How I Got Here (H.I.G.H) is a bi-weekly series on Tush Magazine that explores the stories, challenges and growth of successful Nigerians. The objective of this series is to dig deep into the deliberate actions and habits people have cultivated and taken to discover themselves, for the benefit of others in search of valuable information and inspiration.

Nigeria is home to millions of creative minds whose thirst for humour, innovation and creativity knows no bounds. Over the last few years, a lot of social media content creators popularly known as influencers have emerged out of Nigeria and in the diaspora, which has opened up a lot of opportunities and career paths for many of them.

The 2020 COVID-19 lockdown which reshaped the creator economy can be described as a blessing in disguise for many, as several weeks and months of staying at home due to the restrictions led a lot of people to seek creative outlets. While many people found enough excuses to stay glued to social media and shake off boredom during the pandemic-induced lockdown, others were motivated to participate in the numerous social media challenges that flooded several platforms such as TikTok, Instagram, Twitter and Facebook.

One of such people who seized this opportunity is Frank iTom, a celebrated storyteller who is exceptionally skilful at dancing, fashion and illusion. The Microbiology graduate turned graphic designer and now storyteller, who started this journey during the global pandemic has become a household name in the content creation space with a clientele that includes big shots like Meta (parent company of Instagram), Tommy Hilfiger, Jumia, Standard Chartered Bank, Stanbic IBTC Bank, Nivea, DSTV, Orijin and a host of others.

It is safe to say that Frank iTom has become the influencer that every brand and celebrity in Nigeria wants to collaborate with. One thing you should know about Frank iTom is that he doesn’t like to be called a “content creator”.

From his early days as a dancer and graphic designer to the man he is now, Frank iTom’s journey is certainly an inspirational one. Let’s dive in and learn more about this creative genius and the tools and skills that have gotten him to where he is in the first episode of the H.I.G.H series (what a grand way to start, right?)

Hello Frank, tell us your story?

My name is Frank Ileogben. I’m the last child of four, and I have three siblings. I have a BSc in Microbiology from Delta State University and an MSc in Environmental and Public Health from the University of Benin. I grew up in Benin, and back then, I used to be in a gospel dance group before I moved to Lagos in 2014. 

During my service year at Anambra state in 2008, I started doing freelance graphic design for people, I also worked for a multimedia company. I went on to work in other industries such as e-commerce, power distribution, and oil and gas, doing brand communication.

When was the first time you realized you were a creative person?

I don’t think there was one specific moment when I realized I was a creative person, I have always been creative. In my early years as a dancer, I remember a time when I needed to use three different songs in a dance routine and had to find a way to mix them. I played the first song until I wanted to switch to the next song, paused it, and then played that scratch sound DJs use when they want to change songs, and then I played the next song I wanted to use. And that was how I mixed songs until I discovered a DJ mixer application on computers that did song mixes. 

So what led you into social media content creation?

I never planned to get into content creation, but some of my friends and I were interested in the film industry. My interest in the movie industry comes from the fact that I have never watched movies in the same way that other people do. I’ve always been interested in the art of storytelling, which is why I was considering a career in film, but life had other plans for me.

My friends and I had planned to do Falz’s Bop Daddy Challenge during the COVID-19 lockdown in 2020. But after seeing how other people had done theirs, we decided not to do ours. Then, one Saturday morning after my workout, I decided to attempt the bop daddy challenge on my own because my friends had hyped me and told me I could do it; I recorded the video with my phone, edited it and uploaded it. The next thing I knew, the video went viral; so many people began reposting it. And that is how my content creation journey began. I, however, don’t like to be called a content creator. I’d rather be known as a storyteller.

What tools or hacks have facilitated your creative process so far? 

The most common question I get asked is about the tools I use. As a result, I’m putting together a video editing course, though I’m not sure when that will be. My videos are shot on my phone and edited in Premiere Pro and After Effects. I’ve also invested in high-quality lighting.

My knowledge of CorelDraw and graphic design has facilitated my learning of video editing techniques. I learned everything I know by watching YouTube videos and practising on my own. I’m always trying to learn new things and improve my abilities. 

Then versus now; how would you say you have improved as a content creator?

My early days as a content creator were like those of many others, which sometimes involved placing my phone on top of a fridge and holding it in place with a stack of books. I didn’t have many tools at first, so I had to make do with what I had. However, as time passed, I invested in tripod stands and lighting. In retrospect, I’m proud of how far I’ve come. Editing is a major area in which I have improved. My most recent videos, when compared to my earlier ones, clearly show how far I’ve come.

When do you feel most creative? Do you do anything special to get your “creative juices” flowing?

When people say their ideas come from God, a lot of times, others find it hard to believe, but that is the case for me. My creative juices flow more when I’m spiritually in tune with God. Whenever I serve in the house of God or do a prayer of faith and thanksgiving, that’s when I feel those really creative ideas coming on.

Wow, that’s interesting! Do you experience creative blocks? 

It is never a case of total creative block for me, but sometimes it is the inability to see an entire idea come to life in my mind before execution. 

So how do you deal with it?

When I try hard to bring an idea together in my mind and it doesn’t work, I just leave it alone and come back to it later.

Creatives critique their work a lot. Is this something that you find yourself doing?

I am my own worst critic. Every time I shoot and edit a new video, I double-check it for errors. I also show my friends, and even if they say it’s perfect, I often notice errors that need to be corrected or other changes that need to be made. 

I watch my videos several times to make sure I have missed nothing. One time, a friend pointed out an error in one of my videos; it was a minor mistake, but I couldn’t believe I missed it. I also cringe every time I watch my Bop Daddy video because it was riddled with flaws.

What do you do or feel when people don’t like something you create? 

When I started creating content, I used to be bothered about people’s opinions, video views, comments, and likes. But now, I focus on making the next video better than the last one. I say to myself, “if they don’t like this, they’ll like the next one.”

What is success for you? Are monetary rewards relevant to your success?

For me, success is defined by impact and value. What matters more to me is how many lives I can touch and how much value I can bring to others. Money and success will follow from impact and value. 

What is the most recent thing you have learned in content creation?

The most recent thing I’ve learned is that no piece of content is useless. Most content creators would agree that it is common to create a piece of content and believe it is garbage that no one will like. So you decide not to post. But sometimes, on the off chance that you post it, maybe just as a page filler, that piece of content ends up doing really well.

What is one hack that works for you that you can share with other content creators? 

The most important hack you need to succeed as a content creator is “authenticity.” You need to be authentic to allow your personality to shine through. Don’t copy or be someone else because people can tell when you’re being fake.

What’s next for you?

I have an Editing Course in the works; I want to teach people how I create magic. I also have more local and international collaborations coming in, as well as travel content around the continent of Africa.

Woah! We can’t wait to see what Frank iTom gets up to. Thank you so much for taking the time to read this 🙂

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