This Former Marketing Director Quit Her Job After 7 Weeks of Posting Amazing Animations on Instagram
In this series, Instagram Icon, Entrepreneur speaks with the individuals behind popular Instagram accounts to find out the secrets of their success.
Rachel Ryle was working a day job as a marketing director for a toy company four years ago when she decided to bring her hobby of illustration to life.
She’d always loved to draw, though she’d never considered herself an artist. But when Instagram added video compatibility in summer 2013, she began wondering how she might apply her creative talents to the medium. She busted out her colored pencils and turned illustrations of a watering can and a flower into an animated video.
A post shared by Rachel Ryle (@rachelryle) on Jul 13, 2013 at 7:56pm PDT
At the time, Ryle says, she didn’t even know that what she was making was animation, per se. Her friends urged her to pursue the art form further. In the week following her first animated post, she worked on more pieces every night when she got home from work.
“I think oftentimes, artists need affirmation from other people to feel confident,” Ryle tells Entrepreneur. “Instagram actually is what gave that to me.”
Although success wasn’t immediate for her, she quit her day job within seven weeks of posting that first video to the platform, thanks to the encouragement of friends. Today, Ryle has 1.1 million Instagram followers (@rachelryle) and lends her animated illustrations to brands and even movie studios.
“In life, I feel like it's really important to be opportunistic,” Ryle says. “In that moment, I felt that if I didn't jump and trust that this was going to be something, I would miss the opportunities that then followed.”
Her optimistic attitude comes through in her videos, which often revolve around themes of thankfulness, love, celebration and exploration. She says she hopes her positive messages and continued creation will inspire her followers and fellow creators to put their own works out into the world.
Entrepreneur spoke with Ryle while she was vacationing in Los Angeles, traveling and collecting inspiration for new animations prior to a move from Boulder, Colo., to New York City. There, she says, she’ll chase her artist dreams and focus on creating even more.
1. How did you get your start with Instagram?
When Instagram added video, I saw that people weren't being as mindful of the content they were creating with it right off the bat, and I felt like it deserved the same type of creativity and time and dedication that the photographs were taking on Instagram. But I didn't have the intent of animating when I started.
Seven weeks after I made my first animation, I had received so much attention for what I was creating and affirmation from people excited about what I was doing, that that's when I decided to quit my day job, call myself an animator and turn it into my full-time career.
As a marketing director for a toy company, I had been building a lot of understanding and skills within social media. And I had learned to market products. But it's an entirely different animal when you realize that you have something that is worth marketing and you have an artistic talent or something to share. And that's when I applied all of those skills to myself as the product.
2. What other platforms do you use and what percentage of the time do you spend on them vs. Instagram?
Honestly, Instagram is still my main focus, so I create content for that purpose. Luckily, I feel like a lot of other social platforms have seen the value of how Instagram is doing it. They've actually adapted their content streams to cater to it and to fit the square, because that's where they know people are creating the content. So when I share on Facebook or Twitter or Musical.ly, the square formatting fits nicely.
As for YouTube, I'm excited to re-strategize how to not just repurpose my content on there, but be more strategic about new content that I can create that will be better fitting for that video channel. I'm going to be creating content that is more focused on art tutorials, as well as show a little bit more of who I am and my personality -- the artist behind the creations. My Instagram and other channels have been so focused on just the art, so I want to express myself in a new and more personal way.
3. What makes Instagram a better platform than other social media?
I've always thought that Instagram is such a beautiful platform that really caters to featuring and supporting people's creativity. Any Joe Schmo can take a photograph, and because of the tools that Instagram provides, an average photograph can turn into an Ansel Adams or something really beautiful. Instagram was really one of the first apps I experienced that really focused on supporting the creative minds of people.
People go on Instagram to get inspired and to see art and see photography and see the world through other people's eyes in a beautiful way. And I appreciate that. I want the app to do well, so that's why I dedicate the majority of my time to the app -- so that I can be a community member within the masses of that effort.
4. How much of your time do you devote to Instagram?
On average, one animation that is probably 30 seconds long at most will take me four or five days of concepting and illustrating and filming and editing. There's one animation of mine in particular, my most viewed animation, it's about coffee. It's called, "You Say Gibraltar, I Say Cortado." That one, because of the detail -- I built the set and I took a lot more time, I would say it took more like a week and a half to get it together.
