Become An Instagram Influencer With NO Experience AT ALL!

With BILLIONS of dollars being thrown to content creators, it is no surprise that many are looking to become an Instagram influencer in some capacity.

Whether you are looking for part-time money, to scale a six or seven figure business, to partner with companies for items or travel, it is 100% possible to do this, and no, the market is not saturated.

Not even close. Even after four years at this, I am still building my Instagram channels and doing well. 

 become an Instagram influencer


Four years ago when I fell into this industry, I did not know this is what I was doing, that it was even a thing or that I even wanted to become an Instagram influencer. I was simply sharing my love for all things travel and food and I just happened to learn the art of social media at the right time and watched my accounts grow and the work flow in.

I never want to sell you a lie, so I will tell you upfront, it is not easy. I do not care who you follow and watch, this is a hard gig, but deeply rewarding. If you are not willing to often work 12+ hour days, then you may not want to become an Instagram influencer. 

One of the most confusing experiences for those absorbing social media is trying to understand how people live perfect lives – well they don’t exactly. When you become an Instagram influencer, you are curating a feed to attract businesses and followers that align with your mission.

Never for one second think that once you become an influencer that your life will be perfect because the only thing that will change is the number of hours you now work and the sacrifices you have to make to truly make it in this industry.

On the upside, if you are influencing in an industry you are genuinely passionate about (and I hope you are, otherwise you are selling a lie), it will never really feel like work because you will be doing something you love. 

There is no shame in working in this industry at all. I can think of several self made extremely wealthy people just from influencing on the gram. Make it rain. 

Become An Instagram Influencer

Become an Instagram influencer and build the business of your dreams!

Become An Instagram Influencer

I am giving you every piece of information right here to become an Instagram influencer, FOR FREE. I cannot guarantee you will succeed, that depends on you. So I am not going to hold back and I am not going to feed you a line of BS. Here it is:

