Being a Full-Time Influencer and Answering Your Questions

Wow, so many influencer questions when I did a poll on my Instagram stories! Thank YOU guys for always interacting and I love seeing what you guys want to know.

I get judged and asked if I really do make any money doing what I do. I’m used to it now, but I have to explain frequently that my job is like any product or service out there. There’s marketing costs, content-driven ideas, analytics, business duties like accounts payable, organization, invoicing, etc. Anything you do for a business, I do for myself! The Influencer business has a bad rap and I get it. Tons of ladies taking photos of themselves, sharing clothes, shoes,  beauty, etc. but those of us that do this full time spend a ton of time doing desk work and pitching,  managing, and take it quite seriously! Not all influencers or instagrammers do it for the same reason . . . I do love what I do, but I do take it seriously as my job. As a single mom to two boys and I own my own place, I work hard to make sure we can live a good life and I also want my brands to feel I provide a service as well.

Onto key influencer questions, you guys asked:

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Miami shot for a Lagos and Elizabeth Arden shoot

{1} How did I start blogging/instagramming? Was it difficult to get started?

This is a long story but I worked in fashion and moved to Chicago 10 years ago with my ex. I quit my full-time job and couldn’t find anything close to it here. With the push of my sister, I started blogging to meet friends (I knew no one) and to hopefully figure out my life here.

We built a business (online boutique), I started blogging and instagramming and just kept growing from there! More tips below on this.

Starting a blog now is a different game. Figure out why you want to blog or Instagram before you start. If you love writing and sharing and have the time, I always say to do it! And figure it all out by reading everything you can online. I recommend WordPress, Siteground as the hosting site, and get your template on Etsy to put on WordPress (look here for templates). If you want, start with Instagram and dedicate a month to sharing every day. Put a timeline on when you decide to invest more time in it, but try to do it for a month to start.

Blogging and instagramming is harder than you think, consistency is key and not giving up! I’ve been doing it for over 8 years!! My life is online, but I do love what I do and the flexibility.

{2} Do you need a fashion background and how did you get one?

No! If you love food, fashion, travel, etc you can blog and Instagram about anything!! As for fashion, I use magazines, Pinterest, online inspo for everything. And of course, I’m on Instagram every day and find inspiration daily. I like to clip and screenshot ideas. I also have a notebook where I jot down ideas.

After college, I worked as a CPA but quit my job to pursue my passion.  I went to the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising and got into Merchandising afterward.

{3} How do you get jobs or work with brands? Media kit needed? 

So when I first started blogging and sharing, I got paid NOTHING. I took free products, food, and experiences. 2.5 years ago I decided to take the plunge in doing this full time. In the beginning, I only took jobs that I was offered. I got emailed collaborations and negotiated from there. Last year, I had two different managers, and they helped me pitch, however, in the end, I felt losing 20% of my collab money, and the amount of work they got me wasn’t enough. So for the past year, I’ve been pitching to brands more. Pitching truly takes more time than people think and out of 30 emails, I might get 1-2 jobs from it.

Top 5 Advice:

#1 Look at all the brands you love (in your home, life, style) as the first places to pitch.

#2 You can actually google for a social media account name or direct message them that you’d like to partner and ask for the best person to contact.

#3 Do have a media kit (even 1 page) with any stats that sell yourself!

#4 When I message and email I start with my strongest data to get them to open it, for example: 288K Instagram followers and drives 10 million impressions a month (in the subject line or first sentence).

#5 Don’t hesitate to bother people more than once on email/message! Even 3 times is ok – sometimes people miss the email or forget to respond. I’ve gotten deals after the 4th reminder email! After that, I stop if I haven’t heard back.

If you’d like to get a media kit – email me as I have an amazing graphic designer that can do it for an affordable price.

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JustFab shoe collab

{4} As a small business, how do I collaborate with Influencers?

It is definitely harder to collaborate as everyone wants money, but if you look for influencers in your city (look up #chicagoblogger for example), look up ones around 50K and less followers and they may do things for free! Make sure your product sounds enticing, will you be sharing their content as well? What makes them want to work with you?

