Growing up, I spent most of my childhood working after school and on weekends to support a mother who struggled with mental illness. I started working at the age of 12, taking any side job I could get to start earning a wage. I did anything to help us get by, delivering newspapers, babysitting, and random chores for anyone who asked. You would never see me shying away from finding work. I knew I wanted to create a better life for myself from a very young age.
At the age of 16, my mother moved on to better things, and I was left to support myself. After spending some time caught up in my teen angst, I realized that this was the final push I needed strive for a career that would take me places in life.
Why I Chose Instagram
Well, what is Instagram if not a tool that shows you the best of life on a daily basis? I saw Instagram as a tool of dreams right from the beginning. Initially, my platform started as a way to promote local arts and culture, but that was a bit of a flop. It wasn’t until I realized that Instagram could be used as a personal outlet that I saw it being a means to my success. I started following other influencers at that time and watched as they appeared to have achieved all of their dreams. Then, I realized that I was just as capable as they were and changed my strategy to focus on my personal experiences.
Unlike most, I never looked at the lives of other influencers as unattainable. Being an influencer was as an opportunity for me to live the life I wanted, and prove that a young girl could come from nothing, and achieve big things.
Size Doesn’t Really Matter When it Comes to Collaboration
You can have 10,000 followers or 1,000 followers, but size doesn’t really matter when it comes to making money. I know, it’s hard to believe, but I was able to quit my job in the corporate world and replace my income with just 25,000 followers on Instagram.
One thing I learned in the corporate world was that most success really comes from a person’s ability to network and sell. I decided pretty early on that I would have to do some serious outreach to get where I wanted to be. Proposals were a strong suit of mine, so I used this to my advantage and pitched whoever I could think of. I knew at the time that I didn’t have the reach of my competitors, so I opted to provide more Instagram posts in exchange for compensation or collaboration. My ability to do outreach also allowed me to build key relationships pretty early on, and I continued to foster those relationships as I grew my numbers.
Networking in Person Makes a Huge Difference
In today’s digital era, people don’t really feel the need to connect face to face. I mean, think about it: you can find your life partner on an app, so is it really necessary to attend those boring networking events when you can just as easily slide into their DM’s? The short answer is yes. When it comes to making money in a digital field, relationship building still plays a very important role. In fact, this has been a huge reason for my success. I always try to remember that the person on the other side of my email is just that, a person. Deep down, they just want to be treated like that. Put yourself in their shoes. These brands receive hundreds of requests for projects or collaborations a day. If you were the one responsible for answering those emails, wouldn’t it feel nice to get just one email where a person asks about your week or asks to take you out for coffee before trying to get something from you? Most of the time, people didn’t say yes to getting together right away, but they became more open to the idea of working together because I think they appreciated that I treated them like humans instead of a bank account. In fact, when I tried out a different strategy where I used more generic, impersonal emails as a way to try to be more efficient with my sales, this was a mistake because my close rate dropped drastically. When I switched back to the personal approach, sure, it took more time, but the close rate went right back up!
Opportunities are Not a One-Way Street
One of the biggest things you see in the world of influencer marketing is the age-old discussion of “entitlement”. In fact, there were a lot of heated articles circling the web about this topic at one point. It’s not really a surprise that most internet celebrities feel as though they can be given everything they want when so many things are gifted on a regular basis. However, this was never the way I believed in working. One of the biggest things I learned from working in corporations was the need for both parties to be on the same page. You can’t have a strong relationship with a client without taking the time to focus a little bit on what they may need as well. There needs to be an element of give and take on both sides.
Stronger client relationships lead to more work, and also better content deliverables, making projects more successful because you can share their message better.
Ultimately, these are the strategies I used to scale my business and make money as an influencer. This has helped me afford to travel the world and have more opportunities in life than I could have dreamed of as a child. However, the reality is I have built so much more than that through the platform. It’s become a space for me to share my emotions through images and videos, allowing me to build deeper connections with my followers. With little family left, they have become my support system. I’ve learned to open up and share more of my feelings in my personal relationships because Instagram provides me with an outlet to confide in my followers. Not only did Instagram give me a space to create my dream life, but it also gave me a space to fill my life with a richness that I didn’t even know I needed.
If you’re interested in following my journey on Instagram, you can find me here.Opinions expressed here by Contributors are their own.