• Caitlin

HANIFA'S STORY | my experience as a black creative


You’re probably wondering why I won’t use the word influencer? It’s because I loathe that word and I also don’t consider myself one. I am an artist and creative. What does this mean? Well, I use various mediums to express myself - music, writing and poetry. Through this, I can inspire you and perhaps change the way you think and open you up to something that can positively benefit you.


When I started The Things I Wish I Knew I didn’t know what the influencer world was about. As I began to grow my lifestyle website I began to get acquainted with this new world. To be honest, if looks can be deceiving, then you have no idea until you get a behind the scenes look at the world of the “influencer”. Where freelance writers, influencers, bloggers and creatives (photographers, art directors and stylists) grind for every paycheck hoping that they are one job away from that life-changing gig, life-changing moment.


Many things can separate you from the rest of the crowd. You know, that thing that makes you stand out? If you are a BIPOC creative you will stand out without trying. Whether you like it or not, you have already been put into a category — the when we need to be more ‘inclusive” category.


It’s not uncommon to attend an event and be the only one; the only person of colour. I didn't give it too much thought when I started until I realized that it was a common occurrence and a weird feeling when I would see one of two women with brown skin. At that moment you felt like you weren’t alone but then you quickly realize that you are because the truth is for women of colour in this industry we know the spots given are limited. We know that not only do we have to prove ourselves, but we also have to unwillingly compete against other black women, women of colour for that one spot.


We don’t want to compete with each other, we want to celebrate each other. We talk about women coming together but I wonder if that also includes women of colour? It seems we are always fighting the good fight alone or we are forced to show what we are made of by brining another sister down. We have to work more hours and we have to do more work just to get noticed or paid. To date, I have written over 500 articles on my website yet I still have to prove myself to people who can see good work and good writing in plain view. I never want to make it about race or colour but there are many circumstances when I see who is getting work and who isn’t and that it clearly is.


I can also think of the times when my work has been undervalued. For example, when I started my goal was to build my audience and relationship with brands and agencies. It wasn’t about the money although, for those who don’t know, this is a business. I still feel this way, I want it to be about the quality of work no matter what. As the audience grew I reached a point where I knew it was time to get a return on my investment and hard work. This is a scary step for any creative and it’s hard to ask for what you know your work is worth. There is always this fear of offending someone. I remember finally requesting payment for my work from an agency that I have featured several clients of theirs on my website. To give you a full view of what I have done for them so they can keep their clients happy.


For this agency alone I have garnered well over 30,000 views, unique readers for the brands they represent. When I would ask them for monetary compensation for new campaigns they would make up a story or ignore my email. I love getting products and to be honest, I know there is a privilege in this. There are a lot of people who would love to try all the wonderful My Experience As A Black Creative things I get to. For this I am thankful. The issue is, with the agencies who bully you for a review, like seriously bully you, and ONLY offer products for pay. I love a good skin cream but it doesn’t pay the bills. I try to feature most of the brands I receive and I am more likely to feature brands who send their stuff without conditions. Why? Because it has to be authentic. If I love it, I will share it even if there is no pay involved.


It’s also hard to stomach when you discover that a Non-BIPOC creative was offered monetary compensation for their work with the same brand and same agency and their quality of work isn’t close to or comparable to yours. I am not mad at other creatives, they deserve to get paid for their work; I will never be mad at them. I just know I deserve to be paid for my work since I help you sell your clients products and services.


The most I have ever received from that agency is $25.00 for a recipe post for one of their brands and even getting that was a struggle. Needless to say, I decided to never work with them again. My advice to BIPOC creatives, you have to see your value no matter what.

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Caitlin Melvin | Caitlinalisonmelvin@gmail.com | Toronto, Ontario

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