  1. If you want to become an Instagram influencer, you need to pick a brand. There is a never ending selection of niches out there to choose from. However, pick something you are comfortable with that is not going to put you out. This is where you need to be brutally honest with yourself. I do not care about what other people are doing or what looks fun – pick something you can live with and can maintain, because you will be paying to support this for some amount of time. For example:
    1. You want to be a high end fashion beauty Instagrammer but have no disposable income. It is nearly a requirement to have a Gucci bag and belt, Valentino shoes and a Chanel hairpiece to to qualify for this line of influencing. Be honest with yourself – can you sell Forever 21 as a high end fashion brand? No. However, you can work your way up! Your business model will just change over time. Everyone has to start somewhere and most of these lifestyle accounts that you follow who have closets lined with luxury goods started at the bottom. 
    2. You want to be a luxury travel influencer but cannot afford to travel. I hate to break it to you, but luxury hotels and destinations are pretty strict on who they work with and are typically looking for two things: brand alignment and solid photography. My thought process on travel influencing: if you cannot or would not pay to stay somewhere, you should not be promoting it. But with all things, start somewhere. 
    3. You want to be a mommy Instagrammer but have no kids. I think this goes without saying .. you need a damn kid for this line of work, but I would not suggest getting pregnant just to become an Instagram influencer. 
    4. You want to be a food Instagrammer and you eat out nearly every meal. Well then this would be a solid move for you – you are already eating out and will have a never ending roll of content.
  2. Selecting a brand name. This is one of the most important things you will do as it will be your brand identity. A lot of people who are the face of their brand have moved over to just their first and last name. I do not think that is necessary unless you want to. People are successful in every area of Instagram, but picking the name that will represent your brand is very important. A catchy name could thrush your dreams to become a Instagram influencer into fast mode. Examples:
    1. If you want to work in high end fashion as a long term goal, I would not suggest selecting a name like “BudgetJess” or “ThriftyFinds” while you are building your brand. Pick a broad fashion name that can be used interchangeably. It would be a hard sell for your audience to move from “BudgetJess” to “UnaffordableandflashyJess.”
    2. If you want to work in travel, try and find something catchy that embodies your travel style. If you are really narrowing down a niche like budget travel or travel through Asia, then I would go more specific in the name selection. It helps people to identify your brand. I, for one, wanted to embody the travel and food experience as a whole, so I went with “Eatlivetraveldrink.” It is very straightforward and lets people know upfront what they can expect to find. I did not select my name as my handle because I am not in my photos and chose to focus solely on destinations, food, experiences and the like. 
  3. Once you decide on a name, make sure it is available on ALL social media channels in case you want to expand, website and email address. Then immediately sign up for them. You want to have full control over your branding and just because you become an Instagram influencer does not mean you can’t influence other platforms – you should always be wanting to expand.
    1. Grab your brand names at: Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Gmail, and buy a domain very cheap with your brand name (you can use WordPress to do this). 
    2. I would also search your name as a hashtag on Instagram and make sure it is not being used by a brand already or for something that does not align with your mission. Hypothetically, what if your brand is Keto dieting but the name you picked has a hashtag that is attributed to the craziest desserts in the world? That is the exact opposite of what you would want for brand alignment. 
  4. Once you have done all of that, the most important conversation you need to have with yourself is to recognize that you do not own Instagram or your channel. You are at the mercy of the app, all of its algorithm updates, changes made, outages, if it seizes to exist, etc. You have zero control here. I would highly recommend at least starting a blog (which can be done very cheap) and building an email list (the only thing you ever truly own and will be in complete control of). No one thought MySpace or Vine would disappear, but hey-shit happens.
    1. I want to mention, having a blog and building an audience of readers makes you far more valuable than just being on Instagram. I have several social media channels and a blog that I can leverage to brands which means more money. If you have to start somewhere to become an Instagram influencer, start with an Instagram account and a blog. 
    2. I use WordPress for my blog and use SiteGround for hosting – all very inexpensive. I cannot stress enough to do self hosting day one. I waited years to do this and so many things messed up when I moved my site. One of the biggest nightmares for my business to date. 
  5. Now that you have a niche picked, a brand name and have all the channels under your brand, it is time to become an Instagram influencer. You can either convert an account you already have or start a new one entirely – but having a personal account of friends and family who already follow you is easier to start with. You essentially have a built in audience. 
  6. Immediately connect your Instagram page to your Facebook page that will be aligned with your brand so that you can set up a business or creator profile and have access to all your analytics. These are extremely important. You can see where your audience lives, age, gender, best times to post, how well posts perform, etc. This is a must!
