Letter from the Editor: Being an Influencer vs. Being a Light
The new revamped version of The Bronze Hustle (you may know us as TBH) is here to abolish the talk of balancing and begin the conversation around redefining and evolving. For me, as a budding woman entrepreneur, it suddenly became draining to keep up with business responsibilities and actually stay sane and well grounded as a woman. I looked around and saw so many of us struggling to keep up and being ashamed because of it. I wanted the new updated version of TBH to be a more accurate depiction of women not only building businesses but also reaching the personal growth equivalent to 7 figures.
For me, that equivalent is being the Light God called me to be and heading my brand in a different direction.
You can read our full Evolution Announcement here but in short, we’re all about the woman behind the brand, her sustainability and her business second (or third or fourth, depending on your life dynamic). We want you to know that it’s okay to evolve your hustle. Not only should you evolve but, it’s actually imperative to shift from the grind to sustainability.
I’m officially three years into building this thing and I realized at the end of 2018 we needed a huge change and the industry needed a shift. I created the “Redefining the Hustle” campaign to be the catalyst.
Back in 2016, the word “girlboss” blew UP. With Sophia Amoruso’s book, with all of the bossy photos and the “Day in the life of ____” posts, it all felt so glossy and empowering. I remember envisioning myself with a long weave, perfectly filed stiletto nails and the flyest outfit rushing from the airport to an important meeting. I wanted that persona and I believed that the current (at that time) version of The Bronze Hustle would take me there. I’m actually 100% sure, I could have made it happen skating on the same few quotes about being a girlboss and creating content around content and funnels. I could’ve faded into black and made much more from my membership program and spent a lot of time running from plane to plane with my iphone recording every time I had enough time to say something to my audience and post on my stories.
Then something clicked within me.
I saw all of those entrepreneurs and influencers following that same script and being successful and as delightful as their success looked, I didn’t really care for the limelight. I even hosted a “Go Live” challenge and invited women from my audience to go live with me everyday for 2 weeks. Most of us completed the challenge and went about our days and yet, I still felt the obligation to be seen and to show who was running TBH and follow that entrepreneurial blueprint of always being available online.
“Your audience wants to see you!”
“People don’t buy from companies, they buy from people!”
Not only was I trying to live those sayings, I was teaching them to my audience. The cycle of teaching, learning and implementing these same girlboss philosophies pushed me to detox from social media in hopes that some clarity would be on the other side.
I took my social media break from mid November 2018 to January 1, 2019 and all of a sudden it clicked: I had zero desire to be an influencer. I don’t have to make a living posting on social media to achieve happiness. Between the ever changing landscape of influencer marketing, my longing for privacy and peace and a new found journey of career longevity, being an influencer or even in the major forefront of my business, no longer makes sense.
I wasn’t actively posting on my personal Instagram anyway and the thought of having to rebrand it into something I didn’t subscribe to felt like auditioning for a role my entrepreneurial stage mom had set me up for that I didn’t want.
With that revelation that influencership (I’m not sure if that’s really a word but let’s go with it)was no longer on the table, I felt a HUGE weight off of my shoulders. I don’t have to post from my personal and business pages. I don’t have to constantly show my face. I don’t have to pretend that my hair is always laid. Spoiler alert, I am rocking the Set it Off braids (to the side though, because side part wig) and faded sweatpants even as I type this.
I know what you’re thinking, “But people care about those authentic moments and it helps them be more comfortable with purchasing from you.” I agree with that sentiment to an extent: people are attracted to what they’re attracted to. Sometimes it’s literally the design of your website, other times it’s your amount of years in the game, and hear me out, sometimes it’s because you look cute on Instagram. We can count on one hand how many times Beyoncé has given us a caption on Instagram, let alone one written by her. And guess what? We love her enough to not pressure her to show us more than she wants to. She snatches us bald with her projects and leaves us for another 6 months and we still listen to her music in between. Her being visible on her own terms doesn’t make her any less money.
To be completely honest, influencership is not something anyone fully understands and because we don’t truly have rules for it, we’re fickle and make up our own. One day it’s, “ you should have at least 10,000 follower to do _____.” and the next day it’s “even if you only have 2,000 followers, you can still make a living by selling ____.” And now there are talks around getting rid of follower counts all together. Which is it?
Not only are we all unreliable with what we’re looking for in an influencer but also in our buying decisions. People see through the funnels and they know when they’re being sold to. So who’s to say that just because I look like an extra from The Color Purple, do people want to actually buy from me?
If there are no real rules, why can’t I make my own?
With the new TBH, I’m here and it’s great that I’m here but, I’m here to run the brand and not be the most popular. People have been drawn to me because of my realness and my tendency to not care about sugar coating but people are also drawn to me because I’m a Light. I aim to be better in how I use my influence as a Light and not necessarily as a traditional influencer.
For context, Matthew 5:14-16 (NIV) explains what I mean:
“You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.”