As an influencer, I think this way in pitching to my brands. Why should they work with me? Put your best facts forward, photos of your product/service . . . and be kind. Knowing a little bit about the influencer also helps. Comment on their feed, watch their stories. Interact with them. And let them know you are a small business.

I hate when I get messages for help and they don’t follow me. It feels like they just want to utilize me for their own benefit.

Have a document with simple requirements you’d love and don’t demand things like 5 Instagrams, etc. Sometimes we get a load of requirements when trying to help for free. Be reasonable and also ask what they can do. After they agree to it, you can ask for them to sign a simple document so that you are on the same page.

Be aware of those bloggers that just want free products. You can tell by watching the influencers’ stories/instagrams and if they actually care about the products and services they talk about.

Do your research and attempt a few influencer collabs before proceeding into paid advertisements and always analyze the results. Have reasonable expectations and keep on growing! I worked with influencers in my own brand and I had great and bad experiences. I certainly learned there are some assholes out there who want free stuff and don’t care about brands, so be careful!

{5} How do you come up with content?

For my brand work, I look around for ideas (Pinterest, Instagram, etc) and have a bunch of photos for inspiration to shoot with my photographer Hannah.

When I pitch (if I know they are doing a campaign) I make sure to pitch an idea so that I for sure am selected with my rate. This has worked for me! Content creation is one of my favorite things about my job, so to be honest, ideas also just come into my head!

This part fuels my creativity and makes me happy.

Someone did ask me if it was hard to do stories and Instagram daily, and it is. There are days where I feel worn down, I’m tired, and feel like no one cares about my day as there’s nothing to share. But it is work and I do want to keep my engagement up so I try to be creative and find things that you might find interesting to see. Tik toks and Reels have also fueled my creativity.

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Glendalough Rose Gin collab

{6} How do you get free items?

Things are offered to me by email but I do pitch at times to those that I want something specific.  When I pitch to those brands, I do tell them what I plan on doing with their products/food/service, so it helps them too. Remember, blogging and instagramming isn’t about getting free items but what you provide as a service as well. To me, this is a job, and being respectful is extremely important in any partnership. Clear expectations are always communicated. This industry is smaller than you think, be kind, and follow-through are things that are very important to me.

What items have I received for free? Food, rental cars, hotel stays, clothes, beauty, flights . . . it is a wide range, but I don’t necessarily look at it as free, I do always provide impressions/photos/stories to help advertise their items as well. More work comes with receiving free items.  Last year when I traveled monthly, you would be surprised how much legwork goes into prepping for a trip and then once there shooting the content. I love what I do, but it is more work than people think!

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Home chef 3-month collab

{7} How do you balance everything as a mom, influencer, entrepreneur, and have time for yourself?

I didn’t have balance before and wow, COVID decided to throw us all off even more. Previous to this year, I got a ton done during the week and since I have the kids 50% of the time, I got a few days off completely from taking care of them to really focus on work, stories, photoshoots, and travel. Well this year, it is has been quite a shit show.  I cook, clean, teach more than ever before. I feel like many of us are in the same boat. What helps me is looking at the positives.

I am lucky to work for myself and have flexibility. I’m a huge list writer, I try to cross it off and do what I can. I’m better at letting myself relax after 10 pm – no more work. If I can’t get something done – there is always tomorrow.

Deadlines are definitely noted daily and I do a priority list. For my kids, I just try to do everything I can, but I definitely feel like I get overwhelmed and am not as present as I need to be. E-learning at home has given us more time together and we are slowly still adjusting to all of us being on our computers daily.

When I don’t have my boys, I see my boyfriend and friends (just a handful I stick with). This helps me find balance as I love to catch up and have time with them.

{8} Do you have help?

Yes! I have an assistant who manages my Pinterest and helps me with my emails and blog (set up), but I still do all my own writing. And I have an assistant that helps me with Instagram engagement and other misc. things.  I am always the one communicating with my followers and emails so don’t worry, it is always me that answers!

Home: no help, no housekeeper, no nanny. Once in awhile, I get a sitter for the boys.

{9} How do you charge brands?

