Sabrina Bendory On How To Grow Your Online Presence In An Ever-Changing Industry
'You need to strike a balance between pushing yourself and not going too far past your comfort zone.'
Welcome to the Collective World Careers Newsletter. Collective World is a one-of-a-kind creative network powered by the minds and voices behind The Thought & Expression Company. We’re so glad you’re here.
Today we’re talking to Sabrina Alexis Bendory, co-founder of A New Mode and author of You’re Overthinking It: Find Lifelong Love By Being Your True Self, about the ever-changing media landscape and how creatives can learn to use it to their advantage.
1. Give us a brief rundown of your career. Where did you start and how did you get to where you are today?
I always wanted to be a writer and I always wanted to write about people and human nature, and I double majored in English and Psychology, which fit into that vision! When I graduated, the only writing jobs I was really finding were writing for fashion blogs (this was when blogs were really starting to take off), so that’s where I started, but my dream was really to work at a magazine like Glamour or Cosmo.
I wasn’t really having luck cracking into that industry, so I decided to start my own blog to showcase what I could do and I hoped this would get me noticed and would help me get a job… Instead, the blog turned into my job!
I started the blog with my ex-boyfriend from college, and at first, I would write about fashion/beauty/lifestyle and he would do a weekly Ask a Guy column where girls would submit their relationship questions for a man’s take. The Ask a Guy section exploded and eclipsed the rest of the content and I decided to start writing about relationships as well. I can’t say I was an expert at the time—I was all of 22 with nothing but a string of failed relationships behind me—so rather than writing from a place of expertise, I wrote from a place of experience. I wrote about my dating experiences and what I learned and the audience was able to really connect with that, and that content became my main focus.
In the decade-plus since then, I fully immersed myself in understanding relationship dynamics and human behavior and eventually was able to speak from a place of expertise. I also grew from a confused, insecure, naive girl to an empowered woman who was eventually able to find lasting love, and it’s very cool that I have readers who have been along for the full ride!
Right now I work mostly for myself as a content creator, author, and relationship coach and stepped away from the blood. With the advent of social media, there are just so many ways to put your content out there and grow an audience, which has been amazing and really changed the trajectory of my career.
2. When you started your blog, you didn’t intend for it to become your career in the way it did. What did pivoting your approach like this teach you about your career? And what do you think others can learn from what you’ve experienced?
I think what I learned and what others can learn is that you can make a career out of your passion… and this wasn’t true 10 years ago! When I started, blogging wasn’t really a career, it was a hobby. I started right around the time that it became a feasible career. Now you can basically turn any passion into a career!
Any skill or strength you have can be turned into a career, if not a full-time job then definitely a side hustle. Right now is the reason for content consumption—people want to learn from others and enhance their knowledge in all areas, so it's the perfect time to put your expertise out there.
3. What is the biggest benefit of working in an ever-changing industry? And on the flipside, what is the top drawback of this?
Change can be fun, but also challenging. The benefit is that sometimes one way doesn’t work for certain creators. For example, say you have a blog and struggle to rank high on the Google algorithm and aren’t able to get traffic and build an audience… but then you find your niche on YouTube or Instagram or Substack! There are just so many different ways to get your message out there.
The drawback is it’s hard to try and learn something new. You have to have patience and there is an investment of time and sometimes money. I remember when TikTok came out and was exploding in 2020, I felt so overwhelmed by the idea of learning something new that I ignored its existence. Social media was never my thing anyway… up until that point, I was never able to grow on social, so that wasn’t really my focus. Then in early 2022, I posted a TikTok on a whim. I rewatched the entire Sex and the City series, my first time watching it all as an adult, and I had a lot of thoughts and didn’t know where to share them! I only had maybe 10 followers on Tik Tok and had only posted one video before that. Well, that video exploded and went viral and I suddenly had a huge TikTok following. That made me realize that I’m good at quick, short-form content and maybe I should do more of that.
There was some trial and error. At first, the only content of mine that would do well was anything related to Sex and the City, which wasn't so helpful in advancing my career as a relationship writer and coach! But I stuck with it and kept creating content around my niche and eventually, that went viral as well and I built a really strong following. And as we know, Instagram was influenced by TikTok, which worked in my favor since I was repurposing my TikToks for Instagram, and then I started going viral on there as well (this was especially shocking for me considering how long I toiled in trying to grow on that app!).
