What it’s like to design people’s custom Snapchat geofilters as a side hustle
Swipe right on Snapchat on any given day and you might stumble upon a custom geofilter designed for someone’s special occasion, be it a birthday, wedding or even a promposal. But have you ever wondered who’s behind these bespoke filters?
Custom geofilters are the must-have party accessory for the Snapchat generation and, now, talented designers are setting up businesses to quench people’s thirst for bespoke filters.
"Snapchat geofilters are the millennial equivalent of a birthday card," says John Scott, founder of SnapThatFilter, a small business that designs bespoke geofilters for special occasions. Snapchat’s on-demand geofilter site lets users choose from a broad selection of geofilter templates that can be mapped to a time and location. The site also allows people to upload their own designs, which go through a strict approval system by the Snapchat’s geofilter team. Prices for Snapchat’s templates begin at $5.
People looking for a geofilter entirely unique to their special event — and, crucially, not a Snapchat template — are turning to geofilter designers like Scott to help make their parties pop.
Scott works 9-5 as a senior designer for Debrett’s and spends most of his waking hours outside of work on his "side hustle" — designing geofilters.
"I create most of the filters on my way in to work as I have a bit of a commute," says Scott. Once he’s designed a filter, he sends it to his sister Hannah who handles the process of uploading the filters to Snapchat’s geofilter site. As soon as Scott arrives home from the office, he gets back to work on the geofilters.
"We’ve had to cancel filters on the day of weddings. And, in one case, the wedding was called off in the morning and then called back on in the afternoon," says Scott. He says he’s seeing a big rise in demand for baby shower and gender-reveal party geofilters, and he’s also started designing filters for school proms. Scott also produces wedding packages, which include a geofilter for the engagement, hen and stag parties as well as the wedding day. Scott charges £39 ($50) for bespoke filter design.
So, how exactly does one become a Snapchat geofilter designer? When Scott went on a weekend away with his cousins in August 2016, he decided to test out making a geofilter. "We all had loads of people saying "How did you do that?!"" says Scott.
"I suddenly thought, we could sell these and, as we were pre-drinking for a night out that night, we came up with the company name," he continues. Two weeks later, the website was live and they sold their first filter to a friend that day.
But, only when Scott’s bespoke geofilter for UK vlogger Zoella’s and her boyfriend Alfie’s Christmas party gained over 20 million views did Snapchat begin paying attention to his endeavours.
"Snapchat got in contact to essentially say: ‘Who are you and how did you get that many views?’ We then met with Snapchat and became a recommended partner of theirs," says Scott.
Greg Collins — who’s originally from Dublin, Ireland — was visiting NYC a few years ago when he spotted the just-rolled-out geofilters there and fell in love with the idea. At that point, Ireland didn’t have any geofilters, so he researched how to create "community filters" — the filters that appear in certain locations every day on the app. He began drawing up designs and submitting them to Snapchat and after six months, three of his filters were the first to go live in Ireland. Collins has since created community filters for Manhattan, London, and Las Vegas, each of which have gained around 20 million views.
Image: greg collins
Image: greg collins
After community filters, Collins says he got "hooked" and began branching out into custom filters. Collins — who now lives in NYC — works in a tech startup in Manhattan by day, and by night works on commissioned geofilters, including weddings, college balls and parties.
And, though Collins’ 9-5 job means he doesn’t have all the time in the world to work on filters, he has honed his skills at turning filters around very fast. He can make a filter in under an hour and he says it "isn’t an issue balancing the two."
"It also helps that it’s something I love doing so I can easily throw on some music in the evening and get designing and the time flies," he says.
Most of all, though, Collins loves people’s reactions to their filters. "People get so happy when they see something unique to them on Snapchat for all in the vicinity to use, its as if it makes them feel famous for a short time so the feedback at that end is always great," says Collins.
As the bespoke geofilters trend grows from strength to strength, more and more designers like Collins and Scott will no doubt appear on the scene. And, it’s likely these side gigs will turn into full-time jobs.
Both Collins and Scott share a love for their side gig, which somehow mitigates those bleary-eyed late nights. Next time you swipe right on Snapchat, you might stumble upon the handiwork of one such late night.