She took the time to speak with us about
The journey from a student to building a money-making personal brand online 1:40
Rebranding herself after deciding to wear the hijab 6:40
Deciding to do content creation full-time 11:15
Having the confidence to put yourself out there 15:15
Being an influencer while working on your character 18:00
Creating content that’s authentic to who you are right now 20:00
Self-care & Social Media: How to preserve your mental health online 24.00
How to create content with intention 33.00
Authenticity: how to build a brand when you’re multi-faceted 38:00
Becoming financially independent with your personal brand 44:00
Working with brands 47:00
Money: Setting your rates 53:00
Dealing with low views & engagement 59:00
Top tips for content creators to start out 1:03:00
Motivation for everyone starting from scratch 1:09:00
Comment below! Shahd’s question for you:
What are you doing right now that you’re gonna be proud of later?
Leave it down in the comments, and share your diversity with us!
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Today I talked with Shahd Batal she shared her journey to becoming an influencer how to create content with intention and how it can be authentic to yourself and your journey and we talk real business making money from your personal brand and expecting the money you are worth so if you’re interested in this kind of content inshallah stay tuned.
Thank you so much for coming on Shahd I got a name right “Shahd”
Okay so for those who don’t know you which I think are not going to be so many people could she introduce yourself in 30 seconds
In 30 seconds Wow. I was born and raised in Minneapolis and originally Sudanese I moved to LA a couple of years ago I am a full-time content creator so beauty fashion lifestyle whatever my interests are honestly I’m lucky enough to be able to make my interests and hobbies into a career but yeah I’m just I’m doing it.
I’m 23 suddenly can’t remember anything else about myself uh-huh but yeah that’s kind of a just in the content creator
Beautiful so actually why I wanted to speak with you was because your personal brand is so strong and you have a very unique journey so you started actually blogging and as a natural hair blogger and yeah I already built an audience back then and then you started to get into modest fashion.
So I really want to know what was your journey and I guess it’s gonna be a longer answer: What was a journey creating your personal brand and then also rebranding yourself from after you chose to wear the hijab?
Yeah, so it’s definitely a very unique journey I so I was just I grew up very normal ahem did I had a very average good upbringing I was in school I was studying public relations and I really loved it. Honestly, if I wasn’t doing what I’m doing now I would be on the other side of what I’m but it’s interesting because the PR that I studied is much different than what PR is now.
But I was just in school and I was having kind of the same crisis that a lot of college kids have of like is this what I want to do is the direction I want. And I’m lucky that my parents never pushed me to be a doctor a lawyer because my parents were not doctors and lawyers so it was anything in the arts was some or like had anything to had to do with writing was okay.
I guess I could say my parents are as cool as it gets for Muslim parents and that’s really important to my story so I was in school I was a YouTube baby like. I grew up watching YouTube I grew up watching the oh geez but none of them looked like me and I didn’t I don’t think I necessarily took that in but I was just like. So I can’t say that I did I started doing what I’m doing because I didn’t see anyone that looks like me it was all like very fluid for me so I actually on one day on my MacBook air decided to film a YouTube video in my dorm room it was horrible it will never see the light of day ever again but it was that first step that I needed and so I made a video I put it online I think I was so excited when I got a hundred views I still remember like hitting a hunt I was sitting in my English class when I hit a hundred subscribers like these things are all very fresh in my mind like this was 2015 -2016.
Because it’s been about four years now and I was doing it but I didn’t tell anybody right and I don’t fully remember what my first video was I think it was a chatty video it wasn’t a natural hair video but I started doing natural hair videos.
Because it was my journey of going from damaged hair to healthy hair and it meant more than that it meant it meant kind of coming into myself that like a lot of stuff I you know my whole life I had been straightening my hair and relaxing right here but now I’m like this is I want to feel good about my natural hair so it did mean so much more to me and I think people kind of followed that journey of natural hair and even with the natural hair videos I would always talk.
I think if anything I was more vocal back then before I then I am now because you know unfortunately there are so many other factors there is someone that always has something to say you know you do always kind of want to be politically correct so there are barriers that unfortunately you know privacy reasons there’s just so many reasons that you know I’m not as available. I have to take more precaution now but I just I said what I wanted to say I was young I was dumb and I was making these videos and then I like I said I didn’t tell anybody but people started finding me and they came up to me like hey I found your videos and I’m like that was that’s not me I don’t know who that girl is it’s not me I was so embarrassed it’s kind of like I was living on Hannah Montana life.
So I was like okay I have to tell my parents before anybody else tells them that their daughter is making videos on the internet because I don’t even know how they would react to that or what where their mind would go so I told my dad first and I was like “hey Baba I make videos on the internet” and he was like what I’m like “don’t worry I can make money off of it and I can do this and this is why it’s a good idea” and he was like “okay don’t do anything dumb don’t embarrass yourself don’t embarrass our family but you can do it” and I was like wow no one else’s parents would have been that cool about it. And I told my mom and I think until this day they don’t completely understand what I do but they are supportive and I have had to be very patient because they don’t understand what I do I have to like kind of baby feed them so that I have.
Because you know having their support is so important to me and so many times I get questions from girls being like oh I want to do this my family doesn’t support it and I’m like honestly like have the last resort and not have your family on your side you know so just being very patient with them and ham did I things are good now or they never we’re not good but so told them and I was like okay now I have a little bit more confidence kept making the videos I think at this point I had like twenty-thirty thousand followers and around it was in 2016.
Yeah I was those around elections I decided to start wearing hijab and there were so many different factors and reasons why I wanted to wear it I always knew that I wanted to wear the hijab but I always just thought it would be later in my life because you know I in my family it was like you know wear it when you’re ready and in there it wasn’t the number one thing so I always knew I wanted it but didn’t know when but I think for like a few months before I had like this overwhelming feeling of I feel ready because I was kind of I was in a difficult place in my life where I turned to the Dean and I was relearning a lot of the things that were just kind of taught to us that I didn’t question before you know and and anyone could attest to he you know learning it on your own it has so much more meaning to it so it was just a place.
