Tackling Misconceptions on What It Takes to Be an Influencer

To many, an influencers life is enviable, and easy. A world filled with exotic travel, exclusive parties, and brunch. A lot of brunch. It’s no wonder then, that more children want to become Instagram stars than doctors. Who wouldn’t?

However, the reality is that an influencer’s work is never done. They’re a one-person content agency, PR and marketing firm, and a finance and admin team all rolled into one. At this point in my career, I’ve worked with hundreds of influencers, each unique in their own way, but all sharing fundamental traits that have propelled them into their chosen career and into this industry.

‘To be an influencer, it takes several social platforms and time to build a brand. To captivate an audience will come down to the personality, lifestyle, aspirations & connection that resonates with the influencer. The self-motivation, creative content and power to attract your readership is what is needed to stand out’ – @fashitect

Content Creator

To create standout content for social media you need: talent, skills, experience and equipment. Long gone are the days when just a smartphone and a few filters would suffice. Increasing competition in the space means investing time and money into physically taking a great photograph or filming a high-quality engaging video.

Let’s consider the monetary cost of becoming an influencer. Of course, you’ll need a smartphone (with Instagram), preferably a powerful one with the latest tech and features. Most influencers have the latest iPhone, which will set you back $1,000. Then there’s the high spec camera. Typically, a DSLR will start at $500, then you have the lenses, the cases, the tripods, any additional accessories, adding another $1,000+. Finally, you’ll need Adobe Creative Suite to edit the content you create, which will set you back another $50 a month. That’s an initial start-up cost of $3,000+. Influencing ain’t cheap.

Once you have your equipment, it’s time to create mood boards, plan what you want to shoot, plan where you’re shooting, getting there, and setting up, then, finally, you can shoot the content that you’ll eventually post. A lot of the influencers that I speak to regularly wake up before sunrise to ensure they are shooting in the best light and take hundreds of photographs just to get that one perfect shot. Content creation is a time consuming and lengthy process.

Audience Builder

Of course, once you have the content, you have to share it, and hope that a lot of people like it enough to hit like and/or leave a comment. No easy feat, and sometimes impossible to crack, but there are certain methods that most influencers follow to ensure that the algorithms will favor their work.

The key to engagement is networking and interacting with other social media users. This means spending hours scrolling through Instagram, and other platforms, liking, commenting and interacting with other people’s content, all in the hopes that they will do the same for you. Another way to ensure people are finding your content is to use the correct hashtags. A successful influencer is always researching, editing and testing new hashtags to promote their content to the right audiences.

Whether it’s content sharing with fellow influencers to tap into a new audience, asking to be featured in press, or reaching out for collaborations that will boost exposure, all successful influencers should know how to promote themselves. This is where it’s important to be a savvy marketeer and learn your own techniques to reach and engage your target audience. For example, Whalar influencer Yena Kim, from @mensweardog uses old fashioned AB testing to ensure they’re producing content that compels and entertains their audience.

“We AB test everything: from content ideas to new platforms and features because it’s essential to adapt quickly and be one of the first to dictate how a concept can be used in a positive, optimal way. It allows you to keep things creative and be in a constant wave of growth while adding new learnings to your social strategy.”

Business Brains

So, you’ve created amazing content, attracted loads of new followers and your engagement rate is through the roof. Brands are knocking at your door to collaborate with you. The final string to your influencer bow is having a brain for business.

Now that you’re a one-person brand, and you need to find consistent work, negotiate fees, chase invoices, and balance the books. Of course, there are platforms to make things slightly easier, but essentially, it’s up to you to run your own business successfully.

All of the influencers I’ve collaborated with aren’t just creative – they’re savvy – they understand the industry they work in, and they all have a strong entrepreneurial streak. You have to be tough to make it to the top and stay there.

‘The perks and benefits of being an influencer are obvious (thanks to Instagram), but what many people do not understand or see are the behind the scenes of running a business and establishing a brand in an overly saturated industry. If you hate working 9-to-5, understand that being an influencer means working (almost 24/7) and sacrifices are to be made – there are no “paid sick days”, vacations are a combination of work and play, and your income will fluctuate (and isn’t guaranteed). Needless to say, determination, passion, persistence, and hard work are just a few things you need to be an influencer. However, if you cannot determine your purpose (the why), you will not survive.  – @bylisalinh

Ultimately, what makes a successful influencer is passion. It can be a hard grind, and a long way from the bottom to the top, but that’s why it’s so rewarding to collaborate with them. By the time an influencer gets to the point of brand collaboration, they’re a master at their game; working with them is truly rewarding, and that’s why they are shaking up the ad industry as we know it.

Chelsea Carter

Head of Content at Whalar

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