I have always been fascinated by how one becomes a key opinion leader (KOL) or an influencer. I had this short conversation with a friend who wants to start a blog so that she can be a KOL. But is being an influencer that simple? Is it just about starting a blog and writing content or posting pretty pictures on Instagram or Facebook?

Before I answer that, based on my own observations and opinion, let’s look at Influencer Marketing and understand where this new marketing phenomenon (if you want to call it a phenomenon) came to be.

The Evolution of Marketing

Marketing has greatly evolved from a decade ago. I remember that 10-15 years ago, the concept of customer-centric marketing came to be. From a product-centric perspective, marketers realized that they needed to truly understand the customer in order to stay ahead of the competition. Customers became more entrenched in their own decision-making process (researching, asking people about their experience with a certain product) since they wanted to get what they deserve with the money that they spend. Thus, marketers chose a specific niche to give value to, to focus efforts and to spread clear messages about what their proposition was.

After this focus on the customer and making customers happy, marketers found that they can use the entire experience to make the entire product experience memorable. This was then the birth of experiential marketing. With experiential marketing, word-of-mouth became the main objective of marketers. They needed people to talk about the product and tell other people about their personal experience with the brand or product.

With the advent of social media, anyone can now actually share their experience with products that they purchase and with experiences that they had with service. Way back in 2000, Malcolm Gladwell published a book called the Tipping Point, that talked about three archetypes: the salesperson, the connector and the maven. This is how Gladwell described Mavens.

A Maven is a person who has information on a lot of different products or prices or places. This person likes to initiate discussions with consumers and respond to requests … they like to be helpers in the marketplace. They distribute coupons. They take you shopping. They go shopping for you … This is the person who connects people to the marketplace and has the inside scoop on the marketplace.

I thought that his description was a great prelude to what we know key opinion leaders or influencers to be. As early as the year 2000, or even before that (no one knows), the concept of influencer marketing (I believe) was already being practiced but in small circles. Social Media paved the way for KOLs/Influencers to reach more people, once geographically impossible to reach.

What is Influencer Marketing?
As I’ve mentioned, I have this weird fascination for Influencer Marketing. I’ve always wondered how people become influencers. Influencer Marketing is using people with influence to talk about and sell your product and services. They say that for every $1 that you spend on an influencer, it comes back 20x in terms of revenue/sales. I don’t have exact figures for influencer marketing in the Philippines, but it may be true!

In the process of observing celebrity influencers, tier 1 influencers (yes, there are levels!), and other influencers no matter what level, I have come to realize these things about Influencer Marketing.

Who they are?
In terms of personality, I have seen that the effective influencers don’t wear any masks. They don’t pretend to be someone that they’re not. They tell it as it is. This is the reason why influencers come in all shapes, forms, sizes, etc. Banish all judgment on how you think influencers “should be or look like” because a template does not exist. They can be introverts or extroverts. It doesn’t matter. They are very authentic people, and honest about who they are and how they feel. This authenticity builds trust. This trust makes everything they say believable. It makes everything that they do aspirational, and all of the things that they do commands respect.

What did they say?
They are known and are effective when it comes to talking or spreading the word about a particular topic. And usually, these are topics that they are truly passionate about! They “talk”, “write”, “vlog”, “draw” with so much passion that the energy is felt by their audience. There is a certain charisma (I actually don’t know if it’s the right term) that draws people to stop, look and listen to this person.

What did they do?
Consistency is something you’ll notice they have. I’m not sure though if this stems from the being passionate about something that they believe in or something that they love doing. So if it’s blogging, they always have new and relevant content that contains experiences that resonates with their audience. If it’s posting in social media, they constantly post Instagram stories or status that slowly builds and tells a “story” about their life or about who they are as real people. They deeply engage with brands that they love, that help their “cause or advocacy”, and are proactive with reaching out to them.  They also engage only with brands that they authentically love!

Obviously, as an influencer, it took quite some time to get to that status, and it takes hard work and constant reiteration of what you believe in and what you stand for. And that “reiteration” is not a blatant, hard-sell kind of a thing. Since everything is authentic, the “message” is intertwined with the influencers lifestyle. It’s almost impossible to distinguish what is “sponsored” and what isn’t.

These are my thoughts on Influencer Marketing. I’d like to hear your thoughts on this? Think of an influencer that you know and tell me what makes you gravitate towards that person (leave your thoughts on the comment section below). Why do you think what he/she says and does make a huge impact or resonates with you?

Together, let’s analyze how influencers become influencers! 🙂

If women and men want to look good, and if they can afford it, I don’t think it’s being vain. The thing about today’s society is that we succumb to beauty shaming. What happened to Maureen Wroblewitz, the winner of Asia’s Next Top model, was a perfect example. She was insulted, because she was pretty. I just think that if we want our voices to be heard, let’s not waste it on negativity. Speaking up about issues and things takes effort, and practical ME encourages everyone to say good things about other people.

