In 2010, when Jasmine Brand was working as a corporate marketing director, she noticed a lack of media coverage of black celebrities. Brand, who read a lot of celebrity news, decided to start blogging as a hobby during her free time.
"I wanted to shed more light on black celebrities because they didn't get the same kind of exposure," Brand, now, 35, told The New York Times.
Before long she turned her passion project into a side hustle and then a full-time job. Initially she produced and published most of the content herself. Today, The Jasmine Brand, her entertainment news blog, has 2.1 million unique visitors each month, and operates out of multiple offices with a full team of writers, correspondents, and photographers.
For Brand, turning a side hustle into a successful, lasting media company required perseverance and a clear vision of her brand. Here are three brand-building strategies that worked for her and that can help you build out your side gig or take your freelance work to the next level.
When Brand first started doing red carpet events, she dyed her hair hot pink so she would stand out and catch the eye of people she wanted to interview.
Brand continued to be savvy about attracting the attention of her target audience. In 2013, she relaunched a daily "e-bulletin" with the site's top stories. It now goes out to 263,000 subscribers, including movers and shakers in the entertainment industry.
Putting her stories directly into the inboxes of influential agents, editors, and more helped her connect with her audience and build a recognizable brand.
Connecting directly with your audience is a strategy that Priscilla Tsai, the founder of the cosmetics brand Cocokind, applied to her business as well when she was getting it off the ground.
"I went door-to-door to local Whole Foods stores in Northern California and spoke with the local buyers. With every conversation, my path to getting on the shelves became clearer as the buyers would give me feedback, guidance, and advice on our entrepreneurial journey and help support our pursuit. I used every conversation as a learning opportunity," Tsai told Grow earlier this year.
The Jasmine Brand's success is due, in part, to the fact that it's trustworthy and gets its stories right. The site is often referenced by other outlets, including Page Six and the nationally syndicated radio show "The Breakfast Club."
The defining characteristics that helped her create a strong brand are "perseverance and consistency," Brand told the Times. Even at the beginning of her blogging career, when Brand only made a few hundred dollars from advertising revenue and had to drain her 401(k) savings to cover living expenses, she stuck with her passion.
And when an investor offered to put money behind The Jasmine Brand and continued future funding, she was able to excel precisely because she had already set a precedent for producing consistent, accurate content.
Whether you're taking a side hustle full-time, saving for retirement, or paying down debt, consistency can prove invaluable.
Ryan Serhant, real estate broker and star of Bravo's "Million Dollar Listing" and "Sell It Like Serhant," spoke to Grow last year about doing something similar to build his brand with his new YouTube channel. He says that putting out "consistent content" helps him engage with his audience, bring in new real estate clients, and introduce more people to his courses and books.
Video by David Fang
The Jasmine Brand has plans to develop at least two other websites offering health and lifestyle content. The entrepreneur plans to launch a makeup line in the coming year, too. Ultimately, Brand wants to make moves similar to trade publications like Deadline and Variety by publishing casting announcements and on-set images.
Growing along with your audience is something that billionaire Ray Dalio says can make all the difference when trying to remain relevant. By opening yourself up to new perspectives and ideas, "you can get help from others who can see and do things you can't," Dalio writes in his book "Principles for Success."
Brand's ability to listen to her audience and develop awareness of their changing interests has helped her outlast many of her competitors. She told the Times she understands "when it's time to move on, try something else and go to your next chapter."
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