Posted May 7, 2013 by Steve Young

Why does Dropbox use a 3-year-old animated explainer on their homepage? How did Crazy Egg drive an extra $21,000 a month in new income with its animated explainer video?

The simple answer is that animated explainer videos work!

Keep reading and you’ll find out the step-by-step process of creating an animated explainer video that helps you grow your business.

The Entrepreneur’s Journey

As entrepreneurs we have a constant flow of ideas. But what happens when one idea comes along that we just can’t get out of our head?

We think about it washing the dishes, walking the dog, and taking a shower. Then we talk to our closest friends who agree that it is a good idea.

We’re excited! Really excited! We have enough validation to get started.

What do we typically do?

We immediately think to build a landing page that explains the idea. We soon get early adopters, maybe a writeup on Techcrunch.

Now it’s time to scale this business. We’re ready to invest a little cash.

What’s next? We need a video. Not just any type of video, an animated video.

A video that explains the pains of our ideal customers and how our product/service will solve that pain.

Thus far, everything has gone pretty smooth, but now…

We’re stuck!

How much does it cost? How much input do I have during the whole process? Where do I go to get one created?

Fear not, my fellow entrepreneurs! We are pulling back the curtains and detailing every step of the process of creating an animated explainer.

We understand the benefits of having a video. Dropbox has used the same video for about 3 years now. They’ve run different A/B tests on their homepage and using a 3-year-old video STILL outperforms all other variations (source).

This has led to thousands of new sign-ups every day.

Neil Patel stated on his blog how an animated explainer video drove an additional $21,000 for his startup, Crazy Egg. Neil goes on explain how to properly write a script for your video. It’s a must read.

Okay by now you’re probably itching to read on and get the backstage pass on the process of creating an animated video.

Make sure you go through this whole post, before looking for an animator.

The Animated Video Creation Process

If you don’t like reading, here’s a Google Hangout we created with Media Whale (created SmartShoot homepage video) that walks through the entire process.

How Much For an Animated Explainer?

Let’s get the big question out of the way. How much does a typical animated explainer cost?

We don’t want to say it, but it really depends. It depends on the length of the video and the animation style.

However, we know you want numbers so a typical 1 minute animated explainer will cost about $2,000 to $5,000. Keep in mind that more sophisticated animations can go as high as $10,000.

In regards to the length of the video, we strongly recommend that videos be around the one minute mark as there is a steep drop off in viewers after the one minute mark.

Step 1 – Pick an Animation Style

In terms of animation style, here are four of the most popular requests we get.

Cartoon Style Animation

White Board Animation

Motion Graphics  

Cut-out Animation

Before looking for an animator, really scour YouTube and other startup sites to find an animation style that you like. This will help your animator make a more accurate quote on the cost of the animation.

Step 2 – Script Creation: Make 3-5 Bullet Points

Outsourcing the script is the #1 mistake that startups make when creating their animated video. You know your business inside and out, so why hire a freelance writer to create the script?

Again, do NOT outsource your script.

If you’re not comfortable writing the script, then write out 3-5 main points that you’d like to get across in the video. Think about some of the things that really separate you from your competition.

If you’re not sure what makes you different, then ask your favorite customers about why they chose you. I’d even go as far as asking non-customers why they did NOT choose you. You’ll start to see some differentiation between you and your competitors.

Then tell your animator that you will need some script writing help. Most studios are equipped to help you with your script writing needs.

Always end your script with a call to action. Let your viewer know what you want them to do after watching your video. Yes the video is there to entertain, but what you really want is the conversion or sale.

Therefore, always have a clear call to action at the end of your video.

Step 3 – Select a Voice-over

Once you have you the script finalized, then it’s time to select a voice-over.

If you have someone already in mind, then by all means use that person. However, going with your own voice-over won’t save much off the final price. A good voice-over artist will charge anywhere from $100-$200 for a 60-second clip.

If you’d like the studio to find one, then they’ll send over a selection of 8-15 voice-over artists for you to choose from. You’ll receive the first 15 seconds of your script so you can make an intelligent decision.

Step 4 – Character Design / Music

Now it’s time to start creating the initial character design. At this point, you’ll want to send the studio your logo, color scheme and any other design assets that you’d like to incorporate in the video.

It’s important again to show the type of character design that you’re going after. This is a bit different from the animation style. During this process we are going into the details of the actual drawings of your characters.

For instance, you may want a cartoon style animation, but you rather have stick figures than full body cartoons. This again will be a back and forth process that can take anywhere from a week to two weeks depending on how involved you want to be.

In regards to music, most studios will have a library or a website that they use to source their music. Now is the time to think about what makes sense for your video.

Do you want a dramatic musical background? Or something more upbeat.

Try to listen to the music as you’re reading the script. This will help figure out what type of music goes best with your script.

Step 5 – Animation

Now the exciting part!

Once the character design has been approved, you’ll see the first cut of the animated explainer with music.

You typically have two rounds of revisions.

With the first revision round you want to be as thorough as possible. Tell the studio what you like, what you don’t like, and any other changes you’d like. Don’t hold anything back for the first round! Take your time with this round of revision and give as much details about your changes as possible.

Depending on the number of changes, your next revision will come in about 48 hours.

You want to use the second revision round to add the finishing touches and maybe a small change that you didn’t catch earlier.

Step 6 – Keep Video and Main Action Close Together

Lastly, when putting your video on your website, make sure the call to action button is close to your video. Don’t have your video at the very top and the main button at the very bottom.

If your viewer is sold on your business because of the video, then make it easy for them to take action.


Animated explainers are a great way to introduce your product or service to your potential customers. Websites such as Dropbox and Crazy Egg have attributed their success to these animated explainer videos.

By now, you should have a full understanding of all the steps needed to create your animated explainer video, so what are you waiting for? Let’s get started!

If you think we missed anything please leave a comment below. Also, if you created an animated explainer video based on this guide, please share it in the comments. We’d love to see what you came up with.

About Steve Young

Steve Young is the Director of Product Marketing at SmartShoot. He enjoys writing about marketing, design and product development. Although he shares the same name as a famous quarterback he unfortunately does not share the same bank account, so please throw him a bone and share or comment on his posts. Connect with him on Twitter and Google+.

Keep in touch: @stevepyoung

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