How to Become an Instagram Influencer – Guide | Blogging Tips

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With everything that has been happening with self-quarantine and COVID-19, a lot of people have seen their income take a hit – or they’ve lost their job altogether.

I’ve had people pop in my DMs, all with the same question:

How do I become an influencer?

My Background – I Know My Ish

I started “The Huntswoman” just over 3 years ago, and wow, I have learned a LOT. From brand partner deals, to creating content, to learning how to pose for the camera – there’s a lot to know.

In addition to blogging here, I also work with brands, helping them find and select influencers. This work eventually led to me coaching bloggers. What a world.

[Heads up! This post uses affiliate links, and you help me earn $$ when you use my links. More on affiliate links here!]

Part 1: How to Choose Your Username – And Reserve it Everywhere

Okay, your first job is to choose your username, or your blog name. This could be your name, but it’s generally a good idea to try to make it something different – that way you’re not competing with people on the internet who have a similar name!

You can use your brand motto, your mantra, or include the topics you’re blogging about in your brand name. (Example: My friend Shamika is a natural hair blogger, so her blog name is “Fro Plus Fashion.”)

It can be daunting to pick a username, and you may end up changing it a few months in – that’s okay!

When coming up with a name, I recommend brainstorming 100+ blog name ideas. Don’t criticize your ideas as they come, let it flow!

You can also post to your personal social media pages and ask for ideas!

Check the Trademark

You may have a great idea for a blog name, but many a blogger has been burned by choosing a name without checking for a trademark on it!!! You don’t want to get a cease and desist letter a few years into growing your platform.

Check the US PTO website for trademarks before settling on a name. You’ll also want to search for international trademarks!

Reserve ALL Usernames

Okay, so you’ve picked your name and checked for trademarks. Maybe you went the extra mile and filed a trademark (smart)! Next up on our list is to reserve your username on ALL social media platforms, even if you never use the platform.

Platforms evolve over time, so we want to be sure you have your username, in case you ever do want to get on it!

Tips for new influencers - reserve your username on social media

Here’s where to start:

  • Facebook Page
  • Pinterest Profile
  • Instagram
  • YouTube Channel
  • TikTok
  • Twitch
  • Snapchat
  • Twitter
  • Tumblr
  • Reddit

These are a few places to start! I recommend creating a separate email for your username registration, so it’s all under one account.

You also MUST buy your website URL (or domain name). You may be planning on focusing all of your attention on Instagram or YouTube, but smart bloggers maintain and grow their presence on a platform THEY own.

Instagram could shut down tomorrow, and many an influencer would be SOL. It is critical you have your own website!

<<Related Post: Why Bloggers Should Use WordPress>>

Should I Repurpose My Existing Accounts?

A common question I receive is, “Should I repurpose my existing Instagram/Pinterest/etc account for my blog?”

I don’t have a cut and dried answer on this, as it depends. I would recommend that if you have over 1,000 followers on IG – and you think those followers will be interested in the blog – you just switch stuff over.

If you want to keep your personal life separate (ex: you’re not posting your kids on your blog account), having a separate account makes sense.

I’ve combined all my social media presences, mostly because maintaining multiple properties is a LOT of work.

Part 2: Choosing Your Platform(s)

Most influencers have a primary platform on social media, and then a blog (website) as well. While you’ve just reserved your username on a dozen or so platforms, it’s best to focus on growing ONE platform at a time.

Once you have a good cadence on that platform, you can then add others. Trying to make YouTube videos and grow an Instagram and and make TikTok videos and and and is way too overwhelming.

Start with whatever platform you feel the most excited by! If it feels like a slog, you won’t be consistent.

Here are a few pros and cons of each platform:

  • YouTube: Video content tends to get the highest amount in sponsorship dollars, but creating and editing videos takes a good chunk of time! You may also find that it’s a bit more difficult to find your niche here. From a fashion influencer perspective, YouTube “hauls” do the best.
  • Instagram: A favorite for influencers, Instagram is a great way to grow your readership. You’ll want to learn about posing and photo editing, as well as Instagram marketing to do well here!
  • Blog: Other bloggers choose to start creating content for their website, building up their kingdom first! There’s great sponsorship potential here, as well as affiliate revenue opportunities!
  • TikTok: This platform has exploded on the scene, and it’s great if you are excited to put together content for it.