  7. Step one with your new Instagram account: clear out all the crap. I do not want to look at a page that has bad selfies, meme’s, whining posts, HDR filtered food, and an occasional good photo – and surprise, neither do brands. The only time this will be tolerated is if you are a celebrity with millions of followers. I know it is a double standard, but celebrities get away with everything. You need to treat this account as a portfolio that is open to the public and only share all your best work. You WILL get better over time at taking photos and editing them. Everything takes time – so don’t worry that you are brand new and don’t have photos that look like the most popular people in your niche. Practice makes perfect. Hell, four years in and I am still learning my photo vibe.
    1. Before you ask me why I have never deleted all my crappy photos from years ago, it’s because I did not know I was moving into this industry. I just kept sharing travel and food photos and improving photography. My photos all align with my brand – so technically all you will find is improvements over time. It would be a pain to go back and delete them at this point. Besides, I doubt at this point a brand is going four plus years back on my feed to see what I was posting. 
    2. So why should YOU delete yours? Well technically you do not have to.. but since you are trying to establish yourself as an influencer now, you only want the best photos that represent your brand on your feed. It is easier for brands or the public to do a couple scrolls on a newly converted feed and see what you were just posting a week or month ago. See what I am saying? You want people to stick around. You want brands to work with you. Coming to your page and seeing six great photos and then a bunch of memes about poop, thots and questionable selfies is not going to land many, if any, deals. However, if memes is your brand, then that is exactly what you should be posting. Brand alignment is your number one goal here. I am not asking you to change at all – so please don’t. But I am telling you that to be successful as a regular Instagram influencer, you will need to pick a niche, whatever that may be. 
  8. Now that your Instagram account is cleaned up, it is time to start taking photos that represent your brand and aesthetic you are going for. You don’t need a high end camera day one, but if you have one, great. There are several incredible photographers who shoot their photos with a camera phone and do all their editing there as well. Don’t be afraid to ask friends or family for help with photos if you want to be in them. Most people are happy to help. I help random strangers all over the world get their perfect shots.
    1. No matter what branding you are going for – batch shoot content. By that I mean, take tons of photos so that you do not have to shoot something new every single day. You could easily shoot 100+ usable images in under an hour even if you had to change clothes and move around. This will save you a lot of time when you are just starting out and having to run another career at the same time.
      1. This works on any niche – if you batch create content you will have a similar vibe and aesthetic. 
      2. Before you start shooting content, if you don’t know what you should be doing with your photos, look at the players in your niche. See who is successful and what they are doing. I am not saying to copy them 100% – just look at what they are doing to get inspiration. 
        1. The truth is – there isn’t a ton of originality in some niches, especially travel. Everyone is traveling to the same places and taking similar photos – but the thing is, that is the content that is consistently performing well. Before I ever travel somewhere, I search the destination and hashtags on Instagram to see what people are creating there over and over. These are what people consider “Instagrammable.” So don’t be afraid to have similar content from time to time. 
  9. PLAN YOUR CONTENT!! I cannot stress enough how planning my content turned my four and five figure business into a growing six figures! I use the Content Planner and this is what changed the game for me. Before this, my life was in disarray. Running a social media business is hectic often times and the Content Planner really is designed for this line of work and saved my business. Now that I am running a couple different online businesses on Instagram and various channels, I am using multiple planners to scale these businesses into six+ figures. This is the one investment that you will always have my backing on. I would buy this upfront. The saying “If you fail to plan, you plan to fail” has never had more meaning than now. GET THIS PLANNER. 
    1. I am not saying you can’t just post on the fly – but I would not recommend it. If you want to become an Instagram influencer, you need to think like one. They plan their content in advance, make sure their aesthetic is aligned, that there is not too much of any one thing, etc. Just plan it out.
    2. Having a Content Planner also helps you with your schedule beyond the photos. Once you become an Instagram influencer, your life is busy. You need to plan in advance for a variety of things depending on your business – it could holidays, sales, pitches, post dates for sponsored content, etc. 
  10. Grasp the concept of growing your account and finding your people.
    1. There is no set number of people you should follow – but make sure you follow people who have content you actually want to see everyday and engage with.  
