Before the world recognized social media as a lucrative industry, influencers — before the proper term was coined — were stigmatized across platforms for choosing a field that wasn’t considered a “real” career. Lifestyle influencer and mother JaLisa Vaughn-Jefferson experienced this firsthand from her own family after she left her corporate job to pursue her new passion as a full-time content creator.
“They lost it,” the influencer tells AfroTech after breaking the news of her decision. “It was so funny because they were trying so hard to be supportive. For their generation [this field] just doesn’t make sense. [At first] I didn’t really know what I wanted to do, so I was prepared to just try out different careers. I knew I wanted to be in technology and I knew I loved social media, but I wasn’t sure what the exact job title would be.”
From IT To IG
After graduating from Syracuse University with a B.S. in Information Management & Technology, the soon-to-be influencer and entrepreneur moved to Dallas, TX where she worked her corporate information technology (IT) job for three years. Though she was just starting to establish herself in her professional career, Vaughn-Jefferson needed something else to pursue in her spare time as well.
“After work hours, I would drive to the city, do my shoots, write blog posts and all that stuff,” she shares. “It got to a point where I was making more from those after hours than I was at my corporate job.”
It wasn’t long before Vaughn-Jefferson’s side hustle became more fulfilling than her actual 9-5. So, one day she finally took the leap of faith and committed to her new path, which meant documenting her life full-time for her growing audience.
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At the time she quit her job in 2018, Vaughn-Jefferson had roughly 70,000 followers on her Instagram account and today her page stands at over 291,000 followers and counting. Although she’s found a way to transform her life as an influencer into a profitable venture over the past few years, others haven’t been so receptive to her career change — mostly because they didn’t truly understand it.
“People think we just sit around, take cute pictures, hide behind a computer or social media and just post to be posting,” she says of the stigma around influencers. “[But they] don’t understand the business behind social media. Some people also say, ‘I don’t want to see a bunch of ads,’ but this is our job. Just like your bills have to get paid, so do ours. So while we do post organic stuff and fun things, you will see ads because this is what we do full-time and it’s just another form of marketing. There is a stigma, but I think the more [social media] grows, the more people will see that this is a real thing in a lucrative business.”
Being Booked And Busy As A Content Creator
Vaughn-Jefferson was already well on her way to becoming a known influencer back in 2018 and she’s quickly been able to convert her acquired social capital into real revenue from her many brand deals most recently.
“When I put a real strategy [behind myself] and started providing value to my audience, that’s when things started to monopolize and I set myself up as a brand,” she says. “I think a lot of people think if you have a lot of followers, then brands will just start reaching out. But you need to be the full package and market yourself [to make real money].”
According to her, this year alone she’s secured over $800,000 in brand sponsorships just from posting her lifestyle content and sponsored posts with brands like Macy’s, Amazon, Reebok, Pampers and others. So it won’t be long before she’s able to join the seven-figure club. While 85-90 percent of those deals make up her total income, the other 10-15 percent comes from additional revenue streams like affiliate links and YouTube’s Partner Program.
The Realities Of Influencer Life
For Vaughn-Jefferson, being an influencer is by no means an easy job. In fact, there’s a lot of ground work and day-to-day tasks that go into content creation that takes a lot of time, dedication and more importantly a team. But the key to her success as an influencer is apparently operating as a business with her team, which in turn helps her turn around brand deals much faster and maintain those relationships.
“No two days are the same, but with my team, we’ve kind of gotten into a rhythm,” she told AfroTech. “There are certain days that we shoot content for brands, and then there are [other] days that we shoot organic content that I share with my audience. [Between that] we do administrative tasks, planning, organizing and things like that as well.”
Vaughn-Jefferson’s approach to social media has allowed her to master the space as a successful influencer with multiple streams of income. With so many brand deals on lock, there’s no telling what else is in store for her future online.
To keep up with more of her content, visit her website.