Written by: Tarushi Mohan
Originally from Lucknow, Naina Kumar* loves traveling the world and decided to make a career out of it. Starting out as a content writer (and self-proclaimed foodie), she discovered her love for different cuisines and the different places offering them, converting her to a full time travel blogger. Currently she has over 2k followers on Instagram and over 14k on YouTube.
- Based out of Lucknow but travels for a living
- 26 years old
- Lives with her parents
“So I like the flexibility plus the field I chose, as I go ahead, I will get a lot of opportunities to travel more which is what I really, really love,” Naina explains her career choices. “So I didn't go in with the mindset of being an influencer and telling people what to do. I just went in with the mindset that, you know, this is something I love and this is something if I do this, I'll get to do more of what I love.”
Being a travel blogger, every day is different for her. “If I am traveling, I will wake up early morning, I will go out like I have all my cameras and everything charged up, my power bank and camera and everything and then I will obviously go to the place where I will shoot my content. And then wherever I go, I have to shoot the content.”
On the days she is not traveling, it is either editing her content or simply lazing around and watching Netflix!
Blogging and editing as side hustles
Even though she does paid collaborations, they don’t pay enough to support her love for traveling, which is why she does occasional stints as a content writer and video editor. While talking about her decision to be a full-time travel blogger and not pursuing content writing, she says “Since I was in school, I used to do online content writing. And then I also worked for a year at a company where I was the content writer… it was something that I could do well, but it wasn't something that I really liked doing so I still do that as a side gig but yeah, this is what I liked doing. So yeah, didn't really consider anything else.”
Since she loved traveling from a very young age, she also considered becoming a travel writer for a magazine but eventually moved away from it citing, “that didn't sound very appealing to me because writing requires a lot of how do you say it, bohot dimag mach mach hota hai [Trans.: you have to rack your brains too much], you have to think too much” as the reason for it.
Her family and influencer friends are her loudest cheerleaders. Living in a joint family, they are completely supportive of her dreams and invite her to accompany them on trips whenever possible. A few of her friends also became influencers and they inspire her to keep going. “I guess, because my best friend was doing it and she was doing well so I was like, you know, even I can do this because I saw her start from scratch... from zero and she grew and so I was like, you know, even I can do it.”
YouTube channel gets more traction than Instagram
Even though Instagram feels more personal and is the most popular platform for influencers today, Naina prefers catering to her YouTube audience. “Because when you post on Instagram, it feels like throwing your content down a black hole. I will explain. So in YouTube, when I post a video, you know that there are different algorithms. YouTube always keeps recommending your videos, even if your video has been posted years ago, like one of my videos went really viral a lot later after I had posted it. But in Instagram, unless your content gets noticed in the first few hours of you posting it, it won't get noticed.”
Naina spends a chunk of her time daily going through social media channels and mapping the traction received by her posts over time. She feels the platform algorithm plays a huge role in the kind of audience she attracts and how well her content does.
In addition to a faulty algorithm, she also feels the YouTube videos are much more interesting for her viewers than Instagram reels.
Brand collabs that strike the right chord
While exploring the beautiful cities of Scotland on her recent trip to Europe, she decided to feature beautiful hotels and BNBs on her page that were not even paying her to promote them. “And it was actually a hotel in Thailand that I had stayed in, where I actually started making videos, Thailand and Singapore. So yeah, and the brands also reposted the picture I had posted of theirs on their Instagram page.”
She doesn't mind doing unpaid collaborations, as long as she stays true to her followers and provides them content in line with traveling. In addition to visiting places, she also collaborates with brands providing travel friendly accessories. “So Bagline is a company that sells bags and suitcases and, you know, stuff that you need on your travels so it aligned with the user base, they were looking for... the customer, target audience they were looking for. So that is how we collaborated.”
“First of all, if I like the brand myself or not, like their ideology, what they do, what their products are. And second, depending on which media they want to promote and what they are giving me in return.” Influencers like Naina no longer run after big brands for collaborations just to gain followers on social media. They prefer to stay true to themselves and their existing followers.
“So it was a skincare brand… so I had made a video on how to using their products and how to do skincare while traveling because I wanted it to relate to my content, my audience, but they said after I had made the video and I sent it for approval, they said, ‘No, we want it to be just about the brand and you know, just a simple video of skincare.’ And I said, ‘That is not what I am doing.’”
The sense of accomplishment and skill development that comes from building influencer brands encourages people like Naina to move away from the conventional full time jobs, but is this a stable career option in the long run? Perhaps the notion of security and stability from a full-time job is a thing of the past? Only time and repeated conversations with Naina will tell.
*We anonymize participant names to protect their identities and encourage more honest dialogue.