Welcome to my new interview series featuring some of the brightest and most hard-working women I know. My goal for this series is to collect stories from women in all levels of their career. The hope is that their journey and their advice will trigger something in you, and help you take the jump you need to achieve your personal level of success. Whether they are freelancers, founders of their own business, corporate employees, or students, this #LadiesWhoHustle series will showcase their unique talents and help you unveil yours.
I'm really excited to share my next interview feature, the lovely and talented Heidi Nazarudin of @theambitionista. Heidi is best known as the influencer behind @theambitionista, but she didn't set out to be an influencer. Starting off in a whole different world with a degree in computer science, Heidi always wanted to get involved in fashion. Early in her career, Heidi was tackling her day job of a banker while trying to simultaneously become a fashion writer. After a lot of practice and some honest feedback from her friends, Heidi got her writing to a point where it was good enough to start freelancing and getting writing jobs.
Heidi decided it was time to move to LA and start taking writing seriously. She knew that if she wanted to be a professional writer, she would have to learn to market herself. So, Heidi started tweeting often and amassed a following on Twitter. From there, she made the move onto Instagram just as it was picking up and started working with photographers to capture gorgeous fashion shots her followers couldn't get enough of.
Heidi is now the founder of Marque Media, a media company that helps influencers with all their social and marketing needs. Just as she had done previously with @theambitionista, Heidi quickly grew Marque Media and currently has a team of about 50 managing over 40 clients! Read on to learn more about Heidi's career journey, and where her goals will take her in the future.
Entrepreneur and influencer.
Why do you do what you do?
I spent a lot of time mastering my craft as an influencer, from choosing the right photographers, to learning how to present myself on camera and forming a strategy to attract followers. I was able to get some great brand deals with brands like Uber and Revlon, and features in different magazines and in the press. However, I got to a point where I got depressed and stopped posting. My followers noticed and started commenting asking me if I was okay. Finally, I was able to give them an answer when I realized this isn't what I want to do with my life. While Instagram looks very fashion forward and glamorous, I realized all the compliments I was getting were about my looks or my outfits, and this didn't sit well for me.
I consider myself a well rounded person, I have a degree, I read five books a month, I'm educated - but this just didn't seem to translate well on social media. Finally, one day I was checking social media and I noticed a lot of my followers, who happen to be women and women entrepreneurs in general, were asking how I can help them with their Instagram accounts. I had six or seven people asking the same question, but the last woman who asked really caught my eye. She's a wonderful woman with a business that's been following me for years and she asked if she can send me some of the work her current digital marketing agency had provided her, since she didn't think they were doing a great job.
When she sent me their report, I noticed the work was subpar, and to make matters worse, she was paying a lot for the service! She asked if I would help her with her branding, and wanted to move her business over to me. This interaction happened in April 2017 and that's how Marque Media was born.
I quickly asked my team members from @theambitionista if they would be willing to turn to Marque Media instead, and I got a big yes from them all. Since my first client, I was able to gain 40 clients, grow to a team of about 50 members, and acquire a small media agency.
I became an entrepreneur by accident. I am still doing what I have always done but just on a more conscious and global scale. I create visuals and I come up with the strategy but this is so much more empowering. It's really nice to help a small business go from 0 to badass brand and to do this over and over again.
A lot of my clients have become my friends and vice versa. My dentist became my client, as did my doctor. I love that I am able to help businesses because a lot of my clients come from agencies that have traumatized them, and some of these agencies are primarily male agencies that have a tendency to talk down to women. Some of my clients come from agencies that would ask them condescending questions or tell them to "leave it to the men". I love that I am able to help my clients bring their ideas to life and bring them a different feeling.
What was your dream job at 10 years old?
I wanted to be a princess. I used to have tea parties and pretended I was a princess!
What is one thing people outside of your industry get wrong about your job?
