#CreatorStories: From Economist to One of the Biggest Creators in Africa: The Making of Salem King

#CreatorStories showcases the honest personal experiences of digital creators who monetize their knowledge of a skill and sell it on Selar. We share these stories every week to inspire you to create and sell a product out of your wealth of knowledge and be a part of the digital creator economy.

This week, we turn the lights on Salem King, popularly known as “Salem Kinging”. Salem is a Creator, who realized after his third year in University that he made a big mistake studying Economics. 

He started playing around with his phone, creating videos and sharing them online. Gradually, a community was created around his content and he quit his job to become a full-time creator.                 

Everyone would like to get to know Salem King (The Ribena enthusiast…lol)

Can we meet Salem King?

Salem King is a content creator, content strategist, and social media influencer, among a lot other things. All these things are just titles, ultimately, I am a teacher, passionate about transferring knowledge and just seeing people become better versions of themselves with regard to their creativity.

Tell us about your upbringing, what you studied in school, and how growing up was like for you? 

I was born in Kaduna, I grew up in Kaduna also. I moved to Abuja later with my family but I’m from Nassarawa state. My parents were not super-rich but they were well-to-do and they invested a lot in getting my siblings and me the best education. I was always the youngest in my class, I went to secondary school at 9 years. So, I had to find ways to be interesting because when you’re small, you almost go unnoticed. I had to figure out a way to stand out and be respected even though I wasn’t as big as other kids. I became a very curious person who was very interested in learning. I took a strong interest in English Language and I really enjoyed phonetics. Everything that was boring to other people about English Language became interesting to me. I learned a lot from reading books, asking questions, and just being curious when I watched movies. I think all of that has spilled over to what I now call my love for communications as a whole.

What was your career journey like before becoming a digital creator and Marketing nerd?

I studied Economics. I didn’t really like it. I just did it because when I was picking the course to study in school, I was 14 years old (laughs) so I just picked what made sense. I didn’t really know what I wanted to do with my life. It was in year 3 that I realized that this was a big mistake. Remember I said I was good at English in secondary school? I don’t know what I was doing in Economics. Also, my dad sold me this whole dream of how I could graduate, get my master’s degree, and be an   Investment banker. I didn’t have any better dream so I just went with his. When I got out of school, the first job I got was in Real Estate – Marketing and Sales. It was really interesting because it was mostly high-end luxury real estate. I learned so much about marketing and sales from that job. It was there I started to explore content creating and taking pictures with my phone and then in my third year working with them, I left to be a content creator full time.

Do you have a digital product on sale?

Yes. I have a lot of digital products on sale. But the one that is most important to me is my ebook titled “CommYOUnity

Is that the first product you ever sold?

No. The first thing I ever sold wasn’t digital products, it was T-shirts. The speed with which it sold out was crazy. I didn’t even have up to 10 thousand followers on Instagram but people really bought what I was selling. The experience was just crazy and interesting. 

What made you decide to create a digital product? Did you have any “Sapa” moment that made you say “Noooo, I gats find another way to make this money?”

I wouldn’t say it was sapa. It was a “yo, there’s an extra way to make money why are you not exploring it.” It was really low-hanging fruit because I was really interested in community and community building. So when I was going to write the book, I didn’t sit to think about what to write. It was more like I wanted to compile hundreds of my notes over time into a body of work, which is what I did. I didn’t really have to create something new because I always document my processes and my learning, so I just had to gather all of that and put it into a body of work that people could consume in a way that wasn’t as scattered as my note. Since I had decided to write a note, I divided it into sections and filled those sections with my note and things I had written down at different stages in my journey, mostly things about community. 

How did you start as a creator and community builder?

I was just trying to make videos and have fun but a community formed around my content because they liked it so much and would engage so much. I didn’t need to use call-to-actions because people just naturally engaged so much. For me, because I went from someone who was nobody to getting hundreds of comments on Instagram, I was very grateful when I saw a comment. I used to respond to everybody. Like if you saw 500 comments on my post, 250 were probably from me because I used to respond to everybody and it was mostly because I felt grateful. Now, I didn’t know that was a strategy for community building and audience building. Over time, I started to learn that these people were really endeared to me. So when the time came for me to write an ebook, I just knew it was going to be about a community because I felt there was no one in a better position to talk about community than me. Also, a lot of it had come to me accidentally, it was me just learning on the road. So it wasn’t anything had gotten from an online textbook, it was my own experience.

