AYA039 – Making Money With Art Using Instagram with Ross Symons

Ross Symons is an Instagrammer and origami artists. In his early career while he was at his IT job he would spend his extra times folding origami art. His desk was always littered with paper creations. The more he learned the more the people around him would give him books to expand his art. In 2014 he decided to do an Instagram project where he would fold one new figure a day for 365 days. He started the year with 165 followers and ended the year with 50,000. 10 months into his project he was featured by Instagram and his followers jumped from 10k to 40k in 4 hours. Toward the end of his project, he started adding in stop motion animation which attracted the attention of brands. Our conversation focuses on how Ross built and runs his business on Instagram. If you’ve ever wanted to know more about the business model of being a professional Instagrammer this is an interview you should listen to multiple times.

Ross Symons is 34 years old who lives in Cape Town, South Africa. He started folding paper when he was 21 and the first origami figure he ever folded was a crane(bird). He folded that bird over and over again until he could fold it with his eyes closed.

If he had a beer in front of him he would tear the label off and fold it into a crane.

Not too long ago he was working a 9-to-5 job as a website developer, but over time it became apparent that being employed by someone was never going to enable him to create the happy, free life that he wanted. Although he was competent in his work, he was not feeling fulfilled.

He found himself starting side projects all the time. One of these came out of my enjoyment practicing the traditional Japanese art of paper folding known as origami. He was always folding little paper creatures which littered his desk at work, and he kept challenging himself to create more intricate pieces.

He dedicated the entire year of 2014 to improving his craft and sharing it with world. That’s when he started his popular Instagram account, white_onrice, where he folded and posted a different origami figure every day of the year. He increased his following on this account from just 120 to over 100,000 in under 18 months. As the project grew, he developed an entire brand around White on Rice, which has allowed him to quit his 9-to-5 job and run his own business.

He does origami installations, art exhibitions, create origami stop frame animations and create social media content for brands around the world. He also does public speaking gigs where he shares his story about how he made the shift from 9-5 web developer to an Instagrammer and full-time artist.





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