When multihyphenate and content creator Liza Miezejeski was in high school, she started to wonder about what sort of adventure-filled and debt-free college experience she could have abroad. Now six years, two international degrees, a UX/UI role with a Belgian company, and 285,000 TikTok followers later, Liza has built an online presence around what it’s like to live and move abroad.
After finishing her master’s degree in Communication Sciences, New Media, and Society at Vrije Universiteit Brussel, Liza got her UX/UI role at Evenflow, which focuses on building earth observation and satellite navigation technologies. Since then, she's continued to grow her blog and social media accounts, and more recently, transitioned her full-time position to part-time in order to focus on content creation and her newest side project, Skola, where she’s hoping to give students an easy way to learn about studying internationally.
We recently sat down with Liza to chat about what she’s learned since reducing her hours at her 9-to-5 to spend more time on side projects, the one thing all of her most popular content has in common, and whether "controversy" is always a straight path to virality and success on TikTok.
You recently transitioned from your full-time position to a part-time role to focus more on your side projects, do you have any advice for people considering a similar move?
One thing that was important to me was making sure I was prepared financially before I shifted to part-time. I have always had savings, but I made sure to save enough where, if I live pretty frugally, I could probably live six months off my savings. That is all my savings and I would be pretty screwed in the end if it didn't work after six months, but it’s nice to have that cushion.
Also, going part-time and not fully quitting is really a stress reliever. I know that my rent is still going to be paid every month—whether my side projects are thriving or not. Knowing my essentials are covered and I have a backup plan with my savings really has lifted that financial weight off my shoulders. It also helps me focus on actually creating good content rather than feeling pressured to put just anything out there. Right now, I’m not rushing to get brand deals or finding any way to make an income off my content. Instead, I’m continuing to make content I feel good about. It's a nice balance where I still get paid monthly but I have a little bit more creative freedom.
Mentally, I had a good idea of what my days were going to look like after I reduced my hours at work. That made it easy for me to be excited about finishing my part-time job each day because I knew exactly what I’d need to work on next.
Is there anything you would have done differently during this transition?
If I could’ve done one thing differently, I wouldn't have started a full-time job. I’ve had the concept for Skola for so long, I should’ve just done it from the get go. I wish I had just gotten a part-time job to cover bills and then started with my startup right away instead of starting in a full-time job and distracting myself for a year from what I really wanted to be doing.
I ended up pushing what I actually wanted my career to be to the side just for the sake of feeling like I was doing the right thing and following that 9-to-5 path.
Now that you’ve adjusted your daily schedule, how do you balance your part-time job alongside your content creator responsibilities and side projects?
I almost always wake up and make sure I go for a walk. I think it all actually started during COVID when I felt like I couldn’t focus until I commuted somewhere and so I started commuting around the block. Now that I'm not commuting to the office again, I still like to take myself for a walk just to get some fresh air.
Then, one thing that's actually really good about social media is it's very time dependent. You have to post at a certain hour. I also like to film in natural light, so I have to film at a certain hour. So I usually film in the morning and if I want to hit my peak engagement hours, I have to post by eight or nine o'clock at night.
For my part-time job, I am doing four hours of work a day. My main tactic for not procrastinating is putting my phone in a kitchen cabinet or somewhere where I can’t see it so when I’m working on my computer, I don't start scrolling.
Finally, since reducing my hours at work, I’ve also been thinking of getting an agent because I'm trying to start my own business, which is a lot of work on its own. So I’d like some help finding brand deals, but I’d also like to have someone checking in with me and asking, “Hey, why haven't you posted?” So I’m hoping that will help me feel like I have a bit of a team and will keep me accountable.
As you’ve started working on Skola and transitioned into a business owner, what are the biggest hurdles you’ve had to overcome?
My social media accounts started out by responding to people’s questions about going to school internationally. I got the idea for Skola when I started to get questions that I wasn’t able to answer. There are plenty of databases with information about international universities, but I was getting a lot more niche questions about housing, visas, and the emotional side of moving abroad.
