Business Behind Being An Influencer

Hi Sunshines!

It’s timeeeee! This piece is really close to my heart, and I wish I knew these things when I had first started. But, I am still learning and hope to keep updating you guys on my journey as I grow. In the meantime, I hope this answers some of the questions you may have as an aspiring blogger/influencer.

What is an influencer?

By definition, an influencer is somebody who has an above average impact on a specific niche. This can be individuals that you may follow for fashion advice, beauty tips or makeup and hair tutorials. Typically, these people work with brands and other outlets to help drive consumers to their products.

How did I get started?

Honestly, I just did. I had discussed this idea for some time, constantly waiting for the right moment and even doubting myself. But one day, I set my mind to just giving it a go. So, I created this blog which gave me creative outlet to share some of my interests. It wasn’t until I moved to New York, that I decided to focus on blogging and content creation full-time.

How did I grow my following?

It started off with me being a double major in college. I wanted to go into Medicine and become a physician, but at the same time I was also taking some business classes. As I took more business development classes, I started exploring my options and fell in love with the business aspect of things. With the love for business, I wanted to create something of my own and be my own boss, while being able to communicate with others on my creative outlet. Blogging, and as a result becoming an influencer,  gave me the opportunity to create my own brand, work with businesses and build strong relationships.

How did I grow my following?

Growing my following has been a learning experience for me. And, to be fair, what works for me isn’t necessarily what will work for someone else. But, I think a few of the most important things for me have been:

  • Building quality content consistently. Having something to post on my Instagram regularly has kept people interested in me
  • Interacting with my followers. Having conversations with my followers as frequently as possible has been a huge contributor to my success
  • Building strong relationships. The friends I started with, and the new ones I have made along the way, have given me cheerleaders, mentors and supporters who have nudged me along the way
  • Staying true to myself. One of the things I wanted to make sure of was that I didn’t lose myself in the process. I don’t think the people who have followed my journey have done so to end up seeing an inaccessible entity, but instead just a regular girl who likes sharing her ideas and experiences with the world.

How and when can you start making money?

When I first started, I was creating content for myself. I was just doing my own thing. I would post about recipes I enjoyed cooking, clothes I liked wearing and really anything I enjoyed doing. So, don’t be fooled thinking that brand relationships and money are the start of blogging/being an influencer. Like any startup, the first thing you have to do is develop a product and a customer base. Eventually when my content matured, brands took notice and started reaching out for collaborations (full disclosure: I reached out to quite a few brands myself).

When you first start, its important to build relationships with brands and sometimes you may just have to do posts for mutually benefitting exposure. This means that a brand will gift you a product for you to review and share with your followers. By doing so, you’re exposing brand’s name on your platform and they’re providing you exposure by sharing you on their platform.

As you continue to grow, you’re fully responsible for pitching ideas, creating contracts, reviewing them, and even coming up with a a base rate for what your work is worth. Often times these brands are young brands, or people’s passion projects and they don’t have marketing budgets. Other times there will be growing or established brands. So, depending on what your vision aligns with, you’ll need to be flexible with negotiating terms.

Am I with an agency?

No, I am currently not with an agency. However, I’ve been fortunate enough to be surrounded by people that have helped alert me about opportunities, review my contracts, figure out my own worth, and understand how to deal with brands and clients.

Who does my photography?

I love this question! Most of you think its our dog, Marbel. But really, 99% of the time It’s my husband who takes my pictures! And other times, I collaborate with local photographers to help me create my content.

What are some mistakes I made during this process of growth?

I made ALOT of them, but here is a few:

  • I was taking on products that didn’t align with my brand. In the beginning, when brands were reaching out with collaboration ideas, I would get so excited about the opportunity that I’d just take on whatever I could get. Even though I wasn’t necessarily going to use it. Nabeel pointed out that I should never post or recommend something I would never use it.  And he was right! I wasn’t being honest. So, now I only take collaborations that I can honestly recommend.
  • Ahhh this is a big one! I was trying to be like other influencers! I was over-curating my feed to make it look like those really big influencers, by posting similar pictures, dressing like them and even wearing a lot of makeup because I thought I needed to be like them. But I realized that doing so wasn’t me at all. I wasn’t happy with my content and it didn’t show my true personality. So I went back to the basics. My feed is a reflection of me, flaws and all!
  • Not knowing my own worth! I was putting in a lot of time and effort towards building my brand, but was too afraid to charge for the work I did. I remember one time I charged a brand $25 dollars for creating content that took me approximately 6 hours to create. Though I was really excited, my sister-in law essentially yelled at me and said “Maryam you charged them WHAT?! Hold up, how long did it take you to create this?!” After I told her that it usually takes me 6-8 hours to create content, she told me that what I do is literally a full-time job. So, I should treat it like one and charge what it’s really worth. For $25 dollars, I was essentially making $4 an hours which is less than minimum wage. Now, I’ve created a base rate based on my interaction and followers,  and I negotiate terms based on that.
  • BEING LAZY. Omg, when I first started, I was extremely lazy and inconsistent. Would constantly fall behind on creating content, scheduling posts and even delivering content for brands on time! I was literally binge watching Netflix and ordering boba off my couch. Even though I am my own boss, this is still a job and so I have to treat it like one when I work with others on collaborations. Therefore, for the past few months, I’ve created a 2 week timeline in advance for all the content that needs to be posted.

What are the negatives of being in this industry?

  • Being an influencer is a nontraditional career path. People have no idea what you do, they think its a waste of time. You’re a pretty face and that’s it. Even to this day, my mother thinks I am a model (but she’s starting to understand a little better now). However, this is a business and with growth a lot of work goes behind each piece of content.
  • People can be pretty terrible. As you grow, people tend to forget that you’re human too. Everyone will criticize what you wear, how you look, what your value might be, etc. It can make you really insecure! But, you have to grow a thick skin and learn to parse the constructive criticism from the hate.
  • Losing yourself is really easy. Fact of the matter is, between the hate and the popularity – it can be easy to lose track of yourself. You can get insecure or just get a little big headed, and neither of those things can be good. Like I’ve said before, I’m just a person with a job – I’m just lucky enough to be doing something I love. I’ve learned that I need to keep myself grounded (and Nabeel helps me do that, even when I don’t want him to).

…and there you have it! I hope this truly helps and answers some of your questions!


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I’m Maryam, your new guide. Welcome to my Blog!

Maryam Ishtiaq is a content creator and social media strategist who currently resides in Dallas, Texas.

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