Tej Patel is a content creator who began his career after dropping out of college to build a business photographing concerts, singers, and rappers. His journey began in 2019 when he downloaded TikTok. He then went viral for the first time in April 2021 after remixing a popular song and Kim Kardashian used it in her video debut on the platform.
Thanks to consistent content posting, Patel now boasts 58,400 followers on TikTok and over 8,500 followers on Instagram. 2022 marked Patel’s first year where he earned over $100,000.
In regards to how to grow a reputable brand, Patel has openly admitted to mimicking trends in his first year of uploading to TikTok. Like many other creators, he would post TikTok videos using trending sounds or dialogue — anything to keep going viral.
However, Patel suggests that instead of attracting new followers, “my content across TikTok and Instagram is more about engaging with my community […] It’s evolved to focus on storytelling, like taking audiences behind the scenes on photoshoots or sharing my personal experience as a South Asian in this space.
Usually, I record voice overs narrating what’s happening in a video or talk directly into the camera, like I’m speaking with a friend. I also answer questions from my followers and read the comments to learn what people want to see more of.”
In turn, this focus on creating an engaged community has led to better paid brand deals because companies value audience engagement over how many followers a creator has.
Patel has also openly encouraged other creators to reach out to brands instead of waiting for them to come to him. “ I didn’t think they would respond if I emailed or DMed them on social media. A media kit really helped build my confidence there. I made one in August and started using it to pitch myself. It’s how I got partnerships with global brands like Samsung and Adobe, so imagine if I hadn’t reached out!”
Patel also stresses the importance of authentic partnerships. “When I first started out, I said ‘yes’ to a few paid deals because I needed the money and exposure. I realised afterwards that it didn’t make sense to partner with them. My followers are smart and can tell when I’m promoting something that doesn’t fit my niche, so a big paycheck is not worth the risk of losing their trust.
I’m definitely more picky now because it’s very important to stay true to what your platform represents. For me, that’s anything related to photography, filmography, South Asian representation, and being a creator in New York City.”
If there’s anything we can learn from Patel it’s that it could be worth noting what niches we represent as creators and reaching out to brands that represent similar values.