over the most first.
  • Remove distractions and set time limits
  • Don’t forget breaks. It’s important you eat and rest to keep your energy and focus. Set break times and add buffer time into your day for if you over run on a task. That way you aren’t overloading your day.
  • Batch related tasks together
  • Separate those you can do yourself, from those you need others to help complete
  • Review & prepare on a week to week basis -thinking time
  • Find your groove- understand how you work – when is your most productive time
  • Say no, no, no. It might sound counterintuitive but constantly saying yes when you don’t have the capacity is counter productive and a huge cause of stress for you and your client in the long run.
  • Prioritise

Managing your mental health

In an already competitive industry, it can feel difficult to talk about a mental health issue. But this can lead to high levels of stress and anxiety.

Building long-term working relationships with colleagues and clients builds trust. Understanding and insight is needed to notice when a colleague is feeling overwhelmed and struggling to cope.

Everyone will experience pressure at work and, in small amounts, pressure can be helpful in increasing productivity and motivating us to meet deadlines, for example.

However, prolonged pressure can lead to stress which can negatively impact our physical and mental health in the longer term – especially if we don’t feel supported.

Identifying triggers and factors that affect your wellbeing negatively is an important first step. Because once you’ve done that, you can proactively address your triggers, spot the signs of poor mental health, work out how you can manage these and get support.

The sooner you recognise the problem, the sooner you can start addressing the issues and seeking support. Talk to someone you trust, who can support you.

  • Seek support. If anxious or depressive feelings are interfering with your life and don’t go away after a couple of weeks, or if they come back frequently for a few days at a time we highly encourage you to seek professional support through your GP or other mental health services (see suggested links below)
  • Manage anxiety and panic with relaxation techniques such as deep breathing. Breathe deeply into your belly for about five seconds. Then hold your breath for another five seconds, then slowly exhale for another five seconds and finally hold your breath again for another five seconds without taking air into your lungs. This can be done for a few minutes every day, even if you fit it in when you’re in line for a coffee or in your bathroom break. 
  • Share your feelings and connect with others when you feel sad, down, worried, angry or frustrated. Sharing feelings may help you realise that you are not alone, find a different perspective, challenge your automatic thinking and find the positives. 
  • Practice mindfulness to focus on the present moment to boost your self-awareness, feel better and enjoy the world around you. 
  • Treat yourself as you would treat a friend to improve your self-esteem and confidence. Pay attention to your self-talk and challenge it by finding healthier perspectives. Change unhealthy self-talk like ‘You will never get a job’ into healthy thoughts after a difficult interview or set back to ‘You are skilled, you will get the next job’. 

Useful links for information and support

Minding Creative Minds is a mental health organisation established to offer a free 24/7 wellbeing and support programme for the Irish Creative Sector. Their 24/7 helpline allows you to access an experienced team of trained counsellors and psychotherapists who can offer short-term intervention and advice covering practical, day-to-day issues that cause anxiety and stress.

Healthy Ireland is a Government-led initiative which aims to create an Irish society where everyone can enjoy physical and mental health, and where wellbeing is valued and supported at every level of society. It offers a range of online resources from an alcohol reduction programme to advice on healthy eating and exercise.

Equality in the workplace from Citizens Information identifies and breaks down the legislation in place relating to workplace harassment and discrimination.

Job Sharing

Job sharing is a form of regular part-time work where two people or more share the responsibilities of one full-time position and split the hours.

In the UK, the organisation supports and facilitates job-sharing in the screen sector. While we don’t have an equivalent structure in Ireland, we were lucky to host co-director Michelle Reynolds during our ‘Flexible Working in the Screen Industry’ conference in 2020. You can see that video here.

A job-share is like a marriage…and sometimes opposites attract!

You need personalities that work well together and can get along. It can be an advantage when job-sharers bring different skills and strengths to the table.

Respect One Another

There may be times when you have different ideas about how to do things or a different opinion of where you see things going, but communicate. Work through any issues together. If you do disagree, work those disagreements out between yourselves.

A job-share won’t work if there is competition between the pair or any ‘one upmanship’. There will be times when you have to compromise but those times will be rare. Even the most experienced people can learn something new when they work collaboratively. Be open to learning and respect that your job-sharers ideas and input are just as valid as your own.

Remember you are both on the same side and working towards the same goal. Provide each other with support and be a sounding board for one another. A successful job-share is one that is built on mutual respect and trust.

Have a similar skillset

You don’t have to have the exact same experience, but you should always have a similar level of experience to your job-share partner. It doesn’t work well when one person is playing the role of mentor to the other, or if one person considers themselves to be more senior to the other.

Apply as a pair

The best way to approach a job-share is as a ready-made pair. If Heads of Production or Talent Managers have to match two job-sharers, that can increase their work-load.


Don’t be afraid to discuss openly what will work for you and what won’t.

Structure your job-share according to the contract

Suit your job-share to the demands of the contract and be flexible when it comes to your employer’s needs. Have an open and honest conversation with your job-share partner and your employer about what you can realistically commit to. Responsibilities need to be split fairly – it won’t work if one half of the job-share is committed to working late on their working days, but the other half of the job-share needs to leave early most days. These are all things to discuss up front.

Communication is key

CC each other in on absolutely every email (or set up a shared email address if you prefer). Be prepared to take the occasional phone call even on days you’re not technically at work. Discuss any really major changes before they happen. Always debrief your job-share partner with comprehensive and detailed handovers both by email and on the phone. If appropriate, send uploads of the latest cut so that your job-share partner is always kept fully up to speed and no work time is wasted.

Present as one voice

Before you start the job, think through exactly how you will present as one voice to your employer. An employer needs to be able to interact with a job-share team in exactly the same way as they would with a single person. Support each other’s decisions and keep any logistical discussions behind the scenes!