And this experience illustrates another benefit of the ever-changing atmosphere…. Instagram did not favor content like mine for years and years. I spent seven years trying to grow on Instagram and would get maybe 10 new followers a day. Then there was a shift and Instagram changed and I was getting thousands of new followers every day.
But now we’re back to the challenging part: nothing lasts forever. Eventually the algorithms will change and favor something new, and maybe this will help me or maybe this will hurt me, but I (and other creators) need just to keep evolving and making it work for us while still staying authentic.
4. Every day, it seems as though there is a new social media platform coming to the surface. How do you know when a platform is worth investing your time and effort in?
You really don’t—you just kind of have to throw yourself into it, give it a fair shot, and see what happens.
First, you have to see if it makes sense for your niche. Do other people in your field have success on that platform? If so, you know that you have an audience there. Next, are you comfortable with the app? Is it fun for you or does it feel like a chore? Do you feel like it’s a natural fit and you can be yourself?
And you have to just give it a try. Give yourself a solid month where you are posting consistently on that app and giving it your all and see what happens. I do believe if your content has value and you love sharing it, the audience will come.
I’ve been creating content for 14 years—there were years when I was met with a (metaphorical) thunderous applause and years when I felt like I was speaking to an empty room. Sometimes the audience is there, other times it dips and you find new ways to connect and get your message out there. But I never stopped creating the content that I loved to create and I always knew there was value in it, so I kept at it and eventually found a whole new and even bigger audience.
5. What advice do you have for creatives that are hesitant to try a new platform that they’re uncomfortable using?
You need to strike a balance between pushing yourself and not going too far past your comfort zone.
For example, it is intimidating for me to put a camera in my face and share insights, but it’s nowhere near as intimidating as it would be for me to make one of those dancing videos which is just way too far outside of my comfort zone.
It’s okay to feel a little fear and discomfort at trying something new, but you don’t want to feel embarrassed or ashamed by what you’re doing and putting out there. Right now, authenticity is what reigns, and people know when you’re not genuine and are faking it.
It’s important to get to the root of your fears when it comes to trying something new: What is the real worry? What’s at the heart of it? Fear of failure? Fear of being embarrassed? Fear of wasting my time?
6. For people who are interested in content creation but do not yet have an online presence, it could feel very overwhelming to start building that presence from scratch. Where do you recommend they start?
TikTok and Instagram! With those platforms, one video can go viral and change the trajectory of your career. I had 10 followers on TikTok one year ago, and now I have over 160k, and none of that came from my existing audience, that was purely built up through the app and by being consistent with my content.
It used to be impossible to grow on social media because your content was only shown to people who follow you, but now the apps have changed and you can reach a much wider audience.
If you create good content, the people will come!
7. What do you wish you knew when you first started your career?
Try new things! I was very late to the social media party and that was out of fear of the unknown. I liked the safety and stability of having a blog and newsletter, and those two things helped us find great success for a while… until they didn’t and we needed to adapt to the changing times.
I started making YouTube videos in 2017 but I didn’t officially upload them or launch the channel until 2020… and this was primarily due to my fears of trying something new and putting myself out there.
I put my all into building my Instagram account for a few months, I even hired someone to help and paid a lot of money… and it didn’t really work out and I kind of gave up, but I should have kept going.
I mentioned earlier that I was too intimidated to get on TikTok in the beginning.
Every app has a window where you can grow like crazy. We created a Twitter account for the blog in the very early days of Twitter—like before any brands of celebrities were on there—and we grew like crazy and that’s how we initially gained an audience. But once everyone got in on the party, it wasn’t easy to form a community like that anymore.
I wish I had branched out more because we had years of trying to get things to be the way they used to be rather than admitting to the reality that things had changed and would never go back.
But you live and learn. And even though I got in on those platforms late, within one year I was able to grow tremendously, and that was really due to a shift in the algorithm and the type of content that gets favored, so it’s really never too late to turn it all around!
For more from Sabrina, check out her work on Instagram, TikTok, and Shop Catalog.
Thanks for reading Collective World 🤍 Subscribe for free to receive new posts and support our work.