And certainly, this isn't full time. I think as an artist, you need time to create and break away and reset and give your mind a break from the tedious nature of what you're doing. So oftentimes, when I say it takes these days to create, it's that I'm also being mindful of giving myself creative breathing room so that it doesn't become unenjoyable to create. But I can still enjoy what I'm doing.
I honestly think those are the most valuable periods, because it's days when I am ideating and getting inspiration from either just walking around or mindlessly being online, but something will spark my interest that will eventually and inevitably turn into my next animation. I turn towards travel a lot for inspiration, because it allows me to see new things and experience new things that spark that imagination.
5. How do you promote your account? What's your number-one way to gain followers?
I view each animation of mine as a new advertisement of my capabilities as an artist. My hope, every single time that I create a new animation, is that it reaches someone new out in the world. That doesn't mean that I'm desperately wanting a new follower, but that what I'm taking a week to create will reach someone that I didn't know was going to reach and hopefully inspire them. That inspiration is the ultimate advertisement of what my account is about.
6. How do you engage with others on the platform?
I wish with all of my heart that I had the capability to do more engaging. I think that it's really important, especially in the first hour to two after I post my animation. Typically, I'm up until like 3 a.m. filming and editing the night before, I go bed for three hours and then I post at 6 a.m. so that New York commuters can see it at 8 a.m. their time. Even in my tired state, I really want to be there, because it's fresh and people are really excited about the new animation. It allows me, in the moment, to be there with them. I try my best, but sometimes it’s hard to keep up with it.
One of Instagram's latest features of being able to like comments -- give people a heart back and let them know that I read their comment -- has been really helpful. It's just another way of me saying "thank you" for their time that they’ve taken to comment about my pieces. And outside of my work, I definitely scroll through the people I follow and even people I don't follow and like their stuff and comment, just because it's the affirmation that we all need to inspire us to keep creating.
7. How often do you post?
I'm in such a transition with this move. I really hope and intend for New York to be more of a place of creation, getting inspiration and really being more mindful of scheduling out time to create more content. Over the last couple of months, or longer, I've been preoccupied with the transition of moving. So if you’re asking if my strategy is something like, "once a week," ideally I want to be able to post more, but it is just such a time-intensive thing, and my mind needs to be present for it.
8. What's your content strategy?
Ultimately, I hope that the time I'm taking to create something is going to bring joy and inspire other people to create and to explore their own creativity and take time to make something. Because had I not been inspired myself, I would have missed out on this entire fun ride that I'm on.
9. How has your content strategy evolved as Instagram has added features?
I love the Stories feature. The process of moving -- and my life outside of creating the limited art that I have been able to create -- has been a grind. Right now, I’m traveling, and I absolutely love the ability to show where I am, what I'm seeing and what I'm getting inspiration from. I've been in L.A. for 24 hours, and my Stories are exploding, because I want to remember these moments. I want to remember the graffiti that I saw on that one wall. We all put so much time and attention and care into the final pieces we post, but I think that Stories are a beautiful way for the community of Instagram to be able to show what they're seeing in life and experiencing and inspired by in a more personal, candid way.
10. What's your best storytelling trick?
Just because of what I do, I feel like the specialty that I have is the transitions that visually help tell the story within my animations and allow it to flow. It's like magic -- creating moments of magic. You have a limited amount of time to tell a story in a video on Instagram. I limit mine pretty much to 30 seconds. So in 30 seconds, how much can you pack in here but have there be a flow to it that leaves the watcher expecting, "what's going to happen next?" There's this series of events that then end up in the final message of the animation. I create visual page-turns that let people know that the story is evolving.
11. How do you set yourself apart from others on the platform?
Oftentimes, it comes down to the time that I spend on the small details of my artwork. There are a lot of times that I could take the short road and maybe not draw the butter being cut or sliced, but have the butter already be on the toast. But instead of taking shortcuts, I spend extra time getting those small details in there, and people notice it.
12. How do you leverage your Instagram and to what extent do you monetize it?
I look to work with brands that have similar goals as me -- to bring joy to their audience or to inspire them. There are a lot of great brands out there doing really cool campaigns -- campaigns about kindness, giving thanks, gratitude and loving people. And I think that's such a beautiful thing. They see my art in line with what their mission is. I have taken those opportunities to work with brands who I feel the art helps tell their story and vice versa.
While I do take a number of opportunities creating animations on Instagram and for Instagram accounts, I'm really happy and excited that my art is starting to live on different platforms and in different ways. I have a whole collection of iOS iMessage stickers. The fact that people are starting to recognize my art and it can live in different places is really exciting for me as an artist, to see it grow in that way.
