“How do you do it?” – a question that seems to find it’s way into my email inbox and DM’s every single day. There has been so much interest lately around how I balance work with life as a new mum and how I continue to battle two chronic illnesses. But what majority of you seems to be most interested in, is how I’ve managed to create a personal brand, monetize it and strategically secure long-term partnerships with top tier brands; without having 100,000+ followers. If you’ve been following me for a while, you probably already know the answers to these questions, but I know over the last year throughout my pregnancy and sharing my motherhood journey, I’ve gained a new audience that are not familiar with my backstory.
The inspiration for this post came a few weeks ago after getting a sneak peek of upcoming Tomb Raider movie. Yes people, Lara Croft is back and the film is out in theatres tomorrow! You’re not going to get any major spoiler alerts from me – SORRY, but what I will say is this; she is one badass woman who has the confidence to forge her own path and the storyline is inspiring AF.
I like to believe that where I am today is because I’ve done the same. Not allowing adversity in get in the way of what I want. I have overcome two chronic illnesses. A rare genetic kidney disease and fibromyalgia – a chronic pain related disorder. Even after doctor’s said at the age of 28, I would never have the quality of life I once had. I was identified as someone destined to move ahead quickly within my company by the leadership team and had much success as a Trade Marketing Manager, but was forced to put my full time career on hold in order to get better. Actually, in order to save my life. I had hit rock bottom but I wasn’t ready to quit. Did not want to throw in the towel and spend the rest of my life on meds lying around like a vegetable. I wasn’t even 30 yet. I believed I still had time to turn my life around. What did that look like? Two years of working my butt off with a team of pain specialists, the best kidney doctor in the country, a naturopath, nutritionist, chiropractor, acupuncturist, a team of pain specialists, cognitive behavioral therapy to help me mentally deal with all the physical trauma, an insane diet change, medicinal marijuana and a progressive exercise program I created for myself that got me back to being a functional human after being on bed rest for the better part of a year.
Being able to beat all odds and fight my way back to health gave me the confidence to forge my own path in other areas of my life too. I left a toxic relationship and ended my engagement just months before my wedding. I also created something that I have been able to turn into a full-time job today. Contrary to what people may think; I did not up and leave my full time job to launch my blog. Nor was I making money right away when it first launched. This website started off as a fun little project with the intention to be therapeutic while I got healthy again. It was a creative outlet, not something that I wanted to get into for free stuff or because it “appeared” to be an easy way to make money. The money making part took time. To be honest, once I was well enough to return to work, I kept my job for as long as possible to help ends meet and so I could invest in SoSasha.com. In the beginning I was just creating unsponsored content. There were no big brand partnerships and daily deliveries from PR companies during the first year. And I was totally fine with that. I knew I had to put in the work, get my name out there and create a portfolio that would allow me to one day pick and choose who I got to partner with. However, not having those things didn’t stop me from creating quality work. I knew the value of investing in a professional photography and didn’t cut corners when it came to my visual content. When I started employ the same strategies on my own brand as I used with the corporate brands I spent years building, things started to get moving. I started building solid relationships and working on sponsored content with companies. Some of those brands I still work with today. This year actually marks the fourth year I have worked with General Motors/Buick. I learned quickly what brands looked for in content creation, then began pitching my own campaigns that allowed me to organically share whatever was going on in my life linked to brands I partner with.
That being said, I wanted to share a few things that have helped make me successful in this space. You don’t need to have 100k followers to make this a career but you do need to have good work ethic, drive, creativity and be able to handle the word “no” because you may hear it more than you would like to along the way. Brands and agencies are becoming more aware that having a large following doesn’t necessarily mean someone has a lot of influence.
5 Tips On Creating A Successful Personal Brand in the Digital Space
- Know Your Why. Have a clear understanding as to what you want to create and why you are doing it. Wanting free product or a quick and easy way to make money is not going to cut it. Knowing this will not only help give your brand an identity but will help you make the right decisions about the kind of projects you take on.
- Invest in Yourself. If you don’t, nobody else will! Having sleek website design, strong photo content and/or quality videos will be worth your time and money in the end, trust me!
- Actually be AUTHENTIC. Stay away from taking on projects where you are not 100% into what the company is about. At this point, I think people can tell when something is inauthentic. Before saying yes to working with a brand ask yourself, “if this product or service wasn’t given to me as part of a campaign, would I actually spend my own money on it?“. I live by this barometer. If the answer is yes, I know that its a safe bet to align with the brand. To be honest, a lot of the brands I work with are with products/services we have already been using and loving.
- Create Stories and Experiences. It doesn’t really matter what the nature of your content is, I think if you’re able to create an experience or tell a story to your followers you will have a devout audience. If street style content is your thing; once in a while try to incorporate a backstory to the outfit; for example highlight if the outfit is made from sustainable materials or perhaps the designer of your look has a special story that connects you to the brand. If you’re into food content, it may be a good idea to explain why food is important to you – have you developed food sensitivities that force you to create gluten free or vegan recipes? Do you love food so much that it’s the inspiration for your travel that allows you to share culinary wanderlust adventures? Just some food for thought – no pun intended.
Blog > Instagram. This is a very common mistake I see made over and over again. With Instagram being the preferred social channel for the last few years, so many people have been putting all their eggs in one basket. I will admit, it’s kind of hard not too. It’s fun to create a visually appealing grid, it’s much easier than creating blog content and we are love the instant gratification of receiving likes. Creating a huge profile on that one platform is short sighted. I would be remiss if I didn’t point out that nobody owns their own content on IG…Instagram does. Also, when Instagram fizzles out and we move on to another new social platform, where will that leave the ones that are not content creating on other platforms. The real value of your brand relies on where all your content lives and to be frank, your earning potential working with brands is larger when you have more to offer than just a pretty Instagram account.
This post is in partnership with Warner Bros. Canada for the release of the new Tomb Raider movie, which hits theatres everywhere March 16th. All views and opinions in this post are my own.