When did you earn your first money (commission) from creating and selling digital products? 

That would be 2019. I hosted a class on WhatsApp about content creation. I was teaching people how to make videos with their phones, and in 24 hours of selling the slots to the class, I made about 500k. I wanted 50 people for the class, and I ended up getting 100 people. At that time, my salary was less than 100k(laughs). I think that was the straw that broke the camel’s back and I thought doing this job doesn’t make sense if I can make this much in teaching a class. This was like 5 or 6 months of my salary in 2 days. I just started to plan my exit from that point. It was then that I had an epiphany that I could do content creation full time.

Did you leverage your audience to sell the slots to the WhatsApp class you had?

Yes. I already had an audience first. However, when I was building a community, I didn’t think to sell to them. I was just creating content and as I said, a community formed around that. So when I said I wanted to teach, it turned out that there were a lot of people who wanted to learn from me.  

Asides from being a digital creator, what else do you do?

That’s it oh. That’s my full-time job. Of course, periodically, I work on partnerships and consultations on the side, but all of it is around creating. 

We saw on your Twitter bio that you are a 2X TEDx speaker. Congratulations. How did that happen?

I don’t know oh. They just reached out to me (laughs). The first time was in Abuja, the second time was at Covenant University. Honestly, I don’t know how it happened. I just know that I got an email (laughs) on a good day, and I went with it.

What did you learn from your TEDx experience? Any tips for aspiring TEDx speakers?

Normally, I prefer to work at showing up daily than work at specific things. If wanting to be a TEDx speaker is the most important to you, then after you speak at TEDx what next?
The most important thing to me is not speaking at TEDx, I got nominated for the TFAA award, I’ve worked with a lot of brands, and I’ve met so many people. But that’s not the most important thing for me. The most important thing for me is what I do every day and the fact that what I did today is better than yesterday. So I’d encourage anyone to just show up consistently. Do what makes you happy and do it consistently. Big wins come from small deposits of time and efforts over a period of time. Every time I have an email from a brand I’ve always wanted to work with, I’m not surprised because I show up consistently and that’s another opportunity for me to give myself away. And once I’m done, it’s back to the treadmill of just showing up and serving my community, All those things are just by-products. Of course (chuckles) if someone googles how to speak at a TEDx event, he’d see results, including Youtube videos. But the way it has happened for me is as a byproduct of what I’ve been doing.

What challenges have you encountered as a creator?

There’s the part of people not understanding that being a creator is a full-time job. In Nigeria, it’s difficult because you have to explain yourself. If you’re a younger person, it’s even more difficult. When I still lived with my parents, it was so hard. Till now they don’t really understand. There’s also the Nigerian factor. Just living in Nigeria, working online, the cost of the internet, the fact that there isn’t always good electricity, and all that. 

How have you managed these challenges?

I ask for help. I don’t try to do anything by myself. I don’t wait till everything is perfect before I take steps. I just go with what I have and figure it out on the way. 

What’s the average amount you make from selling digital products now? 

I’d rather not talk about that. I’m not really financially motivated. Money is important to me, don’t get me wrong but when I decide to do a job or not, money is not the first thing I think of. I don’t really remember most of my financial milestones because I don’t stop to think about them for one minute, I just move on.

What is your sales strategy that other digital creators can employ?

Community primarily. I build a community around what I do. So they are always willing to buy from me, I rarely run sponsored ads because I have a community I’m always giving to for free. So when it’s time to sell something, it’s not a problem. they understand that I already gave freely. 

What advice would you give to creators in Africa that can help them boost their digital product business?

We haven’t started. I hear all these talks that content creation is too saturated. And I just want them to know that that’s not true. The industry is still fresh, there are still so many stories that are yet to be said. There are 200 million Nigerians, the majority of them are not even on Instagram so there’s so much to be done. We need so many more creators, we don’t have enough creators. 

So what’s next for Salem King?

Everybody is just going to have to follow me and find out (laughs) 

Have similar notes where you’ve documented your experiences or knowledge about a skill? Create a digital product from it today and start selling on Selar.

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Every other thing can be a mistake. But getting paid for what you know is never a mistake.