Secondary Platforms

Technically, an influencer can have a big following on Pinterest, Twitter, etc, but the above platforms I’ve shared are where sponsors usually go first. Prioritizing by income, I’d start with one of the above (prioritizing Twitch if you’re a gamer!).

Influencers generally post content to their primary platform, and then “cross post” it to other social media platforms over the next few days. If you’re a fashion influencer prioritizing Instagram, you can take the photos you’ve taken (generally, a lot, lol) and post different outfit pics to other platforms.

Part 3: Top Tools for an Influencer (Camera, Apps, etc)

Okay, so it can be tempting to go out and buy a crap ton of equipment, but I recommend you DO NOT do this. I bought a fancy camera for filming YouTube videos, only to find that I wan’t super into creating content there consistently!

Instead, use (or borrow or rent) equipment to make sure you’re really serious about this whole ~becoming an influencer~ thing.

Starter Camera: Sony A5100

The Sony A5100 (around $500. USD) is a great “starter” camera, as you can take photos with it and use it for content. I’ve used mine for the last few years. I’m going to upgrade to a Mark 2 camera.

Influencer Starter Kit

Besides a camera, here are other tools that I found super helpful:

I really love the Bluetooth Remote (super easy to connect to your smart phone) to take photos. Eventutally, you’ll work with photographers or other bloggers to make content – but this bluetooth remote is a good first step! Think of it as photography training wheels!

(Aside: If you do buy a Bluetooth Remote from Amazon based on my rec, please use my link! Affiliate commissions is what enables me to create more content like this!)

Top Apps for Influencers

Okay, so it’s important not to go too overboard with photo editing – it looks weird and inauthentic!

I use Adobe Lightroom to edit my photos (uploading presets bought on etsy), as well as FaceTune for blemishes or breakouts! I also use Canva to create various graphics.

Blogger Photo Presets on Etsy – Cohesive Feed

If you’re focusing on photo content, you’re going to want to have all of your photos have a similar look or feel. This can be hard if you’re taking photo in different lighting situations or cameras!

I recommend researching and downloading blogger “presets” from etsy. I upload these to Adobe Lightroom on my phone, and then apply the presets to my photos.

Presets are worth investing in, and if you want to do extra research you can ask etsy sellers to apply the presets to photos you have, to make sure the preset will work for you!

Part 4: How Do Influencers Make Money?

One of the most fascinating parts of influencer marketing is the HUGE DISPARITY that exists in income between influencers. Some influencers with 10,000 total followers make a full-time income, while others with 100,000+ struggle to get by.

There are a few reasons for this, so let’s dive in:

Income Factor #1: Topic / Subject Areas

The first BIG determining factor on an influencer’s income is topic area, or what you blog about. Some influencers focus on personal finance, others focus on makeup, others focus on parenting, etc.

I recommend that influencers “niche down” and pick a topic that has companies ready to sponsor!

It’s tempting to say, “I’m a lifestyle influencer” or “I’m a fashion blogger,” but staying broad is a good way to just get gifted product. Fashion and beauty companies drop $$$$ on sending free product, which is only fun for so long.

We want to get PAID.

It’s okay if you don’t have your topic areas figured out when you start. I recommend picking 3 main topic areas (only making 1 fashion/travel/beauty) and then 2 other topics.

Examples of Additional Topics:

  • Personal finance (lots of sponsor dollars here!)
  • Home improvement
  • Tech reviews/app reviews
  • Real estate
  • Wine/spirits
  • Automotive
  • Workouts/fitness

Make sure to pick topics where you have in-depth knowledge and are excited to talk about! IF you don’t feel excited to share, you won’t!!

Income Factor #2: Professionalism

I cannot tell how annoying it is to manage a brand’s Instagram accounts, and get half a dozen messages a day about “collabing.” Y’all. This is not the way to get paid.

99% of the time, the people who do this aren’t even *following* the brand account. Brands want to work with influencers who are authentically interested in working with them!!

Relatedly, brands ALSO want to work with influencers who answer emails promptly and are on-time for content deliverables. I have worked with many an influencer, and I prioritize paying and working with influencers who get content done ON TIME.

Issues can arise, and it’s YOUR job to communicate them ASAP.

Income Sources for Influencers

Okay, so now that we’ve got those 2 key things understood, let’s talk about how influencers make money.