In the industry, I’ve heard this a lot. One cent per follower (or $100 per $10K followers). But negotiations are based on so many things, impressions, reach, average like rate, swipe ups, views etc. In general, I did follow that guideline of $100 per $10K follower, but I’ve had to reduce or increase fees depending on requirements in the contract as well as competition. A lot of collaborations now are a program with a lot of influencers. The marketing agencies figure out their budgets and divide between the influencers they choose. So I am very aware that I need to be mindful of what I bring to the table and how much I want the partnership to happen.

Negotiations are key in making most of my deals happen. This may take a few days, so unlike what most people think, most of the work is the legwork up to the shoot, then afterward it’s recapping and making sure you get paid.

For brands with a lower budget, I do offer story only partnerships. My story rates have a range of $500 – $2K depending on what the requirements are.

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La Pinta Collab

{10} What has been the turning point to your career and what attributes to your success?

I spoke at Create and Cultivate over 1.5 years ago and I remember thinking wow, I actually sound like I know what I’m doing. As I’ve reached milestones and worked with various brands, I make sure to appreciate and acknowledge how amazing it is that I do this for a living. Being able to handle my finances, buy my condo, and get through this difficult year, makes me proud of where I’ve come.

Motivation, hustle, drive, and openness to learning. 4 things I do every day. Work hard but always reading, learning, and doing research to be better.

{11} Tips to getting started blogging while working full -time

Make time to do it. be consistent and treat it as something you want to do full time (if this is your goal). The most successful people in social media I’ve seen are those that embraced it wholly and shared every single day. Blogged weekly, and kept at it. And realized that sharing isn’t all about me, it is about you and how I connect with you. What can I help you with and how does that fit into my life.

Those that love photos, dressing up, and take way too much time looking at each photo of themselves, tend to get bogged down with the wrong details. It isn’t about just photos! Think bigger picture and goals. . .

{12} How frequently do you post or blog?

Instagram and stories every day. It is VERY rare for me to not share. I put a lot of pressure on myself to share every day. I want to stay connected and make sure you guys come back.

Blog: I goal for 2 times a week. At least 1 time a week. I have some really dedicated blog readers and I love you!

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Lagos and Four Seasons collab

{13} How do you grow your followers?

If you want to do this full time, make sure you are commenting, liking and building a community daily. Be committed to doing this daily with other accounts. Partner with other similar bloggers and share each other or do story giveaways. This enables growth as your followers may be similar and stay with you. I have done these and retained a bunch of followers.

Big giveaways are controversial. I’ve done them and it does help grow quickly. BUT you can lose about 30% after the end of the giveaway and it may not be the best quality followers. I learned quickly on identifying better giveaways. Make sure they are your target market group and don’t buy into shady DM messages from weird accounts.

Most of my slow growth now is partnering with similar bloggers. I find although the growth is slow, the followers are better quality and those that like my style.

Remember, it isn’t all about numbers, high-quality followers but less overall followers is still great to brands.

{14} Are hashtags necessary? How do you use them?

Hashtags do help with Instagram. I get a range of views from it. Try to use ones that are relevant to your photo, topic, and use different ones each time you post. I heard that works to increase the views on each photo.

I don’t think hashtags work as well as they used to, but I do use them when looking up inspiration and deals. So I still think it is a great way to hopefully get found and followed or viewed.

Besides hashtags – tagging brands in photos does help them see that you love them and I’ve gotten deals from doing this.

{15} How do you get started if you can’t afford photography or clothing, etc?

There are start-up costs to blogging but not necessarily to Instagram, as Instagram is free.

If you have a camera phone – just use that! So many food and style bloggers only use their iPhones. Depending on what type of content you want to share, there is always a way to start with what you have. Food blogging – start documenting food when you go out to eat and remember to tag. You’ll start getting invited to food related events pronto just by doing this.

Clothes – use the basics you have, borrow, do Rent the Runway . . . so many great options and style is what you make of it.

Blogging and content creation do cost money but what business doesn’t when starting. It is the same as any other business, in order to make money, you do need to spend some. Just make sure you are working towards a certain goal and reevaluate when you get there. Don’t go broke doing this!

 

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Corporate Fashion to Full-time blogging

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