Having it all – students in Edinburgh talk balancing studies with social media side hustles

Let’s be real, we’ve all fantasised about it at one point

While for most of us social media is just a hobby, some students in Edinburgh are using it to monetise and grow their digital platforms, pursuing their side hustles alongside getting degrees. We spoke to two of those students:

Meet Zara and Kiira

Zara, also known as @whatzaraloves on TikTok, is in her third year of Mass Communications in Advertising and Public Relations at Edinburgh Napier. She creates fashion and pop culture content on TikTok and is most known for her “Taboo on the Bus” series.

Kiira, @Kiirakenya on TikTok, is in her third year of Geography, Society and Environment at Heriot Watt. She creates lifestyle and fitness videos, capturing viewers’ attention with her university and fashion-related videos.

Screenshot via @whatzaraloves on TikTok

How did they get started?

Image via @kiirakenya on Instagram

Kiira and Zara’s start on social media shows how unexpected situations and everyday experiences can be the spark for attention-grabbing content.

With lockdown restricting usual activities, Kiira turned to social media: “I made ‘day in the life’ videos because there was nothing better to do in lockdown.” She continued creating when she moved to Scotland for university after her videos started blowing up.

Zara: “I started building content around life, and knew how much life in Edinburgh is very romanticised. You can build content around that and daily interests and routines – though I gradually wanted to take it more seriously and chat about more substantial content.”

On juggling studies with their passion

Managing a social media account alongside a degree requires both discipline and resourcefulness. When asked about how to navigate this they both explained prioritisation is key.

Kiira: “When university gets busy, I struggle a lot more with content creation. ‘Day in the life’ takes a lot of time and editing – so videos of fit checks are a lot easier, and show what you are wearing.”

For Zara, scheduling helped the most: “Taboo on the Bus is the only content I view as mandatory during the week, and I need to block out time for that. The rest of my content is secondary to uni – in the sense that I make content around my life and when I have free time.

“Because my course is not very demanding I can sit down on Sunday and think what do I have coming next week and what can I build content around?”

Navigating personal challenges

Image via @kiirakenya on Instagram

The world of social media is unsurprisingly not all sunshine and roses.

Kiira acknowledged the negativity that comes with online communities: “Have I faced challenges? Yes, absolutely. I get a lot of gross comments from men.” Her solution is simple yet effective: deleting them and not engaging.

And Zara described a challenge familiar to many social media users: striking a balance between authenticity and privacy. “One of my challenges,” she admitted, “is being confident putting myself out there, but considering how much I want to share.

“Especially in relationships, it is nice to keep it to yourself and not publicise it for views.”

Valuable lessons learnt

Image via @whatzaraloves on Instagram

Kiira and Zara’s experiences highlight the multifaceted impact social media can have on a student’s life.

Kiira touched on the potential of social media as a career springboard: “It’s opened me up to more opportunities. When applying to internships I have this background of being able to content create and make videos.

“I have learnt a lot about digital software and I can change my content based on the audience I want to target.”

Zara: “I don’t have to do 20 hours a week anymore. Social media changed my life. I’m very fortunate that Tiktok and Youtube and brand deals is my job.”

Though, at times, she finds the idea of full-time social media “pretty isolating. I would want to be around people, like in an office environment.”

Advice for others interested in starting

Inspired by Kiira and Zara’s stories, you might be itching to start your own social media account. They gave some words of wisdom:

Kiira said: “Start it now – the earlier the better. Be consistent with it and post as much as possible because thats what will get you views, followers and more collaborations. Try to find your niche to carve out your own identity, as social media is such a big spectrum.”

Zara encouraged a bold approach: “Go for it, don’t overthink it.”

Cover image via @kiirakenya and @whatzaraloves

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