Auckland’s Jony Lee has a fun side-hustle – she's followed by almost half a million people on TikTok and brands pay her to advertise their products.
While “viral content creator” is some people’s full-time gig, Jony’s main job is as a Creative Producer at a personal branding agency and creating TikTok content is currently a part time thing for her.
Jony spoke to REDnews about how she went from overnight TikTok fame to now selling her content creation skills as a service.
All it took was one viral video
Jony always wanted to delve into content creation, but it was a chance video from her wedding that sent her “viral”.
Jony’s wedding videographer shared a video of her and her husband Alistair shaving their heads during their wedding reception, as a gesture of love for Jony’s mother who was battling cancer.
The video received unexpected media attention and led to an increased interest in Jony’s personal life. She thought it fitting to share this video on her personal TikTok, where it blew up, taking her from a few 1000 followers to a 100,000 plus. Her account jonymlee now has 473,000 followers on TikTok.
“That’s when I realised, this is my gateway. I didn’t want it to be…because…it sounds like I did it for attention. I didn’t really intend to broadcast it everywhere. It was just that news agencies got a hold of it. But then I was like, this is what I wanted to do anyway. It was a bittersweet feeling.”
Good content creation is about connecting with people
While Jony is happy to share her life online, she has to remember not everyone is so comfortable with that. She said her audience always wants to see more of her and her husband Alistair, something she cannot always produce.
“I’ve had to learn that Alistair wasn’t made for it, and he doesn’t want to be made for it. And I can’t change his mind…even though I see that he brings the views and likes and followers, I can’t just use him as a means to get to where I want to be,” Jony said.
“If he is a part of it, I make sure that I plan it, and…that he knows, but it’s hard. I don’t know what to post without him, because that is my life...I am now trying to figure out how to not incorporate him.”
Jony said consistently creating relevant content is not as simple as holding up a camera and pressing record. She is often riddled with self-doubt and has to convince herself that people care about the things she has to say. Her audience’s interest in her everyday life made her realise how the mundane details of her life made others feel better.
Get professional help to earn a stable income
After going viral, Jony was scouted by an agency that specifically manages social media influencers. Had she not been with an agency, she feels it would have been easy for people to take advantage of her.
“At the end of the day, you’re editing, you’re filming…you deserve to be paid for that, and I wouldn’t have seen that without my agency. I would have just been like, oh cool, free stuff!”
Brands come to the agency with campaigns and the agency helps them find the influencer who would be the right fit. Once the influencer is on board, the brand shares a brief for the campaign and the influencer delivers the content to them. All financial and legal matters are handled by the agency.
They charge a 20% fee for their work, but according to Jony, it is well justified as they manage all the behind-the-scenes work, which she would not have been able to handle by herself.
Jony’s words of advice
Grateful for the opportunities she has received, Jony still views her TikTok content creation as a side-hustle and is sceptical about pursuing it fulltime.
“The dream would be that I put my 110% in…and essentially end up being paid to live…brands will reach out to you, pay you, and eventually you’ll have a YouTube channel, and that’s just consistent income. But I wonder, if I did it full-time, would I start to hate it and not want it as my job?”
Her advice if you’re interested – give it a try: “If you’re starting at zero, you literally have nothing to lose. You can’t go negative in numbers [on social media]. The only way you can go is up,” Jony said.
And if you feel embarrassed, remember, “Just film and post it. Don’t delete those things because that’s where you came from.”