The freelance industry in Orlando is booming. The theme parks and attractions located here are having growth spurts all around, installing new lands, rides, shows, and there are rumors that additional theme parks are on their way as well. With all of that hubbub, comes WORK! And lots of it. In fact, over the last year we have seen a majority of our hosted SLICE freelancers get snatched up for long-term and even permanent positions in the industry. And when those typically more well-known freelancers get pulled into long-term work with one company, then the other available freelancers become even more of a commodity. It’s a great time to be freelancing here and there’s LOTS more excitement on the way.
So how do you tap into these jobs? It’s pretty simple actually. You’ve got to get yourself OUT THERE. If you’re a hermit, then you won’t get work. The industry is actually quite small and niche, which means if you are effective in your approach, and your work is good and you’re not a total jerk, then your chances of getting work are really quite strong. How can you be effective in your approach? Here’s a 6 step sure-fire way to get noticed in the Orlando attractions community:
1. Cultivate a great portfolio. The most important thing you MUST do to work in the attractions industry is have a great portfolio full of relevant work. If your portfolio just doesn’t have the “right stuff”, then you won’t get your foot in the door. Your portfolio must appeal to your potential clients; it must show them what you could potentially be doing for THEM and what you’ve successfully done for others. Identify your strengths and weaknesses and tailor your portfolio accordingly. If you like to draw, for example, but your drawings are not as impressive as your other work, TAKE IT OFF YOUR PORTFOLIO. Show only your BEST work. Really analyze your portfolio with these eyes, and be honest with yourself.
2. Make a simple and to-the-point website. The internet is definitely how employers are searching for their creative talent nowadays. So if you don’t have a website or online portfolio, employers will tend to overlook you much easier. Create a website that showcases the particular skill that you want to be hired for. As freelancers, sometimes we can specialize in multiple areas. Maybe you’re an Interior Designer but you also do Creative Writing and Graphic Design on the side. Rather than showcasing all of your variety of work on your site, which could potentially confuse your employers, make sure the majority of work on your site reflects your MAIN FREELANCE FOCUS. It needs to be obvious. Create a big headline on your page that states what you do, for example. The average internet user will spend only a few seconds on a site to see if they’re interested before they hit the BACK button. So to keep them on your site, give them what they’re looking for. Say it quick and say it well.
3. Aim for the right targets. If you’re aiming for the big theme park players right out of the gate and not getting any bites, try aiming at other smaller companies first. Many times if your resume is largely empty, the big companies will be afraid to take a chance on you, so sometimes you need to aim for smaller but well-known companies who will give you a chance. Get those names on your resume, then climb that ladder as you gain experience. How do you get in touch with the right people in the right places? See steps 4, 5, and 6.
4. Attend TEA events. If you’re in the themed entertainment industry, Orlando is a wonderful place to network. The Themed Entertainment Association (TEA) is a great organization who hosts tons of informative and behind-the-scenes style events throughout the year. While they charge about $50-75 for non-members to attend most events, the other attendees are all integral parts of the themed entertainment industry and you’re bound to meet important decision makers in the community as well as other Designers and industry professionals to expand your network with. Don’t forget to bring your business cards, which has your fancy website address on it.
5. Attend the Entertainment Designers Forum. This event is hosted by Universal Studios Art & Design Department each year around February. At this event, a panel of local Orlando Designers discuss their philosophies and processes of designing theme park attractions and shows. Not only is it a fun event to learn from, typically the entire Orlando design community attends and is a fantastic networking opportunity.
6. Attend SLICE’s Speed Networking Event. Ok, I may be a bit biased, but this is one of the best events all year for freelancers to find work. Held every February or March, SLICE hosts a fast-paced event in which creative directors from the themed entertainment industry hold 3 minute “speed interviews” with prospective freelancers. Some of the companies who’ve conducted interviews at this event in the past include: Nickelodeon, SeaWorld, Universal Studios, Disney Entertainment, Falcon’s Treehouse, Ripley Entertainment, and lots more. Every year, we get rave reviews from freelancers AND interviewers, saying it’s the most productive 2 hours they’ve spent all year.
By Melody Matheny, SLICE Founder and Freelance Designer