How I Became An Animator On YouTube (And How You Can Too)

It's true what they say - you only get out of it what you put in it. Becoming a successful animator on YouTube is no exception. While this career is fun and rewarding on many levels, it's also very difficult to gain traction on video platforms like YouTube.
how to become an animator

This is mainly due to YouTube’s algorithm. They boost longer videos from people that frequently post AND tend to get a lot of engagement. And as anyone would quickly figure out, posting an all new, 8 minute long animation once a week just isn’t going to work. That’s hardly possible with a full team – so for a single animator it just doesn’t make sense.

That said, people have done it before – including myself. So becoming an animator on YouTube that actually makes money and gains an audience is possible. You either have to get REALLY LUCKY, or you need to focus on these three important aspects of the job. And unfortunately, animating is only ONE of them.

The 3 Vital Jobs Of A 1-Person Animation Team

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    #1: Treat Animation as a Business

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    By Google’s definition, a business is “the practice of making one’s living by engaging in commerce.” In other words, a business thrives when it makes money and it dies when it doesn’t. Creating art and animation can make you money if you treat it like a business and focus on doing things that produce revenue.

    This might be on YouTube, or it might not. Either way, it’s a good idea to have multiple source of revenue trickling in.

    The Types of Content That Make You Money

    how to become an animator
    In 2020 I hosted a sale on my most popular t-shirts to make some extra cash. These really work!
    • Commissions

      The act of taking an animation request in exchange for money (pro-tip: don't undersell yourself)

    • Merchandise

      Put your characters or animation frames on a shirt or a jacket so people can support you

    • Monetization

      This is the process of selling ad space in your animation. Many social platforms offer this, but here's a list of my favorites:

    • YouTube
      • Uploads (not fast, you will need to join the partnership program after gaining views and subscribers)
      • Shorts (anyone can join this at any time, if you start gaining traction YouTube will extend an invite)
      • Livestreaming (also not fast, but it is easier – you can essentially just stream your screen while you animate)
    • Facebook
    • IGTV
    • TikTok (not fast – you will need 10k followers, to live in the US, and maintain 100k views for the last 30 days)
    • Memberships

      Offer paid positions to people through YouTube Memberships, Patreon, or Go-Fund-Me.

    • Sponsorships

      Try to get sponsored by companies so they can essentially pay you for working on projects.

    These are the items I focus on, but there are other streams of income as well. This is the time to map out your plan for generating revenue through your art.

    Once you have that plan you can take baby steps to fulfilling that goal. For example, your goal could be “sell 10 t-shirts per month through Teesprings.” A great tactic for this is to produce one new merch piece per week until things start gaining momentum.

    Animate Videos That Tend To Get Popular

    It’s important to animate the things you are passionate about, but before starting any projects just ask yourself: “Will this animation make me any money?” The answer is probably “I don’t know..” in most scenarios. And that’s okay! As an animator you should be picky with what you decide to animate. Considering any project will likely take you a long time.

    So how do you know what type of content to make? It’s really up to your own preference and goals. Here’s a list of animated videos that tend to gain traction on YouTube in particular. And keep in mind this should be used to get your ideas flowing. Nothing in this list is unique – BUT you can always add your own twist to make them unique.

    1. Animated Storytime Videos: Think JadenAnimations, shgurr, TheOdd1sOut, and so many more. In fact these types of channels have been popping up EVERYWHERE on YouTube. And even the newer channels have videos with millions of views. If you have a cool story with a compelling hook: “My College Roommate STOLE My Dog!” you’ll likely gain traction.
    2. Review Videos with Animated Characters: Do you love reviewing movies, games, software, or hardware? This one might be for you. Tons of people want to know more about certain products before they spend their hard earned money. So the more people that review certain drawing tablets, the latest Marvel movie, or the newest update of Photoshop – the better. All the while your animated character would be front and center as you talk about your experience with the product.
    3. Tutorial Videos with Animated Characters: Similar to #2, you could teach people how to use certain hardware or software with your animated character as the main instructor.
    4. Short Films / Short Stories: Believe it or not, there are a lot of short animated films that gained tons of popularity on YouTube. Granted, many of these got extremely lucky and this one is definitely more on the risky side of things. There is no guarantee people will click on your short film, so the trick is to make the video extremely clickable with a eye-catching title and a thumbnail that stands out.
    5. Jump On That Trend: Every day there is something new people are going crazy over. And if you can make videos on the spur on the moment to ride those trending waves – then do it.

