A few months ago, Lindsay Arakawa left her job as Senior Creative Social Strategist at Refinery29 to move to Japan. During her time at Refinery29, she helped the media company build a distinctive narrative on social by establishing a strong voice that resonates with millennials. Now, she has embarked on her Eat, Pray, Love journey— moving across the ocean, working on her personal brand, and constantly chasing inspiration.
We asked Lindsay for tips on building a strong, well-defined personal brand. Read on for her advice on living the life most creatives can only dream of, and why she thinks Instagram-driven events are critical to achieving success in the platform.
During your time at Refinery29, you developed and established an incredibly strong voice with a distinct brand image. What was the process of getting the Refinery29 brand where it is now? What were some of the challenges you encountered along the way?
I started at Refinery29 in 2015 and fell into a creative paradise. Being a part of the team at that time, I was constantly surrounded and supported by coworkers who always pushed me to think outside of the box. Coming into this kind of environment and with the experience I had from previously working in social media in San Francisco, we were able to merge creative and strategy on Instagram and develop a strong presence on the platform. Working in social media where challenges tend to be a daily occurrence, you learn how to navigate the landscape over time.
While at Refinery29, you also organized and oversaw a lot of Instagram-driven events. Why was it so important for you to implement experiential marketing into the overall social media strategy?
Instagram is a platform that is built off of the idea of community, so we wanted to be able to tap into those communities and develop In-Real-Life connections.
I think it’s one thing to create an Instagram post about something you care about, but I personally believe that if you’re really passionate about something, you should be able to show up for it and show your support in other ways as well. I guess this approach is loosely tied to the idea of practicing what you preach.
Why did you decide to leave an established company to freelance? What has that process been like, and what have you learned along the way?
I’ve always been so career-driven. My career has always been a top priority for me and when I got the job at Refinery29, I didn’t let anything come between me and work. Being so focused on work for the past 7 years, I got to a point where I felt like I needed to take a step back for a second and focus more on the living part of my life. The process of going freelance has been a bit daunting, but I did my research, got coffee with Instagram acquaintances who also decided to start freelance careers, asked them hella questions, and saved up enough to support myself financially for a while.
You’ve established a very strong, well-defined personal brand. Can you share any tips on how to do that?
Ahh, this is so nice! Thank you! I’m not too sure of how to answer this question, but I just took two things that I had a strong interest in (photography and drawing), and one day had a weird epiphany in Fort Greene Park in Brooklyn where I decided to combine the two. In terms of tips, I think a lot of it has to do with not caring what other people are going to say or think when it comes to your creative endeavours.
I am by no means a professional photographer and didn’t go to some prestigious art school, but I didn’t let those lingering thoughts keep me from posting my first doodle on Instagram.
You seem to be on the pulse. How do you keep constantly innovating/finding inspiration?
My friends. Hands down. Living and working in NYC provides you with so many networking opportunities and I think it’s important to leverage those opportunities and meet interesting people who are doing interesting things.
How has living in Tokyo influenced your work?
I think I’m still trying to find my footing in Tokyo. Moving to a foreign country has maybe been one of the most intense things I’ve done as an adult, so I think I’m still in an adjustment period and getting used to my new life here. After I start to feel more acclimated, inspiration and creativity might come more naturally.
What is the best advice you have ever received?
I’ve received this piece of advice from many different people in many different forms.
I’ve learned that it’s not productive to doubt yourself when you’ve proved your fears wrong in the past.
What’s next for you?
I want to become fluent in Japanese and get to a place where I feel like I actually do live in Japan now. It feels like I’ve just been on one long vacation, and I’m excited to see what life will be like once I have more of an established routine.