A good example is KIND. I worked with them and they ran a photo contest. It was a back-to-school campaign, and the five people who won got their photograph illustrated by me. Then, it was printed on a lunch box for their kid's back-to-school adventure. It was really cool for me to be able to be involved in something that, in the end, we created a really fun, cute little product together that was special to the person who took the original photograph.
I've done movie trailer work for different movies, but a lot of that lives on Instagram as well. I did a movie trailer for Kubo and the Two Strings last year. And then, prior to that, I did a movie trailer for Kingsman: The Secret Service.
13. What advice do you have for other Instagram influencers or people who want to build brands?
The number-one thing is to get busy making and creating. Oftentimes, especially with artists, we wait and we wait and we wait for the right opportunity. We don't think it's perfect enough or we don't think it's ready to share.
If you go back on my channel and see my first animation, it's complete rubbish, and still, at that point, people were encouraging me. I wanted to push myself to continue to grow.
Ultimately, creativity is like any other muscle. The more you use it, the stronger it will become, and the stronger it gets, the more people notice it. That will help you to find what it is you really want to make in life.
14. What's a misconception many people have about Instagram?
That it’s just a photo app. The people who are creating, taking photos and capturing their lives and their art on Instagram are actually putting a lot of time and thought and attention and care into what they're doing. Essentially, you're getting these windows into souls of people. And so, I don't know if anyone thinks it's just another photo app, but I would get a cup of coffee with that person and beg to differ, and I’d explain the importance of engaging with the app and engaging with the people who are creating on it. Because the more we can encourage each other, the more great content is going to be created in this world.
Healthy Things Grow
"I put a lot of love into this piece, as the message is meaningful to me and my family. It's a saying that my dad used to say. I loved bringing it to life through animation."
I can’t believe it’s been 4 years since I started this fun & creative journey of teaching myself how to animate! Back then I had no idea where it would take me. Especially now as I’m moving to New York full time to pursue my art!! *insert scream of excitement* This animation means a lot to me as it’s my final creation made in the home studio where this all started. I wanted to create something meaningful, so I brought to life a quote from my father. He was always so encouraging, inspiring & supportive of my art. Luckily I still have my mom to remind me of his words & with them she continues to encourage me. Recently she shared with me this saying of his, and I knew instantly I wanted to animate it. “Healthy things grow, growing things change, changing things challenge us, challenge causes us to trust and trusting makes us healthy”. It’s a beautiful cycle and it’s comforting to know that while change can be challenging, often times it’s for the best! Many of you may remember my first animation called “Make Something & Grow” posted in July of 2013. As I enter into this season of change, I feel it’s time to ‘Grow Something & Trust”. Trusting that this is only the beginning of my journey. And while there will be changes & challenges ahead, I will continue to trust as I spread my wings & grow as an artist in the big city! With this I hope my dad’s words live on and encourage you in some way. You may also be in a season of change, so know that if you trust in a positive outcome you may very well be pleasantly surprised with what’s ahead! PS As for the #ispyemojis try and find this little guy ???! #stopmotion #animation #art #drawing #illustration #instavideo #instavid #caterpillar #monarch #butterfly #garden #inspiring #inspirational #quote #quotes #?
A post shared by Rachel Ryle (@rachelryle) on Jul 27, 2017 at 5:50am PDT
"This animation is extra special to me, because every flower in this piece was submitted by community members -- my followers. I even started crying when I was animating it, because it was so meaningful and beautiful to watch their drawings come to life through my art. I simply can't wait to do my next community piece with them!"
I’ve had this animation in my head for “a ryle’ now, and it’s so fun to see it finally come to life! Of course, I couldn’t have made this blooming community garden without your help. Every single flower in this piece was created by one of you! Last week when I asked you to submit #flowers4rachel I was blown away with how many wonderful drawings I received. I tried to pack them all into the final piece, but only about a third made it. Whether your flower bloomed in this garden or not, know that I am so thankful that you took the time to create this animation with me! A community can be a powerful force, especially when you create something joyful together. I hope this inspires you to keep creating & always make it a “zip-a-dee-doo-dah” day! Love you guys! PS there isn't a hidden emoji today, instead click on #flowers4rachel & see how many of those flowers you can find! #bestcommunityever #thankful #stopmotion #animation #art #drawing #illustration #instavideo #instavid #cartoon #bluebird #garden #flowers #blooming #spring #joyful #colorful #goodness #? #? #? #? #? #?
