What does it take to be a successful digital entrepreneur?
According to a recent article in Fast Company magazine, more than 50 million people globally consider themselves content creators, and the market size has grown to well over $104 billion. Investors poured a record $1.3 billion into the space. And there’s even been a stronger middle class, with 41% of creators earning a living wage ($69,000 annually or more) year-over-year.
Source: Fast Company, link here.
From these statistics it is clear that a significant number of professionals have decided to pursue a career in the digital creator economy, and social media offers the opportunity to monetize content in a variety of ways.
My decision to become a digital entrepreneur was motivated by lifestyle and purpose rather than financial gain. In fact, Texas Monthly magazine just did a feature story on me which you can find here.
I spent twenty years in finance, first working on Wall Street as an investment banker and then as an executive in the investment management field.
At first, finance was fascinating to me. I loved the scientific aspect of dissecting a company’s financial statements, working on valuation models in Excel and helping clients with their fixed income and equity offerings.
Yet, the strong pull of entrepreneurship was always there. When I was in my 20s, I wanted to own a nightclub or restaurant. In my 30s, I dreamed of opening up my own boutique hotel in Aruba.
Now that I am retired from my career in finance, I can achieve my life-long goal of starting my own business, this time focused on helping others achieve fulfillment in their life.
What I have found thus far about being your own boss is that it can be both incredibly challenging and rewarding.
One of the best tactics I have learned is to solicit the advice of others who have been down this road before me.
One such individual is Shinjini Das, Founder and CEO of The Das Media Group.
An engineer by background, Shinjini left Corporate America to launch her own company in her mid-20s five years ago, and she recently celebrated her first year of profitability. You may have seen her on Twitter, where she has over 200k followers or on LinkedIn, where her ubiquitous “Go-Getter” posts inspire young people, including from her home country of India.
She was named one of the Top Ten Motivational Speakers To Watch in 2021 by Yahoo Finance and frequently appears on television and in various speaking engagements around the world.
I became a fan of hers over a year ago when I noticed her inspirational posts on LinkedIn about female entrepreneurs and helping underprivileged youth in the developing world.
Given the fact that March is Women’s History Month, there couldn’t be a better person to feature than Ms. Das, who is making history in her own right by motivating dreamers to become go-getters around the globe.
In fact, she recently launched the 2022 GoGetterFam Media Sponsorship, which will help the poorest kids of the world in Africa, Latin America, and Asia become a Go Getter.
Full disclosure: I am proud to be a sponsor of this important initiative.
I caught up with Ms. Das to learn how she has been able to achieve success with her motivational media content company and to share her learnings which benefit all entrepreneurs.
AustinfromAustin: Shinjini, can you tell me how you got started and what did you learn from your initial years as an entrepreneur?
Ms. Das: I started out on Twitter. By 2018, I had over 1mm impressions on that platform, which was a huge milestone for me. I learned early on that I needed to focus on the right audience. Initially, I thought that I would connect with other famous inspirational speakers and their primarily white, affluent audiences. However, I learned that these people are not my primary audience. My audience tends to skew younger (teens and 20s) and is located in the developing world (Asia, Africa, Latin America). Once I realized this fact and created messaging to help the billions of people in these geographies become Go-Getters, then my business really took off. I had paid speaking gigs all around the world, I wrote a book “Unapologetically Shinjini,” which has sold a lot of digital copies, and launched a growing content storytelling consulting practice.
AustinfromAustin: Obviously, you have a massive following on Twitter, with 15mm views a month of your content. What brought you to LinkedIn?
Ms. Das: Twitter is a powerful tool to reach the mass market in volume. LinkedIn was interesting to me, because LinkedIn’s audience tends to be employed professionals. My content across these platforms is almost identical, but LinkedIn has really opened up another market for me, especially for my business-based, content creation consulting clients.
AustinfromAustin: Do you think it is possible to really be on all social media platforms?
Ms. Das: While it is possible, my strategy is just to focus on a few that have the biggest impact. I plan to focus on Twitter, LinkedIn and now Amazon for my book. Amazon will be my home in 2022, and I am very excited about that. Would-be social media entrepreneurs should also be aware that there is no one formula, no exact equation for success, and this makes building a sustainable digital business model incredibly difficult. As an engineer I try to review as much data as possible, including statistics on my audience, to try to take some of the unpredictability out of it.
AustinfromAustin: I read your book and really enjoyed it. Tell me more about what you wanted to achieve with Unapologetically, Shinjini.
Ms. Das: Before I debut on Amazon, I wanted to sell 1,000 copies of my book on my website to show that there was a strong message that resonated with my audience. I achieved that in 2021. That gave me the confidence to work with Amazon in the future and have an expectation of success.
AustinfromAustin: Speaking of success, please tell us about your first, big, viral post on LinkedIn.
Ms. Das: I knew that I had a huge audience in India; it is a country of over a billion people, and that is a huge addressable market. I have followers from all over the developing world, and these people are more heavy users of social media than the developed world. I also knew from the comments and messages I received that my audience wanted to know who I was and where I was from. So, I knew I wanted the post to be about India and about me. I knew that I wanted to have the colors of the Indian flag, a picture of me and to capitalize INDIA. Some posts go viral unexpectedly, but I had been working up to this post over time, working on the right message, analyzing my audience, and building upon my prior content. Ultimately, it took off and gave me a foundation for the future.
AustinfromAustin: So what happened next?
Ms. Das: I produced content like a machine. Knowing that I struck a nerve with my post about India, I also wanted to share more about me and my media company. First, that I am Bengali, which is one of the largest ethnic groups in the world. Second, that my company is now profitable. Third, what exactly is a motivational media company? These messages were based on questions I received from my audience in comments to my posts.
AustinfromAustin: How do you come up with content that is continually engaging and inspirational? I find it hard to come up with new material on a daily basis. The below post received over two million views and counting.
Ms. Das: My message is powerful and universal. Own your heritage; do not be ashamed of who you are or where you come from. Be kind, empathetic, authentic and approachable. With these guiding principles in mind, I find plenty of material to write about, mostly by observing and dissecting my daily life and experiences. Though we may have grown up in different places or walks of life, we all share a common bond.
AustinfromAustin: I understand that sometimes you encounter people who may not appreciate your message.
Ms. Das: Many Indian men in traditional Indian society feel that a woman’s place is in the home, and I post about how women should be independent financially and not afraid to be Go-Getters.
AustinfromAustin: Any final thoughts for those of us who are trying to grow our audience?
Ms. Das: Don’t try to be a new person every day. Stay on message. Like Chick-Fil-A. Understand and be honest about what you are doing every day. Too frequently on social media, you see influencers cavorting on a beach or hanging out with a celebrity. In reality, you are not on a beach or with a celebrity every day. The scalable, sustainable way to generate interest is to be authentic.
AustinfromAustin: Thank you so much for your time and for sharing your wisdom. Wishing you much more continued success.
Whatever your career ambitions are, know that the Creator economy is available to you. With hard work, knowledge about your target audience and an authentic, inspirational message, you too can join the ranks of over 50 million professionals around the world who, like Ms. Das, are making an impact through their content and passion.