I remember like I would be like okay I’m going to like make sure my prayers I’m not missing any prayers and so I would always have a scarf with me and I was one day I was just like man this is annoying it wasn’t like I should just wear a scarf and so I didn’t really think about the social media aspect like I didn’t think about actually I did but I was like if it doesn’t work it doesn’t it’s like this isn’t my full-time job this isn’t I mean it is but I was like if this isn’t the path for me if people stop following me cuz I get it if you follow someone for natural hair and they stop posting natural hair videos there’s so much other content you can watch you know I don’t take that personally but again I didn’t really think about it I just kind of thought okay I’m ready to put it on whatever happens and I knew that it was above me and you know I just had to go with it so I put it on I those were around election times.
There was just that video that I have up I was so emotional today after elections it’s so embarrassing I really want to take it down but for the culture I can’t take it down because that was a real that was where I was in life at the time.
You know there were just so many stories about girls you know taking a hijab off out of fear and it was just so ugly and I was like I could do something here I could do something that matters here you know that that would encourage these girls and everything I do from the jump is for like these younger girls is for the younger me right because I do I grew up hating my natural hair right and I don’t want any of these girls my daughter inshallah to ever to feel like that.
You know I don’t think that you have to unlearn I don’t think anybody else needs to unlearn things that I’ve had to unlearn you could just not learn it in the first place so that was kind of where I was so all over the place but and things weren’t good initially so I started I was doing Beauty here and there.
But I wasn’t a heavy Beauty person but once it started to run the hijab I was like okay I’ve got my face to work with now so I got more into makeup and it was God I really really loved it at the time I was very glam like I was learning I wasn’t a makeup artist and that’s the thing is I have never been a professional than anything I’ve never claimed she’d be an expert at anything I was just a normal girl navigating being a young adult you know so what happened next I would still talk a little bit here and there and things were rough for like a couple of months you know it didn’t I was like okay like YouTube is not gonna be a thing for me anymore no one cares anymore and that’s fine I need to go back to school.
Then I think one day like one video did well and it was kind of this influx of new people and what it felt like was the old people leaving like the subscribers that I was losing and a whole new group of people coming in and it felt like a different community and no people always knew I was Muslim.
It’s different when you’re visibly Muslim so it felt it felt good it felt there was a lot of positivity at the moment and there still is time to die but that’s kind of that and things kind of just like picked up and I was still doing what I was doing I think at the time I had like 3000-4000 thousand subscribers you know that went and I again was still – I don’t even know if I mentioned this I should mention I’m a horrible storyteller so please bear with me. I did miss this part out basically I was going through a lot and I sent my parents down and I was like I want to pursue this if give me one year and if I can’t do anything with it I will go back to school and so I was taking that time I took that year off school.
I did not go back to school I moved to LA in the most cliche form so I was doing I guess it’s kind of a blur to me honestly in the past couple years have gone by so quickly and so much has happened so I’m in Minneapolis making videos in my parents’ basement. I think one day I’m doing a panel in New York at Columbia for it was on diversity inclusivity I remember just talking about taking risks.
And I was thinking about how I’m such a hypocrite because I’m living so safe and so fine in my parents basement and I had been wanting to move to LA for I knew that’s I just I knew it was what I wanted so I booked a flight from New York to LA I moved to LA or I come to LA and like I’m gonna look for an apartment now. And I cuz I thought I was just growing I’m 21 at a time and I’m like oh no one will give me an apartment if I have no rental history I am a child I can’t really I don’t have any credit and I can’t prove that I have a real job so that was a little tricky to navigate got a spot and it was such a risk.
Because I called my parents I remember being like hey Baba I got an apartment and it didn’t it was a little rough at first but I knew my parents like our relationship is like we’re friends and they are there to guide me but it’s never been like I’m afraid of my parents type of thing which is such a common you know thing in our communities but move to LA and now it’s kind it’s the past couple years have been.
I always say like I was making videos in my parents basement and I loved it but it was just me and it was safe because I didn’t have to work with I didn’t have to do anything I knew what I was doing it was just me there was no one to tell me yes no no one critiquing me it was just me.
Now I feel like I’m part of an industry and there are good sides there are bad sides but I for me I only work with people that I love to work with people that I like to work with because I think life is too short and work doesn’t have to stress me out as much as I allow it to stress them out I also find my first grey hair in the summer and I feel like my life has been different ever since I mean I don’t let myself get stressed out anymore it was funny because I called my mom and I’m like mama I found my first grey hair and shoe since it at a time and they were laughing at me her sister is like yeah we are after the women our family great early I’m like great good to know but yeah now it’s.
It’s there’s the content creation side but I do have an incredible team that helps me out that helps me on you know the negotiations and things that I was doing before by myself but I’m no good at I’m not a lawyer I don’t know how to I don’t I look at a contract and I’m done I’m so endowed so I have luckily I have people that are able to take care of everything on that side on the logistic side so I’m able to just focus on creative.
So multiple things over the time when you started how was your level of self-confidence and what brought you from the idea of there’s YouTube and I grew up with it and there’s this too that I can use to them actually saying there’s potential to make money and then really to going and taking the step to move to LA at 21 which is pretty young how do you gather that self-confidence to just put all of what you had in this one.
Yeah, I fully believe and fake it till you make it because that’s exactly what I did I think I was making even till this day when I make you know I have a series on my channel called Shai with Shahd to where I just like a Q&A.
When I do these types of videos where I am very vulnerable it’s 100 per cent things that I need to hear myself and I’m just trying to believe it and. So that’s kind of how it was I was never like the kid that fit in anywhere I was never I never had like a group of friends I never. You know I really struggled with my relationships when I was younger and you know till this day I mean now I haven’t.
I found a good group of people here in LA but I never had that before so it was solely me and you know in a way it was good because I think had I had a lot of people around me and a lot of opinions are on me I would have been too scared to start YouTube.
Because I would have been scared too you know what would what are people gonna think and blah and I kind of was like that because I didn’t tell anybody what I was doing but I think that was the best way I could have gone about it.
Cuz otherwise I would have been so shy I would have been too embarrassed and yeah it ended up working in my favour and I think over the time over time it just you have to yeah I mean you have to do the work of course but it does come with age it does come with the longer you’ve been doing this.
