As more people turn to social media for entertainment and community, more and more people have garnered impressive followings as social media and online content creators. Among them are U of T graduate students Guneet Sandhu and Arasteh Gatchpazian, along with recent alumni Vanessa Tiiu, who have all found success on multiple online platforms — while pursuing full-time studies.
All three shared their experiences and reflections on being content creators in interviews with The Varsity.
Sharing lifestyle, advice, experience
Sandhu has three pillars of personal branding that go into her content: lifestyle, fashion, and wellness. She shares her content on TikTok and Instagram, and has a podcast called One Thing About Me. On all three platforms, Sandhu shares her day-to-day life as a medical student, advice about personal health and relationships, style inspiration, and lifestyle content. Sandhu’s TikTok account has over 50,000 followers and has amassed over 1.2 million likes.
“to be a moment of stillness and calmness in people’s day-to-day lives, that can be so busy, so chaotic.”
In an interview with The Varsity, Sandhu noted that her content has “definitely gotten a lot more polished and refined” since she began but it still remains rooted in these three elements.
Meanwhile, Tiiu’s career as a YouTube video creator started when she was just a high school student. She told The Varsity that her videos initially centred around student and school-related content, but she has since shifted away to more general wellness and lifestyle content. “I think I slowly learned over the years that I’m not just a student, and I didn’t want my content to revolve around that… I am so much more and have so much more to offer,” she said.
Tiiu has grown her following to include over 600,000 subscribers on YouTube alone, and she is now pursuing content creation as a full-time career.
Gatchpazian also shares snippets of her lifestyle, in posts that often encourage her audience to slow down, practice self-love, and accept imperfection. Gatchpazian has a podcast called Her Healthful, which is also her handle on TikTok and Instagram. In an interview with The Varsity, Gatchpazian said that she aims for her content “to be a moment of stillness and calmness in people’s day-to-day lives, that can be so busy, so chaotic.”
She added that she hopes to leverage her PhD studies in psychology to encourage safe conversations about mental health and wellness once she completes her degree.
Gatchpazian recalled her experience connecting with members of her online following. She met a follower from Germany at a recent retreat, who told her they had heard about the retreat through her. “You live in Germany, and you follow me — like, how is that computing in my head? I don’t even know,” she said.
Though it can be intimidating to be vulnerable online, Gatchpazian said that being open and honest with her followers about herself has allowed her to build authentic friendships with other content creators and a global audience.
Sandhu also highlighted the value of networking with other creators in the same niche, both for creative inspiration and to gain knowledge about current brand compensation practices and popular trends. But Sandhu and Gatchpazian emphasized that this intention goes hand-in-hand with building your own individual brand and digital content.
At the same time, Gatchpazian and Sandhu noted the importance of maintaining some separation between their personal life and their online presence. Gatchpazian explained that she will block out time in her calendar for intentional time for herself, which is neither for school nor content creation.
Similarly, Sandhu discussed the challenges of managing her schedule as a medical student, making sure to take care of herself between all of her studies and creating her content. “[I] always make sure to have time to work out, destress, see my friends and family,” she said. She also pointed out that “every life experience [does not need] to be an opportunity for content.”
Tiiu noted that everyone’s personal preference is different when it comes to how much of their personal life they share online. “I try and be very vulnerable and very honest. But that is also I feel like a part of just who I am, and what I needed on social media,” she said.
Tiiu shared that she focused more on her academics while she was a student, but that she found herself naturally driven to create online content. “It was my outlet and something that I love to do,” she explained. But she also emphasized that building her full-time career as a content creator took discipline and organization. “You are the only one that’s going to get you to get stuff done,” she explained.
Advice for budding content creators
Gatchpazian and Sandhu both hope to continue in social media in the long term, hoping to integrate more of their own knowledge and experiences in their professional backgrounds into the content they share online. Sandhu also said she aspires to pursue entrepreneurial ventures and start her own brand.
“Don’t go into it with the intention of growing a page or creating a business…that really kills your creativity and your ability to connect with your audience.”
For anyone hoping to build a similar career, Tiiu said to “find something that you do like that’s unique about you” — something that you are also excited about documenting and sharing with other people.
Gatchpazian also emphasized this point. “Reflect on what content you’re making, and what value you want to bring,” she said. However, she also explained that your content does not have to reinvent the wheel: “You can share parts of your life that you might think are not interesting, but other people may want to know way more [about].”
Sandhu’s advice is this: “Don’t go into it with the intention of growing a page or creating a business…that really kills your creativity and your ability to connect with your audience.” Instead, she says, “[You have to] know why you’re doing it, what your unique message is.”