On 24th May 2018, I posted a photo of my third trimester bump on my brand new Instagram account. I was 2 weeks away from birthing my first child, completely clueless about how much our life was about to change. Privately, yes, but publicly too. I was on the cusp of becoming a mother, a Ma. The Millennial Ma.
I vividly remember brainstorming IG handles with Nizar when he suggested I go for a deshi touch. And lo and behold, TMM was born. I am really grateful for that stroke of genius because I honestly cannot think of a better catch-all handle to signpost my little corner of the internet, and the kind of content we post + consume here. I say ‘we‘ because my blogging journey would not have been possible without YOU.
I would like to believe that together, we have carved out a niche space in the ever-expanding digital multiverse. A space where we can proudly bring our multifaceted identities to the virtual table – Deshi. Bangladeshi. British. Immigrant. Muslim. Mother – and celebrate them. A space that makes room for cultural and faith-based nuances, and unites us through our stories and struggles. My following is powered by the Bangladeshi + South Asian diaspora across the world, from non-deshi mothers to deshis-who-are-not-mothers, and everyone in between. It’s a delightful mix cheering me on through the highs and lows of the ‘influencer’ life. I have had strangers banish dark self-doubts with one kind DM. Kindred souls have helped me stay afloat in the vast internet ocean when I have felt unmoored. Because lets be honest, social media waters can be rough. And while I don’t seek or need constant validation, the way my audience interacts with me gives me the courage to show up here. The love I have received through my platform has aided and abetted me to stay put. In many ways, you influence me.
TMM was born out of my love – or maybe need – to tell stories. Sharing snippets of my daily thoughts, processing emotions by wrestling them into words – this is how I live life both online and offline. I recently discovered an old slam book (do they still call it that?), that made my heart swell with nostalgia. Under ‘Goal in Life’, 13-year-old me had laid bare her hopes to ‘become a writer’, in that messy-but-cute handwriting that catches me by surprise when it makes the occasional appearance. I don’t know if insta-blogging counts as ‘writing’, or whether mustering the art of 400-word captions makes me a ‘writer’ but it is the closest I have got to establishing 13-year-old Samira’s dream (bar that children’s book series that I wrote outside the blogging umbrella). I think she would have been proud of me.
5 years is a long time and so it does beg the question. Has TMM been a worthwhile journey? Am I a successful blogger? What does success even mean in this very complex landscape? Is it solely numbers and shiny brand deals? A highly engaged audience? Is it fancy PR events and viral reels?
While all those are obvious yardsticks to measure a blogger/influencer’s success, I take these superficial stats with a pinch of salt. After spending half a decade dipping my toes in this ever-evolving, predominantly white UK influencer industry, I can confirm that not everything meets the eye. I have made the conclusion that success is a relative thing on the internet. It does not look the same for everyone, no matter how persistently online gurus tell you otherwise.
When the only guaranteed thing is an ever-changing algorithm, I look to more stable metrics to make sense of my personal journey. To judge if TMM has been a worthy venture, I go back to my why. Why did I want to blog in the first place? Here are my answers.
- Because I really wanted to blog.
- Because I saw potential in monetising something that I love.
I still want to blog. And I have finally been able to turn my platform into a side income stream.
So in my books, TMM is a success. A ‘mini’ success if you will, but a success nonetheless. Really? My inner critic sneers. You haven’t even hit 15K in 5 years! True, I acquiesce. But here’s another angle for ya: I get to do something I enjoy while making money from it. And I do so in my own terms, Alhamdulillah. With or without 15K.
Do I want more followers, more engagement, more brand deals? Sure! But can I honestly keep up with that level of heightened online presence without staying up all hours of the day and adversely affecting my personal life? I really doubt it.
I have been juggling this passion project/side hustle against the backdrop of FT work while parenting young kids without a village. Which means that I have had to work extra hard to make my mark in an oversaturated industry. Without niching down or being ‘mainstream’, I was able to turn TMM into a space that generates freelance work. I stayed true to my story and style and believed that I had something to offer, even if it wasn’t larger-than-life or ‘shiny’.
I am here because I love to post about things that inspire me. Even when they rake in consistently low engagement. My bookish posts are the perfect example. Despite never garnering massive interest, they helped me secure my first 4 figure partnership with @ladybirdbooks. Its been 2 years and I still pinch myself over that opportunity. I grew up reading Ladybird Books in Bangladesh and now they send me books to my London address – and pay me to post about them. It feels pretty damn surreal.
For the longest time, I thought that Ladybird campaign was a fluke. That I could never outdo it. That another 4 figure partnership would never come my way. But it did, multiple times, Alhamdulillah. I got deals that I would associate with creators who were comfortably above 50K. My highest paid campaign came from creating UGC content that I didn’t even have to post on my account. And get this – it topped what Ladybird paid me for one whole year’s worth of work! Crazy stats that I have never truly felt the need to share, despite feeling inspired by creators who transparently share their earnings. I feel it’s important to divulge within the context of this blog to underscore an oft misunderstood concept: numbers do NOT have the final say. Micro-influencers hold a lot of power and brands know this.
