Chris C. Wise didn’t plan to become a lifestyle blogger. In fact, the Texan wanted to go back to corporate life after giving birth to her first child in 2013. But her job applications were denied time after time. 

“As a newlywed with a newborn baby, I was just like, Okay, well I need to do something,” she says in a phone call. 

Wise had been writing about hair and motherhood on places like Blogger since “before blogging was even a thing.” But it wasn’t until she found herself without a regular job that she realized she could turn it into a career. Seven years later, she has a successful Instagram with over 12,000 followers, a YouTube channel with over 22,000 subscribers, and even a budding TikTok, all on top of her original blog. In the past year she’s worked with brands like Olay, CVS, Neutrogena, and Target. But ramping up easy—especially not in 2020. 

“I was pitching, reaching out, nobody was getting back to me,” she says. “Then coronavirus [hit], so everything shut down. In August, my grandmother passed, and then a couple of weeks later with all my monthly subscriptions and nothing coming in, I had a negative balance on my business account.”

Wise tells us how she turned things around by reaching out to brands, what she’s learned on her journey, and how she plans on making 2021 her “most profitable year as a blogger and influencer.” 

Monetize one platform at a time

The first thing that I realized I could monetize was YouTube [in 2016]. They have their Partner Program. When it first started they didn't have strict requirements. I had maybe 5,000 followers, so I applied and I became a YouTube Partner. You have to hit a hundred dollars every month as the threshold to get paid. For a while, I was at $80, $95. I was right at the finish line like, come on, come on, come on. And then I finally hit that $100 and I was like, Oh my God! I was happy about $100 because that paid my phone bill. Now, you know, things have changed. The algorithm is just doing its own thing. So it’s kind of hit and miss, but I'm still hitting that threshold. Sometimes it's $100, sometimes it's $200, but, hey, that pays my car insurance.

Invest in your visuals

I'm big on photography. I like being the face of my pictures. I love capturing moments in the essence. So once I started like taking my visuals very seriously, that's when brands started noticing that I have a voice and they reached out to me. I had to learn how to read contracts, look for those little details, as far as usage rights, exclusivity, all of those little details. So fast forward to today, I'm able to make a good, decent amount of money. I've never thought in a million years I would make this kind of money. 

Personalize your pitches

The person behind the email, they're human. Like, "Good afternoon, Jennifer, hope all is well with you." Then you want to introduce yourself. "My name is Chris C. Wise. I am a lifestyle and motherhood content creator based in Texas.” You want to share why you want to partner with them. Why are you reaching out to them? Because you want to be of service to the brand. You want to bring brand awareness to an upcoming product, or you want to create content around a product that you love for Easter and you want to share an idea with them. You're starting a conversation. You don't go into detail about how much money you want to get paid. You want to talk about what you want to offer and then once you get their response, then you can discuss [the details] in depth.

Your rate is not a set number

Most people lowball themselves. I don't have 100,000 followers, but I have value. I have great work. And people are like, “Oh, you're supposed to charge $10 per  100 [followers].” I think, No, no, no, no. Because it's not right. It might take a lot of time to do. Video content could take days because you have to plan the content, you have to execute the content, you have to edit the content. Now, TikTok and Reels, people think, “Oh, the videos are just 15 seconds.” But it takes hours to do. You have to factor in your time, your value. And also, your props. Did you have to go to the store to buy something? Did you have to buy new hair? And that is why bloggers charge what they charge. 

Comparisons are detrimental—for creators and brands

I may not be, you know, Jackie Aina or Caitlin Covington. Those are some of my favorite bloggers, and I'm not them. So I'm not bold enough to ask for $25,000 for an Instagram post just yet. But I know my worth and I know my value and I know the value that I'm willing to give these brands when I work with them. I think brands have to stop doing this too. "So and so did it for this amount." I'm not them. I'm not that blogger. So please don't compare me to other people, ‘cause you reached out to me. Especially in this time. African-American content creators, we get way less. It's a sad reality, but now that we're making our voices heard, we're getting paid our worth. And I admire brands that don't question that.

Go the extra mile

The standards have changed. So you have to change along with those. You have to know what you're willing to do and give, like you can't just take a selfie with a product and expect to get paid $2,500. Go outside of the box. That's why you're a creator. Say Our Place, which is a brand that has pots and pans, they send you pots to showcase so they can put it on their digital email list. Well, I'm going to be in the face of a million people. I'm going to go Hobby Lobby. I'm going to go buy me a cute little apron. I'm going to go get some nice little gloves. You have to step outside of the box and make sure that you're bringing top quality content. 

Mistakes aren’t the end of the world

My recent [campaign] was with Olay. And that one was Godsent, because I've always wanted to work with Olay. Unfortunately with my IGTV story, Instagram was doing some weird thing with the hashtags hidden. So my video ended up not posting when it was supposed to go live. I had to repost it like five times and then on the sixth time it finally stayed. But I think I posted it at a time that my audience wasn't online, so it didn't do well. I'm like, “Oh my God, this is one of my biggest paid partnerships.” I was a little embarrassed, but luckily the manager that was working with me, she was very, very helpful. She reassured me that things were okay. It's a lesson learned. Looking back, I'm like, okay, I know I need to make sure that I'm filming in daylight, and my fan was on, and then next time we want to make sure we do this, and this.