And I’ve like it doesn’t go away I think the like any issues that I have with you know self-worth their confidence it doesn’t go away it just comes over time it just comes in different ways and your triggers change. And when someone I think when I was younger it was like I am I pretty am I like cool and then you get older and you’re like am I a good person am I actually lovable and I a good most like I like there’s so many it the calibre just changes and so that’s not something that ever goes away but there are so many I think you have to put in the work to figure out you deal with it I know and honestly now a lot of it is with the love of the people in my real life because as great as you know love on social media is it’s not always it’s not real. Not to say that it’s not real but it shouldn’t justify it shouldn’t be the basis of your self-confidence and I think unfortunately that’s the case for a lot of content creators but if I was to take all the good that means I have to take all the bad, yes you know.
That actually reminds me of something that I just heard I think it was a pastor saying it he said nowadays we need to figure out that our influence is not wider than our character deep so saying okay I want to share how I deal with you know my self-worth or how I deal with my Islam or how I deal with modesty. And then from yourself, your character is not that deep that you’re kind of not keeping up so you’re creating content about a topic where you really think people need to hear about it and yourself you also need to hear about it.
But at the same time, people should be able to meet you in person in private and understand your deepest thoughts and be even more impressed than when they see you online sharing these things with a wider audience. Yeah so I feel that is very important when you create content that you’re at the same time you preserve your personal health and your personal life and work on your character ongoing the same way or and even more than would you put out as an influencer to the world. But then I look at your channel and you’re creating so much content masha’Allah so.
What are like very practical tools that you use for yourself to preserve your own character to grow as a person and develop yourself and at the same time create content that can as you say benefit those sisters and those younger girls that you won’t intentionally be influenced by your content. How do you navigate that practically?
Yeah I think I’ve never wanted to feel like I was being performative right I think my content has always been this is where I am in life right now and I can never speak for like my entire journey or in the future.
It’s like this is where I am right now and it would not it wouldn’t be natural for me to you know always talk about how high my man is and how all of these things are because that’s not the case you know even my journey with modest fashion I guess if we talk about that. Because there’s a lot of conversation about what I think I went from not wearing the hijab not always being the most modest dresser to being like okay I want to wear it.
And mind you I do have a platform at this time so there are people watching the whole journey okay I think I’m gonna wear it I was wearing you know half of my hair was out and I was wearing what I was it was like I was trying I was like in a weird in-between phase which I’m so glad I went through.
And then you know there’s a phase where I will be really conservative and then I face what face where I’m not like it’s such a fluid thing but I’m aware that there are people watching it the whole time.
But I can’t perform and be like this is this is where I am all the time because I think when it gets performative is where there’s a lot of resentment that is unnecessary that I don’t think we’ve really had to deal with before social media and so for me I’m like I’m doing the best I can not be the face of all Muslims.
I cannot speak on behalf of everybody but this is my journey and I’m lucky it happened today I feel like the reason why people have stuck around through all of these changes. Because I’ve been five million people since I’ve been on the Internet is because I’m I do speak about things that matter to me in the midst of the beauty in the fashion like I said I’m really grateful that I get to make my hobbies into a career.
But it’s bigger than me you know it’s everything I do as much but it all has a much larger meaning from the natural here that journey to my journey of like what does modest fashion what does modesty look like Jimmy you know when I first started wearing it.
I was like oh my gosh everyone and modest fashion the internet was a lot of dresses a lot of skirts which were beautiful and very modest but I’m too reckless to wear a dress every day of my life.
I just I didn’t know my personal style so I think people were watching that and I think through the evolution of this mmm I can look back and be like wow I have grown so much my self-confidence I’m not looking for that type of validation that I think I may have when I was younger.
But even now it’s like I really am loving wellness content I’m really loving self-care I think those are my favourite videos to create to edit I feel I feel like that it has a larger impact for me at the moment because and for other people because that’s what I’m passionate about at the moment and I’m not I do still love beauty but I don’t I’ve fallen out of love with it a little bit so for me to continue doing something that I know people.
I know people want to see but doesn’t feel authentic to me I just I know I’m going to start to resent it or I’m going to start to zap myself at the internet for not being authentic to where I am at the time and that’s why I always say when people ask me where do you see yourself in five years ten years and moans like I just I hope I’m doing something that feels authentic at the time. Because if I had guessed where I would it would have been five years ago where I would have been now five years ago absolutely not where I am right now but this feels authentic.
So I want to go more into self-care because one of the big campaigns and just shout outs from your brand that I really loved was “Buy yourself flowers”. Every single time I see someone buying flowers or I see like a stand where you can buy flowers and I’m thinking “I should buy myself flowers”. I mean I should also buy my mom flowers because she’d be really happy but I should also buy myself flowers.
It just gives you so much joy so I think it’s a real big deal even at whether you have a small brand online or a big that how do you preserve your mental health how do you take care of yourself how do you how are you happy and how are you also content with maybe not being happy at that moment and then at the same time trying to create content that inspire people or that give them value or that educate them so how do you navigate your own mental health and being present and online on social media.
That is a loaded question going back to buy yourself flowers that I I think you know that was an accident that started as a tweet that I accidentally wrote buying myself followers every day and then it was too late and people were laughing at it and by the time I saw it it was too late for me to like fix it.
I was like well I can’t delete it now because I’m gonna look guilty yeah he’s gonna look at his spot followers so I just left it there and it was a joke and then people like. Oh, it’s Friday by yourself followers it was like no “buy yourself flowers!”.
And initially, it was very surface level it was like literally I was buying myself flowers but then over time it kind of felt like I can do that in different ways so I think the phrase means so much more than just the phrase but how I take care of myself with social media. I just I try to be honest with myself first and foremost and if I’m not okay I think I used to be really hard on myself.
And I think it’s really easy for Gen Z’ers and Millennials to just be hard on ourselves all the time I think there’s a lot of like Muslim girl guilt on top of that. Or it’s am I doing enough am I doing the right thing how do I navigate anything in life but I think being honest with myself first and foremost and I write a lot I don’t share all my writing within everybody but it’s really important for me to journal.
Because once you write everything down it’s real and it’s out there and you can surprise yourself.
So what do you write about?
Anything! I will literally wake up in the morning and be like you know this is the mood for the day or if I’m having a great moment or like a really good night with my friends, I will try.
Even if I don’t have time I’ll write down like little details that I remember so I can go back to that and like oh this was the time where you know I felt very loved by my friends and you know really supportive.
You know I this with my family or whatever at what it is like I write everything down just so I can go back to it but also I love looking at my growth right so if there’s this particular situation that’s weighing really heavy on my heart.
