A few questions I get asked all the time are, ‘How are you getting all this free stuff?’, ‘Do you get paid to post free product?’, ‘How can I get free/paid product?’. So I figured this topic deserved a blog post of its own. I am not claiming to be an expert, but I can offer my experience and tell you a.) what has worked for me; b.) things I wish I had known before getting in to this world; and c.) how I am making money receiving free product.
Mommy Blogger, Instagram-Mom, Insta-Blogger, Social Media Influencer–for the record, I am not a fan of the word ‘influencer’, but that’s the going lingo. I actually don’t refer to myself as an influencer. Ever. But whatever you want to call it, it’s pretty much all the same and is open an accessible to anyone who wants to pursue it. But let’s just be clear friends, while it may just look like bundles and bundles of #HappyMail, it all comes with a price tag, (even when you’re getting paid money to receive said products). My journey started with my writing and starting a blog about honest motherhood. Actually, it started with a DIY blog, because I was afraid to write about what I really wanted to write about. But it evolved in to this space, and ultimately led me to the world of Insta-momming. I get a LOT of messages about how to start a blog and/or how to become an Instagram influencer and I love helping and encouraging others to take the leap and go for it. I wanted to centralize all of the advice and caveats in one space, so I’ve created this list for anyone interested in my 2 cents.
Anyone can become an influencer, but there are a few things you should know if it’s something you are considering:
- Be prepared to spend way too much time on your phone. (The struggle is real). But the majority of this type of work is done from a phone or tablet. If you don’t want to be one of those annoying people who is constantly staring at their mini-screen, this probably isn’t for you.
- Posting photos of ‘free stuff’ isn’t as simple as it seems. Sure it may look like just a bunch of Insta-stories of receiving free product, but this all depends on your interpretation of the word ‘free’. Most influencers have invested in a nice(ish) camera, or at least a nice phone with a great camera. Most (ok maybe all), product photos are staged. This includes brainstorming creative ways to display said product, often bribing kids (and husbands) in to helping / ‘modeling’, getting the shot, editing the shot, creating clever content and finally posting. It looks effortless, but I assure you it is not. In fact, that is part of the art in it all–appearing candid and effortless.
- Obviously brands want to work with accounts that have a decent following and great engagement. Building a following takes work (usually). This includes, but is not limited to: engaging with countless other influencers, bloggers, shops and followers; self-promoting your posts (awwwwkward); creating a beautiful / captivating feed; writing original, relatable and (hopefully) honest content. It’s time-consuming, to put it lightly.
- You should know your target audience. Whoever you are speaking to whether it be the fitness community, moms and dads or fashion buffs, you’ll want to stay (predominantly) in that lane. By doing so, you will attract the brands that you would hope to work with. Pro tip: You CAN reach out to brands you want to collaborate with. The goal is to build enough momentum that they’re reaching out to you, but like my mama always says, ‘it never hurts to ask’.
- You’re worth what you say you’re worth, but there are some basic parameters you’ll have to function under. An account with 2k followers isn’t going to be able to charge the same amount as an account with 20k followers. It’s a bit of a numbers game, no matter how great and beautiful your content may be. But, if you love and believe in what you are posting then keep going, because it is my belief that there is enough room for everyone, and the key to succeeding is not quitting before the miracle happens. Pro tip: Check social blue book to see what you could be charging. (Rumor has it that they quote a bit high, but this is a great way to get a sense of what your posts are monetarily worth to companies).
- Speaking of enough room, THERE IS ENOUGH ROOM FOR EVERYONE. Yes, I have preached this mantra before, and I 100% stand by it. You are good enough, interesting enough, cute enough, likeable enough and just ENOUGH in general. If it’s calling you; go get it girrrrl (or boy).
- Remember to separate yourSELF from your social media account. Too often people begin to measure their ‘success’ on likes and followers. Here’s the thing; yes. This is sort of the goal as far as being a blogger or influencer goes, but in Real Life? This says nothing of YOUR worth. Just because the rest of the world hasn’t completely discovered your greatness yet, does not mean you aren’t GREAT. So if you embark on this journey, remember that this is in essence just another job. Yes you will pour your real self in to it, but wear it like a loose garment. Also, don’t compare yourself to other accounts; it serves no one.
- You CAN make real money through blogging or being an influencer. But even those giant 500k accounts had to start somewhere. Occasionally someone goes viral and experiences instant success, but more often than not, it’s about building community and content. Full disclosure: I started this blog in 2014, started receiving free product (consistently) in early 2017, and started getting paid to post in early 2018. It took about 2-3 years of posting (somewhat) consistently to receive daily traffic on my blog, and a lot of that traffic comes from Pinterest. I currently have about 8,500 instagram followers with a pretty high engagement, (Social Blue Book gives me an A+ on engagement).
- Mingle, mingle, mingle. It is really important to build a community of like-minded people. Remember, we rise by lifting others. Let go of the fear that someone else is getting ‘yours’. Get inspired by other people’s feeds and content; never ever plagiarize, and ALWAYS give cred where it’s due. (I have had people rip off my photo ideas and writing and it does not feel good. But if it does happen, try and take it as a compliment and move on.)
- Let’s talk about your Instagram feed. The goal is to have a recognizable, cohesive aesthetic. When you post, your followers should know it is your photo without even seeing your name. There are a bunch of ways to do this. You can use a specific filter or color scheme, you can show off your epic interior design skills, you can use photoshop to create whimsical scenes, you can use props like a letterboard, or maybe you just have a distinct photography style. (I have linked to some IG accounts that I think do these things well). There are tons of apps you can use to edit your photos. I use Lightroom on my computer; and Snapseed, VSCO and Instagram on my phone.
I hope some of this information has felt helpful and encouraging. I think it is absolutely awesome that this venue to make money exists, especially for stay-at-home parents. It’s an exciting way to be able to contribute to your household income, while also expressing yourself creatively. Don’t forget to follow me on Instagram, and tune in to my stories for all of the behind-the-scenes-chaos and mama-ramblings. I’m always down to help someone out, so don’t be shy and shoot me a DM if you have any burning questions!