I Got Everything I Wanted
Objectively, this year was pretty amazing for me in terms of social media: I hit 100K on YouTube and a few days later on TikTok (and my TikTok has since grown to over 270K followers), I signed with a management and that took a lot of work off my shoulders (and also helped me realise how much I should be charging for sponsorships since I charged about 10% of my value before), but now that the year is coming to an end, I have come to realise the downsides of all these things. I want to make it clear right at the beginning that I am incredibly grateful that there are now so many people out there watching my content. I appreciate that a lot, but I think I always imagined having a bigger audience as easier than it turned out to be and this is what this post is about.
I always thought that getting that silver Creator Award from YouTube for 100K subscribers must feel amazing. I thought people must be doing a little happy dance when they find out that they hit that milestone. But honestly, when I opened my YouTube studio app and found out that I had hit 100K subscribers, it was a pretty miserable experience. I found out that I had hit that number while I was at my grandmother's birthday in mid-2021. It was my first time seeing my grandparents since the pandemic began. I had just found out that my grandfather's cancer has come back and all things social media-related seemed so irrelevant in comparison. I had already lost so much time with my grandparents due to the pandemic and also due to me studying abroad since age 16 and social media is just another thing that takes up time that you could spend with your loved ones. So no, I did not do a happy dance. In fact, I just wanted to throw my phone away.
Even though hitting that milestone was not the positive experience that I had hoped for, I kept going and continued to create content. I have been doing this for years and in a way, I also need it. Talking to my audience helps me and I enjoy doing it. But there is so much more to being a content creator than just filming and editing videos. I know people love to down-talk being an influencer as "not even being a job", but it is work. People think because it looks easy, it actually is easy. But influencers often just make it look easy - it is our job to do so. People do not want to see your endless to do lists of emails to get back to, how you edit videos late at night so that they can go up at the right time and how you sit on your couch for hours writing replies to direct messages and comments. None of that is really interesting. But that does not make it go away. Here is a normal weekly to do list of mine for social media:
- Post at least 3 Instagram stories
- Post 1-3 TikToks
- Go through Instagram DMs
- Reply to emails from brands
- Reply to comments on TikTok
- Reply to comments on YouTube
- Reply to messages submitted through contact forms on your websites
- Check in on Discord server
Throughout the Week
- Wednesday: post Instagram feed post & reply to comments
- Edit Instagram reel for next week
- Film YouTube video
- Take pictures for thumbnail of YouTube video
- Edit YouTube video
- If YouTube video has a sponsor, submit video for review if required by contract to do so
- Edit Thumbnail
- Schedule YouTube video & prepare Instagram story promoting it
- Sunday: write & send newsletter
- If it's book club meeting week, prepare questions for book club (and post them in advance on Discord) and pick books for choosing the new book (and prepare Instagram stories introducing the two book options)
And that does not include all the things that happen without being planned into your calendar weeks in advance: things like calls with brands or my management, sorting out broken equipment or bringing your editing laptop in for repair when it starts failing you again, having to sort out legal issues (yes, it is not that rare for influencers to get emails from control bodies and lawyers about legal things and it is not rare for those emails to include a threat of a fine). And don’t forget that your normal private life and other obligations also exist - I am a full-time law student. Over the past few months, I have had some problems with my health due to my wisdom teeth (thanks to which I had a toothache for four weeks before finally being able to have the surgery for removing them) and there have also been some medical problems of family members which obviously affect me emotionally. Take all of these things together and your calendar fills up pretty quickly.
If you do all of the things for social media - from creating the content, editing it, to replying to messages and negotiating contracts with brands - you have a big to do list on a weekly basis. I dealt with all aspects of being a content creator on my own for a really long time and it was just too much eventually. You have to keep in mind that this is not actually my main occupation - it is meant to be a hobby for me and my main occupation is being a law student. It is great if I can make some money off it as it helps me finance my equipment and stuff like that, but it is not my main task and I regard it more as a hobby. (Though I, of course, have to pay taxes and fulfil other legal obligations, even though I only regard it as a hobby) As my audience grew, so did the amount of emails I got regarding sponsorships and the amount of messages and comments I received on my socials. The workload increased a lot and I realised that I could not do it all on my own anymore. Since negotiating contracts for sponsorships was never my cup of tea and definitely the thing I enjoyed the least about social media, I looked for a management to help me with this aspect and also found one. Initially, it was great to no longer have to look at all those emails and to have someone who reads them, replies and sends me summaries once everything has been negotiated and then I can decide whether I want to do it or not.