Now going back to trying to the topic of looking good and beautiful, we all want that! I don’t think anyone would say that they don’t want to look their best. If I had more time, I would probably allot more time to looking good. Looking good boosts confidence, and being confident means that you can face anything and achieve anything that you want to achieve. Last week, I took time out to visit The Zen Institute in BGC. My first encounter with the brand was when they spoke at the Boss Bellas event.

I decided to be adventurous and check out their services. I haven’t tried any treatments lately, and all these terms in their flyer seemed so unfamiliar. But, I was really interested to talk to them and experience their services. Check out my video!

So what I tried that day was Ultralipo. It’s a non-invasive treatment that burns fat. As mentioned in the video, doing this treatment regularly can lose approximately 5 inches in a month. Ultralipo uses radio frequencies to burn fat by driving controlled heat deep within the fat cells and subsequently destroys them. It only targets fat cells so it’s safe. You can have Ultralipo done for your arms, thighs or tummy. You lie on a metallic plate that touches the skin in your back. The lady then uses the machine (looks like an ultrasound machine) by rubbing it on your thigh with a gel. It’s a bit warm as it glides through your skin.

Obviously, since I had it done just once, I don’t think there was a difference in the circumference of my thigh, but I felt my skin was smoother and a bit tighter.

I love that the people in The Zen Institute really explained to me what the treatments were for. Because of the exceptional service, I recommend that you get their Weight Management Program! Also, ask about their Membership card! I actually got one for myself. I got a Silver Card at Php 5000 and got treatments worth around Php 50,000!!!

If you’re interested to visit The Zen Institute, please do visit their site or their BGC branch and look for Veron! http://www.thezeninstitute.com/

I meet a lot of interesting people during the workshops that we conduct at Manila Workshops. One of the interesting people that I have met was Tina Vitas. Tina is the owner of Easy Cures.

Having coffee with Entrepreneur Tina Vitas of Easy Cures

Tina’s Story

I studied in Boston University for college, worked in Los Angeles for 3 years and then worked in New York for 9 years before finally making Manila my home again in August 2003. I got the inspiration to open an online store for natural remedies – Easy Cures – from watching my Mom do this as a hobby for 30 years. She was in the costume jewelry business.

On top of that, I held her hand through a health crisis as she approached her 70’s where we discovered a few different alternative healing modalities that worked for her.

She is obviously a fabulous inspiration for me being an ultra-successful businesswoman. She is also my favorite person in the world, my best friend and my mentor (we have very different ideas about how to run a business since I tend to be more modern, in general).

I thought that bringing these products that have helped us on our journey to health, wellness and happiness to a wider audience online would be a great idea, in tune with the times. After being employed in the corporate world most of my life and having dabbled in a few different businesses (restaurant, food, fashion, fragrance, education), I wanted to do something that resonated so deeply with who I am as a person and where I am on my life journey. I am on a continuous personal evolution and spiritual awareness & awakening.

I am a consistent practitioner of Vinyasa Yoga at Urban Ashram Yoga and Kundalini Yoga at Sat Nam Shala in Urdaneta with Madonna English. I meditate daily for about 20-25 minutes. Although I am not 100% vegetarian, my diet has very little animal protein in it. That is deceiving because I love to eat (chocolates, ice cream and pastries are a weakness, thus, I have to budget them strictly on a weekly basis). I’m dining out with family & friends about 5 to 6 times a week. I lived and worked in New York City for nine years. If I can walk it, I will. I support the Missionaries Of The Poor in Sta. Ana which is my charitable institution of choice and I also support the Library Renewal Partnership. I am a member of the US Alumni Club PH, Asia Society and the Business Professional Women’s Group.

Easy Cures Story

Ginger: What is your Startup/brand/business? What is it about? How long have you been in business?

Tina: Its an online store for natural remedies. Officially started in May 2016.

Ginger: Who is your target market? Why did you choose this market? Can you give us the insight behind this market?

Tina: The target market for natural remedies, in my mind, is anyone who has the consciousness that there are alternatives to Western medicine and harsh, chemical-laden products that are commonly found in the market today. But because one of our star products is for aches & pains, the natural market for this would be someone who is a bit older, approaching forties. Or someone, even younger, who is extremely active or has a recurring condition that can be managed with such natural remedies.

 

Ginger: Were there any obstacles that you faced when you decided to pursue becoming an Entrepreneur? What are these?

Tina: Obstacles for a start-up entrepreneur who is self-funded is almost always the available resources – money, marketing, staffing, logistics etc.