I’m writing about it at the moment and I’m writing about it two months later five months later a year later I’m able to look at my growth and that’s something that helps me be like I’m okay.
Because I am growing and that’s enough and a lot of people feel like they’re we always feel like we’re not doing enough and that in itself like existing is an accomplishment and so for me, I like to write everything down just to have a better sense of just so I can I I guess so I can look at things objectively too but when it comes to social media.
I can’t always be creating content if I’m not feeling like it so like I said I’m not I’m trying not to be as hard on myself anymore and if I’m not feeling it I will turn off you know I’ll shut down but when I do shut down I try to not just spend my time passively right so I’m still trying to feed my mind because those are the times I need at most at times where you are just like ready to be done with everything.
That’s the time where you need to be nurturing your mind your body your spirit I mean as corny as it is that’s when you need it the most so instead of spending it passively and sometimes you need doesn’t go in you to turn off and watch Netflix but reading you know for me I love hiking I love being outside and it’s just like little things and I think people too people it’s easy to overlook how big such little things are like for me.
Like one thing I like to do when I’m procrastinating or anything it’s like literally counting to three and then okay I’m going to get up and do this and that is something that’s helped me but not spending my time possibly and or just being around people sometimes that’s it sometimes I need water sometimes I need a good meal and I that’s actually something that I want to look into more and I know it’s it’s something that’s very classist it’s a very privileged things but I think that the quality of your meals as well can definitely determine the quality of your life.
And I remember Oprah saying something my queen about how that’s how she feels and I truly believe it so I have been I was vegan for like three years and now I just, my body started craving like eggs again and I realized it wasn’t the eggs it was the protein that I needed and now I just I don’t eat meat but I’m still very mindful of the food that I eat. And I don’t think everybody needs to be a vegan I think it’s very impractical to tell Sudanese people that they have to be vegan but I just tried to be mindful about the food I eat I tried to be intentional I tried to actually spend time cooking.
Because that’s usually when I feel better when I feel nurtured and a lot of it is you we can get really lazy with these things that do matter and there are things that I’ve taken even from my mother like you know I always watched my mom put perfume on before she goes to sleep and I and when she cleans and she like does the behold and the Ruth it’s not just like to do it like that’s a form of self-care and so I think my ear pod fell out yeah it’s a form of self-care and I’ve always lived with that and for me work matters.
But I think people forget that there are so many other aspects of our lives that we don’t prioritize I think like this association with how hard you work or your success and your worth is really dangerous and it’s a very Western view but I think if we just start believing that we’re worthy before any of this or without any of these external things we’d have a lot fewer problems than we have right now.
That’s a lot of things that you’re mentioning I guess come down to self-awareness so practising self-care through being aware of what you need whether you that is your mind or your body or even your spirit or your soul and really understanding.
And I think that is also big deal where you come along and say okay writing is a form where I get more self-aware and I kind of can track my mood but also track what I can be grateful for and remind myself of that entire where I feel I need it because sometimes we need the reminders we just forget so easily and so quickly.
Yeah and the thing about writing that I love because I don’t share it publicly it’s like I don’t care if I’m a good writer or not I don’t care no one’s gonna see this is for myself and not how I feel like that’s such a rare thing but not everybody can do that right and for me.
That’s how I found my outlet but some people don’t know how to do that some people need to talk to somebody some people need to you know to be around people like the way I recharge is on my own but some people recharge around people like I think if you know how you can’t take care of yourself unless you know how to unless you know how you regain your energy.
Yeah and that has to happen by yourself internally understanding you know what you really want and that only looking outside how other people do with it.
I was just gonna say I’m constantly checking in because that is something that can change right. When I was younger I think I was a lot more extroverted than I am now but like I said constantly checking in on where you are at the moment.
And last time we spoke you also said you should constantly check in on your intentions when you create a brand or you create something for yourself or even your career so I just want to know okay building something bigger than yourself creating a legacy for yourself. These things sound very overwhelming for people that are just starting out creating a personal brand for example who are starting on their career and wanting a personal brand to support that.
So how what are the steps that you can take to really be intentionally based in your branding and create something that is bigger than yourself?
Yeah so constantly checking in for me when I first started my channel I wasn’t doing it for anyone like I said I I wasn’t thinking oh there’s no one that looks like me I have to do it and it’s gonna be this big thing and you know it’s gonna help other people feel good about themselves. No actually if I’m being honest I just wanted to do it for myself and then I really realized what that meant and if anything that helped me fall in love with it more and more but constantly checking in with your intention to saying.
Okay, why did I start this right? Like I said for me it was I wanted to do it too okay what can I do with it or who is this for because I don’t think that you are ever gonna find fulfilment and just doing something for yourself ever and especially if you’re gonna make something a career this is why there are so many studies that are like you know money doesn’t actually buy you happiness.
And that’s why there are so many issues with people that have all the money that has everything they want they’re still not happy so constantly checking in okay so initially it was okay I would love for you know these younger girls to feel like they have somebody that looks like them that is a normal person just navigating Minneapolis or LA or the industry or whatever however you want to see yourself in somebody.
Okay, that still matters to me but now how can I do how could I give back how could I do even more with what I’m doing how can I love creating content is this still the way that I want to be creating content and is this the path that I want to go down.
Oh actually oh it’s been a couple of years now my interests have changed a little bit how do I incorporate every like how do I switch things up how to do I it’s like what is that game where you just took my tongue I’m just constantly swishing around the puzzle pieces. I guess for lack of a better term but it’s really important because I think if you don’t check in that’s when going back to the resentment thing you’re gonna start to not enjoy what you do and when you start to not enjoy what you do.
That’s a huge indicator that you haven’t been checking in with yourself and that’s okay it’s okay to get there cuz we all just put life on the backburner we put you put a ream out on the back burner but you put things that are so crucial to our survival on the back burner and we get so caught up in day to day. And it’s okay to get there like don’t be hard on yourself but that’s a huge indicator that maybe what you’re doing is what you want to be doing but you never want to feel like you’ve gone too far down it to not be able to look back or to be able to backtrack and fix something.
Do you think there is a point where you can’t go back or is it always just checking in and not overthinking it because I think a lot of times we overthink okay what is my mission statement and what is my vision for the brand and like you said where do I need to be in five years and where do I want this to be growing in. How do I monetize it and I want to get to that in a bit but do you think that there is a specific moment where you need to reflect on the intention behind your brand or can you do it at any stage of the process you’re in right now.
