• Bionca Smith

#VanLife A Single Mom’s Transparent Influencer Journey



People are so quick to equate going viral to making money, but it doesn’t always work that way at first or sometimes at all. I would've never imagined that my strategic way of designing a lifestyle for my family to reach our goals would be so interesting to people and income-generating. If anything, I could've thought people would've believed I was crazy, but I didn't care because my son and I were happier than we were trying to keep up with the Jones years prior.


Accepting The Role As A "VanLife" Influencer

I'm known for being the first single mom to publicly share her lifestyle living, traveling, working and homeschooling from a van online. My presence is widely known to be authentic, fun, and inspiring. After moving out of my van in 2020 and into an R.V. when the pandemic began, I was able to step outside the picture frame of my van life reality and reflect on what 3 years of full-time van life was like before it became a popular trend and now an industry.



Before van life, my son Carter and I traveled and lived in various countries working and studying online. I can comfortably admit that I created "Off The Grid With A Kid" only by popular demand before I knew I could make money on platforms like IG and YouTube. I didn't have a professional camera, tripod, or even a plan. My son and I just showed up online at any time and talked about what was going on that day. While we received a lot of supportive feedback, we did our best to maintain our privacy.



When I finally started documenting our journey regularly, I had no idea how to share my life's realities without bringing people directly into my world by going live on YouTube daily. I shared everything! The good and the bad with no shame! It was exciting and gratifying just to be able to connect with people that accepted and loved my unconventional journey.


New Financial Roadblocks & Defining Moments



Social Media VS Reality

Before my I.G. and YouTube growth, I had done OK for myself in entrepreneurship without having a large platform. Therefore, I had a hard time trying to accept that people were more interested that I lived in a van with my kid than what I did for a living. As my YouTube platform grew, what people didn't know is that it became harder to keep up with the demands of managing growing social media platforms. I went from having so much spare time when I decided to do van life to chasing WiFi and joyfully spending countless hours online responding to comments while overlooking that I was going broke like a leaky faucet.


Going Viral

I remember being worried and excited when my YouTube channel exploded from 2000 subscribers to 16,000 practically overnight. I was excited about the growth. However, I was afraid of losing sight of my founding followers that I frequently interacted with. In my mind, it felt like they were now lost in a vast crowd, and I was hoping that they would continuously comment and stand out so that I could see them.



Being Interviewed Left And Right

Trying to figure out how to make money when all the interview requests came in to be featured on various articles, in magazines and for T.V. appearances was a vast puzzle. With that being said, for at least nine months, I played tug-of-war with this reality that I'd have to figure out a way to monetize my lifestyle. I was getting interviewed left and right while going back into debt like before I left the old lifestyle of "Keep up with the Jones." I still earned income from my public speaking gigs, but the momentum had slowed down because my attention was geared towards documenting my van lifestyle.


If I may be more honest, at first, I didn't care that I wasn't making money while spending countless hours creating content and responding to my followers. I love people, and it's fun! Even with a few hundred bucks in my bank account, if I could make it to Starbucks and buy a latte just to upload a YouTube video on their high-speed WiFi, and people commented on my videos…. I felt accomplished!

(Picture Courtesy- Tamron Hall Show 2019- Air Date: 12/24/19)


Being Famous, Busy and Broke Isn't Cool! LOL It was only up until I was on live television with maxed-out credit cards when I realized something had to change. Thankfully, we were treated like a V.I.P. being flown out to New York City to share our story, but I didn't feel comfortable sitting on air broker than before I started van life. And to make matters worse, I had to sit there confidently and answer questions about how I earn money. Although I spoke the truth, my sources of income were inconsistent at that time. I had recently ended a heartbreaking relationship that was costly in more ways than I would've ever imagined was possible. I was so broke that I couldn't even check into my hotel because I spent the rest of my money to get my son's haircut and Uber to the airport for the flight. I cried in the hotel bathroom located in the lobby as I waited for the show's producer to check me in with their corporate card because I didn't have the available funds on any credit card for the hotel security deposit. I was very frustrated with where I was financial because I thought about how much I had been through and invested in sharing my story. I wiped my tears and checked into the hotel room. The following day, I did my best to pull it together and share my story while burying the current discomforts holding me financially down. You can watch the interview here.


Monetizing My Lifestyle - Discovering My Worth As An Influencer

I stopped being a people pleaser, and I started charging for my time and becoming very selective about which opportunities I'd accept. I faced the reality that I could no longer pour from an empty cup! I was tired of spending 14hrs to create a YouTube video and make $50 if that! I had to understand my value and accept my role as an online influencer to be paid accordingly. Once I did this, I was able to monetize my lifestyle so that it paid for itself. My top followers also started supporting my content monetarily! This allowed breathing room for me to respond to inquiries about my lifestyle because I could then pay for the basics without stress. I.e., Cellphone, WiFi, Gas, Filming, Editing software..etc.


After doing numerous brand deals and sponsorships, I uncovered average rates, stopped settling, and started negotiating. No more free product for posts or commission and no more spending countless hours creating content to be compensated only a few hundred dollars for marketing a product from a brand that didn't give a damn about me! (Pardon my French)


I became so precise and selective about the partnerships and collaborations that I wanted to take on. Now my life has completely turned around. I can comfortably create content without stress or panic because the income is great and consistent!



Creating Multiple Streams of Income


"How do I make money?"


Back Then: Life Coaching, Public Speaking and Real Estate.


Now: Public Speaking, Consulting for Online Schools, The Off The Grid With A Kid Gift Shop, Influencer Deals and Sponsorships, and Online Business Coaching for Beginners. (For business inquiries please contact us at hello@offthegridwithakid.com)


I now recognize the importance of having multiple streams of income in sync with our desired lifestyle to have consistent income. Living a simple life is excellent; however, relying on one source of income is dangerous when the bank account dries up. Collaborations and sponsorships are just not enough for any influencer to rely on for the rest of their life. We need to have an exit plan to transition to a source of income that is passive.


Closing

The most incredible honor on this planet is to be accepted and able to be me and get compensated for doing what I love, which is to inspire families to overcome obstacles and create their own definition of success. I am so grateful for my supporters that have recognized my authentic personality and have supported my endeavors over the years. Because of them, I've been able to create opportunities that have allowed me to engage closely with my followers and help them get closer to their dream life too. I've collaborated with incredible brands and share their products and services with people that can benefit from them.



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I appreciate you for assisting me in creating a ripple of inspiration and providing information and resources to people worldwide. It is only because I stepped out in faith that I attracted you here. Thanks for showing up! I appreciate YOU!



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