I try not to pay too much attention to numbers, but I have to say it was pretty awesome to wake up to 50,000 followers on Instagram last week! For those who don't know, I started my blog in July of 2016 as a way to share Cameron's proposal story with our family and friends. I had already created a website from a college Journalism course. I sat down at my parent's kitchen table and wrote a few posts all about our trip to Italy. I posted them the next day with no expectations. Little did I know that website would lead to so many opportunities and a totally unexpected and unconventional career path.
Today I wanted to share a few tips I've learned along the way. I'm so thankful to have such a supportive community through this platform. Thank you to everyone who follows along and engages with my content. It's because of you that I'm able to continue pursuing this crazy dream of mine!
FIND WHAT SETS YOU APART
Everyone's journey is going to look COMPLETELY different. I know plenty of people who have grown a lot faster than I have. You could spend all day comparing yourself to others and focusing on all the things you don't have. We've all been there and I know from experience that mindset won't get you anywhere. Instead, spend your time focusing on what makes you unique. For me, one thing that sets me apart is mine and Cameron's work relationship. Not many people can work with their spouse and I'm proud to say we have a really awesome work dynamic. We have a rhythm for our shoots, editing content, etc. and I couldn't do half of it without him. Analyze your life from an outside perspective, find the things that set you apart and run with them.
USE YOUR CONNECTIONS
What industry do you have connections in? My mom owns a salon and has been a hair and makeup artist my whole life. Though I didn't originally intend to share beauty content or hair tutorials, I have used this connection to incorporate more beauty and makeup into my blog and social media posts. It is an aspect of my life that people are interested in and I know a thing or two about.
DON'T BE AFRAID TO ASK QUESTIONS
This brings me to my next point. If you aren't sure what sets you apart, ASK! Ask your friends, ask your family, ask your audience. Instagram polls are a great tool to figure out how your audience perceives you/the content you put out. This industry is always evolving which means everyone is constantly learning and adapting to the changes. If you're struggling with something, chances are someone else out there is too. Don't be afraid to ask someone who has been there.
COLLABORATE WITH OTHER INFLUENCERS
This tip goes along with using your connections. Reach out to other influencers in your industry. Or better yet, come up with unique collaboration ideas with someone in a different industry. For example, I love teaming up with my friend Molly Sohr from The Cedar Lane. She's a lifestyle blogger and event/wedding planner. We're both influencers but in different industries. Teaming up allows both of us to step outside our comfort zones and provide new and interesting content while cross-promoting to both of our audiences.
It's also really important to build a community of people you can count on. Many of the women I've met through blogging have turned into some of my dearest friends. Since working for yourself can oftentimes be lonely and confusing, it's really nice to have people in the same boat you can call anytime for advice or just a listening ear.
BE CONSISTENT WITH YOUR PHOTOS
Chances are you've probably heard this, but consistency is key. Coming up with a consistent edit for my photos was something I REALLY struggled with for a long time. For me, it was hard to find something that works for all different settings. I finally found Jaci Marie's Lightroom Presets and use them on all of my Instagram photos and they have been a game changer for me. One of the reasons consistency is so important is so that brands can get an idea of the quality of content you will create. If you photos are all over the place, they don't know what they will be paying for.
I'm really lucky that Cameron is a photographer and takes all of my photos. I would recommend finding a photographer to shoot with on a weekly or monthly basis. This will help your feed and blog look more streamline and will really create a more cohesive look for your brand.
ORGANIZE STRATEGIC GIVEAWAYS
People have mixed opinions about this topic, but I have to put my two cents out there. I have never paid to be a part of a giveaway and never will. To me, paying to be a part of a giveaway where you gain followers is the same as purchasing followers. I want people to follow me because they want to. If people are following you just to win something... chances are they won't be super engaged with your content or may even unfollow you after the giveaway is over.
Instead, I would advise teaming with other influencers similar to you and getting some brands you love on board for a giveaway. Giveaways can be an AWESOME way to grow organically if you go about them strategically. They're also a great way to build awareness and lead your audience to brands and other influencers you love. Again, almost everyone has a different opinion on this topic and I totally respect that... this is just my personal take and how I choose to run my business. To each their own.
PARTNER WITH BRANDS YOU LOVE
I can't stress this enough!!! One of the things I'm most proud of about this platform is that I have only partnered with brands I truly love from day one. When you first start, it's tempting to work with any brand that comes your way. I know I wanted to jump at every opportunity, but something told me to stick it out and be patient. You might turn down a lot of money in the beginning, but the trust you build with your audience and the opportunities it can lead to down the road far outweigh those temporary losses.
When I first started blogging, I expected all the brands to come to me. I would get discouraged if I had a slow month or I wasn't getting a lot of emails. This is a TERRIBLE way to approach blogging and often left me feeling like I wasn't good enough. I quickly learned from my friend Julie Solomon that pitching yourself is key to growth and transforming your blog from a hobby to a career. I cannot recommend her Pitch It Perfect Course enough if you're just starting out or need to refine your focus! Your dream brands are out there and they might never know how awesome you are until you put yourself out there.
DON'T GET COMFORTABLE
The second you feel like you might have this whole influencing thing figured out, you'll probably be thrown a curve ball. Educating yourself is key. I love listening to The Influencer Podcast while I'm in the car or on a run around my neighborhood. I would also suggest attending workshops to keep up with the current trends. I learned so much from attending The Workshop by the Bloguettes last year. Right now I'm pushing myself out of my comfort zone with video content.
As with many entrepreneurial jobs, you get out what you put in. Just because I don't get up and go to an office doesn't mean I'm not working my butt off all day every day. In fact, I work harder than when I worked a traditional office job. Most days Cameron has to pry me off of my laptop because I've been working for 10 hours straight. I'm telling you this to let you know it won't be a walk in the park. I feel like many people have this idealized version of being an influencer and taking photos and attending events all day. In reality, there is so much hard work and back and forth communication with brands behind every collaboration.
DON'T BUY FOLLOWERS, LIKES, ETC.
I could write about this topic for days, but I'll try to keep it simple. When you buy engagement or followers, you are hurting everyone else in the industry who works hard to create unique content and build a REAL and organic following. Even worse, you are potentially taking brand deals and campaigns from those same people. I honestly believe that brands are becoming increasingly more aware of fake vs. organic followings. This is one of the reasons Fohr, a major influencer marketing platform, is one of my favorites to work with. They have developed an algorithm that analyzes an influencer's Instagram following and looks for patterns associated with fake accounts and low engagement. Major brands use Fohr to connect and work with influencers and sift through those who might not have an organic following. Bottom line: it's not right to buy engagement or followers and will only hurt you in the long run. Just don't do it.
HAVE FUN WITH IT!!!
I have to remind myself of this all the time. Trust me when I say I know this isn't a traditional career path... and I'd be lying if I said it didn't bother me when people roll their eyes at what I do. I've learned to channel that negativity into hard work. When I think about how lucky I am to share the things I love with this community I've built, I feel so grateful. I still have these "pinch me" moments when I realize my dreams are becoming more of a reality every day. It's a ton of work but I wouldn't have it any other way!