I think you can do at any stage I don’t think it’s ever too late to reevaluate or it’s ever too late to rebrand we have so many great examples of that already but I think when it comes to I mean in what regards do you mean are you talking about if someone specifically on social media or someone who is on in the industry.
So let’s say practical example I have a sister who wants to get into she’s studied law and a lot of people know about being a law student. And she wants to change a lot of social issues with the law but then she’s also interested in creating a modest fashion site and she’s interested in creating a healthy and nutritional coffee shop.
Like so many different things like where do you see her understanding of more okay, I want to give back from what I really enjoy doing – oh this is the industry where I’m at right now and I can’t deviate or I can’t like change my ways because people will think I’m shaky or whatever.
So I think I’m asking from a personal branding perspective because when you’re looking at branding yes these things seems very separate but if you look at a person is not only one facet like she is not only you know I like makeup or I like fashion or I am talking about self-care you are a lot of different things and many more that we don’t see as viewers honest in a social media space like you are so many different facets do you believe that a personal brand can and if you how can a personal brand reflect really all the parts of what you want to achieve and all the parts that you want to intentionally change or grow or develop yourself into.
Mm-hmm, I think we’re almost in 2020 and people will people follow who they love people sticker I’m sorry I don’t know if you guys in here there’s a construction happening people stick around for what they love. And they tune in to authenticity right so if you are authentic people will people buy things from people that they like right.
I think a good example of what you were saying your sister reminds me of my friend Amal who was on YouTube now but she went to law school she loves social justice she has the most beautiful mind ever martial law but she loves content creating and she worked at BuzzFeed.
She’s creating her own YouTube channel and she’s finding a way to incorporate it all together because I think the way we have to look at the industry is there’s a problem and there’s a gap how can I fill that gap right.
And then and it could be with all these different interests that you have whether it’s law and fashion or you love a straw I don’t hate that stuff um any anything random I think that it’s 20/20 and I think the only way it’s better to be good at multiple things to be like okay at multiple things than to have one focus and I think it’s a lot more lucrative as well and obviously a lot more fulfilling because you’re able to tap into all the different parts of yourself
I think you really put it well in saying like people okay we don’t follow things or movements or projects we follow people and their personalities and their character and what they authenticly want to share. And whether that is ten different things that you’ve never thought this person has in them or it’s just two or three different things we follow them because they are authentically themselves.
Yeah and that’s the way that things are moving now I guess I can only speak to what I know and that’s my industry is. When you follow someone on social media you don’t think okay well I’m only gonna follow them for a short amount of time and then I’m gonna unfollow them, right?
You usually when you hit that follow button you want to be following someone forever and you can’t expect that person to be the exact same person all the time. You’re watching them grow and you know through little bits of themselves that they share you get like these little like a little bit of information here and there random things about this person you’re starting to form.
I guess not a relationship because the Internet is not a relationship with someone but you’re starting to form relate-ability to this person and so when you watch when they are I guess for me I was if I’m doing fashion for a moment and then I switched to beauty for a moment. And then I switched and I go back to wellness then I go back to the beauty it’s you’re following someone because usually, you see something of yours in them.
Or you’re seeing something aspirational in them or something about them that you love that you can relate to and whenever you are I guess whenever you are thinking about where you are if you want to rebrand it’s always it should always be one.
If there’s a problem there’s something that I can fix here and you should never go into it thinking no one can relate because there’s always someone who can see something and what you do in themselves all right.
So there are people that I follow on YouTube that have nothing to do with me like we are completely opposite people who just talk about things that have nothing to do with me a complete opposite of me.
But I there’s something about their character and that’s how it should be people that you know follow me or if I’m walking and white woman with blonde hair and blue eyes is like I like your content I’m just like “Wait why it’s like how do you relate to me but that’s always so never I don’t think anyone should ever go into it thinking what are people gonna think who’s because you will find your people. And you will find your niche and there’s always a gap that needs to be filled and you’re really not doing much by trying to do what the other people are doing.
Yeah is doing so one big thing that I want to talk about is you really monetize your personal brand and what you’ve been doing which is also playing into your self-confidence. Because I believe coming from our community we don’t necessarily see other people making a lot of money with things that… first of all, we don’t see a lot of people in the public space making a lot of money that looked like us. And then also we see social media and it just looks I’m just gonna be honest just looks like this messy place and you’re just thinking okay everyone is talking about you can build a personal brand if you’re a beautiful woman and you’re into fitness just show your body you’re gonna make a lot of money with the brands that are going to sponsor you.
But I am just seeing a lot of self-confidence and like believe and like just professionalism and how you grew a personal brand to be really monetized and becoming financially independent with the content you create so can you walk us through the steps of becoming financially independent with your personal brand?
Absolutely I value I don’t care about money as much as I probably should but I value financial freedom a lot because it’s something that I guess within our communities I think that there I’ve seen so often you know a lot of you know parents like our parents unhappy not saying this in my situation but like parents are unhappy but you know the mom is is not financially independent to leave and you just watch this sister this cycle over and over again.
So I’ve seen what it’s done in communities and I’m like I just need financial freedom for it for us and a lot of people are shy they don’t talk about these things because I think they think it’s like a competitive thing. But it’s BS, so the way I make money through social media I don’t think you should ever have one outlet of like you know one outlet one stream of income so there is.
One aspect which is Adsense which are the ads that play on Google and you can choose how many ads you want to put on a video and there are this is now has become a much smaller part of my income. And then there is sponsored content which is the basis of it and when it comes to sponsored content you can’t just wake up one day and be like I want to work with NARS cosmetics okay like you…
I don’t take meetings all day for anything I don’t go to events for anything I don’t travel for anything and I know it looks so perfect and people don’t see the other side of it because it’s supposed to look easy it’s supposed to look effortless I don’t have stress social media I would oh my god my day was just so busy was this brand and this happened and this happened.
No, it’s supposed to look easy no one sees the back end of it but it’s actively putting in the work I think a lot of people think that I’ve grown a following and people are going to approach me regardless because there are people with 50,000 followers that doing such good work and have such amazing deals. And there are people with a million followers that are not doing it and I think part of it is also if you want to work with brands your content has to be brand-friendly so you can’t be like volt you can’t have like just inappropriate content you can’t be and if you want to be like how do I freeze it if you want to be very vocal about you know very political thing whatever it is your content has to be brand-friendly at the end of the day.
