2017 IN REVIEW
This post is a recap of 2017 so I can document my process and you can follow along and learn from my mistakes and improve on my wins. It’s best that I take it back to 2016 so we can see how and why I shaped my 2017. I’m an open book, this will be long, here we go.
2016 WAS THE YEAR OF DISCOVERY
In 2016 my eyes were opened to blogs and the fact that influencers were getting paid big bucks for content I was already creating. I never got into reading blogs and I thought they died with MySpace, whoops! I met a prominent natural hair Youtuber in person by way of my YouTube channel and learned that she had a PR manager that aligned her with hair brands and paid opportunities. I thought that was the fast track to getting free product and paid opportunities. My new vlogger boo was sponsored to go to the Taaliah Waajid Natural Hair Show in Atlanta and I let her talk me into attending 2 days before the event. The best decision and investment made to date. I also signed a contract with her manager which hindsight, wasn’t great and here’s why. I paid a hefty $500 retainer and $200 monthly and only got 3 opportunities over the 6 months I stuck it out. I received (2) $150 contracts with random startup brands that don’t exist today and the only brand that was noteworthy, didn’t pay me. That’s when I got smart. I ended my contract with the manager and cracked open my old marketing books, because that’s my degree after all, and immersed myself in social influencing research on google.
Cut to, I transitioned my Instagram from personal use to curated original content. I upgraded my Sony NEX5r camera to a Canon 70D, a Canon G7x and better studio lights for my videos. I took my own pictures with a remote or begged my little brother or boyfriend. I discovered Mattie James and invested in a master class. I consistently produced videos for YouTube and uploaded on Instagram. On IG I was constantly getting reposted on popular hair pages and then finally on my own merit, I was approached by my first brand and they asked me to name my price for photo and video content. #Winning!
That year I spent $10k of my own money.
I earned $1,500 | Brand collaborations + YouTube ads
Collective social following 5.9k | YouTube: 5k Instagram: 789 Twitter: 54
Brand(s) I worked with: Latched and Hooked
2017 WAS THE YEAR OF REDIRECTION AND INTENTIONAL INVESTMENT
This year I decided I am a content creating influencer and would embrace the blogging world. I launched my blog, Ondiaj.com, in March and put my YouTube channel on the back burner to focus on growing my Instagram following because that's where the instant opportunities were coming from but the consensus with brands I wanted to work with was your content is great but you don’t have enough followers or engagement to be paid.
BET. TIME TO PUT IN WORK.
I couldn’t figure out how to work my new camera so I outsourced my weakness and met my photographer Jendayi Asha at a networking event. We did monthly shoots and I had consistent quality content to post and I could focus on other things like building my website, pitching brands and not stress over the learning curve of my camera. I posted at least 1 blog post a week and started my weekly newsletter. I made it my business Monday through Friday while at work to pitch and introduce myself to companies and PR reps. I sent 1,028 emails just introducing myself to brands! My Instagram following started to pick up and I finally crossed the 1k mark and then the algorithm changed. Dun dun dunnn…. That picture that use to get 400 likes was getting 56 and the community and brands weren’t even seeing my posts anymore. Confused, I dug in deeper with this commitment to be a recognized and paid content creator. I decided I wanted this to be my full time job.
SINCE THE BRANDS COULDN'T SEE ME, I WOULD GO TO THEM.
I went to every blogging, networking and event of interest in my area. I took myself to the Taliah Waajid Natural Hair show in Atlanta, CurlFest in New York, Myliek’s live podcast in Atlanta, was invited to New York Fashion Week Curls on the Runway in New York, invested in the Blogalicious conference in Miami and Myliek’s Retreat in Cancun. I was a mover, shaker and tastemaker you hear me! I was featured on Fashion Bomb Daily, local publications, requested to host events and sought after to create content for my favorite brands. Just about every dollar I made went to outfits for events or posts no one would see, event tickets, plane tickets, hotels, rental cars, ubers, gas, parking, meals and more video equipment. I said yes to every paid opportunity that came my way and accepted nothing less than $500. I pulled more all-nighters than I’d like to count so I could finish sponsored videos and used all my vacation and sick days because I would oversleep the next day. Remember, I have a full time job and commute 2 hours both ways. Every weekend was blocked for an event, photoshoot or quiet time so I could edit. My friends named me The Unicorn because I’m never around and when you did see me it’s a miracle! Um, get back Tiffani Haddish.
I was literally clicking on all cylinders as an aspiring entrepreneur with a full time job but I was physically tired and beyond frustrated with the lack of growth and engagement on my content especially on IG. I was literally losing followers by the dozens with every new post! I cried a lot out of frustration and took it as rejection. It really made me question if this shallow passion project was worth it because lets be real, that climb to be a popular social influencer or famous crosses a fine line of narcissism and the need for mass insignificant approval. I never looked at myself in that way and I still need to consult my moral compass to see how I can navigate the social blogisphere and not compromise my responsibilities and values, but let me finish my story! It was full speed ahead and I needed to finish the year strong!
It wasn’t until I had my miscarriage in October that left me on bed rest for a couple days and I put a pause on everything. I saw how filthy my home had become, my car was an extension of my closet, I was 15 pounds heavier and my relationship needed some serious attention. I kept this quote in the forefront because I just knew my big break was coming
“Many of life’s failures are from people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up”
Cut to the end of the year and my 12 Days of Ondia J Give-O-Way. I vowed the giveaway would be my last push to grow my following and would dictate how much effort moving forward I would give my brand. I wanted to see 1k+ growth on each of my social platforms.
I gained a total of 327 followers across the board and most of them unfollowed after the last day of the giveaway. Sigh.
I spent a greater portion of 2017 killing myself to fit in and be noticed. I spent A LOT of money for a platform that was redesigned to see me fail and I lost sight of why I was doing any of it to begin with. All of that boils down to knowing when to grind till you get it and when to pivot.
Pivot doesn’t mean stop but I should’ve diversified my efforts after a while. I know it will take time to cultivate a following and this same energy over a period of time is necessary to get me those dream opportunities and lifestyle I want, but at what cost? My relationship, health and savings? I thank God I have an amazing boyfriend that allowed me the freedom to solely focus on this and without my awesome salary I wouldn't be able to frivolously finance this hobby but my brief moment in motherhood quickly prioritized everything and operating like this is irresponsible of me. There has to be balance.
In 2017 I spent $23k
I earned $8,679 | brand collaborations + YouTube ads
Collective social following: 9.8k | YouTube: 7.3k Instagram: 2.4k Twitter: 92 Pinterest: 28
Brand(s) I worked with: Latched and Hooked, Pantene PRO V, Mielle Organics, Jane Carter Solution, Uncle Funkys Daughter, Denman, The Shhhower Cap, CurlFormers, Taliah Waajid, INGLOT, The Lip Bar, The Camuto Group, LOFT and Fossil®.
2018 WILL BE THE YEAR OF BASICS AND BALANCE
This year I’m going back to basics and finding balance. I’m going back to creating the type of content I did before I knew you could get paid. I’ve set a goal to save $45k so if I want, I can comfortably walk away from my job to either start my family or resume my efforts full-time.
I truly believe that whatever is for me, is already mine.
I'm wearing: JACKET mango | TOP gap | SKIRT loft | BOOTS steve madden