319 Marina Barayeva: Stand Out In A Noisy Crowd
Marina Barayeva is a portrait photographer and entrepreneur who left her native Russia behind to move to Beijing where she now helps business owners in China and beyond grow their influence. Learn today why you put a multiplier on your influence when you focus on a very specific niche, plus tips on how to reinvent yourself on the journey.
Melinda Wittstock: Marina, welcome to Wings.
Marina Barayeva: Hi Melinda, it’s so good to hear you.
Melinda Wittstock: Well it’s great to talk to you and all the way from Beijing, China, no less. I know that you’re really an expert in helping people figure out how to best become influencers around the thing that only they can do. Tell me, what was the first thing that got you interested in the whole concept of influence?
Marina Barayeva: Well, it comes to my beginning story when I started … I’m a photographer and I studied my photographing business like about seven years ago. Then that time I was trying everything I could get, all of the photography gigs. I was shooting weddings, portraits, still photography events, everything. I tried to sell stuff and it was so difficult for me. Then it was hard to sell, it was hard to market. Then I started just thinking, what can I do? You go out and you talk with a person one on one, then probably they will buy from you, maybe not.
I thought how other people do this? What if instead of me going to each person, what if I will let other people find out more about me? How I can help those people, how I can work with others, that we can share the audience so we can share our skills and maybe organize the event or maybe work on the project and that it turn to that growing your influence helps you market much, much easier that people find you instead of you going for each person and try to sell whether it’s a business, whether it’s just a service or product
Marina Barayeva: So when do you want to become the influencer then people come to you instead of you reaching out every person and try to sell your product or service.
Melinda Wittstock: It’s such a crowded, noisy marketplace out there because everybody’s on social media. There’re so many people trying to get noticed in all the noise out there and so to have influence, what are some of the things that you really have to do? I mean apart from posting often, interacting with people, is it really about having a message that’s very different from everybody else?
Marina Barayeva: Not necessarily. If you think about your childhood, mom sings a lullaby, the same lullaby for kids, but the kids fall only his or her mom, right? But the lullaby is the same. The message is going to be the same, but it’s sing in the different way. It presented in different ways, but one of the most important thing when you want to become the influencer in your business and you all need is to define what kind of influencer you want to be. What you want to be known for. As I said in the beginning I was working with everyone and it was so difficult and people didn’t know. People could wish me out for portrait photography, and then I tried to get into weddings and I’m like how I should give them the package, how should I deliver my service?
You think about so many things and then people reach you for event photography and this completely different things. And a huge shift in my business was when I say like I’m not going to do any of those. I want to focus on portraits as specifically or on personal branding and glamour photography. So those are two areas which I’m known for and often they’re quite together because if I, for example photograph a woman with the fashion stuff photo shoot, often we shoot the pretty style and the business profile too. So they are very close and then that’s how people find out me.
: The same goes then when people try to get into the business, they’re like, I will try this and this and this. And they think they will get them a lot of money and people will think that anytime they can reach them out and use a service for anything. I’m all in one person. No, is better to focus on one niche or one specific market and then grow your business from that? And that’s how you become known. And that you start creating content about this, your era of specializations, and then you start posting social. And then so on, so on, so on.
Melinda Wittstock: Mm-hmm (affirmative). Yes. Yes. That’s so true. So it’s almost like be more of you. I think a lot of the problem that I see with entrepreneurs is they’re trying to please everybody. And when you try and please everybody often you can please no one. So I find that almost, when you get more and more specific and more and more down to the kind the real essence of who you are, even at the risk of repelling people, you’re going to increase your influence ’cause you’re going to find your real tribe. I mean, the people who really love you and they’re going to attract more people like them to you. But the mistake I see is everybody trying to be like, oh yeah, I am good for you and I can help you. Oh, and I can help you and, and, and at the end of the day, nothing really lands or nothing really resonates with anybody.
Marina Barayeva: Exactly. Because people don’t know what you work on. People don’t know what you specialize in. Before I became a photographer, I’ve done modeling as a hobby. And when I started posting pictures here in China, our people reached me out. Wow, you’re so beautiful. Wow, beautiful pictures. I’m like, I’m a photographer already? I’m not a model. That’s not my pictures. Especially for Chinese people, foreign girls look the same. And for us [inaudible] people look the same. So they say this is me. I’m like, no this is not me. And I had to tell people that I’m a photographer. It took me time to switch their mind that I’m not a model anymore, but I’m a photographer. Then to tell them that I specialize in specific niche. So it take your time, but once you get this, then people already know that people come to you for what you are known for.
Melinda Wittstock: Right. And so when you’re growing a business, at what point is it vital to get your personal brand together? I ask this because I see so many women keep delaying it, delaying it, delaying it, almost afraid of being out there. I think almost like you have to get out there first and then the kind of the business, I don’t know. What do you think about that in terms of the pacing? Say there’s someone listening today that’s about to take the leap into entrepreneurship, or maybe they’re already, they’ve got their startup already, and they’re doing amazing things in their startup, but nobody knows them. What are the first things that they should be doing?