And so if you’re there if you feel like you have curated content that is great you can take that to a brand and on nowadays it’s like you can send a brand @dm. It’s really not that unprofessional you can the goal is to move it to an email but you can shoot a DM to someone and be like “I love your brand here’s here all the times that I have mentioned your brand and I would love to find a way that we oh I would love to find a way to collaborate”.
And bring the pitch to them. People want to work with you if you make it easier to work with them. Right, you can’t be like hey I want to work with you and then put it all in them they’re gonna be like take it out of here I’m busy.
But if you give them the whole pitch it’s a lot easier for them to work with you want to work with you also constantly keeping with these brands you want to be top of mind right.
So I just came back from New York you know so it’s important for me to be like who do I know that’s in New York let me grab a coffee with them even for 15 minutes. It’s important to make sure that you’re top of mine and also maintaining those relationships so on the brand side that’s the way to go about it okay so now you’ve got a deal you got your first deal it’s great. They’re gonna want to lowball you a lot of these bigger companies want to lowball you especially women that look like me I think women like who look like me are always asking me about deals.
And it’s really disheartening how much brands want to pay are willing to pay because if we’re being fully honest like some of these girls come like have they have the content it’s very curated they’re doing great things.
But they’re making a quarter of this woman this white woman with blonde hair blue eyes they’re getting paid brands have money I’ve seen it and it’s about I guess not being like this is how much they want to pay me it’s about saying “Hey these are my rates if you want to negotiate that”.
You can negotiate that and for me, it does like my rate will vary it’ll vary depending on do I really really love this brand do I wish I could use real examples. But there are brands that I really really loved they’re my wish list and so I would do that for a little bit less if I love the brand and it’s important for me to build the relationship with them because you always want to be thinking long-term right I think there’s a lot of people that are in the moment and you’d never want to have a bad relationship with the brand. Because you never know what’s gonna happen in the future right so it’s about maintaining relationships maintaining anything with longevity. So it’s okay so now we have negotiated something sometimes a little hires and tends a little lower if it’s more content you can you know you can give them deals but it’s also about you have to you can’t just throw out a number this is my rage without being able to back it right-
So that’s what I wanted to ask: so now so how do you create your own rates like how do you really price yourself and come to that is there like a formula or like an estimate?
Yeah so I mean it varies a lot. It varies on what is if we’re talking about Instagram specifically. What is your engagement rate? How long have you been doing it do you do other things? Do you you know what is attached to your brand do you speak a lot or are you solely on Instagram? Are you on YouTube what else do you do? What are your other accomplishments and I’ve seen something floating around social media about like you know if you are a makeup artist or a professional hair my hair art whatever professional? Any aspect and someone books you for 30 minutes right if you’re a technician and anything someone needs you for 30 minutes someone needs you to do a job you’re not that person not paying you for those 30 minutes right they’re paying you for all the work you’ve done that has gone into you being able to do that job in 30 minutes right the education labour the time the effort that you’ve put in that’s how they decide their rates right.
So when a lawyer asked you asks you for five million dollars for an hour it’s because that lawyer went to law school you know so it’s kind of the same with social media and I think a lot of people ignore that and they just think about followers know there’s a lot that goes into it what is the quality of your content.
And when it comes to the contracts okay what does the brand want from you I think you have to be really clear about it you have to be clear about what is the exclusivity how long do you get to use my content are you going to push this content what does this mean where is this going to be and brands just.
So easily just slip things and that can go over anyone’s had you know and that’s why I’m so grateful that I have a team that’s able to that knows this way better than I do that can handle that but not everybody has that so it’s important to it’s just so important to stick up tell if as corny as that sounds um having don’t – I mean first ask what their budget is.
But then say okay well good to hear this is my rate can we meet if you want to meet them if not keep it pushing and I think I’ve learned with a lot of these larger brands if you turn something down usually they come back and that’s kind of usually they come back and they’re like alright.
Because they have the money I’m sorry if you are an asset a water company if you are an L’Oreal company you have the budget.
Yeah you know but especially people of colour women of colour they’re always yeah we always put into like oh we just at least I have the feeling oh also in speaking.
So if you’re a speaker any kind of service that you provide there’s always this oh we need someone that looks like you that kind of gets the message like you that kind of like represents that kind of community for our brand or for our campaign or for whatever event.
And this is how much we pay you which is probably half of what they give other speakers yeah with the same expertise just don’t look like you and they are not a minority in that sector so we are just being you know to be happy that you’re being invited into the space but I think okay I think I heard who said that. Nafisa said that from Amalia she said something if you think your rate is a certain number double it and add something and then give it to the company because yep too much of like too often you’re just being invited for such a low number just to get someone who looks like you into that space yeah they think you’re not going to negotiate.
Yeah. And a lot of times people don’t they’re like oh this is what the brand is willing to pay me I still remember being so young and innocent and going into my first ad my management before this I remember going into the office so nervous and they’re like so how much do you charge people and I literally were in awe of how little I was charging because I had no idea and once I signed I was making probably five times more than five times what I was making.
Before and it was mind-blowing to me how much money is in this industry and how much people are willing to pay but going back to what you’re saying about not knowing. That’s why it’s so important for me to have four people four women in the community who look like us to form these relationships because if a brand comes to me and they’re like hey we want you to do this campaign and they don’t want to pay me and it kind of feels like oh you know we can get any we’ll get a different one I’m like okay go ask my friend who’s probably who’s going to charge you.
As much as I’m going to charge you and so we brands don’t get away with it anymore and I’m lucky to have you know friends in the industry I’m lucky to have like I show with me who I should have ruined it probably know it wasn’t incredible she’s like my mom, she’s the responsible one who you know we kind of grew together and we were able to kind of figure things out together and that’s been so incredible to me because we never looked at each other like competition right we were both doing the exact same thing but we never looked at it like that it was like oh my gosh I’m so happy that we are able to do this and it’s all come full circle of you know what we were doing before to both of us are now in LA pursuing our dreams.