Ginger: What are the greatest challenges in putting up and maintaining a business in your country?

Tina: What I encountered is that many people still shy away from purchasing online. It will still take some time for Filipinos to be completely comfortable with e-commerce in the way they are with bricks & mortars stores. Having accepted this year, I decided that I have to compliment my online store with offline partner stores who share the same values & mindset at Easy Cures. Filipinos, particularly if they are buying something that needs to be tried and is also not yet a known brand, will want to see the product in person. The actual product experience is important to them. It builds trust and reputation faster than if they just read about the products online. Online and offline work well together and can drive each other.

Ginger: What are three traits that you think an Entrepreneur/Startup Founder should have when starting their own business?

Tina: Patience, flexibility and grit.

Ginger: Unforgettable moments or lessons that you learned as an Entrepreneur/Startup Founder?

Tina: Ask for help from others. You’d be surprised at how accommodating and generous people can be when asked.

Ginger: What advice can you give to other Entrepreneurs?

Tina: A start-up business is very unpredictable. Finding your market who loves you/your products is key to growth and will take time. After you find them, you have to make sure you keep them coming back. Know from the very beginning that you will question yourself many times during this journey and you will also change your roadmap because reality requires it. But if you truly believe in what you are trying to do, keep going at it. You and your goal will find each other, eventually….. It takes time!

This is a product that I love very very much!

Ginger: Do you believe that everyone should become entrepreneurs?

Tina: Nope, not everyone has the ability to handle the unpredictability, the inconsistency and the build-as-you-go structure of starting and running a business. At the start, you will be doing pretty much everything and involved in every detail.

Ginger: What are ways that you can do to raise capital?

Tina: Through family & friends. I have raised capital before with another business, through a bank loan. I don’t recommend it. The larger the capital you raise, the bigger the pressure you feel to deliver in a short amount of time. For me, at least, this has resulted in my making decisions that I would not have made had I continued to be self-funded or funded with a limited amount of money.

Ginger: How do you market your products? Growth strategy?

Tina:  Social media and SEO. I also sponsor health & wellness related events. Grow online with the help of offline.

Ginger: What are tech tools that you use for your business?

Tina: Online platform for the store, Facebook Instagram, Google Analytics & SEO.

Ginger: Other things that you want to mention which you think are important?

Tina: It’s a long, winding road. Remind yourself always why you started in the first place and have fun! Have a few businesses, if possible, so you have different income streams at any given time.

Ginger: Wise words from a very wise woman! I hope you continue to inspire more people, Tina! 

 

Contact information about your business:
Website: http://www.easycures.com.ph/
Email address ask@easycures.com.ph
Mobile Number +639178117580 on Mobile, Viber & WhatsApp
Facebook Page: @easycuresph
Instagram account: @easycures.ph
Pinterest: easycuresph

I’m really grateful that almost 60 people signed up for the Freelancing for Beginners workshop last Saturday. And after observing the questions from the crowd, it seemed that 90% of the crowd was really there to learn more about what freelancing is and how do you actually start “freelancing”. We hope that you really learned a lot! We also got to read the suggestions, and most of you were asking for more time to discuss more topics and to network. Awww, thank you for actually mentioning networking, since support is crucial in this type of career.

A freelancer offers his/her services to different Clients. If you can do something for someone else, like create a video, look and build a list for a client, handle social media accounts for them, create business strategies, do their accounting and legal work, create a design for their office, create marketing campaigns, etc., you are a freelancer. Now I mentioned that there is a blurry line between being a freelancer and an entrepreneur, because for example, if a yoga teacher then decides to hold classes in her home and convert it into a studio (is she now a freelancer or an entrepreneur?). There are numerous examples that will make you think of the difference, but I think the main difference (as best said by my marketing idol, Seth Godin in this interview) will come when the freelancer decides and starts creating a plan to make systems work for him/her to earn money rather then use his or her own time, skills and effort to earn money.

If you have not seen and listened to video above, you need to! Another point that he stated, which I completely agree with, is that if you’re looking to be a freelancer, strive to be an extraordinary freelancer! This is the reason why my main goal is really to help freelancers learn more about their craft and strive to be better than what they were yesterday. I wish that each on would wake up and say that today they know MORE than what they did yesterday.

My Freelance Journey

Not a lot of people know that I after starting my blogging career way back in 2008, I started writing for different clients. I then joined Upwork (at that time Odesk) way back in 2010, as a freelance writer. I was an SEO/technical writer. I was hired to write articles for websites, and the articles that I wrote ranged from reviews of different vacuum cleaners to flooring for the home. I then became a writer for Philippine Online Chronicles (POC) for half a year. When I had to resign from my job from a bank, I created my own business called Manila Workshops, with the main intention to help people turn their entrepreneurial and freelancing dreams into a reality. I had to forego my freelancing gigs, but continued on applying my love for writing through my blogs. In blogging professionally, I continue to apply and hone my skills, and most importantly, I still manage to keep sane because of writing.

