Entrepreneur: Madison Kieneker
Tilt: Self-care advocate
Primary Channels: Blog (5K monthly page views) Instagram (38.8K)
Other Channels: TikTok (24.7K) Pinterest (5K) Content Creatives Podcast (3.5K monthly downloads)
First deal: Jewelry trade with local business
Rev Streams: Brand collaborations, e-books
Our Favorite Actionable Advice
- Sales experience helps: To close a deal, a salesperson knows how to persuade the prospect. Those qualities also can work well for a content entrepreneur and their audience.
- Don’t count: Maddy’s realized numbers aren’t what really matter; valuable content does.
- It’s OK to make mistakes: Maddy’s first brand deal didn’t go as she hoped (they delivered a product she couldn’t wear.) But she made the best of it and learned a lot.
At first glance on her Instagram, you wouldn’t think Madison Kieneker’s background is sales. But once you get to know the Seattle-based content creator, as her 38.7K followers have over the years, you can see how that knowledge has helped her content business. By day, Maddy is a saleswoman and by night, she’s a blogger, Instagram content creator, podcaster, and self-care advocate.
From sales degree to content creator
Maddy graduated from the University of Washington in 2016 with an anthropology degree, entrepreneurship minor, and a sales certification. “My sales certificate program is actually what helped me land my first desk job in sales at a custom apparel and merchandise company. I still work in sales, but I’ve since transitioned to a tech company,” she says. Content and sales go hand-in-hand, especially when you need to pitch yourself and negotiate with brands seeking to partner with or sponsor your content business. “People tend to overlook the fact that as creators, we wear so many different hats. My experience at college and my 9 to 5 has really helped further my career as a creator,” Maddy says..@MadCrayy says her 9-to-5 job in sales really helps further her career as a creator. #contententrepreneur #sidehustle Click To Tweet
Making Instagram her creative outlet
Two years before she graduated college, Maddy started her Instagram account but didn’t begin to create content for it until she worked in sales. “I started my Instagram as a much needed creative outlet that I wasn’t getting at my 9 to 5,” she says. She always loved portrait photography, but that work conflicted with her day job hours, so she couldn’t pursue it as a side hustle. “So, I started taking photos of myself in my free time. Creators like @tezza and @jacimariesmith really inspired me to capture beauty in everyday places and it’s been a passion of mine ever since,” Maddy says.
Finding her tilt
Growing a following wasn’t easy for Maddy; she wasn’t an overnight success. “For a while, I got really frustrated watching other creators grow and I had no idea how they were doing it,” she explains.
She chose to focus on her Instagram and a blog, where she now has 5K monthly page views, and create a content strategy. “I shifted my focus to creating value-driven content based on my three content pillars – self-care, photoshoot ideas/inspiration, blogging tips/tricks – and consistently create savable and shareable content rather than focusing on the number of followers,” she says..@MadCrayy doesn’t focus on her follower numbers. She’d rather create consistently savable and shareable content. #contententrepreneur Click To Tweet
Once she started being intentional with her posts, she was happier about creating content again. And from there, her audience grew. “Month to month, it never felt like a big difference, but when I started looking at my growth year over year, I realized how much my audience increased. Once I had built an audience, I expanded to other platforms like TikTok.”
Currently, Maddy has 24.7K followers on TikTok. For the past year, she’s been more active on Pinterest, where she has over 5K followers and over 5M monthly impressions. But her big focus now is on her podcast, Content Creatives Podcast, which averages 3.5K monthly downloads. She co-hosts with her content creator friend Emma from EmmasEdition. They talk about how influencers can make money, self-care tips for content creators, and more.
Like many creators, Maddy’s main source of income is from brand collaborations. “Typically, those are in the form of either Instagram, TikTok, or blog posts. I’ve also sold an e-book that was fairly successful, but I’ve since taken it down so I can improve it and expand it into a course, which is a long-term goal of mine,” she says.
“I remember my very first collaboration. It was a trade collab with a local small business who made jewelry. I was so excited that someone even wanted to send me a free product to promote their business, and I loved their work, so I quickly accepted without too much discussion,” Maddy says. They sent her earrings, but her ears weren’t pierced. “I spent hours posing and trying to find a good way to photograph them, so the brand didn’t feel like I was a bad partner. I was mortified,” she says.
From that moment, she realized that being a content creator is more than just accepting free products and taking a photo. “So much more goes into every collaboration to make it as successful for the creator and the brand as possible. From that point, I started asking more questions, shifting to a business mindset, and shortly afterward started charging for my hard work,” Maddy says.A lot goes into every collaboration to make it successful for the content creator and the brand, says @MadCrayy. #contententrepreneur Click To Tweet
Juggling a full-time job with content creation
Maddy spends a lot of late nights editing her photos and managing her emails. But over the years, she’s made a big effort to take care of herself and set up time-saving systems. “I use time-saving tips like batch shooting/editing my content (taking or editing a lot of photos in one day that can be posted throughout the month), and I regularly try to take breaks when I need them. You can’t give 100% unless you’re at 100%. Oh, and therapy is a helpful tool too,” she shares.
Advice for content creators
“Charge your worth. So many creators massively undercharge for the hard work that they do because our industry is often undervalued. Think about what brands used to have to do before influencers: hire a photographer, a model or models, a makeup/hair artist, find a photo studio or location, hire a copywriter, digital artist, all before they even paid for the advertising space. With a content creator, they get all that in one, in addition to an audience that has built connections and relationships with the creator posting the content.
“As creators, we offer so much value, and we absolutely should charge more and be confident in our rates. I’ve had five-figure months, and my base rates start at $1,800 a post because I understand the value I bring and also know how precious my time is since content creation is my side hustle and not my full-time job..@MadCrayy says her base rate for brand-sponsored posts is $1,800 because she knows the value she offers. Click To Tweet
“So many people see creators as people who get free stuff for snapping photos on their iPhones, but the reality is that being a creator takes so much more time and energy than I ever would have expected. I easily work over 40 hours a week on content creation on top of my 9 to 5.”
Maddy says it’s taken trial and error. Still, in the end, it’s one of the most fulfilling careers, and given her amazing friendships and experiences: “Keep pushing through the hard times, learn from them, and keep researching and discovering new things about yourself as a creator.”
About the author
Bonnie owns Word of Mouth, a content agency specializing in social media, content marketing, and editorial writing. She's written for Marie Claire, Harper’s Bazaar, Coveteur, Man Repeller, Health.com, and more. She loves wearing fanny packs and laying in the fetal position.