You know and that’s because we had that sisterhood from the jump and you know it’s great but I think not sharing had we not shared rates had we not you know shared issues with certain brands or you know there are brands that I don’t talk about because they are like that there are brands that don’t care and you know the harsh truth there’s a lot of these brands don’t care about diversity inclusivity they just are doing it for their own political gain they don’t care and that’s hot of really harsh reality and I think for us I guess for me living in America like for example it’s like everything like you have to pick your battles right.
And then and especially the layer of being a black Muslim woman t’s so easy to be the difficult black role. And I’m just myself a very passive person I know this about myself so it’s it is really easy to just be a pushover and initially, it’s hard because how do you tell someone that’s trying to make a living off of it to know you need to assert yourself don’t work with brands that are doing. It’s like that’s not really like people want to work and it I can’t always speak on everything but it’s about picking your battles about you know this is what I value these are the brands that I would love to work with like I said earlier I would do last I would do more I would you know to find a way to make that work.
Yeah I think it’s so important because we make money as such a taboo topic we think oh it’s so and polite to ask how much someone is earning how much you’re pressing yourself how much your salary is it’s in your career as a lawyer or in the financial industry the same as when you’re building a personal brand creating content you just have to have that conversation.
Because if not you probably are earning way less than you could because someone is going to have insight into that area that you don’t so a fine sisterhood in your career so important just to have that conversation have that bond and just share with each other kind of the tips and how you overcame that issue.
Because the other person probably had the same so I want to ask you okay one of the last questions creating content okay you’re creating so much content mashallah now obviously the state of your brand and how you built your team is now very different than how when you start it so how was the process like of creating content back when you started.
And maybe seeing like little views or like low engagement how did you deal with that and then also you know how did you deal with like kind of the ugly beginnings of like really having to do every single step of the content creation process and figuring out your way on your own how is the content creation back then and how did you deal with the process and what can you give other people on the way that are starting and are at that moment right now to help them ease the process for them.
Yeah for sure I kind of want to go back to the what I was saying earlier for a second because I think it’s really important to acknowledge the lack the gap in education about business in you know a lot of these white communities versus my community.
And that’s another reason why it’s so important they don’t necessarily need that sisterhood I mean they whatever they do but they have all this background and how to move how to navigate how to deal with money that a lot of people in my community don’t have.
And that’s why it’s been important to me back to content creation yes it’s much much different now when I first started making videos it like I said it was on my webcam of my laptop and I think now obviously it’s very different quality matters a lot more now than it did before but there’s no camera lens that’s gonna give you good content if you don’t make good content already and it’s about making content that people relate to that people enjoy.
Because it’s entertainment at the end of the day I before I didn’t have the money to get all this amazing equipment so I still remember buying my first camera and I still remember like yeah I knew that people were making had more than me but I was working with what I had and that’s what’s so that’s like a huge part of how like where I am.
It’s like I was I’ve always just been working with what I have and the resources that have so I was making videos I had a lot more energy back in the day like I don’t know what happened like I’m not taking my iron anymore I was able to I remember before I told my parents that I had a YouTube channel they would go to work and I’d be so excited for them to go to work.
Because that means I could go upstairs and film and I’d film like three videos in a day and I netted a and I liked till this day I’m I’m learning that now what has worked for me may not work anymore right like I always added in my videos by myself but I’m not the best editor I didn’t care I was still making it I knew I could be doing better.
Now that I I do have the means that come to die I can hire someone to do that right so that’s kind of what I’m in the process of like I can hire someone to do this better than I can because you know the same way I hired someone should do my contracts in a way that in a much better way that I could you know so now I’m there but it because I have the means doubt when I didn’t it’s like you do what you have to do.
And I loved the content that I was creating and I didn’t think about the other side I’d never thought about how my content would be received because the second you do that you’re not authentic content and you and and and like I said now I do have to think about it a little bit more I do have to make sure I’m not saying the wrong thing but I didn’t like care before and that’s the content like I missed that that’s the content I love to watch so yeah I’m not worrying about the other side and creating content that you yourself want to see is the most important thing I think.
Because there will always be people who want to watch it and what I tell people now it’s like yes yeah the algorithm yes you want views but that should not be at the number one thing I think it’s always about don’t think about that create the content you love and keep creating it because this stuff takes time and it’s not over saturated the industry is forever changing I think my field.
Specifically, like influencer marketing isn’t going away and it’s an industry that adapts constantly to what’s happening so right now with likes going away people are like well what does that mean it’s like I don’t know but there’s always the back end like that space always adapts you know and if anything I think it’s kind of good that they’re getting rid of it because I think people are going to start making more authentic content people are going to start posting more.
I think it’s not going to be as performative I think a lot of people are really upset about it and I get it because it’s it does hurt smaller creators it does hurt smaller businesses because if I see you know this sweatshirt that is amazing and it has so many likes and everyone loves it I might buy it versus if I can’t see the likes and I’m just like what is the small business with a sweatshirt.
So I get it it’s it’s definitely a hit at them but I think if you let everything discourage you I guess I guess you should think about it in a sense of how would like would you still be doing it if you could if there was no possibility of making money and when I first started doing what I was doing I wasn’t making money I wasn’t thinking about making money I was just doing it because I enjoyed it and that’s always what it goes back to and now I’m rambling.
No, I think that is very important because you lose that sight when you understand okay I want to build a personal brand that really helps me to build my career you too often think about the other side and how it comes along and like how other people perceive you which is I think a human thing like if you network with someone when you get to know someone you want to present yourself in the best light and also in the social media space but really having that understanding that and I think one of the biggest things that you said is create content that you would want to watch if you feel like you feel shy watching yourself or you like looking at yourself and you wouldn’t show it your mother because she would say that’s not you or your sister and she would say you’re kind of different in this video then you should be going deeper into your personality and understand you know what is really the authentic content that you can create for yourself, yes and another thing I noticed is don’t sit on your content like.
While you have momentum do it right so they’re there so often people like I want to start a YouTube channel and I’m like start tomorrow post the video tomorrow because once you lose the momentum it’s gone and it’s really really difficult to get it back and you know even for me if I have a video.
And I sit on it for a long time and I watch it again I’m like oh my gosh I hate this I can’t post this we’re so critical on ourselves and you never do it and there have been so many videos that just never saw the light of day because I just sat on it so I think posting things in real-time is important as well.
