How to get started as an Insta-Influencer – 11 Real life stories!

Being an Instagram influencers can be a tough road, or an incredibly easy one sole based on the fact that you either have your engagement there or not. If you want to learn more about this – head over to our post about “Are Influencers really worth it“. Thinking about where to start here are some key tips to get started as an Insta-Influencer;

  1. Just start – there is nothing holding you back – think about your personal brand or your business brand and go from there!
  2. What is your Instagram feed telling people? Is it look ok? Remember to download our free Instagram Audit

How do you get started as an Instagram Influencer?

Well first and foremost, there is a common misconception that this is a numbers game – a followers game. For Influence – it is all about engagement, audience loyalty, people get into the Influencer Sphere in a Variety of ways:

Malorie Thompson from healing Malorie says the following about her start;

I’m a small influencer, with a following of around 35,000. I got started on Instagram when my sister told me I could be an influencer (she’s also one) and really believed in me. I decided to give it a go and worked really hard to build up my brand.

I’m a full-time stay at home mom, so I only have a few hours each day to dedicate to Instagram and my blog. However, between the two platforms, I make enough that I’m able to stay home which is really cool.

For someone getting started, I think going in with a plan is super important. Decide who your target audience is and what value you’re going to offer them. Then, show up every single day and provide that value.

Katie Moseman, Blogger at Recipe for Perfection, and author of “I Hate Vegetables Cookbook” talks about starting out and what she’s done in this space;

I’m a micro influencer who got started as a food blogger back in 2014. Now I’m a full time blogger, author, and food photographer. I own and operate two blogs, and I’ve just published my second cookbook.

Making it as an influencer is about as likely as making it as an actor. It can be done, but you must treat it like a business from the get-go. Have a plan, log your expenses, and learn as much as you can about the state of influencer marketing and social media algorithms.

Vanessa Barthelmes,  Founder of Socialite Media; she is an Instagram Influencer with 40 k and talks about her journey;

I work as a social media influencer and help others grow their influence. I have a reach of over 100 k between Instagram, Facebook and Pinterest. I have a degree in Marketing and 10 years of digital management experience.

I got started two years ago when I took the marketing manager role at Charity Bounce. Part of my duties was to execute our Social Media Plan and Strategy. It was something I feel in love with. I could almost say it became an obsession for me learning all the different ways I could expand our digital presence through social media. From there I started implementing similar strategies into my own personal brand.

It is now my full time job! I do teach aerial hoop but that is for love not for money. It is my passion.

Develop a strategy with a successful coach that has achieved this. Look at their media outlets and reach out to someone you can see is doing well! I am looking for some mentees.

The fastest way I have grown is with collaborations with other influencers. I utilise challenges to engage others and to add value. This creates a community around a common goal.

Kathlena, Blogger at The Allergy Chef, and a large following on Instagram

I got started because our company, Free and Friendly Foods, helps people with food allergies and special diets. We share a lot of information to help people thrive no matter what their food struggles may be. Our company is my full time job, along with homeschooling our kids. It’s really a family business and we all help out.

Katriel C Sarfati has built a nice sized audience as well as monetized their social media on IG back in 2010.

I got started kind of by mistake; my content revolves around mindset and as I learn something I share it – this company asked if I could review them and tell my audience about them, at this time my friends and i were supporting one another “shouting” each other out. The company asked how much I wanted to shout them out as well. It’s always been such an effective part of my arsenal in growth hacking that I guess you can see it’s a full time thing!

There is so much fluff out there, first thing I do when launching a new niche is do my research and then see how my skill set can fit it, I can’t tell you how many people burn out really quick trying to become an influencer, someone I met along the way got herself into massive debt trying to create a certain aesthetic. Seriously it’s less pomp and circumstance and more substance that leads the way.

Anastasia Plews, VelvetPinkBanana shares her story of becoming an influencer;

I would like to share my own experience how I’ve organically grown my audience from 0 to 6 k (5 k of that has been in the last three months alone).

I started Instagram profile last January as I wanted to become a freelancer and have a massive audience who enjoy and love my creativity and posts to earn money from it. I had started with the most efficient way – drawing portraits of models. I found a lot of competitors and artists who gained 500 k followers or pages have really impressive content but with a very low following, I tried to draw some bloggers and asked them to share my illustrations.

However, I realized that drawing bloggers was not suitable for my personal interests as I wanted to show my own signature. I spent weeks mind mapping and brainstorming, thinking of what inspires me and what I would like to write and post about. I found out that the biggest struggle was to find what exactly I wanted to do and match audience attention, how to stay unique and develop my own style.

