Chinae Alexander wanted to be in fashion her entire life. So she was ecstatic when she got an internship at Nylon Magazine. But as much as she enjoyed it, she didn’t find the fashion industry fulfilling. She knew it wasn’t for her. So she answered a craigslist ad for a marketing coordinator position. She had zero qualifications for the job. But in the interview, she said “If you give me a shot for 3 months and I fail, I’ll find you someone to replace me.”
She stayed there for 8 years. 8 years in, her boss fired her and said “I can’t pay you what you’re worth, you need to be an entrepreneur.” It was the kick in the pants that she needed. She started an event-planning company and also applied to do social media for a fitness company. She created an Instagram account and had around 300 followers at that time of the interview. She didn’t get the job—but she enjoyed the small community she had built. So she kept posting on Instagram while she was building her event planning business.
Without ever trying to build a following, she suddenly had 10,000 Instagram followers. How did she do it? What did her journey look like? What does the job of a real-life influencer actually look like? Listen to this episode of the Content Callout podcast to find out!
Outline of This Episode
- [1:08] How Chinae feels about the term “Influencer”
- [4:08] Misconceptions about social entrepreneurs
- [8:06] How Chinae became an influencer
- [12:52] The problem with the side hustle mentality
- [17:33] The mindset behind writing a book
- [21:48] How to set necessary boundaries
- [24:40] How to choose what brands to work with
- [33:08] When should brands engage with an influencer?
- [40:10] Where influencers will head in 2020
- [42:13] Where you can find Chinae online
From fashionista to marketing director to influencer
People asked Chinae how she built her following. She says to “Build your platform, your message, your brand—that will come.” The content should be what you like and something you’re passionate about. She simply engaged with her community and an organic following was built. Chinae got to the point where she was making the same amount of money as an influencer that she was as an event planner—so she stopped taking event planning clients and focused on Instagram. 5 years later she’s 100% succeeding in the space.
In the beginning, she was an army of one. She created a fake assistant with a fake email and fake Instagram. This fake assistant was the person that negotiated her contracts, but it was truly just Chinae. She points out that if you’re not comfortable negotiating for yourself, having a fake assistant is a great place to start. It makes you appear as a bigger brand with the added bonus of teaching you negotiating power. It gives you a shield to practice with until you feel empowered to negotiate on your own behalf.
What is being an influencer?
There are many different types of influencers. If asked, Chinae prefers to say she is a content creator or social entrepreneur. But she’s trying to be less “prickly” about the term and points out that when done properly, influencer is the right term. After all, you’re influencing someone to live a certain lifestyle. She wants to influence people to be themselves to the highest percentage they can be.
She never thought she was an influencer and she never sought to be one. Whereas the younger generation wants to be influencers. There have always been influencers but the word is used more broadly now. Chinae has never been attracted to fame culture. But she’s really attracted to a community where people with a common interest can come together, feel safe, and can share their opinions. That is and always will be the goal of her platform.
The biggest misconception about social entrepreneurs
Chinae believes that the biggest misconception about social entrepreneurs is that it is about the physical posting of a photo or making of a story. Her days consist of a lot of emails, a lot of phone calls about projects, and a lot of direct messaging. She has two people in LA that handle her exclusively and an assistant in NYC.
But she works with photographers, graphic designers, video editors, a podcast producer, sound engineer, etc.—there are a lot of moving parts. Her job is to be the manager of all the pieces. She is the connective glue that makes everyone feel motivated. She wants everyone to feel like they’re part of something bigger. They have a message and a vision for what they want to say and stand for.
A big part of her job is talking to her audience. She spends 3+ hours a day responding to the 300+ DMs that she gets on a normal day. It’s amazing what people will tell you about their lives. They’ll tell her about their miscarriage, breakup, or body image. There is emotional weight included in the job. An influencer is agreeing to take on emotional labor. What she missed in her career before this was that emotional connection to people.
When should brands engage with an influencer?
You have to be able to pay influencers what they’re worth. If you have an issue with pricing, you can find someone else. People have rates for a reason. Her rate is that you aren’t paying her to post a photo. She’s being paid to answer DM’s, for every podcast episode, talking about her life, and all of the time that isn’t straight-up advertising. That is the time where trust is built in order to be able to sell a product or a service.
She doesn’t shy away from saying her job is selling things. There is NO shame in it, as long as you have values to back it. That you have a barometer for quality. That it isn’t JUST about the money. You need to provide value outside of selling things.
How do you know if an influencer is a good fit for your brand? If you’re a small brand that wants to work with one person, see if they’re worth what they’re charging. Look at what they do. Do they put heart into their content? Is their trust in their community? Do people engage with them?
Whether you’re working with a small brand or a large brand, it’s about finding a brand that’s aligned with your voice.
How does Chinae decide what brands to work with? How does she set boundaries? Why aren’t gifts great motivation for influencers? How does she feel about the hustle mentality? Listen to the whole episode for ALL of Chinae’s influencer advice.
Resources & People Mentioned
Connect with Chinae Alexander
- Chinae’s website
- The Press Send Podcast
- Follow on Instagram
- Chinae’s YouTube channel
- Follow on Twitter
- Connect on LinkedIn