Behind the Screens: Influencer Business Part 1
links + small things
If I could choose a term to describe my job it would be “digital content creator”. It’s clear, informative, and it explains exactly what I do. Since 2011 I’ve been creating digital content for the multiple platforms that make up my brand.
From the website to YouTube to Instagram, each channel requires a different form of content, and it’s my job to create compelling, informative, and relatable content for each one.
The term “influencer” doesn’t feel like it describes enough of what this job is, at least for me, and while it’s not what I would choose to call myself, it’s become a universally accepted term to encompass really anyone who shares things online–and especially when it is their job to.
This industry still feels relatively new in some ways, and I hope this mini-series I’m writing for my blog provides you with a bit more insight into what this job looks like. Like many creative fields, there are a lot of different ways to do this job as a content creator. By no means should you read this and expect that this is how every influencer approaches their own career. The beauty of working in a creative field, of which I’ve had a great deal of experience, is the ability to appreciate and celebrate the unique take each creator has on their work.
How it all started:
I started my website in 2011. I was working in a private hair studio, running my own business as a stylist, and I found myself searching through YouTube one day to find basic hairstyling videos to send to my clientele so they could learn how to style their own hair at home. I couldn’t find anything that was remotely professional or thorough enough to send, so I sat down in front of my computer and filmed myself curling the front 5 pieces of my hair for my first video.
I uploaded it to my website so I could simply direct my clients to it to watch the videos. I decided to do it this way to avoid e-mailing such a large video file, and I assure you there was zero strategy or planning about trying to make my website a thing.
I didn’t even know it was possible to make money on a website, let alone what starting a blog in 2011 could lead me to over the next 10 years.
This was roughly around the time that Pinterest exploded onto the digital scene and I happened to “pin” a few of my videos onto Pinterest to see if they would be helpful for other people.
It didn’t take long before I was noticing a ton of traffic to my site, all coming from Pinterest. By December of 2011, I was getting hundreds of thousands of views on my site and I had started running little ads in the sidebar for about $10/month.
Here is a little peek at what the site looked like back in 2011.
I was still working in my studio, and I even shared a few photos of it for the blog!
By 2013, I had signed a contract with BlogHer, a very well-known and respected advertising agency, and was also a regular contributor to a website called Babble. I quit writing for Babble in late 2013 but continued running ads for BlogHer, along with running sidebar ads from the small business that I managed on my own.
I had an incredible opportunity to create hairstyles for Real Simple.com, which was a major *pinch me* moment. In general, I was thrilled to have a way to provide beauty content, along with plenty of lifestyle content (food, life, clothing, etc) on my website. It was earning revenue, and I was able to cut back my hours at the salon because I was earning an income with my website.
I chose to close my private studio in the fall of 2013 before I had my first son David. I wanted to focus solely on my website and becoming a mom. It was hard to make the decision to stop doing hair, but deep down I was confident in my choice. It was really a dream scenario. At this time my husband was working and completing his Master’s degree, so I had the chance to put in as much time as I needed to in order to keep my website going.
I loved the creative outlet, I loved the thrill of growing it and trying new things, and it was truly a joy to be able to connect to so many readers.
The next few years remained relatively stable. I was receiving great opportunities to partner with brands, and I also started accepting RewardStyle campaigns and using their affiliate links as another revenue stream. I had another baby, Luke, and my husband was working at a job that required a great deal of travel, so I was home alone often with time to work.
In 2016, I signed on with DBA, a talent agency that was very well-known in the digital talent world due to its roster of popular and successful creators. I was so excited about this opportunity and it provided me with the ability to be connected to and work with brands that I had only dreamed of working with.
In 2017, my website and social channels were providing Justin and me with an income that allowed him to quit his engineering job and start his own business. We really flipped the script about how our household ran, and he is a huge part of why and how my business is where it is today.
He saw how much I loved it and set aside his desire to succeed in business to instead be available for more time with the kids so I could work more hours. He also started his own business around that time, which he still runs today.
During these years I had hired an assistant, and at times an intern, to help with all that was required to run my website and social channels. My day-to-day was not terribly different than it is now, which is creating and producing content for the website and my social channels. I’ve always been a “do it myself” kind of person, so unless otherwise noted I shoot and edit all of my content.
My assistant would manage my calendar, contacts, administrative tasks, communications, etc. It’s an ever-changing job, a lot like that of an Influencer, and I’ve been able to work with some really amazing women that I’ve hired for this role. I’ve also worked with a few videographers, photographers, graphic designers, web developers, and more.
Fast-forwarding to today, my business has continued to change and adapt to the fast-moving world of social media. I appreciate the challenge and always like learning new things. I had my daughter Emily in 2018, and in 2019 I hired my assistant Amanda. I’ve also been working with my graphic designer Taylor for a long time who has been a great addition to the team. I’ve had incredible, incredible opportunities to work with brands I love and have so many hopes and dreams for the future of my business and brand as well.
So while this was a bit of a birds-eye view of the last 10 years, I wanted to run through it quickly to provide a bit of context before I answer some of the questions I received on Instagram when I asked if anyone had any about the “behind the screens” of this industry.
It feels important to mention that everyone runs their business differently, and there are decisions I made that others wouldn’t make and vice versa. There are so many different avenues you can go down as an Influencer, and I truly value that it’s not a “one size fits all” kind of job. You can adapt and change based on your content and what works (or doesn’t) and the great variety and creativity produced by digital content creators is always inspiring for me.
Common Questions about Starting or Becoming an Influencer:
One. How did you start? I answered this a bit above but the true beginning of the blog was just a desire to share things I liked for fun online. A lot of people were blogging back then, even if just for family and friends, and I enjoyed reading blogs of strangers so I thought it would be fun to take some pictures, throw some words up, and call it a blog. The hair tutorials in 2011 taught me that I could provide a helpful resource that not many other people were providing at that time, so I took that and ran with it.
Two. Would you do it again if you had to start today? This is hard to answer because I wouldn’t be able to start the same. Social channels are king right now so starting with a blog and Youtube videos probably wouldn’t work. I can answer this a little bit more broadly, though, and say that yes, I would absolutely do it again if I had to start all over.
Three. Do you feel like you are always working? A little bit, yes. But it comes in waves of intensity. My work hours during the week are typically highly productive since I squeeze a lot of work into a short amount of time. I do that with intention, and I’m grateful to have a schedule that allows me to choose my hours (to a degree. . .). The expectation to be present and active on Instagram is real, but I’ve also never been one to obsess about the “algorithm” so I don’t feel like I need to do everything strategically.
Four. Are you self-taught in photo and video? Yes, except I did have a mini teaching session with Jordan Maunder one day many years ago. She gave me a few quick tips about ISO and f-stop on my camera. I’ve come a long way from where I started but still feel like there is so much to learn!
Five. How do you feel comfortable on video? I’ve been doing this for 10 years! That is a lot of practice and time to spend trying to improve! I’m best when doing a video on my own, instead of having a videographer, because I’m most relaxed and feel like myself.
Six. How do you story in public? I’m assuming you mean on Instagram, and I don’t do that very often. If I do, I try to be quick and I also remind myself and this is just a normal part of our world. Sometimes I need to detach the “personal” nature of my job whenever I need to get something done that I feel sheepish about. For example, if I need to story about something and I’m in public, I’ll give myself a little pep talk that this is for work, not just for kicks, and that typically all I need to push past potential embarrassment.