Okay so I think the last question is when you start it and you start – in 2016 and you started any other parents basement what would you have liked to know back then that would have made your journey easier what would I have liked to know.
I would have liked to know that I won I guess in terms of money I would have liked to know now that I and asked for my rate I can I’m allowed to I have agency over basically everything in my career right.
So when I’m working with people they need me more than I need them and I wish I knew that back then a lot of these friends they need you you’re they have a problem and you are the solution and I wish I looked at things like that before I think before.
Because I was so young I was just like so grateful for all these opportunities which were great opportunities but like I’m in the space for a reason I wish I would have honestly as as as much as I do will always vote for being authentic and sharing through stories not just sharing you know that your success is sharing the difficult moments.
I think now it’s almost uncomfortable how much access people certain people have because of you know how vocal I’ve been in the past so I wish I always thought about you know this could come back to you or you know people are always gonna remember I think.
I know I guess I didn’t realize that people were actually paying attention I didn’t realize I wish I knew that I didn’t have to I guess I just didn’t have to be so hard on myself like I didn’t have to you know beat myself up when things didn’t perform when I when you know.
I wish I knew that the videos that you get so excited about and you think you predict or gonna work out great is gonna be like the best videos might not perform and I wish I knew that it wasn’t up to me and it’s like I wish I need to like expect the unexpected and to not predict and to not have expectations on content.
And to create content for myself and then because the internet chooses what’s going to perform it’s not going to perform like there have been so many times where you’re like oh this photo is gonna do so well or this video is gonna do so well and it doesn’t or the most random videos of mine have taken off. And I’m like why did you guys watch this you know but I wish I had a better son of balance and the sense of like yes you need to know what what’s trending what people care about but staying authentic to yourself.
I think had I known the balance that I had now maybe I would have been in a different place but yeah you can’t don’t go into it with expectations I guess yeah you just see what she loves yeah that’s beautiful that was a horrible answer.
I would just like to know how would the Shahd from like three years ago think about the person that is sitting here right now?
She would be spinning I had no idea where I would be alright now like this didn’t even seem alhamdulillah this didn’t seem attainable.
It didn’t seem like it was for me like I always knew like people like this doesn’t work out for people like me like it’s for other people right and so I guess you don’t realize the grand scheme of things because you’re so caught up in day today.
But like when I look back to three years ago it feels like a century ago because so much has happened so much work has gone in and I guess going back to what you would what advice I would give to a younger me or someone just starting is.
You can’t predict what’s gonna happen and you need to focus on day to day you can’t go into it being like this is where you won’t like this is where you’re gonna be of course envision it has a vision board like want that for yourself manifest that. And like manifesting goes hand in hand with them because it’s like Allah is what you think of him and and and if that’s if you think that that’s attainable for you then it can be you know so I think she would be she would be shocked but not because of anything external I think.
Mainly because of a guy alhamdulillah like I am proud of where I am I’m proud of the way I deal with things. I’m proud of the work that I put into myself the time that I was spent with myself and that’s able to make me function better to make better content.
I think she was really the younger me was you know had no cop like I was sad all the time but I had that little bit of Hope like I know it was honestly like it’s I was just a teenager you know I was really really lost but I there was always something in me that kept me going. Because I knew there was better like I knew that wasn’t it and even now when I go through issues or I’m having like it going through something incredibly difficult I know that I can’t just like stay there like I know that if I stay there that’s the worst place like I have to keep treading and I have to tread lightly yeah I think more so than anything just I’d be proud of the strength that I have that I didn’t think I had so yeah and hopefully you know like now I’ll look back in five years and be like wow it’s grown so much from when I was 23.
The beautiful thing that I see and hear when you say that it’s not there is something external but it’s something that you’ve grown internally and with yourself with.
And you’ve become more strong and confident with who you really are which is something that we always think is just like a light a soft factor it’s like not really important we don’t envision ourselves to be mentally or spiritually strong in five years we envision ourselves five hundred thousand or two million richer yeah or in-house or married.
So what I hear from you is really these beautiful intrinsic internal personal factors that you worked on yourself and not on something that is a tool or something that is a state of or environment.
Yeah and we’re going on to 2020 and obviously people are gonna write their goals for the new year for the new decade which is crazy to me and we always it’s always interesting to me. Whenever I’m looking like productivity journals or planners how like work goals are always like a priority and then it’s like oh but these are my personal goals like your personal goals are always on the backburner yes when that should be your priority.
Because work maybe you can ask other people but I do love my job but I think that that job isn’t gonna like hug me and like bring me full satisfaction and like I said you you can’t do that work unless you’re working on yourself first and you can’t do that to the best of your ability.
Unless you’re working on yourself person you can’t be a good friend to other people unless you’re good to yourself like I’ve been such a hypocrite like we all can give really great advice to our friends.
But then we can never take it you know I can’t like and and and that is focusing on part of your self-care is trying to be a good daughter good friend and making sure you’re having meaningful conversations and interactions because you can grow from those you grow from having those conversations with your parents with your friends with all of these things.
But you process them alone and you need to figure out the way that you process them and for me, it’s writing and for other people, it’s whatever it is yeah but that self-awareness is most important so I think everyone’s goal for 2020 should be self-awareness.
Last but not least so how we end this podcast is you can ask a question to the audience that they can then answer in the comments below anything that we talked about or anything that you would like to know from them yeah just shoot what’s your question for them.
Oh gosh I guess I’m there I was asking myself it’s like corny but like what am I doing right now that I’m gonna be proud of later you know and if I’m really not doing anything it’s just a moment to reevaluate so what are you doing right now that you’re gonna be proud of later. And then that I again it doesn’t have to be work I shouldn’t be work I can’t be work actually a matter-of-fact answer cannot be work.
So what I’m what are you doing right now you’re gonna be proud of later inshallah.
Wow, beautiful thank you so much for coming on this podcast.
Thank you for having me it’s been lovely I know what we scrambled forever to get this done Subhan Allah you shared so many also practical tips on money.
I love that you were open and like ready to so talk about that because I know it’s a typical for a lot of people and I just don’t think that it has to be so mashallah we’ve covered so much.
Thank you again for having me and hopefully, we’ll be in chat soon and hopefully, you’ll be in LA soon.
I hope you loved it and got as much value out of this conversation as I did so insha’Allah don’t forget to answer her question in the comments below and share your diversity with us!