Aysha Harun of the #YoutubeBlackvoices Creator Class of 2021 on becoming a successful Creator
I recently sat down with Aysha Harun, a beauty and lifestyle blogger who’s worked with some of the biggest brands in the industry, such as Maybelline and L’Oreal.
Her primary content creation channel is YouTube, where she now has over 400,000 subscribers. She creates skincare videos, styling inspirations, tutorials, and lifestyle vlogs and talks about social issues like colorism and mental health.
We discussed her journey of starting a YouTube channel at the age of 16, representing Black Muslim women, and establishing a presence in the crowded beauty and lifestyle industry.
From hitting 100,000 subscribers on YouTube on the day, she graduated to working with every brand on her wish list as a content creator—Aysha is an inspiration to all.
She shared her ten-plus years of experience creating content, reaching out to brands, scaling up her business, and shifting to a full-time role. She also shared some pro tips for creators to attract better brand deals (and hinted at what she has planned next in her creator journey.)
Becoming a full-time content creator
When Aysha was at Wilfrid Laurier University, her only aim was to get into the co-op program—a mode of work-integrated learning where students learn theoretical concepts and apply them in a workplace relevant to their field study.
But...she didn’t get into the program. Little did she know: content creation—a passive hobby at the time—had something else in store for her.
At that time, Aysha only created content for fun in-between classes, and not many people apart from her roommates even knew about it. But, slowly, as she made more content, people started noticing her and the content she created.
She later got an internship with Kin Community, a multi-channel network agency in Canada. Her role was to help manage the partners under the agency, which eventually transitioned into a strategic role that involved mapping out campaigns and getting new content creators on board.
While she was helping reach out to creators for brand collaborations, she was impressed with how these creators worked, their creativity and commitment toward their content, and especially their massive production value.
This was her first experience on the business side of YouTube, and it made her realize people were making money from it. She saw the platform’s true potential while working with these creators and identified something was missing in the lineup—a creator like her.
“At that time, there were no Muslim Black women...let alone Hijabi women...doing beauty and lifestyle content on YouTube. There wasn’t a blueprint for me to follow, but I was inspired by the creators I was watching (even though they didn’t look like me.) I figured: I enjoy this content, so someone who looks like me might also enjoy what I create.”
Reaching out to brands and setting rates
Most creators think once you hit a few hundred thousand subscribers, brands will reach out to you. Aysha thought this too...but it turns out that’s not the case.
When it didn’t happen, she made her plan.
The brand outreach plan
For three months after she graduated, Aysha spent her time cold emailing brands and introducing herself, sending around ten emails every day.
She discovered diversity and inclusion weren’t really on brands’ minds at the time, so she had to put herself out there with great content...and it had to be so good brands couldn’t ignore her.
Aysha created a list of dream partners she wanted to work with, including beauty industry leaders like L’Oreal and Maybelline. She started sending them DMs and emails with an elevator pitch and links to videos where she featured their products and asked to be included in their PR list for future collaboration opportunities.
Aysha’s pro tip to score more brand deals
Aysha included organic links to her favorite products in her videos and descriptions. Later, she would study analytics to see how they were selling, and if they performed well in terms of sales, she would reach out to the brands.
This way, she shared how she was organically driving sales, thus helping her make a strong case that they should work together.
Aysha was paid $20 for her first paid YouTube video. It was a big deal for her back then: someone was paying her $20 to talk about their product in her video!
Since then, she’s come a long way. She used different apps to assess her value based on her engagement and followers. One of these apps was Social Blue Book, a resource that allows you to put in your information, YouTube account, and analytics, and from there, it generates a number based on those data points.
However, she felt these rates were a little low and that she deserved more based on the amount of effort her videos required.
She later started using Hashtagpaid to look at competitive and average rates, which provided a better, more realistic range around what she should charge for content creation.
What does her strategy for pricing look like now?
She relied on trial and error for some time but was never afraid of increasing her rates. The pricing process generally looks like this:
- Quote a ballpark price, say, $2,000 for a post.
- If the brand says it’s too much, then ask for their budget to find a middle rate that works for both parties.
Adding to this, Aysha suggests creators not sell themselves short because they have no idea about the going rates.
“The more transparency there is in an industry that already has so little transparency, only then can you get further.”
The key to successful brand collaborations and creating a community
Having done so many brand collaborations since the day she started creating content almost a decade ago, Aysha has now reached a point where she can be highly selective about collaborations.
Today, she only works with brands she’s featured in her videos before or those she loves (and that her audience would, too.)
The reason: She wants her audience to enjoy her content, sponsored or not. This way, brand deals don’t get compromised, and the audience enjoys the content.
Talking about “control” while working with brands: Aysha discussed how she makes it a point to educate partners if the type of content they want doesn’t work for her channel or audience. She also communicates these values to her team and manager, so before she even gets an offer, they have a conversation with the brand, and there’s a consensus.
“I’ve been able to work with every brand on my list. I feel once you have a goal in mind, figuring out how to get to the end goal makes it a bit easier.”
Example of a great brand partnership
Aysha has a long-standing partnership with Fabletics, a clothing brand for activewear. She feels the best part about working with them is how they think about the type of content they want to do in a particular month, but how the content will be created and what the creator will do with it is entirely up to them.
This mutual trust and respect is the primary reason why Aysha renewed a contract with them and will continue to love the brand—even if they don’t work together in the future.
Community and audience: building trust
Aysha feels it’s important to be accessible on all platforms.
Looking back at how she’s been active on Instagram for over four years now, she can see how it has strengthened the relationship with her audience: She replies to their DMs and comments and actively engages with them regularly.
“My community and audience are my friends and family,” she said.“They support my lifestyle and my business. Through YouTube, I’ve seen some people have been following me since I was in high school. I remember their names and understand what they’re going through, they’re able to see what I’m going through, and it builds a relationship and community.”
Aysha also encourages her audience to leave their own experiences in the comments when she gets into vulnerable topics. Over the years, she’s seen many people comment and other people replying to those comments, making it a close-knit community that cares about each other.
Beyond content creation
The million-dollar question: what’s next for Aysha?
Right now, she has many ideas in her mind. Content creation is not going anywhere anytime soon, but she wonders what will happen in 10 or 20 years.
“I’ve always wanted to create something off-platform that is more than just my name...more than ‘Aysha the YouTuber.’ So that would be products: an apparel line or a skincare line, maybe. I’m just figuring out how to go about that right now and building relationships with people in the industry.”
Aysha feels she has a powerful and loyal audience, but she wants to expand on that and grow it further through products. Instead of going into a collaborative partnership with a brand for her products, she aims to have complete creative control over what she’s making.
Overall, her creator journey has been incredible thus far, and she has some great things planned for the future.
Her parting advice for fellow creators: always be authentic, honest, and transparent.