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The Architect Turned Influencer Teaching Life Lessons Through Home Design

Architect Cliff Tan has made an unlikely career pivot—from designing upscale homes to becoming a popular social media influencer who teaches ancient feng shui principles to millions of fascinated followers.

The Singapore native moved to London in 2010 to study architecture at the Architecture Association School. When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, Cliff started making videos on TikTok explaining seemingly niche architectural concepts like optimal bed placement according to Eastern philosophy. To his surprise, the videos exposing these feng shui practices “blew up” and instantly attracted a ravenous audience intrigued by his insights.

He recognized an opportunity to educate people sincerely interested in harmonious space design but harbored misconceptions that feng shui was mere superstition. “A lot of my clients are actually people who don’t believe in [feng shui] in the first place,” Cliff says. “So it’s almost like my channel was a way to win the nonbelievers over, [to] make them realize it’s not a bunch of superstition.”

Leaning into the demand, he has now personally consulted over 3,000 fans from around the world on harmonizing their homes and offices. He even published a book translating the ancient teachings into multiple languages.

The influencer has fully committed to the creator economy, rejecting overproduced content in favor of an unpolished, authentic approach he films spontaneously. Cliff strives to create educational yet entertaining bite-sized videos tailored to audiences across Instagram, YouTube, and TikTok. In addition to his wildly popular social channels, he published a book, Feng Shui Modern, that is printed in multiple languages. 

Cliff’s Creative Process: Keeping It Natural and Hitting All Audiences

When it comes to creating content, Cliff intentionally keeps things simple and natural. “When I started making content, I took a very conscious approach to making my content as easy to create as possible,” he says. “I don’t want to make something too complicated that I can not do a lot of the time.”

Cliff strives to maintain an impromptu, off-the-cuff style that comes across as genuine to viewers. “Every time I pull something, I make it the [same] day,” he explains. “I don’t prepare, I think of something…[and] I’ll make a video in the house and upload it. So…you can feel it’s quite [authentic] – I am actually excited to make this video. It’s not like I’m pretending to get excited.”

@dearmodern

#stitch with @CoCo a crash course on how to create zones in an overly large room, use the natural qualities of the room and windows!

♬ original sound – Mr Cliff Tan

While his videos have an unpolished, spontaneous feel, Cliff keeps minimal props on hand, like furniture pieces and markers, should inspiration strike. “I always bring my markers, my paper, and [a] few pieces of furniture in case I [have] an idea, so I can [create] it then,” he says of his barebones setup.

Cliff posts the same videos across Instagram, YouTube, and TikTok, recognizing each platform attracts a different core demographic. “I do know that they target different audiences,” he notes. According to him, younger TikTok viewers may gravitate more toward “fun” videos about bedrooms, while YouTube’s audience consists of professionals, designers, and wealthy homebuilders looking to validate their dream home designs before these get built.

His YouTube channel, Dear Modern, has 1.5 million subscribers. On TikTok, the influencer has amassed 2.9 million followers and 60 million likes. Lastly, his Instagram account has just over 750k followers.

Overcoming Creative Blocks and Cherishing the Connection with Fans

Like any content creator, Cliff has dealt with periods of running out of fresh ideas. “Very often, I can go for a week without posting a thing. And I feel so bad. I got into the trap before where I just made things for the sake of making things.”

His solution was to put himself in the shoes of his audience. “I’m someone who follows, let’s say, 100 different accounts. I don’t remember if this person posts or not. Right? I don’t care. I’m just using them for entertainment.”

This mindset relieved the pressure to produce content constantly. “All of these millions of people, each of them has their own lives to deal with. They are not all waiting for me,” Cliff realized. “Just do what you do when you’re comfortable. Giving them quality content is better than just forcing something out.”

For Cliff, the most rewarding part is the connection with fans. “It’s crazy to think that there’s so many followers, and each of them is an individual,” he marvels. He still personally responds to every DM because “they’re real people with feelings, with lives. And like, I could be that person…four years ago when I was a nobody.”

Reading fan comments and opinions, even critical ones, bring Cliff joy. “It’s nice to receive all these opinions. It really makes me happy.”

The Authentic Economy: Catering to Audiences’ Appetite for Rawness

Cliff recognizes the creator economy has become a powerful marketing and advertising platform. “At the end of the day, we are just marketing. We are marketing ourselves,” he observes.

However, he believes audiences are craving authenticity over the traditional polished, packaged content. “It feels like what people want [is] authentic, fresh things now. They’re not into those shiny, nice, beautiful documentaries. They like things that are very authentic and very on the spot. And, of course, funny. They like to be surprised…people are getting bored with quality work. They want something that kind of arrests them,” the influencer says.

@dearmodern

Launching Jan 20 2022 preorder here! https://www.bloomsbury.com/uk/feng-shui-modern-9781526639998/Thank you soo much for all your support! #fengshui

♬ At Last (Instrumental) – George Winter

His advice to aspiring creators? Pursue it with the right intentions. “Don’t do it to become an influencer. Do it because you have to treat all your followers as your children,” Cliff cautions. “There must be passion because it is a long-term commitment…it does get tiring, constantly making new content.”

Above all, Cliff emphasizes being genuine. “Just do it in a way that you enjoy so that you have the authenticity…something that is meaningful to yourself and whoever receives it. People can see if you are actually interested in what you’re doing. Make it fun for yourself. And the results will naturally come.”

Next Chapter: Expanding Content While Preserving Ancient Wisdom

For now, Cliff is sticking to his current content mix —making his content, offering consultations, and promoting his book. “I just want to carry on doing what I’m doing,” he says.

However, he is experimenting with new video formats, like a series called “Fix It” that shows viewers simple DIY life hacks. “I am trying to make new things like that,” Cliff  shares, “but otherwise, it is more about getting comfortable with where I am, just enjoying the moment, and creating as much content as I can.”

Regardless of what new directions he explores, Cliff hopes his lasting impact is reintroducing the ancient practice of feng shui to modern audiences. “My personal thing was to revive this forgotten art form. I think I have done it, which I am very moved and touched to be able to have done,” he reflects.

More than accumulating followers, the architectural virtuoso wants the principles he teaches, like optimal desk placement, to stick with people. “If anything, I just want people to remember the things I teach them. I think the biggest impact I made was that I have made thousands of people change the position of their desks.”

Cecilia Carloni, Interview Manager at Influence Weekly and writer for NetInfluencer. Coming from beautiful Argentina, Ceci has spent years chatting with big names in the influencer world, making friends and learning insider info along the way. When she’s not deep in interviews or writing, she's enjoying life with her two daughters. Ceci’s stories give a peek behind the curtain of influencer life, sharing the real and interesting tales from her many conversations with movers and shakers in the space.

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