One day I just laid back and said to myself that I want to create fascinating content that will inspire my audience which brought me to what I am doing right now – the job that I adore while having fun in the process and constantly pushing myself to do better. Instagram started to bring the best out in me. After I reached my first goals – to gain 5000 followers and 1000 likes under my posts, I started reaching out brands with the 4 k following, as I wanted to gain as much experience as I could. I was 100% sure that my proposal will be interested for them as I believed my ideas will suit their feed very well. After a while I got an offer to collaborate with Spanish Cosmetic and skincare company, that offered me to collaborate for barter, I’d received offers of collaboration after that but not as many as I hoped. By this time I worked with small businesses and the big brand – Flying Tiger for their summer product advertisement.

There is no specific amount of followers that you need to reach before you can start working with brands, just be realistic, even if you have a relatively low following. The best way is to contact small, independent brand if you believe that your account is at a niche market and you have actively engaged an audience, but you know what you can offer them to improve their business. You may not hear back within days, but you may get an email in the following weeks or months.

Joseph Carrozza, Co Founder of BidPin runs the instagram page Voiceviral

I first started it because I wanted to show others that it’s possible with dedication and hard work to achieve 1+ million followers and beyond. I started in January of this year and hopefully should hit my goal by the end of the year!

I didn’t take a dime from the account since I started as it was important for me to help out others get exposure and provide some free tips for them.

The most challenging thing about being an Influencer is trying to make time for everything, especially If you’re not doing this full time. It’s quite difficult to juggle it. I get so many dm’s (direct messages), and the number of people that are using my hashtag is growing. I cannot get to it all, but on my downtime, I look forward to reading/viewing all of it! The other difficult aspects are the bigger you get, the more content your audience wants to see. For me, I spent much of my time editing videos, and I try my best to post at peak times, but it’s difficult since I don’t always have my content readily available.

One cautionary tale for influencers is don’t skimp out on giving someone the credit they deserve. If you don’t know who originally sketched out an art piece or don’t know who a person was in a video, try to do your due diligence and find out.

I encourage others to get started. If you can’t create content that’s ok. You can repost other material just as long as you get permission from the creator; you can use (Regrammer or something similar) for that.

The most successful tip I can give you, and you probably heard it all before, is quality content is whats going to help you grow. Look to the Explore Page to get ideas. Content has made it there usually because it has gone “viral.” My pro tip is to check out your niche first by researching hashtags and the explore page. Find out what your potential audience already likes and work from there. Don’t try to pigeonhole content that you only think might be attractive.

What are some of the challenges of being an Influencer?

Malorie Thompson from healing Malorie talks about the challenges of being an influencer;

I think the most challenging thing for me has been overcoming impostor syndrome. I don’t always feel qualified or good enough for people to listen to me.

Katie Moseman, goes on to tell us about her biggest challenges;

The most challenging thing about being an Instagram influencer is to strike a balance between being true to your creative self, having a unique appeal to an audience, and creating the right look to attract brands. These three things don’t always intersect; it takes skill and vision to get those different approaches to converge.

Kathlena also talks about the challenges of being an influencer; 

One of the most challenging things as an influencer is the ROI when you’re starting out. You put in a lot of time and energy and will get very little, if anything, in return. As your account grows, you’ll start to receive offers from companies who want to send you free items. While this may seem awesome, it comes with more work, and often no money. You’ll constantly battle the feeling that people are using you, so it’s critical that what you do is really your passion.

Be careful not to give away your time for free, but also be careful not to become full of yourself. Be open to collaborations with brands, as networking is a huge part of what will make you successful on social media.

Vanessa Barthelmes,  also talks about her challenges as an influencer;

In the beginning it was hard developing a strategy. There was so much information out there that was incorrect or that really did not reap rewards. For instance I couldn’t tell you how many experts preach its all about your content.

But if no one sees it its not going to get your brand growing. Once you develop a great strategy then you simply need to execute it on a daily or weekly basis. I would stay away from the so called Gurus look at their accounts, see what type of engagement they have before you waste your time doing their free courses that get you no where.

Katriel C Sarfati also talks about their challenges of being an influencer;

At the beginning it was anyone who did shout out being called a sellout – after that subsided it became getting super unrealistic people, I can’t tell you how many people wanting you to share their biz or service that’s just super shady, and unfortunately because of greed there are so many pages that do take the money. this one has done the most harm to being influencer.

