In this interview, Lumanu's Brand Manager sat down with Lifestyle and Beauty creator Jalyn Baiden, who left her job in Finance to pursue her passions as a full-time creator. Less than a year later, Jalyn's online community has grown to upwards of 20,000 people, and she's on her way to replacing her corporate salary as a full-time content creator. After graduating with a B.B.A. in Marketing and a Master of Science in Business, Jalyn gets candid about her decision to pivot career paths and her journey to success.
Would you say that your dual degree helped you or was at least beneficial to you as a creator and in your transition to being a creator full-time?
Yes, but I think it's also the work experience I got after graduating that helped. I worked in investment banking after graduating college and in the marketing department, which was a huge learning experience. I had no idea what the job entailed upon entering the finance industry and had no formal work experience. I learned a great deal about business etiquette, which I'm grateful for because, for anyone unfamiliar with working in the finance industry, it's very formal and corporate.
I can attest to this, partly because I still want to have a career in corporate America versus becoming a creator full-time. Maybe you can relate to this, but I feel like there's a set of invaluable skills I learn while on the job that I would not have the opportunity to know if I wasn't working in a more structured, corporate environment.
That's why that business etiquette comes in handy, and that comes from work experience. It results from learning first-hand from professors and mentors who have worked in the industry for 40+ years. It's also a result of the community you form in these classes because they're so small – especially in my Masters's program. I forged relationships with people I didn't interact with daily, who had different perspectives than me, but we were working towards a common goal. And they, too, have valuable work experience that they're willing to share.
The first time we connected, you quit your job only a few months before and were already participating in paid campaigns and creating user-generated content for brands. Which social platforms are you most active on, and which are the most profitable for your business?
I'm most active on TikTok and Instagram, but my primary source of income comes from Instagram.
Despite the recent trend of people deleting their Instagram and flocking to TikTok, Instagram still seems to be the leading platform for monetization for many creators. Although, I can imagine it being the other way around for, let's say, the top 1% of earners on TikTok. How big is your audience across both social platforms?
On Instagram, it's 5,000, and then on TikTok, I've grown my community to nearly 20,000. We're going to speak it into existence and manifest it.
And you did his in less than a year! You've grown exponentially. To backtrack, what made you decide that you wanted to be a creator? What did the process look like for you?
The process was diving in head first. I knew I had to get out of the mindset of, "What are people going to think? Why is she posting that? Why is she talking about skincare? What makes her the expert?..." I felt like I was going to be judged and was holding back out of fear. The truth is, I've always wanted to be a creator. I'm incredibly passionate about fashion and makeup, but fear stopped me from following my passions. I finally made the leap two years ago and started by posting content that resonated with me. To my disbelief, it was well-received. The same people I thought would judge me ended up being my biggest supporters – my family, college classmates, and friends from high school. At the beginning of my career and creating content, I mainly focused on skincare, which helped me develop the community I have now. Now my content niches are makeup and skincare. I realized early on that I didn't want to be everything for everybody. And I think that's where influencers can make mistakes because they try to have their hands in too many different areas. So it was necessary and helpful in the long run that I mainly focused on those two things, and I still do.
Whenever you initially wanted to be a content creator, what about it stood out to you? Was it that you wanted to connect with brands that you were genuinely passionate about and share those experiences with your community, or did it stand out to you as more of an opportunity to build wealth for yourself?
All of the above. I wanted to work with the same brands that I saw my favorite influencers working with. I also wanted to share skincare tips with my community – the Black community in particular – because I was in pure disbelief when I started learning more about the skincare industry. I couldn't believe I had been using the same three products my entire life. I wasn't using sunscreen. I would go to Target, CVS, or Walgreens and purchase skincare products that I knew nothing about or how they'd affect my skin type. I saw an opportunity to educate my community about skincare because I noticed it all came down to accessibility. Beauty and skincare products can be expensive, and I could barely afford them.
However, there are affordable brands sold in Sephora like The Ordinary, The Inkey List, and that's what I would buy because it was all I could afford. So I started sharing my experience with my audience, and I wanted to help educate my Black audience on the importance of skincare, specifically sunscreen. That's when I saw the potential to monetize the content I was creating. I saw a need for this information and my experiences and instantly felt motivated to start monetizing.
How would you say that your content has evolved since you started monetizing?
It's evolved so much. I cringe whenever I look back at some of my old content because it has come a long way. The quality itself is the most notable evolution. When I started, I was shooting on my iPhone, then I upgraded and got a professional camera. I knew I wanted to take it more seriously and that I had to deliver high-quality content to secure paid partnerships. But even after getting the camera, the pictures were still not good. There was still a learning curve. Although now I feel like I'm in a good groove where I have a style of content, which was the original goal. It's very bright, clear, and high quality. And the development extends beyond the quality of content, too—everything from learning how to pose, learning my angles, and constantly perfecting my craft.
It's an art form. You're learning how to get creative, which comes down to every little detail. What has been the most surprising thing since you started your journey?
The brands have been the most surprising. Working with this many brands has been eye-opening to see how companies and corporations treat influencers. No amount of preparation could've prepared me for that experience.
Whenever you say it was eye-opening to see how they treat influencers, is it that you had a poor experience, or were you shocked at how well they treated you?
