Welcome to My First Year as a Creator, a series where we ask creators how they got started, and how they have gone full-time doing what they love the most.
Madi Prettyman is a social media coach, agency owner, and the content creator behind @chooseyourglow and @chooseyoursocial. While she’s known for posting skincare tips, “lazy girl” makeup tutorials, and unboxing videos on her beauty-focused TikTok, Prettyman also shares monetization strategies for micro-influencers on her second TikTok account — and cute dog videos on her third, @charlieandchamp.
Prettyman is clearly passionate about social media, and she’s even more enthusiastic about helping other creators develop engaging content, build their audiences, and monetize their niches. After posting beauty content online for about two years, she began giving advice to influencers under the moniker @chooseyoursocial, sharing what she’s learned from growing her own page.
The Leap spoke with Prettyman about her journey from beauty Instagrammer to influencer coach, leaving the nine-to-five life to pursue content creation full-time, and why having slow growth can sometimes work in your favor.
Everyone starts somewhere. Can you set the scene for us in terms of what was going on in your life when you decided to become a full-time creator?
I graduated from college with a degree in accounting and worked at a financial firm. I was there for almost six years, if we count my time being an intern. I loved the work environment, I loved my coworkers, but I realized that I just wasn’t fulfilling my creative needs. I was getting a little bit bored. I was tired of being at the office all day long. I was fine, I just wasn’t thriving.
I’ve always been really into skincare and beauty, and I decided to start an Instagram account (@chooseyourglow) at the end of 2018, because at that time, I felt like skincare and beauty were coming into their own online. I started a microblog on Instagram sharing my favorites, but I would never even show my face. I didn’t want anyone to know it was me. I just wanted to share facts, beauty, and all my favorite products. I didn’t even want it to be attached to my name.
When it started to take off, I started showing my face more and making videos. This was still a side job to my nine-to-five. I was working all day, and would come home at night to spend hours creating content. That was a year of my life when I was pretty much busy 24/7, trying to build my brand but also to work full-time. It was at the end of 2020 when I started having partnerships and saw a lot of growth. I made a goal to go full-time, which I ended up doing in February 2021. Things grew pretty quickly.
@chooseyoursocial Reply to @reallyizzylife #contentcreatortiktok #fulltimeinfluencer ♬ original sound – Madi | Influencer Coach
January 2021 was when I decided to start working with beauty brands and skincare brands by helping them with their pages. I had learned so much from growing my own page, so I started @chooseyoursocial as a separate resource for the brands specifically. Some of them would book calls with me, which eventually turned into me coaching once I felt I was able to give advice to actual creators who are going through what I was going through.
For a while, I would just give advice online. People could see that I was able to grow quickly, so it started with DMs and then emails. Some of the brands I was working with and creators I was talking to eventually said, “Why don’t you create a separate Instagram account and make videos?” Videos were popular at this time. So that’s how I started my social media agency, where I now do one-on-one coaching. Everything kind of folded into one another and I’m very grateful. I never thought I would be where I am right now, but I’m glad that I finally took that leap.
That’s a pretty amazing trajectory. I’m curious to know how your videos have evolved in such a short time. Are there any insights that stand out to you?
For a while, I was just doing flatlays. That was the big thing at the time — you know, products on a desk, and make it all pretty and aesthetic. I was so nervous to get on camera. I don’t know why. I feel like I’ve always been pretty outgoing, but something about talking to myself on camera just made me feel icky. I hate to admit that, but there was just something about it. I would try and retake like 10 different times. And this was just for my stories at the time! I remember trying so hard to talk “right” and I’d make a script. I’d have to write things out beforehand, because I would lose my train of thought.
It was really scary at the beginning, but as they always say, the more you do it, the more confident you become and the more normal it feels. I wish someone could have just told me that at the time, because I wouldn’t even want my boyfriend to hear me in the other room with the door closed talking on camera — I was that embarrassed about it. It is so funny thinking back, because I could talk out in public now. We all go through that phase where we just have to get over it feeling weird, and the only way to do that is to just do it.
How did your audience grow as you did?
I wasn’t super vulnerable at the beginning, but every once in a while, I would let people into what was happening throughout my day. Once I started opening up about my personal life, I noticed it was easier for me to make connections with people online. I would get comments like, “Oh my gosh, I also have a dog similar to yours!” Or, “Oh my gosh, my boyfriend does the exact same thing!” I realized that when I stopped focusing only on skincare and beauty, and opened up about other aspects of my life, I was able to start having conversations and meeting people.
