Off the Record Episode 7: Joi Wade

Welcome to Off the Record, a series meant to inform, inspire and highlight women of color creating their own lane in their respective industries. If you were looking for boss women, you found them

Today, meet author, entrepreneur, social media influencer Joi Wade.

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Can you tell us about your journey to becoming an author/influencer thus far?

I became interested in YouTube when I was in middle school. I was a typical middle school girl. I liked going on the internet, finding makeup videos, I didn’t really find hair tutorials yet but I saw a ton of people doing things that I wanted to do. So, I started with my webcam on my parent’s computer and I made my first video and I started growing from there.

I didn’t really see that much growth when I started, but back then I wasn’t really thinking about numbers, influencer didn’t make money like that so that wasn’t really a motivation. I was just doing something I was passionate about. When I got into high school, I got really serious about my channel. I was posting more regularly, I started seeing growth—I reached my first 10,000 subscribers—around that point I made advice videos, high school survivals, just anything that came to my mind I was making.

Around my senior year, I really started getting into my college application process, so naturally I was making videos about that. Once I got into USC, which is where I go now, I got tons of questions from students about how to get into college, how to get scholarships and that’s where I found another passion of mine in helping students get into college.  That led me to write my first book which is called You Got Into Where? and it’s basically a high school college admissions guide. So it was a process to getting though YouTube, growing my channel and starting You Got Into Where? and writing that book.

How did you go about writing your book?

For my book, I decided that I wanted to self-publish which basically means you don’t go through a traditional publisher. I was 17 at the time so I definitely wan’t getting a book deal. I went the self-publishing route and it was a great way for me to just experiment trying things out on my own. As far as the writing process, because I already had a small audience, I could go off of the things that they wanted to know about to make sure I was making a product that they were going to buy and that was going to be helpful to them.

How did you establish yourself as a brand?

Personal branding I feel is such a concept that’s thrown around, but is also really important. You don’t really see that many influencers that are talking about getting into college, but I combined that with my passion for lifestyle and for hair care. I always encourage people to mix your passions with what works on your channel or platform.

My audience is young black girls. I know that they care about their hair,  but I also want them to care about their futures so I like to combine those two things [on my channel]. I know that the pivotal time when you’re about to go to college you’re caring about how you look and how you’re presenting yourself, but you’re also caring about getting an education or making money or starting your brand. That’s how I figured out what my personal brand was. 

What would you tell someone interested in pursuing a career as an influencer?

If you’re interested in working with brands or being an influencer, I’d say that a lot of people are starting out and expecting to do that within months, a year of starting their brand. I’d say if that’s what you’re expecting, then maybe going into this field isn’t right for you just because everyone’s journey is different. The people that you see who start and then have hundreds of thousands of followers within a short time of starting, they’re just a small percentage. A lot of people are out here for the long term. Even Jackie Aina who’s a popular Youtuber. She’s popular now and people are all about her, but many don’t know it took her five years to get to a 100,00 subscribers. So just know that even the people you see who are big now, they definitely have stories behind them.

What advice would you give someone interested in writing a book?

I usually don’t hop on things right away, but I spend a bit of time on the backend, behind the scenes, planning out what I’m trying to do. So, for example, my book. I had to do tons of research. Google is your best friend whenever you want to do something. Research and find out how to get something published, how should you write it, how should you get an editor. Definitely get feedback before you go and make a product. 

How do you accomplish the goals you’ve set out for yourself? 

If you have a goal, I would say always try to work to finish it just because you’re going to feel a lot better about yourself. You’re going to learn lot from the experience. I never encourage people if they’re getting frustrated to stop what they’re doing. You can always take breaks, but I’d say to always follow through because the experience is going to mean way more to you on the backend.

[You Got Into Where?] was my first book. Obviously it probably wasn’t the best book that I’m going to write—I definitely have other ideas but from that experience I’ve learned so much. So, the next time I do a book or do a project, I kind of know the mistakes I made and what not to do next time

I always do my priorities first. If I have a project that has a deadline, I’m always trying to get that done first. If I have schoolwork that has a deadline, I have to get that done. From there, I do tons of checklists, I use my iPhone calendar with reminders, I have a paper planner and I have notebooks. I go through notebooks like nobody’s business because I always writing down my goals and the steps that I have left to get there because it keeps my mind on track. That’s something that I do everyday, sometimes even twice a day. People always ask me how do you actually get done the things you say you’re going to do and that’s how I get it done. 

Where do you see yourself/your brand in 10 years?

In 10 years, I want to be a millionaire, I want to have a couple of books out and I also want to continue traveling and doing the things I love.

What is a time that you failed and what did you learn from it? 

One time that I failed is in relation to my work with brands and my YouTube channel. I was talking to a brand and they wanted to do a partnership for a couple of months. It was going to be the most money that I had ever made from a partnership but the deal fell through and it didn’t happen because things with negotiations fell through.

You’re going to have things that you think are going to happen, but that are going fall through. You just can’t get too upset about it and know that other opportunities will come, money is abundant. You just have to find how you’re going to slide and get that coin. There’s space for everyone. Just because one thing falls through doesn’t mean your life is over.