Well, the former. And that's not to say that my experience was poor. Luckily I haven't been burned too badly by a brand, but it was shocking to see that they don't make payments on time but expect you to submit the content on time. I was shocked to learn that brands aren't willing to pay what I feel I'm worth. Even after they've said, "We love you, we love your content..." I think, "Well, if that's the case, can you pay me for my content?" And I understand that I'm beginning my journey, and you do have to take on some gifted collabs, product exchanges, and all the stuff that comes with free work. I get that. But I also decided to do this full-time, so I was trying to set myself up for that. When you're balancing that with also needing to be able to support yourself financially, you have to be comfortable with taking what you can get. I didn't have much-negotiating power or negotiating experience in general. But now that I do, looking back on some of the deals I decided to take on in the beginning, I feel disappointed that I did. I shouldn't have let a brand take advantage of me like that.
We still see a lot of that today, and as a creator, you have to ask yourself, "Where do I draw the line?" I had to learn the hard way through other people telling me my content was valuable, and clearly, these brands are coming to you for a reason. So you can't set a precedent or tone of not advocating for yourself because if you know the value and worth of your content, you shouldn't feel uncomfortable asking for that amount of money because it's what you deserve.
Yeah, and it's a double-edged sword because I think it puts you in an awkward position. After all, you don't want to burn bridges. One time I saw a brand repost one of my videos, and it was a brand that I had worked with before, but they didn't have usage rights for that particular video. I posted it organically on my page because I like the brand. But what do you say? "Hey, can you take that down?" I don't want to do that because I would love to work with them again. And then similarly, I had another experience with a Black-owned skincare brand that was a dream brand of mine. Unfortunately didn't get the opportunity to, but I created some organic content for them on my own. They asked to repost it. I said yes, and then after signing up for their text messages, one day, I got a text message with my photo in it, and I was like, "Wait a minute."
That might be the one thing that keeps me from believing this notion that "influencing is dead" because there are still few industry standards, and there's zero regulation. Everything is nuanced and so dependent case-by-case. You could have the same size audience as another creator, but your rates could differ depending on various reasons. I don't think influencing is dead because I don't think that we have even figured out as an industry and as content creators how to ask for these rights properly or establish these terms. How has monetizing your content now impacted your personal and professional life for the better?
My husband's also a content creator. He's an entrepreneur. So luckily, I have him to shoot all of my content, and I shoot his content as well, which brings us closer together. We're the content-creating couple because we both understand how it works. It allows me to be creative and frees up time to constantly think about my content. I can't turn it off, and it's a beautiful place to be in my life.
The last time we connected, you set ambitious goals for yourself related to your income. What plans do you have for yourself as a content creator, and what goals have you already accomplished?
A big goal of mine is to replace the previous salary that I was making at my job in investment banking. I'm on track to replacing my old income by the end of the year – this is the side of creating content that people, especially those aspiring to do it full time, must keep in mind. Every month or every quarter may not be successful. So you may need to pivot, realign, and get yourself back out there as quickly as possible. I also have a list of dream brands I'd like to partner with. I want to start working with more luxury beauty brands. I had the opportunity to work with Lancôme and have done three campaigns with them so far. They're launching a new foundation next month that will be available in Sephora, so I got to work on that campaign, and I couldn't believe it.
I can believe it because I've seen it! It's a testament to the community that you've built and the work that you put in. It's incredibly inspiring. I don't know why anyone wouldn't want to work with you. So those are the goals that you have set for yourself. And what about some of the goals that you've already accomplished?
The year began, and business was lucrative in the first few months. Q3 was a bit slower, but that's also the nature of the industry. I will say one of the goals I accomplished is working with Sephora. Sephora is going to whitelist content I created for a beauty brand. I'm also wrapping up a campaign for Amani Beauty, which I'm very excited about, and Sephora is also a part of this campaign.
How else do you define success as a content creator?
Success to me looks like multiple five-figure contracts. Another one of my goals I forgot to mention is landing a five-figure deal at some point this year. That's one way I would define success. I want to step away from taking on smaller campaigns. I typically take those on because I want to work with a brand or develop a relationship with them, but I pass on many opportunities too. I've turned down four-figure deals simply because I know what I'm working towards, and I have bigger fish to fry. Another measurement of success is growing my audience. It might sound vain, but building a supportive community matters.
How do you think you've gained the traction you're seeing now? What's working?
Transparency. Transparency and consistency are the two biggest things, and that is across Instagram and TikTok. More so for TikTok. People value pay transparency, being transparent about working with brands, sharing my pitches, and negotiating tactics. Many people find that valuable, especially if they're aspiring creators. They will face the same scenarios and might not know how to respond. I've had people comment and say that this resonates with them, and now they know how to react in these situations. Consistency also matters because you have to continue showing up, which can be challenging mentally. I'm always creating content and thinking of what I want to produce next, but it's helpful.
What advice would you give to other creators looking to go down the same path?
Create a community, but create a community within your niche. When I started, I followed dozens of skincare influencers because I wanted to be part of this community. I would follow one person and then go to the people they were following, and I would find other creators in my same content niche and start connecting with them. I learned a lot from what people around me were doing. I paid attention to what they were reading and listening to, which helped me solidify my niche even more.