As an animator, it’s tough to compete with vloggers and gaming channels that post new content daily. Here are a few strategies that can help.

Animated content on YouTube has seen an unprecedented boom in recent years, with popular channels such as Jaiden Animations, TheOdd1sOut, Tabbes and Illymation all gaining high subscriber counts seemingly overnight. YouTube has seen its fair share of viral success stories over the years, but what makes the success of animation channels different is that the platform’s algorithm is largely not set up to favor the videos these channels produce. Let’s take a closer look at how you can succeed as a YouTube animator.

A shift in the algorithm

In 2012 YouTube infamously shifted from promoting videos with the most views to instead prioritizing those channels with the most watch time. Many creators making previously favored short-form content took a hit. In the years following this new algorithm, YouTube saw many daily vloggers and gaming channels flourish as they were able to steadily create the daily long-form content that the site rewarded. So how is it that animated content, where even a two-minute long video can sometimes take over a month to produce, has had such a strong resurgence in recent years?

thumbnail from Tabbes animation video
Tabbes opens up about her personal experiences through her animations, bringing together artistry and authenticity.

Finding what works

Many of the more popular animation channels on YouTube currently revolve around personality-driven storytime content. In this regard, these videos more closely mirror personal vlogs than they do traditional animated shorts. Animated storytelling combines the artistry of animation with all the heart of traditional vlogging. This leads to content that is as visually appealing as it is emotionally compelling. As with nearly all viral fame, there is a good bit of luck involved in the process. However, there are a few ways you can improve your chances of success within the genre.

The most successful animators are those who know how to use animation’s strengths to their advantage.

Though these personal stories are often lighthearted, animated storytelling can also provide a safe outlet for getting into more serious subjects. YouTubers Illymation and Tabbes both had their channels go relatively viral after posting videos that were more serious and personal than the majority of their previous content. This level of vulnerability isn’t necessary for success, nor is it likely to automatically improve the popularity of one’s channel. Any personal story can become a quality animated video. It just needs to be told in a well-organized and entertaining fashion.

Animated content does not always need to be driven by personal narratives. And even when it is, the production of these videos is often vastly different from that of a regular vlog. These videos often require a longer production time due to the sheer amount of work it takes to draw each frame of animation. Even the largest animation channels on YouTube typically only average about one video per month. When trying to compete with non-animation channels who can post weekly or even daily, there are a few key strategies you can use to succeed as an animator on YouTube.

1. Create a Schedule

Creating a schedule can help creators stay on track with their uploads, regardless of how frequently they are able to post. Even if you can only manage one video per month, it is important to try and post on the same day each time you upload. Subscribers won’t mind waiting for content if they can rely on you to post consistently.

2. Upload supplemental content

In between regularly scheduled uploads, you can post additional videos to make up for lost engagement and watch time. These videos can be draw-with-me live streams, vlogs, process videos — whatever you want them to be! The key is to make sure they are easy enough to produce on a more regular basis.

3. Connect with your followers

Once you develop any amount of a following, it is important to keep that audience engaged with your content. On YouTube, community posts can be a great tool for maintaining audience engagement. Outside of YouTube, many animation channels have successfully run Discord servers for fans of their content to find community amongst themselves.

4. Monetize your content outside of AdSense

Because animation channels often struggle to survive off of AdSense alone, services like channel membership and Patreon can be invaluable. These services allow creators to receive extra money from those who wish to support them in exchange for bonus content. Giving your audience a sneak peek of an upcoming video, through the sharing of process stills to Patreon, can help get a loyal audience excited about upcoming projects. Process stills are particularly useful; they come about naturally in the animation process and do not require extra work to produce. As your channel grows, merch, commissions and sponsorship deals can also be valuable sources of income.

5. It’s okay to start slow and small

While it’s easy to get caught up in wanting the best tablet and software for animation, those are only tools. They will not guarantee that you will succeed as a YouTube animator. It’s okay to work within your budget and skill level. As with any art form, growing from experience is the only way you are going to improve. Working within the constraints you have can be a big part of that learning curve.

Leverage your strengths

The most successful animators on YouTube are those who know how to use animation’s strengths to their advantage. Animation can serve as a fantastic outlet for telling personal stories or fantastic narratives. But success comes with time. Until then work hard, work smart, and of course, have fun!