Some of those people who would reply to my stories back in 2018 still follow me to this day. I still always reply to them, too, because I’m like, “You guys are the OG! I can’t believe you’re still here and you’ve basically seen all of these phases of my life!” I hold it so close to my heart. This is the whole reason why I’m where I am. These people decided to give me a chance even when I was really small.
And your business partnerships?
I got my first paid collab in 2020. It was for something like $200 USD, but I was so excited. It felt like so much money to me at the time. Honestly, every single collab has come about because I talked about the brand a lot beforehand, just because I loved them and wanted to share about them. It did take me a few times to pitch myself to the brand and say, “Hey, these are all the times I’ve mentioned you. I truly appreciate and use your brand. My audience responds well to it. Here are all the times I’ve mentioned you. And I would really love to work on a paid collaboration if you have the budget for it.”
I got my first paid collab with Neutrogena through a platform called Aspire, where you can sign up to see different campaigns happening and pitch yourself. Since I talked about the brand so much, I used that in pitching myself. When I got it, I was really excited. For people who want to get paid collabs, it’s really all about staying true to what you actually love. People respond better to that and then celebrate you, instead of getting the feeling like you’re just posting about it to get paid. That’s been my mindset from the get-go. That first collab was so exciting because it aligned so well with what I was already creating, so it was easy. There’s something about authenticity, when it’s doesn’t seem off about what you’re promoting.
@chooseyoursocial #influencertips #contentcreatortips #monetizationontiktok ♬ Roxanne – Instrumental – Califa Azul
With your accounting background, what’s your relationship with money like as a full-time creator? How did you charge and set rates during the first year?
For me, I wanted to match what I was making at my other job. That was a big thing for me. I said to myself, “This is how much I need to make,” did the math and hourly rate, and knew I had to make a certain amount to break even. That’s how I came up with my number. There’s no perfect formula to figuring out what you’re supposed to charge. And if there was a resource out there, I read it. So I looked at other people doing what I was doing at the time, and came up with my own number, based on what I should charge hourly.
But as your calendar starts filling up, and as you get more demand, that’s a good sign for you to raise your prices. If you are booked Monday through Friday, all day, every day, then obviously people are able to pay for it or they feel like it’s worth paying. That’s when I started upping my prices. Ultimately, you have to decide for yourself. And when you feel like there’s the demand, you’re able to go up from there.
Did you struggle with anything in your first year?
It’s hard not to compare yourself to people that are obviously doing really well. I would DM people I aspired to be like asking for their advice and they would ignore me. Now, it’s those same people DM-ing me asking how to grow. If you just keep going, you can get there. I’m not special. I’m really not. I’m just someone that had a vision and refused to let myself give it up. I knew deep in me that this was exactly what I wanted to do. You just gotta keep going.
The first year is always going to be hard, because you feel like people aren’t listening and you don’t matter. You have to be doing this, not because of the people, but because it’s something that drives you — whether there are two people listening to you in your audience or 100,000 people. That first year, I felt like my mom and my sister were my only fans, but I didn’t care because this is what makes me feel so good. It fuels me. It’s something I’m doing that means something [to me], and that I can do in my free time instead of watching Netflix. You have to find a reason outside of the fame, importance and relevance that gets you going.
The other thing I would say is: Don’t compare your day one to someone else’s day 365. We are so used to seeing other people’s success and thinking, “Oh, I have to be there tomorrow.” But that’s not the case. Some things take a long time. And sometimes, slow growth is actually better. I have seen overnight success — people going viral and having a million followers within a couple of months, and then quitting because they have creator burnout. Sometimes it’s humbling to have that slow growth and really figure out why you’re doing this and the importance behind it. So, don’t compare yourself to someone else’s successes.
That’s really wise. Any final words of advice?
I don’t want aspiring creators to forget that social media is supposed to be social. Right? It’s social for a reason. So, don’t forget to be social with other people and make connections. Don’t feel like you have to comment on everyone’s posts, but actually find those creators and people that you feel drawn to, that you feel connected to and comment on their posts, reply to their stories, and create those friendships.
Some of the other creators I met in 2018, I still talk to them to this day. We message each other, and I’ve met a few people just from being in their town. This is such a great aspect of social media, so don’t forget to be social. It can be a very lonely place sometimes, so having friendships online is really important.
This interview has been edited for clarity and length.