    You don’t have to do anything on this list, in fact this list is highly limited. You could do something COMPLETELY different and become wildly successful.

    #2: Reach the RIGHT People

    If a tree falls in the woods, and no one is around to hear it – does it make a sound? A lot of people would say no, and creating animated works can have a very similar effect. Gaining traction and success will NOT be possible unless the right people see it.

    Welcome to the second hat of the trilogy of jobs – marketing!

    This job is vitally important as it maximizes how many people see your work, and increases your chances of becoming successful online. There are tons of ways to do this, but the list below is what works for me:

    1. Post clips of your video on TikTok – tease your audience with clips and previews and then link them back to your YouTube channel to watch the full video. TikTok is perfect for this because they give everyone a chance. Try to post on there at least once a day, and make your videos eye-catching and attractive. What I do is set aside 30 minutes per day to work on a TikTok video. Normally this is plenty of time for me to finish it, but if not I just post it the next day.
    2. Post a link to your video on Twitter – pull in as many people as possible for your video launch by announcing your new video on Twitter. The more people you can bring in during the first hour your video is live, the better. If your video doesn’t start ramping up on views by then, YouTube might tag it as “un-engaging” which really, really sucks.
    3. Add snapshots and work in progresses on Instagram – hype people up for future animations with behind the scenes snapshots. And if you decide to sell merch, definitely post every finished art piece here too. This platform is also perfect for quick speed paints.
    4. Post on reddit – post links to your YouTube videos on relevant Reddit threads. You never know when something will blow up on there. Better yet, go on reddit and find people asking questions that your video would help with. Then send them the link to your new video.
    5. Transcribe videos on a blog – the power of SEO is out of this world. It is a slowly growing beast that will essentially pull in free traffic once it grows big enough. An easy way to grow this is to transcribe videos, or explain how you made certain animations, all in a blog that people can read through.
    6. Post clips of your videos on YouTube Shorts – this platform is a new competitor, but works very similarly to TikTok. Get your work on here and watch your view count skyrocket on YouTube.

    As usual, there are more things you can do to increase your online visibility, so try to stay updated with what is new and where your audience typically hangs out at.

    #3: Sharpen Your Animation Skills

    Now to the one/third part of the job everyone has been waiting for – the actual animation.

    Obviously it is important to have a revenue and marketing plan, but the heart of everything is the animation itself. you should always be striving to get better in your trade. The animation is the product after all. There are tons of ways to do this, but honestly it just depends on your current skill level.

    Have you been animating a long time? Are you just getting started? Do you like to draw but you want to try your hand with motion artwork? The next step to all three of these is CRITIQUE. Post your most recent work and ask people to give you their honest opinion. Tell them you want to improve, and when they give you feedback – please listen to them. Separate yourself emotionally from your artwork and look at it through the lens of improvement. If people don’t like it, it’s okay! Everyone has to start somewhere.

    Once you pinpoint some areas of improvement (anatomy, movement, frame-rate, etc.) then you can work on honing your skill. This is the fun part! There are tons of free videos that will help you through whatever it is you’re struggling with. Yes, there are paid courses – but there are so many good free ones on YouTube I just wouldn’t recommend it.

    I’ve made a few tutorials myself, so I’ll embed those below.

    Conclusion

    Making this dream a reality will be a lot of work. But the more you focus on making money, marketing your work, pricing yourself right, AND still animate things you are highly passionate about – the better your chances are at becoming a YouTube animator. 

    Good luck!

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