I am sure the title of this blog is somehow shocking to people or I will have people taking issue with me calling myself a 'failure' at something, but just hear me out here. This is a story that actually has a really good outcome so just keep reading and you will see. Failure sometimes just means it takes you to what your purpose actually is.
December 2018 is when I started my journey with monetizing social media as a job. I purchased my domain for my blog, started trying to curate my Instagram feed a little (my Instagram had been my personal account, and I just switched it over). I was someone that had started and stopped so many blogs and Instagram accounts, and since I had stopped working at my full time job when I was pregnant with my youngest child, I figured now I would actually have the time to see if I could make fetch happen. I won't even lie, it wasn't easy. There is both so much information about being an influencer, yet so few people are willing to actually have conversations with you about it or answer any questions. There are so many times I saw people that I admired in the industry and were successful, and when I reached out to them with basic questions (not asking for contacts, for details, for 'trade secrets', for any of that) and I was met with rudeness or links to programs I would have to pay for that I couldn't afford. This isn't me saying that people shouldn't be paid for their expertise, but when your question is a simple "Hey, love your content! What program do to use to edit your photos?", and it is met with "I don't share that, sorry, but buy my $500 course to find out", it starts to feel like you are trying to get into a club and being told you aren't wearing the dress code, but no one will tell you what the dress code actually is. I could write a whole post about my feelings on this, because I know there is a lot of polarizing thoughts and opinions on information sharing within the influencer world, but that is another subject for another time.
Slowly but surely, I started to see 'success', or what is defined as success as an influencer. I started working with more brands. I joined rewardStyle (and affiliate linking program to get commission on folks purchases of items you recommend) because that felt like the thing to do if you were posting about fashion even a little bit. I got to the magical 10K number that so many influencers stress because it is dangled as a bait for more jobs, better paying jobs, jobs with larger companies. So much of what I was applying for wanted the 10K, wanted the swipe up. I got to a point of where I felt like once I got to 10K, that would be when I would be legit and real and I would somehow stop feeling the stress of trying to 'make it'.
Spoiler alert; I was really wrong about that.
I'm going to be completely transparent; once I got past 10K, it was easier to get jobs. I was working with more and more brands. Despite the fact that this was my job now, I was still trying to be as thoughtful with the projects that I took on, but like a lot of jobs, sometimes we end up doing things that just don't feel like we are being ourselves because we need to get paid. I enjoyed the products that I was promoting, but after a certain point I grew weary of just talking about vacuum cleaners and sneakers and trying endless skincare products feeling like I must have looked fake as hell because who really tries skincare like that all the damn time and seriously loves it all and uses it all...all the time? I noticed that my posts about more serious things I wanted to talk about didn't get much traction. Everyone wanted influencers to be 'real', but no one was down to engage with posts about race, body neutrality, or politics. It confused me and left me feeling aimless and like I was building a brand and business on only part of who I really was. I kept throwing in the posts I really wanted to share that didn't have to do with making a dime, though. I had to or else I would have felt completely lost. To say nothing of the fact that I didn't blog much at all because I barely felt like I had time for it, which hurt because writing is truly my first love.
And then the pandemic happened.
And then George Floyd was murdered.
And my whole world turned upside down and something inside of me just broke.
I started sharing what was on my heart completely. I started talking openly about the complexities of being a Black influencer, and the fact that so many of us are paid less (some people DO talk and trust me; it's real), are offered less lucrative jobs, are offered less money for more work. About my frustrations with police brutality. About experiencing financial hardships, about having a car repossessed, about us being down a whole income because of the pandemic. I just let it all flow out of me.
I realized that for me, I was approaching all of this wrong. At the heart of it all, I wanted to use whatever influence I had for change, for healing, for marginalized people to feel less alone in a world that often neglects them, and for non-marginalized people to wake up to that. And I do love fashion, I love sharing about items that I enjoy, I love promoting products that I actually like and feel value in.
But I love being an advocate more.
This has made my social media an interesting place. I am very picky about the brands I work with, and will only do so if I find true value in them and I feel like other people will. I only will do so with the caveat that I will not be pushy and I am not a salesperson. I still have my rewardStyle account, but I don't link to it much, and always heavily disclose that it is an affiliate link when I do. I talk a lot about my own personal growth, coming into my own as a recently out non-binary individual. I talk about being queer and married to a cis het man. I talk about raising a gay and gender fluid teenager. I talk about pretty outfits. I talk about my recovery from my eating disorder and being body neutral. I talk about being a tireless advocate and defender of Black people and challenging racism both on and off social media. I unabashedly talk about politics, ableism, homophobia, transphobia. I also really love to chat about good food.
All in all, some of that has for sure alienated people. I have been unfollowed by many, have had people tell me they liked my 'old' content better, when I was less transparent, when I didn't talk about things that they don't agree with, don't like, don't understand. I for sure have been offered less and less paid gigs, which make no mistake, as picky as I am about, I still will take if I feel good about it.
At the same time, though, I have gotten so many wonderful messages from people who appreciate what I am putting out into the world, and support me fully as who I am. I loathe the term that Instagram is a 'highlight reel', because it truly is YOUR highlight reel, and it can be as real or as fake was you want it to be. At the end of the day, my content is for the supporters and the haters. For the supporters to take what they need to from it, and for the haters to maybe stick around and learn something, or ultimately keep it moving. I don't expect to be for everyone, and that too is okay.
So yes, in the traditional sense I am a failed influencer. I realized I just wasn't good at playing the game, about curating my feed and ultimately my life, stressing the numbers and the algorithm, feeling the pressure to be a salesperson. This isn't me saying anything is wrong with those things, either; I have friends that are successful and wonderful influencers who bring a lot of value to that space, and it is truly their calling. It simply isn't mine.
Does this mean that *I* am a failure, though? Not a chance.