The Road To Becoming A Successful Instagram Influencer In 2019
That’s the path that’s been drilled into me all my life, by parents, teachers, other students who were doing the same as me — I was praised for doing well on this path to ‘success’. School… college… then Uni and all my hard work would be rewarded by a good job with good pay.
So when it came to going to University, I chose a course in accounting — I was good at maths and every business needs an accountant, right? So if I qualified in accounting, I would always have a job… smart I thought… and so did everyone else besides me.
I was always the creative type when I was younger, forever doing arts and crafts, papier mache masterpieces with my grandad… always drawing and making things and when I was six I started dance classes too.
I had a part time job in a clothes shop whilst I was at college and Uni and as soon as I started earning, I discovered my love for clothes and spending my money on outfits, getting my nails done and trying out makeup.
Uni life wasn’t the most exciting thing in the world…there weren’t many people on my Uni course who were ‘my type of people’ — girly, love clothes, makeup, holiday etc. and I stayed at home so I could still work at the clothes shop where most of my friends were.
I stopped dancing when I began Uni as it didn’t fit with my schedule of classes and my part time job so when it got to my second year I wanted to get back into doing something creative.
I’d always loved painting my nails and getting false nails put on so I decided to do a night course at college to learn everything I could about them. I started with the basics and learned about the natural nail and then moved on to artificial nails.
Not only was this right up my creative little street, but it would also save me a ton of money every month because I could do my nails myself instead of paying at a salon.
My third year of uni was a placement year where I worked full time for 14 months in the research department of an exam board. Again,it wasn’t a super exciting job but it was somewhere where I would learn the essential skills for the world of work.
The people were lovely and I did gain a lot from it…but after the first two busy months of learning what I was doing and remembering everyone’s name, I spent the next 12 months counting down the days until my next holiday and the day I left.
I literally had a post-it note attached to my computer with a number on which I would rub out and rewrite everyday, and a small postcard calendar where I would cross each day off.
The 9–5 just wasn’t for me at all. Having to be somewhere for set hours and do something so uncreative… I was super excited to leave but also kinda proud I’d stuck it out… and I’d managed to save a ton of money whilst working which was good. At least I could go back to uni now for a year and get my life back.
Whilst I was in my final year of Uni after getting back into the swing of textbooks, balance sheets and financial accounts, I enrolled at The School of Makeup part time.
I had grown to love makeup and there were so many new products and trends popping up here and there wanted to learn more about it, how products were used and how I could keep my skin looking perfect.
This was probably the most money I’d ever spent on education and it set me back around £4,000… it was also going to be 3 train journeys straight after a 9 hour day at Uni to get me there, but I was so excited to do it, I didn’t hesitate in enrolling.
I enjoyed every minute of that course, I was trying out new products all the time and practising as much as I could. My friends were coming to me for advice and recommendations and I loved sharing what I knew.
The tutors spent one session talking about careers and how to get into the makeup industry and ‘make it big’ and in the car on the way home I remember telling my parents and them telling me that there’s no way you can make money from being a makeup artist… my dad said the only way I can get rich is by finishing my qualifications in accounting, opening my own practise and working my ass off 7 days a week for a few years and saving up at the same time.
After I’d heard that it seemed silly to give up on the path I’d been on for years.
So I finished my degree, whilst spending most of my final year enjoying makeup school and looking forward to the summer break I was going on with my friend.
I had interview after interview for graduate jobs and finally got one of ‘the best’ — a well known organisation with a pretty decent starting salary. I was super happy when I got it — I mean that’s what I had been working for my entire life, right?
The job also included studying for a second degree which meant that I would get time out of the office to study but I’d still have to do exams.
The role itself was similar to the topics I had studied at Uni and they had taken on a few recent graduates at the same time which meant that I hadn’t just been dropped into adulthood with a bang …
It seemed like the perfect job to transition into the world of work. Plus with a couple of days at home studying and a day in tutorial every week, it was a pretty good deal.
Over the next few years whilst I passed exam after exam and then finished the degree. This was a huge accomplishment and I was kinda glad the studying was all over with … but this meant I was now in the office full time.
Monday to Friday sitting in an office, working.
Getting into the routine was a struggle at first and it happened to be timed with the workload becoming more intense. That was when I realised that I didn’t actually enjoy what I was doing.
