A Guide To Digital Creation From A Gal That’s Still Figuring It Out

I would be lying if I said I knew what I was doing.

But I do know that I have thoroughly enjoyed working with brands to make authentic content and help showcase products and brand messages by using my personal social media.

From video projects to blog write ups to photos posted on my Instagram feed, I’ve been able to practice and grow my skillset, while also earning a little bit of disposable income in addition to my full-time work.

To start out, I wanted to share my story. Not only in hopes of maybe helping someone that is currently in the process, but also just to document how my journey with content creation has changed over the years.

Back to the Beginning

We might have to start back further than I anticipated. Ever since I have remembered, I have loved learning new medias and playing around with making videos, taking pictures, recording voiceovers, writing about life experiences, as well putting on performances and getting dressed up.

I think all of it ties really well into what I do today, and I think that’s been the driving force behind growing my skills and social media. I genuinely love the process of creating things, as well as the reward and high of the final product.

First Step

The first step in my journey started with a trip to Paris during college. We visited so many awesome companies, and learned about the world of business from a different perspective. And something that stuck with me since then is: “America is a great place to be an entrepreneur.” It’s a land of opportunity, and you have an amazing environment to build something from just a little idea.

I had been playing around with the small idea of starting a blog to share my thoughts about the outdoors, and as soon as I got back from the Europe trip, we came up with the “nacforadventure” name, bought the domain, and signed up for a blog site.

To begin, we started with the cheapest option. The website was wordpress.nacforadventure.com, and I posted one or two times the entire year just when I had a thought pop in my head that I wanted to share.

This was really the first stepping stone that gave me a platform to be creative and share my thoughts and feelings. We never knew it would grow to something bigger.

Slow And Steady

If I had to describe the next couple years after graduating college, it would be “slow and steady”. It was consistently posting. Consistently writing. Consistently thinking about how I could be improving and learning. But not consistent in the way that I always had something new scheduled each week. I was consistent in the way that I always came back. It was always in the back of my mind, and so when inspiration struck, I acted upon it.

Sometimes I didn’t write anything for a month or two. But then I shared old posts. Sometimes I had a burst of energy, and I scheduled out content for a month.

This was also the time that smaller brands started reaching out to collaborate. I had around 2,000/ 3,000 followers, and I was the prime candidate for being a micro influencer in the giant growing world of social media.

Because I was still growing my portfolio and testing out new ideas, so I wasn’t making any actual cash. I would trade product for posts and photos. It was a very casual relationship. It was low risk, and I was still just treating it as a hobby.

Photo: Marcus Catlett

Quarantine Project

If I’m being completely honest with myself, things really started to ramp up during May of 2020. It was during quarantine, and I had a lot of extra time on my hands. And that’s when I started a TikTok and was consistently posting.

I was very hesitant to make an account. I didn’t advertise it on my other social media. I didn’t really talk about it because so many people were hating on the app and all the negative aspects of it.

But I was still intrigued. It was something that was new, but it was right up my alley. Making casual, silly videos. Using trending sounds to showcase my interests, including plant-based cooking, outfits of the day, and anything in the outdoor space.

Once I started sharing more skiing content before the season began, I started to get alot of traction on the skiing side of TikTok. I remember KJ Read (the king of SkiTok) reached out to me to make a duet thread of some the ski creators on the app, and that is really when I found this niche little community.

Through consistently posting on TikTok, I found that my other social sites thrived as well. With Instagram directly linked on your profile and the ability to share your website, it was an easy way to grow not only my TikTok account, but every other platform that I use.

And the most notable shift towards growing my account was a silly little reply video showing how I get ready for skiing. It quickly boosted to over 1 million views, and I earned so many amazing followers that also started to pour into my Instagram.

And because of this, I decided to invest in some new equipment to ramp up my content. This included a new phone, as well as a Sony A7S, which was the first camera that I purchased. Given… it was a secondhand find off of Facebook Marketplace, but it was a starting point.

From there, it was only up.