    2. Allow people to find YOU through hashtags. When I say this, I do not mean #like4like. There is zero brand alignment there. For example: If you are wanting to become an Instagram influencer covering Asia travel, narrow down hashtags based on that. #travel is a very broad hashtag and may or may not reach people interested in what you are doing. I would suggest more localized hashtags and destination specific hashtags. For example: #Bangkok is a destination specific hashtag, so is #Thailand. One hashtag covers a city and the other, an entire country. Those types of hashtags that work with your brand are more likely to bring you new followers.
      1. You can use up to 30 hashtags per post on Instagram. I would recommend mixing up your hashtags to include small, medium and large usage. By that I mean – do NOT pick all 30 hashtags that have millions of uses. You will most likely get buried immediately and never reach anyone. Often times, smaller hashtags are more niche and you can be found easier. 
        1. Don’t forget to use some hashtags for re-post accounts that 100% align with the photo you are sharing for best chances of getting shared. 
    3. Find people through hashtags. Honestly, I would spend 10-25 minutes a day going through very specific brand aligned hashtags and finding new people. You can like their content, leave comments, follow them, whatever you like. 
      1. When I was first growing, I would go through hashtags frequently and like a ton of photos, and I would usually do this wherever I was traveling and sharing content from so people could come to my page and decide if they want to follow me. You are basically poking them and saying “hey come check out my work.” It is up to them to come to your page and decide if they want to follow.  
    4. Network your ass off. Find the people in your niche of all levels and make friends. Do NOT get caught up if they don’t follow you right away. Most people don’t. You need to establish a relationship… and I do NOT mean go all stage 5 clinger. Do not constantly inundate people with messages, ask for contacts and tips, etc. Just engage their content and stories – and it does not have to be every single one. Allow a natural relationship to form.
      1. My very perfect example – one of my closest friends now, I had to work my ass off to get her attention. A few years ago several articles were written about her beautiful Instagram feed and I immediately wanted to be her friend (as did everyone else). Our content is not similar at all but we are both travel bloggers with the same goal: to influence travel. It took me a long time to convince her to follow me and then to be my friend. Now we talk every single day and are very business focused. This is just my example and you should not expect this outcome – but it did take me some time to win her over. My point is, she had and still has tons of people trying to win her over everyday, be patient with accounts that you love and align with your mission/brand. Time is what you need. Don’t just unfollow because you didn’t get what you wanted day 1. 
    5. Attend events that align with your brand. I live in Washington, D.C. and get invited to several events a week in the food and travel space. This is a great way to make contacts for future collaboration and people in your niche. I work with other content creators all the time on various projects and have made some excellent friends. 
    6. Tagging companies who represent your brand. You are allowed to tag up to 20 accounts per post, use them wisely. For example: you are in Cancun, Mexico at a luxury hotel wearing several gorgeous clothing and jewelry pieces. You would tag: all clothing and jewelry brands, the hotel itself, if the hotel has a wider chain (for example: if it is a Hilton property, tag Hilton Hotels and Hilton Honors), any hotel re-post pages, if you are a female and align with the aesthetics of female re-post pages – tag them, and so on. 20 is an easy number to reach once you start tagging. Do not waste your tags on stuff that does not fit. Hopefully one or more of these pages will re-post you and get you some new followers.
      1. One thing to note – you want to keep your content pretty consistent so that if and when you are re-posted by a larger account, people who come to your page can expect to see the same type of content! The last thing you want is to post a beautiful travel photo of Paris and then people come to your page and find one beautiful photo and then a wide variety of memes, weird selfies and just a bunch of random stuff that does not “fit.”
    7. Giveaways – I know this is still a hot topic for growth and I will lay it all out. Even some of the biggest influencers you have come to know and possibly love, have used massive giveaways to grow their accounts and that is how you found them. It is what it is. Giveaways have changed the last couple years and here are my thoughts on them now:
      1. If you are going to do a giveaway, skip doing one with an organizer who is using sponsors from all over the world. You need to really think about who your market is. If you are based in the USA, most of the third party companies who hire for Instagram work are looking for large US based audiences. If you do a bunch of giveaways and end up with all your followers from elsewhere, you no longer have that value for certain projects. That being said – you do not need to grow to 10,000+ followers overnight. Nurture your business and the right people will come to you.
        1. If you want to do a giveaway, find people who are in your specific niche and see if a few of you can do one together. It is far better to have 100 people who are genuinely interested in your brand and what you are selling than 10,000 who are merely a vanity metric and get you nothing. 
        2. Do not buy into all the garbage that people are trying to sell, like gaining 20,000+ followers from a giveaway that costs an arm and a leg. A LOT of giveaway organizers buy people followers. What are you going to do with 20,000 empty accounts? They aren’t going to like your photos, comment on them or deliver any return on investment for sponsors. Additionally, these bot accounts will get deleted from Instagram at some point in time – and one day you will wake up missing 20,000 fake followers. 