The majority of the people I was working with were over 40 years old… and many of them were nearing retirement age having done the same job since they were 16.
Once when we were discussing an upcoming retirement ‘do’, one of them jokingly said to me “you’ll be 80 before you are allowed to retire!”. I remember just looking at them thinking that there is no way I can do this job until I retired.
5 days a week with only 4 weeks of holiday entitlement a year.
I was good at the job and it paid a lot… but it required me to be there 5 days a week doing something I had little interest in.
What was worse was seeing people on Facebook who I’d gone to school with, travelling, buying a house, getting married, starting their own businesses in beauty, hairstyling, event planning…
So many exciting things which I would much rather have been doing too. And most of those hadn’t been to Uni or hadn’t done too well at school.
I’d spent years of my life studying and taking exams to get this job, so I should stick to what I was doing, right? After all, this was the right path.
At the time, my boyfriend was an engineer and was supposed to take over the family company one day. His grandad, who was in charge, refused to hire more staff and essentially left all of the heavy lifting to Dan.
He would come home hurt almost every day and at 25 years old, we both shouldn’t have been worrying about the damage he was doing to his body by working there… but we were.
On the face of it, Dan and I had a good life… we both had decent jobs and our own place … but we were both just living for the weekend… For those two days together before five days of work we were both quickly growing to hate.
Dan made a change and started training as a copywriter. The earning potential was crazy and it was a job that could be done from anywhere in the world (without causing injuries!)
I couldn’t make a similar change though… I’d worked for years to get to where I was so there was no way I could just leave.
I couldn’t see a way to get out of my situation… We both needed my income whilst Dan got his first copywriting clients and as a freelancer there was no guarantee of work until he built up his portfolio.
Getting clients was taking a lot longer than we had both expected and I was worried that I would be stuck doing this 9 to 5 job forever.
It seemed so unfair… I had been the perfect student in school and college, got an amazing degree but now I was the one getting up at 5:30am every morning to travel to a job I hated…
Whereas I saw some of the people who had dropped out of college or Uni had started their own businesses doing what they loved and were working their own hours.
They were ‘living their best life’.
How had I drawn the short straw when I had done exactly as I had been told for all of these years?
My parents were so proud of what I had achieved and proud for getting this job — I was worried about what they would say if I just quit.
I’d mentioned to them before that I wasn’t enjoying the job but they just said ‘but it’s such good money though — you wouldn’t get that doing anything else at your age’.
I agree it’s an amazing salary for my age but if it means getting up at 5:30 travelling to work a job I hate, for 48 weeks out of the year, only spending 1 or 2 weeks in the sun… it’s not what I want.
Every time I’ve been on holiday, no matter where I’ve been… I’ve not wanted to leave. Whereas some people are ready to go home to reality and their own bed after 2 weeks in the sun, I’ve not wanted to come back — I felt like I belonged in the sun.
I was 26 years old and this was my life. Being miserable Monday to Friday. Having a great Saturday (although busy filled with housework)… and then a sad Sunday wishing I didn’t have to go to work on Monday.
I knew something had to change.
My boyfriend had done incredibly well in his copywriting training and we were both super hopeful that this was our chance — his income from future clients could easily replace both of ours and then some.
Then, last summer a client popped up online with a work opportunity for Dan. He was starting his own copywriting agency and asked Dan to be one of his go-to writers with a salary of around $250k per year. I mean anyone would be crazy to turn that amount down… so Dan obviously said yes.
$250k would change our lives…
We could move where we wanted (somewhere sunny)…
I could quit my job and dedicate my time to blogging and content creation.
The client said there would be some work before his agency was fully up and running and in a couple of weeks he would be handing some work to Dan.
Two weeks came and went and no work came.
The client said that it would be a couple more weeks so Dan waited…
In the meantime the client invited Dan and I to the Financial Marketing Summit in London. Now at this point, I was starting to doubt this guy a bit as he had flaked on the first couple of work offers… but the FMS tickets were $1200 and it was hosted in the Marriott Hotel in the centre of London… we ain’t talking a conference room in the Travelodge!
And it was all paid for.
This suddenly all became so much more real.
So Dan took the plunge and quit his job as an engineer. It was a scary time and a tough decision but things were looking good.