Being an influencer and blogger is so new that people who aren't in the industry think it's just girls posting photos of themselves that get a lot of likes and they get paid. People seem to think it's a lazy thing to be. But now I see all the different kinds of women that are coming to me to get help to become influencers. I deal with attorney's, doctors, dentists, etc. All these powerful and strong women didn't even last 8 months, because they slowly started to realize how hard it is to become an influencer. It's like being the editor in chief at a magazine. You have to produce content, get photos, do all the marketing - being an influencer is basically all of this without the staff. You are your own stylist, you may or may not have a photographer, you have your own vision and do your own edits, you have to make the time to schedule and analyze, to like and comment and reach out to brands to connect, and you are only one person. All my team members are influencers and they are the hardest working because they know how hard it is to make a living.
What has been your biggest career struggle so far?
Twice at the height of my career, I realized it wasn't what I wanted to do. The first time I had grown to become a CEO of a big mobile tech company in Tokyo at a young age and everyone thought I was great at what I did, but I realized I didn't want to work with pure numbers all the time. It was hard to make this realization because I was good at it and was great at managing people and numbers. No one understood why I wanted to quick and do something that doesn't even pay 10% as well.
The second time I realized I wasn't in the career path meant for me was at the height of my career as an influencer. Again, I grew to a successful position, but something just didn't seem right.
The way I looked at these situations was a in a worst case/best case way. What is the worst thing that could happen if I left my job as CEO, and what is the best thing that could happen? Well, best case was that I become a great and successful writer, perhaps a columnist for the New York Times and get book deals. The worst case is that nobody wants to read what I write and I struggle with getting writing jobs and can't pay my rent and go broke. If the worst case happens, then I would just send my resume to banks and companies and find a new job, or even move back in with my parents. The worst case scenario was something I could handle.
Who motivates you the most?
I'm self-motivated. I have a great family that's supportive and loves me. When I make crazy decisions, like quitting my CEO position, my dad flew to Tokyo to make sure I'm okay before I made the big decision. I also have a partner that's very supportive of all I do and knows that I would go nuts if I wasn't working.
No matter what I'm doing, I want to do it well and grow it big. Whether that be social media or Marque Media, I put my all into it - if I'm going to do something, I'm going to kill it.
What advice do you have for those looking for a career in your field?
Give yourself time because it takes longer than you think. It's not going to take 6 months or a year - most people don't see how long it takes. For example, my Marie Claire cover was 6 years in the making! Don't compare yourself to others because everyone has their own journey. It can get depressing when you see another influencer doing a campaign with a brand you've always wanted to partner with, and it can get really frustrating if you're constantly comparing yourself. Compare yourself only with your own milestones and successes.
When I get upset or frustrated with my growth, I look back to where I was 6 months ago and see how far I've grown. I always dream big but start small and steady. It takes many steps to end up at your final goal.
When do you feel the most confident?
I feel the most confident when I'm in an area in which I am knowledgeable. I feel a lot less confident when I don't know what I'm talking about, but I'm always honest about it. I like being very prepared - when I pitch I spend one or two hours reading up on that person or brand so I can go in fully prepared. If I'm speaking or presenting, knowing that I look polished helps a lot. To be a boss, you have to look like a boss.
How do you relax?
Every morning, I take my time waking up. One of my indulgences is that I don't have an alarm clock, unless it's something super urgent, but in general, most of my day is planned for the afternoon so that I can wake up leisurely and don't have to jump into the day.
Some guilty pleasures of mine include eBay, Netflix and Amazon Prime. I tend to buy stuff to relax. I recently bought a pair of Valentino shoes on eBay for $100 that were originally $900 - that kind of bidding helps me relax.
Favourite way to sweat: I love on the beach so walking on the beach about 4-5 times a week is my favourite activity.
Favourite book: here is a list of books I'm currently reading: The Art of Doing: How Superachievers Do What They Do; The Art of Client Service; Brand Identity - Making Your Products Irresistible; The Influence That Makes People Do What They Do; and Radical Candar by Kim Scott.
Morning bird or night owl? Night owl - I try to wake up by 8am but sometimes my team members wake me up.
Favourite city: the one I'm currently living in - Santa Monica. I love that it's a city but it's also right by the beach!
Get in touch with Heidi!
Website: theambitionista.com, marque.media
Instagram: @theambitionista, @wearemarque
Twitter: @theambitionista, @wearemarque
Facebook: The Ambitionista Blog, We Are Marque
Know anyone that would be great to feature in the #LadiesWhoHustle series? Connect with me on Instagram to nominate them - or yourself!