Marina Barayeva: You normally know, let’s go away a little bit for this fancy words, personal brand. Think about it as you would to petition. When you start your business, you’ve very, very careful about your reputation is the same thing your personal brand. You already started when you started doing business, and you already an influence for some people. Maybe they were your friends, maybe some of your clients. It just a very small community right now. Probably, maybe there’s a group of women which you influence. You have maybe events there.
Marina Barayeva: So think about this and then I think at this stage, if you still worry about what kind of influencer you are, should you be one, should you grow your authority and personal brand, whatever it is, think about again, what do you want to be known for? And what message do you want to share with people? What is that that they need that you already know? You have experience, you have knowledge, you have some credibility ready. If you don’t have then, think about how you can gain it. Maybe the publications, maybe some projects, maybe some collaborations, and then you start sharing, and the more you share the more confidence you become.
Melinda Wittstock: Right, right, right, right. Yeah, I think that’s so true. Well, it’s also market validation as well. I mean, you start to see who’s responding to the words you’re using, who likes what you’re talking about, right? And you end up kind of enrolling your customers that way.
Marina Barayeva: Yeah. But you don’t need to please everyone. You are meant to be for specific market. You’re meant to soar specific people and the rest of them, they’re not your audience message. [inaudible] message, that’s okay.
Melinda Wittstock: Do you think part of the problem here though is women in particular take it too personally when somebody isn’t interested in what they’re offering, like they take it as some sort of personal rebuke when it’s not that at all, it’s just that you’re not meant to be serving that person.
Marina Barayeva: I think we women are more emotional, so if someone says something bad, we want to be good. We are beautiful awesome creations of God and then someone doesn’t like our work or says something mean. It doesn’t necessarily relate to us, but it can hurt and it can stop from doing other stuff. And what often happens that you can get good feedback but one person saying something bad and then you stop your work. We’ll need to do this. It’s only one person is it? As I said before, that’s not your audience then. Focus on those who you help and from very beginning everyone makes the mistake.
Marina Barayeva: If you look at those famous people like Oprah, I don’t. All these superstars, they all started with a zero point. The key is just do it consistently. One of the thing which I suggest to people, any project you start with or whether it gets to sales through your business, play 100 times gain.
Marina Barayeva: Let’s say I started a business and you need to find new clients or for your service, you need practice. Set for yourself a goal to reach 100 people and tell about your service, but your idea is to find 100 people and tell about service not to sell. You need to be as much informative and serving to the person as you can. If they buy, that’s good. If they don’t buy well, you have 99 more people to talk to. Or if you want to get to media, the same thing 100 media reach, one podcast. Reach one Online magazine or print publications. And then you have 99 other publications to go. The key here that you switch your focus from selling and being rejected, get this feeling to the point that you need to reach 100 people, 100 online magazines or offline magazines. Then if they say, no, that’s fine. If they say yes, that’s awesome, but when they say no, it’s just a project. You see the difference.
Melinda Wittstock: So Marina, let’s go back in time a little bit. I’m always curious about people’s origin stories and how it was that they became an entrepreneur. I mean, were you always entrepreneurial as a kid?
Marina Barayeva: No. When I was a kid, my dream was to be a driver. I did not know that everyone can drive.
Melinda Wittstock: Well, I guess you want it to be in control of your destiny.
Marina Barayeva: I wanted to travel and see the world. That was my point and I’ve done it. I moved to China in 2010 that it was my first visit and in 2011 I moved completely with my stuff here and then I traveled a lot. When I was in Russia, I’m originally from Russia, I liked to do modeling as a hobby and I started a little bit here in China too. But then I fell in love in photography and I decided that I want to have a business around this. I want to make it as a business. I was struggling with selling and promoting and everything. I was a newbie.
Marina Barayeva: I didn’t know what to do, how to do, it’s a new country and a lot of trials, a lot of rejections. And then I little by little I started to market myself and grow my business grow it as a business not just a hobby. Then I could travel around the world. I opened my online photography school for Asian speaking photographers, which I close in a few years for some reasons. And then I just, you know, like you feel that this is your thing. You don’t want to go back to nine to five job anymore.
Melinda Wittstock: And so was it tricky to make that leap? Was it hard for you or it just feel kind of natural.
Marina Barayeva: I am very curious person, so I like to know how things works, and I try things till I know if it works or if it doesn’t work. And for me, growing a business, it’s probably growing a business. Probably it’s a game to see what new things I can implement, what I can try, what I can try with social media. What I can try with podcasting, without the media, with the projects, anything. It’s so interesting for me.
Melinda Wittstock: What made you move to China? That’s I guess a big leap, right? To completely leave your country behind and go to a completely different culture and set up as an entrepreneur. It’s hard enough to be an entrepreneur in your own country, right? Where you know the culture and all that kind of stuff. Did you just see a big opportunity there? What was it like making that transition?
Marina Barayeva: Melinda, you won’t believe. I just got bored in Russia and I booked one way ticket.
Melinda Wittstock: I love it.
