Society

Joy on living off influencer work

influencer-pic

Lifestyle and luxury blogger and content creator Joy Kendi. PHOTO | POOL

Summary

  • Content creation involves imagination, grit and dogged determination if you want to make it a well-paying full-time job.
  • The kind of followers an influencer has, their age profile and gender, dictates the kind of brands that will approach you.
  • With content creation, you must also understand your followers and what keeps them engaged.

Joy Kendi would have become a psychologist if she had followed a traditional career path after university.

With a following of over 290,000 followers on Instagram, travelling, posing with different clothes and make-up, and churning out lifestyle and fashion content several times a week has become her full-time job.

The booming influencer-marketing industry has opened opportunities for daring and creative Kenyans. However, to get enough eyeballs, an influencer must be able to engage their online audience, have a great sense of style and alluring poses, and be confident. Depending on a gig, an influencer job can pay from Sh200,000 to Sh400,000.

From the outside, Kendi seems to lead a glamorous life of wearing swoon-worthy clothing, costly cosmetics and travelling to amazing destinations for free. But she says it is a lot harder than it looks.

“I sometimes receive those random comments from people saying that I’m being paid to take selfies because it looks simple,” she says.

But behind the scenes, content creation involves imagination, grit and dogged determination if you want to make it a well-paying full-time job.

“This career is not for everybody. You have to be very strong and it’s one of those industries where you have to be willing to work for free in the beginning,” she says.

Kendi was born in Meru, moved to the US with her family at a very young age, and lived there until the age of 20 before coming back to Kenya. She studied psychology at USIU (United States International University) with a minor in philosophy but was always interested in fashion.

After university, she did some television acting for about two years, tried fashion designing but then realised that she much preferred talking about fashion.

About 10 years ago, she started a blog, talking about fashion and how to shop on a budget. At the time she was shopping mostly from second-hand times places in Nairobi like Gikomba, Toi Market and Ngara. From there, it expanded into beauty, skincare and travelling, then evolved into content creation for social media and partnering with brands.

“I first started by pitching to a list of companies that I wanted to work with, sending out proposals with my ideas to the marketing managers,” she says, adding that it was very hard at the beginning trying to convince the companies.

Her first paid job as a content creator, about seven years ago, “paid almost nothing.”

“But now I get more people contacting me than the other way around,” she adds.

Today she selects the products she promotes, choosing brands that she has used or would most likely use. For make-up, Kendi only partners with MAC Cosmetics and the more affordable Maybelline brand, “because that way I can speak to two different demographics.”

The kind of followers an influencer has, their age profile and gender, dictates the kind of brands that will approach you. Kendi has also partnered with Jambojet, Hidesign of India, Kilian Tours, Diageo, Itikadi Fashion, Jaguar Kenya, among others.

Technical skills were another big learning curve for influencers.

“If you are trying to make good money it does not make sense to constantly pay people to create your content. You need to learn how to do it yourself,” Kendi says.

Initially, she used her phone and an old digital camera to take photos, then invested in better equipment as more paid work came in.

Not having trained as a model, she taught herself how to pose for photos, be confident in front of the camera, what clothes worked for her body type and that fashionable dressing does not have to be expensive.

“It is about how you style clothes, not about how much they cost. If money is an issue, then thrifting is a great option in Kenya, and as you start making money you can grow your wardrobe outside of second-hand,” she says.

Although she is now commissioned by various companies to market their products, Kendi still produces most of her material, saying, “You need to be willing to do content because you enjoy it.”

The Covid-19 pandemic may have kept many out of jobs, but Kendi says she got more jobs and had the freedom to put out more content, both paid and things she is passionate about. Searching for content is a never-ending task, as I realised when I joined Kendi for an out-of-town project.

She was pretty much working from morning to evening because every experience, location, event, or wardrobe change becomes an opportunity to take a photo, get some footage, create themes and hashtags, then upload immediately or file for later use.

With content creation, you must also understand your followers and what keeps them engaged.

“Building an audience is all about content and you can’t build an audience if you don’t post anything,” says the 33-year-old, whose audience is primarily women of her age.

To keep herself grounded and focused while working in a media-heavy profession, Kendi surrounds herself with other creatives some of whom have become her closest friends.

They are the ones that she can talk to about her business and who understand what it is she does, “because some people find it weird.”

Her most satisfying part of her job?

“I love it when I get random DMs (direct messages) from women who say I have convinced them to wear bikinis. If I can inspire you to just live your best life and to be comfortable in your skin, then I am happy,” she says.