        3. And yes – I have participated in giveaways. None in a very long time though. I actually used to think they were a scam, and a lot of them are. However, like I said above, if you do giveaways with the right accounts that are niche specific, you are merely putting your account in front of someone who already follows a similar one to see if they like it. For travel, food and beauty accounts, they have the most success when partnering with similar accounts. 
        4. I see brands doing giveaways almost everyday – so if you want to do one, it is no different. It is a modern day form of marketing. 
        5. Throw caution to the wind when using giveaways, especially with people who are not aligned with your brand – you will lose a ton of followers that you just gained from the giveaway once it ends and it will seem like it takes forever to get back on the upwards path. 
      2. Do your own giveaway – I see friends do stories and post giveaways all the time and they give away some good stuff. Just ask that they tag a friend or friends to be entered to win and that they must be following you. 
    8. Growing on Instagram these days is challenging – unless you are a unicorn. I have noticed that many people in my industry have sort of leveled off in growth. You are really going to have to think hard about what your end goal is and what you want to put out into the world. ask yourself: “How am I creating value?”
      1. When I look at my brand – my entire goal has always been and will always be: to inspire people to travel. Whether it is through destinations, hotels, dining, experiences, – I want people to see the world in whatever capacity they can. I never want anyone to lose vacation days and I want to provide helpful tips and photos for anything from a weekend getaway to two+ weeks away. I want to cover all the bases and help people decide on travel. 
  11. Engagement is important. It has been claimed to shift the algorithm in your favor if you start getting likes, comments and saves immediately after posting, keeping your post in front of more people. I cannot confirm that but in my experience it appears to be true. That being said …become an Instagram influencer
    1. Should you use comment pods? A comment pod is a group of people either on Instagram or an outside source that all comment and like each others photos when they post. It’s basically a chat group where you drop a link or your photo for people to comment or like. That is at your discretion. Pretty much everyone I know uses one to some degree .. a lot of people use tons. Alternatively, there are people who are groups of friends that turn on post notifications for each other so they can comment and like as soon as a post is live.
      1. Something that I do as soon as I post is I go and like and comment on a few posts in my feed and they usually return the favor. This encourages other followers to really look at your content and engage. 
    2. What you are posting and your caption MATTER. Can you capture the attention of the audience immediately or are they more inclined to just keep scrolling? This is going to be a trial and error scenario for you to see what your audience loves. 
  12. Stories have value! The key with stories is to be consistent. You need to post frequently and engage your audience. Instagram has given a variety of tools to make this happen: polls, question boxes, multiple choice answering, GIF’s, etc. Make use of them and engage your audience. become an Instagram influencer
    1. Once you hit 10,000 followers you can add swipe up links to your stories. This adds value if you are working with a brand or want to share your own stuff through blogs or recommendations. 
    2. Just don’t ignore stories – they are a crucial element to your Instagram influencing that you don’t want to miss. 
    3. If you want to get craft and curate your stories the way I do, I use an app called “Unfold.”
  13. Where to find paying gigs after you become an Instagram influencer: there is no magic number that makes you an influencer but some platforms require a certain number of followers to join or for certain campaigns.
    1. Here are my favorite sites and apps to use for paid campaigns: 
      1. Social Fabric, Popular Pays, Aspire IQ,  and IZEA.
  14. Pitching brands: They say “good things come to those who wait.” EFF that noise. This is a fast paced platform. If you see a campaign or brand you want to work with, don’t wait for their email, pitch them! Show them your value that you bring. But tread lightly – I would not pitch brands just for the sake of it. Understand why you are of value to them. Look at your analytics.
    1. Do not pitch brands by sending them a DM. You should first Google the name of the brand and “public relations contact.” If nothing turns up, send a nice message to the account and ask them for the PR or marketing contact. They will usually give it to you. 
    2. Before you pitch the brand, make sure you have some form of a media kit ready because they will most likely ask if you are a smaller account. 
      1. A media kit can be created in less than 30 minutes using Canva. Just use the resume feature and think of it as an Instagram resume. You will want to put a bio of who you are and your brand, who your audience is by the numbers, what you offer in terms of partnership (do not put prices on here), and if you have any former partnerships (paid or unpaid) you can put their name under “Previous work.”
    3. Pitching is extremely important. It’s not really what you say, but how you say it. Morgan Freeman could tell me he is going to come after me .. AND I WOULD LET HIM. He has a way with words and his voice is so soothing. So think about what you want to say. Here is a very basic outline to follow:
      1. Introduction – who you are and your brand 