A post shared by Rachel Ryle (@rachelryle) on May 24, 2017 at 5:44am PDT
"I made this piece with the hopes of spreading joy and encouraging kindness. In a personal effort to be kind, and to practice what I preached, I dedicated this animation to the @kindcampaign -- a nonprofit organization that brings awareness and healing to the negative effects of girl-against-girl bullying."
Doesn’t being kind feel great?! Often times we need to remember that a simple act of kindness can have a huge impact. So I made this! A friendly reminder, to you and to me, that we should all sprinkle kindness around like confetti. I hope this post encourages you to be kind, to do something with a positive impact, or to simply tag a friend & shower them with kind words. While making this I couldn’t help but think to myself “how can I be extra kind to someone with this animation?”. The answer came easy! I’d like to dedicate this animation to the @kindcampaign - a nonprofit organization that brings awareness & healing to the negative effects of girl-against-girl bullying. They had no idea that I was dedicating this animation until I emailed them late last night. It feels good to bring attention to their cause, and I’m happy to direct this spotlight towards them, as I respect the great efforts of their organization. Go to their account and share some love & support - a simple like or comment could make their day! *high five to kindness* PS Today’s hidden emoji is hardly hidden at all…like at all, nevertheless I included the #? for you to find! Next time will be harder, promise! ;) #ispyemojis #stopmotion #animation #art #drawing #illustration #instavideo #instavid #kind #kindness #bekind
A post shared by Rachel Ryle (@rachelryle) on Apr 13, 2017 at 5:45am PDT
Do You Like Piña Coladas?
"I mean... who doesn't like piña coladas?! I made this piece as a 'cheers to summer' and to introduce my cocktail iOS stickers for iMessage! I especially enjoyed making this animation because I animated it to the beat of the song."
It’s come time to say so long to summer. I figured what better way to say goodbye than to make us my favorite summer drink! After all, just because the sunshine & warmth is going away doesn’t mean the party needs to stop. With this I say “cheers to summer”! You will be deeply missed, but I’ll have a cocktail waiting for your return in 2017! Exciting news for all you cocktail lovers…this animation comes with bonus art! Today I’ve launched my “Cocktails by Rachel Ryle” sticker pack for iOS. That’s right! This dancing piña colada could be yours along with 14 other classic cocktail iOS stickers. Check out the collection in the iMessage App Store or by clicking on this link in my bio, http://apple.co/2ct5wY9. Best part is, it's happy hour somewhere, which means this pack is 50% off! Stock up on these cheap booze while you can - this is a limited time offer! For less than a buck you can enjoy this sticker collection of cocktails & share some drinks with your friends! Trust me, the animated beer pong sticker is totally worth it. Cheers guys, have a happy Thirst-day! Note: see my last animation for more details about iOS Stickers! You must have iOS 10 installed to download & use Stickers within iMessage. If my sticker packs aren’t showing up within your collection, make sure that “Automatically Add Apps” is turned “ON” in your iMessage App Store Manage Tab. Happy sticking! #stopmotion #animation #art #drawing #iOSstickers #iOS10 #stickers #sticker #tropical #cocktail #pinacolada #piñacolada #animated #huladancer #illustrated #cocktails #collection #?
A post shared by Rachel Ryle (@rachelryle) on Sep 22, 2016 at 6:17am PDT
You Say Gibraltar, I Say Cortado
"I put a lot of time and thought into this piece. From building the coffee shop to pouring the perfect cortado, this is definitely one of my most detailed animations. Even though I've seen it a hundred times, I still go back and watch it more than any of the other animations I've made before. (It must be my favorite.)"
*Update: Coffee lovers! Go grab this cortado illustration as an iOS Sticker for iMessage!! It's in my Coffee Pack along with 14 other coffee loving Stickers! Link in my bio!* You say Gibraltar, I say Cortado! My favorite drink has two names depending on the coffeeshop that you order it from. No matter which name you call it, let's just drink & enjoy some coffee! Cheers coffee lovers, this one's for you! PS I have mad respect for you baristas out there. Making latte art is a challenge, even with colored pencils! I tried my best but simply can't compete with your talents! #stopmotion #animation #art #drawing #instavideo #coffee #espresso #latte #latteart #cortado #dailycortado #gibraltar #barista #espressomachine #coffeeshop #cafe
A post shared by Rachel Ryle (@rachelryle) on Jan 15, 2016 at 8:15am PST