We went down to London and sat in a conference room for 2 days… with millionaires. The whole experience was surreal. We were sitting in the same room as some of the top 1% of earners in the world. The majority of people were from America and had flown over for the event. I felt a little out of place but I took so much away from it!
At the event the client introduced Dan to some of his clients who would be passing work to Dan and he even introduced Dan as one of his go-to writers to Agora… the biggest financial publisher in the world and a billion dollar per year company.
Honestly we both thought this was it, we’d made it.
Agora contacted Dan after the event and commissioned him to write a promo and again the client promised work was coming.
But just when we thought everything was coming together, the contact at Agora moved on, taking the promo opportunity with her… and again the client flaked.
It was almost one of those ‘I knew it was too good to be true’ moments.
Within a matter of days we had gone from mingling with millionaires… to the reality of being a one-income household… and the chance of me leaving my job went away with it too.
I didn’t have time to build a side business and there were so many different choices I just didn’t know what to do.
I looked into dropshipping… but quickly realised it was a gamble…
I looked into creating my own clothing brand… but that would need far too much attention whilst I was working full time too…
And then I saw other girls on Instagram becoming full time bloggers and influencers.
I did a bit more research and realised that becoming a full time blogger was something I could start right now and as a bonus… it could be done from anywhere in the world with just a laptop and a camera.
That’s what I was going to do!
This was my chance to do what I loved — be creative with beauty and fashion… travel… and share it whilst being paid to do so.
I already had my Instagram and blog set up and I had collaborated with a couple of brands in the past but I hadn’t had anything frequent… and my blog had never made any money.
There seemed to be so many girls doing the same thing out there that I would need to do something different to stand out. That was something I’d have to think about.
One of the perks of being an influencer too is the items you’re sent to promote! I’d be able to spend less money on clothes and beauty items, meaning I’d have more money to travel too. The whole idea sounded perfect.
So that was my plan…
To become a full time influencer and blogger.
To be able to spend all of my time doing what I love and actually making an income from it.
I knew it wasn’t going to be easy — I mean, I’d seen so many people trying and not getting very far but I was willing to give it my everything.
Something in my life had to change.
My plan was to model what was already working on Instagram and on blogs — if it was working for other girls then it would work for me, right?
By building my Instagram, I would have brands approaching me and paying me to post — which means it would boost my chances of earning a realistic income from Instagram. And the bigger my Instagram… the bigger the brands would be who want to work with me, right?
Well that’s what I thought…
I already knew blogging itself was pretty easy — I’d published a few blog posts before but the tricky bit was getting people to see your posts. So another part of my plan would be to direct people from Instagram to my blog.
More traffic = more blog income!
So I got to work on my Instagram — I made a theme and started modelling the posts that bigger bloggers were posting. I put so much hard work and effort into it and couldn’t wait to see the results as I started to grow.
But… I noticed people who had smaller followings were getting collaborations with brands who were pretty big… and I wasn’t.
On top of that, the Instagram algorithm kept changing and it seemed like everything I did wasn’t helping my Instagram grow and brands weren’t reaching out to me.
I did courses, I read tweets and blogs and there were tons of ‘tactics’ out there that people were recommending to grow your Instagram… but I knew enough about Instagram to know that those ‘tactics’ would likely get me banned.
So, I didn’t know what to do.
I started to look more closely at the accounts that were doing well… and realised that those people were injecting personality into their Instagram accounts daily, rather than just posting pictures…
So I started to add personality to mine… I published a couple of stories where I was talking over them (which I hated doing — I hate the sound of my own voice on camera!)… and then I started to include some more personal blog posts on my blog too.
Then instead of waiting around for brands to notice me, I started reaching out to brands.
I joined influencer networks… (only certain ones) and then I created a media kit for myself because I learned that a media kit makes you look much more professional and makes you stand out to brands…
I learned to edit my photos on Lightroom (a professional software that photographers use) too…
All of a sudden, collaborations started coming in thick n’ fast.
My blog was growing…
Brands even started emailing me to feature them on my blog… and I’m not just talking about startup brands, I’m talking about well-known household brands (I had to pinch myself a couple of times when I received the emails!)
So, that’s where I am now… I’ve not yet quit my job but I am on the right path… let’s see where it takes me next.