Marina Barayeva: I wanted something new. So first time I came here for one month just to see, because China is something that you watch to the movies, Asian movies, maybe things about Jackie Chan or anything else. And then for me it was like the moon when you look at them on, at so far and so it can’t reach it. And when I came here it was so different. But then I came back home and I felt like I have even more nothing to do. So I came back to China and just stay here and I thought it was going to be my short trip, but I stayed and traveled here and traveled all over the world and just … I feel it’s my home now.
Melinda Wittstock: Are you able to speak Mandarin?
Marina Barayeva: I speak intermediate level.
Melinda Wittstock: Oh my goodness. How long did it take you to do that?
Marina Barayeva: Well, three months I learned by myself and four in the university. Seven months.
Melinda Wittstock: I think it’s really interesting because a lot of Americans lose sight of the fact that there is this big global market like way beyond the shores of the United States. And there are some interesting statistics that only 5% of Americans actually even have passports. And to me that’s always been confounding. I’m Canadian and 95% of Canadians have passports.
Melinda Wittstock: I’m always encouraging women and entrepreneurs, generally to kind of think bigger about the world because there’s so many opportunities beyond just our own narrow geography here in the United States.
Marina Barayeva: Yeah. It’s so much more to see in the world, and often I just get one way ticket. Well, I got used to that. I understand that many people cannot do this, but plan at least short trip and then see it’s like it change your mind. It opens your mind for new vision. How people live in different countries. People have so many stereotypes about the countries. Like people in China should do Kung Fu. Not at all. Everyone in Russia drinks vodka, not at all. All Americans are fat, not at all.
Melinda Wittstock: You remind me of the story it was a long time ago I was a correspondent for the BBC back in my journalism and television anchoring days and I worked out of the New York Bureau of the BBC and every day, London would call us and ask us to do stories about fat people or people with guns.
Melinda Wittstock: We were are always trying to say, you know what? The entire country is not that. Like there’s all these amazing things happening here. So every culture falls into the stereotype, and what was interesting too is the other way around because in the United States when I was reporting safe from London for the US, all they wanted to know about was the royal family. And like most British people could care less about the royal family, right?
Melinda Wittstock: I just believe that everybody should travel more because you get so many more ideas and you see how things are done and when you cross fertilize all of that, magical things can happen. You can really grow your business in ways that you never really thought possible. So Marina, what’s next for you? What’s your big vision in terms of where you’re going from here with the influencer work you do and your photography and all these good things, where do you think you’re going to be in about 10 years?
Marina Barayeva: Well, 10 years. It’s so long time. I didn’t make so big plans even for one a year because [inaudible] everything changes in China so fast you even can’t imagine. One of the stories last year, Chinese government decided that you cannot have ghosts into movies and there was a production of the movie and they have ghosts there. And then they had to stop and cancel all the productions right before almost when they finished. They almost finished the movie. So they had to stop everything. Because it was just short notice. You cannot launch it here. So if I would not see myself in China in 10 years, who knows what will happen. So far I’m here. But in my next plan, I want to focus on the helping other small businesses and entrepreneurs to grow their authority. I’m happy to work with all women because I know we have less confidence than men. That was one of my struggles because people sometimes do not take you seriously because you’re a woman.
Melinda Wittstock: So I’m curious what you think about this because when women make the mistake, and I think it is a mistake of thinking that we have to be in our masculine to be strong or being taken seriously, we deny in fact a lot of the things that actually do make us strong, which is more our feminine power. How do you see that?
Marina Barayeva: I think it goes back to the childhood rules when we grow up and parents still as that you’re a woman, you shouldn’t have to work that much, and you should be a mom, and you should be sweet nice and you do all of this work. So that happened for many women and then we grew up and then we realize that we actually often smarter than guys. But we don’t take this power, we don’t do this. And that’s okay. If you can be good at something, guys can be good in something and you too, think about what you can do.
Melinda Wittstock: So you’re in China and you work obviously with a lot of women in China. Do you work with people outside of China? Do you work with people in the United States and how can they find you and work with you?
Marina Barayeva: Yeah, I work with everyone. Well I work mostly in China for photography, but my podcast, Marketing for Creatives, where we talk about business and marketing tips, focus more on the US and Europe market because their mind is completely different. Even if I live in China and most of my clients are foreigners or some Chinese who speak English because the cultures are very different.
Marina Barayeva: Even if I leave here, I still sometimes don’t understand Chinese people and I often go to your US. I’m there every year at least once. I like Miami there and you can go and find me at Marinabarayeva.com. So there is a podcast you can contact me and if you want to know what kind of influencer you are right now and how to grow your authority, you can go to Marinabarayeva.com/influencer there is a quick quiz, you can answer several questions and then you’ll find out what is your situations and some recommendations on how to grow your personal brand.
Melinda Wittstock: Wonderful. We’ll make sure that all of that is in the show notes. So if anyone’s listening to this podcast driving, you know, don’t try and write that down. Just check out the show notes at melindawittstock.com/wingspodcast. Marina, thank you so much for putting on your wings and flying with us.
Marina Barayeva: Thank you so much Melinda, it was a privilege to serve your audience.