The Present

This past year has included a lot of growth. Not only in my personal life, but also on my online profiles.

I was progressing in my sports, and socials were a way to document my goals and achievements, while also being a source of inspiration for other content creators and athletes out there.

I was really busy and thriving in my full-time job, so primarily, I was only taking inbound requests from brands. I made an email for NACFORADVENTURE to more easily keep track of possible clients, and I also attached it to my Instagram so that brands could easily reach out to me.

The projects that I have completed this year included everything from sunglasses to coolers to bags made out of sail boat sails and even plastic-less shampoo bars and ski gear like jackets and poles. While it seems all over the place, I still tried to keep my feed as authentic as possible.

Instead of showcasing the products, I showcased my experience while using the products. I tried to attract brands that would let me have creative freedom. That would trust that I would create content that would include their products but not out-right advertising it. While some posts were more salesy than others, I still have been proud of my method towards creating what these companies wanted to see.

One of the biggest turning points was using white listing as an advertising method. Another brand paid for my content to be pushed out, and I got a lot of traffic to my personal Instagram page, and in result, also my website and TikTok.

Because these platforms were steadily growing, I decided that it was time to leverage them to create a YouTube, which I think has been a goal of mine for the past couple years. So far, it’s been very successful, and I can’t help but to imagine the possibilities.

What’s ahead of me?

As I head into 2022, I hope that I can still create an authentic experience on my page, while still working with companies that align with my values and passions. Not only am I looking for projects that go along with future trips and events, but I also hope that I’m able to further my creation skills with photography, videography, editing, and more. And with the hopeful addition of a new camera body and a new telephoto lens, I really hope to elevate my abilities.

I want to leverage my strengths as both a creator and an athlete to hopefully land opportunities that will give me incredible life experiences.

Top Takeaways:

Through my journey the past couple years, I’ve come up with some main takeaways that relate to the lessons I’ve learned, as well as how I take on new challenges in the future.

Like what you do and do what you like

I stand by the fact that I only grew my social media due to the fact that I centered it around the things that I like to do.

It’s a place to go to document and share all the adventures and ideas that I have. It’s a collection of my ideal self, while also being true to who I am. When you create your personal brand around what you’re passionate about, authenticity comes through way more easily.

You can “full send” with small steps

The full send mentality is sometimes necessary. You can’t half commit to a backflip. You can’t half commit to a left turn at an intersection. Full send is a great mantra for some of life’s decisions.

And it is no different with the steps that I have taken. My “full send” decisions just seem like such small factors as I have been able to think back.

Compared to the choices I am making today, starting up a website was just a tiny investment. But in the moment, I remember thinking to myself “Am I really about to do this? Am I paying $50 for a year of owning a website? This is huge!”.

In the long run, these small “full send” moments set my future self up towards creating a fun and interesting way of life.

Don’t let others hold you back

Do you think people will notice this? What will people think about this? I didn’t get as much engagement on this latest post… should I delete it?

All of these questions have ran through my mind at one point, and I have to remind myself to come back with one question:

Does this make me happy?

If the answer is yes, there shouldn’t be a doubt in my mind that I should make that decision.

As long as you aren’t hurting anyone (physically or mentally), then you should be allowed to do what gives you joy. Because you can’t change what others will think, but you can change your own mindset to be more accepting of what makes you happy.

Work with brands that align with you and your life

Working with the right brands not only helps keep your authenticity, but also makes it easier to get the deliverables that they are asking for. If you are already out camping and hiking, then grabbing photos for water bottles and camp chairs is a breeze.

I think that the type of products is important, but also the brand itself. The right brands will give you creative freedom (or at the very least, a very loose prompt), and you will be able to create something that you can be proud of, but also that works as user-generated content for the brand.

With that being said, don’t be afraid to say no or ask for different possibilities. As a creator, you still have the power to make decisions that are best for you and your workload.

Now, it’s time to start creating!

Happy 2022!

You nacforadventurer, full-time plant-eater, and gal that’s still figuring it all out,

AJ

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