This post is geared towards those who aspire to make it big on Instagram and/or YouTube in the Beauty. Fashion, and Lifestyle niche.
I’ll begin by giving you an overview of my time as a content creator. Six years ago I began making videos on YouTube, back when all you needed was a decent camera and your bedroom. Back then folks could just sit down and talk about their passions and keep it pushing. YouTube would automatically alert all of your followers every time you posted a new video, and you could trust they would watch. Those days are over. YouTube now only alerts a fraction of your subscribers when you have a new video, and if you’d like to attract new subscribers, you need gimmicks. You need over-the-top thumbnail pictures. You need fantastic lighting, Expensive cameras, and extra AF editing. Also, more often than not, you need to have been blessed with an unconventionally beautiful face. In short, you need to do and be the most, and even then, your chances of “blowing up” are slim.
Instagram is even harder. At least YouTube is owned by Google, so your content can be found via the google search engine. Instagram, on the other hand, is another beast entirely. It is so incredibly hard to organically grow a following on Instagram that I would argue that at least 50% of the content creators on IG have, at some point, purchased followers and/or likes. If you want to know how to spot the folks who buy followers click this post HERE. But I digress, I have been a full-time content creator for almost three years. Last year was, by far, my most lucrative year. After 5 years of blogging, I finally began to see real money coming from my blog by sharing hot topics and celebrity news. Yup, I began posting for likes and views because views meant money. Who doesn’t like money?
After about 6 months of “blogging success” I realized that A. Facebook had changed the way content showed up in news feeds so 75% of my blog traffic plummeted (I have a newsletter, but folks weren’t subscribing no matter how much I pushed for it), and B. I was getting away from writing about things that actually appeal to me. It started to feel as though I was blogging out of desperation, not passion. I was chasing the money which forced me to be online 24/7. I had a team of writers to help me, but it still wasn’t a sustainable business for me. So I quit writing about that stuff and went back to trying to grow my own personal brand. I am mental health advocate and enjoy sharing my stories of perseverance and survival while mixing in beauty and fashion. I have a Master of Fine Arts in writing, I am probably one of the most transparent people you will meet via social media, and I do and share far more than cute pictures, and bodycon dresses, but it doesn’t matter. I mean, it matters to a degree. I get enough emails and messages of thanks from those who do read my posts to know that I am making some impact on the lives of those who follow me, however, when it comes to gaining lucrative advertising deals with brands, if you don’t’ have the numbers on social media to back you, you might as well sit down.
In recent months, I’ve come to realize that running a personal blog/brand is no longer sustainable, not financially and certainly not emotionally (for me). I have found that success in this industry can be achieved by things you cannot control such as:
1. Your likability/ “it factor.”
2. Who you know.
If you are likable enough AND somehow know/meet the right people you can move ahead quickly. Most of my most lucrative brand partnerships happened due to my relationship with the person cutting the check. Networking is key.
3. Your destiny.
You can do all the right things but if it’s not meant for you, it won’t be for you. I am living proof of that fact.
4. The quality of the work you produce.
If all of these things align, AND you have the numbers on social media behind you, you are golden. The likeability element is important to note because it is often based on a physical feature folks find appealing: the fullness of your lips, your eye color, hair texture, skin color, etc.. Or it can be based on the most random parts of your life that happen to be social media gold: your cute baby who says all the cute things, your sexy husband/partner, your vast collection of Chanel bags, etc. Most of the success on social media is tied to things that have little to do with your passion.
When I first quit my job three years ago, I was offering social media/brand consulting because back then the quality of your work mattered far more than it does today. Back then there were systems and practices you could put in place to really gain some traction on social media. Nowadays it’s mostly luck. And if I were being honest with myself, I’d have to admit that I sort of rushed the process. I believed, with absolute certainty, that I could, and would eventually “crack the code.” Instead, what I’ve found is that I cannot exist in a space where my livelihood depends solely on whether or not people like me. When I found myself despondent when a video I spent 3 days producing fell flat, I knew it was time to shift. While I align myself with beauty/fashion creators (because I love clothes, shoes, hair, and makeup), I have always known that my mission is to share my story of survival through my writing. I do not want folks to be inspired by my pretty pictures. Pretty fades. I am a writer. I am a woman. I am black. I have lived.
I think it’s important that would be “social-media” stars work on developing a product that doesn’t require the star to be the face of that brand. You want your product to exist and strive with or without your face. The product, whatever is, should be able to sell without your face pushing it 24/7. You want a business that allows you to be sick, to be a mom, to be human, to live. You want something that you can grow that isn’t attached to your physicality or even your personality. In short, you need something that allows for some distance from your life. Also, look for a mentor, or hire a business coach, but stop asking your fav’ influencers for brand advice because chances are that person blew up because of a mix of the items I listed above. For instance, just the other day I watched a 30-second clip of a super cute girl in her teens or twenties flip her hair back and forth while picking out her gigantic afro. This video had almost a million views on it. She also has a tiny waist and a cute face. She’s blowing up on social media because who she is naturally just-so-happens to be what is trendy and popular online. What could she possibly teach anybody else about “blowing up” on the gram? You cannot replicate anyone else’s success. Be and do you.
I’m back to blogging part-time, for fun. I still believe that something will ultimately come of the work I’ve done and will continue to do, but I will longer attempt to force it to happen here and now. I will go back to a 9-5 because a steady check tied to my work, not my face, is a beautiful thing. I will continue to keep other active streams of revenue because you can’t count on any one source for too long. I will continue to blog, but in my way and on my terms. Killing myself for a business is no longer a priority for me. I want to pay my bills. Take vacations that don’t require that I post myself in a cute bikini while “casually” holding somebody’s body cream or hair gel. In short, I want to live.
If you are an entrepreneur, what’s something you’ve learned about the business? Share those gems below!
Hey, Boo! My name is Lisa and you’ve stumbled upon my own little corner of the world. I’m a 30 something-year-old writer/mother/wife who happens to love lipstick, high heels, blackness, and the truth. You’ll find a mix of everything on this site, so I won’t bore you by trying to define this space. I hope you stay awhile!