'It's through failure that I got to where I am today' - Xenia Tchoumi
Xenia Tchoumi, an Italian-Swiss model of Russian origin, turned down a job at JP Morgan to build her own business as a digital influencer. She now has eight million combined followers and speaks at conferences around the world. We asked her how she did it.
What inspired you to become a digital influencer?
‘I started blogging very late. It’s through failure that I got to where I am today. I tried to work in finance but I found myself very constrained. At the end of my internship at JP Morgan [Xenia Tchoumi originally studied economics] I ended up in hospital because I was pushing myself too hard and I simply wasn’t fitting in. I ended up on my mum’s couch eating cookies and some friends suggested I try blogging. I was like ‘OK, at least I can do it from my couch.’ But as soon as I started it I obviously had to create content. So that blog got me out of the house. And the more I was publishing, the more followers I was getting. One thing led to another and I got one million followers in one year on Facebook. So I opened Instagram and started working with different brands and designers. Soon it became a full-time job.’
What are your three top tips for building your personal brand?
‘Consistency is key. People want to know that at a certain time of the day they’re going to see something from you. You can’t take a break or a holiday – that’s the biggest mistake you can make at the beginning. You have to figure out a way to be consistent, and that gives you a traction and it should organically grow.
Secondly, you have to fall in love with what you’re doing – whether it’s fashion, food, fitness or anything – because it’s a 24/7 job. It never stops.
Thirdly, don’t be too much of a perfectionist – if you don’t start it’s never going to work. The most successful influencers and bloggers that I know learnt from doing, and making mistakes.’
How would you describe what a digital influencer is?
‘As I perceive it, a digital influencer is somebody who is not necessarily just a blogger [Xenia Tchoumi is also a model, entrepreneur and speaker] it’s somebody who’s got a voice, and who’s got a following or a community, who are interested in what this person is doing and opening a conversation. So I think it’s a responsibility, and it could be in any field – be it fashion, lifestyle, food or motivation.
For me personally it’s also about spreading positivity. I speak to young girls and tell them how to start a business online, and encourage them to be whatever they want to be. I do a lot of motivational speeches, I work with the UN towards greater female empowerment. I think the best thing about the Internet is that it can open you to a very powerful community of like-minded people. It allows you to be more yourself – you can be a weirdo and still rave about it!’
What does a typical day in the life of Xenia Tchoumi look like?
‘I usually have to shoot something during the day for a brand or a collaboration. Other than that it’s a lot of digital work, like taking care of the blog or the online magazine, and social media. Then there are events to go to, deals to make, conference calls, contracts and a lot of travel, mainly to Europe because that’s where my followers are from, as well as America. Basically, there is no typical day!’
What does a bad day look like, and how do you deal with it?
‘It could be anything, it could be that I’m very tired because I had ten jobs in five days, and that obviously takes a toll. And then there are ups and downs like in any job, maybe I’m hoping to get a contract or an engagement and it doesn’t work out. And that can feel like a small failure. But I think the most successful influencers are the ones who try again, and again, and again. It’s important to embrace the moments of sadness and be aware that it’s going to pass.’
What qualities does a digital influencer need?
‘First of all you have to be a go-getter. You have to keep hustling. Every digital influencer is a small business and you need the energy to keep going. I would say a taste for detail is important too – you’re creating your own magazine so you have to be very visual.’
Can digital influencers ever switch off?
‘I did recently for two days and it was really tough. I wouldn’t do it again!’