      2. Who your audience is and any value you provide 
      3. The Pitch – what you are looking for from them (I would skip discussing money for this part)
      4. What you are offering in exchange for a partnership – number of posts, stories, images, etc
      5. Thank them for taking the time
      6. Link your channels below your signature
    4. When you pitch the brand – do not be a brat or demanding. To become an Instagram influencer, you need to keep in good with brands for repeat work. There is at least 10 of you a day pitching these brands and they have to decide who aligns with their brand and that they would want to work with. Also – do not waste your time or theirs if it is not a direct fit. If all your images are landscape travel – I would not pitch a company to get a baby stroller. 
  15. Things you should do to become an influencer and be great at it:
    1. Respond to DM’s and emails from people. I get messages daily asking for recommendations, etc – I always respond.
      1. The caveat here is – I have quit responding to messages with sexual advances, spam, porn, etc. I owe these people nothing. 
    2. Treat your audience with respect. Always remember that their support is keeping you in this position and it only takes one second for them to unfollow. 
    3. Try and respond to all your comments on your posts. It is very easy to do this when you are a smaller account. As you get bigger and have a lot of channels and projects going on, it gets harder. Do what you can and make sure to at least respond to those who have questions.
    4. Over deliver. This is my best tip for staying in the good graces of brands and getting repeat work. 
    5. Be kind – at the end of the day, you are just a person who shares photos on an app. You are not better than or more worthy than anyone else using the platform. 
  16. Things to avoid to become an Instagram influencer:
    1. Skip the follow/unfollow game. It worked in 2016, no one really buys into it now. 
    2. Don’t lie to your audience about whatever it is you are selling. If you truly do not like something, be open and honest with the brand and try to come to a resolution. You are as good as your word. 
    3. For the love of God – you do not need to be in 20 comment pods. It is 100% unbelievable to see accounts with 20,000 followers who have hundreds of comments. This is a very rare thing to happen. You do not need to waste your time on this. Many accounts with 100,000-200,000 followers do not have hundreds of comments. People only leave a comment when they want to. Forced comments from other people in your industry will never help you sell anything. 
    4. Check yourself before you wreck yourself. Don’t ever think you are too good for anyone. Everyone starts somewhere and don’t for one second adapt the mentality that you are better because of a follower count. 
    5. Complete your contracts and agreements in a very timely manner. Brands are watching and expecting a return on their investment in you. 
    6. Don’t be a gatekeeper. If you work in travel and you share photos of places to try and inspire travel, tag the place. If you are so concerned with over tourism, save the photo for your personal collection and keep it off the internet. 
    7. Avoid getting caught up in being one of the “cool kids.” It fades and it really adds nothing to your business. They aren’t buying what you’re selling most likely. 
    8. Recognize that other bloggers and Instagrammers should NOT be your primary audience. You are trying to reach the masses.
    9. Don’t kill yourself to become an Instagram influencer. This can be seen in many forms: don’t seek dangerous photo spots just for clout, don’t overwork yourself to the point of burnout and hospitalization, stay hydrated – take care of yourself and take breaks. You do not need to be on Instagram around the clock to be successful. 
  17. Don’t get caught up in numbers! Having 100K followers used to be a good benchmark for many brands to work with influencers, but now some brands see the value in all levels of influence. You have to start somewhere. Start networking and making connections at every level of your business. It never hurts to have more people on your side.
    1. When looking at numbers, a lot of companies do prefer to work with a smaller niche account. These accounts have value. For example: if a mommy blogger with 15,000 followers out of Dallas has an overwhelming local audience in her city and surrounding, she is extremely valuable for anything in her area relating to kids and parenting. On the flip side – being a travel blogger with 1 MILLION followers with audiences all over the world and nowhere specifically, you may not bring as much help to a place in Dallas. However, if we kept the same scenario of being a travel blogger with a million followers and they were USA based, now we are getting somewhere.
      1. Don’t allow the numbers to decide if you are a success. Niche audiences have a lot of value and if you get turned down for a job that you are perfectly aligned for brand wise, use my example above. Brands can and do still see Instagram numbers as a benchmark for work but if you can prove that you have value, do it. 
    2. I pitched and got my first gig about 4.5 years ago with my local Four Seasons and only had 2,000 followers. I just happened to pitch them when they were wanting to promote a new wine pairing menu at one of their restaurants. Never be afraid to pitch. You cannot get a “no” if you don’t ask. Also – you are going to get 100 “no’s” before you get a “yes.” So don’t get discouraged. 
  18. Know your worth! This industry of influencing is still relatively new and money is all over the place in terms of payment. A lot of people don’t disclose what they make or charge .. but I am not those people. 
