Often we get clients that want a solid piece with a limited budget. While this might not be an ideal situation if you love to design, you can still get pretty creative and stay within a specific deadline versus working for pennies on the dollar. Now while I wouldn't recommend you using someone else's work on your demo reel, there are always things you can do to make the template stand out more from what other people are doing AND learn a few new things at the very least.
Know Your Software
While you're able to have a limited understanding in say After Effects, just enough to maybe change your logo and tweak the timing, I feel it's important to understand the software you're using so you can get the most out of it. When I purchase a template, I make sure to study how this artist came about his creation. Some templates offer more than others, just be aware of how they organize, what is happening in each composition, keyframes or expressions they might have used, etc. Making a conscious effort to understand what you're using is a great way of learning. Too often we watch tutorials from A to Z, not really getting down and dirty with experimenting. When figuring out what creates a template, you tend to find new things out on your own. This is important. It's a different type of exercise that teaches you critical thinking. Don't overlook it, there's never one end all solve all template.
Sound, as you should already know, is CRUCIAL. You can have an amazing template and simply switch it with your logo and at the end all you'll have is something many have used, resulting in nothing new. Tweak the color scheme, animate your logo and take a fair amount of time to get the sound right.. and now your animation can potentially come to life, giving it character that's able to breath.
With this animation, using Video Copilot's MotionPulse, I made sure to experiment and add multiple layers of sounds, raising and lowering their channels while playing it back till it sounded "right." I looked at individual aspects of the animation and tried to imagine what they might sound like. Does it swish, pop, stretch, breath, crash, ignite, what is this animation telling me based on it's movements and color alone.
Click on the image above and watch the animation WITHOUT audio, what does it sound like to you? After that, unmute the audio and see if it's similar to what you had in mind or way different. This is that whole creative/forcing you to think thing we as artists should love. Without audio, visually it's very appealing. Give it a decent mix.. it starts to come to life.