Ever since leaving ad school, Kate Terentieva has made sure she’s in the room where the decisions are being made. That’s why Kate chose to start her career at a bridal startup, instead of one of the big advertising agencies — she didn’t want to be another nameless face in a sea of junior creatives. “I strategically put myself in situations where I was necessarily part of pitches or client conversations, or otherwise involved in problem solving for the business,” she says.
It’s that desire to be part of the conversation that got Kate where she is now: a creative director in a field that’s largely still dominated by men; the founder of her own agency, Louder Group, which launched earlier this year; and a creator educator who aims to demystify the world of marketing and advertising for her audience — 51K strong on TikTok — of aspiring creative directors. She’s part of a burgeoning class of creator educators on TikTok using their expertise and experience to teach, inspire, and provide insight to their followers.
And it turns out a lot of people were curious about what it takes to be a creative director. So much so that after one of Kate’s recent videos went viral on TikTok, and she was flooded with another slew of questions about her job, she decided to create her own mini-course, “How to Become a Creative Director.” Mini-courses like Kate’s are bite-sized learning packages designed to be consumed on the go, and they’re just one of the ways creator educators can make money selling digital products. Kate made 10 sales in the first few days of releasing her how-to, and is already working on new courses.
We spoke to Kate about her content creation journey, how she’s found her niche, and how she created her fast-selling mini-course on The Leap.
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No spoilers for your mini-course, but let’s start with the basics. What is a creative director?
First, I’m a creative director in the ad industry. That’s important to note because what a creative director does really depends on the field. A creative director in fashion is going to be totally different than someone who works in music, which will be totally different to someone who works in advertising. But the one generality is that it’s a leadership or management position. The day-to-day is less about executing creative than it is about administration and talking with the clients. Our job is to tap into the network we’ve built over the years to find the best talent to execute a particular concept. So you have to be a good manager, but you also have to have experience executing creative to know how to manage those who are doing it now.
Do you miss being hands on?
No. I come from an art director background, which, in my view, is a role that also shouldn’t be about pure execution. It’s in the job title. You’re directing the art. And that means you need to know sales and understand your product. You need to be out in the world, seeing the trends, in order to properly direct the art that will solve whatever problem your client is having. You’re not going to get that if you spend all your time kerning type in Illustrator.
When did you first start creating content?
I started on Tumblr, when I was 13 — what an era. But I started creating the advertising content on a whim last year. This hasn’t aged particularly well, but I broke down a product placement for Yitty — a shapewear company owned by Lizzo — that was featured when she was on Carpool Karaoke with James Corden. I just thought how they did it was so brilliant and organic, so I made a TikTok breaking it down. I didn’t have a strategy, I just shared it. Not even 12 hours later, the video had like 1.2 million views. I didn’t think that many people cared about advertising. Then I just kept breaking down ads and reviewing concepts to help people understand how conversations and ideas turn into very effortless-seeming ads.
When did you first realize there was an eager audience of aspiring creative directors?
I didn’t share my career story until a few months ago because I didn’t think it would be interesting to people. But once I started talking about being a young woman in a leadership position in an industry that’s still very male-dominated, I saw a huge influx of people asking for advice.
Being a creator is like running a mini-agency. You have to manage clients, handle creative, and do the books. You also founded your own advertising agency earlier this year. How do your two roles complement each other?
I feel very comfortable in both worlds because you’re absolutely right — they’re so similar. Especially if a creator scales and has people working for them. I’m not there yet, but some of my friends have a whole team under them, and they all have to be aligned. I really admire creators who are also leading teams because it’s no easy feat.
Did your experience in marketing help when it came to growing your audience?
Actually, a lot of my theories around audience growth were debunked when I started creating content for myself. There are a few generic things that people say, like “be consistent” or “pick a niche,” but I think a lot of it comes down to understanding the general cultural landscape, which is something marketers and creatives are good at. It’s all about being a part of the conversation. You’re not creating content to talk to yourself. You’re doing it to create a dialogue between you and your community, so it’s important to figure out what they’re talking about.
For me, videos that have blown up always come down to a few things. Either I’m talking about a polarizing celebrity — someone people either really love or really hate — or a polarizing piece of marketing, or I’ve made a mistake or done something else that people don’t like and they’re being very vocal about it.
Do you have a sense of when a video is going to blow up?
Sometimes. If I dissect an ad that features a celebrity like Sofia Richie or Alix Earle or Kim Kardashian, it will get a lot of views simply because they have really strong fan bases and also get a lot of hate.
