So I get asked a lot of questions about how I became an Influencer and how they can get started. I want to start by saying that I stumbled into this by accident and never looked back. That being said, I honestly am still figuring shit out as I go. So not everything I write is bible. I'm just going to give you guys some insight on how I got here & things I've learned on the way!
Some Back Story...
If you are a new follower, you probably don't know how I got involved in the LA fashion industry to begin with. So let me explain!
I started working for Brandy Melville when I was 16 and worked there until I was 20. Right around when Instagram was just being discovered as a new tool for businesses, I was put in charge of creating content for their social accounts. Which sounds a lot more official than it actually was. Basically, I planned & styled weekly photoshoots in Santa Monica using "models" that we had working in our store. We in turn created a group of girlfriends and I ran around with a backpack full of polaroid film shooting them hanging out in our clothes. I ended up gaining my following as a result of this, 5 years ago... YIKES I'm getting old. It was before the Revolve girls- I think?- so all of this was super new to the Social Media world. I had no idea that what I was doing back then was actually the beginning of Social Content Creation & Influencing.
I made a TON of girlfriends working at Brandy, some are now doing big things Modeling & some are working for other LA based brands/PR agencies. Across the board, everyone went on to do some pretty awesome things! This has been super helpful in my success because once I started getting back involved with the Industry, I had a lot of connections to pull from.
So, What Happened After Brandy?
Like most 20 year old girls living in LA, I got a little distracted. Oops. After about a year living in Hollywood, living a life that was SO NOT ME, I decided to move to Florida for the Summer with a girlfriend of mine. RANDOM I KNOW. It was only supposed to be for a few months, I wanted some space from LA to figure out what I wanted to do with my life.
Well, that didn't go as planned. I ended up meeting my boyfriend a week after I got there & we fell in love. Btw, I met him a week after I vowed to myself I would never date again. LOL. So I stayed. It ended up being really good for me, he was everything I needed & really helped me remember who the f*^k I was.
Back to LA & back to the Influencer Topic...
After a year living in Florida, It was time I headed back to LA. My boyfriend was off to Japan, military life... that's a whole different topic.
It took me a few months after living in LA to figure out what I wanted to do, I started Modeling again just for fun & started getting back into contact with some old friends in the industry. That's when things started picking up. As soon as I started putting more energy into my Social account, I realized pretty quickly that I wanted to be Influencing. It combined everything I always loved doing, but on my own terms. This to me was EVERYTHING.
How I started Influencing...
So it was decided that this was what I wanted to do, I just needed to keep pushing. It's all about the hustle in this Social Media world. The most important thing in the Influencer world is CONTENT. So that was my focus when I first got started. I didn't care about being paid. I started reaching out to my friends with common interests and shooting as often as possible. Most of the "shoots" I was doing would consist of me stuffing a suitcase full of GoodWill clothing, meeting up with a girlfriend at a cafe & shooting each other on our IPhones around LA. It was always a big focus of mine to create content that was actually special, I hate the boring "outfit of the day" stuff. Just isn't my jam.
During this period of time, I was also being booked for small Modeling gigs... where I was super proactive on getting good Instagram content for myself. This was a big help. I was basically just saying "Wait, do you mind taking a photo of me on my phone real quick" between every look, I'm sure it was annoying AF. It's a lifestyle.
I knew that as long as I was CONSTANTLY shooting & putting out good content, I would be successful. That might sound cocky but I think you have to be confident in yourself & really trust your taste if you want to be successful in this Industry. You have to always know that there are going to be prettier girls & girls that seem more established than you, and that's totally okay! You don't have competition because you're the ONLY you.
After I started gaining momentum & had enough fresh content posted on my Instagram, I started looking for Brands that were interested in sending me Clothing in exchange for postings. I typed up a quick Collaboration Pitch email and sent it out to some of my favorite small brands. I sent it out on DM and email and when people didn't respond... I saved it and sent it out again a few weeks later. I learned not to take "No" for an answer because I was confident enough in my content to know that they would at some point say yes.