But working with a management also meant working with people who make their living off me consistently posting on social media and who obviously also want to see a return on the time they invest in me - suddenly, doing social media started to feel a lot more like a job to me than a hobby. I loved the freedom of knowing that I could stop posting anytime - the only person who had to suffer the repercussions was me. But now, there were people depending on me and I did not want to let them down. And there is of course an expectation on their end that you take the professional relationship with your management seriously - but honestly, I will always prioritise university work over social media and this may mean replying to emails late and missing opportunities.
During the initial time with my management, I was more stressed about creating content than ever before. Of course, performance also matters for collaborations to even come into existence so that your management can earn money. Suddenly, I worried more about clicks than I ever did before. Some of that pressure was created through things said by management, but I think the blame for this lies mainly with me and how I interpreted those things. I think it is also a big factor that the past years were not the greatest for me: I did a year abroad, which was a pretty lonely experience thanks to online learning, and returning to Cambridge did not really improve things that much as it largely consisted of online learning as well. Emotionally, I have definitely been in better places. I also had never worked with other people regarding my social media before and I was not used to the success of my content being someone else's concern as well. I always used to say that it is ok for me if no one aside from me watches my content because as long as I had fun creating the content, I have achieved my goal. But that has kind of gotten lost over the past few months. And I want it back.
I had an honest and open conversation with my management about how I felt and they were super understanding. I genuinely love the people I am working with there and I am so grateful to have them on my team. Over the coming months, I will take a step back from doing collaborations. Of course, there are contracts that are already signed and I will fulfil the obligations I have under those contracts. But after that, I will be doing few to no collaborations for a few months. I just want to get back to making content because I love making it. And if no one else loves that content, that is ok as long as I love it.
I know that there is currently this obsession on social media with people in their twenties talking about having six streams of income and how to you can also build your side hustle, but honestly, not everything needs to be a financial success and be turned into a successful business. I know that I am in a very privileged position from which I can choose to be less active in terms of collaborations. I have always made sure that my university fees do not depend on social media - it is not something on which I would like to count since your income is very unpredictable anyway and fluctuates a lot from month to month. But I also never wanted it to be my job - so I made sure that my studies are financed through what my parents can contribute, summer jobs of mine and scholarships. Social media is just a hobby on the side. Some hobbies are fun because they are not business. And I do not want to lose the fun I had while creating content. Will I make significantly less money in the coming months? Absolutely. But if that gets me back some of my happiness, it is a price worth paying.
There is not one big conclusion I can draw from this, but here are a few takeaways:
Appreciate what you have right now. I was always grateful for my audience, but I did not realise how great it can be to have a relatively small audience. There are benefits to a big and a small audience. With a small audience, you recognise people who comment multiple times and the relationship between the content creator and the audience feels so much more personal. The more your audience grows, the more difficult this becomes. I do not think I valued everything that came with being a small influencer enough.
The grass isn’t always greener somewhere else. I feel like we usually want what we don’t have - it started for me in my childhood when I desperately wanted to have straight hair and continued until now. I thought growing on social media must be amazing, but I had no idea how much work is attached to it. How it feels to read so many hate comments daily - as a content creator with a few thousand subscribers, I had hardly any hate comments to deal with before.
Talk it out. The best decision in all of this was the open conversation I had with my management. If there is something that bothers you, talk it out. Be honest about the things that bother you, because people may not know about it otherwise. Conversations like this can be uncomfortable, but they are important.
I am not on this blog or on any of my social media accounts because I regard it as work - I think of it as talking to my friends because that is what you guys are to me. And I want to enjoy our conversations again.
See you soon.
Lots of Love,