"One hurdle that I’ve dealt with since starting was being able to recognize my weaknesses. Originally, I was wanting to do everything at once—all my concepts and ideas. There was so much I wanted to do that I was doing a little bit of everything and not making any progress."
A lot of people would also ask me questions like, “What is it like to live like a black person in this city” or “What is it like to live like a trans person in this city?” and those were questions I didn’t have the capacity to answer as a white girl from Connecticut. So I wanted to find a way to help those people, which bloomed into a whole platform of vetted, crowd-sourced information about moving and studying internationally.
One hurdle that I’ve dealt with since starting was being able to recognize my weaknesses. Originally, I was wanting to do everything at once—all my concepts and ideas. There was so much I wanted to do that I was doing a little bit of everything and not making any progress.
So I ended up partnering with one of my close friends from university who is much more Type A, an analytical and strategic thinker, and organized. I have more of a chaotic, creative side and I enjoy working on the marketing, content creation and product design so since having him on board, I’ve made so much more progress. Being able to recognize my strengths and weaknesses and finding a partner who complements that has made a big change.
Since you’ve made multiple viral videos, have you noticed what separates your most successful content from your least successful content?
For me, it's almost always about whether I can ignite a conversation around the topic or not. If I bring up a topic that people have something to say about, whether it's in the comments or sharing it in a conversation with someone else, those videos will almost always be more successful. Usually my most popular videos are ones where I teach people something and they either have more questions to ask or want to add their own experience or opinion to the mix.
If I'm talking about a certain topic, I will also sometimes leave some small things unsaid so someone can bring it up in the comments and then it can become a greater discussion. I posted a video recently about how being a native English speaker can be a tool for getting a job in a non-English speaking country because you end up being the unofficial proofreader for everything that comes through the office.
One of the people who responded agreed with me and said they ended up landing a mid-level role as an entry-level employee just because they were a native English speaker. And I had almost said that in the video, but I took it out and that left space for someone to add in their experience. So I usually am thinking pretty strategically about what I'm saying and the topics I choose.
With my content that doesn't do well, it's usually videos where I didn't think about how people would be responding. Maybe it’s content that helps people get to know me a little bit better or is just fun for me to make, but it doesn't necessarily do that well because people don't have much to say about it.
What do you think about creators purposely being controversial in order to spark more conversation and get more views? A video you made about how little water Europeans drink got two million views, but there were a lot of people disagreeing with you in the comments.
For videos like that, it's such a small non-issue that if people get mad at me because I think that being given a glass of water in a cup the size of a shot glass is weird, then so what? I sometimes like to bring up these small controversies because it's kind of fun to watch it unfold and see the things people can be so opinionated about.
"So there are weird or controversial things that get people to comment, but you have to ask yourself if that’s the engagement that will help you build a strong community, build your personal brand, or just get meaningless responses."
I saw another creator do something where they only had one sock on in their video, but it was not very subtly done and it was obvious they were doing it for the comments. So everybody was responding saying, “This person took off one sock for the engagement.” But at the end of the day it still got them a ton of responses. So there are weird or controversial things that get people to comment, but you have to ask yourself if that’s the engagement that will help you build a strong community, build your personal brand, or just get meaningless responses.
Since content creation is a pretty independent endeavor, is there anywhere specific you go for inspiration and insight within your industry?
I think that all inspiration kind of blends together when you're making content about your life. I do have a running note in my notes app that's gotten ridiculously long and is over three years old now. I have it for when I'm doing something during the day and think of something people might want to know more about living and studying abroad. For example, I’m adopting a dog internationally so that’s a topic I’m probably going to make a video about.
Are there apps and/or tech can you not live without as a multihyphenate?
I have Gemini for deleting duplicate photos. That's really good for me because my camera roll is constantly growing and my phone is always running out of memory. I also have CapCut and Splice. I actually like editing my videos on Splice more, but CapCut does have some better templates and fonts. I edit all of my still images with Lightroom and create graphics within Canva.
For planning my Instagram posts, I use Unum because I like my grid to look nice. Lightleap is also good because it's always cloudy in Belgium and I’ll use it to put a fake blue sky in the background of my pictures. And finally, I’ll use Lens Buddy to take self-timer photos.