Notice nowhere does it say that being a Light is only for those who are considered Ministers or for those who lead perfect lives etc. It just means that for those who believe in Jesus, he has called us to set us apart and not to be hidden.
That light can come forth in different ways and I believe that because we all lead very different lives, our light can shine differently. Some of us are called to be fluorescents, some of us light bulbs, some of us flashlights but most importantly, with whatever talents and lot we have been given, we’re supposed to embrace it.
There’s no coincidence that the child who was so quiet her babysitters forgot she was there, is someone who’s voice still matters regardless of if it’s amplified across a platform of 5 million or 5,000.
I’ve realized that being a Light means I’m called to be an example, to successfully run a brand that is 1. God reliant and then 2. self-reliant to show people that numbers and money are secondary and truly mean it. With “Redefining the Hustle,” I’m sharing a lot of my own internal thoughts around hustling and pouring them into The Bronze Hustle but it’s not just a catchy title, it is truly my new lifestyle.
Here’s how I’m differentiating my thoughts around influencership going forward:
It’s much easier for me to orchestrate what’s happening behind the brand because I’m not concerned with re-framing it for my own personal brand
When you have an (official) personal brand and a business brand, people expect to follow your personal to get the scoop. If you follow me on Twitter, you may get a small sliver of what I’m working on here and there just because a lot of my mutuals are also content creators so, I like to share some of my work with them and an accomplishment here or there. It’s absolutely not the place to hold me to a standard of only sharing industry relevant content. I share funny memes, I talk about God, I post a selfie every blue moon, I stan Beyoncé, I talk about my Amazon orders and the Black owned businesses I come across etc.- you know, the usual you would find on Twitter.
Because I am much less concerned with the manicured curation of who Shay is on social media, I can pour that creativity where it matters and leave some pieces of my life unposted. One of my favs on Twitter, Amber Janae (@ajscribes), reminded me recently “always remember to keep some joy to yourself.”
With slightly switching the direction of TBH, I realized just how important that dynamic is of consistently working on the best version of yourself to be a better business owner. I know that firsthand it’s easier for me to curate the type of content I know resonates without the noise and expectations “traditional entrepreneur” society has created. My work is stronger when my mental balance is where it should be. I’m not trying to keep up, I don’t want to catch up to someone else’s Paypal balance and I’m not here to differentiate who’s lane is who’s. I’m just here to create and make a difference.
I consume way less because I want to create more authentically.
Courtney Sanders articulated this so well on her podcast episode entitled “Silent is Golden: The Case for Going on an Information Fast.” You should actually listen to the episode but essentially the episode is about consuming less to create more. The thing with following everyone in your niche is that slowly but surely, you all become carbon copies of each other. You start to think things like “Oh ___ just released a book and I should too” or “I see _____ talking about her funnels on her Instagram stories and I need to work on mine too.”
We don’t truly realize how much consuming puts a damper on our creativity until we release ourselves from needing to follow everyone and everything.
I was talking to God about this recently (you’ll quickly realize that although I'm not a Bible toting finger wagger, I am very tight with the Man Upstairs) and I came to the realization that we get so caught up in following our personal ambitions (sometimes even through the lens of an influencer), so caught up in the hustle and so caught up with dissecting the content around us, that we truly miss the vision. You cannot grasp your vision for copying and pasting someone else's. What are YOU supposed to be doing? Where is the content and offerings that are 100% original to your brand and not a replica or a version where you picked apart their content just to analyze where it lacked and yours excelled?
Before this realignment, I was constantly in the business of differentiating and not originating.
It’s impossible to be your best self when all you do is analyze and replicate. It’s impossible to create the best version of your brand if all you do is spend your time modifying someone else’s version. I promise we do not all have Venn diagrams in hand when we go to your website and your competitor’s. The only time you may want to peak across the way is when you’re creating your Unique Value Proposition but, all of that day to day check in stuff is truly for the unconfident entrepreneur and we’re better than that. That a rule that we made up that does not need to be followed.
We could completely unfollow (or mute) others in our niche and the world would not come crashing down. It might actually be a little more peaceful and innovative.
Because I take who follows me seriously, I take who I follow seriously
My personal pages are my personal pages and to not clog them up, I only follow a small amount of people and @thebronzehustle literally only follows myself and @Beyonce who posts when she’s taking our money. That’s it.
I can’t listen to everyone’s podcast, I’m not reading everyone’s blog and I for sure am not following on every platform. Remember, because I’ve limited who and what I follow, it’s actually enjoyable to be online and to be able to solidify my own thoughts.
“Redefining the Hustle” isn’t just a cute campaign, it’s literally now how I live and I have also shifted my own perspectives. Not only have I redefined my relationship with the grind but, I’ve pulled in some other voices too. Interested? Keep reading:
With Love, S
P.S. If you like these Editor’s Letters, here’s the next one.
P.P.S. I wrote a part two to this post! It’s linked here.