Your Freelance Journey

Your freelance journey may be different from mine, but regardless of WHAT you intend to do or WHEN you decide to freelance, it will be something that you will definitely learn from. So, what have I learned from my journey that I hope will help you in starting your freelancing career? Here is a list of a few things that I have personally learned:

The first step is really knowing yourself — know your skills, know what you are capable of and the limits to what you can do, know your strengths and your weaknesses and know your flaws and incompetencies. This “digging deeper” and reflection is not just for you to assess technical skills, but even your emotional capacity. What irks you? What motivates you? What inspires you to do your best and strive harder?

This is something that you alone can do. Clarity, in this aspect of your life, can only be achieved by you and you alone. And I say this even for those with spouses or significant others. Your partner can only give your bits and pieces to a jigsaw puzzle that you alone can build. Ultimately, deciding if you want to have a freelance career will be your choice. It’s good, however, to step out of the house, talk to people, gain insights from what other people are doing, and gain insights from other freelancers so that you see what’s out there. You’ll have a broader perspective of what can be in store for you in that potential life as a freelancer.

Next, after you have gained a little bit of clarity on what you want to do, build your portfolio. Create samples of your work. From the work that you have created, test and gain feedback from other people (especially from people from the market that you want to tap). For example, if your forte is writing about health, medicine, nutrition or anything that involves fitness and health, have people who are interested in these topics, brands who operate in this vertical or clients who have customers who would want to read these kinds of articles,  check your work and give feedback.

Since these are samples of your work, you can improve further and create more samples. I’m sure that for those of you who have corporate jobs, this will be something that you can do when you have spare time. Also, try to create something everyday that moves you a step further into freelancing (it doesn’t matter if it’s just one sentence or just a few strokes in a painting).

The other lesson that I’ve learned is that consistency is key. Just keep at what you’re doing, no matter how hard it is. You’ll reap the rewards later on. I just watched the Katy Perry Part of Me Documentary on Netflix, and I was amazed at how full of grit this lady was. For a lot of successful freelancers and entrepreneurs even, people just see the successful you. They fail to think about the journey that you went through. For most of the successful people that I know, or don’t know (like Katy Perry! haha!), it was a very hard and grueling journey to the where they are now. For example, when we have workshops, people only see the ‘event’ on the day itself. They don’t see the hard work and the effort that we put into making the workshop possible.

So there, my tip is really to just keep at it, no matter how down, worthless and unsuccessful you feel.

Always have someone to talk to, like a mentor, a friend who is already freelancing, or anyone who you know will understand what you’re going through. It always helps to have a friend who will listen to what you’re going through. They have probably gone through the same situation already and may be able to give tips on how they handled difficult situations.

For those in the corporate world who wants to try freelancing, go ahead and try it out. But, don’t let go of the job that you have until you have successfully 1) built enough funds that will last you at least 6 months 2) Even with that parachute fund, you need to have a good base of clients already that are paying you enough for the monthly expenses and for the debts (usually credit card debts) that you have 3) if you still don’t have that base, but really want to allot more time to freelancing, get a bridge job (a part time job that will give you more time for freelancing).

Create a clear visual plan of what you want to be and what goals do you have for yourself. I have a corkboard in my room that shows all the plans that I made for myself. I look at it every so often to be reminded of where I am and how far do I still need to go before I get to the goals that I set for myself.

Learn more about the skill that you want to build. Attend workshops, online courses, download ebooks, read up on the things that are related to the skill that you want to learn more about. The more you know, the more value you can give your clients. And learning doesn’t have to come from structured courses or classes. You can learn from talking to people. Set up meetings with people you want to learn from and just talk about any thing. Strive to be wiser everyday!

At the end of the day, it’s about priorities and making yourself happy. If you really need this and you really want to be a full time freelancing professional, then decide to make that happen, and work smart to make that happen. It will be hard work, but if this is what you want, then go for it.

For those who have been freelancing for year, hope you can give your own tips, too! 🙂 It will be great if you can share your experiences and comments in the comment section below! Read on, aspiring freelancers!

Love,

Mommy Ginger

P.S. If you want are looking for support, you can check out these groups:

Freelancing Philippines

Online Filipino Freelancers

Work in freedom community for female freelancers & entrepreneurs

Freelancers in the Philippines

Social Media Managers

Freelance Blenders Group

Professional VAs

Upwork Freelancers in Philippines

Fivrr Success Philippines

Startup Marketing Philippines

Freelancers Hub Philippines

Boss Bellas