A good trick for this when you're first starting is, pay attention to other influencers who are similar to you and reach out to the brands they work with! This will help you navigate which brands are willing to work with Influencers who are smaller in size!
After a few months of doing trade based Collaborations, Modeling as often as I could & working a part time job... It's safe to say I was exhausted. I wanted to spice things up a bit and being that my boyfriend lives in Japan, we decided it was time. I moved to Japan!
Influencing Full Time in Japan??
After I moved to Japan and started doing this full time, It was time I started getting paid. I had one of my friends whip me up a Media Kit and I started sending that out to brands to pitch them! People say I should have done it quicker but it was important to me that I had built up momentum before I started asking for money. Think of it as your Internship period.
If you're wondering how I was able to meet people in Japan...It took PLENTY of hours searching through hashtags on IG to find girls with similar interests. Let me just say that is your biggest tool if you don't live in LA and need to find someone to go on "Content Dates" with. I really had to put myself out there, I met with a handful of different women until I found the right person to Collaborate with. I finally found a girl here, Jessica Vickers, who is an AMAZING photographer, perfectly understood my vision, and really got the hustle.
When I say Hustle I mean, I couldn't afford to pay her right away so we started shooting together under the pretense that I would pay her a percentage of my earnings from each Collaboration. This is where she really came in clutch because she understood that hard work had to be put into it before we saw return.
Jessica was very skilled at quickly picking up my aesthetic, so I really didn't have to explain much to her. The Island we live on in Japan is insanely beautiful & tropical, so I was really looking to take advantage of it. I basically went online and spent hours looking for locations, I even went on airbnb and reached out to people to see if they would let us come by for a few hours. When I say I put myself out there, I seriously mean it.
Once we started putting out regular content, I really noticed a big shift in my engagement. We were putting 100% into creating some inspiring content and I think people really started to notice! I focused on being extremely consistent, I even stayed up until Midnight to make sure I was posting at prime time. Just honestly, so much work! But so fun lol.
Taking it Further...
Being that I worked in Fashion, I understand the business mentality behind the Brands I'm collaborating with. I know how desirable it is, as a Brand, to have your Campaign shot overseas. I also know It's extremely expensive to fly out your whole team & shoot a campaign on a tropical Island. Jessica and I can basically shoot a huge Brand Campaign in Japan, in the tropics, for a fraction of what a Brand would have to pay to fly out their team. Not to mention, they don't even have to leave their office. We just deliver. So were working on our joint Media Kit and already have done two big Collaborations!
For me personally, I don't like doing paid single postings because I put so much care into my content and being paid for a single post seems to take the fun out of it. I still have to do them sometimes but my motivation has always been to create little beautiful worlds through content. I want to create a Collection of Images and really let my audience fall in love with the world I create.
So doing these bigger types of Collaborations, not only make me more money, are way more fun for Jessica and I creatively. So this is what I'm putting my energy into now and who knows where it will take me!
- Figure out what your Motivation is, like why do you want to be an Influencer?
- Understand you may have to wait a while before you get paid.
- CONTENT is key, focus on that before you do anything else! You don't need Brand collaborations to create amazing content. Get Shooting!
- Understand that you are the only you, be genuine. Pull inspiration from other people but never imitate.
- Don't take "no" personally, try to think why the brand wouldn't want to work with you and try again later when you think you've fixed the problem/grown.
- When looking for brands to collaborate with, pay attention to Influencers who are similar to you in aesthetic & size and reach out to brands they work with! This is a good starting point.
- Type up a quick Collaboration Pitch to send out to brands on Dm AND Email. Follow up!
- Use Hashtags to find people in your area with similar Interests... I found my photographer in Japan by searching through #okinawaphotographer.
- Don't be afraid to put yourself out there... like ask me questions if you have them lol.
- Be consistent.
- Once you're established, make a Media Kit & set your rates. Stick to them.
- Lastly, be true to your brand. I refuse to do any teeth whitening/tea cleanses because I'm not trying to sell my audience, I'm trying to inspire them. Nobody is inspired by poop tea.
I hope this was helpful or at least entertaining! If you guys have any questions, don't hesitate to ask.