Lots of people still think being an influencer doesn’t count as a ‘real’ job, but it’s time to rethink that idea, because there are plenty of influencers building successful businesses that are about as real as they come--people like Elma and Amra Beganovic from the blog Clubfashionista. They started out blogging because they had fun creating content, but weeks after launching the blog Paris Hilton’s manager reached out to them to collaborate. The girls quit their jobs and started to focus on their blog full-time to see if their passion project could really change their lives. And—spoiler alert—it has!
But how do you know when and if you’re ready to take the plunge and become an influencer full-time? Read on for the highlights of my conversation with Elma about what influencers should focus on before they quit their 9-to-5 jobs.
1. Be your natural self
Last October when I found myself standing next to the famous blogger, Mariano di Vaio I had absolutely no question that it was him because he looked exactly like he does in his pictures. But that’s not always the case. Sometimes fashion bloggers tell me after their first fashion week experience that the bloggers they meet in person look totally different, even unrecognizable from their pictures. It makes you feel disappointed a bit.
Elma says, “I saw the best way to capture someone is just being your natural self in front of the camera. People actually love you even more with your imperfections because you are that much more relatable.” That’s so true. Of course, influencers create Vogue quality pictures, so makeup and Photoshop is important, but we all want to see people we can relate to, and we can recognize if she happens to be sitting next to us at Ralph’s in NYC.
Running an Instagram profile is not rocket science, but at the same time there’s no magic formula to be successful. You have to find the methods and practices that work best for you.
The girls took a scientific approach to social media. “So actually what we did is a lot of data analysis: we checked what people were liking in terms of angles, in terms of coloring, in terms of content, whether it was landscape, whether it was photos of us. We really dug deep analyzing every post. Coloring and styling is different if you are a blogger from the east, or if you are a Scandinavian blogger. They have their own style. That’s true in the US market too--even the south is different from the cosmopolitan style in NYC.” That makes sense. This is why it’s important to know who your target audience is instead of targeting millions of people and never really tailoring your content to them.
3. Invest: Ask experts!
I just had a conversation with a midsize blogger last week, and she said there are plenty of resources available for learning on the job—from podcasts to other blogs and even networking with other influencers. When you establish deeper roots in the influencer community, you’ll have the opportunity to get advice from some of the best in the business. And if you are kind and have a positive personality, people will be willing to help you without monetary compensation just because they believe in you. As Elma said, now it’s easier to invest in experts and hire where she needs to, but in the beginning she had to be creative! “We even spoke to other experts like designers, stylists, hair stylists, and make-up artists, and later we did what we thought looked right even if it had nothing to do with fashion. And as we grew we got more people on our team who helped polish our look and create what the market is actually liking.”
4. Skills, skills, skills
9 micro influencers out of 10 will complain about a lack of help because they don’t have a team. In the beginning being an influencer is about doing everything: you are the manager, the designer, the social media manager, the blogger, and so on. You have to learn how to edit pictures, how to code, how to use Photoshop, because you probably don’t have thousands of dollars to spend on that in the beginning – and maybe not even later. “I also learned Photoshop, so when I edit my pictures I look at certain angles to zoom in and see whether my jaw or muscles are stiff or relaxed, or maybe the pose can be adjusted, or just seeing what I can improve.” The girls also learned how to code, and that’s how they built their whole platform. Isn’t it inspiring?
5. Be relatable
As a fashion blogger it’s important to show a different kind of lifestyle, but many influencers make the mistake of only showing off their luxury clothing and expensive trips, and the problem is that they can easily alienate and lose the followers who made them famous. That’s what Elma and Amra realized early on too. “We decided to keep our styles relatable. Even if it was a luxury handbag, we had a Zara dress on. I never wanted to seem out of touch with people, because people got us here. I always wanted to be very approachable.“
6. Fashion week
Elma and Amra wouldn’t have believed the huge impact that fashion week would have on their personal brand, but they soon found that photographers were actually chasing them before the shows.
“We also got invited to fittings before the fashion shows, and it was interesting to meet the designers and the creative director, and meet their publicist. That was the moment when we both understood Fashion Week is pretty much an industry and there’s a full production behind it. That was the first fashion week when we started relationships with fashion industry insiders.” Since then their whole life has totally changed. Networking, networking, networking – that’s the most important thing to do.
7. Explore designers
Nowadays so many bloggers are copying each other without thinking about exploring more designers, not just the luxury ones. Sometimes I even find two bloggers wearing the exact same outfit. It’s boring and it’s not even creative. “We’ve started exploring more and more designers. Yesterday we went to a shoot and the stylists brought us amazing clothes, most of the designers I have never heard of, but the quality was really through the roof.” It’s an advantage if you become more open-minded, because this way you can be more unique. “I understood that it’s not necessarily the brand name, but the quality and the design that matters.”
8. Be creative
Many times I hear micro influencers complaining about how hard it is for them to grow because they don’t have access to the luxury bags and all the resources available to more established influencers, but the truth is that you have to work with what you have. Elma says the same: “In the beginning we knew we didn’t have all the resources. I think a lot of people don’t realize, it’s not the resources you have, it’s how resourceful you are. I think Amra and I got creative in the way that we styled what we had. In the beginning we started hunting for vintage bags, later it was more like trading with friends who got bored of them.”
9. Long term relationships
During the last 3-4 years I’ve been working with many brands as an influencer, but the most important collaborations are those where I worked with the brand long term. In these instances, my fans knows that I love the brand, and they don’t even realize that it’s a paid ad because they know that it’s a part of my life anyway. “Long term relationships are really when both parties are invested, everyone wants it to work. Contracts that are three months or longer are so much easier than short-term contracts when there’s a rush to get the campaign done. We don’t meet, we don’t have coffee, we only talk over the phone, get the contract signed, we execute the campaign, payment is made – and that’s all. It’s not even personal.”
Being successful as an influencer isn’t about how many followers you have or what brands you have in your closet. It’s more about personal connections that you have with your followers and the connection you create with the brands you work with. It’s all about the question: “What can I do for you?” – and that’s Elma’s and Amra’s main focus.