    1. A good threshold for payments on Instagram for one post is $100 per 10,000 followers. However, there are a lot of factors to consider. For myself I typically charge $1000-2000 per post (and this is for one off partnerships, not travel partnerships that include blog and/or a variety of social media posts) and I base that pricing on these guidelines:
      1. Do I need to travel anywhere to get this shot? If so, how much will it cost?
      2. Is the brand sending the product or do I need to spend time and money to go find it? 
      3. Do I need any other props or equipment to make this shot happen?
      4. How much time is this going to take me?
      5. What is my out of pocket estimate overall? 
    2. If the company is sending me the product and I can just throw it in my suitcase and shoot it on my next trip, I shoot for a number closer to $1000 (unless they offer more upfront).
    3. If the company is offering me less money but it is a brand that I really want to work with and aligns with my brand, I try and negotiate and work something out. I would rather work something out with the brand and share something with my audience that I love and believe in than pass it up just because of budget. 
    4. There is no shame in accepting something with no payment attached to it in exchange for posting. This is common in every industry – there are things people want that they do not want to pay for and are willing to do an exchange for. In my case – I typically accept about five unpaid trips per year BUT they have to have a value to me. They need to align with my brand and their buying power and be something I am willing to do for no payment. While I am getting the trip at no cost, the work still takes time and I still have to be away from any type of paid work to make it happen. I have taken a few very expensive trips this year that aligned with my brand completely and did it on exchange.
      1. If a brand is not paying you, make sure the deliverables (number of posts you are making) are fair on both sides. It still costs a brand money to give you something, and granted, they are getting advertising from you in that exchange – but make sure it is fair for both parties. Don’t railroad them and vice versa. I see people with maybe 50,000-100,000 followers request several hotel nights with full food and beverage service and think TWO Instagram posts is sufficient. Sorry Sally, but no. You need to be doing full stories and reviewing that property like you are on an episode of CRIBS. You should be showcasing the property and the food and beverage you are being given in some way – don’t cop out and just take two photos on a beach and tag the hotel. Do right by the hotel, do right by your brand partnerships – they will give you far more than you can ever take from them if there is a mutual line of respect. 
  19. Sponsored Content: ALWAYS has to be disclosed. I know shady people and brands who ask for there to be no mention of it being sponsored and to look organic. Just say no. In America, you are required by law to disclose these partnerships. 
    1. You should also figure out a good ration of sponsored to non sponsored posts. I personally pay for about 50% of my travel so I can remain unbiased in my industry. A fellow influencer actually asked me why I was promoting the hotels in Bora Bora if I didn’t partner with them – here’s the deal, if you want to become and Instagram influencer, be more than a walking advertisement. Invest in your brand and try things with your own money to serve YOUR audience. They will trust you more for this. 
  20. Understand that everyone does not have your best interest. I honestly wish I did not have to say this – but you can only be burned by so many people before this becomes a stark reality. If you want to become an Instagram influencer, always have somewhere in the back of your head that not everyone wants to be your friend or like you. A lot of people once you get big come around and want you to help them grow, want to use you for contacts, etc. Just be cautious in who you invest your time in. These people will become more apparent as time passes and you experience it.
    1. I know that sounds really damn negative but I am not sugarcoating this. I can give you a long ass list of people I have been burned by that have stolen my photos, used contacts and didn’t deliver the work EVER or only did half of it, tried to befriend me just so I would take them on trips, reach out to contacts and say they are working with me when we are not even friends, abuse relationships with brand partners, people who waste my time, steal my content ideas, etc. This is a reality of this industry sometimes – and you never have to ask me for a contact, because the answer is no. On the other side of the coin, I have met some amazing humans that I wouldn’t trade for anything. I just had to walk through a lot of thorns to get the roses. 
  21. Don’t get caught up in not being verified. Verification was designed for people of the public and who can easy be duplicated or misrepresented by fake accounts. I know that Instagram has opened up the verification process to anyone now and more and more people are being verified, including businesses. Do not let the lack of the blue check derail your business. The fact that I am not verified has not hurt my business. And besides, tons of fraudulent accounts are verified BUT because they have a lot of press about themselves, they have been deemed worthy of having the verification badge. Just don’t worry about it – losing sleep over something out of your control, is not worth it. 
  22. Lastly, it is not easy to become an Instagram influencer. Many people spend countless hours wasting time on stuff that does not add any value to their brand. Your brand should be your primary focus – find your audience, grow, collaborate, create something useful, and watch it thrive. 
    1. I would highly recommend not wasting your time on trying to be friends with every single influencer online and instead creating brand awareness and building relationships with the followers you have and get. 

