Not long ago, content creator Kyyah Abdul had just around 8,000 Instagram followers — a follower count that had lingered, more or less, in the same spot for years. Today, she boasts over 64,000 Instagram followers, as well as a TikTok following of over 206,000 and counting.
In the last few years, Abdul has made a formidable career for herself as a content creator simply by offering workplace advice. Leveraging her biotech background and corporate experience, Abdul provides her audience with all the tips and tricks they’ll need to succeed at the office, whether it’s how to secure a job, negotiate a raise, or just navigate the corporate world.
Growing her audience wasn’t easy, but Abdul has also been able to flip her following into a number of income streams, including selling digital products (like an interview prep guide) and services (career consultations starting at $150 a pop), much-coveted brand partnerships, and even a publishing deal. “How?” you might ask. In her own words: consistent and engaging content.
We sat down with Abdul to speak about her journey from clinical research to content creation, monetizing her audience, and staying true to herself.
Tell us about your content creation journey. How did it all begin?
I started making YouTube videos back in 2018. At that time, all my videos were about public health and clinical research. As someone working in biotech, my goal was to create an opportunity and improve access to information in this sector, and I felt that YouTube was a great way to do that. But then I stopped in the middle of my master’s program, because I only had 1,200 subscribers and didn’t pay much attention to it.
About six months later, I realized my channel had grown to about 8,000 subscribers. I was shocked! I realized that there was a need for this type of content, so I continued to make videos. During the pandemic, I was living with my friends, and one of them is an OG Instagram creator in the fashion space who had over 800,000 followers. She taught me everything about content creation, from SEO to how to film and edit content, to how to captivate your audience.
At the beginning, I was trying to create just like her. But when you try to create just like somebody else, it never works out. So, for about a year and a half, I stopped creating. That was until March 2022, when I had jaw surgery and began documenting the healing process on YouTube and TikTok.
What happened next?
I then started making career-related videos, and my platform exploded from there. I’d just hit 18,000 followers on Instagram after sitting at 8,000 for years. This was because I stopped trying to create like other creators and did what was natural to me. Giving career advice and talking about business comes very naturally to me.
So, my creator journey feels more like a glove that I’ve tailored to fit my hand, rather than trying on a whole bunch of sizes to see if it’ll work.
What’s a cool opportunity you’ve gained through content creation?
I was recently on a podcast called Lab Rats to Unicorns. It’s basically about venture capitalists who are investing in pharmaceutical products for oncology and different things. I felt that it was so cool that I was being recognized for my professional work, as well as my ability to create engaging content. And also just having the opportunity to engage with people in a different sub-sector than what I’m used to, because I’m not used to venture capital or anything like that.
I think being exposed to different industries as a result of creating content is the best part [of the job]. Brand deals are also cool, but I think that getting the opportunity to network with people and to really build something bigger than what you originally planned is even better.
Why did you focus on career advice as your content creation niche?
As a career-oriented person, it just came naturally to me. Maybe it’s the “child of immigrants” in me, but I genuinely like working towards a cause or a greater good.
I’ve spent so much time over the past 10 years working and gathering information on how to navigate the corporate landscape and how to excel professionally, that it only made sense the next step would be to share that information.
Tell us more about your content creation strategies. How did you grow your audience on different platforms?
My YouTube strategy is seamless. I’ll pick one Saturday to research, write scripts, and film 10 videos. Then, the following day, I’ll edit two or three videos and have them scheduled. With this strategy, I know I’ll have enough content for about three weeks.
My YouTube audience tends to want specific answers, which can be more difficult. In those cases, I’ll recommend that they book a consultation with me where they can get their answers. This is also an opportunity for me to monetize, and they do book these!
With Instagram, I honestly just started reposting my career content from TikTok because of [Instagram’s] scheduling feature. It’s worked out really well so far, and that’s how I was able to gain about 10,000 followers in six weeks, compared to when I was stuck on 8,000 followers for years.
TikTok is where I put in the most effort and engage with my audience. I come up with a lot of new concepts such as my “March Madness” series, which was about making financing and budgeting fun. I also have other series like “Ultimate Closet Cleanout,” Vlogmas, “My Career Mistakes,” “Breakfast Chats,” and I’ve just started a new series called “Rack It Up or Bag It Up,” which is a shopping series.
With TikTok, I try to act like I’m a character in a TV show, and people want to watch different series from that character. You’ll see me a lot in TikTok comments, and I also try to go live as much as possible to keep my audience engaged.
How do you monetize as a creator?
This is the first year I’ve made good money as a content creator. Brand deals are a great way to make money, but I recently got accepted into the TikTok Creativity Program as well. With that program, you get paid per view, and the pay is substantial. Also, I provide consultations, which are $150 for a 30-minute chat, and I get on average two to three consultations a week.
I used to write résumés and that was originally how I sustained my social media [career], but it became unsustainable. I also used to offer a three-month [career coaching] program but, again, it was unsustainable. Increasing the [number of shorter consultations] allowed me to free up more time to create content.
In addition to consultations, I have a book for graduates called The Prepared Graduate as well as a [downloadable] interview prep guide. I find that the guide is very popular — it receives more sales than the book.
Overall, I would say the TikTok Creativity Program and brand deals are some of the best ways to monetize.
How do you stay inspired and avoid burnout as a creator?
As a career advice content creator, there are only so many ways to create content about negotiations or interviews, so sometimes I take a break and make other types of content.
The way I remain inspired is to understand that it’s okay to take a pause on the niche that you started with and explore other avenues. I allow myself to experiment.
What resources have you found useful as a creator?
Talking to other creators is helpful. Having access to someone who works in a management agency is helpful, because that will help you to determine the rates that you should be charging.
Do you have any tips for aspiring content creators?
Just be yourself. It’s not sustainable trying to be somebody else. Stop trying to copy others, and bring your own flair and creativity to the content you create.
Also, just because you started something doesn’t mean that it’s what you have to do forever. Everything I thought I wanted has evolved in some capacity by being open to feedback.
What’s next for you?
I’m going to keep grinding, and creating engaging and meaningful content for my audience. I’d also love to start my own business, too, but I don’t plan too far ahead. I just think about the series I’m focused on right now and how long I’m going to [continue working on them]. Then I just get to the next step when I get there.
This interview has been edited for clarity and length.
Photo: Courtesy of Kyyah Abdul