Income Source #1: Affiliate Revenue

In an incredible study done on blogger income in 2018, Brandon Gailey showed that affiliate income is one of the major contributors to an influencer’s monthly income.

A lot of influencers think brands are going to make up a bulk of their income, but they don’t. Brand sponsorships are also seasonal, and affiliate partnerships even out cashflow.

Becoming an “affiliate” for a brand is basically like becoming a commission sales person. If you share a link to a product, and someone clicks on it to buy – boom! You’ve made a commission.

Affiliate links are easies to share on blog posts, and you can use apps like “LikeIt2KnowIt” to use affiliate links on your Instagram accounts.

I dedicate a whole class to affiliate marketing in my course, “The Art of Negotiation for Influencers,” because it is SUCH a gamechanger.

If you’ve never used affiliates before, I recommend starting with Amazon Associates. Chances are you buy products from Amazon, and you can recommend them to others.

Income Source #2: Brand Partners & Sponsored Posts

Okay, next up on our journey is a revenue stream you’ve probably thought of: sponsored posts.

You can find brand partners through cold emailing and pitching brands, influencer marketing platforms like Aspire IQ and FOHR, and eventually you’ll have brands reaching out to you.

How much you charge for sponsored content is largely determined by the niches you create content for and how big the company is. If there are a LOT of people in your niche, the more competition there is.

Tiered Fee System

Some bloggers have a tiered fee system, where they charge larger brands more money. They also charge a lot more for usage fees, if the brand wants to use the content in their own marketing.

Hourly Calculation

Another way of calculating sponsor fees is to look at how much time the content will take. you to make. If a shoot for a cool gizmo takes 3 hours and. you have to pay your photographer $500, you’ll want to charge the brand $500 + 3 hours x (hourly rate).

Other Bloggers

A really good way to know what to charge brands is to build relationships with other bloggers. Then, when brands reach out you have a network of people to ask.

Ballpark Fee – $100 per 10,000 followers

This rule ^^ is cited a lot, but TBQH it’s pretty off. I know influencers who charge $2,000 for an Instagram post with 20,000 followers. It’s all about your engagement and niche.

Charging by Results

My favorite way to determine pricing is by using data on how much an influencer will make a brand. If you can prove that you move a certain amount of product, you’re in a much better negotiating position.

Income Source #3: Your Own Products

This income source could take a variety of forms. You could have your own sock line, collaborate with a brand to make your own product with them, sell courses or coaching, become a brand consultant, etc.

You could also monetize some of your content, sharing it only with Patreon or Gum Road supporters.

What’s cool about creating your own products is that you can design things specifically for your audience. There’s no waiting on invoices, and you’re the CEO HBIC.

I offer my own courses and consulting, and I’m gearing up for fashion pieces!

and I’m gearing up for fashion pieces!

Income Source #4: Events

Some influencers partner with travel companies for a trip or get paid as speakers for conferences or other events. Or they host their own events.

Evet management is a LOT of work, so I recommend dippig your toes in slowly – like with a pool party! I have seen some influencers totally tank their reputation by putting together subpar events.

Part 5: Consistency is Key to Growth

The very best way to grow your platforms is by making the most high quality content you can, and sharing it regularly.

CONSISTENCY is key here.

This is my biggest challenge, especially photoshoot wise. People who follow a content creator, or influencer, want to see regular and high quality content.

Batch Production

Because of the issues and time that pop up when creating content, I recommend “batching” content. Pick a day of the month to shoot as much content as you can. Some influencers shoot every weekend, and others shoot 20 outfits in one day or film 5 YouTube videos in one day. It’s exhausting, but all of the content is there.

This way, when life happens – you have a backlog of content ready to go.

Content Calendar

In marketing, we use a content calendar to plan out posts for the month. It could be a google doc with dates or a literal calendar. Some peopel tape up a calendar on a wall using masking tape and then add posts using post-it notes.

A content calendar makes it much easier to plan shoots!

Bonus Part 6: Give Yourself Permission to Be Imperfect

When you first start creating content, it’s not going to live up to your expectations. You’re not going to love it, most likely.

That is OKAY. You have to create content you’re not wild about to get to the stuff you are wild about. Don’t sit on content. Share it.

Pre-Order My Book!

I really enjoy helping people share their work, which is why I’m launching an eBook for people who want to skip the learning curve and hit the ground running.

This will be released May 15, 2020! Pre-order for $14,99 ($34.99 once it’s released)!