One time, I made a video where I intentionally mispronounced “Jacquemus” to see what would happen, and it got 600,000 views. Most comments were from people calling out the pronunciation. It got a ton of reach and I think I gained 11,000 followers. But you also have to foster brand awareness and draw new people in, and sometimes you can use negativity to your advantage.
You’re also on Instagram. How do you use that platform?
Stories — I notice a lot of engagement there. It’s just so easy to respond to a Story, then you’re in someone’s DMs and you’ve created a dialogue.
Likewise, if I tag a brand or a publication in Stories, it goes straight to their messages, too. They’re able to see it, and reshare it if they want that much faster, and that brings a ton of niche-specific people over to me. If I reshare an Adweek post, and then they share that to their Stories, I already know that the people following me after are interested in marketing and advertising.
You launched your mini-course “How to Become a Creative Director” in August. Why did you decide to create a bite-sized course?
I had a video about creative direction go viral, and I got so many questions. “How do you become a creative director?” “Do I need extra schooling?” “How do I build a portfolio?” So I took all the most frequently asked questions and decided to build this mini-course to answer them. It gives people a good overview of what the job entails, and the typical trajectory to becoming a creative director. It also provides a list of portfolio schools and programs, both free and paid, that can help you get a job and jump-start your career.
What’s the response been like?
Since publishing the course at the end of August, I’ve had 33 students purchase it. That’s $659.67 in revenue as of September 28. And I’ve had five students message me with feedback or additional questions that have given me ideas for other courses. Like one on portfolios, which I’m working on now. But the course also just makes my life easier, because I don’t have to copy and paste the same answer over and over to everyone asking the same questions.
You created your course using the Leap’s new tool, designed to help creators build and sell their products faster and easier. So, lay it on us: What did you think of the tool?
I was invited to be a beta user for this product earlier this year, and it’s been such a great experience. It’s a mobile learning tool, which was captivating to me because it meant there was no pressure for me to sit down at my desktop and create a whole giant course. I think it took me maybe 30 minutes to make the entire course. And I love that the audience, too, can consume knowledge on their phone in a very bite-sized way wherever they are, at their convenience. You can link to templates and freebies and do quizzes. It’s just so much more dynamic than a lot of other online learning programs.
The Leap’s digital product builder is also AI-powered. Was that feature useful?
That was really awesome, especially if you’ve got an area of expertise, but you’re not sure where to start with your course. You answer a few questions about your niche, and it churns out a bunch of ideas. I’m working on another mini-course now about personal branding using the AI tool.
Ready to build your own course in record time using the Leap’s brand new AI-powered digital product builder? Sign up today. It’s free!
How else are you monetizing your content and expertise?
I do brand deals. It’s been interesting exploring brand deals as a B2B creator — trying to understand what my audience wants to see, how I can turn it into a resource for them and whether I can put it on The Leap. And then I have the agency. It’s a lot of juggling.
That’s a lot of balls! How do you keep them all in the air? Are you good with boundaries?
Well, I’m always learning how to be better. I can work forever. And if I get anxious, I work. I haven’t been the best at establishing work-life balance thus far, because I’ve always been at start-ups where the expectation is that there will be none. But I’m starting to understand I can’t make a video answering every question I get. And even if it means turning down money, I can’t accept every brand deal, especially if it’s not going to be of service to my audience.
Beyond self-care, that’s another boundary creators have to consider: Does what you produce serve your audience? That’s how you build and retain trust with your community. So I’m saying “no” a lot more, and that can be hard, because you worry about jeopardizing relationships. But something I’ve learned is that if someone doesn’t respect a boundary — personal or professional — they shouldn’t really be in your orbit anyway.
What other projects do you have in the pipeline?
I’m working on launching a direct-to-consumer brand in a few months, and I can’t say what it is yet, but I’m very excited. I’ve never built a product on my own, and it’s proven to be incredibly difficult. But, at the same time, I’m able to connect much more with my clients at the Louder Group because I get now what goes into building and marketing a product.
Where do you want to be, as a creator, in the next few years?
I’d love to be sharing my expertise on a larger scale. Speaking more, maybe writing a book. I’m passionate about sharing my knowledge about marketing and building a career in marketing, especially as a younger person. And I just want to share it with more people.
This interview has been edited for clarity and length.
Photo: Courtesy of Kate Terentieva