I think it is important to mention at this point that TMM is FAR from an overnight success story. I posted for years before I reached a stage where I was making a side-income that made a difference to my bank account. Ladybird happened in 2021, 3 years after I had posted that bump photo. Work trickled in very slowly for me, and my following never really took off on that wild tangent that seems to take some creators from 0-100K within weeks. I have learnt to be OK with not being one of them. My focus is not on going viral, or amassing huge numbers of followers. My focus was, and still is, on telling my own story, to an audience who truly care about what I have to say.
I strongly believe that the energies you put out in the universe make their way back to you – and its certainly true for social media. Both in terms of the people you attract, as well as the work that lands in your inbox. One of my first paid partnerships with WorldRemit required me to post about sending money home to Bangladesh, something that I have been doing for over a decade as an immigrant. Fast forward to 2023, I worked with Institute of Physics to talk about diversifying the physics community, a conversation that I have been having for years as a woman engineer. Despite being ADs, these stories served to supplement what I was already putting out as organic content. And that is not by accident. I consider each contract I sign with care and diligence. If it doesn’t feel like a right fit for me, I let it go. Its a tricky slope but I try to stick to my guts. If I cannot be behind something with my heart and soul, its not worth it. And I acknowledge that having FT salaried work means that these decisions are a tad bit easier for me to make as a part-time blogger.
I have had the privilege of working on very niche campaigns that champion female owned indie businesses run my deshi women such as Naika of London and Spindle By Sisters. I have also worked with UK mainstream brands like Gousto, GU, Westfield, TSB, Amazon Fresh and Natural England. I created content for giants in the parenting world like Moonbug and Playdoh. Every time I signed a contract, I learnt something new.
The paid work I have been lucky enough to get has given me immense confidence and ease as a creator. They have helped me expand my horizons by experimenting with new things (my first voiceover was for a paid reel). Saying no to work that clashes with my values feels progressively easier to do. Because here’s the thing about getting paid to do work that you had been posting for years for free – it emboldens you. Once you realise what your time is actually worth, its a lot easier to charge industry standard rates, even as a small account. What felt crazy at one point seems just to me now. I don’t bat an eyelid when I turn down work that wont justify my time and energies.
My primary goal is to create good content, whether its organic or paid. Both type of posts are important to me. When you put out solid work, you keep the doors open for brands to return. They might even decide to put an ad spend behind your reel. And guess what? You can earn from that too.
The landscape of IG has massively changed in the past 5 years. Short form video has taken centre stage and that’s what I am trying to put out more often than not, captioned in the old-fashioned TMM way. I think that transition was the point where my follower growth slowed down. My strong suit was my captions which reels neatly hijacked. Like many other writer/photographer/dance-averse creators, I had to accept the truth – it was either the reel way or the highway. I LOVE creating videos but they are at odds with my blogging aspirations. They distract me from my writing. I am still working on ways to navigate that.
Algorithms aren’t the only thing that has changed around here. I too have changed as a creator. Gone are the days of daily posting and hunting down the next most instagrammable spot (unless it involves pumpkins and snowmen, I am weak for those). I no longer operate with the same urgency I once did when I was hungry to grow my blog. The urgency is still there, of course, as it must, but I allow myself to forget about my account some days. I take days off stories, and even enjoy large chunks of no-posting sprees. Because with time I have learnt that you have to pace yourself to play this game long-term. You have to accept the ebb and flow of your creative juices, and honour them. Maximise the good days, ride out the not-so-great ones. Work smarter, not harder.
I have set new boundaries to protect my mental health by becoming more guarded and cautious about what I post online. I no longer share my children as much as I used to. My understanding of the internet has changed, and I expect it to keep changing. After all, change is the only constant in (real and virtual) life.
Working as a freelancer is both scary and exciting. I hate how I never know when an invoice will pay in, which firmly remains the No 1 reason why I will never quit my 9-5 to pursue this life (I don’t even want to). But I love the female-centric nature of this industry and working with creative minds across the board. I have slowly built a network that makes me feel supported in what often feels like a one woman show. I have an agent who helps me deal with brand work, and the massive support of an influencer community who taught me how to and why to ask to get paid. I have learnt that free isn’t necessarily fun and what ‘looks’ good may not FEEL good. And its always important to prioritise feelings.
When my first maternity leave ended, I feared that TMM’s tenure might be nearing its end too. But over time, this space has taken on a life of its own. The Millennial Ma has gone from a name we coined on the spur of the moment to a hat that I wear with pride. Having a creative outlet in the midst of life’s chaos feels cathartic and joyous (when I can strike the right balance).
If you have read thus far, thank you from the bottom of my heart. TMM is successful because of YOU. My community, those who have over the years sent me hundreds of DMs telling me what I do here is important. The value of that kind of connection is immeasurable. Thank you, and I hope to continue nurturing this online space with you all for the next 5 years and beyond, In Sha Allah.
If there is anything that I want you to take away from this rather lengthy post, it is this – success is a relative concept. Success is what we can make of the mess we have made of things (T.S. Elliot’s words – not mine).
Success does not need to look like a neatly packaged box tied up in a pretty bow. Nor does it have to be loud or advertised for it to be real and true. It does not even have to be directly attached to money (yes, really!). Only you know what success looks like for YOU. So define it, own it, celebrate it. 💕