In this recurring column, Not Your Typical Gig, we interview men with out-of-the-box careers to get a glimpse of what goes on behind-the-scenes of their unusual jobs. For this week’s column, we spoke with Digital Art Creator Rudy Willingham, whose brand work includes Microsoft, Whole Foods, United, as well as working with bands on various album covers and with film studios.
As an experienced content creator who has amassed 4.2 million followers on TikTok and over 400K on Instagram, Willingham has an understanding of what makes people engage. Below, he talks creative freedom and finding work life balance despite 15 hour work days.
NAME: Rudy Willingham
How did you get into this line of work?
I worked in advertising for 10 years and grew frustrated by how hard it was to get cool ideas made. There was just so many layers of approval and clients were pretty conservative. So I started an Instagram account as a creative outlet where I could create art on my own terms. As I learned more about growing a following and creating content that connects with people, I thought “Hey! I could probably do this for other companies!” So I quit the advertising company I was working for and started making social content full-time.
How long have you had the gig for?
What kind of skill set does it take to break into this line of work?
The first step is just being creative. It’s a skill you can actually learn through practice and studying other great art. Second step is being a hard worker. You have to post multiple pieces of creative per week (sometimes multiple per day) and that can get really exhausting—but my motto is “keep creating every day.” The third piece is just staying on top of current trends and figuring out what is connecting with people and what is not.
What does your workday look like from the time you wake up?
I wish there was some more consistency, but it’s so different every day. At any given time I could be: brainstorming ideas, printing and cutting, taking photos, editing videos, meeting with clients, sending invoices, messaging with followers, press, etc.
How many months out of the year do you work?
Favorite part of the job?
Creative freedom. Anyone in the creative field knows how frustrating it can be to have your ideas shot down. But when you have grown a following on social, clients trust your ideas more because you’ve proven you know what connects with people.
Least favorite part of the job?
Being “always on”. If you’re, say, a musician or filmmaker, you may be able to take a couple months off to recharge in between projects. In the social world you can’t really do that; you have to constantly be creating. Which is really fun, but can be tiring.
Please tell us about a moment that made you love your job even more?
The most rewarding part of my job is getting messages like, “This just made my day” or “I can’t stop laughing.” My goal is to create art that brings positivity to people’s lives, so feedback like this energizes me and lets me know that I’m achieving my goals.
Are there aspects of the job that ever make you think—this is crazy, why am I doing this?
Every day! There’s been times this last year when I’m working from 7am to midnight, 7 days a week, for weeks on end. It can be brutal and I wouldn’t recommend working that much to anyone. It’s not great for your personal relationships – HA! But, I’m a work in progress; my goal this year is to create a better work life balance.
What does the job require you to wear?
I work from home so I can wear whatever I want. But I do at least put on some pants.
What essentials does the job require?
A computer, a camera, and an imagination.