You’ll also have people pay you and then request a refund via charge back or PayPal dispute for the weirdest reasons, one guy who’s name I’ll avoid mentioning out of respect had my team do a campaign for him to get him to a million followers. This guy waited to hit a million and then did a charge back for 2 k. It was such a shady move and unfortunately this happens way too often.

Harper Watters – Soloist with the Houston Ballet who has 144 K followers. He got his start as an influencer thanks to a viral video of him and his friend, Rhys dancing on treadmills in pink heels. It was shared on Elle, Marie Claire, and Popsugar’s facebook pages resulting in millions of views.

Being an influencer is still his side hustle as he is focused on his position with the ballet company. He recently signed a contract with Target for their new Instagram promotion @targettag.

What can be challenging is knowing what partnerships will be true to you and extend into future opportunities.

A successful tip – The brands you decide to partner with or endorse have to make sense for your brand. If you are on IG endorsing left and right, your fans will be confused and can affect your following. I continue to grow my following because I’m 100% who I am, 100% of the time. I don’t try to be someone else for Instagram.

Stephanie Bell, Instagram Influencer with blog called Bubblyhorse.com; talks about her challenges as an influencer and how she has worked hard to be better at it; 

The hardest thing that I have found about Instagram is gaining followers. Unfortunately, I was a little behind the times and really just started using Instagram in the last year. That was really late compared to a lot of the popular Instagrammers. I’m also over 50 years old, so it took a lot of time to get up to speed and actually learn the program. Due to my age, I don’t have a lot of friends that use Instagram a lot so it put me behind on gaining natural followers.

I could spend all day on Instagram working on gaining followers. Every single follower and like is a job to get and maintain!

I love Instagram and I feel like it’s my window to the world! I’ve “met” so many interesting people and seen so many lovely places through Instagram

Don’t Undersell yourself as an Influencer

Emily Rowe, Chief Executive Sensei, Social Sensei and has a following over over 16k on Instagram

I am an influencer with 16.9 k and have been doing it for some 4 years. I used to be full time on it and did OK but have worked it into my creative agency and stick to contracting influencers to work with brands. I actually use my personal page for more personal endeavors now.

Because I started as an influencer and I now hire them, I am totally going to hop on my soap box. My biggest tip?? LADIES (and gentlemen) STOP DELIVERING YOUR SERVICES FOR TRADE OR FOR FREE. There is a huge mentality out there right now that influencers are worth their weight in traded product for services. It’s just NOT true. I don’t know if the misconception starts when girls believe brands that say “we don’t have the budget.” Rarely is this true. If you are less than 10 k and charging $50/post, to all you influencers out there, EVERY brand can afford to pay you that. So don’t settle for product or for the age old “we just can’t afford that right now”. If everyone charges, the saturation of influencers would decrease and we’d see a lot more paid jobs.

Clients call me now and I’d say it’s 50/50 whether they book collaborators through us, because we aren’t cheap! Why are we expensive? Because I pay EVERY SINGLE collaborator, even if you have 1 k. Product does not put food on your table and that’s what I tell brands.

How can you improve your reach as an influencer?

Jessica Goldfond, The Shiny Squirrel, she owns a PR and brand development agency in Soho and specializes in working with emerging designers. She has 11.7 K followers; and says

I definitely use IG as a tool for expanding my community and connecting more deeply to my audience. Mt regular feed is a collection of images that showcase my taste level and often bring in a new audience and potential clients to my agency, The Shiny Squirrel.

I use my stories as a way to post funny things I find, my daily life, images from clients and to promote other brands. IG Stories has really become a brain dump for me where I also talk about my dating life and call out dudes both in their feed and in conversation for being ridiculous. I have connected to a larger audience because I remain authentic and speak from my heart. I Also post consistently and never miss days… I respond to all my comments and actively like other peoples’ feeds and images.

I think the way to be successful is not resist it and just to really embrace the positivity traits of it. I try to be on it a few times a day and I don’t worry about the follower count just how much response I get and the nice things they say.

Katriel C Sarfati has built a nice sized audience as well as monetized their social media on IG back in 2010.

Here’s an example of what I mean; a page of someone I’ve worked with posts very “popular” stuff and quotes with expensive stuff, his engagement has TANKED abysmally yet he pays two interns to essentially create material and post 24/7 this gets expensive. Yet someone I know with about 200 k followers has amazing conversions because it’s authentic and very HER.

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