I recently went to a meet-and-greet hosted by @instadfw and Fleishman-Hillard where local DFW creatives/social media influencers got to meet with the agency side. It was so great seeing and hearing both sides of the process of influencer marketing, and it spurred me to finally write down my own experience.
I've thought about broaching this topic for a long time because a lot of people ask me about it... and I've also heard people speculating about my Instagram and blog. What do I get out of creating sponsored content (or being a "social media influencer")? WHY do I do it? Surprisingly, money is not the only factor.
Okay, but it is a factor though. I started my Instagram and blog to be creative. I love making things look pretty, whether it's a flat lay or editing a dingy corner of a cafe. Then one day, I wanted to become a part-time freelance photographer and get paid for shooting other people (babies, engagements, weddings, I'll do it all).
Somehow along the way, my Instagram blew up, and I got paid to shoot for other ... companies. What is the difference if I'm creating content for brands versus people? I love creating aesthetically pleasing images! And if I get paid to be at SXSW or style a gorgeous product in my home, then that's even better. I'm doing what I love to do, experiencing cool events, getting free product, and making some side money.
I can see that the difference may be that I vouch for other companies, but I actually only accept what I like. To be honest, I've turned down $1,000+ offers because I couldn't relate to the brand or if the brand would just... ruin my aesthetic. I think hard about every project I take on; they are not just easy paychecks because I put my heart into the content.
Disclaimer: In the beginning, when I became a suggested user, I did take on any projects because I was SO excited I could make a few bucks for being a photographer ("influencer"? I don't even know if that term was around at the time)! I've since then learned how to curate my personal brand and feed to be more genuine.
I absolutely love thinking about how to take a great shot. Constantly. If I'm not thinking about full-time job (my unaesthetic, logical side), then I'm researching and thinking about my next shot. I think to grow any skill, you need to be challenged. As a freelance photographer, taking on new client projects is your challenge. The same concept applies when you're shooting for Instagram/blog posts. Accepting a product and assignment I'm interested in but have never shot before is an amazing challenge and forces me to think on my feet or come up with new concepts.
A pretty recent challenge for me is also being IN the photos of my own feed. Who takes those photos? Well, whoever is around me that I can direct really well... I've had to learn to direct, model, and edit another person's photos (sometimes that person doesn't even know any more than pressing a button). I've also started hanging out with other photographers, and we all take photos of each other, which is really great for creative collaborations also!
I post almost EVERY day. I think that constantly creating content for either myself or brands has given me a lot of visibility and connections. I've met a lot of great people, learned to run a side business, learned to be patient and kind with people from all walks of life, learned new photography skills, and am still constantly evolving (this isn't even my final form). I LOVE my full-time job, and loving both sides of my world (logic and art) is what keeps me sane and amazed with life in general.
If you are an aspiring blogger/influencer/creator, make sure you are 1) staying true to yourself and 2) educated on what you're creating/who you're creating for. I've pushed back on ideas and given reasons on why something will work or fail; most brands will work with you on that. If not, then the post will fail (and sometimes that happens), but you learn not to accept those assignments anymore/to stick up for yourself.
Are you blogging to make a quick buck? Don't get burnt out by taking on partnerships you don't even like or making content you're not proud of. Are you wanting to make it your career? I really can't relate, but as with any career, make sure you're happy. Are you doing it to become "Instafamous"? What in the world.
Just have passion. Fleishman-Hillard said they think creatives/influencers are the type to not be able to put a camera down, and it's true. We love what we do as creators, and being rewarded for it is a great perk in addition to creating work we are happy with!