Final thoughts: I know this is a dream job for many. I hear it everyday, I see the comments on both my channels and friends outlets. I get it. But you HAVE to be willing to do the work. It is not as easy as just posting a photo and moving along.

So much goes into one photo that you do not see – but you will quickly learn as you navigate these waters. So what gives me the authority to give you advice to become an Instagram influencer? Other than the fact that I make a 6 figure income, had to learn all of this myself through trial and error and error and error, and have been doing this for four years, nothing.

I get messages almost daily asking the same questions over and over. It is far easier for me to put out this one time guide for everyone to read versus the on going daily chats about it. And bonus – you can come back and read this anytime you want. 

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  1. September 17, 2019 / 11:38 am

    Love your transparency! It is true this is a very hard industry and in the beginning there are way more errors than successes. You have to recognize a burn out, take a break, and don’t let it keep you from reaching your goals.

  2. Millennial Boss
    September 17, 2019 / 6:35 pm

    Completely agree with the advice that you don’t own your instagram channel so it helps to have a website you own. Great post!

  3. Linda
    September 18, 2019 / 2:12 pm

    Thank you SO MUCH for all of this information. It is all so overwhelming as a newbie. All this content is now so readily available whenever I have questions in the future. What resonated with me (and that I never realized/considered ) is that my IG/ social media platforms are my BUSINESS. Wow! If I want to be a success I need to change my mindset and realize I have a business to handle. Thank you. I appreciate this and all your efforts.

  4. Ana W
    September 18, 2019 / 11:25 pm

    Thank you so so much! So helpful and much appreciated!

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