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Yes, this is based on a viral TikTok trend. Yes, I intended to write this weeks ago and somehow life happened. But even though this is a bit late, this was one trend that I had to expand on as it's actually useful. For those who want to take influencer work seriously despite the stigma associated with influencers in our pop culture, below is my advice to you.
Wait, Why Listen To Me?
Most people never expected that I would be able to earn a full-time income, travel, provide for my needs, and even start saving for a house with a business based on such a small following.
It wasn't the smoothest path. I've had brand partners pay me months late and contracts I was excited for canceled due to circumstances out of anyone's control. I've been targeted by racist and sexist trolls, had to learn new platforms and skills constantly, and still feel like my business changes almost every day.
Eventually, I figured out a few things. I worked with Fortune 500 companies and big recognizable brands. I grew my platforms and found work in areas that inspire me and drive me to keep going. And I'm still creating full-time more than two years and 150,000 new social media followers later. Entrepreneurship has demanded more flexibility and grit than I knew I had, quite a bit of luck, and the kindness of many peers and mentors along the way.
5 Things I Would Never Do As A Full-Time Content Creator
Here are five lessons I wish someone had shared with me at the beginning of my creator journey. Hopefully, these help you find your footing a bit faster and have a more fulfilling influencer career!
1. I would never completely rely on a social media platform to fuel my business.
All of my plans for future growth as a business owner would never rely on a single platform that I don’t own, that's rented space, where I could be de-platformed at any moment, and where I have to filter my work to better fit an algorithm.
TLDR: Social media is a good tool, but it shouldn't be 100% of your business plan as a content creator.
Yes, you will absolutely need to build a social media presence and nurture a community around your work on social media. Especially in the beginning stages, pick a platform and work to become an expert at it. Learn its nuances, find out how your voice best translates in that space, and focus on showing up consistently. Later in your influencer career, you may shift your attention to a new platform or even be able to successfully juggle multiple platforms as you grow more adept.
Social media should definitely be one of your foci as a creator as it's the most likely avenue for you to make consistent income via brand partnerships. Most influencers make the bulk of their money through social media brand deals and that fact is why social media is such a huge focus.
But social media should not be the end of your strategy.
It's rented space that you don't control. What if you try to log in one day and your account is just gone, yanked down by the platform for any number of reasons that you can't control? What if there's an algorithm change or a culture shift and your work on social which was performing so well suddenly begins to not perform well, to the point that you're losing followers consistently over time?
These are just a few scenarios that could very well happen to you as a creator. You have very limited control over social media. Use it as a tool to make money, grow your audience, and develop your unique voice, but don't solely rely on it for your business.
My recommendation: Focus on at least one platform or means of reaching people that you can and do own beyond social media. This could be something like a website, an email newsletter, or even a podcast. Pick your medium, take the time to learn its ins and out, and work to develop your audience there over time.
2. I would never share my location in real-time or share about my daily routine without any limits.
I would never live-story from a fun event, film content where I talk about my routine and note which coffee shop I go to every day on my way to work, or develop a series where I film in the same park on a predictable schedule.
TLDR: People can glean much more about your life than you expect through social media, putting you at risk if you're not careful.
This one seems self-explanatory but given how much of our lives are online, it can be harder than you think to self-regulate this kind of sharing. People can figure out where you live, where your kids go to school, where you go to work and where you stop along the way, and so much more just from carefully watching your content and taking notes.
My recommendation: Set aside time for a boundary-setting session with yourself as a creator. Think through questions like: How much am I comfortable sharing about where I live? Do I want to get a mailbox at UPS so I can get brand packages without sharing my home address? Am I comfortable filming and sharing my favorite things close to home and what guidelines could I create to make that sharing safer? How do I feel about sharing my kids, family members, etc and how do those people feel about showing up in my content?
Your comfort level is yours to decide and you may need to speak to the people close to you to finish this exercise. But it's better to make these decisions in advance rather than having to retroactively scramble to make a policy after something creepy happens.
3. I would never sign a contract without negotiating.
Even if I was ecstatic about the offer, if I loved the company and thought the partnership offered was totally in alignment with my brand, I would never sign without negotiating.
TLDR: Agreeing to a deal without any negotiation means you're likely leaving money on the table and/or forgoing other benefits that could help support your business.
Here are a couple of examples based on my own creator experience.
One of my very first brand deals was a $25,000 partnership for a program that was in line with everything I wanted my brand to stand for. I was ecstatic! That's right. As a micro-influencer, one of my very first deals for $25,000.
However, the initial offer from this partner was $20,000. It felt ridiculous to me at the time to negotiate given that it was more money than I ever dreamed I would make with Feed The Malik, but I'm glad I did. The extra 25% that I secured went towards a whole host of things that helped protect the longevity of my business like hiring an accountant, getting my business incorporated, and upgrading equipment.
For some travel partnerships, I've negotiated the ability to bring a guest along when the budget didn't meet my typical rates. Bringing a guest along helps me as it makes my content more dynamic (two people having fun is better than one!). Then, I can offer free fully funded travel experiences to members of my subscription community, Magic at the Margins. That subscription community provides me with stable income and remains my favorite space to create. Any benefit that makes that community more special is an overall benefit for my business.
My recommendation: Always negotiate when securing a partnership and be cognizant of benefits beyond monetary compensation that could support your business.
4. I would never operate within this industry without strong personal boundaries.
If something makes me uncomfortable then I wouldn't do it. Even if other people are doing it or it seems like the norm. I would also never let people come into my digital space and act disrespectfully or in a way that contradicts the community I'm trying to create.
TLDR: Set boundaries around what you will allow and are comfortable with in your digital space and how you yourself want to engage, then stick with them!
In real life and online, boundaries can really upset people. A polite but firm, "please don't send me unsolicited advice" or "please don't comment on my weight" can absolutely enrage people. That's their problem. Having clear boundaries that you enforce in the digital arena is vital to ensuring your longevity as a creator. You can't do this work for years if you're unable to stand up for yourself or enforce your boundaries when needed.
My recommendation: The block, mute, and unfollow buttons are your friends. Use them whenever you need to. It's not a statement about someone's character or even a dig to simply stop allowing them access to your online space if they cross a line. Similarly, stay clear on what kind of work and behavior you want to engage in as people will inevitably criticize what you do (or wear, say, etc). If you know why you show up and are very clear on what aligns with your work and values, it's much easier to ignore or engage constructively with criticisms while remaining true to yourself and your brand.
5. I would never try to go it alone.
I would never view other creators around me as competition and try to figure out a path through this new and rapidly changing industry without a network of people I can rely on, connect with, and ask questions of.
TLDR: Get yourself some influencer friends you trust and stick with them!
Being an influencer can be very lonely as it's a profession that our pop culture loves to hate and many don't understand. Half of my own family likely couldn't explain much of my job even though they love and support me. That means I also can't get much helpful advice from them when I'm trying to figure something out.
I need creator friends for that. People who understand this work, the pressures, and the opportunities in the sector are your best source of information. More importantly, they can empathize with you and give you insight and encouragement that others just can't. My husband is incredibly supportive but if I want help picking a name for a new series, he is not the right place to turn.
My recommendation: Approach other creators with the attitude that there is enough space for everyone to thrive. Find folks you can trust and build a creator network that uplifts each other as you work.
There are just a few of the lessons I've learned in my career thus far. If you have any questions about life and work as a full-time influencer, drop them below!